WoW Wednesday: Warcraft 3 and the Consequences of Blizzposting

Remastered games are a touchy aspect of the video gaming industry, especially when it comes to ‘classics’. We all know the type; those games from the 70s through the 90s that defined a lot of modern gaming conventions and flavor. The Crash Bandicoots, the Goldeneyes, those ones that took drastic curves and changes to, or reinvented old¸ formulas that up until that point had been bedrock concepts. As such, its hard to look at remastered titles without some form of controversy.

There are a myriad collection of opinions, of course. Some take umbrage with creative choices in revitalizing older games. Others fear for the ‘integrity’ of their game; when you change and update everything, including voice lines of old, you lose a major part of what made that great to begin with. Take, for example, the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy. This is, in my opinion, one of the best remastered classics to date. Spyro the Dragon and Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon are pulled off to an absolutely beautiful degree. I did, however, heavily dislike the remastered Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage (or Return to Glimmer for the Europeans). I felt, and still do feel, that a lot of the nuances and characterizations in the voice acting (and there is a LOT for every world) were lost in the translation to the up-rezzed graphics and tighter controls. It tars what is otherwise one of my top five favorite games of all time.

Then the controversy grows and transforms when, as a studio, you are already one rife with controversy. That came full force in the face of Activision-Blizzard and Blizzard Entertainment when they announced Warcraft 3: Reforged. The concept, at its presentation during Blizzcon 2018, was simple. Taking advice from Korean Pro-Players during their recreation of Starcraft: Remastered, a visual update was a fundamental necessity, without changing the game entirely too much.

Warcraft III: Reforged
But that wasn’t what Blizzard decided to do.

Instead, with the game already quite some time into development, they announced they would ‘Reforge’ the Warcraft 3 experience. In addressing this Blizzard is of course infamous for only debuting games when they are in a polished state; far along enough in development that artwork is mostly complete and the final stages of level development are occurring. Diablo 4 is a fine example of this ‘Blizzardposting’ phenomenon of being an open and well-developed secret for years but having its existence outright denied to the discredit of news reporters and analysts up until its announcement. Then suddenly, and with great furor, so much information is released at once that it’s nearly deafening to take it all in.

As such it is quite safe to say that an extensive amount of work was already done for Warcraft 3: Reforged. There was, however, a very small problem. Rather, two of them.

Over 15 years the lore of the Warcraft universe has gotten extensive. This is both good and bad; more lore means there are more possibilities to play with when making content. More stories to tell, more worlds to explore, etcetera. But more lore means more things to manage. When you build an expansive world on rather linear foundations you can quickly run out of room to explore. Characters have changed over fifteen years and evolved. There is, in many ways, a need to rebuild and recreate the stories of these characters to better reflect their motivations and status. Blizzard Entertainment have done these “soft retcons” for years, most recently in the Chronicle series of books (and then later another post retconning them into being written from the ‘perspective of the Titans).

Warcraft III: Reforged
Then we return to the problem of Warcraft 3 being a classic game in every sense of the word. This was the RTS that built the foundations for the modern Warcraft universe and fandom. Many people’s first memories of Warcraft are playing this game. To say that several pieces of dialogue, cutscenes, and levels are truly iconic is an understatement; to this day the words of Arthas as he murders his father ring as powerful to me as Darth Vader’s famous, “No, I am your father!” The audio of the entire scene is one of, if not the, most fundamental moments of the universe’s lore.

So Blizzard announces Warcraft 3: Reforged to an audience who go excited. Then they announce that they will be reworking famous scenes and pushing previously underwritten characters like Sylvanas Windrunner into the spotlight. This will, on the large, require total re-recordings of most if not all characters in order for the audio quality to match. Christie Golden, a largely celebrated author and member of the Narrative Team, is set to head the rewrites. However, after mixed opinions on her Battle for Azeroth tie in novel, “Before the Storm,” some concerns are quietly mentioned by the community.

In large this created a rift between the ideal ‘Blizzposting,’ announcing and debuting a mostly together product, and the community. While there was disquiet, eventually this grew into a fever pitch post-Blizzcon 2018. Simultaneously, the World of Warcraft team and Blizzard Entertainment on the whole faced an incredible amount of backlash over the poor systems and release of Battle for Azeroth. In response to growing community outcry, Blizzard announced they would drop all the narrative changes in Warcraft 3: Reforged.

This turns over a host of problems. A very large host.

Suddenly the game has to be changed in several areas. Every piece of work built around Golden’s updated ‘soft-recton’ narrative now has to be scrapped and remade. While no deadline was announced, the pre-orders found in the launcher promised a ‘December 2019’ release window. The entire game now has to be reset onto the ‘original’ Warcraft 3 path. This includes gameplay, audio recording, programming, and, the most time-consuming part of all, the cutscenes. It is at this point, inevitably, where corners begin to get cut.

Thankfully, a ‘return’ to the original narrative means that older cutscenes can be reused. Frankly, the up-rezzed HD remaster of Arthas returning to Capital City is absolutely phenomenal, as is every other original cutscene. Each of these ‘cinematic cutscenes’ has stood the test of time remarkably well.

However there are several ones, based on in-game rendered models, that do not. The infamous fight between Illidain and Arthas at Icecrown is a fantastic cutscene from the original Warcraft 3. It is one I recommend to every potential cinematographer to watch as an example on how to do quite a bit with very low-quality resources. The fight in Warcraft 3: Reforged, however, is lacking in almost every aspect. From stiff, clunky model movements to a distinct lake of lighting and shadows (something that often plagues several parts of the game), to just strange cinematography. While longer than its predecessor, its clear this cinematic was in large part attached to the Golden narrative. Coupled with its missing music this relic feels unfinished.

A sentiment echoed by day one players of Warcraft 3: Reforged. Despite a largely untroubled and smooth closed beta, as well as a well-documented multiplayer beta, bugs have numbered in the dozens with Day 1. The list includes save-erasing bugs, large-scale crashes, portions of the campaign simply missing from the game, maps not loading, unit models not functioning, enemy AI clipping through terrain. There is, frankly, far too much to cover in just this article. The individual cases begin to blend together with other typical bugs expected of a Day 1 launch (which tend to be largely graphical).

Warcraft III: Reforged
The problem, however, arises with the general feelings of frustration with Activision-Blizzard in general. After it was announced that the Reforged portion of this remaster was being dropped players became disenfranchised with the game in totality. This was driven on the backs of multiple problems through the lifecycle of Battle for Azeroth and distaste about the impromptu closing of the Heroes of the Storm E-Sports support, not to mention the terrible announcement of Diablo: Immortal. Issues only grew with the public outcry of several internal Blizzard employees and accusations of mistreatment. Then the mass layoffs of PR staff in Ireland and Europe tainted further perception of the company. Now, with feelings of resentment about the finale of Patch 8.3, public opinion is at an all-time low. All of this compiled together to create an interesting conundrum in the community.

This creates two fundamental and diametrically opposed phenomenon with Reforged’s instance of ‘Blizzposting’.

The first is one we all know well; The Hype Train. Warcraft 3: Remastered is, was, and shall be a fantastic idea. There is no reason why this in its totality cannot work. Every single aspect of this problem is in and of itself a fantastic concept.

Then we come to all of the negative. The problem with Classic games is they are, in some aspect, emotionally untouchable. Things can be added, developed, and explored to create new additional content. But changing anything, even minutely, can have violent and vile reactions. Added to that the incredible amount of ill-will generated by issues related to its MMORPG counterpart, and Warcraft 3 needed absolute emotional perfection in order to achieve greatness.

Such is the problem with ‘Blizzposting’. With Triple-A products there is no time for large-scale delays or developments, not when performance has failed. Battle for Azeroth, as admitted by its team, is a failure for Blizzard Entertainment. Nothing new, commercially speaking, was released by the company throughout 2019. Warcraft 3: Reforged could not be delayed, not with the next game release potentially being World of Warcraft: Shadowlands in late 2020. But there is no way, two years out, that the Reforged team could have anticipated anything that happened. Late into their development cycle, and with a deadline already in mind, they had no idea that all of this would snowball into an effect that would tarnish opinions of the game’s creative direction. Thus, attempting to cater to mitigate, the work-cycle suddenly and irrevocably suffered. Without a success to work from, Reforged could not be delayed for polish. But such is the problem with ‘Blizzposting’.

I am, by no means, saying that Warcraft 3: Reforged is a bad game. It is, in my opinion, a game that is built on the legacy of a great one. However, it has, and will yet inevitably, suffer in some part due to the whims of ‘polish.’ By restricting it down to an announcement so late in its development cycle, and having to make unforeseen changes with an unknowable locked in shipping date, the game was never going to be as good as it could be. Sadly, Medivh could not be the Guardian of Reforged, but perhaps as the days trundle on, more work will be done. Its fate, after all, may lie across the sea…

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Cliff Bleszinski Might Be Returning to Game Development

Cliff Bleszinski might be returning to game development after having quit the industry late last year via Twitter. Last year a newly-created Twitter account, one of many, expressed irritation that no one was being given refunds for LawBreakers. CliffyB responded to that by saying; “I paid my employees, their 401ks, and their health care – even months after the studio folded. I didn’t take a salary myself for two years. I get you’re sad, but god, this kinda s**t is another reason I am NEVER making another game.” An entirely fair response to be hounded by disgruntled fans while still dealing with the aftermath of his studio shutting down.

LawBreakers

Well, he has taken to Twitter again, letting the world know he has a game he can’t get out of his head.

He then went on in a second tweet to add, “AND IT’S NOT A FUCKING BATTLE ROYALE.”

So, there we have it. CliffyB has a game idea and from the sound of it he might start making it a reality. Reactions to his tweet have largely been positive with many of his fans eager to see him make another game.

Personally, I’m not all that surprised and never thought it would last when he announced he was leaving last year. Not for any other reason than the fact that he’s an ideas man and once he starts getting ideas there’s just no stopping him and he’s clearly very passionate about making games.

We can’t wait to see what he’s got cooking, though in all likelihood we won’t hear about it again for a couple of years. This is how development works.

 

Source: Twitter

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Blizzard Working on Warcraft Pokemon Go Style Game

While there may have been a lot of unhappy Diablo fans over the announcement of Diablo Immortal it turns out that there are a lot of mobile gamers in Blizzard. In fact, they have even more mobile games in the works, including a Warcraft Pokemon Go style game. Why? Because the developers at Blizzard love Pokemon Go and with it consistently being one of the top money making mobile games in the world it just makes good sense. Combine the biggest MMORPG with one of the biggest mobile games and profit while also working on something you love.

The news that Blizzard is working on a Pokemon Go style game based in the Warcraft universe came in part of a long article on Kotaku that looks at the future of Diablo, and in fact the culture currently in Blizzard. The article itself has a number of anonymous sources who either currently work at Blizzard or have recently. It’s a long read, but an important one for anyone who might not understand why Diablo Immortal exists or what is going on at Blizzard at the moment.

Things to do Before Battle for Azeroth Launches

 

The biggest revelation from Kotaku article is the Warcraft Pokemon Go game. In fact, it’s the only real newsworthy part of the entire article. The rest though, is a very interesting dive into the politics at Blizzard. It often refers to the fact that they’re focusing a lot on cutting costs and feeling pressure from Activision where they weren’t before. There appears to be a shift in the culture of the studio for better or for worse. One of the outcomes of this change is the inclusion of smaller game projects like Diablo Immortal, Warcraftemon Go, and other mobile games.

