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So how ’bout that BlizzCon?

Let me dedicate some space to the The Apology. Or, rather, “apology.” A lot of my fellow bloggers seemed surprised that one was offered right in the opening ceremony, but it seems unthinkable that Blizzard would have tried to not address the one thing that threatened to overshadow their whole trade show. Can you imagine the headlines all weekend if Brack said nothing?

Which is amusing to think about, because he did say nothing:

Before we start the opening ceremony, I want to say a few words. Y’know uh Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone Esports moment about a month ago and we did not. We moved too quickly in our decision making and then to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you. When I think about what I’m most unhappy about, there’s really two things. The first one is we didn’t live up to the high standards that we really set for ourselves and the second is that we failed at our purpose. And for that I’m sorry and I accept accountability.

I’m going to pause here, as it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine whenever someone says “I accept accountability” when there aren’t any consequences to account for. Imagine a parent saying that to the store manager when their child knocks over a display case, but then just leaving without, you know, paying for the shit that got broke. Brack “accepts accountability” and that means… what? Nothing. Is he going to take a pay cut? Resign? Maybe this will be filed in his Permanent Record?

[…] We will do better going forward. But, our actions are going to matter more than any of these words as we walk around this weekend. I hope it is clear how committed we are to everyone’s right to express themselves in all kinds of ways and all kinds of places. I’ve actually seen and heard many of you expressing yourselves this morning.

This is likely a reference to the protesters outside, the people wearing Hong Kong tshirts, and possibly the person walking around in a Winnie the Pooh costume. Which SynCaine sees as a huge deal, for Blizzard allowing someone to do. Because allowing them through the door is surely more potentially damaging than ejecting someone for an obscure reference to China’s president.

Give me a break.

What this apology did was give enough cover for those that were only reluctantly boycotting Blizzard to go back playing games guilt-free. As Brack clarifies in this PCGamer interview, the 6-month ban on Blitzchung (and the casters!) is staying. Would people have boycotted at all if this was the initial punishment? I don’t know – you tell me. The prize money confiscation was especially egregious in my mind, but the whole thing kind of reeks. At the same time, having no policy at all regarding non-Hearthstone speech during a Hearthstone victory interview seems untenable as well.

But, whatever. If an apology with nothing behind it is good enough to allow you to have fun playing videogames again, then have at it. I never joined the boycott myself, because half the items in my house come from China so it all seemed kind of hypocritical. Yes, Blizzard said the quiet part out loud. But if you think the makers of your George Foreman grill would not have also done the same thing in a hypothetical grilling tournament scenario, you are naive to the extreme. Same with the people flocking to Final Fantasy 14 after the controversy, as if Square Enix made some kind of heroic stand against China. You know, what with their partnership with Tencent and all.

I have nothing against principles. I love’em, in fact. But they only ever mean anything when you actually stick with them. If what Brack said at BlizzCon was enough to move your needle, well… maybe you were better off in the peanut gallery with the rest of us.

Quick Update: BlizzCon

In this interview, the last question was:

Q: Will the team address faction imbalance on realms?
A: The new WPVP system will solve a lot of these issues as sharding technology will place you into shards with others who have opted into WPVP.

So there you have it. World PvP in WoW’s next expansion won’t quite be as dead as suspected, although the lines between what constitutes “world” is becoming quite blurry. It will also be quite interesting to see what becomes of gankers when they are suddenly thrown into the same waters as other gankers.

Nevertheless, I can still see a carrot existing for the otherwise carebear player. Presumably, these “PvP shards” will be less populated, which might make finding and claiming those rare spawns just a bit easier. Or, you know, even scaring/killing off the competition.

Impressions: BlizzCon Day 1

Well, now. I didn’t really see this coming.

The biggest news of the day, based on Reddit traffic, was clearly Blizzard’s teasing of WoW Classic. As in, they are actually making a vanilla server. Everything is still in development, so it’s technically possible that it won’t actually happen, but that would be pretty embarrassing given that they spent time on stage and even created a video about it. Important details such as cost and which patch stage they will be basing it on are still unknown – based on “server” language though, it’s possible it will just be, well, a server option in your normal WoW subscription.

Some people will undoubtedly be overjoyed. None will probably play a paladin.

In other news, the next expansion in WoW Prime will be… err…



Now, I’m sure there be a lot of people excited for WarCraft to get back to “roots” as a Red vs Blue RTS trope, but this is literally the most generic title and expansion theme they could have done. Sequel Escalation can be difficult to manage when there is no formal end planned – there are only a few more tricks Blizzard can pull once the Burning Legion itself is extinguished – but… this? “Battle for Azeroth” is something you write on a whiteboard with an underline, to denote that a series of actual title ideas will follow. Is this what people felt like almost exactly six years ago when Mists of Pandaria was revealed?

Looking at the MMO-Champ coverage, about the most interesting set of bullet points were:

World PVP

  • The PvP vs PvE server division is going away, replaced by an individual toggle. You can choose if you want to opt in to PvP or not when you are in town. Players that feel trapped on PvP servers have a way out. This opens up the game to changing and improving the world PvP ruleset.
  • New content like bounty hunting or assassination quests will become an option.
  • There will be bonuses to experience, reputation and other things when you are questing with PvP mode enabled to offset the inefficiency.

This is almost a complete game-changer for me. And probably anyone else trapped on an imbalanced PvP server. My primary server at this point is actually heavily skewed to the Alliance, but that just makes the Horde I do encounter especially surly while leveling. Or, you know, when faceless Cross-Realm hit-squads phase into your area. Now that problem is permanently solved.

It also, rather cleverly, creates world PvP hotzones with the carrot of increased Reputation (etc) gains. You could argue that these Reputation-farming zones would already be hot in a normal, always-on PvP server, and you would be correct. But now everyone there would be consensually engaging in (or preparing for) PvP, likely putting up more of a sport of it. And since the change in flagging requires one to be inside a town, you avoid opportunistic ganking, and presumably accidental flagging in the same design. Win-win.

There will be more to talk about in the coming days, I’m sure, but those are my first impressions.

Biggest News from BlizzCon

Let me just lay it on you:

  • They’re looking into making the WoW Token be able to be used for other services as well like Character Transfer, Faction Change, or Balance. (source)

You can watch the specific part on Youtube, but the bottom line is that this is coming in the “very near future,” there won’t be different Tokens, e.g. the ones you currently have will work, and this entire thing was what they had planned from the start but wanted to start slow to make sure the system worked.

This news is both incredibly good and probably bad for me. Good because I have a lot of toons trapped on Auchindoun. Bad because I don’t know when this system will be implemented. But because it is, that means I shall leave them trapped until it is implemented. Definitely don’t want to be a chump spending $25 two weeks before I could buy a dozen moves with in-game currency.

More BlizzCon impressions to follow.

Warlords of Draenor BlizzCon Recap

Things can end up changing radically between BlizzCon and this new expansion’s release date (remember Path of the Titans?), but here are a bunch of random things that caught my eye:

  • Few to no daily quests at max level (source). While MoP ended up giving us hundreds of daily quests and triple-gating gear, it bears reminding that daily quests have been a Big Deal since Burning Crusade. Perhaps not on exactly the same scale, but still. I am not exactly sure what non-instanced endgame activities Blizzard plans on replacing dailies with, although I haven’t heard much grumbling about the Timeless Isle so maybe that will suffice.
  • Garrison as player housing (source). Personally, this sort of came across as more of a gimmick to me, but I became more intrigued when they mentioned that there will be multiple locations in which to place your Garrison. I enjoyed the farm quite a bit in MoP, so this will probably be fine. I like that you can invite people into your party so they can see your configuration/interact with your NPCs, but if you can’t show off a trophy collection of some sort then it’s kinda pointless IMO.
  • Itemization revamp (source). This is huge to me and will have wide-reaching ramifications across the whole of the game. Hit, Expertise, Dodge, Parry, and Reforging all gone. More limited Enchanting and Gemming. Dynamically changing gear stats (!!). Just think about that for a second. One suit of gear will cover all of your paladin/shaman/druid/etc specs. Enchanting/Gemming will likely mess with things a bit, which is sad, but still that is a game-changing amount of gear reduction. The only question mark here is whether Spirit is going to be considered a primary stat for spec purposes. I imagine it’d have to be, because otherwise you would still need plate with Spirit on it.
  • Free level 90 (source). I know a lot of MMO vets don’t like this, but the grumbling is pretty silly at this point. Recruit-A-Friend gives a 300% bonus to XP gain and gives the referral toon free levels to hand out to alts. I used a Scroll of Resurrection to get a free level 80 almost two years ago. By the end of each expansion, the leveling curve is reduced by 30%. Heirlooms exist. I have heard people suggest Blizzard could have introduced a sidekicking system or dynamic leveling ala Guild Wars 2, but I never quite caught the explanation for why the hell it’s better for a veteran to run through Stranglethorn Vale for the 10th time with his buddy instead of both of them having fun in current content. That new player can see as much old content as he/she wants on an alt. So… how is this not a win-win? Or would you have preferred Blizzard speeding up leveling even further in a way that cannot be avoided? Because that was the other real alternative here.
  • Heroic raiding = Mythic raiding with 20 people only (source). This move actually makes a lot of sense on paper, and undoubtedly makes things easier for Blizzard’s raid design team. The big downside, of course, is how it screws over every heroic 10m raiding guild in existence. While you could theoretically talk to other heroic 10m raiding guilds and buddy-up that way, I feel like heroic raiding likely takes more than just a little group chemistry to make happen. Then again, I suppose it’s fair to ask how many guilds this would actually impact that weren’t already downsizing from 25m mode for Ranking/Realm First purposes. Regardless, I think you should start selling your stock in 25m raids generally, if you have not yet done so.

There are also some other random quality of life-esque improvements like how heirlooms will be Account-wide (a clever solution to cross-realm mail), max-level normal dungeons will be making a return, and BGs will be getting a new scoreboard that highlights actual contribution to the fight rather than damage/healing whoring. Obviously a lot of this will be subject to change and refinement, but I am tentatively intrigued based on what we have seen thus far.

Well, let me specify that I am intrigued by the features and game changes, not this throwback to the most boring racial lore in the game. Oooo, orcs, doing tribal orcish things. We are supposedly going to be seeing “a lot” of paladin lore along with presumably some Naaru shenanigans, so I’m actually feeling pretty good about being Alliance for this upcoming expansion. So we’ll see how it goes.

Interesting How That Works

As you may have noticed, I’m actually pretty fine with the direction of Mists of Pandaria, pandas in general, and sort of feeding off of the entirely ridiculous vocal reactions against the expansion. Kind of like the opposite of the following Nietzsche quote:

“In every party there is one who through his all too credulous avowal of the party’s principles incites the others to apostasy.”
-Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

In other words, when you come across people who are so vehemently opposed to something (for seemingly irrational reasons), I for one have a subconscious tendency to moderate the behavior by adopting the opposite reaction. For example, I consider myself fairly liberal, but occasionally when I read some of the absurdly reactionary bullshit of other liberals, I suddenly find myself on the other side of the aisle. There is a story about how a police officer shot a dog, and it was presented to me as “If you aren’t upset, you aren’t paying attention. I don’t want my tax dollars supporting this:” followed by a picture of the officer and the dog. Queue a /facepalm.

That being said, after watching the latest episode of Legendary on Tankspot/, I finally got to see how Mists of Pandaria was actually introduced at BlizzCon. The following Youtube of the actual event is perhaps the most painful thing I have ever seen:

Instead of watching the whole thing, you can skip to 2:30 when it really gets painfully overdone.

Guys, it’s just possible that the curious race we’re going to meet in this mystic land, may just teach us a thing or two about who we are, and why we fight.

I think I hurt the muscles in my neck from having cringed so goddamn hard at the above quote. If anyone’s reaction against Mist of Pandaria is based on having watched that video, you have my full blessings to have gone (and continuing to go) ape-shit over the internet.

I am still fine with the expansion, for the record, but it was clear from the video and overall presentation on how cognizant Blizzard was that people would be upset about a “direction shift.” And in being cognizant of possible negative reactions, Blizzard legitimized them. I believe the expansion would have gone over a lot better if they did not draw so much of a contrast between what came before and what was on the horizon. Don’t remind people of all the outlandish sequel escalation that they have experienced over the last 5-6 years, especially when said escalation had definitive bad guys on the box.

And more importantly, if the Horde/Alliance war is going to heat up, put that in the goddamn teaser trailer. As in, Theramore in flames, Alliance soldiers on the march, something, anything. We know Pandaria will be turned into a fantasy Vietnam, with two superpowers parachuting in to bring a little heat to the otherwise Cold War. The whole Horde and Alliance war is amazingly keyed up, and gets the blood pumping in a way fairly unique in the history of opposing faction gameplay – that linked thread is 177 pages long with ~4000 posts. Put that front and center, and you’d likely find people more amicable to the idea of pandas being srs bsns.

