Actual Blizzcon News Recap

After the last, admittedly pretty touchy-feely blog post, I figured it was time for something a bit more concrete and analytical regarding all of the news at Blizzcon.  So here it is, Fussypants’s Very Serious Take on all the gaming news announcements!

World of Warcraft

Pants is getting herself wings!!!

Ok, jokes aside, I am tentatively optimistic about the upcoming World of Warcraft changes.  On the whole, I feel like Blizzard is finally recognizing the major gripes with the current system, gripes that have cause both my and other guilds I know of to step away from the game for hiatuses.  The big test will be if these changes actually find their way into the next iterations of the game or not.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands truly does have a nice ring to it!  I will not lie, I enjoyed the cinematic as I always do, but it wasn’t my absolute favorite.  I think part of it was I found it too plot-advancing. For me personally, the best WoW cinematic are the ones that aren’t entirely on the nose.  They might advance the story a bit, but the bigger emphasis should be on portraying themes from the coming expansion.  

Wrath, Mists, and Legion all three stand out as particularly good examples of this.  From each, you got a sense of the tone of the coming expansion, whether it be centered on snow and zombies, exploration and the unlikely, or conflict and demons, respectively.  Yes, there was absolutely lore significance to most of the events portrayed, but they were either events players also participated in or events that were more symbolic than causal. 

While I loved the art style, as always, I didn’t feel like the Shadowlands cinematic did that for me as much.  I was watching a lore movie rather than a thematic introduction. Clearly, the events depicted within need to be communicated to the player base, but I’m not sure a cinematic was the way to do it.

Quibbles about the cinematic aside, I am very excited for the expansion itself.  When Blizzard announced that there would be no more AP, I just about wept tears of joy.  Finally! They’re listening! The game won’t be a giant grind-fest inaccessible to folks with busier lives!  I have seen so many guilds and players burn out in Battle for Azeroth directly because of the endless slog of world quests and islands and artifact power so I am so glad they recognize this fact and, rather than working to tweak the system, are completely overhauling that aspect of it.  We so desperately needed it.

The Covenant system also looks particularly interesting.  I am very excited to see them really lean into cosmetic incentives (such as the aforementioned WINGS), especially as a reward for those grindier portions of the game.  Personally, I’m super heavily biased towards towards the Kyrian, just given my paladin and her backstory, but I definitely am interested to see them all! My one concern is I hope the power-perks they give don’t just turn into a min-maxing headache for raiding, but it’s definitely too far out to pass any judgement on that particular issue. 

Torghast, the endless tower of DOOM also seems rather interesting as a concept.  I definitely will want to play this out for myself before passing judgement. As a main-spec healer, I’m likely only going to be going in with groups, which will definitely impact how often I find myself going in and experiencing the tower but if Shadowlands does truly succeed in enticing back players, many of my friends who have gone on hiatus might again be available to push levels in it.  We shall see!

Last but not least, Blizzard also announced that they would be drastically increasing the customization options available.  I have just two things to say about this.

  1. YES
  2. It’s about time!

My pipe dream would be that they add in more curly hair options for draenei so my character model can better reflect my out of game concept of my main, but I will honestly be happy with any and all customization increases.  I’m particularly excited for the changes to humans – those were so long overdue and I know how important they are for some people who haven’t been represented until now. I’m also looking forward to the addition of tattoos, hopefully we can get some scars in the mix as well!

Overwatch

While I know this is a predominantly a World of Warcraft-centered blog, I do play Overwatch and boy, do I have thoughts on the news in this arena.

Genji has pants!!!

Also, Overwatch 2 or something.

But in all seriousness, I am so super stoked!  I have wanted story-mode Overwatch ever since the game’s inception, both because I think the world is deeply fascinating and because I’m so terrible at PvP.  The proposed PvE mode gives me the chance to be bad and not be bringing down a team – at least, as much as before – as well as dive into the lore far more than before.  Additionally, the new character models are pretty awesome (shout out to my boy Lucio)!

All in all, the Blizzcon announcements were exciting and positive-leaning in my mind!  There’s something so electric about sitting in the rooms as things are being announced, so I’m doubly happy that I was able to attend a Blizzcon where so many games I cared about had so many major changes.  I know I’ve got a pretty long while to wait before any of the things I discussed above make it into their respective games, but I am more than willing to wait and allow the game developers to fine-tune everything to be as close to perfect as possible.  And just please, keep true to the “No AP” promise!

Blizzcon is My Kind of Home

The walk up to the convention center!

