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Blizzcon 2015 opening


Belechannas
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StarCraft featured pretty heavily and hyped first this year.  After the 3rd installment of SC2, they announced that "mission packs" would be released periodically to continue the game development and story, and previewed a cinematic from the first which will be out in Spring 2016.

They showed a trailer from the Warcraft movie, which will come out in Summer.

Heroes of the Storm was next, revealed 3 new heroes: Graymane, the shape-changing werewolf guy from Gilneas, a dryad whose name I didn't recognize, and the big one, Cho'gall.  Cho'gall breaks the MOBA mold, being one hero controlled by two players.  Also, Cho'gall isn't for sale, Blizzcon virtual and actual attendees get him, along with a small number of other random players.  By teaming up for two games with someone who owns him, anyone else can get him.  People who own him get a big gold reward by playing four games with him with other players.  They also previewed a new Arena-mode, which looked like a wide-open, single-objective map.

Hearthstone announced a new "adventure" which debuts Thursday of next week, with an Explorers' League theme, and several related mechanics.

Overwatch revealed 3 new heroes, which are not even in beta at the moment, a new Hollywood map, and also announced the three editions of the game.  It will be available not only on PC, but also PS and Xbox.  And it will be released in Spring 2016, so not very far off.  The base edition of the game (PC only) will include all heroes and maps revealed so far.  There is also an "Origin" edition (available on all platforms) also includes a number of skins, and goodies in other games (including a Tracer hero for Heroes of the Storm, and a baby Winston pet for WoW).  Finally a collectors edition for all platforms, with the usual useless crap (statue, music, sourcebook, etc).

Last but not least, they showed a new cinematic trailer for the WoW expansion.  It was already revealed on the website that it will come out Summer 2016, and that pre-orders include a Level 100 boost and early access to the Demon-hunter class.  The cinematic is pretty cool:

 

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The only real WoW/Legion info on Day 1 was a survey of the zones, raids and dungeons of the expansion.

The world art was impressive and quite beautiful (in the WoW style), as you'd expect.

They are pioneering new tech that will scale open-world levelling content.  Thus, rather than having a 100-102 zone, a 103-104 zone, etc, you can go to any zone at any level, and do the quests "on level" at appropriate difficulty, for level-appropriate rewards.  They say this will be accomplished by scaling the enemies, rather than scaling the player.  The central zone of the island, an ancient night elf city, will be non-scaling and tuned for max-level.

There will be 10 dungeons at launch, 5 of which have level-up versions.

The initial offering of raids will mirror the fairly successful pattern of Warlords:  a 7-boss raid opening 2 weeks after launch, followed by a 10-boss raid opening 8 weeks later.

The first raid will be The Emerald Nightmare: a version of the Emerald Dream corrupted by the influence of the Burning Legion.

The second raid will be set in a (still-populated) ancient elven city, and the end boss will be Gul'dan.

They did announce some systemic changes to the endgame which sounded creative and potentially very positive.

They want to "overwhelm you with choices".  Rather than mandatory dailies, you'll have a map with many different activities you can choose from, including things like gathering, pvp, exploration and of course combat.  The system will be forgiving in the sense that not logging in for a day or two will just give you more choices when you do log in, rather than putting you behind.  They pointed out that with the open-world scaling tech, they can use the entire expansion zone for end-game content, rather than a few small areas in each zone.

Probably the most interesting reveal was their plan to keep dungeons relevant through the entire expansion.  "A true, open-ended endgame experience for all players". They are building on and merging the Challenge Mode, Mythic and Timewalking dungeon tech in Warlords to create dungeons that will continuously scale their difficulty and rewards through the entire expansion.  And the difficulty ramp will not be just a straight scaling of damage and mob health, but also introduction of variable mechanics to keep the experience from getting stale.  Some examples of "modifiers" mentioned were: "All mobs do double damage below 30% health", "All mobs explode when killed and leave fire on the ground when they die", "Constant periodic damage over time". 