As for Warcraftemon Go, it will be joining a genre of games that is gaining quite a bit of momentum. It began with Ingress, Pokemon Go’s older brother. Then Pokemon Go was released and Niantic started working on the same type of game but in the Harry Potter universe. There’s also a Jurassic Park game, a totally new IP called Maguss, and even Jesus Christ himself has a version of this style of game.

 

Source: Kotaku

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Crowfall Battlements Let You Create the Aesthetic Castle of Your Dreams

Crowfall continue with their regular developmental updates with a look at Battlements. Battlements? Why yes, they give your Eternal Kingdom Keeps and Castles additional aesthetics while also being pretty functional.

Crowfall Battlements and Beyond

Having previously outlined such things in Crowfall’s Eternal Kingdoms as multi-player city building, Battlements give us a little peek into just one part of the Castle customization process.

When building your strongholds, you will be able to stack battlements on top of stone walls and gatehouses, the latter of which are being broken up into modular pieces making building with them even easier. The team wants Castle customization to come with the most amount of options with the least amount of assets and deed, to save in inventory space.

They also give us a little look into what they are calling “Mega Deeds”. These will be a collection of deeds within a deed and Artcraft say that these “will totally change the Eternal Kingdom creation game.” And the higher quality your deed, the more aesthetic options will be available to you.

Panels are also being implemented, allowing you to change any wall, gatehouse, tower, or battlement for any aesthetic or even practical purpose.

Of course, the official post goes into much better detail so be sure to check that out and start thinking about what kind of look you want to give your stronghold!

Our Thoughts

Well I mean, we love messing around with creating and customizing in the MMOs that we play so a deeper dive into battlements is gonna get us a little bit excited all over again for the idea of building and maintaining our own castles in Crowfall’s Eternal Kingdoms. That’s just the way it goes. It’s also awesome to see how Artcraft fiddle with different elements to make the act of customization easier all around. I just really like castles, okay?

Source: Crowfall Post

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Symmetra to Switch Roles from Support to Defense in Overwatch

I can assure you from years of schooling that being picked last to play is one of the worst feelings, so my heart goes to Overwatch’s Symmetra when it comes to her apparent selection rate. That might change in the near future, however, as one of the shooter’s devs has gone over a Symmetra role change, swapping the character from Support to Defense.

symmetra role change

According to a forum post by lead designer Geoff Goodman, the game’s current dev build has Symmetra taking the Defense role with emphasis on new ways for her turrets to deploy. Instead of having to walk up to a wall herself, she can now fire them like a projectile to stick to walls and ceilings. The turrets travel in a straight line but also have a slow travel speed in order for players to see them coming, and their maximum deployment number is reduced to three but will get an increase in both damage and speed reduction to whatever they fire at.

Goodman also went on to detail adjustments to Symmetra’s weapon. Namely, the primary fire is switching from an auto-locking beam to a straight beam that has larger circumference and longer range. The beam will continue to see an uptick in damage for sustained fire and is getting an overall damage buff, but the shot has to remain on-target for two straight seconds per tick. Another interesting feature is her primary fire will actually generate ammo when shooting a barrier instead of consuming it, making her a potentially potent shield-breaker.

As for the weapon’s secondary fire, it’s gone through a number of noteworthy changes as well. It will take one second to charge up the shot, the projectile speed is being “significantly” increased, and instead of piercing targets the projectile will now explode and cause splash damage when it hits targets or surfaces.

symmetra role change

Finally, Symmetra’s abilities are also getting adjusted. Her teleporter will now be her E ability, which can have its exit placed up to 25 meters away. Once the exit is placed, the entrance will appear directly in front of Symmetra instead of at spawn. The devs are also working on making things other than other players pass through the teleporter, such as Junkrat’s RIP Tire or D.Va’s detonating mech.

Finally, Symmetra’s Photon Barrier will be her Ultimate ability, switching from a projectile to a static barrier that is infinite in size and has 5000 health. Deployment of this new Photon Barrier will operate much like Mei’s Ice Wall currently does.

Of course, all of these adjustments are stressed to be in early phases and could be adjusted, tweaked, or outright dropped in the meantime. There’s currently no word on when this new version of Symmetra will land on PTR.

Our Thoughts

Wow! These are some incredibly dramatic adjustments to Symmetra’s overall kit. Considering the character has been lagging behind in utility in the grander scheme of Overwatch team composition, it’s understandable, but these are also not mere number adjustments! Where do you stand on this new-look Symmetra?

Source: official forums

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Active Development Ends on Breakaway

It looks like things have gone from “hiatus” to outright halted. A post shared to the game’s subreddit has confirmed that active Breakaway development is being stopped after some “soul searching” failed to find a way to make the team-based battle sport grow.

breakaway development

Despite the adjustments to Breakaway’s core gameplay that were made during the aforementioned hiatus, Breakaway was simply not able to make enough of a mark and meet the team’s high standards. As a result, the devs will be moving on to other projects while Breakaway itself will no longer be developed.

“We remain exceptionally proud of the team’s work, and feel privileged to have been a part of such a dedicated and enthusiastic community,” reads the announcement. “We will reach out to this channel as soon as we have news to share regarding our new projects, and if a thunderbolt of inspiration strikes that leads us back to Breakaway, you’ll be the first to know.”

As far as the other games in Amazon Game Studios’ lineup, active development appears to be ongoing, with job postings still open for devs to work on the sandbox MMO New World and Westwood Studios founder Louis Castle named as head of the competitive multiplayer title Crucible in March of last year.

Our Thoughts

Considering the already-burst bubble of MOBAs and the incredibly competitive multiplayer shooter sub-genre, we’re not terribly surprised that Breakaway wasn’t making much of a splash. We wish the devs affected by this decision the very best of luck in their future projects and hope that Amazon Game Studios’ other titles will bear greater fruit.

Source: Breakaway subreddit

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Otherland MMO Details its Next Developments

Yesterday, in honor of the Otherland IP’s 21st birthday, the devs of the MMO based on the universe of the novels teased some “huge” announcements. Today, word of what some of those Otherland development plans has reached us and we’ll leave the concept of size up to you.

otherland development

A press release from developer Drago Entertainment states that the team behind the Otherland MMO is working on a complete overhaul of the game’s entire UI, which is expected to be released this coming Summer. In addition, work is being done on a number of quality-of-life features as well as a large content expansion.

Specifics on what these quality-of-life features were not provided, while the content expansion in question is slated to be launched sometime later this year.

The work on Otherland MMO is part of continued efforts by Drago Entertainment to improve the title, which has previously included changes to combat, tutorials, character customization, and overhauls of zones such as Lambda Mall and Bad Sector.

Our Thoughts

We’re not quite sure an overhauled UI would qualify as “huge”, but we assume that and other quality-of-life enhancements will certainly be welcome. Ideally, we’ll learn more about what this content expansion is all about as we move forward through the rest of the year…or perhaps during the rest of the game’s celebration of the Otherland IP’s anniversary.

Source: press release

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Blizzard Devs Talk About World of Warcraft Classic Challenges

Even though there hasn’t been a lot of new announcements on the front, rest assured that World of Warcraft Classic development is indeed still a thing. An interview with designer Jeremy Feasel and executive producer J. Allen Brack goes over the process and rationale behind the Blizzard-led vanilla version project.

world of warcraft classic development

According to the devs in the interview, the process of changing database and server layout from 2004 tech to today’s tech is more technical than most would believe. “Hardware has changed. Computers have moved on. There are new operating systems, new things,” explained Brack. “A lot of the old database and operating system versions aren’t even supported anymore. Those are 13 years old at this point.”

To that end, the decision to announce the Classic project was actually done in order to try and ascertain how players invested in vanilla WoW feel things should be done. Among the decisions that still need to be ironed out are whether the game will feature original models or integrate new high-def ones, or how to keep the game sustainable without running two MMO’s at once – something Brack does not want to do.

But what about if people arrive with a snuggly memory of what WoW was only to find that the reality of classic gameplay ends up being more frustrating than comforting? Brack appears to be prepared for such. “I do think that there will be those people exactly like [that]. That’s okay. And I also think that there is this group of people for whom—that is the game to them. That’s their refuge,” said Brack.

“How big is it? I have no idea. There’s no way to know. But we’re convinced, through the desire of those folks, the desire of our internal folks, and the desire to preserve what WoW was, that this is the right decision.”

You can get the full interview here, which also touches on Battle for Azeroth matters, though you will be forced to whitelist the site in order to read through if you’re using an adblock program.

Our Thoughts

Though this project is turning into a matter of possibly biting off more than they can chew, it’s commendable that the devs involved with Classic WoW are as dedicated as they are to the matter. That said, we also have to believe that if sustainability and resources end up being not worth the cost for a small subest of players that this will probably get the axe again. But on the other hand “small subest” is still a lot of people when you talk about number of WoW players…

Source: Forbes

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Wild West Online Development Roadmap Released

File this under the, “We missed it because it was Christmas” news. The Wild West Online development roadmap for early 2018 was released on Saturday. It outlines what the team will be working on through January and February along with future plans as well.

In January they’ll be adding Factions and Faction Wars, public events, character progression, crafting, and more. Right now there are three skill trees to pick from that will improve your sustainability, your combat efficiency, and also allow you to unlock crafting recipes and perks for your character. You’ll be able to customize your character to match your playstyle and make them stand out in a crowd.

February will bring hunting, homestead ownership, campsites, and uh…scalping. Scalps can be used as a form of currency to exchange for noteworthy items. Brutal. The hunting grounds have been one of players most requested features to be introduced. Personally, I’m still not over the trauma of trying to hunt in Oregon Trail.

The roadmap then lists a Steam Release Winter 2018, though it would appear it means earlier in the year rather than later.

Post-release, during Q1 and Q2 of 2018 you can expect to find female players introduced to the game along with gangs/clans, a train robbery PvP adventure, trading between players, and something called the Viva Mexico Expansion. There aren’t any details on this expansion. The roadmap just teases it and says to come back in January. Which is exactly what we’re going to do.

From the sound of things, the Wild West Online development team have a busy few months ahead of them with a lot of new things being introduced to the game in a short period of time. If you’re looking forward to the release of Wild West Online be sure to vote for it in our MMOGames Reader’s Choice Awards. It’s up for Most Anticipated MMO of 2018.

 

Source: Official Site

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Daybreak Posts Job Listings for New MMO Titles

It’s time for everyone’s favorite pastime! It’s Armchair Game Dev Analysis! Today on AGDA, we’re going to ponder the possibilities of some new Daybreak job postings that allude to in-development MMO and multiplayer titles. So settle into your armchairs, get your caps lock key ready, and let’s dive in.

daybreak job postings

Multiple job postings have been shared on Daybreak’s careers page for unannounced projects coming out of the San Diego, California and Austin, Texas studios. The jobs are for animators, artists, and combat designers among other positions.

One of the San Diego character artist postings makes mention that the studio is working on “an unannounced AAA title based on a popular world-class IP”, while the combat designer listing in Austin mentions working with a lead designer on “multiplayer, RPG, action-based game systems” for use in “a hugely popular IP”.

All of the jobs in question also make mention of the use of Unreal Engine, though it would appear that both studio projects are separate from one another in terms of game type and IP. Probably.

Our Thoughts

If this means we get to see some new and actually playable version of EverQuest Next, then this could mean great things. Of course, that assumes a whole lot of things and so isn’t a leap to conclusion so much as a warp drive-driven jump to one. Still, we’ve got fingers crossed and we’ll keep our eyes on any new details.

Source: Daybreak careers page

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