Shadowlands – World of Warcraft’s Next Expansion

Blizzcon 2019 has finally come and gone to uproars of applause. After the tepid convention that was last year’s Blizzard-Activision trade show with the heavily controversial release and management if Diablo Immortal, the company desperately needed to make this convention a landmark release experience. As you’ll see throughout all our coverage this week, they certainly nailed it out of the park. For many, first and foremost it began with World of Warcraft’s newest expansion: Shadowlands.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is the recently announced 8th expansion to the 15 year old MMORPG. Taking place right on the heels of Battle for Azeroth, disgraced warchief Sylvanas Windrunner pursues her quest to command death itself. Advancing on Icecrown Citadel, the seat of the undead Lich King, she endeavors to take his crown by force or otherwise. Laying waste to his forces and even chaining the Jailer of the Damned, she took up the unholy crown, the Helm of Domination, for her own.

Declaring that the world itself was a prison she took the Helm, the key to keeping the endless undead Scourge from destroying Azeroth, and tore it in half. In doing so, Sylvanas ripped the Eternal Veil asunder; the barrier between the world of the living and those of the dead. Throwing the Shadowlands, Warcraft’s afterlife, into chaos, she escaped to the dark recesses of its eternal prison. Uniting with her partner in the Maw, the mysterious Jailer has begun to draw souls and Anima, the essence of life, in earnest from the Shadowlands. If he is allowed to continue uninhibited, and the Shadowlands are left unclosed, all of Azeroth if not the universe will be fed to the Jailer’s unending hunger.


Heroes of Azeroth will be venturing through the inescapable Maw, a prison for the worst souls in existence, into the Shadowlands themselves. While there players will be exploring four new zones and the Covenants who rule over them. The Kyrians rule over Bastion, one of the first zones players will encounter. Angelic beings who revel in truth, duty and accept only the most virtuous souls, they assist the mysterious Arbiter in ferrying souls to the afterlife and sorting them after their judgement. With the drain upon the Shadowlands, those attempting to gain their wings through their trials have suddenly been unable to progress. With numbers of Kyrians dwindling, the Shadowlands are becoming more and more deprived of souls.

The Ardenweald is a place of nature and rebirth; a dark mirror to the Emerald Dream. Here, those souls connected innately to nature come to rest and find peace before being reborn into the cycle. Ruled over by the Winter Queen and her Night Fae, this place of nature is being hit the hardest of all. With both souls and their inherit living energy, Anima, being drained into the Maw, the Ardenweald is withering day by day. Soon the Winter Queen will need to decide how she rations the precious resource of the dead, and who may rest in the cold forever.

 

“Bastion, the realm of the Kyrians. They accept only the most virtuous souls into their ranks.”

Maldraxxus is the dark domain of the Necrolords, masters of the Shadowlands’ standing army. Here in their soul forges do they forge their forces into engines of destruction. It is not cruelty or evil that rules this land, but strength and power. Used in part to defend the Frozen Throne and the gateway to the realm of the dead, now this army has fallen into dissaray and chaos. While its soldiers stand ready to defend the souls of millions, its leader has mysteriously vanished. Now the five most notable Necrolords are vying for the position, and the responsibility for bringing death across the cosmos. In an effort to combat the other, each is building an army that will soon outgrow the normal standing forces of Maldraxxus. Soon, all out war will be unleashed…

Revendreath is the purgatorial realm of the Shadowlands and the domain of the Venthyr. At the dawn of creation they were charged with purging those sent to them of sin, draining it from their souls a drop at a time. Having gorged themselves on Anima for millenia, the Venthyr have become slovenly and gluttonous, much like those they are charged over. Content to whittle away their existence, rumours have begun to arise of the unfitness of the realm’s master. If he were to be replaced, perhaps Revendreath may find itself changing course to a better future…

These four Covenants will be the main drawing point of Shadowlands. Players will progress through each zone in a linear fashion, working cooperatively with each ruling body to reunify their disparate forces. As they do so, you’ll be able to unlock two abilities for aligning with that faction, both of which will change if you change your Covenant. One is a movement related ability for outdoor use, while the other is a class-specific combat ability much like Legion’s artifact powers. Each faction will have unique cosmetic rewards and armor tied to each, from winged cloak replacements to upgradable mounts.