"You can do a dungeon that's as hard as you want or need it to be, for a reward that is commensurate in power to the challenge you just took on. That is what Legion Challenge Mode will be."

Not all the details were explained, but the idea seems to be that you will have an item called a "Challenger's Keystone" that you use to select the level of difficulty (and reward).  If you don't beat the challenge timer, you still get loot, but you don't upgrade your stone to unlock the next highest difficulty.  The timer will be "a bit more lenient than Silver currently is;" the idea is not to encourage rushing through the zone (and some of the mechanical modifiers mentioned would make AoE pulling suicidal).

He showed a slide with "the core philosophies":

1) Scaling the dungeon up, not scaling player power down

2) Focus on combat gameplay, not just "go go go" (rushing through the dungeon)

3) Unbounded progression ("As good as you are, there will always be a challenge waiting for you; there will always be another step on the ladder.")

4) New modifiers to master each week

"If you do heroic dungeons, this is for you, there is a point of entry for you here, but no matter how hard-core you are, there is something in this that will break you - it's up to you to find that breaking point. The higher you go, the better the rewards. And the core of the system we want to offer is a genuine alternate path to complement raiding or even replace it for you entirely if that's what you prefer, if that's the gameplay that you choose in your dungeons." 

And the crowd went wild.

Sounds very cool, and Blizzard has the budget and the brains to actually pull it off.

 

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A bit more about the artifact weapons was explained.

There is one weapon/off-hand (where appropriate) pair per spec.  Of course, one big difference from LotRO is that there is no RNG involved in the weapon's potential.  Every Ashbringer, Doomhammer, etc, will have the same powers to unlock.  There are close to two dozen different cosmetic appearances you can unlock for each artifact.

Artifact Power looks a lot like item XP, although I haven't seen any equivalent of a heritage rune (which raises a good question - without them, it will be difficult to gain artifact power on a healing weapon).  At the con it was revealed that some artifact powers will have multiple ranks.  There are major and minor powers.  You will get one of the three major abilities around reaching level cap.  They said it will take you most of the expansion to fully unlock the weapon.

Instead of the usual weapon drops, you will upgrade the item level (damage and stats) of the artifact with "Relics" that are similar to Starlit Crystals.  Each artifact has several slots for relics.  Relics have a "flavor" (Holy, Arcane, Fel, Fire, Water, etc) which means that they are similar to tier tokens (not everyone can use every type).  Some relics can also increase the ranks of specific artifact powers, to allow greater customization.  At some point, you will also have the ability to add a third relic slot.

They said there will be some shortcuts/catchup mechanics for offspecs and alts.  For offspecs, they said it won't be hard to keep your offspecs' (it was also announced at the con that you will be able to play all three or four specs of your class at will - the long requested "triple spec") artifact at close to the artifact level of your main spec, but relics would not be shared, just as weapon drops aren't transferrable between many specs now.

They also said that the artifact system isn't going to replace weapons in the game permanently - just as garrisons were specific to the Warlords expansion, artifacts are specific to Legion.

Just a guess (they didn't say anything about this) but the final plot resolution of Legion (defeating the invasion of Azeroth) could require sacrificing the artifacts, or draining their power, etc, such that they are no longer relevant to future expansions.

By and large, it sounds like Blizzard is avoiding Turbine's mistakes (shocker, right?) with the legendary item system, but there are also some important differences in scope. 

It's almost like Blizzard thought through the system carefully before starting to implement it.  What a strange way to design a game!  ;)

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Hey, it's not Blizzard is willing to do a complete rewrite on a system, like the HotS matchmaking system, when necessary... oh wait...

I do wonder how well Blizzard would do with the LotR franchise, as they are capable of making a very solid game, and making it fun to play (which is why I have most of the games installed through the BNet client - exception is WoW and the legacy ones).

I'm not too sure anymore. I'm hearing a lot of people complaining about similar issues we faced with LotRO, particularly regarding trait trees.

To me, it seems like WoW is a slightly less incompetent scaled up version of LotRO.

