A pair of recent interviews with Blizzard employees, conducted by IGN at Gamescom, have hinted at the future of the Warcraft franchise beyond the MMO’s vice-like embrace. It’s not only movies; there might be a new strategy game on the cards.
At Gamescom last week Blizzard announced that Heroes of the Storm [official site] would get a host of updates including new heroes, a map and skins. Some of this content is now out on the Public Test Realm, Blizzard’s publicly available testing environment where players can help shake out bugs and preview what’s coming next. There’s one very interesting change: you must now buy any paid-for items before you can test them. It’s a strange combo of Early Access and pre-ordering, where these items – in this case new hero Kharazim, aka the Monk from Diablo 3 – will transfer to your main account only when they’re fully released.
RPS Feature Lessons From WoW
Blizzard like to hop between genres, that much is clear. At their Gamescom conference they talked about Legacy of the Void, an RTS; Hearthstone, a collectible card game; Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA (or ‘hero brawler’, if you accept Blizzard’s nomenclature); and Overwatch [official site], a first-person shooter.
But after playing Overwatch, which visually recalls Team Fortress 2, I’m starting to think Blizzard’s games all have more in common than their surface suggests. I’m beginning to think there is as much a ‘Blizzgame’ formula as much as there is a ‘Ubigame’ formula.
RPS Feature We get up-close and personal with Blizzard's eSports strategy
Blizzard’s upcoming Heroes of the Storm [official site] is, in my humble opinion, a belter of a game. Such praise is small beer to the Californian mega-developer, however, which with HotS and the upcoming Overwatch intends to reclaim a leading role in the eSports industry it helped to create. HotS is still in beta but the long road began this weekend with Heroes of the Dorm, a college-focused competition that culminated in a grand final broadcast live on ESPN – the latter being not only something of a coup, but also an eSports first. The event laid bare Blizzard’s intentions for HotS and, despite some community grumbling, what looks awfully like a new take on how best to present competitive gaming.
Blizzard’s free-to-play Doter Heroes of the Storm [official site] will enter open beta on May 20th, but that’s still one full month where your dreams of frolicking and fighting as Kerrigan, Diablo or the Lost Vikings will go unrealised.
Unless, of course, you get into the closed beta using one of the 1000 keys we’re giving away below.
The official launch of Diablo 3 [official site], uhhhh, it could have been better, yeah? Game Director Josh Mosqueira, who joined the team as the console lead in 2012, did a talk at GDC yesterday about how things were internally at this time and going forward into developing the expansion, Reaper of Souls. Check it out below, along with the latest details on the upcoming patch.
Blizzard have announced that an “upcoming patch” will introduce the ability to buy World of Warcraft [official site] game time tokens to be sold on the in-game auction house for gold, the game’s primary currency.
This means two things: there is now a first party, risk free way to buy WoW gold for real cash, cutting the legs out from under a long-standing and TOS-breaking mini industry of gold farming and selling. Secondly, game subscriptions can now be purchased using game riches rather than real ones.
RPS Feature Looking for some HOTS Stuff?
Among my many professional failings is the inability to comprehend MOBAs. I understand the basic mechanics and have tried to enjoy both of the major players: gave LoL a real go for a few weeks then got bored, gave up Dota 2 after seven bewildering hours I’ll never get back. My regret is never reaching or understanding the fun part that must be there. Then I played Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm.
RPS Feature Shame about the name, eh?
2014 saw the release of three or four interesting and excellent card games, but it was Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft that most captured our attention and drew us back for match after match.
Alec: I’ve shied away from multiplayer in the last couple of years. Partly it’s self-consciousness, and partly because the constant background sound of bloodcurdling screaming* whenever my microphone was turned on didn’t seem fair on everyone else. Hearthstone was very much a way back, and not simply because it worked pretty well on my Surface Pro’s touchscreen (though that was very much a factor). Given it comes from a developer which once thought that making its players’ real names public was a good idea, the way Hearthstone strips everything back to anonymity is impressive. It’s about the deck you face, not the player you face. I needn’t worry about being scrutinised or humiliated – win or lose, I’d be out of there and never seen again by my opponent. And I don’t care about them, either. I just care about the cards.
RPS Feature Garrison And On And On
Garrisons are the biggest, splashiest feature of Warlords of Draenor by a considerable margin. Players have been rhubarbing about the lack of player housing for years, and this is Blizzard answering them while drawing from their RTS roots for inspiration. Combine these factors and you get an instanced Warcraft III-style base of your very own, complete with meaningful building choices and dozens of NPC followers.
If there’s one reason to return to World of Warcraft, or maybe try it out for the first time, this is it. Let me tour you around my home and I’ll explain why.
Preparations for the Warlords of Draenor expansion to World of Warcraft continues. Yesterday brought The Iron Tide, the traditional pre-expansion patch with all its many changes. Now Blizzard have done the other now-traditional thing and folded the last expansion’s content into the base World of Warcraft game. That means subscribers who never bought Mists of Pandaria no longer need to, as its landmass and quests are available to all.
I returned to World of Warcraft earlier this year on the encouragement of a few online friends. I hadn’t played since the release of Mists of Pandaria in late 2012 and hadn’t paid attention to the game’s systems since the end of Cataclysm’s life cycle. It was an odd experience; a game that I find in some ways intimately familiar, made strange through numerous small changes. Not bad, just different.
I’ll be feeling that again come October 14th, when the pre-expansion patch for Warlords of Draenor – called 6.0.2: The Iron Tide – is released and everything is different again. These patches bring the systemic and mechanical changes of the expansion to the game, and set the scene for the new expansion’s big bad with new world events.