Massively Overthinking: The best and worst of BlizzCon 2017
Last weekend, even Massively OP was obsessing over BlizzCon, and we thought it would be fun to poll the writers, including those who watched from the sideliness rather than diving into the liveblogging, on their assessments of the event, particularly as they pertain to the MMORPG industry. What were the highlights and lowpoints? Where do we stand on World of Warcraft’s new expansion and classic servers? Let’s dig in!
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Let’s start with the WoW expansion announcement. While the cinematics were cool (as always), as soon as I heard it was another Alliance vs Horde expansion, I thought, “Again?” The Heart of Azeroth thing sounds a bit like a more complex version of, say, Albion’s crafting system that makes character customization controlled with armor for flexibility, except it’s also tied to class in WoW. That’s not exactly a good thing. Killing PvP servers was the last thing I wanted to hear, but it does fix the problem of “I’m only on a PvP server because my friends came here.” The sub-races thing is neat but it just seems… I don’t know, too little too late? Same goes with the naval stuff, since that usually gets me more excited for a game. Classic servers for the nostalgia crew is nice since there’s an audience, but if it’s not yet obvious, I’ve accepted my WoW past and don’t need to relive it.
The only thing that really caught my attention was communities, but I’m guessing these will be purely social chat channels. It’s the only thing I’ll be waiting to hear more about.
The Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone announcements weren’t enough to get me to play, but I did log into the latter for the free card because I didn’t have to do much. StarCraft II going free to play was a huge shock, though. I don’t think I’ll ever check it out because there are so many other games in my backlog, but if Blizz did something big to get my friends playing again, I might be tempted to give it a whirl.
For me, the big stuff was with Overwatch. I struggle with the game’s lore, in that it may be my favorite Blizz IP these days, but the story largely feels like it’s outside the game, and that’s weird. That being said, an amoral healer is awesome in concept, even if her design looks like it belongs in a different game (RIP Battleborn). The BlizzWorld Map and skins look and sound fun, and again, I’m not even that big of a Blizz fan. In fact, it hyped me up enough to keep playing the Overwatch even after the holiday event, on both PC and PS4 (the former is better; the latter is because people I know don’t PC game anymore).
Random parting notes: We need Mama Hong from the OW concept design panel. Seemed like there were positive vibes, and I’ve been told that attendees smelled fresher this year. So many Blizz Con attendees were at Universal Studios on the following Sunday – eat it, Disneyland!
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): The Battle for Azeroth expansion left me a little bit bored from a player perspective, but to be honest, I exited in the middle of Draenor and didn’t buy Legion, so I’ve been waiting for WoW to do… something… to bring me back for two years already. Is this it? Because there isn’t anything in it that makes me really excited. I don’t care about procedural-gen quest pockets or mini races or warfronts or WarCraft III allusions. There’s nothing new like farms (I loved farms) or crafting overhauls or cosmetics emphasis to make me enjoy logging in every day. What actually made me want to play the most, out of all the WoW presentations, was when a developer (or maybe it was a Q&A questioner?) casually mentioned his Monk healer. That, and character customization. Those things got me, made me remember how much I loved and missed my toons. So, hmm. Undecided still.
On a self-serving note, I’m glad to see the PvP server overhauls because my server was quite lopsided and ganky, but there was no way my whole guild was paying to move a zillion toons off a PvP server.
The WoW Classic announcement surprised me because it came after a year of Blizzard barely talking about it at all after that series of promises to look into it. I’m definitely intrigued, but I also remember the first couple of years of actual vanilla very well and all their many aggravations and design problems. I think there’s way, way too much we still need to know about the details before picking a side on this one. Based on the Reddit activity over the last week, I can also see the playerbase splitting into some man-made factions that I don’t think Blizzard has fully anticipated. However, I’m happy to see Blizzard make promises to maintain classic and provide classic players a home that isn’t a pile of thieving garbage like certain popular emus.
The Overwatch and Hearthstone reveals absolutely cracked me up, as I mentioned this morning. I still have no intentions of ever playing either game, but man I love to see silly humor executed with such precision as the BlizzardWorld map and the you-no-take-candle expansion. I feel like humor is much harder to get right, but I’m smiling along with the cheese instead of rolling my eyes at yet-another-melodrama.
I remain disappointed about the lack of Diablo news. Diablo II was actually my first introduction to Blizzard period and literally created my ongoing infatuation with ARPGs. It’s sad to see the king of the genre floundering here for no clear reason.
Diablo III: lol
Hearthstone: Good on these guys for trying something really, aggressively new. It doesn’t make me love Hearthstone, no, but I really respect and appreciate the effort that went into making a card game roguelike and then putting it forth as a free thing. Bully for the team, and a really captivating reveal (and set design).
Overwatch: How many millions of dollars did that Reinhardt short cost? Because at the end of the day, it succeeded in doing nothing more than telling us that young Reinhardt was… young Reinhardt. Seriously, I could rant for a long while about how badly Blizzard is bungling storytelling with this property. On the flip side, Moira is awesome (thematically).
StarCraft II: kek
Heroes of the Storm: Did this game actually have more of a narrative reveal than Overwatch? Yes. Otherwise, well, it’s new heroes. Functional but nothing exciting.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth: As a lore wonk and, well, me, I saw lots of things that immediately had me really excited. This has me more excited than Legion did, and Legion was a solid expansion (with some serious issues that Battle for Azeroth seems poised to address, at least in part), but I think the delivery wound up coming off a little muddled and not really conveying the cool factor in there. Then again, I can’t entirely blame the studio here; out of seven expansions, three of them have had similar problems with having a hard time selling themselves from the outset. I’m excited, even though that feels like the minority option this time.
World of Warcraft: Classic: Judging by the number of people who apparently assumed “classic” meant “just like vanilla but with quality-of-life improvements that we think of as normal other than group finder,” I’m mostly just interested in this one for the crashing-back-to-reality factor. It’s nice from an archival standpoint, I suppose, but I’ve already played this when it was just called “World of Warcraft.”
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Like many of our readers, my mind is still swirling and spinning about World of Warcraft Classic. That was the real bombshell announcement, and it is a shame that Blizzard didn’t have more specifics to share. I know there’s a lot of excitement about it, but there are also a ton of unanswered questions about how this will work. At the very least, I’m interested to see this get off the ground from a historian’s standpoint because I wish more MMOs would add legacy servers like this.
Otherwise, it was a decent show that spread the love around to every one of Blizzard’s games save Diablo III. Hearthstone had the best set, hands-down, and Overwatch’s BlizzardWorld map completely overshadowed the new hero announcement. I do think that the Battle for Azeroth announcement fizzled when it should have sizzled, and I was cringing at how some journalists were clearly trying to force excitement about it when it was really a mediocre reveal. Oh, and a cinematic trailer has nothing to do with actual gameplay, so why are we devoting so much attention to these? It feels like smoke and mirrors when studios try to push our emotional buttons with Blur-like trailers that, at best, convey an idea that a game can never quite attain.
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): While I don’t pay any attention to BlizzCon (this is me we are talking about), one bit of information did seep through into my consciousness: vanilla WoW servers. Good move, I say, for recognizing that there really is a market for “back in the day…” It depresses me how much our society gets caught up in the newer-faster-easier-is-better hype! Devs are no different. Sure, there is a legitimate market for that, but there is also also one for folks who liked the experience of the more original versions of games. You can’t stop change from happening in life, but there is a way to add a place where it doesn’t happen in your MMOs. Adding vanilla servers supported by the developers gives that place for those who want to be there while also allowing the main game to continue to evolve and grow for players who want to enjoy that journey. It makes more customers happy.
Also, there is a side of me that enjoys the put-your-money-where-you-mouth-is aspect of this all. How many of those who have been belting out for years about how vanilla <insert any game name here> was so much better and was the best game actually go in and play? Is it really viable, or were people just full of hot air? Is the memory better than the reality? I’m curious to see how it shakes out.