Blizzcon 2014 Day 1 is in the books, folks! It was a big day for Blizzard in regards to announcements along with numerous fantastic matches in both the Starcraft WCS, Hearthstone World Championship, WoW Arena Championship and the Heroes of the Storm Exhibition.
Blizzcon opening ceremonies are always among the biggest parts of the entire weekend as this is when the company usually makes its biggest announcements. 2014 was no exception to this rule. Here are the highlights:
- Mike Morhaime, Blizzard CEO, opens up by welcoming fans and immediately mentions #GamerGate (not by name) and mentions Blizzard’s stance regarding the entire issue. Just a quick mention of not condoning mistreatment of fellow members of the gaming community. “Redouble our efforts to be kind and respect one another.”
- 10th Anniversary of World of Warcraft and the 20th of the Warcraft franchise are here. A huge party is being held just outside the convention center and it is open to the public. There was an announcement of the premiere of Looking For Group, a documentary about a decade of World of Warcraft which will be first showing on the Main Stage at 5 PM Saturday and online immediately after via the Blizzard YouTube channel, etc.
- New charity pet mentioned. All profits go to Red Cross and Ebola Relief efforts. $10 US.
- House band Level 90 ETC (Elite Tauren Chieftain) will open up for headliner Metallica at the concert to close out Blizzcon.
- Heroes of the Storm announcement:
- Closed Beta begins January 13th; Thrall, Jaina & The Lost Vikings added as latest additions to hero roster along with two new arenas.
- Jason Chayes, production director of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft drops the news that the game will be available on Android tablets in December along with the game’s first expansion pack, Goblins vs. Gnomes. Ongoing coverage of that can be found here at APGNation. 120 new cards will be added into the game along with Spectator Mode and other quality of life improvements.
- Dustin Browder takes the stage soon after, lead developer on Starcraft II. The third chapter in the saga, Legacy of the Void is revealed. More info can be found here. New multiplayer modes, new units for each race and the narrative of the story continues forward featuring the Protoss as a focal point. You do not need to own the prior expansion or original game to play it.
- Chris Metzen and Jeffrey Kaplan, former director of World of Warcraft, unveil the first new IP for Blizzard in 17 years.
- Overwatch – A team-based shooter featuring a large roster of diverse characters. Gameplay is frenetic, relentless and has a definite Team Fortress 2 feel to it. More info can be found here.
Bizzcon rarely disappoints when it comes to showcasing some of the world’s top Starcraft talent. The WCS this season has been particularly heated with Bomber leading in points thus far. It was, of course, quite a shock to see Bomber eliminated from the tournament by veteran MMA. Fan favorites INnoVation and Taeja also squared off in the Round of 8 and, sadly, due to technical difficulties suffered from long delays. Once things were sorted, though, some of the most riveting Starcraft play imaginable occurred. Video on-demand is readily available via the WCS website and on YouTube. The brackets, as they stand, going towards Day 2:
Hearthstone World Championship
Day 1 of the Hearthstone World Championship had power outages, major upsets and some of the most expert Hearthstone play imaginable. Kolento, odds on favorite to possibly win the whole tournament, was eliminated by upstart Kranich. Strifecro, his teammate from Cloud 9, was also considered a tourney favorite and the cards just did not come his way. Tiddler Celestial, a truly cerebral specialist, is working his way towards a championship.Firebat, perhaps the most heartwarming of all stories in the competition, is still hanging around along with other American hopeful Dtwo. Dtwo, one of the dark horse tournament scene competitors, continues to make strong showings and Blizzcon 2014 is no exception. Semifinals and Grand Finals to come in Day 2. The bracket so far:
World of Warcraft Arena World Championship
Not to be overshadowed by the Hearthstone or Starcraft competitions the World of Warcraft Arena World Championships were also running simultaneously throughout Day 1. Skill-Capped (EU) continues to make their presence known but Push Push persists in clawing their way to the top. Bleached Bones and 3 Amigos are right alongside these greats to determine who the best team in the world is. Day 2 excitement awaits. The bracket, thus far can be found below. Video on Demand of all matches can be found on YouTube or the Blizzcon page.
