Blizzcon, though perhaps not exactly as anticipated as San Diego Comic Con, E3 or even GamesComm, is still a huge event in the world of gaming. Blizzard Entertainment is an industry giant, overseeing some of the most popular (and longstanding) game franchises in the business, and has millions of loyal fans, many of whom trek all the way out to the Anaheim Convention Center yearly to find out what’s to come with their favorite games. Blizzard Entertainment currently lays claim to some of the gaming world’s most well loved franchises, like the Warcraft and Starcraft series, including the massively popular MMoRPG World of Warcraft, as well as Diablo, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Destiny and Hearthstone. Blizzard’s 3 day event gives fans a chance to hang out with others who enjoy these gaming worlds, get all the new merchandise, attend panels on the creation of their favorite games and characters, as well as be the first to test out new games, expansions and add-ons that will release to the gaming world at large later. This year’s event was packed to the brim with fans, and had a staggering 2 hour long opening ceremony, where there were tons of surprises, both good and bad, for fans of Blizzard’s titles.
If you’ve been a longtime fan of Blizzard’s games, this was your year, as remasters are where it’s at. Two of the biggest reveals at the con came under this category, with the reveal of a long rumored remaster of one of Blizzard’s first big Warcraft hit, Warcraft III to be called Warcraft III: Reforged, that will stay true to the original game’s feel and flow but incorporate some of the tech and even a bit of the continuation of the stories that were featured in World of Warcraft. Players of the unremastered version won’t lose anything, and in fact, great care has been taken to integrate old with new, so that everyone can enjoy the game without anyone who’s put a time investment into it having to go through the grind again. It’s been no easy feat, but it’s a labor of love for the developers, some of whom were there when the original Warcraft III was released. There’s a lot of excitement around this game, but according to the Blizzard launcher, we may not see it until the end of 2019. We’ll hope for sooner, though.
There’s still more nostalgia to come for fans of the Warcraft empire, with the reveal of World of Warcraft Classic, a return to the very early days of World of Warcraft that many fans had been craving for some time. On both the Warcraft III and WoW Classic remasters, game devs, designers and producers spent lots of time showing off the great care they took in preserving the integrity of the original game while allowing for some of the graphical and technical advancements that would really make the whole thing shine. The dev team seemed nostalgic too, even showing the audience the logs for the very first bug encountered in WoW. As it turns out, during the first few years of WoW, developers would code over their previous patches, and so some of the very first bit of data for the game was lost. Luckily, developers found a backup in a backup and could dial back the clock to the 1.12 patch, which is where World of Warcraft Classic will find you.
One more great thing about World of Warcraft Classic that we found out during Blizzcon was that it will be free to play for subscribers of World of Warcraft, meaning you can have your Battle for Azeroth and Crossroads, too. Not a bad deal. One more freebie you should consider getting in on is limited time only. Blizzard announced that anyone using the Battle.net service could download and keep Destiny 2. Destiny is another great title in the Battle.net family, and has had its own recent boon of updates, including end game raids, retooled rewards and even a free weekend to try out its Gambit trials, and is very much worth a try for free.
Where many feel Blizzard went wrong was with its Diablo fan base. Though it had already been stated that there wouldn’t be an announcement about a main series game, many were incensed when Wyatt Cheng, the lead designer on the Diablo series, unveiled Diablo Immortal, a mobile game set between Diablo II and Diablo III that will explore what happened in the 20 year time between the two games. There was a whole lot of production value in the game’s later Diablo Immortal panel, but it didn’t seem to do much to change fans’ minds. Diablo fans have been waiting for a main series follow up to Diablo III for some time, with no official word coming from Blizzard, and many of Diablo’s loyal were hoping for more regardless of what they’d been told before, and weren’t too happy about a mobile title. One attendee actually asked if the announcement was “an out of season April Fool’s joke” in a very awkward Q&A session which culminated in an exasperated Cheng’s exclamation of “You guys have phones, don’t you?”
Still, reactions to the demo on the floor seemed good, and while some gamers hold low opinions of mobile games on principle, we like to encourage play and critical analysis of every game, whether on phones, consoles or computers, so we’ll reserve judgement on this one for now.
A few other fun panels on the Virtual Ticket included the Blizzard Gear panel, in which the company revealed all the upcoming “real life” goodies were that fans would soon be able to get their hands on, from new partnerships with clothiers Her Universe and Uniqlo, who have some really great lines, to upcoming Nerf RIVAL Overwatch guns and Lego Overwatch sets, all heading to the market before long.
Voices of Overwatch gave fans a chance to get acquainted with Jennifer Hale, who will be taking on the role of new hero Ashe, and to hear stories (and of course lines) from some of their favorite heroes. On the panel were Matt Mercer, who voices McRee, Jennifer Hale as Ashe, Keith Silverstein as Torbjorn, Matilda Medius as Brigitte, the legendary Dee Bradley Baker and his Overwatch partner Jon Lipow who voice Wrecking Ball. They talked about the casting process, what their characters are like, and even about cosplay, as Keith Silverstein had been walking around the con as his character, trying not to sound “too much like him” to see if people still figured it out, and joked about going into the Overwatch tournament later and shouting their “ultimate” line in a match where no one was playing their character to confuse people.
Dee Bradley Baker is a legend for a reason, and he had a lot of wisdom to dispense, as well as some truly amazing voice work. He talked a little bit about how performing as an animal character isn’t just about “doing a library sound” but about understanding the animal as a character and portraying him properly. He also touched on what makes humans different, saying “Our ability to collaborate is special. Everybody’s in, collaborative fun is important! Baker is truly a master and was quite a sight to see (and treat to hear) showing off his craft.
Overall, Blizzcon was pretty successful, seeming to commit to give fans of all its games new stories, characters and content to explore no matter which game they loved the best. Blizzcon, too, treated fans to a lot of behind-the-scenes first looks at everything from concept art to merchandise to letting them in on the people and secrets behind the games they love, and to us, that makes it a successful event overall.
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