Every year Blizzard Entertainment holds a convention for its fans that celebrates the company’s major franchises. It’s called Blizzcon and it’s held in Anaheim, California; fans of StarCraft, Warcraft, The World of Warcraft and Diablo arrive in their thousands to soak up the atmosphere, watch eSports matches, dress up as their favourite Blizzard characters and hear first-hand news on Blizzard’s upcoming games. There are also many discussion panels on the various games, many of which reveal fascinating behind-the-scenes information that fans love to hear.
It’s been going since yesterday, and over the last 24 hours or so Blizzard has announced some pretty cool stuff. By far the biggest announcement was a new World of Warcraft expansion called Warlords of Draenor; it doesn’t just bring new quests and a few new areas, it introduces a whole new world to explore, raises the game’s level cap to 100 and allows players to build, maintain and defend their own strongholds. A lot of content centres around these strongholds, including a bonus system that works according to what buildings the strongholds have.
To entice players who may have not played much WoW of late back to the game, Blizzard announced a “Call To Arms” feature that lets players promote any one of their characters to level 90 so they can take part in some of the new expansion’s high-level content.
No release date for the expansion was announced, just that it would be coming soon.
Diablo III Auction House Apology
It’s not often a company officially admits to having done wrong by their fans or customers, but that’s exactly what happened: Blizzard’s President, Michael Morhaine said sorry for Diablo III’s auction house, the game’s most controversial feature that allowed players to spend real cash to buy the best weapons and armour. As that effectively robbed players of the joys of discovering rare drops on their own, it was one of the features longtime fans of the series did not like. Morhaine apologised, and promised that the upcoming Diablo III expansion, Reaper of Souls would introduce a radical overhaul to the game’s mechanics, including loot drops.
Blizzard takes on DOTA, League of Legends
DOTA 2 and League of Legends are hugely popular MOBA (Massively Online Battle Arena) games that are based on a fan-made mod for Warcraft 3. You probably know that neither of those games have anything to do with Blizzard, and that’s because Blizzard dropped the MOBA ball and instead allowed other companies (Valve, Riot Games) to run with it.
But now, in the face of the genre’s popularity, Blizzard is making its own MOBA called Heroes of the Storm that features the hero characters from Blizzard’s various franchises. Players can now finally – and officially – use Warcraft 3’s Arthas, Starcraft’s Kerrigan and Jim Raynor, Diablo’s Diablo, and even a Tauren Chieftain from World of Warcraft and more in a huge mashup of a MOBA game. Awesome stuff. No release date, though, but beta signups began yesterday so if you’re keen, head over to Blizzard’s site and put yourself in line to play when the beta programme launches in the next month or so. Dustin Browder, the game’s director warned that “the next month or so” could also mean January in Blizzard-speak, so don’t be surprised if there’s a delay.
These announcements were but a taste of what’s going on in Anaheim this weekend. If you’re a fan, you probably know this already, but if you’d like to watch everything that happens at Blizzcon you can buy a virtual pass that lets you watch all of the conference’s panel discussions, game update videos, eSports matches and more for round R450, so if you want to be a part of it, live, you know what to do.