Last time, as you will recall, we covered the January to June period of the Warcraft year, and things were not well or good for many in the World of Azeroth (and beyond.) The second half of 2015 was a distinct sea change, and there were surprises along the way that made many people, myself included, sit up and take a great deal of notice. We don’t need a preamble this time around, so let’s get right down to the details.
2015 in Review (Part Two) :: Time to Change the Game, and More Besides
After Timewalking launched at the end of June with patch 6.2 (Mana Tombs above is still a favourite) it became apparent that something was very much afoot. Two days into July, during an interview with a French Website, designer Cory Stockton confirmed there were only going to be two major patches for Warlords, and the Internet melted in short order, but this time with far more bitterness than I was comfortable with. I wrote about the fallout, and there are still people who are aggrieved, after all this time. Legendary finally revealed stuff about the Warcraft Movie at San Diego Comic Con, but as nobody was allowed to record anything or really talk about what they saw? We were all still (mostly) in the dark. However, Legendary Pictures did release a nifty 3D VR tour of Stormwind that worked on your mobile phone, in an attempt to deflect the blow, and we were promised the film’s trailer for Blizzcon. Which was nice, but not nearly as lovely as the announcement on the 29th that Blizzard would be announcing the next expansion at Gamescom 2015 in Cologne, Germany.
A much anticipated Press Conference was scheduled for August 5th, the day before the Company’s Q2 Earnings Call, but the big reveal actually happened on the 6th. There were no leaks this time, no idea of what was coming until we all saw the same presentation, which in itself was progress from many years and Expansions past. Then it was all about what we were told in 90 minutes: the Legion returning, some quite ground breaking changes were presented to a number of classes (INCLUDING HUNTERS) with the understanding at the end that PvP would never, ever be the same again. In perhaps the most significant move of all the proposed changes, the side of the game where you beat people to a pulp was getting a root and branch redesign to make it viable and playable again. Overnight, designers on Twitter were asking for input on Class Halls, social media was all about people raving over class changes and… there was genuine, unabashed optimism. I went on Holiday. It was lovely, too. Oh, and Flying got scheduled to be available in 6.2.2, which would arrive in September.
Lots of people had a lot to say about what they thought was wrong with the game post Gamescom, and there was a great deal of muttering on the back of a significant subscriber loss the game suffered in Q2. The strain of no new content began to tell, with top guild Method having a bit of a moment, and when a Blizzard Dev got up at Dragoncon and chatted about stuff, an awful lot of people were suddenly very interested in what he had to say. We got our first whiff of Obliterum as a ‘thing’ for Crafters, and realised that Blizzard weren’t willing to confirm anything they couldn’t actually promise. It also became apparent that November and Blizzcon were a very long way away. No matter, there would be a patch in the interim, and yet more Timewalking to keep people
distracted occupied in the time they waited. It also became obvious that Blizzard had already decided the locations for the successor to Garrisons. Objecting to your Class Order Hall’s location wasn’t likely to change anything, yet still the Rogues tried, and I continue to applaud those who did for their tenacity. It was a salutatory reminder to many that sometimes, try as you might, you won’t change a design decision that’s already been committed to in advance.
The month began with a nerf to Hellfire Citadel, and indicators that yet more Dungeons would be joining the Timewalking roster. I suggested people might like to bring flasks to 5 man content, and my small corner of Warcraft promptly imploded. However, this month was all about one thing and one thing alone: Pepe. The in game cute bird you discovered in your Garrison became a purchasable reality, transformed into a Blizzard Plushie which proceeded on release to pretty much own the news cycle and social media for several days. As Blizzcon moved closer, 6.2.3 became of great interest to everyone when it became apparent that Valor was making a return as a means for players to upgrade their gear. That caused a lot of debate to, and marked the effective end to Apexis as a currency with significance. Blizzard had learned the lesson, finally, on taking things away that people actually wanted. I wrote a satire about the patch, and I’m still rather proud of it. Oh, and at the end of October, with a minimum amount of fuss, Blizzard hired the ex-CEO of ESPN to head up their new e-Sports Division. If you weren’t sure the company was serious over World Domination? Well, that’s all going to change, and probably sooner than anyone thinks.
Then it was Blizzcon Time, and everything went a bit crazy. I covered my first event as a paid member of the this site’s reporting staff, and it was a truly magical two days. Read my breakdowns of Friday’s and Saturday’s Panels on this very website, and then marvel at just how much stuff Blizzard promised to arrive on or before September 21st, 2016. That date came as a shock to many, but when you grasp that Blizzard said little to nothing about PvP over the whole weekend? Maybe that deadline is justified. The Warcraft Movie’s trailer finally got released, but not before a section was leaked early, causing Legendary to counter with a mini-teaser that was, in some ways, better than the full-length version. What became most apparent after that weekend was that World of Warcraft is no longer the ‘flagship’ property for the Company: Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Starcraft 2 were the big hits of the weekend, with Overwatch’s much hyped release finally being scheduled ‘on or before June 21, 2016.’ And despite many naysayers beliefs that Blizzard couldn’t make good on a beta before December? We saw one by November’s end, just as had been promised at the start of the month, though if I’m honest? Looks a lot like an alpha to me.
So, my December was an awful lot of Survival Hunters, and throwing myself around the Broken Isles whilst trying professions and, if we’re honest, the signs were extremely encouraging. As yet there’s not much at all on PvP, but as Blizzard went and bought out the majority of MLG’s assets in the middle of the month you can pretty much expect that to change in fairly short order. As did a lot of people in December, there was quite a lot of just playing the game for me, and a surprising lack of either whining or complaining from everybody else. I sincerely hope this continues to be the case, and as Blizzard bought down the Banhammer on a remarkable number of players just before Christmas? I think it’s likely that their choice of suspended accounts were sound. Most significantly of all, there was no testing over Christmas. Blizzard bought down the test servers and at time of writing, they’re still not back live. One can only hope when they do return, there’s lots of lovely new shiny things for everybody to attempt to test and/or break.
And here we are, in a brand new year, with the Alpha/Beta still on hold and the news yesterday that you’ll be able to use Valor to upgrade your Legendary Ring. There’s something I’d not have expected a year ago, and I can confidently predict it won’t be the last time I’ll say this. Expect 2016 to be full of surprises. That whole eSports thing is going be big for starters, and let us not forget the small matter of the Warcraft Movie coming to a multiplex near you in June. You’d hope and expect Blizzard to want to have Legion on servers before that but honestly? We do not have the faintest idea of what may (or may not) transpire on that front. A great deal remains very firmly in the lap of the Old Gods, and you know how incomprehensible and cranky they can be. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to providing you with another 52 weeks of content, and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll not be stuck for subject matter for many months to come.
2016 is set to be very interesting indeed.Related: Alpha, Beta, Blizzard Entertainment, Column, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday