BlizzCon, a Magical Time…

Once a year, there is a time where there is a sense of peace and calmness in the air.  Enemies have meals with each other and discuss strategy.  Strangers go out of their way to help each other.  Altogether, life is pretty good for two days a year.

I’m not sure what you were thinking about, but I’m talking about BlizzCon.

Blizzard is a company that obviously values their fans, and appreciates the followings they have for their games.  Why else would they spend so much money putting on a two day festival for their games, and likely lose a lot of money in the process?  With all of the stuff that happens at the Anaheim Convention Center that is included in the ticket price, it’s well worth more than what you pay for.

My wife and I were fortunate enough to go to BlizzCon in 2008, and had an amazing time there.  More than likely, I’ll be doing some sort of a post around this time every year to reinforce the fact that it is an awesome trip, and I can just hope that everyone has the chance to go to it at least once.  Multiple times is even better!  However, we must deal with what has just happened.

BlizzCon 2011 – Mists of Pandaria and other stuff

One of the best parts came shortly into the opening ceremonies, which was the annoucement of the World of Warcraft annual pass.  This has a person commit to a one year term with WoW in return for some really great perks.  The number one perk being that you can get Diablo III for free.  Yes, free.  When the game is released, the digital download version will be provided to people who are signed up with this, as well as an in-game mount called Tyrael’s Charger.  Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.

Mists of Pandaria

Obviously, the big deal this year was the new WoW expansion: Mists of Pandaria.  We have a new expansion coming, and for the first time since Vanilla we won’t have any sort of a “main villain”.  There will be a number of enemies that will be there to smash, along with a ton of new features. The biggest things are definitely the new race of Pandarens, the new class of the Monk, and the new continent of Pandaria.  Along with that there will be a new Pet Battle system, PvE scenarios, challenge dungeon modes, a new talent system, among many other things.

When we first heard about Mists of Pandaria being trademarked earlier in the summer, I was very skeptical like many others.  Yet, after seeing all the details come forth in the various panels through the BlizzCon virtual ticket I am very pleasantly surprised at how excited I am about it.  The way that they have the lore fleshed out as well as the gameplay shown has me convinced that this could turn out to be quite good.  Of course, I’m a Blizzard fanboy, but that’s beside the point.

One thing that I think I’m really looking forward to is the Pet Battle system.  In essence, it’s Pokemon inside WoW including having a few different abilities that will be used in a turn-based battle system.  Companion pets will be account-bound for the most part and can be used to battle each other for prestige and rewards.  Basically, it’s a brand new pasttime for people to spend a great amount of time and money with.

The talent and spec system revamp looks very exciting.  Basically, talent trees will be gone and replaced with different choices to make about your abilities at certain levels.  Whereas before we were limited by what spec you were to choose your abilities at higher level, now there will be certain talents that can be taken by any spec.  As an example, Living Bomb will be able to be learned by any spec rather than just those who spec in Fire.  As time goes on and we get to see how the system fleshes out we’ll have a better idea of how it will all work.

Even though the Pandaren were once used as an April Fools’ joke, the new concept art and character models that were shown give a great look at them in-game now. They don’t look as comical as they did in the old joke posts as well as in Warcraft 3.  I’ve always enjoyed Samwise’s drawings that have surfaced over the years, and this makes them really fit in to the Asian theme that has been developed for the new continent.

Plus, the Pandaren starting zone is on the back of a turtle.  How awesome is that?

StarCraft II

I own StarCraft II and enjoy playing it, however I’m not very good at it.  Even so, I really enjoy the game and love the story.  Though more often than not I would not win the matches (PvP, I wasn’t too bad at vs AI), the game itself is very great.

At the end of Day 1 of BlizzCon, they had a match of the Global Starcraft League which is based out of South Korea.  Many people will know that the game is absolutely huge in the country, and there is a massive eSports market built around it.  Out of curiosity, my wife and I decided to tune in to it and see how the games were going… and we found that we were enjoying it much more than we thought we would.

The fight was Terran vs Terran (MMA vs MVP), two amazing players who put on a great fight.  In the end, the underdog (MMA) won the match with 4 wins to 1.  I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning to see this, since I was so enthralled by the action.  Because of this, I decided to re-install SC2 and start playing it again.  Good job BlizzCon, you did your job.