 

Plate Covenant Armor Rewards, From Left to Right: Necrolords, Venthyr, Kyrians, Night Fae

Each Covenant will also have a Sanctum which game director Ion Hazzikostas described as a melding of Legion’s Class Halls and progression that players participated in with Suramar’s Shal’aran. As players work to return their Covenant to its former glory, they’ll recruit allies, establish portals, and develop their new domain into a symbol of hope for the Shadowlands. Tied into the allies you will recruit is the new Soulbind system.

Choosing one of your newer allies, players may bind their soul to them to gain new perks and abilities much like passive talent trees. These will be empowered, as well as several other Covenant tools, by Anima. Collected throughout a player’s adventure in the Shadowlands, this Anima will be used to progress through the talent tree and unlock relic-like slots for players to input passive effects into. On stage Hazzikostas confirmed, much to the roaring applause of the crowd, that Anima would not be an infinitely grindable treadmill such as what players experienced with Artifact and Azerite power in Legion and Battle for Azeroth.

All of this will lead up to players returning to the Maw, the infernal domain of the Jailer once more. Intended to be an endgame experience for max-level players, the Maw is an inhospitable and unfriendly wasteland; there are no innkeepers. There is NO safety. It is only yourself, those you take in with you, and the unnerring gaze of the Jailer and his forces. The rewards of venturing in can be risky and great, though anything you do can earn the gaze of the realm’s dark guardian. Should the Jailer notice you, he may send kill squads to engage you, rain fire from his tower, or more.

 

An in-game rendering of Torghast, the prison for the worst Souls in existence.

In the center of the Maw stands Torghast, the Tower of the Damned. An infinitely generated experience, this 1-5 player scaling pseudo-dungeon is based off of elements from roguelike games such as The Binding of Isaac. Each time you enter the halls of the ever-changing complex, it will be different in both it’s layout and what enemies are generated. The deeper you progress into the Jailer’s domain, the harder it will become, but the rewards will be great if you can make it out alive.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands has an open release date of 2020, putting it a little over a year away at most. Players can pre-order the expansion now for exclusive rewards, including the ability to make a Death Knight of ANY race with the launch of Patch 8.3.

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Overwatch 2 – A Sequel to Reactivation

Despite leaks throughout all of last week, to the extent of Jeff Kaplan’s painful referencing during the opening of the panel last week, Overwatch 2 is indeed a very real thing. At Blizzcon 2019 we finally managed to get a look at the reclusive pseudo-sequel to Blizzard-Activision’s online team FPS. It’s presentation to the public, while informative, was quite a bit of sudden information and then speculative questions on its content. The very nature of the game seems to contradict the idea of a sequel, but nevertheless it is indeed very real.

Built on the bones of Overwatch the sequel launched at Blizzcon to a powerful trailer and incredible fanfare. Featuring an attack on Paris, France by the terrorist group Null Sector, a recently reactivated Overwatch leaps into action to defend the populace. Led by Winston, only Mei and Tracer seemed to have answered the call to aid. Battling the re-surging Omnic terrorists, they are joined at the last minute by a slew of heroes including Genji Himura, Mercy, Reinhardt and Brigitte. Working with newly reactivated robotic flier Echo, the team reunited and put down the Omnic threat, ready to face the encroaching forces.

Despite being a major story point that the entire Overwatch community has been waiting for years on, what does this trailer really do for it’s sequel? Game Director Jeff Kaplan used it, as well as the follow-up feature trailer to explain the main draw of Overwatch 2 in it’s fully integrated PvE mode. Absent from its predecessor, the sequel will feature a heavily story-focused campaign. This main mode, compromised of co-operative narrative driven missions, will see Overwatch heroes of past and future teaming up to combat the Null Sector. Kaplan continued onward from that point, discussing how they would, “uncover the motives behind the robotic armies’ attacks and come face-to-face with rising new threats around the globe,” indicating of potential content beyond the organization.


Incorporating RPG elements into gameplay progression, item pickups will be littered throughout both Story and Hero mode missions. These additions can slightly modify a particular hero’s playstyle, though the three on display were minimal to say the least. These included a HP generator, a corrosive grenade and a barrier shield similar to Winston’s. Sadly, these do not carry over between missions.

What does carry between games are rewards earned through Hero Mission content. These events, designed to be highly replayable, are separate from the main story mode. Performing well will net players experience they can use to level up individual heroes, unlocking customization and techniques that modify their standard abilities. In the gameplay trailer a Tracer develops a technique that chains her Pulse Bomb explosion across several enemies. While it hasn’t been confirmed yet, it’s likely that these modifiers will be exclusive to the game’s PvE portion and barred from PvP gameplay.

Speaking of, Kaplan demoed several new aspects to the core PvP gameplay of the Overwatch franchise that will emerge in the sequel. This included both a new Canadian hero in the mysterious Sojourn, as well as a map featuring Toronto, one of the country’s major urban centers (no shots of the CN Tower yet). The team also debuted a new standard game mode in ‘Push’, a mobile point control map. Both teams fight for control over a central Robot, “who really likes to Push!” in a tug of war style matchup. Whoever can push their barrier furthest into enemy territory wins. This mode will come as a standard map and will enter standard rotations.


What comes as more of a confusing point than a clarification one is Overwatch 2’s relationship with it’s predecessor. Despite the original’s not crossing the console gap (let alone the gambling gap), Overwatch 2 will carry progress from the original game into its sequel. Furthermore, people playing in either game’s PvP modes will be able to play with each other and will share queues together. Heroes and maps made available to either will be available for the other. “No one gets left behind,” cried Kaplan on stage to a mixture of confused applause, decreeing that everything except PvE content and some new customization options will be available to ANY owner of the franchise.

Here is where we reach the crux of the problem with Overwatch 2. Despite promises of charging full price for the game, despite calling it a sequel, despite painting this donkey like a horse, the game is very much little more than an over glorified expansion pack. While in an interview with Kotaku, Kaplan confessed that the team wants to, “Do what’s right by the players,” it’s hard to see what makes Overwatch 2 stand out from its previous counterpart. It’s hard to do right by the players in charging full price for what’s little more than an expansion pack or an addon to the main game. If everything is accessible from the new to the old, in heroes maps and events, then what is the point in upgrading to it?


Whereas Blizzard’s MMO titan, World of Warcraft, can realistically judge a full-priced expansion every two years it’s hard to see what sets Overwatch 2 into this category. While Warcraft can argue that it realistically generates enough new non-recurring content over two years to offset the cost, what we’ve seen at Blizzcon of Overwatch 2 says the opposite. Instead it seems the team is focusing more on repeatable content in the form of Hero missions, using it to set the pace for the Story missions much like Anthem did earlier this year. If so, then Overwatch 2 has far more to prove in itself than just whether it’s worth the cost of entry; we need to ask if it’s overall worth the time in comparison to the original’s clear focus on PvP.

That, sadly, will take time to find the answer to. The days are still apparently early in the sequel’s development cycle. With a promised media blackout in effect by Kaplan, there isn’t much we’ll be hearing about the new entry in the franchise for quite some time.

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WoW Wednesday: How Shadowlands Fixes Leveling

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands has been announced to wild and dramatic buzz throughout the MMORPG’s community, even prior to its finale patch for Battle for Azeroth. In previous Blizzcon coverage this week we discussed its premise and the main hooks into its story. However, a much greater discussion is to be had about the game systems; what will build up the vital aspects of gameplay for adventurers coming into a new expansion. Before we discuss the endgame and the particularly ‘newer’ bits of content, it is far time for me to give Blizzard-Activision some accolades.

While Shadowlands is still quite some ways off, with a promised 2020 release date despite very early work being displayed at Blizzcon, Blizzard and director Ion Hozzikostas seem to be making a step in the right direction. The new player experience has become a paramount discussion, particularly with issues and questions raised regarding the Draught of Ten Lands and the widespread bans that came with it. In an effort to correct and assist in it a number of large-scale changes are coming to all of Warcraft.

The first, and one of the more controversial, is the level squish. Previously, World of Warcraft has had two major stat squishes in an effort to reduce numbers. The first, at the start of Warlords of Draenor was quickly undone in roughly two patch, with the second coming at the end of Legion to combat player health pools reaching into the multi-millions. This level squish is not unlike that, though there’s no word if we’ll see a stat squish come alongside it for the new expansion. With Shadowlands players will cap out at level 60, with all current max-level players being squished down to level 50.


