BlizzCon 2014 Wishlist/Predictions + New Article

We’re now a little over a month away from this year’s BlizzCon, so now feels like a good time to go over my predictions for the convention’s reveals, as well as what I’m hoping to see.

Warcraft:

A player garrison in World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorI can’t imagine there will be much to discuss in regards to World of Warcraft at BlizzCon this year, since Warlords of Draenor won’t even be out yet. A surprisingly large number of people are speculating they’ll announce the expansion after WoD, but I think that’s crazy talk.

Time to face facts, people: Blizzard isn’t going to deliver on their promise of faster expansions. They’ve been saying it for half a decade, and we’ve still gotten a year-long content gap every time.

Even putting aside how absurd it is to think they’d have anything to show from 7.0, they wouldn’t want to spoil the hype around WoD, such as it is.

I could see them making some reveals for the first content patch of WoD, but that’s about it.

I don’t think we’ll be lacking news for the rest of the Warcraft franchise, though.

I fully expect to be hearing a lot about the Warcraft movie at BlizzCon. There was a teaser trailer shown at Comic Con this year, so I would be surprised and more than a little disappointed if they didn’t release the first publicly available trailer at BlizzCon.

A screenshot from Warcraft: Orcs and HumansSomething else that we might see is news of remastered versions of the old Warcraft strategy games. It’s already been announced that Blizzard is working on updating them for newer systems, and this year is the twentieth anniversary of the Warcraft franchise, so now seems a good time to release them.

Unfortunately, I suspect all they’ll do is update the code so the games run well on modern operating systems. Heck, Warcraft I was a DOS game.

But what I’d really like to see is full graphical remakes. They can keep the game mechanics the same — maybe better pathing and some quality of life tweaks, but nothing more — but redo them in the StarCraft II engine. That would be nothing short of amazing.

There have been rumours swirling of an HD remake of Warcraft III, but I dare not get my hopes up. Plus, as much as WC3 is my favourite installment of the franchise, and as much as I would love to see it with revamped graphics, I think the earlier games would benefit from that treatment a lot more. WC3 still runs okay on modern systems, and the graphics have aged reasonably well due to their cartoony style. Even in if the earlier games could run on modern systems, they’d look and play rather poorly.

But I don’t see Blizzard wanting to put forth the effort necessary to fully update those games, sadly.

There’s been a lot of talk of another expansion for Hearthstone lately, so I expect an announcement of it at BlizzCon.

StarCraft:

A screenshot of Zeratul in a StarCraft II cinematicIt’s been a while since Heart of the Swarm launched now, even in Blizzard time, so I think it very likely that we’ll be getting a major dump of information on the final expansion, Legacy of the Void.

Protoss have always been my favourite race, so it’s hard to imagine myself not loving LotV. I’m a little nervous since the story for HotS was pretty underwhelming, but it would take some serious effort to make an entire game full of Protoss not be awesome.

I greatly hope they will make Zeratul a Warcraft III style hero as they did for Kerrigan in HotS. It adds such an interesting extra dimension to the gameplay, and Zeratul is such a legendary figure that he deserves to be more than some guy who only shows up every few levels and just hides in your base.

I’m curious what other unique mechanics the campaign will bring. Given the identity of the Protoss, I think it might be interesting if, instead of applying blanket upgrades to unit types, individual units could become veterans based on their kill counts, gaining better stats and new abilities over time. Your strongest veterans would follow you throughout the campaign, becoming ever more powerful.

I’ve heard it said they don’t plan to add any new units to the multiplayer, but I expect them to renege on that. It feels pretty underwhelming if they don’t add anything to half the game, and why would multiplayer fans need to buy the expansion if there are no new units? Doesn’t make good business sense.

As futile as it seems at this point, I’m still hoping they find a way to make carriers actually useful for something.

Diablo:

A cutscene from the crusader class in Diablo 3I fully expect there to be at least one more expansion for Diablo III. It’s been rumoured since before the base game was even released, and the ending to Reaper of Souls had multiple cliffhangers.

It does seem a bit soon after RoS for another expansion to be announced, but one can still hope. Much to my surprise, I’ve come to greatly appreciate Diablo III, and RoS was nothing short of spectacular, so I’m very excited to get my hands on another expansion.

As for what the actual content of the expansion will be, it’s hard to say at this point. Undoubtedly, we’ll be hunting Diablo himself once again, but beyond that, it’s all guesswork.

My hope is that the destruction of the Black Soulstone means Leah’s spirit has also been freed, and that we may see her be redeemed. She did not deserve her dark fate, and I’d like to see her get her happily ever after, or something close to it, at least.

I also hope to see more conflict with the angels. One of the most interesting aspects of Reaper of Souls was realizing that the High Heavens were as much a threat to humanity as the Burning Hells. And Imperius really needs to be taken down a peg.

