Media Consumption – Blizzcon 2015 Edition

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

MMOs Worth Playing – World of Warcraft

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Changing Course

mmosworthplayingWhen I started this segment of my blog the original intent was to highlight games that are not getting a lot of press and talk about all of the things I like about them.  That said since the column is called “MMOs Worth Playing” I knew eventually I would have to get around to talking about some of the bigger names.  So as a result I am going to have a momentary lapse of purpose here… and go with serendipity.  Today’s is coming on the morning that BlizzCon 2015 starts, and as a result it just felt natural to talk about World of Warcraft.  There was never a point where I would not ultimately end up covering the game, given that in many of the discussions I end up talking about it.  So here we go… my attempt to create an overly positive discussion about the benefits of World of Warcraft.

The Standard

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In every industry there is a leader that for the most part everyone gets compared to.  In the MMO world this leader is World of Warcraft.  Even though this has become the stuff of internet memes… it is by no means the first MMO, or in truth did it invent many of the things that folks attribute to it.  That said it did manage to take the model that was burgeoning at the time of its release…  knock off the rough spots and sand it to a mirror shine.  Blizzard is really good at making games that appeal to the masses, and World of Warcraft is no exception.  The problem is… the “appealing to the masses” has been a moving target causing the game to shift and dodge numerous times along the path.  Each time it has changed course it has created a set of fans nostalgic for their imagined version of “the way things used to be”.  So here we are today, with a legion of fan…  some joyous, some in denial, and some begrudgingly along for the ride.  Everyone has a World of Warcraft story, and if they don’t…  they should.  Every so often a questionnaire circulates through the community asking what game you would suggest a person with zero experience in MMOs should play… and the only actual answer you can give is in fact World of Warcraft.

This is the game that takes the complex concepts of an MMO and feeds it to players in bite sized chunks at just the right times to convert them from a MMO gaming neophyte to a seasoned veteran.  The problem is that we have seen is that Warcraft is really good at creating Warcraft players, because many of these gamers never really venture out into other games.  This is in many ways a failing of the other companies to embrace the same sort of low level educational campaign that Warcraft has.  Sure to us long time players we see the Cataclysm revamp of the newbie zones as a travesty, but in each case they just work better… when you view them through the eyes of someone who has zero ancestral knowledge into the way that these games work.  Each blatant breadcrumb, or cheese quest designed only to deliver you to the next quest hub…  is honestly not for us, but instead for the players that NEED those clear indicators of what they should be doing next.  We recently saw the subscription numbers for Warcraft and in part that number is due to the fact that a decade later they can still manage to induct brand new players into the tribe of WoW.

The Paradox

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I am naming this section the Paradox because it highlights something odd in the game.  When people leave Warcraft it is generally stated that they are leaving because they have “run out of things to do”.  The problem that a game like WoW creates is that in order to keep the front edge of players happy, they have to keep cranking out content…  something that Blizzard has proven to find difficult in the massive lags between end of expansion patches and the new expansion.  The paradox comes in that one of the big reasons why I would suggest this game is that there is so damned much content to experience.  Sure it might not be anything a veteran player wants to do… but for a brand new player this is a smorgasbord of brand new experiences and over a decade worth of sights and vistas to experience.  World of Warcraft is by no means a gorgeous game at this point, because it feels a decade old at times… but there are still moments that are breath taking, like the first time you roll into Booty Bay and see the giant Goblin statue, or the first time you look down from the top of Thunderbluff onto the valleys below.  These are important experiences that I feel like no one should rob themselves of.

So many of my good memories of this game however come from the interaction with the people.  Part of my nostalgic chagrin however is realizing that so many of those players are no longer playing the game.  Many of my best memories are tied to specific moments in the games history that will never come back.  That however is not to say that each and every night new memories are not being made.  People are still loving this game with all of their heart, and I have stated this before that I am more than a little jealous of them.  I miss the types of experiences I used to have in World of Warcraft, but since many of those were tied to my “first time” doing this or that… I realize those are experiences I will never be able to have again.  This is a game I was utterly devoted to for over half of that decade, and still have pangs of remorse when I think about those things I have lost.  This game is powerful, and the experiences you have through it are equally powerful.  Which is why I feel like everyone should step foot in the game and find their own version of those “first times”.

The Model

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As I said many of those moments were because of the other players, but one of the benefits about starting World of Warcraft at this point… is that essentially everything is available to you as a solo player.  That is not to say that I do not suggest that you find your way into a really good guild, because guilds make the entire experience better regardless of the game.  However there really should be nothing locked from you because you did not bring a legion of friends into it.  The game itself is subscription based, but you can get a free trial account to start and dip your toes into the water.  If you end up liking it, the base game is $19.99 and will carry you through level 90, with the latest expansion Warlords of Draenor costing $49.99 on top of that.  The later comes with a free boost to 90… which I highly suggest you don’t use at least not for your first character.  There is a bunch of really awesome content to experience, and part of my frustration in the past is that it feels like these boosts cheapen the older content.  Some of the best content in the game, is well below the level cap… so to skip over a Deadmines, Wailing Caverns, or Dire Maul would be a travesty.  Then to maintain your account it is an older monthly subscription model of $14.99.

Over the years I have said a lot of hurtful things on this blog about Blizzard and World of Warcraft, and in many case those were about specific problems I had…  that most players would never even care about.  If I were creating a Facebook profile about my relationship with Warcraft…  the only thing I could possibly pick is “complicated”.  Similar to my feelings about Star Wars, with all of the hype and disappointment… I also hold in my heart a lot of frustration and disappointment with all of the possibility that was squandered.  I’ve also come to realize that I wholeheartedly love Blizzard as a company, it is just one of there franchises that I have some issue with.  Diablo 3 and Heroes of the Storm are both amazing… and what I have played of Starcraft 2 was really fun… even though I am not really an RTS player.  I anxiously look forward to Overwatch and seeing how it does… and occasionally I break out a Hearthstone game even though that is not a regular occurrence.  With World of Warcraft… I know that eventually I will go back and resubscribe because I always do.  This game has a hold on my heart that even though I have tried to purge it so many times… it stays there clinging tightly.  No matter what my current feelings are for the game, that power cannot be denied.  So regardless of what the current hype cycle thinks…  this is a great game and has so many excellent experiences that you would be robbing yourself of it you did not experience them.  That is not to say that I don’t also think there are so many other amazing games out there…  but when creating a column called “MMOs Worth Playing”…  Warcraft had to be included among that number.

Instant Relevance

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King of Match Three

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Yesterday morning was the Activision Blizzard earnings call for investors, and much of the focus has been on one particular tidbit of information.  They announced that they are acquiring Candy Crush maker King Digital for the sum of $5.9 Billion dollars.  The reaction to this announcement has been pretty varied, because in truth…  many “core” gamers loath the concept of games like Candy Crush.  First off there is some confusion to clear up.  Activision Blizzard is not the same thing as Blizzard Entertainment, so early reports I saw talked about Blizzard buying King Digital…  which caused some outrage.  Activision Blizzard is the big parent company that pulls all the strings of the various products from Call of Duty to Skylanders to of course the Blizzard franchises.  At first I have to admit I was taken by surprise by the announcement but that pretty much went away immediately when I thought about it.  In doing this deal ActiBlizz is essentially buying instant relevance in the traditional mobile gaming market.

Now you might be saying to yourself… But Bel, Activision and Blizzard already doing mobile gaming.  Sure they do… but they do it in a way that attempts to appeal to “core” gamers that are wanting something on their phone to play when they don’t have access to their normal gaming platforms.  This is a vastly different market than the one that King Digital generally focuses on which are for lack of a better term “casual” and “mobile exclusive” users that would never in a million years… consider themselves gamers.  Essentially King Digital targets people like my wife, that spends plenty of time playing games on her iPad but does not in any fashion think of herself as a gamer.  So in essence with this one… albeit expensive acquisition, they now cover a market that they did not serve in any fashion.  Sure Hearthstone is a great mobile game… but it really only draws in people who already are in the fold of “gamers”.  The big thing is all of these “non-gamers” have prove time and time again that they are in fact willing to spend money on micro-transactions.

What This Means

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In truth I doubt for the short term it really means anything.  Activision will continue releasing big budget shooters like Call of Duty and Destiny… and Blizzard will continue flirting with e-sports while still not quite certain what to do with World of Warcraft.  Another big chunk of this earnings report was a note that the WoW subscription numbers have more or less stabilized from their post Warlords of Draenor free fall.  I feel like there is some fuzzy math at work here, but according to the official figures they have dropped from 5.6 Million to 5.5 Million.  There was a strange little definition that was released to explain what they determined a subscriber.

Subscriber Definition: World of Warcraft subscribers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet Game Room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards. Subscribers in licensees’ territories are defined along the same rules.

This makes me think that these subscription numbers are in fact counting WoW Token players… seeing as how that would count as “prepaid” access.  So the actual month to month subscription numbers would be a bit lower.  To some extent I wish they would have broken those numbers out separately… since a monthly sub is semi-guaranteed income, and a token is a one time purchase.  The other big news however is that they plan on this being the last month they actually announce subscription numbers.  Instead they have a new sort of engagement number formula that they are working on to determine the health of the game.

At first glance this sounds a bit odd… and maybe like they are trying to hide losses within the cloak of mathematics.  However… we are just days away from Blizzcon and it makes me wonder.  Will this finally be the year that they announce World of Warcraft going to a free to play model?  Cutting the ties of relying on subscriptions to convey the health of the game… would at least be one step in that direction.  If I were Blizzard I would be seriously considering it… because honestly Free to Play seems to work.  With the recent high publicity relaunch of Wildstar… that game is doing significantly better now than it was, and the same was essentially true with Star Wars the Old Republic went to the model.  Free to Play has been the salvation of otherwise dying games… and even though World of Warcraft is far from dying…  I still think they would benefit from the switch.  It would be a massive shift in methodology and would probably change the way content is delivered, but it would also bring back a bunch of players that want to dip their toes in the game every now and then… but not feel like they are chained to a subscription.  Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone are both wildly success as Free to Play experiences… and with Overwatch starting to ramp up and following that same model…  it just seems like Blizzard has wrestled with how to make it work.

What I Hope Happens

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So while I don’t think anything will change for a bit… my hope is that through this deal there is some cross pollination of skillsets.  I would love to see better integration of mobile platforms and traditional games.  As you know I have been playing a lot of Destiny… and quite honestly the way that game works is just not as clean as it should.  There are a lot of things that you can do through the website…  slightly different things that you can do through the mobile app… and even a different set of things through the game itself.  The entire process feels cludgy as hell… but an attempt to move in the direction of giving players access to tools outside of the game.  Now if you take that basic desire and match it with a company that has proven that they can spin the same old match three schlock into infectious gold…  you can maybe create really interesting experiences that span traditional platforms and mobile gaming ones.

What I would love to see is a better mobile app for World of Warcraft.  Why can’t we fish on our mobile phones and have it grant skill-ups and materials for our characters in game?  Why can’t we do the normally tedious action of Archaeology in a mobile mini-game?  Garrisons themselves were essentially the same sort of thing as a tiny tower like mobile game…  why didn’t exist on mobile platforms allowing people to do the upkeep and maintenance activities when they couldn’t otherwise play the game?  Why can’t we have a significantly better auction house integration system?  Essentially…  give players a reason to stay in the game by making them feel more connected to it.. on their own terms.  A big part of my frustration with Garrisons is that I knew I had a one to two hour ritual waiting on me every time I logged into the game, before I could feel like I was free to do interesting things…  like slay internet dragons.  If I could do Garrisons while walking to my car at night, or on my lunch break… it would take some of that burden away so that I knew once I got home… I could do the fun stuff without having to worry about the “paperwork”.  Essentially we live our lives on our phones…  and the games that integrate better with how we live our lives are going to feel more “real” to us.

 

 

So Many Feels

AggroChat Episode #30

I still cannot fathom that we have made it thirty episodes into our podcast and are still apparently going strong.  Technically it is 31 weeks since we started this adventure, because we missed one week for various sundry reasons.  What shocks me the most is that we still have listeners and that it seems like we keep picking up new ones along the way.  I feel Sally Field screaming “You Like Me, You Really Like Me!” but in this case its the Us that is liked not necessarily me.  AggroChat is really about pushing record on the type of conversations we have always had over voice chat on a near nightly basis.  We are unscripted and unprepared and yet still seem to never had a drought of things to discuss.

