It’s that time of year again. The time of year where gamers of all walks of life (some sane, upstanding citizens; others some of the most annoying people on the planet) migrate westward to Anaheim like some socially awkward rendition of the Galapagos Islands so Blizzard can reveal information about the games everyone will be playing, and consequently complaining about for the next five years. Every proper video game nerd giddily anticipates this weekend like a child trying to sleep on Christmas Eve, visions of Zergs and Death Knight nerfs dancing in their heads. It can be a lot of information to process, especially if you aren’t there, but we at AiPT are here to break down what you should be paying attention to at this year’s event. There is, of course, the ever-looming Project Titan announcement that everyone is waiting for, but that may or may not come at this year’s Blizzcon, so we’re only going with sure things. So put on your best red shirt, load up some Foo Fighters on your iPod (they’re playing this year), and follow along on our handy guide of what to expect from this year’s Blizzcon.
5. An Apparent “Guild Challenge” Between Two Long-Standing WoW Guilds
As I was writing this article, I saw a post by @Warcraft on Twitter saying that two of the longest-standing, most cutting-edge guilds around, vodka (Alterac Mountains-US) and Blood Legion (Illidan-US), have agreed to take part in a “mysterious” Live-Raid at Blizzcon, the terms and conditions of which even the guilds themselves are not yet privy to. Last year, Paragon took part in the Live Raid, defending Orgrimmar against sixteen past and then-future raid bosses while the development team commentated. What could these guilds have to endure this year? Run Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman seven times that day? (Oh wait, we’re supposed to enjoy paying money to do that.) Listen to Ghostcrawler talk about lore for an hour without committing seppuku? The possibilities are endless! I guess we’ll just have to tune in to find out!
4. Concrete Information on the First StarCraft II Expansion
Look at you! Ship all busted up!
StarCraft II was awesome. If I have any real complaint about it, it’s that Blizzard is shamelessly taking the “release only a portion of a game at launch, then charge more for the rest of it later” model that most developers are employing now. Instead of withholding a couple of multiplayer maps, or a new ability or something to peddle later for five or ten bucks, however, Blizzard took the next step in screwing their customers by only releasing a third of the goddamn game at a time (at 100% of the price of a regular game, obviously). The original StarCraft (still one of the most popular games of all time, even thirteen years after its release) came with three campaigns, one for each of the game’s races. StarCraft II instead slapped a subtitle at the bottom, called itself “Episode 1 of 3”, but still sold for the standard retail price of 60 big ones. So while I try to channel my inner optimistic gamer (psyche! Oxymoron!), it’s hard when the expansion, Heart of the Swarm, is what really should have been the middle third of the game.
But either way, it looks awesome. Heart of the Swarm focuses on the Zerg, in contrast to Wings of Liberty which was an entirely Terran (human) campaign. With an entire expansion dedicated to them, we’re sure to see plenty more Zerg in multiplayer. Welp, I hope you like gouging your own eyes out as your only repreive from seething hatred! Zerg is arguably the most popular StarCraft race, but are so annoying in multiplayer that the accepted industry term for errantly disregarding any rules or strategy and just mindlessly attacking like some bloodthirsty mastiff is named after them. I can almost picture all the cheating bastards zerging my base in a No Rush game, happily pecking “kekekekeke” into their keyboard as my blood boils with rage.
What little they have divulged about the campaign looks very enticing, however. The story centers around Sarah Kerrigan, a Terran left to die at the hands of the Zerg, who miraculously survived and is now the Queen of Blades, leading the Zerg in a mission of “vengeance and retribution with a deathtoll numbering in the billions”. Pretty badass, even if it is a little too “Sylvanas Windrunner” for my liking. Regardless, I’m geniunely looking forward to seeing what other details are released at Blizzcon.
3. Possible (Tentative) Release Date For Diablo III, Other Info
Diablo III has been one of the most anticipated games of the last decade. I know I was looking forward to it, but the last few months have been a shitstorm of awful news concerning the game. In World of Warcraft, I’m really big into PvP. Fighting against and ultimately outwitting other human beings has always been more of a thrill to me than running headlong into a boss and fighting it enough times to memorize its scripted actions. So I was pretty excited to hear that Diablo III was going to have an arena system. It was originally going to be similar to WoW‘s, but somewhere down the line in D3’s development they just said “fuck it, who cares about PvP?” and threw any sort of balance out the window. One developer even infamously said, “shut up PvP guy” when asked about the changes. That’s encouraging. In WoW, PvPers are treated like crazy, societal misfits living in cardboard boxes on the street, shoved into a corner so as to not ruin the First World’s PvE experience completely. But at least they’re citizens, and Blizzard feels somewhat responsible for hyping up Battlegrounds and Arenas, and tries their best to balance the game for both. In Diablo, PvPers are seemingly knocked off of public consciousness entirely, left to fend for themselves in makeshift Hoovervilles, dueling one another for food and water.
LFM Rated Battlegrounds, must have Skype and extra blankets, PST
The biggest thing Blizzard is going to have to justify for D3 this year, though, even more than the constantly moving target that is its release date, is the addition of a For-Real-Money Auction House. In the past, Blizzard has been staunchly against real-money transactions in game, but a few years of great sales in WoW of in-game vanity items, as well as for-money race changes, faction changes, name changes et al must have made them change their tune (I never get more depressed than I am when I think about how much money I have willingly, sometimes emphatically, thrown at Blizzard to modify a few polygons on a character on their servers, or change my race to gain some sort of advantage, only for them to nerf it a week later. My “Transactions” page on battle.net reads like a small business’ expense report). This raises various ethical, moral, and even legal questions, so it should be interesting to see how Blizzard reacts.
2. Pandas? OH GOD LET THERE BE PANDAS!
Back in August, Blizzard trademarked an interesting piece of intellectual property: “Mists of Pandaria”. Pandaria, for the uninitiated, is the homeland of the vaunted Pandaren, a race of cuddly panda bears who also like to drink insane amounts of alcohol, and oh, they also happen to be ninjas. Spend any amount of time on the Internet and you’ll see why every neckbeard in the world loses their shit at the mere mention of beer swilling ninja panda bears.
Alright, you got me. That’s pretty badass.
Many people dismissed it as a book, or a comic, or a toy, or anything other than a WoW expansion. A little investigation revealed, however, that it was the same type of trademark the Blizzard always uses for video games, not any other type of intellectual property. When asked about the possibility of a Pandaren-related announcement at Blizzcon this year, WoW producer J. Allen Brack responded only with a coy, “sounds like something we may be talking about at BlizzCon.”
1. More “Red Shirt Guy” Jokes Than You Ever Wanted to Hear Jammed Into One Weekend
I know, he was funny as hell last year. I know, he got his own character in the game after he owned Blizzard at their own lore and I know, that’s pretty awesome. I know, jokes about him are infectious. Hell, I made one in the first paragraph of this article. But if there’s one thing the Internet as a crude, faceless whole likes to do more than anything, even more than berate eleven year old girls via YouTube comments and look at pictures of kittens, it’s savagely beat a joke to death like it owes you money. This was literally my first thought upon realizing Blizzcon was this weekend:
I’d be willing to bet money that the first person who asks a question in the Q&A session will make a reference on it. IT HAS BEEN SAID.