The first game of Blizzard’s that really knocked my socks off was Diablo. There is no getting around it, Diablo took third-person adventure gaming to a new level and pushed the technological boundaries of its day. It was as fun as it was addictive.
I missed the first Warcraft game but I certainly didn’t miss Warcraft II. It was a blast and it livened up the LAN parties that were getting a little stale from the endless stream of Doom-clones.
While Warcraft II was amusing, it honestly wasn’t an envelope pusher. But StarCraft definitely was. When it came out, I was working twelve hour days, six days a week and I still stole time like a thief to play it one hour a night before bedtime.
Finally came Warcraft III, which rewrote the rules for RTS gaming. Blizzard took the lessons they learned from StarCraft and created a national sensation. It was not just computer gamers that were into Warcraft III. Normies noticed it and took a real interest. Fans started building all kinds of custom hacks. It was showered with awards and made Azeroth almost as well known as Middle Earth.
These games gave Blizzard a well earned reputation for being a cut above the rest. For delivering games that were gorgeous with well layered stories and detail oriented polish.
For twenty years it looked like Blizzard could do no wrong. But in the last couple of years cracks in the façade have become apparent.
Overwatch started off as a drastically expanded and much more epic version of Team Fortress 2. When the first balance adjustment patches landed, no one minded all that much. There is a big difference between beta-testing and the real world. Some fixes had to be made on the fly. But then it slowly became obvious that they had screwed up. The concept was fundamentally flawed. Overwatch could never be balanced. It wasn’t possible. The only thing the devs could do was change the stats on a few characters every three months and pretend that this had been the plan since day one.
Blizzcon 2018 was another unforced error. “You have phones don’t you?” A legendary Gamma declaration if ever I’ve heard one. Diablo Mobile was a terrible idea. Sure I can see it getting brought up in a brainstorming session but that was as far as it should have gotten.
Then came the Hearthstone scandal where Blizzard not only blackballed a winner that had made one pro-Hong Kong comment but also fired the commentators that were covering it for Blizzard. I mean what the hell were they supposed to do? It wasn’t scripted, the kid just shot off his mouth. Were they supposed to beat him up on camera? The backpedaling actually managed to make things worse. They would have been better off just to have said, “we’re sorry but China is too big for us.” The string of lies Blizzard told threw gasoline on a raging fire of backlash.
Now comes Warcraft III Reforged. This was supposed to be an easy dunk for Blizzard. Just an update a twenty year old classic.
Now I admit it’s not as easy as it sounds. You can’t just weld new graphics onto the old engine. Technology has moved, forward, 64-bit wasn’t really a thing yet when Warcraft III first dropped. They were having to build a new game. But that said, they had had decent success rebuilding StarCraft I. It was a project that should have been possible with off the shelf parts. They weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. It didn’t need to be groundbreaking. It just needed to be a decent rebuild of a twenty year old game.
And Blizzard couldn’t do it. They actually made the original game worse.
Part of it was that they got ambitious when they didn’t need to be.
“’Let’s push it,’ said Blizzard’s Pete Stillwell to Polygon in an interview at the time. “Let’s get it to be as perfectly balanced as StarCraft. Let’s add more to the editor, because it’s already powerful. And like a good Blizzard game, it’s easy to learn, difficult to master, [but let’s] also make it even deeper.”
Blizzard wasn’t just going to tweak the game balance and make things a bit prettier, it was going to add voiceover and remake in-engine cutscenes to modernize them and bring them in line with the lore of the MMO.”
They promised more of everything and in the end, delivered a disaster.
“Customers are complaining about connectivity issues. They can’t reliably connect to custom matches. They can’t access custom campaigns that worked just fine previously. There’s no support for a competitive ladder. Making matters worse is the fact that there’s simply no going back; even if you install the original Warcraft 3, you’re still going to end up with the same issues once you connect to Blizzard’s online services because the infrastructure is now the same for both the old and the new versions of the game.
What it’s added up to so far is bedlam on Blizzard’s Warcraft 3 message boards and on the game’s subreddit. “I don’t want your new sh*t I want my old client and custom campaigns,” wrote one customer.“
Blizzard had managed the near impossible by pissing off non-customer, Warcraft III players. It was like, instead of the steady, reliable old Ford Escorts they’d been driving for years, now whether they wanted it or not, they got new Fiestas with a driver’s side ejection seat that fires them out of the car at random intervals. But there’s more!
“There’s yet another wrinkle to the story, as well. As USgamer points out, Blizzard has also updated some of its terms and conditions as it relates to custom game modes. It appears to be a defensive move to protect the company from losing out on the revenue generated by adaptations based on its work.”
Apparently, Blizzard is determined to not miss out on any of that sweet, sweet DOTA III money.
This last is little short of incompetence. Just rewriting a EULA doesn’t change thirty years of standing court precedents. I guarantee that Valve is getting ready to file suit just make sure their interest in DOTA II is protected.
How did none of their lawyers spot these pitfalls? How was it that none of Blizzard’s middle managers couldn’t spot the problems that were developing and just pull the plug on the whole project rather than give Blizzard yet another black eye?
What are Blizzard’s priorities these days?
Well, that last one I can answer. And in doing so, answer the other questions.
“Our esports content opening ceremony is free, so accessibility there and inclusion there has to do with language, first and foremost. So we have closed caption, and this year, we invested in seven languages that we’re localizing in with live audio dubbing, which we’ve learned from the community was preferred. We’ll hear their feedback this year, as well. But that’s been a big area for us. We base a lot of this on feedback. We want to hear from the community and what they want.”
In terms of facilities management directly onsite at BlizzCon, Smith reminded me that they’ve always had sign language interpreters that help the staff to communicate with attendees. “We try to have a lot of facilities and, like, a VIP experience in certain areas for anyone with ADA stickers, making sure they have access into the halls, into the panels that they’d like to participate in, into the demo lines, to give them an easier experience throughout the show.”
“This year we’re really excited,” Stevens exclaimed. “We have gender-neutral bathrooms.”
I think I’ve seen something like this, somewhere before:
“Fully Converged. The corporation devotes significant resources to social causes that have absolutely nothing to do with its core business activities. Human Resources is transformed into a full Inquisition, imposing its policies without restraint and striking fear into everyone from the Chairman of the Board on down. The CEO regularly mouths social justice platitudes in the place of corporate strategies, and the marketing materials are so full of virtue-signaling and social justice advocacy that it becomes difficult to tell from them what the company actually does or sells. The corporation now shows open contempt for its customers.“
Vox Day. Corporate Cancer: How to Work Miracles and Save Millions by Curing Your Company . Castalia House. https://arkhavencomics.com/product/corporate-cancer/