This week we go  through a whirlwind of topics including:  Magic the Gathering Online, Infinity Minatures Game, Dawngate being cancelled, Blizzcon, Overwatch, and the constant frustration over Gnomes being the butt of every joke.  I think we were all caught off guard by the news surrounding Overwatch.  If you remember several weeks back we speculated as to what might be announced, and while we brought up an FPS we just as quickly dismissed that ideal.  The FPS genre is pretty stagnant so I didn’t see much room where Blizzard could improve upon it.  Here is hoping this is not the case because the gameplay footage I have seen has me absolutely intrigued.  Wolfenstein Enemy Territory was my favorite competitive shooter, and here is hoping that they bring this same level of detail and strategy to the maps.  Also hoping that by some token I can manage to score a beta invite.

So Many Feels

If you recall yesterday I talked about the “Blizzcon Spirit” and how that this year I had not really felt it.  Well last night it struck with a vengeance.  My friend Syl mentioned the Looking For Group documentary and how good it was over twitter.  I had already planned on watching it at some point, because I am a sucker for documentaries… especially fan produced ones.  I have to say it is so amazingly good, and I am glad that something like that exists.  The negative is I am absolutely overwhelmed with feels about Blizzard, World of Warcraft and the community surrounding it.  Had it not been super late last night I probably would have logged into the game the moment the documentary had finished if for no reason other than to visit my characters.  The documentary is like some crazy aphrodisiac that makes you love World of Warcraft again.  One viewing and you will be wanting to scream “For The Alliance!” or horde if that is your persuasion.

Then the reality sets in…  that all the same problems I have had with the game, and the players and just years of history…  are all still there.  If I could return to a snapshot in time, when we were still raiding Icecrown Citadel as the Duranub Raiding Compny…  I would do it in a heartbeat.  If I could return to a period in time when we were fighting to clear Ahn’Qiraj as the Late Night Raiders… I would also do that in a heartbeat.  The problem is there are these epic vignettes of time where it would be amazing to return to and experience all the love and wonderment that existed in that little vacuum.  Sad thing is none of those things exist…  time happened, years of guild, server and raid drama happened.  Folks don’t just stand still in one place, they evolve and move on with their lives.

Glory Days Revisited

belghast_updated When I log back into World of Warcraft amped up on Nostalgia… I feel just like that once upon a time Quarterback reliving their big homecoming win.  That world that was meaningful to me and the people that I fought to protect and keep moving towards a goal…  just don’t exist any longer, or at least they don’t exist in the same combination that they once did.  I have tried to return to the game on two different times and rally the troops to rekindle the spirit that once made my guild a great place to be.  Each time I end up frustrated that no one is wanting to work towards those ends with me.  People are happy to exist in the comfortable place they have carved out once the epic nature of the game died away.  The glory days really can’t be relived, at least not in the same way.

So here I stand wondering what exactly I will do.  I know there is no going back, but part of me wishes there was.  I have a paid subscription through December, and a fully paid expansion because they allowed me to order it a year ago when I was actually amped up about World of Warcraft once more.  I have no idea if I will attempt to log in come release day, and start playing through the new content.  One of the things about being open to change, means you can’t fully predict what you will do when a different set of stimulus is applied.  I think my time leading the Warcraft House Stalwart is over, and it is time for them to find new leadership that can make them great again.  That doesn’t preclude me from occasionally playing the role of war hero and popping my head in from time to time.

Feels

Since this post is in large part about feelings, and me struggling with them…  I thought it was fitting to state that while often times frustrating…  I am glad that I have them.  It would suck to go through life with the inability to surrender to your emotions and get caught up in a moment.  While society has attempted to teach me that it is somehow “unmanly” to feel emotion, and moreso be swayed by them…  for whatever reason this indoctrination never actually took.  I feel no shame in choking back tears during certain moments of a lot of movies.  There is  that moment where you just can’t help yourself, and that story of whatever you are watching has peeled back your layers of defense and landed a blow to your inner core.  I embrace that I can empathize with people I have never met, and care even more deeply about them that they will likely ever realize.  While it is often cool to be aloof and uncaring about things…  I like to care, I like to know I am making a difference.  So today I am thankful that I was raised with compassion and the ability to grant that same compassion to others.

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