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Why I’m Not Playing Warlords of Draenor

I’m proud of myself. A WoW expansion is coming out and I’m not going to jump right in and play again. Every time an expansion comes out I think, “Ooooh! I love Warcraft and the world and the story and it’s all so awesome!” Then I play and that magical illusion I create in my mind dissolves quickly. My thoughts turn away from Orcs vs. Humans and glorious cutscenes and imagining epic adventures. I start thinking, “Time to log in and get that loot. What’s my gear score?” My immersion is shattered and I quit a month later.

I’m going to avoid shattering my illusion this time and pretend everything is just as I imagine.

Speaking of Warcraft and fond memories, have you checked out Blizzard’s Looking for Group documentary? It’s an hour long but worth watching. They start right off by giving all the right props to UO and EQ for inspiring them to stop their current projects and go the route of an MMO.

My memories of WoW will always be better than what I’m actually thinking while I play the game. Realizing that, I can honestly say I love World of Warcraft. I just don’t love playing it.

Only Blizzard

Overwatch New Blizzard IP

Only Blizzard can both excite and disappoint me at the same time. Only Blizzard can be unoriginal and draw this amount of hype. I wasn’t expecting them to be original. In fact, I wanted them to make another Warcraft RTS game. I’m disappointed by the fact that they are still drawing this out as long as possible. It’s inevitable. There will be another Warcraft RTS game. It’s going to happen. The 20th anniversary of Warcraft would have been a good time.

Instead, we now know that Blizzard’s next new IP/Franchise is going to be Overwatch. Overwatch is a first-person shooter that looks shockingly just like Team Fortress 2. Blizzard is rarely ever completely original. They simply take what has worked well in the past and blown it up into something bigger and arguably in many instances (no pun intended) better.

The basic premise of Overwatch DOES appeal to me. I really do enjoy shooters like this, and I really do enjoy the zaniness brought about by this type of setting. I’m a fan of the art style… I’m just a fan of all of it. They seem to have a great offering for characters to play with different roles and abilities.

I imagine Overwatch will be free to play with the same kind of hats and costumes model as TF2. This is the route they’re going with their games. I keep saying over and over that Blizzard knows their money is in games like Hearthstone (seriously, did you see how much they were hyping it during the opening ceremony of Blizzcon?) and now Overwatch. Their COMMUNITY is in games like WoW. It will be interesting to see how they balance this transition.

Bottom line(s)…

  • I’ve never played a Blizzard game that I did not enjoy immensely.
  • I love each and every one of Blizzard’s franchises.
  • Blizzard makes high-quality games.

Therefore…

Overwatch will be a great franchise full of high-quality games that I enjoy immensely. Damn you for not announcing Warcraft 4.

Keen’s Thoughts On Heroes of the Storm Technical Alpha

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I finally got into Heroes of the Storm technical alpha a week or so ago, and after spending several hours going head to head with heroes, villains, and well-known characters from all of Blizzards IPs, I’m ready to share my thoughts.

First impression: Blizzard polish is (duh) amazing. They enter the MOBA scene years after so many others yet create a game that just ‘feels’ great. I don’t need to go into details about the UI being great or the game running smooth. The map is standard MOBA with a Blizzard flare (more on that in a moment). It’s all flawless, and that’s to be expected. Go watch a youtube video if you want to see more.

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Heroes of the Storm is, essentially, a dumbed down version of other mobas at least where mechanics are concerned. There isn’t last hitting or denying. There are no items. Experience is shared across your entire team. Everything is super basic, but remarkably it works.

Gameplay centers solely around improving your team’s heroes faster than your enemy. Hero customization comes in the form of choosing talents and abilities that actually make the customization in HotS significantly better than most if not all other mobas out there. As you level you get to choose to upgrade abilities, and you have to make a choice of which ability will receive which upgrade. Upgrades may make an ability do more damage or gain an effect.

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As you play heroes more and win games you unlock new traits for them and gain experience to level those heroes up. This encourages you to pick a hero, buy it (yay cash shop?) and rank it up.

HotS also has mounts. It wouldn’t be a F2P or a Blizzard game without mounts. These can be activated by pressing Z and make moving around the battlefield when traveling a little bit faster. They can also be customized (more later).

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What makes Heroes of the Storm unique is the interesting gameplay twists. Throughout the match there will be timed events to gather things or beat the enemy team at performing a challenge. In the Halloween map ‘Cursed Hollow’ the goal is to curse your enemies by collecting the tributes. This curse makes the enemy creeps have 1 HP — a great way to push their base. Another map I’ve played had players entering into a goldmine (good ole classic Blizzard gold mines) to slay undead and collect tokens to spawn a boss that would fight for your team.

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The free-to-play component of HotS disappointed me. I hate games that only make certain heroes available each week. It’s like League. I prefer DOTA2’s method of giving you every hero. You’re forced to buy heroes and they ARE NOT CHEAP. Some range from $3.99 up to I think I saw one for like $10? It’s crazy. Yes, you can unlock them with the in-game ‘gold’ you earn slowly by playing normally. Other things like mounts, cosmetic skins, and the usual fair can be found. Blizzard clearly likes Riot’s business model.

Worth playing? Yep! Heroes of the Storm is a lot of fun despite being a somewhat obvious cash grab. If you’re like me you’ll look to find the most value possible without paying a cent. I can have plenty of fun for free.

Does this mean we can have Warcraft 4 now?

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Just looking at this makes me want to re-install.

Now that Blizzard officially cancelled Titan, a game they never officially announced, does this mean we can have Warcraft 4?

Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime says they’re not going to work on another MMO at this time. They’ll continue working on stuff like Hearthstone for sure, and now my hopes are as high as possible that they’ll finally decide to go back and try to revive the strategy genre they helped define. What about Starcraft, you say? Warcraft strategy games are so very different. Warcraft 3 specifically focused on a very small unit count in order to maximize micromanagement. Hero units created a significant mechanic that I haven’t seen used the same since. They feel like night and day to me — and I’m good at Warcraft strategy games and horrible at SC.

In a way… I’m excited to see what Blizzard does now. I don’t want Blizzard to focus on MMOs.  Less MMOs the better. Bring on the other games that’ll actually deliver a full and complete experience!

I still believe Blizzard is phasing out WoW

WoW dropped another 800k subs bringing it down to a lowly 6.8 million. Remember my crazy assertion that Blizzard is sorta okay with WoW slowly fading away? Yeah, I’m still crazy; I still think that’s the case. I’m not even close to hinting at even the remote possibility that they aren’t interested in making money — no, quite the opposite. I truly believe Activision Blizzard knows they can make more money by phasing WoW out and phasing in other more profitable products.

WoW is Expensive

I can only imagine how expensive it is to continually develop and support World of WarCraft. Very, very few products ever last for 10+ years with this level of continued support before being phased out for something new. Compared to something like Hearthstone or Diablo, WoW has to be sucking out cash like crazy. That’s fine since it also rains money down on the company, but there is a ratio and a point of inflection where I guarantee top brass want something a little more efficient. I face the same issues at my company right now where I’m trying to convince a team that it’s not okay to push our $18,000 product if we only make $2,000 profit — push the $9,000 product where we make $6,000 profit in 1/3 the time please.  No seriously… do it.

Momentum is Drying Up

Warlords of Draenor is still slated for sometime near the end of the year. This waiting game is totally intentional. Guess what happens when Blizzard fans don’t log in to play WoW? Many of them will try one of the other great games Blizzard has to offer. The strategists at Blizzard are incredibly insightful and know that the competition sucks right now — if you didn’t know that, it does. The landscape for transitioning customers right now is beautiful to behold.

Blizzard’s Future isn’t WoW

Blizzard has become synonymous with WoW.  People talk about WoW as doing things like WoW is the primary entity. For a while that’s okay to be known by your product, but after a while the team starts to squirm because that product cannot last forever, and when it does finally go away if you have absolutely no identity or loyalty to your company’s brand… ouch.  Lucky for Blizzard they have immense corporate brand identity, but that doesn’t change the basic underlying principles of this lesson

There will come a time when Blizzard is known for something else. They’ll want those 6.8 million+ people to transition to support a newer product with a longer shelf life. You can’t just start the moment the product releases. It takes time, and there’s no better way to start than to ever-so-slowly sunset a game without most people even realizing it’s happening.