The reason for this, as Hozzikostas explained, is two-fold. The first, is that leveling is INCREDIBLY long. In working on a 15th anniversary review for this website, I’ve easily clocked over 30+ hours on new max-level characters. The second, which we’ll dive more into momentarily, is that there simply isn’t enough to create intrinsic reward systems. With how few and spread out both abilities and talents are you could go for nearly 15 levels with some classes before getting a new thing. Previously, the effort to combat it was making leveling flexible in a sense; players would start on Cataclysm’s Azeroth, graduate to a pair of expansions, and unlock more every 20 levels. However, players would STILL out-level expansion related content with this new system. With a major focus on end game, newer players would apparently become confused with the lack of dungeon-guided content to participate in.

Instead, all of this has been completely scrapped.

Now, new players to Azeroth will play through their first ten levels on a completely new zone. Exile’s Reach is a small island off the coast of Stormheim, and it’s there that your faction has sent an exploratory force. They have since gone missing, and you’ve been recruited to assist in discovering their whereabouts and safety. This zone will culminate in a flexible, 2 boss dungeon for up to 5 players where heroes will thwart the efforts of a dragon-worshipping ogre cult! From there, new players will be guided to Battle for Azeroth content to level from 10 to 50, before being introduced to Shadowlands. Reportedly, this squish will make leveling through Battle for Azeroth to 50 roughly 50-70% faster.

In line with this system, Blizzard wants to have Veteran players making new characters feel like they’re investing in more of, ‘a New Game+ system.’ Players who have already completed Exile’s Reach may choose to level in their original racial starting zones, and afterwards may talk to Chromie to level through ANY expansion content. The reasoning for it is to make the player experience more flexible overall, while allowing people to enjoy entire expansions worth of content without interrupting the story. Citing Mists of Pandaria as a prevalent example for this, players would reportedly complete the Jade Forest, half of their second zone, and suddenly be ready to dive into Warlords of Draenor content. Death Knights and Demon Hunters will now start at level 1 for any starting zone, leveling up to 10 by the time it’s completed. Allied Race characters, as is the current course, will start at level 10.


This, in no simple terms, is a brilliant fix.  In discussions I just had last week with a member of my guild, the notion of making, ‘every piece of past expansions relevant’ came up; that desire to explore ALL of Azeroth and have it matter. Right now, Azeroth feels cracked into splinters with its wealth of content, but shallow level banding and irrelevant storytelling in older zones. Between initiatives in Timewalking and now this new leveling system it quite holistically unites the whole world. It makes it a cohesive Roleplaying Game again.

Imagine your first MMORPG, or even your first RPG. That exploration of a world foreign to you despite its threats. Games without enemies, like Shadow of the Colossus, do exceedingly well in this by making every piece of its world’s content relevant. Games such as Dragon Age face issues where, while new exploration is exciting, the challenge quickly begins to fade when you blow past enemies. Melding those two philosophies together, allowing you to explore a self-contained continent WHILE it still being relative to how you progress your character, is the perfect solution players have been crying for since we first broke the level 100 barrier.

This is enriched with the Great Unpruning. Jokingly referring to himself as ‘Ion the Unpruner,’ Hozzikostas revealed to a joyful crowd that classes would be having abilities returned to it. Citing issues with individual specializations carrying more identity than the class, the team has begun working on breaking down barriers to equip classes with old abilities and more utility. Some abilities, such as the Druid’s Cyclone, will be removed from the Talent Trees and reintroduced as a baseline ability. Others like the sorely missed Shattering Throw for Warriors, are being unretired and brought back into the game. Classes like the Mage will have spells like Frostbolt as a standard, with specializations adding more abilities regarding that spell, instead of mass-stripping and exchanging spells wholesale.

The idea seems to be to return to a mindset more in line with Classic’s development mentality. Each class has a large assortment of baseline abilities, some relevant to their current rolls and some not. Arms Warriors, provided they have a shield, will be able to once again use Shield Block which is currently Protection restricted spell. Activating particular specializations will then add additional mechanics and abilities around what is already available instead of resorting and landscaping hotbars en masse. “Every priest can call upon the Light,” lead game designer Brian Holinka said on stage, “And they can harness the shadow… That shouldn’t change between specs.”


In doing this every class reportedly should get something new every level. While its not necessarily a long-term fix for Warcraft, particularly if we have a whack of expansions in the future, it solves the fundamental problem currently. Players are once more intrinsically rewarded as they level. End-game and high-level players will now have a far more adaptable and complex toolkit to experiment with. Even in the case of the Warrior, where both DPS specializations are essentially build-and-spends around damage windows, even just adding Shattering Throw opens up the field FAR wider. Is it wiser to use it as an additional Colossus Smash to make the most out of an early Avatar, or is better to spend it on soon-spawning adds?

The problem, however, comes in with Blizzard’s new penchant for ‘temporary’ abilities. With spells such as the Artifact power abilities and now our Essences for the Heart of Azeroth, they will disappear at the end of the expansion. These spells are irrelevant with new content. This trend will continue in Shadowlands with Covenant Powers, abilities your benefactors will impart to you in exchange for your allegiance. Invariably, much like Shaman Totems, players WILL get connected to these incredibly unique abilities and will miss them once they are gone. While Legion reintroduced several powers into Talent Trees, many are still compulsory and have the entire class built around them. Eventually we will return to the problem of ‘not enough reward,’ in leveling, especially if when the 9th expansion comes out, Shadowlands has to compete with Battle for Azeroth for the 10-60 bracket of leveling.

Ultimately, time will tell if these systems hold true. All in all, the level squish and new changes to dynamic leveling are a massive step forward. Exile’s Reach, if successful, may become a wonderful system for engaging and reaching out to new players. While focusing on getting to the endgame still seems to be the team’s main design direction, honing the first ten levels does remarkable dividends. Making what new players experience more in line with what they can look forward to in the endgame not only culls player confusion but has better chance to retain new adopters. After all, don’t you enjoy playing something if you know exactly what you’re getting into?

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Despite Apology, Blizzard’s Hearthstone Player Ban Will Stay

During the opening of Blizzcon 2019 company president J. Allen Brack gave a bit of an apology about acting in haste to the Hearthstone player ban and the caster ban as well saying, “We moved too quickly in our decision making, and then, to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you. When I think about what I’m most unhappy about, there’s really two things: The first one is that we didn’t live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves. And the second is that we failed in our purpose. And for that, I am sorry, and I accept accountability.”

What was clearly lacking from that apology was any announcement that anything was going to change. PCGamer later got the opportunity to sit down with Brack during Blizzcon and find out more, including the fact that Blizzard is not going to go back on the ban.

PC Gamer: I wanted to revisit the statement you made at the beginning of the opening ceremony yesterday. You said Blizzard is “committed to everyone’s right to express themselves in all kinds of ways and all kinds of places,” and you made a commitment to do better going forward and that your actions are going to matter more than words do. Are you going to be repealing the punishment against Blitzchung and the two Taiwanese casters involved in this incident?

Allen Brack, Blizzard president: We are not.

Why?

So, one of the things that we talked about in the commitment to expression about all kinds of ways and all kinds of places, is the fact that we’re huge believers in free speech, and we’re huge believers in free expression. We have a long history of that being part of the culture of the company for employees. That’s certainly part of the culture of the relationship that we have with the community. And so employees are free to post on their social media accounts. If you think about the people that we have that are esports athletes, our Grandmasters, or anyone who is participating in esports, they’re free to say and do whatever they want on their social channels. I feel like we have a far more open set of guidelines and policies than really any other traditional sport that takes a view around making sure that all of the people stay on message. And so, that’s how we think about free expression and how we’ve contextualized it.

We want the official broadcasts, which are a small percentage of the overall content that gets created, to be about the games. And we want those to be focused on the games. Again, it’s not about the content of Blitzchung’s message. It’s about the fact that it was not around the games. If we hadn’t taken action, if we hadn’t done something, you can imagine the trail that would be in our future around doing interviews. They would become times for people to make a statement about whatever they wanted to, on whatever issue. That’s just a path that we don’t want to go down. We really want the content of those official broadcasts to be focused on the games, and keep that focus.