Heroes of the Storm Exhibition
The eSports world has, as of yet, to really have Blizzard’s entry into the MOBA scene unleashed into the tournament landscape. That didn’t stop Team Liquid, Cloud 9, and Evil Geniuses from fielding teams for the Blizzcon 2014 exhibition. The fledgling game, still in Technical Alpha as of today, is still playing host to fierce compeition with the Finals now set: Cloud 9 v. Evil Geniuses. The prize? Blizzcon Glory.
Warcraft Movie Panel
Hosted by Chris Hardwick, MC for this year’s Blizzcon, and featured Chris Metzen, director Duncan Jones and head of VFX, Bill Westenhofer (worked on Life of Pi). They gave a brief overview of the status of the movie, releasing in March of 2016, and showcased some of the armor/props from the movie.
- Story will focus on the original core of Warcraft. Orcs v. Humans. Medivh will be featured as well.
- VFX heavy featuring work from Industrial Light & Magic. Motion-capture used to portray Orcs like Durotan, Draka, Orgrim Doomhammer, Blackhand and the like.
- Metzen mentioned just how outstanding it was to see places like Stormwind in an actual film.
- Duncan Jones mentioned his history with Blizzard games. Started with The Lost Vikings and has been with the Warcraft series since the original.
- Actor who plays Orgrim, Rob Kazinsky, is an avid WoW player who has over 500 days played across multiple characters and raids regularly.
- Two websites have been launched related to the website: FortheAlliance.com and ForTheHorde.com
Heroes of the Storm Overview
The Opening Ceremony announcment regarding Heroes of the Storm mentioned closed beta beginning in January and the addition of three new heroes: Jaina, Thrall & The Lost Vikings. The panel presented even more info about upcoming features and mentioned yet another potential Hero for the roster: Sylvanas.
- Draft Mode
- No duplicates and no banning of heroes so far.
- Available in Custom Games
- Preselection shows what the player might want to pick in terms of team composition.
- Ranked Play
- Two leagues being introduced: Hero League (allows for solo queue or an incomplete group) and Team League (pre-made groups of five).
- Rankings begin at 50 and top at 1.
- Purely ELO based with hard cutoffs per rank.
- Leavers will play against other leavers.
- New Hero!
- Sylvanas – Queen of the Undead
- Dark Archer. Play style features lots of curses and damage-over-time. Great at pushing.
- One of her ultimate abilities is Mind Control.
- Sylvanas – Queen of the Undead
Christ Metzen and Jeffrey Kaplan took to the stage to offer some information regarding Blizzard’s newest franchise, Overwatch.
Setting: Fictionalized future version of Earth. Far enough in the future to have hovercars, robots everywhere and the like but still familiar enough to not feel too sci-fi.
Story: Robots rebelled and the Earth was in grave danger. Soldiers from all nations banded together, the best of the best, to form a group known as Overwatch. They saved the day, became an institution of sorts and bolstered their ranks. Five years before the timeline of the game takes place the group disbanded. Now it is time for new heroes to rise.
What is it? Overwatch is a team-based shooter featuring objective-based gameplay (taking points, etc) with a diverse cast of characters that features all sorts of different melee, healing, or tank type heroes. Pacing is frenzied and respawn times are low and players are allowed to switch heroes as many times as they want during a single match.
Each of the heroes on the roster has a backstory that intersects with other characters and most have a nemesis of some sort. Voice-work is present for every character but the game won’t feature much in the way of storytelling within the gameplay framework. Metzen mentioned that narrative and storytelling would be done using other avenues outside of the game. No confirmation of the game being on console as of yet though it seems like a no-brainer.
Ability customization is not in the current build of the game and doesn’t appear to be a priority; cosmetic customization is a good potential idea. No word on system requirements as of yet but Blizzard has a history of their games never requiring beastly system specs. They don’t seem to be breaking from that tradition any time soon. Beta will be blasting off sometime in 2015. Blizzcon attendees can play the game now.
Day 1 was quite eventful indeed! Lots of intense competition and big big announcements from Blizzard. More coverage will be coming regarding Day 2! Be sure to follow us on Twitter, @APGNation, for more gaming news and reviews!