As I sat on the plane flying away from California, I was struck by just how absolutely wonderful my last couple days were.  Blizzcon 2019 was, frankly put, perfect.  Now, that’s not to say that the experience was without its bumps.  I think I got about half as much asleep as I usually do (and I’m not usually the best about sleeping!) and I had my wallet stolen on the second day.  But even with all of that, I have no regrets.

I think J. Allen Brack said it best in the opening ceremony when he said that Blizzcon is about people.  Totally, there are the announcements and the championships and the game demo stations. Absolutely, there are the considerations about Blizzard’s recent corporate actions.  But at the end of the day, the community itself is the true draw.

This year, as opposed to the last time I attended, I spent the majority of the time with my friends rather than family.  My guild rented a house together not far from the convention center, and we were able to walk back and forth very easily. Not all of our members got tickets to the con so we always had folks at the house watching the coverage on a virtual stream.  The end result was we had a veritable fortress of nerdom where folks were constantly hanging out.

Speaking of guildies, I, at first, was so incredibly nervous about meeting my guildies in person.  Sure, I’ve played games – both World of Warcraft and others – with them for a good long time now, enough that we have a plethora of in-jokes and shared experience.  However, there is certainly a difference between knowing a person virtually and knowing a person in the flesh. I was anxious that there would be residual awkwardness or, worse, that I would be unbearably annoying to everyone in person.  There’s something to be said about the fact that internet friends can be muted temporarily if you just need a brain break.

Unsurprisingly to everyone except for me, my fear were completely unfounded.  Even though I’d never met any of my guildies in person before, we instantly clicked together like a family. We joked about Sleepy being a giant, Weare T-posing, and Dame and Jules being memelords and it just felt so natural.  Heck, my guildies even brought me a grilled cheese sandwich when they came to pick me up (which was both a sweet gesture after a very long flight and a devious inside joke).  What was even better, I got a chance to get a lot closer to guildies I didn’t know as well prior to the convention (shout out to Mason and Niz!). Everyone was so incredibly funny and open and, most importantly, dedicated to each other.

Outside of my current guildies, I also got to connect with a number of old guildies and other community friends!  The Con Before The Storm party in particular was a perfect venue for me to speak to some of my artist friends (and totally gush in person about their artwork).  Shout out to Quel in particular, everyone should go read their webcomic! I also met up with some Perky Pugs folks for the first time which was incredibly awesome! So many names that previously had just existed on my Twitter feed or in my Discord servers were transformed into faces. I would go through them all if I could but there were almost too many to list off!

Inside the Darkmoon Faire area

As much as having my wallet stolen on the last day did suck, there were also silver-linings to it.  For one, I lost it at the end of the second day, so I wasn’t stressing about it until the very end of my trip.  However, the thing that truly humbled me was the outpouring of support I got from my guildies and friends. Immediately, I had multiple people offering to help in any way they could, whether that be checking in with Lost And Found, running back to the panel we had just come from, or offering financial support to help me get back home (since I had no money for food in the airport).  Shout out in particular to Weare, Mason, Shaedriana, Pug, and Dame, you folks are all absolute heroes. I cannot accurately put into words how much that meant to me, and I hope I can one day be there for you in the same way.

Blizzcon was so incredibly special. I had been expecting the convention to be fun (why else would I spend all that money?) but what I hadn’t been anticipating was just how… I suppose mending is the best way to describe the experience. Even though it was an action-packed couple of days, I feel invigorated and recharged.

The moment that truly captured it all for me was a simple one for me.  I was standing in line for the Overwatch demo with a guildie and everyone in the line had their heads cranked up to see the Overwatch World Cup match being played on the screen above us.  This part of the convention floor had fallen silent, all breaths held to see if the United States would be able to eke out the win from the prior champions South Korea. With a decisive combo, the American team took out the South Korean supports and then their key damage player.  The rest of the defense crumbled and a roar washed over the crowd. The words “United States Victory” flashed across the screen amid the cheers.

When this happened, I took a step back.  Surveyed the crowd. Experienced the moment as an observer rather than a participant.  What I saw made me break into the widest smile.

I loved that moment.  The nerdiness. The triumphant victory.  The uncomplicated happiness. Video games aren’t always that happy and that unifying but in that moment, everything was just right.  Even those supporting Team South Korea joined in that moment of cheering, for we all recognized that the game had been well-fought on each side.  And here I was, at the center of a bustling, excited, passionate convention dedicated to the community I call home. 

It was wonderful.