 

With regards to the casters being reinstated, you’ve admitted that this situation was mishandled on Blizzard’s behalf. I’m wondering why that same sort of forgiveness isn’t being extended to the casters? Considering Blizzard admits it mishandled this situation, why haven’t you decided to be more graceful with them and their punishment?

We have been more graceful. The initial reaction was that we would not work with the casters anymore. In our revised statement, we came to the conclusion that it felt like the casters and Blitzchung, we wanted to align their penalty. So we’ve come out and said they have a six-month penalty.

 

He also goes on to say that the Weibo post that talked about defending the pride of China was written by NetEase and was not approved by Blizzard at all. They also talk about the casters and why they are still being punished. If you are a fan of Blizzard or you know someone who is I highly recommend you read the interview on PCGamer. It will quickly make you forget the damage control that is Diablo IV and Overwatch 2.

 

Source: PCGamer

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WoW Wednesday: Your Guide to Blizzcon 2019

The best weekend of the year now dawns upon us! Blizzcon 2019 has finally arrived and with it comes a smattering of panels, showings, demos our loot this year begins with a wide spread of content from World of Warcraft cosmetic armor to unique Overwatch skins. This week we’ll be giving you the best tips and directions to make the most out of your Warcraft experience at Blizzcon this year!

Like last year, virtual ticket holders already have a wide host of content prior to the launch of the convention on Friday, including content released last year. Starting on October 31st we’ll have the beginnings of the Overwatch World Cup to begin parsing through, lasting over 12 hours! This will be where the online preliminaries begin for the fabled e-sports tournament and will feature competitors from all about the world.

Blizzcon opens up live on Friday, November 1st, with the Opening Ceremony being streamed from all available stages at 2 PM EST! This will feature planned action from all of this year’s competitions as well as several previews of what’s to come that day on each stage. Immediately afterwards the major world tournaments will begin in Halls A, B, C, and the main Arena. Viewers can grab access to the continuation of the OWCs in Hall A, as well as the lower brackets for the Mythic Dungeon Invitational in Hall C. The Hearthstone Global Finals begin in Hall B, while the Starcraft 2 Global Finals begin with the Quarterfinal in the Arena. These events will continue throughout the weekend until the final brackets of the Overwatch World Cup on Sunday morning.

Some of the leaked “exclusive prints” from the Blizzard Website, featuring “Warcraft: Shadowlands.”

On the Mythic Stage in Hall D, where major announcements were hosted last year, are a set of secret panels. Featuring 4 panels over the course of the Friday, there’s enough for each of Blizzard’s main development games, with side-panels for Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone being hosted later in the day. With rumours of a potential new World of Warcraft expansion, featuring Bolvar Fordragon the Lich King, as well as the potential leaks of an Overwatch and Diablo sequel this will be the stage to watch all day Friday.

The first major Warcraft panel begins at 3:30 PM EDT. Quarter Century of Warcraft Audio hallmarks the anniversary of the titular game and brings the Sound Team to the stage to discuss developments throughout the series’ life cycle. Discussing not just sound effect development, but composition and scoring of tracks, the team will discuss this avidly and openly in the North Hall.

Starting up on the North Hall on the Epic Stage, players will get to enjoy a Heroes of the Storm update at 6:15 PM, one that is sorely needed after the fallout from the close of the Heroes e-sports scene this year. Blizzard Animation: The Art of Setting the Scene will follow at 7:15 PM, featuring members of the Story and Franchise Development team and how they created the Overwatch cutscenes that have earned the company critical acclaim. Hearthstone will have its own update at 8:15 PM after the Mythic Stage closes for the Cosplay Exhibition. Here, it’s been teased that the company will launch a new Expansion for the collectible card game, with advertisements across the internet pointing towards the date specifically.

Beginning Saturday at 12:30 pm, the 2019 Hearthstone Global Finals will take off in Hall B, beginning with the quarter finals decider’s matchups. The tournament will run throughout the day up until the finals at 6 PM on the stage. The World of Warcraft Arena World Championships will launch alongside it, beginning with their lower quarterfinals and ramping up to the Grand Final beginning at 9:45 PM.

The rest of the day is largely filled with a foray of very interesting developer driven panels largely centering around Diablo and Warcraft. At 1 PM begins the Voices of Azeroth: A Hero’s Journey, involving several voices behind the heroes of Azeroth. Joined by members of the developer team, they’ll discuss vital narrative moments over the years and how they were created.

Running simultaneously alongside the panel is the Watchpoint Season Preview for the 2020 Overwatch League, as well as the Artists at Work series for Diablo. This particular panel will focus about environment design, bringing the world of Sanctuary to life! An additional Art of Diablo panel will go on later during the day at 7:15 PM, featuring other members of the team.

At 2:15 PM Blizzard will begin their Update panel for World of Warcraft. Here is where, undoubtedly, we’ll see two certain things. With the announcement of a new expansion coming the day before attendees will more-than-likely be hearing details about Patch 8.3, ‘Visions of Ny’Alotha.’ Projections have 8.3 launching in early to mid-January of 2020, with a potential expansion launch perhaps a year and a half later.


In a surprising move, there are quite a multitude of Blizzard life panels throughout the weekend, featuring discussions about working on campus at Anaheim. Beginning at 6:15 PM, Artists at Work: World of Warcraft will run alongside the Warcraft 3: Reforged panel, discussing the process of art development from demonstrations and prototypes to a final finished product. The development team also takes the stage to discuss their personal stories during World of Warcraft: Developer’s Tales at 7:15 PM. New to the convention this year is CodeCraft: Exploring Blizzard Engineering. This panel, kicking off at 8:15 PM, features members of the company’s engineering team on how games and systems are coded for consumption.

On top of additional update panels and The Writers Room: Building the Worlds of Blizzard, the convention as always is set to go out with a bang. Beginning with some remarks at 9:45, every stage will come to life with the always titanic Closing Ceremonies. Featuring leagues of performers taking to the stage, this year the entertainment has been kept tightly under wraps. Even on their website, nothing has yet been announced to close out the company showcase.

Blizzard Entertainment opens its doors to the world in Anaheim this weekend, from November 1st to the 2nd.

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Blizzcon Protest Now Being Organized

On Friday, after 5 when most news writers, including MMOGames had packed up and gone home for the day Blizzard made a statement that backpeddled their heavy handed ban of professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung. Now a Blizzcon protest is being organized by the non-profit organization Fight for the Future and the Protest Blizzcon subreddit. Yes, there’s now a subreddit.

The Protest Blizzcon subreddit has a GoFundMe campaign running at the moment with the plan of getting hundreds of Hong Kong flags for protesters at Blizzcon. They’ve already raised $3,285 though they were only asking for $3,000. The campaign is still running so there is still time to donate if you’re interested.

“This is not going away,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, “Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it. They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they’ve unleashed. We’re going to make an example out of them to make sure that all companies know that throwing human rights and free expression under the bus to make some extra money will not be tolerated.”

Dayton Young, Product Director at Fight for the Future, added, “Gamers deserve to know which companies are willing to engage in censorship on behalf of authoritarian regimes and which companies will defend basic freedom of expression. Blizzard has engaged in blatant censorship and should immediately reverse its decision to ban Ng Wai Chung, restore his tournament winnings, and repair its relationships with the livestream casters. No gamers should be punished for expressing their views on politics and human rights. And no game company should ever ban or penalize players for advocating for their own political freedom. We call on all game developers and publishers to make a public commitment to support the rights of their customers, employees, and fans to freely express their beliefs in America, in Hong Kong, in China, and around the globe.”

In case you missed it, on Friday Blizzard made a statement saying that Blitzchung would be receiving his tournament prizes and that his ban, along with the ban on the two casters has been reduced to six months. They also said that Blizzard’s decision to punish them had nothing to do with their business in China. But, Blizzard fans and gamers were unconvinced by this statement, especially as a social media post from Blizzard on Weibo was translated and it vows to protect the national dignity of China was being shared on Reddit, Twitter, and other English focused social media sites.

 

It’s unclear right now how many people will be attending the Blizzcon Protest but we will continue to follow the news as it comes.

 

Source: Fight for the Future, Protest Blizzcon Subreddit

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BlizzCon 2019 Virtual Ticket is Available Now

Can you believe that BlizzCon 2019 is just a month away? It’s amazing how quickly this year is passing us by. The important news now is that the BlizzCon 2019 virtual ticket is available now. As is always the case the virtual ticket comes with a collection of commemorative goodies for WoW, Overwatch, Hearthstone, StarCraft II, Heroes of the Storm, and Diablo III. What are this year’s extras you might be asking, well here’s the full list straight from Blizzard themselves.

World of Warcraft: Ride the tides of war with a pair of murloc-ified faction leaders: Finduin (for Alliance heroes) and Gillvanas (for the Horde). Plus, bundle up for your next trip to the icy mountains with the whimsical Wendigo Woolies transmog outfit. Available in-game starting today!

Overwatch: Commemorate 25 years of Azeroth as you fight for future Earth with a pair of Warcraft-themed legendary Overwatch skins. Prepare to seek vengeance as Illidan Genji, and call upon the (hard-) light of Elune as Tyrande Symmetra. In-game before BlizzCon!

Hearthstone: Celebrate the excitement of BlizzCon the next time you sit down for a duel with the BlizzCon 2019 Card Back. Then prepare to claim a mysterious Golden Legendary card, to be revealed at BlizzCon. In-game after BlizzCon!*

Heroes of the Storm: Make your mark in the Nexus with a commemorative BlizzCon spray and portrait, and ride into battle on the Celestial Deepcrawler mount. It may not look dangerous, but those claws can give you a nasty pinch . . . or wipe out all life on your planet. Available in-game starting today!

StarCraft II: Equip a trio of Brood War®–era unit skins and portraits the next time you go into battle. Scout for a zerg ambush aboard the Classic Battlecruiser, hunt your prey with the sinewy Classic Ultralisk, and honor Tassadar’s sacrifice with the Classic Carrier.  Available in-game starting today!

…And more to come: More BlizzCon bonuses are in the works, including a pair of commemorative wings for Diablo III players (PC/Mac version only)*—stay tuned for more details on this year’s legendary haul.

Along with all of that you of course get access to the various presentations that will take place at Blizzcon this year. “This year’s BlizzCon is shaping up to be our best yet, and we want to make sure everyone in the Blizzard community can experience it together, whether they’re joining us in person, from home, or hanging out in-game,” said J. Allen Brack, president of Blizzard Entertainment. “We’re looking forward to delivering an epic experience for those watching our free broadcasts—which we’ll have more of than ever before—and for everyone tuning in for all of the extras provided with the Virtual Ticket.”

The virtual ticket costs $49.99 and can be purchased at blizzcon.com.

 

Source: Press Release

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BlizzCon 2019 Dates Announced; Here’s When You Can Get Tickets

After last year’s somewhat disappointing showcase, there’s no question that BlizzCon 2019 needs to come back strong. Blizzard Entertainment has already taken the first steps on doing so and has provided year’s official dates.

The company has announced that BlizzCon 2019 will take place on November 1 and 2. It will once again be held in California, taking place at the Anaheim Convention Center. However, for this year’s show, it’ll be expanding the space. This will accommodate the thousands of fans and attendees that will fill its halls. It didn’t say exactly how it would be expanding it, but more than likely it’ll use more of the convention center itself. It’s possible we may see some events in the surrounding hotel spaces as well.

Like the previous year’s show, BlizzCon will once again be home to an opening showcase, as well as panels, esports competitions and developers. On top of that, there should be a huge musical act to close the show, though they haven’t been confirmed just yet.

Hopefully this will be the year that the company finally confirms Diablo 4. It was expected last year, but Blizzard opted to hold the announcement at the last second, disappointing its many fans. Blizzard president J. Allen Brack did promise that the company would be “sharing some of our latest developments” at the show, indicating some new announcements could be made. Fingers crossed.

The first round of tickets are set to go on sale Saturday, May 4, with a second round coming just days later on Wednesday, May 8. They’ll be available in three tiers, including a special benefit dinner coinciding with the show. The range is expected to be around $229 to $750, depending on what you go for. You can see all the ticket packages here. No word yet if Virtual Ticket will be available, but it’ll likely be an option closer to the event.

Here’s hoping that this year’s BlizzCon lives up to the hype. It definitely deserves a comeback.

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