Looking Back at Blizzcon 2010

Just for funsies, I took a trip down memory lane to see what kind of things were talked about in Blizzcon 2010. I planned to add in Blizzcon 2009 stuff as well, but apparently LiveBlogging was very popular that year and it turns out to be a pretty terrible format for coherent archives.

Blizzcon 2010 Open Q&A (source)

Q: Are there any plans to add a legendary dps dagger?
A: Not really. We don’t make legendaries often, so we try to make them useful for a lot more people. We decided on a staff yesterday by the way.

Q: Basically, I originally liked the idea you had about lowering the talents, but now I really hate the fact there is no uniqueness anymore, everyone is the same number/combo of talents atm are you ever going to extend it again for more options?
A: Do you think the specs in the deeper trees were very different from each other? They weren’t. It’s a new design, the last 10 points are the most exciting ones to spend, we’ll see what specs develop. hopefully we can tweak things. There were cookie cutter specs before this change, and there probably will be some for this as well.

Q: With the existance of Pandarens being hinted at, are Pandarens still being excluded away?
A: I don’t see them flying out of the cracks.. we’ll see. They’re a super cool race and an awesome concept, maybe we’ll see them in the future. We’ll see.

Q: Any better plans to integrate the TBC races into the lore?
A: We’ve kinda failed at bringing Draenei into the wow culture, we tried to do it more in Cataclysm. We’re not there yet but it’s better.

Q: About the balance between horde and alliance characters, now I have to level up all my chars, it’s gonna be 20 vs 100 horde fighting.
A: We just need a better battlecry for the alliance, its definitely something we are keeping an eye on, it’s just the psychology of the coolness of the horde that makes them more popular, making the allies be proud of them being allies is a thing to solve in the long run.

Blizzcon 2010 Quest & Lore Panel (source)

Q: Will we ever see a redemption or resurrection of Illidan as a Character?
A: BOY DO I WANT TO DO THAT. That’d be badass. I don’t think anyone at all has ever talked about that. But I love that shit. I’m a sucker for a good redemption story. Except Arthas. Not Arthas. He’s dead.

[Note: From Blizzcon 2011:

Q: What happened to Arthas’s body? What happened to Illidan’s body? What about Kael’thas?
A: It is likely we will bring Illidan back, not so much for Kael’thas, he already had his come back. Arthas’s body is somewhere but we don’t really know where.]

Everything But the Dance Studio

Once you get that knee-jerk reaction out of your system, the design announcements currently going on at BlizzCon are pretty interesting.

Yeah, Pandas. They really did it. I owe someone $20. But what about the rest?

Monk Reactions

  • Every race but goblin and worgen… interesting.
    • Does this mean new animations for all those older races?
  • GG tank balance, once again. Historically, Blizzard has never balanced tanks correctly, ever.
  • “No auto attack! Devs want you to have this street fighter feel where you punch a lot.”
    • /facepalm
    • Seriously, that won’t work. Blizzard has spent years increasing the passive damage of every melee class because front-loading them in actual attacks leads to 3.0-era Ret paladins murdering everyone.
    • Nevermind how Blizzard specifically changed Heroic Strike and other on-next-attack abilities to be more normal abilities specifically because warriors were getting carpal tunnel. Now they want Street Fighter?

Okay, fine:

Panda Reactions

  • /facepalm
  • Those racials suck. Nothing like how blown away I was at Goblin/Worgen racials.
  • Wonder about what their racial mount will be…
  • All that aside, I’m one of “those guys” whose overall opinion on the race will be determined by how the females look. My paladin is a draenei female despite it being the worst race in the game simply because I like the look, for example.
  • After the disappointing direction of Worgen females, I fully expect to be similarly disappointed here.

Talent Tree Revamp Reaction

  • Change is scary!
  • Actually, this sounds fine.
  • These choices are actually interesting. Some of them will be extremely difficult.
  • Here are some examples of good ones:

Those are some interesting choices. The rogue spread boggles my mind with the possibilities, for example. Shadow Focus would presumably let you Sap, use Tricks of the Trade, and so on without any Energy cost. Meanwhile, Nightstalker would also be useful in a more general sense. Subterfuge seems bonkers to me. Can you imagine? You’re healing some dude from the bushes, and all of a sudden you get a Garrote, Eviscerate, and Mutilated before you even see where it came from. And I have to assume that Stealth breaks immediately if you start capping a flag or whatever, otherwise… very OP.

