by Karina “Cinerina” Montgomery
You could mill around Anaheim with 20,000 attendees in a one big, very noisy room, or for $40, you could stream all the content and even get some of the virtual goodies from the goodie bag. Granted, streaming (and after-viewing) was as herky-jerky laggy as being in the Shrine of Two Moons, but at least you could do it from your couch. For you WoW players, the free pet with purchase, Murkalot, is definitely a powerhouse battle pet with some crazy epic animations. But I digress. You’re reading this for news, though if you play any of these games, you probably know some of it.
The Hearthstone game is an electronic card game with gameplay apparently similar to WoWTCG, but without all the in-game loot cards, and will soon be available on tablet and iPhone and Android. Blizzard employees were asked to play test this in-house on their work time and their work hours exploded. Some wit on Twitter described it as “inn tense” which is slightly perfect.
Heroes of the Storm is a wild new RTS game that pits all the big names of the various Blizzard properties (Starcraft, World of Warcraft, Diablo) with or against each other in a kind of nerd fantasy football league. I’m not an RTS girl but I’ve looked over enough boyfriend shoulders to say that it looks pretty darn swanky, and I love the idea of crossing universes to battle.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is coming out for PS4 (not PS3, just PS4) but I didn’t see any footage of that game, but if it is anything as addictive as the initial release of Diablo III was, it will definitely drive PS4 sales.
The big announcement of the show is the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor. I’ll bullet the things that my people were the most excited about, but there were a lot of fun new things to look forward to. Lorewise, we have nasty old Grommash going back in time 35 years to the orc homeworld of Draenor (from whence the Draenei also came, also known as Outland Before It Blew Up) to whip up some Iron Horde who will be the sadistic jerks he had hoped the regular Horde would be. Then both factions fight them. Meanwhile, we will be enjoying these exciting new things:
- New continent (the world of Draenor) with seven new zones, some may feel familiar
- Build and customize your own garrison. Three tiers, lots of buildings, stat bonuses, and minions running errands for you and offline progression, for all you EVE fans reading this.
- New quests, monsters, the usual shiny with a new level cap of 100
- Trial of the Gladiator, using Arena rules but not limited to Arena season.
- Hit, parry, dodge, expertise, reforging: ALL GONE. (Tanks, your needs will be addressed in a different way.)
- New character models and animations (cough finally cough). Of the new character models, we got to see a dwarf, orc, and gnome before and after. Gone are the awkward polygonal mitts and frozen hair. Now the hair bounces and behaves, the fingers are articulated, there is more shading and musculature, while keeping everyone looking like themselves and less like Master Control.
- Free boost to 90 for an established OR new toon
- A persistent sandbox PvP zone with no time limit, and buildable siege engines
- Improved hunter weapon sounds (cue huge cheer) – no more transmogging that gorgeous gun just for quiet
- Armor stats being dynamic to spec so you don’t need two armor sets, you just have “mail” or “cloth” and it adds INT or STR or whatever is appropriate for your spec, including PvP
- Seven new dungeons and raids with both flex and static levels, including a new Mythic level
- Big patch before release with a world event involving the Dark Portal but not like at the gates of Ahn’Quiraj (get your limited-time achievements!)
- Adventure Guide: at-a-glance character progression guide, whether it’s “where can I mine now?” or “what quests do I need to do to complete that goal?” Great for new players or starting new professions.
- The biggest cheer of all: Inventory updates! Collections (holiday costumes, toys, maybe even tabards) in the same sort of UI as mounts and pets are now. Stack sizes increased! Favorites to summon random favorite mount. Sortable and classifiable bags, indicator items for vendor trash, item quality color frame, quest items not in bags and you can craft directly from the bank. So, basically, heaven.
A lot of these announcements were made with, “maybe we’ll do a thing where this happens,” so the release is definitely a ways off, but they have some pretty nifty concept art for the new zones.
I also saw the discussion of the upcoming Warcraft movie, which actually swings into production this January, 2014. They have their director, Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), and as a long-time WoW player (since W1) he gets it, gets the lore, gets the fervent need for the fans to be sated, and he also gets the most important thing: it’s a two-faction story to tell. Anyone can do heroic things, no matter what faction. He’s so good with the complex scripts he has handled in the past, I am actually looking forward to seeing this, as compared to feeling culturally obliged to see it. He’s got a great team, many of whom are active players as well, so if you want to bust out IMDB on these folks: Mayes Rubio on costumes, Paul Hirsch editing, and two-time Oscar winner Bill Westenhofer (Lvl 90 Alliance mage) on visual effects. It will be live action and CGI (like the Narnia films) and the orcs will be photorealistic, not monsters.
