Media Consumption – Blizzcon 2015 Edition

OpeningC062

Interesting Day

MediaConsumptionLast week I had this grand plan of hanging out at home and watching BlizzCon 2015, so I took the day off work.  Then as we got closer to the day, it suddenly filled up with other things I needed to do.  Our house looked like madness yesterday with three vehicles of the contractors working on the siding and minor renovations, and another truck for the heating and air company.  All of this while my wife and I were being forced to park in the next door neighbors driveway.  Thankfully they were not here the last few days, otherwise I have no clue what we would be doing for parking.  I am sure the neighbors are wondering what manner of insanity we are up to… as at one point yesterday we had a guy stop and gawk for a few minutes without asking anything.  I guess that is the benefit of not actually knowing half of your neighbors is that you don’t have to make the same small talk over and over when something like this happens.  This morning in honor of BlizzCon however I am going to talk about the things that interested me.

Diablo 3

FK5YSSOY5Q9K1446514618398

I am leading off what was I originally thought going to be the big disappointment of the day.  Blizzard did what they always do and rolled out everything that was new and shiny in their opening ceremony.  The problem being… they said absolutely nothing about Diablo 3 which has turned out to be probably the game in their lineup that I care the most about.  I had hoped they would announce another expansion this year, but alas that didn’t happen.  However I am completely fine with this because the Diablo 3 panel later in the evening pretty much showed me that the team is quietly doing awesome stuff, in spite of apparently being ignored by Blizzard as a whole.  The presentation was essentially a rapid fire series of announcements of new features.  The one nearest and dearest to my heart surrounds the season play functionality.  They have essentially sorted out that they are going to make seasons three months long, meaning at the end of that three months there will be new content leading into the next season.  They said this gives players enough time to really deeply experience it… and also fits players like myself that swoop in… play enough to get the easy rewards and stop playing for a bit.

The biggest announcement as far as I am concerned is the “Rebirth” feature, which will allow you to essentially reboot a previous character and turn it into a new seasonal character.  All of the gear that was on the character gets mailed to the account, and that character gets dialed back to level 1… but keeps achievements, hours played etc.  It sounded like maybe there would be a special set of achievements for reboots, but essentially it solves the problem I always have of feeling like I have to create something brand new to be able to play along in the season again.  They are also adding additional stash space… and the ability to earn slots by completing the seasonal journey on a character, up to 10 slots total.  This all honestly would have been enough for me, but they are revising the buff system, changing the way damage is shown…  adding a whole item set dungeon functionality where specific dungeons will require you have an item set equipped and then have challenges based on the strength of that set.  On top of all of this… new zone and some expanded areas which makes 2.4 pretty damned awesome and it apparently goes up on the PTR next week.

Heroes of the Storm

OpeningC062

The highlight of the Heroes discussion is the fact that we are getting Genn Greymane as a playable champion.  This is absolutely hands down my favorite Alliance leader… that isn’t given the respect of having his own damned town to govern.  I am still a little sore that Gilneas never became someplace we could actually use as a capitol city.  I would seriously bank in that town all of the damned time if they allowed me to.  All the same however it is awesome to have him as a champion and it looks like the gameplay is going to be based around changing in and out of Worgen form.  The other interesting tidbit is that it seems like they are introducing ARAM for Heroes of the Storm.  The details were pretty scant and I have not watched any of the panels for Heroes yet… but from the sounds of it, the mode seemed to put a random group of champions against another random group of champions just like “All Random All Middle” mode in League of Legends.

I am honestly all about that because ARAM is probably my favorite mode to play in League.  Mostly because it takes all of the pressure off in that if you are getting randomly assigned a champion… no one can complain too much about you not being able to play it terribly well.  I’ve found it a great way to get my feet wet and get used to how a champion performs under actual combat situations.  The other interesting thing from the show was the introduction of Cho’Gall the two headed ogre.  This is a champion that is literally played by two different players.  I am assuming that one controls the movement and the other controls the combat at least to some extent.  Everyone with a BlizzCon virtual ticket will be getting it added to their account… and then they can play matches with other players to pass the character on.  After two matches a player will earn their own copy of Cho’gall and after I think they said four matches the original player gets a sack of gold for spreading the madness.  It sounds cool and it is awesome to see this game thriving.

