Blizzcon is arguably the world’s largest gaming convention. This year marks the 11th Blizzcon, and numbers wise, it was the biggest yet. We were lucky enough to secure a ticket to the event, and in our three-part series we’ll show you all the highlights and everything you need to know about what to expect from Blizzard Entertainment.
Legion takes a bow
World of Warcraft: Legion has been a huge success for Blizzard. For the first time in a decade, subscriptions in WoW are growing. The game saw controversy when Blizzard took legal action shutting down unlicensed servers. Those servers were called legacy servers, and they focused on older versions of the game so players could relive popular moments in the history, such as pre-cataclysm, and most popularly, the wrath of the lich king. Blizzard shut down these servers to protect their copyright. Players were upset because Blizzard wasn’t providing official legacy servers themselves. According to this year’s announcement, that will be changing soon.
Blizzard announced World of Warcraft: Classic, a remastered version of the original, or as players call it, “vanilla” Warcraft. The feature is in development, and it may be awhile before players can actually get their hands on the classic experience. But for many WoW players the announcement was the highlight of the con. “We’ve been waiting for this forever,” Laura, a Blizzcon attendee said, “and if they can do it with vanilla they can do it with wrath.” Wrath of the lich king is considered by a large percent of the community to be the greatest expansion in the game’s history, and the culmination of storylines that had been building since the original Warcraft. Currently, if players want to spend time in Northrend, or any old game content, they must deal with overleveling, meaning their character is too strong for the game’s content due to changes in level caps from subsequent expansions. Part of the announcement for Classic WoW is the introduction of scaling, meaning that the quests and enemies will scale to match the strength of the player. Similar systems have been used in games like Borderlands and Destiny, allowing players to play the game together regardless of level differences. The complexity of the programing required for this is monumental, and blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime joked that they may need the original servers back that were auctioned off for charity. Even if the developers experience challenges along the way, the fact that they are working on it is a huge relief for nostalgic players.
Battle for Azeroth
The announcement of legacy servers would have been more than enough to keep WoW fans satisfied, but Blizzcon cranked it up to 11 this year, announcing the next expansion, and going the extra mile by releasing the opening cinematic. The WoW community has complained that faction battling, (Horde vs Alliance) has been nonexistent since Cataclysm. Greater threats forced warring factions to team up, and players haven’t been battling against each other in the way the games title suggests. “It’s not called World of Peacecraft” is a meme that has been trending through the community since the in-game “ceasefire” began. Battle for Azeroth’s opening cinematic showed brutal faction combat returning. The Alliance can be seen assaulting their former city of Lordaeron, now called the Undercity and occupied by the Warchief of the Horde, Sylvanis Windrunner. The Undercity being attacked has been a long time coming. While the community cheered the return of faction combat taking center stage, not everyone was happy with how it was implemented.
Anduin Wrynn, now king of the alliance since his father’s death in Legion, was a known pacifist down to his very class, a priest healer wanting nothing more than the end of long standing conflicts. The Anduin we see in the opening cinematic is indistinguishable from his gladiator father at first appearance. But after his helmet is knocked from his shoulders and we see him mass resurrect fallen Alliance soldiers, cheers filled the hall. Blizzard made the announcement of Battle for Azeroth in a record breaking way, the largest video game diorama in the world, a 1300 square feet depiction of the battle for Lordaeron. Blizzard even went so far as to create 3d printed detailed miniatures of actual Blizzcon attendee’s characters from the game. Only a third of attendee’s characters were chosen, but this author was fortunate enough to have been one of the lucky few. If you squint can find Danept, the pandaren hunter, on the Horde’s front lines in section 27A. FOR THE HORDE!
Last year Blizzard made history by announcing the first international E-sports franchised competitive league, Overwatch league. This year, Blizzard announced the 12 inaugural teams and the players that will be on each. Each team will have their own custom skins both for home and visiting games. The league allocation is separated by Pacific and Atlantic divisions, with cross division games being a preview of what the finals will look like. The team’s websites are currently up, and fans interested in seeing the bracket layout can find that here.
California is the home of Blizzard HQ, and has three teams that will be calling the golden state home. The San Francisco Shock, the Los Angeles Valiant, and the Los Angeles Gladiators. The league seems setup with the intention of creating rivalries, and E-sports fans will be eagerly watching to see the result of the inaugural year of the league. The exhibition games will be happening in the coming month, and the first official league game will be the San Francisco Shock vs the Boston Uprising. A cross division game starting things off has fans already rooting for their division to win, and it is sure to be a great start to an incredible new sport.
Moira: The newest Overwatch hero, (or villian?)
Overwatch league was not the only announcement that had Overwatch fans excited. A new support hero, Moira, was also announced and playable on the show floor. In Overwatch lore Moira is a former Overwatch scientist that was kicked out for controversial scientific experimentation. While her story was shrouded in mystery, it was confirmed that Moira was the one who changed Gabriel Reyes into the infamous Reaper.
Gameplay wise, Moira is a unique support with extreme offensive and defensive potential. Each one of her arms has an offensive or defensive focus. Her basic attack is like Symmetra, but with a longer range at the expense of damage. The attack is much less forgiving in regard to aiming, but Moira never has to reload her damaging beam. Her left click is a resource limited heal that functions like Mei’s auto attack, but instead of freezing and damaging enemies it sprays out a green mist to heal allies. Like mercy, Moira can only use one beam at a time, (Until she gets her ultimate, but we’ll get to that.) Moira’s first ability is a short-range teleporting dash that makes her invulnerable for the duration. It is like Reaper’s ability, but the range is much shorter, and the speed increase is much more significant. As fun as dashing around in nightcrawler-esque puffs of smoke is, its Moira’s second ability that makes her a force to be reckoned with.
Moira creates either a healing or damaging orb that travels slowly at first but gets progressively faster as it bounces off walls and terrain. The orb passes through shields and creates tethers to nearby allies or enemies, healing or damaging them respectfully. The ability is game breaking in the right environment, small rooms are where it really shines, and the cooldown is only ten seconds, so expect to see Moira camping in close quarter areas.
Moira’s ultimate looks incredible, she gains movement speed and fires a beam from both hands that damages enemies and heals allies. The beam has a limited range, like Moira’s other abilities, so long range characters like Pharah are the counter of choice. If you’re lucky enough to have access to the Overwatch public test realm, Moira is playable now.
I will be your shield!
Blizzcon also premiered a new cinematic, Honor and Glory, which tells the origin story of fan favorite, Reinhardt. The voice actor for Reinhardt, Darin De Paul, came onstage for a tearful introduction that pulled at the heartstrings of everyone watching. De Paul shared with Blizzcon how playing Reinhardt had changed his life, and how he and everyone involved poured their heart and soul into the cinematic. The work itself is nothing short of art, but don’t take my word for it, you can watch it yourself here.
Blizzard also announced a new map for Overwatch which was playable on the show floor. Jeff Kaplan, the games director, teased attendees with hints about Blizzard making their own version of the theme park that he couldn’t name for copyright reasons. (But thanks to the first amendment, I can, its Disneyland.)
Fans freaked out thinking that Blizzard was making its own park, but Kaplan was only playing a joke while announcing the new Overwatch map, BlizzardWorld. BlizzardWorld gives fans a hint as to what an actual Blizzard theme park would look like. Mostly puns and beautiful environments based on Blizzard characters. Players can get munchies at “Snaxramus” find their lost cell phone in “lost and found Vikings” or ride the “Darkmoon ferris wheel”.
The map itself starts as a control point then becomes a payload, similar to the kings row map. visually the map is spellbinding, and while it is still under development it already looks amazing. The map is similar in size to king’s row, with nooks everywhere for flanks and close combat. While we are excited for this stunning new map, it makes players wish that the BlizzardWorld eventually happens in real life.