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I'm not too sure anymore. I'm hearing a lot of people complaining about similar issues we faced with LotRO, particularly regarding trait trees.

To me, it seems like WoW is a slightly less incompetent scaled up version of LotRO.

WoW has been dead/dying since Burning Crusade, earlier actually but we'll say the 1st Xpac, the CS people have been ruining the game, this and that change is the worst thing ever, everything that has been said about LotRO. With 5+ million people, groups are always gonna be hot about something.

 

"... it seems like WoW is a slightly less incompetent scaled up version of LotRO."

LOLOLOLOLOL, umm, no. There really isn't anything more to say than that, esp. if you've played both games to cap.

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To me, it seems like WoW is a slightly less incompetent scaled up version of LotRO.

No, not counting the lore and graphics, WoW is a much better made game than Lotro. Better made with much less unfinished parts. The movement is quick and the netcode in WoW is 100x better than Lotros. WoW is very well optimized. And the launcher is incredible compared to Lotro's.

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WoW is most certainly going down the LOTRO route albeit in a slower, more controlled, less incompetent manner. The signs are definitely there that the game is being squeezed to maximise profits and minimise development costs. To look at some of the evidence:

  • Less 'free' content patches... 14 months in between patch 6.2 and 7.0 is disgusting for a game that is probably generating over $50 million per month. WoD was a new low in terms of content introduced by incremental patches. 
  • A move to 'more frequent' expansions... Turbine were 'clever' in realising that an yearly expansion resulted in good returns from sales and boosted numbers when people logged in to see what was new.
  • More cost for less content. Legion will be more expensive than other expansions and contain less actual content. 4 levelling zones is an all time low
  • Increasing reliance on the store items and 'boosts' to generate revenue.
  • 'Scalable content' such as time-walking dungeons and the ability to 'choose your challenge'
  • Legendary weapons.... OK I agree Blizz will probably do a better job than Turbine but it sounds like the customisation will be limited to just being cosmetic. So what's the point exactly or is it just an extra 'timesink' to give players extra 'stuff to do' once they reach level cap. 
  • A new 'gimmick system' with each expansion (class halls, garrisons etc.)
  • Holding back promised content to make deadlines and give them stuff to release during patches. See Tanaan jungle which was supposed to release with WoD. Reminds me of the infamous RoR Instance cluster double u-turn from Turbine.
  • A 'couldn't care less' attitude to empty realms as they make so much cash from people transferring 

Blizz claim that the WoW development team is 'bigger than ever' but I just don't see it in terms of the amount of content that is actually trickling down to players.

Edited by bhoris
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WoW is most certainly going down the LOTRO route albeit in a slower, more controlled, less incompetent manner. The signs are definitely there that the game is being squeezed to maximise profits and minimise development costs. To look at some of the evidence:

All of the MMOs, meaning strictly MMO(RPG)s, [excluding lobby games with cash shop (like Dota, LoL, WoT, etc) and lobby games with cash shop and some small MMOish like grinding, items, points, etc features (Warframe, Marvel Heroes, Vindictus, Destiny etc)]   are going this route more or less.  

Less funding, more grinding, more monetization tied with gameplay, more simplified gameplay, etc  it's all across MMO(RPG) genre and it does not seem like it is likely to change soon.

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I think part of it is figuring out how to make the MMO work with the newer generation.  I mean, we've got players today that were born AFTER Windows XP was released, so that's going to skewer perspective as some of us (like me) played the original Diablo in middle school, while some of the other ancient ones here played MUDs on mainframes (or Rogue, Moria, etc).

There's probably a few more that figured out how to game with punch cards, and like it, as it took the computer 15 minutes to compile with Big Endian and Little Endia, up hill through the bugs, and they liked it.

I think it is not that industry is figuring out how to make MMO work with newer generation.   It is industry figuring out how they can make both newest and older generations pay on-going fees be it subscriptions or microtransactions though gaming.

