BlizzCon, Blizzard Entertainment’s weekend long convention and party, is underway in Anaheim, California. The almost annual event welcomes over 20,000 fans from all fifty states and over sixty countries, as well as millions tuning in for the virtual stream from around the world. Attendees are able to hear exclusive new information, try the new game content, and interact with people like themselves who love the games so much. In the words of one of the announcers, everyone here is jazzed for a weekend of gaming and fun.
Here is a brief roundup of the information released on Day 1, by franchise.
Blizzard’s newest franchise, Overwatch, launched this year and has been a smashing success. With what was possibly the most anticipated announcement of the convention, the newest character, Sombra, hacked into the opening video. Referred to as a “stealthy offensive infiltrator,” Sombra has been expected and desired by many in the Overwatch community for some time and her appearance on screen brought enthusiastic cheers from around the Hall. Also introduced was a new, smaller map, in EcoPoint Antarctica. This map also offers some backstory content for one of the current characters, Mei. It will be available for play with a 1-on-1 dual and 3-on-3 in the new arcade feature which replaces (but also includes) the popular Brawl.
Finally, the Overwatch League is Blizzard’s new professional eSports endeavor. The combine for new players will begin in the spring as they search out new franchise owners, players, and teams. Players will be drafted and will pull sizable paychecks for their contribution to furthering Overwatch eSports.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT
At the end of August, the latest expansion for Blizzard’s hit MMORPG World of Warcraft dropped in stores. Legion saw the return of the Burning Legion and the need for the Horde and Alliance to team up to save Azeroth. Millions of copies of the expansion have sold, an expansion that allows players to go in search of artifact weapons and team up with other characters of their class to do quests directly related to that.
Next week, testing begins on the next small patch, one that will introduce micro-holidays, Mists of Pandaria Timewalking, and the return of the Brawler’s Guild. After that one goes live, the next patch will go into testing. Patch 7.2, named The Tomb of Sarageras, will introduce flying to the expansion as well as new appearances for the artifact weapons. Each class will be able to earn an epic mount. They think the patch will launch “soon…” but in Blizzard speak, we really don’t know.
As is usually the case at BlizzCon, the newest event for Blizzard’s card game Hearthstone was announced. Complete with musical number, the game kicked off The Mean Streets of Gadgetzan event. This event will include cards that work for three different classes, a first for the game that should change gameplay extensively.
Not many announcements from this franchise, which is slowly wrapping up in terms of new content. However, the StarCraft and Blizzard teams have paired up with Deep Mind, Google’s AI research unit, to make StarCraft II available to AI researchers from around the world. Soon enough, we may have robots playing humans in an epic battle of StarCraft II.
HEROES OF THE STORM
There were several announcements for Blizzard’s hit Heroes of the Storm. The two new heroes were Varian Wrynn, the hero of World of Warcraft: Legion, as well as Ragnaros, the Elemental Lord of Fire. Varian is unique in that he is the first multi-class hero, able to play as both a warrior and an assassin, which should make gameplay interesting for both casual players and the competitive scene alike. Ragnaros can take over team forts, acting as a boss who can easily take out anyone who comes within his reach. Also, a new map in the form of Blackheart’s Revenge introduces a new format, with one team defending their core while the other team is working with Blackheart to try and destroy the core, was presented to become available to the public soon. The final announcement from this franchise was the Nexus Challenge, the biggest giveaway in Heroes to date. Players team up with friends to play games of Heroes. Playing fifteen or more games with friends will gain both players new skins as well as a new hero. Playing over thirty will give players more skins and four new heroes. It should be active soon and will go into January, giving players plenty of time to get in those games.
2016 marks the 20th anniversary for Blizzard’s Diablo franchise. No new content aside from patches has been announced recently, so people held out hope for something amazing and I do not think they were disappointed. The Darkening of Tristram event was announced and will be live in January 2017. Gameplay and sound will hearken back to the origin of the game, complete with pixelated visuals. This will be an annual event, happening every January and letting players relive their Diablo memories within the current game.
In a highly anticipated move, they also introduced a new class, the Necromancer. The Commander of the Dead will have a skeleton army at his command and marks the character’s first appearance since Diablo II seventeen years ago.
In addition to Diablo‘s 20th anniversary, 2016 is also the 25th anniversary of Blizzard’s founding, an occasion that was celebrated outside the convention Friday night with live music and a social atmosphere open to the public.
After all the excitement of Friday, Saturday is bound to be epic as well. Get jazzed.