BlizzCon 2017: World of Warcraft and Less Important Stuff

blizzcon 2016

Last year, I ponied up for my BlizzCon 2016 Virtual Ticket. I’m not posh enough to afford a trip to California, hotel stay for that weekend, and two tickets for BlizzCon (my daughter would disown me if I went without her). Besides, there was little news I cared about. I only wanted news on Overwatch and Diablo III. Those were the games I was playing. StarCraft II was nearing its end, and I never jumped on. World of Warcraft was still balls-deep in the Legion expansion, and I grew weary of the grinds. Hearthstone could kiss my ass; I ain’t spending a bajillion dollars to have a competitive deck. And I was never into MOBAs, so Heroes of the Storm was a no-go for me.

BlizzCon 2016 came and went. I got my news from Overwatch and Diablo III. I was satisfied.

This year, I decided to skip BlizzCon 2017 entirely. Finances have changed, and I didn’t even wanna pony up for the coin needed to see it at home. Besides, what was left for me? I left Overwatch behind, tired of the same-old, same-old. Diablo III wasn’t getting any attention from Blizzard for sure. Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm can still go suck an appendage for all I care about them. All that was left was World of Warcraft, the mistress I’ve returned to numerous times and have left just as many times. I figured there would be an expansion, and I figured it would get me interested in the game again. But I wasn’t willing to spend $40 just so I could see it announced in real time. I’d just catch in on Twitch or YouTube later.

My son called me early Saturday and asked if I saw what Blizzard announced during BlizzCon’s opening presentation. When I admitted I hadn’t, he proceeded to drop haymaker upon haymaker upon me.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth? Allied Races? Zandalar AND Kul’Tiras? Actual for-real Vanilla servers? A new “Blizzard World” map for Overwatch that has fairground rides AND STORMWIND IN IT???

My World of Warcraft subscription was renewed immediately. It was dormant for months. It’s gonna get some use.

Before I get into the stuff that had me furiously typing my credit card info into the Battle.net site, let’s talk about everything else revealed during BlizzCon 2017. There were a lot of notable things…they just weren’t World of Warcraft!

Hearthstone gets a new update, called Kobolds and Catacombs. It’s another expansion, and there’s a new legendary card, and yeah. I hate to be dismissive about Hearthstone, but it’s a pay-to-win monster that demands more money than I wanna throw at it. For those that have stuck around, please enjoy it. For me, I’m done.

A new Heroes of the Storm trailer showed the aspect of the Red Dragonflight herself, Alexstrasza, fighting another combatant: Overwatch’s Hanzo. I say the Hanzo doesn’t have a chance, but that’s because I’m still trying to get Alexstrasza’s digits. Both will join the MOBA as part of an update later this year.

Overwatch is getting another hero: Moira. She looks like an Attack character, although she also heals. In that, she sounds like a Soldier 76-style character, but her DPS and healing are supposed to be superior. Her backstory places her as a geneticist for Talon, but she’s familiar with Reaper and his Blackwatch. She’ll be hitting Overwatch’s PTR in a couple of weeks, with a full release to follow.

Also announced is a new stage, Blizzard World. It’s a Blizzard theme park, with a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster surrounded by a mock Stormwind and Sanctuary. There are Starcraft cannons, a Hearthstone tavern, AND DECKARD CAIN!!! It’s silly, goofy, and absolutely wonderful.

It’s a hybrid map, so teams will both attack and protect the payload. Other than the sheer insanity of Blizzard World, the trailer shows nothing else. It does show Tracer geeking out about going to it, though. It should arrive on the PRT at the same time Moira does.

Oh, and Torbjorn shouted, “FOR THE HORDE” at the end of the trailer. So there’s that.

After years of paid gameplay, StarCraft II is finally going the free-to-play route. Of course, that is only applicable to the original campaign, Wings of Liberty. Folks who have the original will get the Heart of the Swarm expansion for free. For everyone else, access to the Heart of the Swarm, Legacy of the Void, and Nova Covert Ops expansions will run $14.99 per expansion. Also, free players have to unlock 10 First Wins of the Day in order to jump into Ranked Multiplayer.

A huge sore spot for me has been the dearth of information surrounding Diablo III. Part of me is not surprised. The game is long in the tooth and devoid of all the wallet-raiding microtransactions current games have. I constantly have to remind myself that Blizzard’s name is the second one in Activision Blizzard. I know very well who the horse is and who the rider is there. But I’d still like to see some commitment to the game. There won’t be a fourth installment anytime soon. When it arrives, I guarantee it’ll have all the bullshit microtransactions Activision is patenting left and right.