We’ve also got to help Shen track down Dirgest, and we have to solve the murder of Lyndon’s brother.

Battling atop the battering ram outside Pandemonium Fortress in Diablo III: Reaper of SoulsThe setting is a big question mark. For some reason, I get the feeling we might end up in jungles of Kurast, but I have no real basis for that. The Dreadlands also seem a likely prospect, being a hotbed of demonic corruption.

Personally, I’d like to go to Xiansai. A far northern land with Asian inspirations? Hell yeah. Plus, it’s the homeland of two of my favourite characters: Covetous Shen and Li-Ming.

I also expect another new class in the inevitable second expansion, whenever it comes around. Necromancer is probably the most commonly requested one, but I think it might be too close to the witch doctor.

Mind you, I said the same thing about monks and paladins, and then we got the crusader. And it is worth noting that a lot of people — myself included — enjoyed the necromancer in Diablo II and do not feel the witch doctor is at all a valid substitute.

But I think my money is going to be on druid. It’s the only class from Diablo II whose archetype does not seem to be at all represented by any of the D3 classes. I’m not sure exactly how a druid would play out in D3, partly because I’m not sure how they worked in Lord of Destruction, but I think it could be interesting, particularly if shape-shifting is involved.

Heroes of the Storm:

My team prepares to begin a match in the Heroes of the Storm alphaWith the final stage of technical alpha before us and the last account wipe behind us, I expect we’ll see an announcement of an imminent beta for Heroes of the Storm at BlizzCon.

I think it will either be an open beta, or a closed beta with the option to buy access through founder’s packs. Either way, I expect this will be another case where “beta” means “soft launch.” The alpha is already surprisingly polished, and the game feels almost ready for primetime to me.

I’m predicting an official release in early 2015.

I hope to see a bunch of new hero announcements at BlizzCon, as well. Hopefully some of the more iconic heroes. It feels very strange to me that they’re already putting out ultra obscure heroes like Rehgar Earthfury and completely new creations like Brightwing when major icons like Thrall, Jaina Proudmoore, Sylvanas Windrunner, Fenix, Mephisto, and Baal are still nowhere to be found.

Would be nice to see a new map or two, as well. I really want to see a StarCraft-inspired space platform map. So far, every map has been fantasy-based. Let’s get some sci-fi in there for flavour.

Other:

Sadly, it was recently announced that the upcoming MMO known only as “Project Titan” has been cancelled. Not that it was likely to be discussed at this year’s BlizzCon anyway, but it’s still a bit disappointing.

That said, there’s still the chance Blizzard might surprise us. There have been rumours of another unannounced game aside from Titan, possibly a shooter similar to the Left 4 Dead series. The term “Overwatch” was supposedly trademarked by Blizzard aways back, so that might be related.

The Jacobs Installation mission in third person shooter mode in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modI wouldn’t mind seeing a shooter set in the StarCraft universe, especially if I can play as a ghost. On the other hand, it might be nice to see Blizzard take a chance with a new IP. They haven’t done that since literally last century.

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What about you? What are you expecting to see at this year’s BlizzCon? What are you hoping to see? Share your thoughts.

New article:

In my latest published article, I delve into the darkest mysteries of the World of Warcraft and seek to uncover the truth behind the enigma of the Old Gods.

StarCraft: I’m Just Going to Say It

Brood War was really bad.

The Zerg invade Augustgrad in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modAll right, let’s back up a minute. I should give some context here.

First of all, I’m only talking about the campaign, and specifically its story. Brood War helped give birth to the modern world of eSports, so obviously the multiplayer aspect was great.

The story, though…

I just finished playing through the Mass Recall mod that recreates the original StarCraft campaigns in SC2. I did encounter a few more bugs as I made my way through, but nothing game-breaking, and I stand by my original comments on Mass Recall: It’s great, and you should play it.

This was the first time I’d played through the Brood War campaign since I was a kid. I didn’t remember much about it beyond the broad strokes, and I hadn’t even played it that much back then due to the high difficulty and my gaming skills (or lack thereof) at the time. So I had little to no nostalgia surrounding Brood War, and it was almost like I had never played it before.

And as I played through it, it became clear to me: This is not a good story.

Of course, many StarCraft fans see Brood War as the pinnacle of video game story-telling, a brilliantly tragic story of intrigue and ruthless politics.

The UED occupy Augustgrad in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modI’m sorry, but that’s just baloney.

There is no intrigue in Brood War. It’s just a case of Kerrigan lying to everyone and having them all believe her because… the writers said so, I guess. It’s not like Kerrigan’s even a particularly good liar — her plots are incredibly transparent, and become more so with every passing mission. But the entire cast still swallows every word she says like it’s gospel.

