The wait is almost over.
Blizzcon opens on Friday morning PST, and according to my Countdown that gives us TWO DAYS TO GO before all is revealed around Legion and what the Expansion will contain. The last couple of days has seen a wealth of information that’s burst forth from various sources, and this is probably a good moment to use my words as a way to preview what can be expected over the weekend of November 6th and 7th.
Without further ado, lets’s start with the Big Screen.
The Warcraft Movie
Analysis Thus: A: STORMWIND THIS WAY, ORCS B: SENTINEL HILL C: Harvest Golem. D: Worg Mount. E: FEMALE ORC 😀 pic.twitter.com/YWNpaon4z2
— Not Alt Blizzcon (@AlternativeChat) November 4, 2015
Early on Tuesday the full version of the Warcraft Movie trailer leaked onto the Internet, shortly after which (presumably) Universal/Legendary decided to take the high ground by releasing this 15 seconds of footage officially. You’d think that actually, this wouldn’t be enough of a teaser to be able to get a feel for what Duncan Jones has done with the place once he took over from Sam Raimi, but happily for me at least, you’d be utterly wrong. There’s a ton of references, asides and genuine moments of excitement in what was picked. As you can see from the one frame above I chose to pick to pieces this morning, you can say an awful lot with the right shot, and this shows that this Franchise is in safe hands. Quite apart from the fact I know where the Orcs came from, and that they are actually heading in the right direction geographically (Stormwind’s that way, guys) just having a Harvest Golem in the shot where it should be, and that being Sentinel Hill on fire? This Movie is pitched correctly.
The movie’s narrative was never going to appease everybody’s lore and geography desires. Liberties have to be taken with plot and location, that goes without saying. What I see in this fifteen seconds, and I suspect will be borne out in the weeks that follow, is that Duncan Jones has made something that will keep a large number of people very happy indeed. Yes, the lore purists are probably already crying into their Red Shirts, but for the rest of us? There’s an absolute wealth of asides and ‘easter eggs’ to keep us enthused. Stormwind looks fantastic and has enough links back to the game to keep this fan more than engaged with the content. The Orcs appear exactly as you’d expect CGI Orcs to and the whole thing is produced with clearly a lot of love and attention to detail. Frankly, if you want something that is an exact copy of the client? You should probably just be playing the game. if you’re expecting the ‘history’ of this Movie to precisely mirror that which already exists? You will be disappointed. The rest of us however are going to sit back, enjoy the ride, and see where it takes us. The full version of the trailer will debut during the Blizzcon Opening ceremony, which is available by Virtual Ticket or for free if you happen to own an XBox.
Legion is Coming
— Not Alt Blizzcon (@AlternativeChat) November 2, 2015
In a change to the normal Q&A setup this year Blizzard have thrown the floor open to questioning BEFORE the Convention goes live, collating this massive list of potential points and then asking players on both the US and EU forums to vote on their favourites. This is an odd selection of queries, it must be said: many of the questions I knew the answers to, a lot of the Lore ones had me scratching my head and when I voted I tried to pick the subjects I thought were most relevant. Needless to say this is the first time since the Q&A’s were started that players have had the chance to actually vote on what gets asked, although there are some who might consider this a cynical means of engineering an easy ride for the Company over recent criticism. I believe that this is done with a sense of genuine desire to show players that what matters to them is what matters to the Developers. What we’ll actually be told about Legion is still a pretty closely guarded secret, and those people who are predicting a release date for the title or even the announcement of a Beta may be in for a surprise. Personally I’m going into this weekend with expectations set lower than they have been for some time, mostly because I made the fatal mistake before Warlords of hyping my own desires far too much.
What we do know however is that last night Blizzard announced that Season Two of PvP will be ending Soon (TM) and that traditionally means that we can expect PTR content to go from development to a release client shortly afterwards. 6.2.3 introduces Cataclysm Timewalking, and as we know there’s a scheduled window for that event on the 17th in the US (18th in Europe) I think it’s a pretty safe bet that you can expect a fortnight’s wait before all of this comes to pass. The only potential sticking point for all this would be if Blizzard embed PTR pre-testing for Legion’s much-anticipated Expansion Pre-Show, but if this does happen it would do so with almost zero fanfare. There’s no data-mining (officially) confirmed of anything that would point to a surprise addition of data post Blizzcon, in fact, there’s no indicators of anything at all. Normally by this point I’d have my Virtual Ticket Vanity Pet in my mailbox but even that doesn’t exist this time around. To say the cards are close to the collective chest is an understatement. At least it isn’t long to wait to see just what all the fuss is about.
King, Compete and the eSports Equation
This week’s seen the small matter of Activision/Blizzard making a bid for King, and although most might think that actually Warcraft won’t be affected by this? I can see an Orcs and Humans themed version of the Candy Crush ‘game’ appearing to tie in with the Movie release 😀 Whatever your own personal thoughts on this acquisition might be, Blizzard learnt this Expansion that Garrisons were, for many players, salvation for those with limited playtime or the inability to have time to play during working hours. The ‘joke’ of the Garrison becoming a Facebook game for the MMO generation doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous now either: if I wanted to buy a company with a proven track record of Facebook and mobile integration skills, King’s probably a decent bet. They don’t need a solid portfolio of other games either, Blizzard can provide all the raw materials and creative drive needed to hang on King’s framework. Bubble Witch with a selection of Blizzard NPC’s to replace the titular magician? Red and Blue versions of the game to slot onto the Warcraft Movie website? Minigames stuck into the Battle.net launcher? The possibilities are indeed endless, and undoubtedly will be already being discussed.
Then there’s that whole eSports thing, and the fact that Blizzard seem quite keen to make a lot of Blizzcon this year just about competition. There is, apart from the Movie Trailer, nothing really to surprise the faithful this year as there was last with Overwatch. I for one am quietly confident there’s something HUGE coming for eSports, not simply what is promised from the recent formation of the dedicated Division. If it’s one thing Blizzard knows how to do it is keep secrets, and this time around that’s not just restricted to what was their Flagship title. I say that with no irony either: no longer are we in a time where Warcraft is all that matters both to players but also to the Company. Without it, of course, there would be none of the money or attention that has been garnered over the years in order to make properties like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm a reality. It is still a significant force in Blizzard’s game plan, but the decision yesterday by the company to stop actively reporting subscriber numbers in financial statements is a major move. Many of you will tell me that it’s often the first step towards making a title Free to Play, and I’m already seeing commentators suggest that could be the Opening Ceremony’s surprise announcement.
At this point, I’d just like it to be Friday. I’ll be honest, all I would like personally is some idea of where Legion is in terms of development, and how long I can expect to wait until the Expansion goes live. Everything else, frankly, is gravy, sauce for the bird, an irrelevance on the back of the one game I play and the one thing I love. It’s bad enough that I have to be in my PJ’s for the opening ceremony and not warm in California: in the end, after a year which has seen more highs and lows than I care to remember in terms of this game’s affect on my life, I just want to know.
If it could be Friday right now, I for one would be very grateful.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, BlizzCon 2015, Column, eSports, MMO, MMORPG, Update, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday