Blizzard’s yearly Blizzcon event kicked off today, and with it came a variety of announcements for each of the gaming juggernaut’s franchises. Each announcement was spread across the convention centre’s many stages and arenas, allowing fans to really pack it in and watch the game they were most excited for.
The first big announcement was Starcraft 2 going free to play. The entire game won’t be free, however. The original single-player campaign, Wings of Liberty, will be free, but the other expansions will not be. Co-op Commander missions will be free up to level five, and multiplayer will be free, but ranked will only be unlocked after playing ten unranked matches or against the CPU to “preserve the quality and integrity of the ranked experience.” Nicely enough, if you already own Wings of Liberty, Blizzard will give you the expansion Heart of the Swarm for free. This update will drop the 14th of November.
Next came Hearthstone, and with it, a new expansion called Kobolds and Catacombs. A handful of new cards were revealed (in a very cheesy and, in my opinion, bad way) as well as a new game mode called Dungeon Run, where you’re given random cards to progress through a set of eight battles with. When you lose, you start over with a new deck, essentially making it a Hearthstone rougelike. This expansion is set to release in December.
Heroes of the Storm had a brief reveal, showing two new characters: Alexstrasza from WoW and Hanzo from Overwatch. Blizzard also says there will be a new update to the game next year that adds voice chat, better stealth mechanics, and a new camera.
Up next was Overwatch. The class based shooter introduced two new things: a new map and new hero. First was Blizzard World, a theme park map sprinkled with classic Blizzard games references. Blizzard World is set to release early next year.
Next was the reveal of Overwatch‘s newest hero, Moira. An Irish-born DNA expert, Moira can spray her teammates with a healing mist, or fire orbs that either heal friends or harm foes. She can also teleport short distances, and her ultimate is a Kamehameha-like beam that either heals or harms depending on who she’s firing it at. No date was confirmed for Moira.
Finally for Overwatch, a new animated short was shown, revealing Reinhardt’s origin.
The last announcements were for World of Warcraft. WoW revealed two major things: First, official Classic WoW servers for people who want to play the MMO as it was originally rolled out. This server option is currently in development, so no date has been confirmed.
Finally, the latest (and seventh, geez) World of Warcraft expansion was revealed: Battle for Azeroth. WoW is thematically returning to its roots, separating Horde and Alliance groups to different sections of the map to level up to 120. There will also be new PvP modes that pit Horde and Alliance players against one another, and new items to customize and level.
Overall this Blizzcon has something for everyone (unless you’re only in it for Diablo, but c’mon, don’t be pushy). As someone who only plays Overwatch, Moira seems fine, but I’m more excited for the goofy Blizzard World map next year.
Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!
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StarCraft’s Alexei Stukov is coming to Heroes of the Storm in a new update.
Video games are a big deal in South Korea, specifically PC games.
Late last night, Blizzard announced something very special over at the official Starcraft Website. They are releasing a remaster of the classic Starcraft and the expansion, Starcraft: Brood War, in 4K.
The StarCraft ProLeague was a cornerstone of the StarCraft eSports scene. Originally launched in March 2003, the league saw over a decade of matches, and brought StarCraft into Korea as an eSports mainstay. However, after 14 seasons of competitive play, the league is officially shuttering its doors for good, as reported by the Korean website Fomos.
According to the article, The Korea e-Sports Association (or KeSPA for short) has decided to shut down the ProLeague today, Oct 18th. KeSPA Chairman Jun Byung Hun also released a statement on the league’s closing, honouring its history while communicating the bumpy road that the ProLeague experienced in its final days.
“We had faced challenges that hindered ProLeague’s operations including the acute drop in global eSports sponsorships in 2008 caused by the global financial crisis, the first case of eSports match-fixing, and declining number of teams,” Hun said. “[T]he drop in the number of ProLeague teams and players, difficulty securing league sponsors, and match fixing issues have made it challenging to maintain ProLeague. As such, KeSPA has come to announce the discontinuation of ProLeague and its operations of the five out of total seven StarCraft professional teams that participated in ProLeague 2016.”
Suffice to say, the StarCraft eSports community is in mourning today. Casters, players and reporters alike are claiming that the recent closure marks an “end of an era,” and that our view of StarCraft as a major eSports game within Korea may be at stake.
Proleague was my dream tournament.
I'm truely blessed to have been able to cast it from 2014 until the end with OGaming and during IEM.
— FunKa (@FunKaStarcraft) October 18, 2016
With Proleague shutting down and a handful of Kespa clubs dropping their teams, this looks like the end of an Era for Starcraft.#thankyou
— Carlos – ocelote (@CarlosR) October 18, 2016
It’s unlikely that the entire StarCraft eSports scene will die out, of course. The game is still a major competitive title around the world. But its standing may be threatened by such titles as Dota 2, League of Legends and even Overwatch, as eSports scenes new and old alike begin to take the world by storm. Regardless, the StarCraft ProLeague will surely be missed.
It’s safe to say that Blizzard’s Chris Metzen is one of the giants of the video gaming world. Serving as Senior VP of Story and Franchise Development at the company, Metzen has supervised some of the most popular franchises in the gaming world today. From his early work on Warcraft to co-writing Diablo‘s world, from serving as lead designer on StarCraft to his role as Creative Director for Overwatch, gaming wouldn’t be the same without Chris Metzen’s contributions over the past 20-something years. But today, Metzen has officially announced that he will be retiring from his role at the company.
Posted across Blizzard’s forums by the company’s community managers last night, the news comes as a major departure for the organization. Metzen, who is 42, originally began working with Blizzard when he had turned 20. He was a major engine behind the company’s iconic lore, including the intricacies of 2016’s Overwatch. His work came from “an insatiable passion for ideas. For stories. For heroes,” he said in his official retirement post.
Originally, Metzen began his storytelling career by running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign among his close friends, creating complex and intricate worlds for his fellow role-players to explore. That grew over time as he worked at Blizzard, allowing him “the very distinct privilege of shaping worlds and building games with the brightest creative minds in entertainment.”
Of course, game development isn’t the easiest job in the world. There were hardships that Metzen had to endure. “I pretty much had the coolest job ever—but the truth is, sometimes it was really hard,” he explained. “Building games with dozens of brilliant, passionate alpha-geeks with their own red-hot instincts and perspectives can be pretty tricky. Coming to consensus about certain design decisions, story motifs, or courses of art direction takes a lot of communication, patience, and ‘give and take.’ It stretches you.”
“But engaging with your teammates and collaborating through the potential quagmire of all that creative tension is where the real magic happens,” Metzen said.
Don’t expect any new projects from Metzen after leaving Blizzard. As he outlined, there’s a reason why he chose the word “retire” in his announcement post. Instead of working on new games, he wants to spend time with his family at home. And with a new baby in the family, there’s plenty to do as he begins retirement.
Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void will see some significant changes to its multiplayer, but the good news is players have plenty of time to prepare.
According to a post on the Starcraft II website, Blizzard plans to launch the changes at the end of the current tournament season in November. This is due to them wanting to spend plenty of time testing, gathering feedback, and revising the changes.
“We believe we can make StarCraft II an even more enjoyable and competitive game experience and would like to explore a series of major changes to bring about these improvements,” stated the post. “We intend for these changes to receive significantly more testing than the ‘Test Maps’ which we’ve done in the past, both because of the significance of the changes themselves, and also due to improvements we are making which we will discuss in greater detail below.”
Below is a summary of some of the changes coming to the races of Starcraft II:
- Improving the viability of Factory unit armies, a.k.a Mech compositions
- Turning the Cyclone into a core unit with a powerful anti-armoured attack against ground units
- Increasing Siege Tank damage, but it can no longer be picked up by Medivacs
- Removal of the +light damage from the Liberator’s Anti-air attack
- Upping the splash damage to the Thor’s Javelin Missile. Punisher Cannons will now be prioritised before Thor’s Hammer.
- Buff to the Viking’s auto-attack
- Increase to the damage of the Raven’s auto turret
- Massing Tempests became an easy way to deal with Terran Mech. As such, the supply count of the Tempest has been increased, along with its anti-ground damage. The range of anti-ground weapon has been decreased.
- Zealot’s Research Charge upgrade getting a movement speed increase
- Removal of the Release Interceptor ability from the Carrier. Interceptor mineral cost reduced.
- New ability for Dark Templars. Blizzard may scrap this, however.
- Swarm Host getting a significant resource cost reduction
- Addition of an Armoured Flag to the Ravager
- Aiming to make the Hydralisk a core unit by buffing its attack range and movement speed.
- Health buff to Banelings
- Experimental changes for the Infestor. A new ability and being able to cast all abilities while burrowed
These changes are not set in stone and could very well be revised before they go live. Blizzard plans to release the first balance test map sometime this week.
Starcraft is one of the iconic blizzard properties. It sparked a world wide love of the multiplayer, with many people still playing the first Starcraft over the more recent Starcraft II. If reports are to be believed, Blizzard may be working to Remaster Starcraft, as Starcraft HD and an announcement may be eminent.
eSports is, at its heart, about competition. Players and teams clash against each other in a battle of wits, skill, and tenacity. While fans are usually glued to a duel in mid lane, a sniper’s game winning shots, or a general leading his teammates to battle, there’s a different kind of competition unfolding in the PC Bangs and net cafes of Korea: which game will reign supreme as the players’ choice?
Blizzard is known for its franchises. Games such as Diablo II, WarCraft III and StarCraft have shaped a generation.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years, chances are you will have at least heard of eSports.