Diablo III

Thankfully, Diablo III will be coming out soon (we hope).  The biggest announcement with this game was definitely the WoW Annual Pass giving the game for free, but there was a great lore panel along with some good gameplay footage and overall cool stuff.

Diablo I and II were somewhat lacking in the overall lore, and as Chris Metzen started at the beginning of the D3 lore panel, this was the first year they’ve actually had a panel devoted just to lore of that universe.  The story has been expanded tremendously, and I’m extremely excited to see how the game turns out.

What wasn’t mentioned

We didn’t hear anything about the “Titan” project, which was said a few days before the convention started.  While this isn’t great, this is Blizzard we’re talking about – they don’t give out any details until they’re ready for it.  Personally, I would rather have something polished as opposed to something halfway done.

There are more projects being worked on within the walls of Blizzard.  Through some of the interviews that happened, as well as looking at the job postings on the Blizzard site, we know this.  As with Titan, we just won’t be given any information until they’re ready.

In the end…

As much as I wish I could have made it to Anaheim this year, unfortunately that just didn’t happen.  The virtual ticket was the next best thing that could have happened, and fortunately through that I can watch things happen after the fact.  As I write this post, I’m watching some of the panels that I missed through the days.

I have to say a huge “thank you” to Blizzard Entertainment.  BlizzCon was one of the best experiences that I’ve had, and every year I look forward to it whether or not I can actually be there.  I can’t imagine the amount of work that goes into the convention and how much money is spent, but I’d like to say that it’s totally worth it.

Situational Changes Only, Please

There are two major sides to World of Warcraft. Player versus player, or PvP, and player versus environment, or PvE. PvP is battlegrounds, arenas, world confrontation on a PvP server. PvE is dungeons, raids, world bosses that are around in Azeroth. They are two separate parts of the game, but all integrated into that same game as a whole.

However, the key is that these are separate. They are similar, yet very different to each other and have different goals, even within each area. One battleground might have you try to kill the opposing NPC leader, as in Alterac Valley, and another could have you capture the flag three times, as in Warsong Gulch. One dungeon encounter might have you kill a boss, whereas another might have you protect a NPC from waves of hostiles. Same game, different objectives and different rules.

This is the part that frustrates me at times: changes made to the game because of one of these parts that affects the game as a whole. We’ve seen it many times: abilities have been buffed or nerfed because they were overpowered in either PvP or PvE, and the inevitable forum screams because of it. There are times it’s justified, and other times that it’s not.

As a feral DPS druid, this is very near and dear to my heart for the coming patch 4.0.6, as two major abilities are being nerfed because of how they were overpowered in PvP. It has been a staple since WoW was released that a Druid shapeshifting would break all forms of root and slow effects, and the 31 point feral talent of Berserk would remove all fear effects (on a 3 minute cooldown). There can be no reason at all that these were nerfed because of PvE, since it would only help the druid survive longer. I realize that many other classes don’t have any escape ability from roots, but I just don’t see any reason for these particular nerfs to happen. Especially because they target feral druids only, and not balance or resto – both specs still are able to break roots with their shapeshifts, and it doesn’t take a key part out of their 31 point talent.

All complaining aside, this is just a good example for the point behind this all. What is so hard about making changes to PvP without it affecting PvE as well? We have seen Blizzard make changes to affect certain areas only like arenas, which are not able to use certain abilities. If it’s possible to disable abilities altogether, there should be a way to disable certain parts of it as well.

I don’t know which part of the game is used by more people, but I don’t think that it matters. Each side should be equally balanced within its own realm. As a feral druid, I am a sitting duck if I’m rooted – especially in PvP. I find it very funny that the other specs are allowed to break roots on shifts, since they can either do ranged DPS or are able to heal themselves effectively. I can cast heals on myself or attack at range for whopping hundreds of heals or damage.

In a perfect world, the game would be perfectly balanced. We wouldn’t have forums full of people complaining, blog posts with people complaining (such as this one), and so on. It’s not a perfect world, so we let Blizzard know what we think should happen. Constructive criticism is a wonderful thing.

Dear Blizzard: please don’t nerf or buff abililities across the board because it’s overpowered or underpowered in PvP or PvE. If it needs to be fixed in one of the areas, fix it in that area only and don’t hurt people who it doesn’t affect.