I could maybe buy the Protoss being dumb enough to fall for her lies once — maybe — but they just keep making the same mistake over and over again. Aldaris outright told Zeratul that she was controlling Raszagal, and then Kerrigan proved it more thoroughly by murdering Aldaris for telling her secret.

And Zeratul does absolutely nothing. He continues doing everything Raszagal says and is utterly shocked when Kerrigan finally reveals the truth.

And for that matter, if Kerrigan had control of Raszagal all along, why did she have to invade Shakuras and take her hostage?

A carrier could arrive through the plot holes in this game.

Duran confronts Stukov in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modIt makes no sense to me, either, that Fenix would choose to go along with Kerrigan after she betrayed the Protoss on Shakuras. If the UED can have perfect knowledge of everything that’s happening in the Koprulu Sector despite having no presence there whatsoever (How does that work, anyway?), surely Zeratul could have sent Fenix a message to say, “Yeah, Kerrigan isn’t very trustworthy. Don’t listen to her.”

I don’t even buy the idea that they needed to side with her to defeat the UED. I don’t see the UED as all that big of a threat. At worst, they’re just another Terran dictatorship. Even with the Overmind under their control, they’re not all that much worse than Mengsk.

The only thing that might have justified everyone’s terror of the UED is if they were planning to do some kind of Nazi-esque purge of all those they deemed impure, but that was never mentioned in-game, and it wouldn’t make sense anyway because Brood War also retconned the entire identity of the UED by including ghosts and psychics in their ranks, when the whole concept of their culture was that they rejected all “impure” humans, including telepaths. That’s how Terrans wound up in the Koprulu Sector to begin with.

Either way, Kerrigan is obviously a greater threat than the UED could ever be. If anything, people should have been making “enemy of my enemy” alliances with the UED against Kerrigan, not the other way around.

Speaking of the UED, Dugalle has got to be one of the best examples of how bad the writing in Brood War was. The dude’s so over the map he almost comes across as schizophrenic.

Stukov's funeral in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modAt the beginning of the campaign, he goes on a rant about he can never trust Duran because he’s a traitor, but then the rest of the UED campaign up until Duran’s betrayal essentially consists of Duran saying “Jump” and Dugalle asking, “How high?”

Dugalle inexplicably even sides with Duran against his lifelong friend Stukov, despite the obvious evidence of Duran’s betrayal. He murders his best friend just because Duran said so.

As an aside, Stukov is perhaps the only character in the entire campaign who acts like a mentally sound adult, and he’s one of the few saving graces of Brood War. I am now reminded why he is a fan favourite.

Ultimately, Brood War feels incredibly pointless, as well. Almost nothing actually happens — that is, the state of the Koprulu Sector is little changed by the end. Kerrigan takes over the Swarm, and the Protoss settle Shakuras. That’s about it. The UED got roflstomped, so they end up as nothing but a strange footnote in StarCraft lore.

The only other lasting impact is the deaths of what feels like half the game’s cast, and this is perhaps the worst part of Brood War. If not for all the deaths, Brood War could be written off as a bizarre but forgettable tangent, but we lost a lot great characters.

The opening cutscene of Omega in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modDuke was a bastard who got what was coming to him, but Fenix and Aldaris are dearly missed. Looking at him through mature eyes, I’ve come to realize Aldaris was actually one of the game’s most interesting characters, and everybody loved Fenix.

They didn’t even get good or heroic deaths. They were just shanked like prison snitches and left to rot.

The only goal Brood War seems to have had as a story was to build Kerrigan up as a terrifying villain that the players will truly hate, but even there, it fails. The ten year wait for Kerrigan’s reckoning robbed Brood War of any emotional payoff, leaving it as a pointlessly bleak and ultimately depressing game.

It also fails because it doesn’t make Kerrigan seem frightening at all. All of her successes are down to everyone else’s mind-boggling incompetence rather than any cunning on her part.

Never in this campaign does one get the impression Kerrigan even has a chance of failure. She effortlessly deceives everyone and wins every battle without fail. Thus, there is no drama. The outcome seems preordained.

A carrier hovering over Aiur in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modThe only good thing about Brood War — aside from Stukov — is the Dark Origin secret mission, which is a brilliantly chilling piece of foreshadowing and has more relevance to the greater arc of the StarCraft universe than the whole remainder of the Brood War campaign.

All in all, Brood War is one of Blizzard’s all-time worst stories, rivaled only by Burning Crusade in its destructive pointlessness. The original StarCraft and Wings of Liberty both had their stumbles, and Heart of the Swarm was very disappointing, but all of those are still much better than Brood War was.

New article:

My latest contribution to Nexopia is Sci-Fi Novels That Changed the Face of Literature. From War of the Worlds up to the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

I wonder if the war with the Martians would have gone better if the humans had more towels?