With that out of the way, allow me to gush a little bit.

Every time a new expansion for World of Warcraft is announced, I am excited. It’s an unfortunate trait; I don’t like being emotionally drawn just by advertising fluff. But with each new expansion, I’m giddy. I jumped on during Burning Crusade and have experienced every expansion since. The last expansion, Legion, was a win in my eyes. Why would I expect less from the latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth?

Well, because I also played through Warlords of Draenor. That expansion had tons of promise but sucked harder than a Hoover set to Ludicrous Speed! I may still buy into Battle for Azeroth because I’m a filthy World of Warcraft fanboy. But why should I be excited?

The reason is that while Blizzard may be part of Activision, but it’s still FUCKING BLIZZARD!

This expansion re-centers the struggle back to where it began: the Horde and the Alliance. Each faction will have new zones to explore and fight in. But the main focus is the extreme dislike both factions have for each other. Yes, there have been many other threats that have forced the two factions to work together to save Azeroth. But in this expansion, there’s nothing left but the war…and this war and its many fronts will take center stage.

For the Alliance, its front will expand to Kul’Tiras. The region was near Lordaeron, but after the events of the Cataclysm expansion, it shifted off to sea. Its location was lost to Azeroth, but this expansion brings it back, with three new zones to explore.

The Horde gets its own three zones, but the region is better known. It is Zandalar, home to many instances, raids, and rep grinds back in the day. The Zandalari trolls will factor into the narrative once again, and more than just by existing.

For the first time in the entire history of World of Warcraft, players will be able to unlock sub-races. I’m talking about Zandalari trolls, Highmountain tauren, and Dark Iron dwarves. You can actually UNLOCK these sub-races, according to Blizzard.

So as Horde, I can unlock the ability to create a Zandalari troll toon? And my Alliance main can unlock a Dark Iron dwarf? YES TIMES INFINITY!

Anything that can get me invested in advancing a narrative is something I’m aboard on. Considering World of Warcraft is a subscription-based game, anything that justifies my continuing subscription is a bonus. The opportunity to play as an offshoot of a race has been a major desire. Now they’re saying I can do it!

Another thing I wanted to experience has been addressed by Blizzard. With World of Warcraft: Classic, Blizzard promises a Vanilla experience. Since I didn’t jump into Azeroth until Burning Crusade, I’ve always wanted the chance to experience what the game was like on launch. World of Warcraft: Classic is Blizzard’s promise that Vanilla – or original – servers will be made available.

Seeing that news made me squeal like a teenager at a Rhianna concert. But my demented mind went further. Yes, I’d love to experience the world back when it was plain and raw. But what if World of Warcraft: Classic allowed for some kind of progression servers? Like, what if I could experience what it was like to bang the gong at Anh’Qiraj? What if I could do the Scarlet Crusade quests I couldn’t do when I was a low-level toon prior to Wrath of the Lich King? What if my daughter could first experience the initial invasion of Pandaria?

That has always been the danger with introducing classic servers like World of Warcraft: Classic promises to do. How much is enough? Will Vanilla servers be fixed? How much will the classic servers be expected to emulate? Will progression servers exist? Can I level a character from Vanilla to Wrath and stay put? If not, why not? World of Warcraft: Classic has opened up tons of questions like this and so much more. I’m guessing that’s why Blizzard has refrained from going down this path.

Regardless, I’m still excited. Blizzard has not announced any more information other than Vanilla servers are a thing. I’d love to progress from one version to another, but I’d still love to make Vanilla toons and break my head open in old-school Naxxramas. Taking a Protection Warrior through original end-game content is something else I’d love to do. World of Warcraft: Classic promises that experience at least. Where Blizzard will go is out of my hands, but fun to speculate upon.

All I know is that my WoW subscription is paid up. Whether or not Blizzard pays up in return is a crapshoot, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ve experienced years enjoying their gameplay and lore. Every BlizzCon, they’ve given me more reasons to buy in. With very few exceptions (Real World Auction House, Warlords of Draenor), they’ve delivered.

When it comes to World of Warcraft, I’m comfortable with giving Blizzard the benefit of the doubt.  Even if they’re owned by Activision, who are anathema to anything good.

He has been playing video games for longer than he would like to admit, and is passionate about all retro games and systems. He also goes to bars with an NES controller hoping that entering the Konami code will give him thirty chances with the drunk chick at the bar. His interests include vodka, old-school games, women, vodka, and women gamers who drink vodka.

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