BlizzCon 2016 news roundup

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BlizzCon 2016

Loads of announcements were made at BlizzCon this past weekend. Did you miss the entire conference? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Here’s a recap of all the important stuff.

First off though, watch this 25 year celebration video that kicked the show off. It’s filled with ALL of the feels!

25 years ago, a small group of gamers set out to create the kinds of game experiences they loved playing—and Blizzard Entertainment was born. Since then, the team at Blizzard has transported millions of people around the world to fantastic worlds of fantasy and science fiction.

Overwatch

After around a decade or five of teasers and ARGs, Blizzard finally unveiled the mysterious Overwatch hacker, Sombra (boop). We got to see her in action in her very own animated short:

“Infiltration” follows Reaper, Widowmaker, and Sombra as they attempt to assassinate a high-priority target. But, when the operation doesn’t go as planned, the Talon agents are forced improvise…

Stealth and debilitating attacks make Sombra a powerful infiltrator. Her hacking can disrupt her enemies, ensuring they’re easier to take out, while her EMP provides the upper hand against multiple foes at once. Sombra’s ability to Translocate and camouflage herself makes her a hard target to pin down.

Here’s an overview of her abilities:

  • Machine Pistol: Sombra’s fully-automatic machine pistol fires in a short-range spread.
  • Hack: Sombra hacks enemies to temporarily stop them from using their abilities, or hacks first aid kits to make them useless to her opponents.
  • Thermoptic Camo: Sombra becomes invisible for a short period of time, during which her speed is boosted considerably. Attacking, using offensive abilities, or taking damage disables her camouflage.
  • Translocator: Sombra tosses out a translocator beacon. She can instantly return to the beacon’s location while it is active (including when it’s in mid-flight).
  • EMP: Sombra discharges electromagnetic energy in a wide radius, destroying enemy barriers and shields and hacking all opponents caught in the blast.

Sombra will be coming to the PTR next week, and the main game client soon after. I can’t wait to try her out!

Other than her, Blizzard also announced new maps, and a new Arcade mode, which will replace Weekly Brawls. They also unveiled the Overwatch League:

The Overwatch League is on a mission to celebrate fans and afford them opportunities to become champions through a professional esports ecosystem that embraces passion and rewards excellence.Millions have answered the call to Overwatch, and the excitement of all those scientists, soldiers, adventurers, and oddities led directly to the creation of a new kind of esports program. Teams will have stability, players will have careers, and fans will have a new set of heroes to take them into the future of Overwatch.

Hearthstone

Around two weeks ago, Blizzard began teasing some new Hearthstone content. At BlizzCon, they finally unveiled it. A new expansion called Mean Streets of Gadgetzan is coming to the card game.

Nestled in the desert of Tanaris, the once land-locked goblin town of Gadgetzan was a haven for shady dealings and rule-bending trade, its locals and visitors showing no favoritism toward the Alliance nor the Horde. After the black dragon Deathwing tore apart Tanaris’ landscape with his fury, Gadgetzan suddenly found itself sitting aside the sea, the lucky recipient of an expanse of new beachfront property!

With its new ports, trade boomed in Gadgetzan. The influx of trade stuffed the coffers of those on the ground floor of the development of new Gadgetzan. Everyone who was anyone wanted a piece of the action, using all the tricks up their sleeves to get the upper hand. Organized crime developed as the power struggle began to grow in the now bustling Gadgetzan—it was no longer the sleepy city it once was!

Three distinct crime families came out on top of the power struggle, but as of yet there has been no clear winner. It’s up to you to make new friends (and perhaps a few new enemies) as you make a name for yourself in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan!

Those crime families are rather important. Why? Because they form the new tri-class system:

Each one of Gadgetzan’s crime families are associated with three of Hearthstone’s classes. We’ve introduced 9 tri-class cards that break the rules: each can be used by THREE different classes instead of just one to expand deckbuilding possibilities and really make the theme of each crime family stand out. Each family’s boss is also a Legendary tri-class card!

The Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion has no solid release date, but Blizzard did say that we can expect it to land sometime in December. It’s going to contain a whopping 132 brand new cards. so best you start saving all your gold!

World of Warcraft

With World of Warcraft having only just received its latest expansion, Legion, there wasn’t anything truly major announced. Blizzard did make mention of a new pet called Mischief though. Proceeds from purchases of this kitty (which goes on sale in December) will go toward the Make-A-Wish foundation.

KITTY

Other then that, Blizzard detailed what’s next for the MMO. It’s a bit too lengthy to place in this article I’m afraid. You can read more right here though.