Hearthstone

OpeningC087

The highlight of this announcement was awesome new Brann Bronzebeard artwork.  Hearthstone is one of those games that I like, but rarely actually boot up to play.  I am not sure what it is about the game, but essentially I keep playing the same deck over and over without changing it up much.  It is like this game requires too much of me to actually get in and sort out the decks I might want to build.  I am happy that it seems to be doing well, and I am happy that it has a meta that is very much alive.  That said I felt generally meh when listening to them talk about the gameplay.  I feel like maybe if it ran for shit on my iPad I would play it more, but I struggle with this game in the same way that I struggle with so many mobile games.  It requires too much of me to pop into it while waiting on something…  but it just isn’t sticky enough to make me choose to play it over literally any other game I have installed on my computer or consoles.  There just is rarely ever a situation where I am going to pick this over an MMO or a single player game experience.  I have so many other games to play… and honestly most of the time too damned many.  The hearthstone fans seemed to be really happy, so I am never going to rain on their parade with my own “meh”.

Overwatch

OpeningC126

I won’t lie the highlight of the Overwatch presentation for me was seeing just how awesome the Mercy Wings are in Diablo 3.  Other than that I loved the Mei reveal, because she was freaking adorable… and also looked like a really fun zone control champion to play.  Similarly I thought D.Va was a pretty cool concept, but I doubt I could ever see myself playing her.  The boot up sequence of her HUD was awesome, in that it showed a cute bunny icon while it was loading.  I really don’t care for the design of her Mech, which is my main problem with her as a champion.  There is just something wrong looking about it… I get they were going for a jet with legs after the reboot that allows her to fly…  but a Guardian Mode Veritech is a better version of what they were trying to accomplish.  Though I think the design they came up with was largely a compromise to save space on the screen.

OpeningC115

I have to admit I was largely tempted when they announced this would be coming to PS4.  The problem there is that the Xbox and PS4 Blizard games are disconnected from Battle.net.  That is my biggest problem with playing Diablo 3 on the PS4 is that I am stuck with only having access to my PSN friends… which are in no way as long of a list of Blizzard fans as the Battle.net account.  So even though I am going through a bit of a renaissance of console gaming… I am ultimately going to go with the mouse and keyboard of the PC and essentially have to reacquaint myself with that sort of game play.  I agree with Kodra in his belief that playing with a controller on a PC is a trap when it comes to a competitive FPS.  There are times I have even considered picking up a XIM4 for my PS4 so I have the option of playing with a keyboard and mouse there as well.  The PS4 natively supports USB and Bluetooth keyboards and mice… but very few games actually support that.  Mostly right now I just want to get into the Overwatch beta… and I am hoping that will be a thing that happens soon.

Warcraft Movie

I have to admit on this one that before this trailer I had not really given much of a shit about the Warcraft movie.  But man…  those feels while I watched this.  I have just been burned in the past when a franchise that I love was turned into a movie… at least from the gaming side of things.  Does anyone remember how horrible the Dungeons and Dragons movie was?  or Doom?  This however…. looks like it is going to be a really good movie and revitalize the Warcraft franchise for a whole new generation.  Maybe it is just the hype I am feeling about Star Wars spilling over into Warcraft… but I am feeling like now is the time to set aside old grudges and just embrace any fandom wholeheartedly.  Both Durotar and Lothar were awesome in the trailer, and I think they were probably right to make this a Warcraft movie… and not a World of Warcraft movie.  My hope is that along with this we maybe see a rebooted version of the original Warcraft RTS franchise.  In any case regardless I know what I will be doing next June… sitting in the theater and watching this movie.

Legion Expansion

Now we finally get to the low point of Blizzcon… which I guess tells you how far my tastes have changed.  I was completely amped about most of the above announcements other than maybe Hearthstone.  I wholeheartedly love Blizzard games… but I have just reached the point where World of Warcraft is my least favorite of them.  The cinematic trailer was nice… but I honestly had hoped that maybe we would have seen Varian die during it…  or at least I thought that was what we were going to see for a bit.  For years Varian was supposed to be “our thrall” but he has always been this paper thin super one dimensional character.  His son on the other hand… Anduin has gone through some actually interesting changes especially during Pandaria.  So my hope was that we would see Varian dying during this siege and passing the banner to his son who is more than likely far more capable a leader.  The trailer also gave me hope that maybe just maybe they would finally be retiring the tired old shtick of Alliance versus Horde and giving us the ability to play with friends from both factions.  Look… it is a dream that I am not going to let go of ever… I hate faction bullshit.

Demon_Hunter_3_tga_jpgcopy

For the most part there is a lot of interesting things at work here… but I lack the faith that they are going to be carried out in a fashion I am going to like.  It is my honest hope that I get into the beta testing process so I can see if I like it or not.  I big nail in the coffin for Warlords was how badly they made the Deathknights feel…  so I guess there are a lot of things that sound good on paper but never quite work right when you put them into practice.  I am absolutely willing to give this game a shot, but I want to know that I will actually like it before I plunk down that pre-order.  The new zones do look absoultely amazing however.  They are pushing this aging engine for every ounce of oomph that it can muster, and I love that.  The way WoW looks right now, reminds me of the way late in a generation console games look… when they have really figured out how to make the most of the resources they have to work with.  This expansion is a bunch of really good ideas, that just don’t seem to be connected by enough tissue to hold them together.  My disappointment largely was that the game didn’t really give me that moment of “fuck yeah!” that I have had in previous expansions.  It did however give me a lot of moments of “that sounds cool”, especially when it comes to the non-linear leveling process for the new content.  Unfortunately that same level scaling won’t apply to the rest of the world… so we are again creating this walled garden of “good” content and everything older will feel like crap as a result.

 

 

 

 

Blizzard Spirit

Christmas Spirit

I tend to be a scrooge when it comes to holidays.  I am not sure exactly why I have reached this point, but it wasn’t always that way.  Over time the world seems to have warn me down, and each year that passes I find it harder and harder to get into the right frame of mind.  There are lots of reasons why it might be the case, not the least of which is the fact that my family has gone through far more deaths around Christmas time than I care to recount.  I think in part this is just the way I am, as I don’t really get excited over any of the holidays, or at least have a harder time with each passing year mustering some excitement.  It might also be due to the fact that in general we start seeing Christmas decorations showing up in the stores around July, and by the time the holiday actually shows up I am in full tilt overload mode.

Without a doubt all of this changes the moment I am face to face with a child.  I can see the amazement, excitement and wonder in their eyes as they take in the experiences of whatever holiday it happens to be.  This raises a torch to the little fire inside of me, and causes me to remember just how magical these events used to be before I became a “grown up”.  Ultimately holidays are for the children, and it is only in them that they can be truly appreciated.  Since I don’t spent my time around that many kids, it takes longer and longer for this little flame to be renewed each year.  So while I don’t necessarily want to be a scrooge, that is ultimately what ends up happening.  I am not out on my lawn yelling at the kids, but nonetheless we don’t do much if anything to celebrate holidays on our own.

Blizzard Spirit

blizzcon_spirit So you might be thinking…  Bel… why are you telling me all of this?  Well once upon a time, no matter how forlorn I was about Blizzard as a company, Blizzcon was this magic bullet to relight the fires of wonderment inside of me.  Whether or not I was actually playing anything from Blizzard at the time, when Blizzcon rolled around each year it would hold a torch to the little fire inside of me and stoke my nostalgia to a fever pitch, causing me to renew my subscription.  This has long been referred to as the “Blizzcon bump” and can pretty much be charted on the subscription numbers every single time.  This is part the majesty of Blizzcon itself, and part the fever pitch of excitement that reverberates through the community as a whole.  It becomes contagious as you watch friend after friend succumb to a certain kind of madness and raise their Blizzard fan flags high.

The problem is…  the pilot light deep inside of me keeps flickering and as of yet no amount of fire seems to be stoking it.  I tuned in yesterday to watch the Blizzcon opening ceremonies stream, because I knew more than likely something would get announced that we would probably talk about tonight during the podcast.  I had heard rumors of a big announcement, and honestly I halfway expected that big announcement to be Warcraft 4, since it was the 20th anniversary and all.  Other than that I expected whatever was announced to be on a tablet, since that has been a major growth market for them with Hearthstone.  I was completely wrong in all accounts, and while what announced was awesome looking…  it didn’t really do what I thought it would and reignite the flame.

This is the first Blizzcon since the introduction of the Virtual Ticket, that I have not watched.  While I pre-purchased my copy of Warlords back when I was actually regularly playing the game… this also looks to be potentially the first Warcraft expansion that I will not actually be playing at launch.  I am jealous of the folks like Alternative Chat and Qelric that have kept their fires of nostalgia burning brightly.  Maybe this will be like Christmas, and I will be overcome with the “Blizzard Spirit” days or maybe even minutes before the official launch of Warlords of Draenor.  I am not a person of firm stances, and absolute positions.  I change my mind about at least one long held belief on a nearly daily basis.  So maybe just maybe I will be a late bloomer in my nostalgia and end up happily playing this expansion.  Currently the signs are pointing to no, and while my account is still active I have gone through all the preparations to not be playing at all.  I quietly handed over the reins of House Stalwart to my friend Rylacus during the dark of night.  In any case I will try my damnedest not to be a true Scrooge and ruin anyone’s fun during the launch festivities.

Overwatch Looks Awesome

Reaper_Overwatch_002 All of this said, is not to take anything away from the fact that Overwatch does indeed look like a really awesome game.  When it was first announced I had mixed emotions about it.  It felt very much like “Blizzard Does Team Fortress 2”, and I didn’t quite understand why this was going to be a ground breaking thing.  Then again in truth nothing that Blizzard does is really ground breaking.  They have this way of taking an existing genre and polishing it to a mirror shine, improving the playability and accessibility during the process and making the gameplay itself infectious.  I have no doubt at all that when we actually get our hands on Overwatch all of these adjectives will be true, and it will be yet another blockbuster game in the crown of a company that is known for them.  We still don’t know a lot of details about the game but my general theory is this will be “MOBA” like in that we will more than likely have a rotation of free characters that we can play, with the option to purchase them permanently and also purchase nifty skins for them.

What made me excited about the game was when I watched the above video of an actual match.  I am not your traditional FPS player, in that I don’t really enjoy twitchy deathmatch back and forth gameplay.  As such I have always favored games with hard fought objectives be it capture and hold or capture the flag.  My all time favorite competitive FPS is Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory because it gave me something to focus on other than just my kill count.  Watching the above video… feels like Wolfenstein.  I love that the maps have tight corners, because the last few generations of shooters just feel too open to me.  I prefer to play run and gun, and wide open maps pretty much mean certain death from above for my particular style.  Though from the looks of it these maps seem like they will provide adequate places for folks who like to ambush like snipers as well.  The focus on the objective tightens the focus of the map, since everyone will be swarming that one location, and the six versus six group size makes for more intimate play.

heroselect_047 So while I am not just enraptured by the Blizzcon conference as a whole, that does not mean that I am not absolutely looking forward to this game.  Right now the champions that I am looking forward to playing the most are Reinhardt because he is tanky and melee, and Winston… because he is an gentleman ape.  Another champion that looks really awesome is Torbjorn because if you have followed me for long, you will know my love of Dwarves.  Additionally when it comes to Enemy Territory games I almost always play the engineer, so that pretty much seems to fit right down his alley.  Another champion that looks interesting is Symmetra for her awesome mini turret placing mechanics.  The champion that I am not sure if I will like or not is Bastion, because he seems really quirky… but often times quirky is also interesting.

It has been over a decade since Blizzard launched a new IP, and I have to say so far I approve.  The cinematic trailer is great, when it started I was like “Blizzard does Super Heroes?  Sign me up!”.  I really want to play an MMO in this universe because I have not given up hope on a really good super hero MMO.  DC Universe Online is fun enough, but it feels really limited in scope, but it is still the best we have.  City of Heroes was a long time favorite of mine, and I miss it quite a bit at times…  that said it had been years since I had actively played it when it shut down.  Champions Online on the other hand has been a barely playable abomination… which is sad because I had so much hope for it.  If project Titan was in fact going to be Overwatch the MMO…  I mourn its loss.  However the game that rose from its ashes looks amazingly fun.  At the end of the day… I just really want to see a full length movie dedicated to the adventures of Winston and Tracer.  Hopefully I can manage to get into beta because I am very interested in seeing how this game progresses.

Open-mindedness

This one is going to be a bit of an odd one, but in part it syncs up with what I have said today.  I am thankful that my upbringing has instilled in me a sense of curiosity towards new ideas.  I can’t really say how it happened, but I have a pretty malleable sense of self, and as such I’ve always been hungry for new viewpoints on different subjects.  I gobble up as much information as I can, and each piece of information could potentially “upgrade” one of my existing views, or cause me to trash a “rough draft” and start over.  There are very few things in me that are not open to discussion, other than a core barometer of justice and basic human decency.  So at this very moment I can’t tell you how I will feel about something next week, or a year from now… because I am constantly evolving.

I think this is a strength and not a weakness, and it has allowed me to adapt to the line of work that I do and the ever changing cavalcade of new technologies and programming practices that I have to evaluate.  All the while I try my best to keep a firm sense of all of my experiences, and the history behind them… while still putting myself out there and looking to take the best bits of knowledge that I happen to find along my journey.  So Mom, Dad, Priests, Scout Leaders, Teachers…  all are to be thanked for somehow instilling in me this sense of willingness to pick up new ideas and abandon the ones that no longer make sense.

#Blizzcon #Overwatch