The film will be released for the holidays 2015 and will be PG-13, but as Jones says, “you can get away with a lot of [stuff] in PG-13,” like the pencil scene in The Dark Knight. He wants it to be dirty and gritty and really tactile. He wants locations to feel familiar to players in the audience, and have lots of little Easter eggs for that audience, while still being accessible to a wider audience. For lore junkies, the two main characters are Lothar and Durotan, and that is ALL they will say about that. An audience question was “I know you can’t say, but can you cast Chuck Norris?” Jones’ reply was “Can I not cast Chuck Norris?” So we’ll see about that. We saw some concept art of Dalaran and Stormwind City, but they also spoke of wanting some settings to be smaller and intimate places (I really hope that includes Booty Bay). A preview should be ready to show at next year’s Blizzcon, so buy your virtual ticket!
The Epic Cosplay and You panel was comprised of this and the previous three Blizzcon Costume Contest winners. Svetlana Quindt even has a website with tutorial videos that many of the other panelists had used themselves! Each panelist basically core-dumped a ton of incredibly useful information about tools and resources and materials, so for the note-taking nerds out there, see if you can’t catch that video somewhere because WOW. Very helpful.
Finally, the fun side – the Community Contest. Jay Mohr again was the emcee, and I get that he really plays WoW, but so do Felicia Day and Chloe Dykstra, and they are… well… funnier. I like Mohr’s standup usually, but he always seems so very awkward at this event and with some of his jokes he was dating himself pretty badly when he wasn’t using Jay Leno’s rejected political humor. It made me sad, because I do really like him. The contests were expanded from costume, art, and video to include musical acts! I don’t know if some of the submitted videos were judged under video or under musical acts, but the live bands playing were pretty fun and exciting.
The costume winners were:
- 3rd place: Lorraine Torres in a crazy lovely Amidala-like pirate thing which they all recognized but I did not, so I assume it’s from Diablo.
- 2nd place: Allison Trent, as Tuskee the Traveling Tuskarr – adorable, massive, with the perfect fishing pole.
- 1st place: Ralph Zimmerman, barbarian, in armor made by one of the costume panelists
- Grand Prize: Svetlana Quindt, a German woman in a Protoss wizard getup inspired by some concept art, which seemed kind of simple until you saw the electronic details and realized it was her own creation from the neck down.
Some great costumes that I must mention is someone dressed as a troll druid in cat form –this person had the turquoise fur and orange stripes, the Mohawk, all the beads and feathers – and they did the cat dance (and got Honorable Mention). I also was super fond of the Horde Training Dummy, who came out and got into their pose and then spun as if hit. Hilarity crit! And my personal favorite was a guy dressed in a pitch- and prop-perfect rendition of the evil gamer nerd guy from the WoW South Park episode, How Can You Kill that Which Has No Life? He flicked off his Cheeto crumbs perfectly.
The musicians that performed were the metal band Songhammer (recently featured on Krypton Radio) singing We Are The Horde, Gaelsong with a video of them singing Lament of the Highborne, Have No Fear rapping The Alliance, the AFK Players video Just Another Day, Bill Shaw with a video of his folk song Patch Tuesday, Spacebards singing Back in the World of Warcraft, Cassandra Hovdestad playing Wrath of the Piano Queen on video, and Xanthocroid (and the world’s largest fog machine, apparently) performing their folky number, Argent Crusader’s Hymn. Since I am not sure if the music videos were videos or songs, I had to list them all. It was definitely an eclectic range of music that you might hear either at a Renaissance Faire or at a frat party.
- 4th place: Xanthocroid
- 3rd place: Have No Fear
- 2nd place: Spacebards
- 1st place: Songhammer, who then performed an encore.
I did miss the Elite Tauren Chieftains, but they are now on a Hearthstone card from the goodie bag, and that’s pretty flipping funny.
So much more than this happened at Blizzcon – gaming tournaments and showcases, beta testing by audience members, a really nice music and sound panel – but even if I had been there crushed in the sweaty black-t-shirted mass, I couldn’t have seen much more than what I saw online. I would also say, judging by the noise from the audience, that they were mostly Horde. Make of that as you will.
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