I truly didn’t mean to get this mushy-gushy in this post but I felt I had to write it.  Recent events, both in my life and in the greater video game community at large, have shaken a bit of my optimism and enjoyment in the gaming communities I am a part of but, at Blizzcon, I was reminded of why I fell in love in the first place.  Yes, we’re not perfect and I would never claim otherwise. But we’re still a home, and we always can, and do, strive to be better.  

Blizzcon brought me back to my gaming home.

Treating Developers Like Human Beings

Image courtesy of Kotaku

This article is not actually about World of Warcraft (gasp!) but rather the gaming community in general.

A couple of days ago, a firestorm was raging on video game Twitter. Electronic Arts (better known as EA), the creators of the game Star Wars Battlefront II, had just added a brand new, highly unpopular feature locking many of the game’s most iconic and best characters behind micro-transactions. As a result, the players were pissed. I’ve never played Battlefront and don’t really follow much of that news but even I saw multiple angry rants, memes, and conversation generated by these micro-transactions.

In the midst of all this turbulence, a tweet from an “EA developer” claiming to have received multiple death threats over the micro-transactions went viral. A well-needed conversation about the gaming community’s treatment of developers came to the forefront, with game developers from across the video gaming community chiming in. Toxic behavior such as death threats and personal attacks were, rightly, called out and people were once more reminded that game devs are human beings too. The tweet also garnered attention from mainstream, non-gaming media sites.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the “EA developer” who started the whole thing… might not have been who he said he was.

Kotaku’s Jason Schreier set out to confirm that @BigSean66 indeed worked at EA but the answers he found proved otherwise. Scherier wrote an absolutely amazing article on his investigation and his conclusions that I highly, highly recommend (it is one of the best pieces of investigative gaming journalism that I’ve read), so I won’t sum up all of his findings here.

Instead, I want to talk about the “Now What?”. BigSean66 has pretty much been proven to be a fake, but the sentiment behind the message he went viral for is definitely not. Developers do receive death threats from unhappy players, and that’s something that I think the gaming community needs to address far better than it has been.

Players won’t always love every feature introduced into their game. Heck, there’s been plenty of things over the years that WoW has added that I haven’t been very keen on. But no matter how upset you might feel, it is never ok to threaten harm against the makers of the game. I honestly even have a problem when people single out and ridicule specific developers because of something they’re mad about.

Game developers, first and foremost, are human beings. That can sometimes be hard to remember when all we see are blocks of text transmitted over the internet, but behind every avatar is a person with thoughts and emotions. So when you send off a death threat to a game dev, that’s not just being shot off into space. It’s being slung directly at another human being who has done nothing to warrant such vitriol.

I don’t care how angry you are, there is no feature, no matter how bad, that is worth threatening the well being of another person. I honestly can’t believe this has to be said. If you don’t like something about a game, don’t play it! Or write about what you don’t like in a constructive manner! But don’t, for the love of all things that is holy, go after the people who made the game. They don’t deserve that kind of treatment. I can guarantee you that no developer specifically puts something into a game in order to anger players. They want to make as many people happy with their product as they can so people will continue playing. Sometimes they misstep from that goal, but with constructive and even-headed feedback, I promise you most game companies will make efforts to correct the issues.

There is another really important facet to this issue: a single developer isn’t typically the sole creator of a feature. In many cases, they might not even be involved at all. So not only are people lashing out against developers in an absolutely inappropriate way, they’re also lashing out against people who had nothing to do with the feature in question. If that’s not the definition of insanity, I don’t know what is.

While I am incredibly impressed by Mr. Schreier’s work, it does make me wary that the whole point of the tweet, not just the source of it, has been disregarded. Absolutely, BigSean66 is full of baloney, and should be regarded as such. But the problem with toxicity in gaming communities is far from imaginary. There was nothing unrealistic about the numbers BigSean66 chose. The only flaw in his narrative was that he himself was not an EA developer.

I worry that this might be a case of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf”. Whenever actual developers choose to talk about the death threats they receive, sometimes on a daily basis, the rest of the gaming community has to pay attention. We can’t treat this like some sort of non-issue.

The gaming community will always be a very passionate, emotional one. People get very, very worked up about the games they play, and rightfully so. Video games, for many, are a source of family, community, or escapism. All three are super important parts of people’s lives, and when they think any of them are under threat, they go on the offensive. What we, as a gaming community, need to do is use that passion in far less negative ways. Be constructive rather than destructive. Provide feedback rather than abuse. And ultimately, we need to express our displeasure with our wallets rather than our insults.