Blizzcon 2013 Wrap-up

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Sadly I didn’t get to experience much of Blizzcon 2013.  The flash player that they had chosen to use was pretty awful, so many segments were not available, even with a paid virtual ticket.  I’m on the fence on whether I will purchase another virtual ticket.  It is really really sad that you can charge $40 for an “On Demand” flash player that is so bad when YouTube is both FREE and actually works.

So, let’s break Blizzcon down:

Contests.

It was an interesting spectacle that was the “contests” section.  I was not expecting to see a menagerie of all of the contests at the same time, intermixed and mingled with one another.  It was, to be honest, a little confusing as the categories were intermingled with no real “order” to them. The talent contest was mostly singers, with the winner being a hip-hop troupe. But really, since all the contest twisted into and out of each other, (let alone the flash player freezing all the time) I couldn’t tell what was what for which contest.  It was all incredibly confusing.

I was, however, delighted with the costume contest, as there were many spectacular designs on display (as well as a few… well… not so spectacular designs).  I do have to mention, that I don’t really agree with the judge’s decisions in the winning lineup as there were some that didn’t make the cut that were really well done and some that did that were… well… less so.  That and, well, I might be a little biased, but there was an incredibly well made cat druid that should have taken at the bare minimum 2nd place that didn’t’ even make it to the top 3.  But you know, whatever.

Heroes of the storm:

Heroes

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It is a little strange to see Blizzard be the “last horse to cross the finish” as it comes to putting out the Defense of the Ancients style games.  Entering the fray with League of Legends from Riot Games and Valve’s Defense of the Ancients 2.  What is interesting, is that Blizzard is looking respectively at these communities before putting their chips down fully with their own version.

Apparently, according to the information at the panel for Heroes of the Storm, they talk about having this game at around 2006 and launching a playable “map” at a previous Blizzcon around 2010.  Player feed back from then and multiple Blizzcons shaped the game into the build that they have currently.

Jim Raynor vs Diablo... oh, yeah!
Jim Raynor vs Diablo… oh, yeah!

I do have to say, that there are some great things that they talked about that might make me jump ship from Dota2 and League of Legends.  The biggest most sparkly feature that holds this allure, is the fact that they will have MORE THAN ONE MAP.  And not even that, but the maps themselves interact with the players and the battle.  Doing different things have consequences and change the map, sometimes very dramatically.  In one of the videos shown at Blizzcon, a player collected giant golden coins, then turn those coins into a pirate ship off at the side of one map.  After being paid, the pirates started raining cannon balls down upon the opposing team.  Good fun!

I do understand why League of Legends and Dota2 have one singular map.  It’s simply to focus the game around strategy and competitive play.  As a player, however, I need more than just the same repetitive experience over and over and over again.  Heroes of the Storm by Blizzard is actually offering not only different and unique multiple maps, each map will have its own goals and objectives!  It looks quite exciting.

Another interesting feature of Heroes of the Storm (HotS?) is something they are calling the “Team Leveling System”.  That is to say that experience gained is map-wide.  Your team levels with you as you progress throughout the game.  This is huge.  Mainly because one of the huge issues with these team play games, like League or DotA, is that a great deal rides on the individual.  If a player does poorly in a lane, and is unable to survive the onslaught by their competitor, the whole game/team suffers because of it.  A match can be decided very early on if one leg of the team does not perform well.

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HotS fixes this issue by making the whole team an actual team.  Most (if not all) resources, including experience, is shared among all teammates.  So if some one is doing poorly in a lane, the team can do well and still be strong thought the match as a unit.  It enunciates “Team” play, which other games of the same champion “Bet-’em-ups” should be doing, but find it rather difficult to achieve.

This is something that I always thought the other games of the genre did poorly.  Most of the time, they enunciate individual accomplishment, usually to the detriment for the entire team.  People then, in turn, are not encouraged to work together to accomplish goals, and tend to be dumbfounded when they do well personally, but the rest of the team couldn’t keep up and snowballed to a heavy loss.

Watching the video stream from the attendee panel questions at this year’s Blizzcon showed that some players were worried that they would not be able to display their personal skills.  It turns out, Blizzard does not want individuals to be able to outperform entire teams, as that creates a toxic environment for everyone save for the one individual.  They do, however, want to breed and environment where teams support each other.

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This not to say that skilled individuals will be kept from shining.  There are key moments in any match where a skilled player can influence the battle to their favor and stand out.  What it does mean is that fighting over who is middle lane, ignoring your teammates, and whimpering about your teammates feeding because you’re too arrogant to go help them are going to be practically eliminated from the community.

A wide spectrum of heroes to wet your appetite for destruction.
A wide spectrum of heroes to wet your appetite for destruction.

Speaking of skills and team based play, the way the game is set up with teams sharing resources means that completely new and different types of champions can be introduced that have not yet been seen on the fields of any other champion beat-’em-ups on the market.  Units that stay behind allied lines and manipulate battles from afar are possible since Blizzard does not have to make sure that units HAVE to lane or jungle.

That being said, we were only introduced to about 5 units (Jim Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan, Diablo, Tierel, and the Arbitor), so we really do not know all of the tricks that are being pulled out of Blizzard’s sleeves.  One “teaser” character we were thrown was the ill fated “Ghost” character from Blizzard’s first person shooter Starcraft: Ghost which was a game that failed in development.  One of my major hopes, like it is with any game, is that we get some beast race champions.  I would love to play Chen Stormstout.  Would it be appropriate to tell people that they accidentally “Brought a gun to a monk fight”?

[A short side note here:  If Blizzard/Activision did make a Starcraft brand MMO, It would be freaking awesome as an FPS/RPG hybrid.  Although, I personally would be pushing to have Pandaren ghosts in there…]

One thing that Blizzard wants to do is reduce the game time of individual maps.  What they told us in the panel, match times were too long with League of Legends and Dota2 averaging around 1-2 hours.  They made the good point of waiting for a friend to come online, starting a match to pass the time, then your friend comes on, but you’re stuck in your match.  So then they start a match to pass the time, then they are stuck when yours is finished.  With Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard wants to focus matches to be about 20-30min a pop.  That means that skirmishes will be short and to the point, and it will be interesting to see how they are handled when the game goes live.

We don’t really know any more about the game than that.  The only other information we have is that the “Beta signup” is available.  Which the only thing that that means is that if you have a www.battle.net account, you can click your “Beta Signup Information” tab and check the tiny little check box next to “Heroes of the Storm“.  Good times.

Sadly, due to the constantly freezing flash player.  I wasn’t able to sit in and listen to all the panels I wanted to.  I heard a little bit about the next WoW expansion and I listened in a little to the next Diablo III expansion, but nothing beyond that.  The good news is that the future looks pretty bright for Blizzard/Activision as far as new and interesting games is concerned.

-N00basaurus

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