Heroes of the Storm

Two new heroes were announced for Blizzard’s MOBA – Varian Wrynn and Ragnaros to be exact. They’ll be out in the coming weeks. Here’s a breakdown of both, followed by their trailer:

  • Varian Wrynn: Great leaders know that a successful conquest requires the flexibility to adapt to any new challenges that may arise on the field of battle. Through talents, Varian can be built to fit several different disciplines and is the first multi-class hero to enter the Nexus. Be the shield your team needs by taunting enemies and soaking tons of damage, or split Shalamayne into its component swords and lead with your blades to cut down any who stand in your way.
  • Ragnaros: Harness the volcanic wrath of The Firelord to call down flaming meteors, crush foes with the explosive might of Sulfuras, and summon lava waves that will incinerate an entire lane’s worth of enemy minions. When faced with a counter-attack, Ragnaros can empower a Fort or Keep, becoming a towering inferno over the structure and gaining a second set of abilities that will help you engulf assailants in the fires of doom. Ally yourself with Ragnaros to bring about a new era of destruction in the Nexus and show your opponents the true meaning of the words “raid boss”.
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A new brawl was also announced. Blackheart’s Revenge will see the return of that dastardly pirate:

Avast, ye, hearties! The ol’ sea dog Captain Blackheart has shoved off in his ghost ship and taken to the high seas on a mission to blow the docks to smithereens. Will you aid him in turning the docks into a cloud of splinters, or will you fill his ship full of holes until it sinks into the briny deep?

This Brawl is the first battleground to feature attack/defend style mechanics and introduces asymmetrical gameplay to Heroes of the Storm. On Blackheart’s Revenge, only one team has a Core. They must gather cannonballs, load them into the cannons located around the docks, and fire on the ship in hopes of sending Blackheart to a watery grave. Defenders must assist the ghost pirate in his siege by stopping the attacking team from collecting enough cannonballs to sink the ship before it reaches its destination.

Lastly, Blizzard revealed the Nexus Challenge, which, in their own words, is the biggest Heroes of the Storm giveway they’ve ever done. You get free stuff, you get free stuff… EVERYBODY GET’S FREE STUFF!

Starting November 15 until January 4, you and your friends will be able to unlock an epic set of in-game loot in both Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch just by playing Heroes together. Complete 15 Heroes games in Ranked, Unranked Draft, Quick Match, or Co-op vs. A.I. before time runs out, and you’ll unlock the Oni Genji skin, spray, and player icon in Overwatch, as well as Zarya and the Oni Genji Portrait in Heroes of the Storm. The rewards only get sweeter when you play more games. Finish 30 matches and you’ll pick up even more Heroes, the slick new Orochi Hovercycle mount, and a 30-Day Stimpack.

StarCraft II

Of course we’re getting a new Co-op Commander! The latest character to join the roster is none other than Alexei Stukov.

Former Terran vice admiral and current-infested leader of Stukov’s forces, Alexei Stukov will be joining the ranks as the newest StarCraft ll commander! Leading forces of infested units and structures, this unorthodox commander is sure to overwhelm foes.

Blizzard also announced that they’d be teaming up with AI connoisseurs, DeepMind. With StarCraft II as a tool, they’re both looking to push artificial intelligence even further:

StarCraft II players now have a unique opportunity to contribute to innovative and important tech research. At BlizzCon today, researchers and engineers from both DeepMind and Blizzard detailed their ongoing collaboration to open up StarCraft II to the AI research community. DeepMind regularly publishes cutting-edge research on how computers can learn to solve any complex problem without needing to be taught how. The small universe that is a StarCraft II game will provide a perfect laboratory to further this research. These advancements also potentially unlock new game features for StarCraft II players.

StarCraft II is the ideal platform for taking the next step in AI research. The complex rules of the game provide a useful bridge to the messiness of the real world. You start by learning how to mine, how to place and build basic structures and how to explore the map and find your hidden opponent. Should you build more units, or do you need new defensive structures? Will you rush your opponent, or focus on your tech first?

You had to learn each of these tactics, but for a computer learning how to do even one of these problems just by looking at a screen is a cutting-edge research challenge. DeepMind is now exploring solving these problems in the intense laboratory of StarCraft II. Together we are opening up this research platform so that everyone in the StarCraft II community can play a role in advancing the state of the art of AI research.

Diablo III

All eyes were on Diablo at BlizzCon. Would Blizzard announce a sequel, or an expansion?

As it turns out, it was neither. What we’re getting instead is a recreation of Diablo in Diablo III to celebrate the franchise’s twenty year anniversary:

Celebrate 20 years of Diablo by traveling back into the depths of the Cathedral where it all began in this upcoming Diablo III: Reaper of Souls content update. Get ready to explore a monster-filled dungeon 16 levels deep, and come face to face with the four main bosses from the original game—all with retro touches like special graphics filters and eight-direction character movement.

We’re also getting a brand new class. The Necromancer will be out early next year, for a fee of course:

The Necromancer will be the next fully-playable class introduced to Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. As a master of the dark arts, you draw your magic from the power of death itself, and command mighty armies of risen warriors! Oh, and you can make corpses explode. There are definitely exploding corpses.

And there you have it, all the core stuff announced at BlizzCon this year! I’m a bit underwhelmed with the Diablo news to be honest – I was expecting an expansion at the very least!

What about you? Did this year’s conference meet your expectations?

Last Updated: November 7, 2016

Matthew Figueira

Defence of the Ancients? More like Defence of the cabbages! Have you seen my head? I look like a Merino Sheep on pole. NO SHANGE only SHAPPIES! :D

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