There’s a lot going on at Blizzcon 2016 – new Diablo classes, Hearthstone cards and long-rumoured Overwatch characters for a start. If Blizzard keeps making games, how large could Blizzcon become in the future? Could it grow too large for Anaheim, California, perhaps? At this rate it’s only a matter of time before it engulfs the whole of the US West Coast. But for now: more announcements.
Between all of the show’s marquee announcements, and all its eAthletes competing for big cash money prizes, there’s also been the usual bevvy of updates unveiled for StarCraft II, World of Warcraft and Heroes of the Storm. Time for a roundup!
StarCraft II wants to destroy the world with AI! Or: Blizzard has partnered with Google AI research subsidiary DeepMind to teach it the subtle art of the zerg rush. StarCraft II presents a challenging proposition for DeepMind right now, which up until now has been cutting its teeth on slower, more thoughtful propositions like Chess and Go. While a fingerless, almost-sentient AI doesn’t have to worry about clicking speed, the real challenge for it is that much of StarCraft is also played outside of the view of the other player, so DeepMind will have to learn to ‘read’ the game in a very different way to what it’s used to. If you’re interested, there’s a blog post on the DeepMind site, and you can bask in our own imminent destruction below:
Not everything is about training AI’s to eventually destroy all of humanity, so StarCraft II is also getting grumpy Battlecruiser captain Alexei Stukov to join the ranks of its co-op commander mode. This mode was introduced in Legacy of the Void, which was a pretty nifty addition that took some of the pressure off multiplayer StarCraft II by having two chums square off against an AI opponent – though I don’t know if a new character (and some new co-op missions) is tempting enough for my social circle to pick it back up. Let's have a look at that:
Finally, StarCraft II’s final batch of Nova campaign missions will also arrive on November 22.
World of Warcraft is getting a bunch of new stuff! Blizzard unveiled two new patches, 7.1.5 and 7.2, as part of its strategy to release smaller, more frequent updates to the MMO. Chief among the updates are the addition of six Mists of Pandaria dungeons to WoW’s Timewalking cycle: Temple of Jade Serpent, Stormstout Brewery, Shado-Pan Monastery, Gate of the Setting Sun, Mogu’shan Palace, and Siege of Niuzao Temple. There’s also balance tweaks to the game’s classes, Season 3 of the Brawler’s Guild, an update to Blade’s Edge Arena, and a range of new micro-holiday events.
7.2 is categorised as the big update to 7.1.5’s mini one, and will include a new raid called The Tomb of Sargeras, a new four-boss dungeon Cathedral of Eternal Night, its own PvP Brawls mode inspired by similar modes in Overwatch and Hearthstone and flying. Lots of flying. There’s more detail over on the game’s blog.
Obligatory content update for Heroes of the Storm! Last, and perhaps least if the mood of the Blizzcon audience is anything to gauge it by, Varian Wrynn and Ragnaros will both be popping up on team-brawler Heroes of the Storm’s test servers by the end of the year. The former will be the game’s first multi-class hero, whereas the latter is RAGNAROS. Take a peek:
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to learn how to prepare against a robot invasion.