Industry simply dumped MMOs cause they are not sexy anymore and bleeing players, while non-MMO multiplayer lobby games like League of Legends or Herthstone, etc  are healthy and booming and people are ok with paying on-going payments in those non-MMO games like they used to be paying them in MMOs only before.

Edited by drul
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WoW is most certainly going down the LOTRO route albeit in a slower, more controlled, less incompetent manner. The signs are definitely there that the game is being squeezed to maximise profits and minimise development costs. To look at some of the evidence:

  • Less 'free' content patches... 14 months in between patch 6.2 and 7.0 is disgusting for a game that is probably generating over $50 million per month. WoD was a new low in terms of content introduced by incremental patches. 
  • A move to 'more frequent' expansions... Turbine were 'clever' in realising that an yearly expansion resulted in good returns from sales and boosted numbers when people logged in to see what was new.
  • More cost for less content. Legion will be more expensive than other expansions and contain less actual content. 4 levelling zones is an all time low
  • Increasing reliance on the store items and 'boosts' to generate revenue.
  • 'Scalable content' such as time-walking dungeons and the ability to 'choose your challenge'
  • Legendary weapons.... OK I agree Blizz will probably do a better job than Turbine but it sounds like the customisation will be limited to just being cosmetic. So what's the point exactly or is it just an extra 'timesink' to give players extra 'stuff to do' once they reach level cap. 
  • A new 'gimmick system' with each expansion (class halls, garrisons etc.)
  • Holding back promised content to make deadlines and give them stuff to release during patches. See Tanaan jungle which was supposed to release with WoD. Reminds me of the infamous RoR Instance cluster double u-turn from Turbine.
  • A 'couldn't care less' attitude to empty realms as they make so much cash from people transferring 

Blizz claim that the WoW development team is 'bigger than ever' but I just don't see it in terms of the amount of content that is actually trickling down to players.

Much of the above is the opposite of the truth.

Patch 6.2 came out on June 23, 2015.  The LATEST Legion will launch is June 21, 2016, so there is no way you can honestly get "14 months" between them. 

Moreover, saying it will launch "by" June 21 (i.e Spring 2016) does not mean it won't launch sooner.  When pre-orders for WoD were opened up, it was announced as "Fall 2014" and "by December 21, 2014" (which mean the same thing).  In fact, patch 6.0 (the systems upgrade patch) launched on October 14, and WoD itself (the content patch) launched on November 13.  Blizzard, being generally competent, also has a moderately conservative track record as far as announcing release dates.  It is more likely to be 10 or 11 months after 6.2, certainly not 14.  It is far from certain that my guild (top 500 or so in the US, so certainly not bleeding edge, but not scrubs either) will manage to clear Mythic much before then.  Until then, we do not lack for content.

I wouldn't equate the number of levelling zones with the amount of content, either.  There's not much doubt that creating open world zones with quests is less expensive than creating dungeons and raids.  Legion will also have the largest number of dungeons at launch (10 max-level heroic, of which 5 have lower-level normal versions for levelling), and tie the largest number of raid boss encounters at launch (17).  I think its a good thing that Blizzard is investing resources in improving the quality and relevance of both the open world content and dungeons, rather than just churning out a larger volume of content that becomes irrelevant within weeks of launch.

Of course, legendary weapons are a gimmick just like garrisons. It's intended to be a driver for story-telling and gameplay.  I find it odd that people rage about lack of content, and then also rage about content being added.  Do you really think a fifth levelling zone would make the game significantly better?  Or, say, a couple more dungeons?  It's just about giving people something new and different to play around with.  Variety is the spice of life.  I don't see a problem with it.

Tanaan Jungle was never promised for WoD launch, either (apart from the starter instance).  Completely untrue.  And it would have been dumb to include it with the launch content anyway.

 

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Much of the above is the opposite of the truth.

While there may be some inaccuracies in my post, to say it is 'the opposite of the truth' is short-sighted at best. The basic message of my post is that WoW has been on a downward spiral of more $ for less content for quite some time now.

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