And look at the tanking spreads:

Those… are actually pretty crazy choices. The “obvious” paladin tank choice would be Ardent Defender, but I have never thought it was a compelling button to push every since it was redesigned from its (admittedly OP) passive ability – it was essentially Divine Protection v2, now with triple the cooldown. Now I have choices! Sacred Shield as a Prot tank looks really juicy even with the 60 second internal cooldown, for example. And if I were questing or facerolling through obsolete heroics, Blessed Life would let me unleash some burst DPS with all that extra guaranteed Holy Power.

Here is an example of what NOT to do though:

Yes, I noticed that Repentance technically has no cooldown and is essentially a paladin polymorph. Yes, I also noticed that “Fist of Justice” (lol) is a 6-second stun on a 30-second cooldown, ala early Wrath. Choosing between those two will be absurdly difficult… unless you are Ret paladin, in which case you are just fucked. Holy paladins never could get Repentance, so a “default” HoJ at half its normal cooldown is pure bonus, nevermind the strategic implications of trading it for a spammable CC on a different DR from normal CCs. Similarly, Prot paladins experience pure bonus. Ret paladins though? They lose either their stun or their incapacitate (e.g. their only “gap-closer”), and lose even the lame-ass snare capacity they had previously. More demoralizing is that the mere continued existence of Seal of Justice means there won’t be a snare for Ret paladins for yet another expansion.

There are probably other class examples of options actually being taken away in this revamp, but the Ret one jumped off the page and cock-slapped me. Anyway, back to talent impressions:

  • Apparently Blizzard wants you to be able to change talents at any time, ala glyphs.
  • Some of those talents are obviously dungeon talents, obviously PvP, etc. Not sure how that eliminates cookie-cutter builds.
  • Perhaps a secondary effect of having more difficulty levels in dungeons/raids is that cookie-cutter builds would be less relevant.
  • Actually, no, cookie-cutter builds will always be relevant. See: rise of GearScore in late Wrath despite high GearScore being 100% irrelevant to the actual difficulty.

Dungeon/Raid/Scenario Reactions

  • “Heroic dungeons [in this expansion] will largely be tuned to be about as difficult as they were in Wrath of the Lich King, allowing players to fairly quickly down bosses in PUGs and hit their Valor Point caps.”
    • Told you so.
      • Okay, technically I predicted Firelands would be easier, which didn’t happen. Not my fault Blizzard is so damn slow.
  • Scenarios sound interesting. The lack of a trinity requirement is pretty novel, WoW-wise.
  • Hopefully Scenarios will be a frequently-updated feature, since it doesn’t technically need lore or even bosses to support it.
  • Dungeon Challenges, eh? Good luck.
  • Christ, they put Challenges in the LFD feature?! Are they insane?
    • Okay, it only matches you up with other people flagging themselves as Challenge. Not quite as crazy.
    • Actually, completing a successful gold metal Challenge run entirely via LFD should be a tier higher than doing it in a premade group, don’t you think?
  • I think Challenges are a pretty interesting feature, but what’s more interesting is how they “normalize” the gear. Seems pretty dangerous for a MMO to even tangentially introduce a feature that makes gear progression irrelevant.
  • After all, if they can make gear irrelevant there, why not make it irrelevant everywhere?
    • Other than the obvious “it removes replay value.”
  • “We are currently not planning to have 90 normal dungeons in MoP.” Ballsy. Or lazy, depending.
  • That seems like a clear signal to solo to cap, then group.
  • Or continue soloing forever, by getting VP from questing.

Misc Reactions

  • Pet Battling = Path of the Titans, Dance Studio. I predict vaporware.
  • Then again… they did play the panda card so who knows anymore?
    • “Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. [screaming] You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
  • If Pet Battling is real, $10 says the store pets are more powerful than normal pets.
  • “Pets will be account wide.” Really? Huh. Then I guess the BoE Disco Cub isn’t such a rip-off than it was before.
    • You know there will be pissed-off people who bought more than one to have on multiple characters.
  • “The plan is to get people back into the world, instead of having players roam around Stormwind and Orgrimmar all the time once they reach max level.”
  • And yet no real concrete plans on how they expect to accomplish that.
  • Hell, Scenarios and LFR and Challenges all push people back into instances.
  • Maybe daily quests with VP will get people outdoors, but that certainly isn’t much of “out in the world.”
  • Interesting how there was no mention of new Wintergrasp/Tol Barad-esque zone.

In any case, that about sums it up for now. While a lot of these things sound interesting, Path of the Titans sounded interest too. Time will only tell how many (if any) of these features actually make it to live servers.