aNewDomain.net — Years ago I remember waiting for what was one of the most-anticipated games I could remember in the PC space: Warcraft III. It introduced me to a little company called Blizzard, a company that my friends tried to convince me was important beyond measure.
As I was a console player at the time, I could only think of one Blizzard game: Lost Vikings. Thus all attempts at convincing me of Blizzard’s greatness failed. But things changed when I saw one of my friends playing the beta version of Warcraft III.
I was captivated by the gameplay of this “living” strategy game. I had never seen anything like it. As a result, I immediately pre-ordered the game and began diving deeper and deeper into the lore. And there was an impressive amount of it. In just a few short months, the art, the story and the addictive gameplay had turned me into a Warcraft fan for life.
Word then began to spread about Blizzard entering the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) genre, which made sense considering what efforts it made with Warcraft III. Blizzard developed its own custom 3D engine as well as unique hero units, and implemented role-playing elements while blending them with real-time strategy (RTS) gameplay. World of Warcraft was born and attracted a huge fan base with over 10 million players at its peak. Presently the game boasts approximately seven million subscribers and just reached its ninth anniversary. WoW has been very good to Blizzard, and it doesn’t seem like that trend has any intention of stopping despite a slow bleed of customers.
Blizzard used BlizzCon 2013 as the platform to announce the next World of Warcraft expansion: Warlords of Draenor. This new game will replay the events of the classic Warcraft timeline (and possibly more) but with major influences from the future via the game’s current end-game boss. Alternative history, time travel and parallel universes are intriguing concepts for any game but especially for a game that is inhabited by real players who are making discoveries just as you are. The announcement of Warlords of Draenor received an overwhelmingly-positive reception at the time, but the game is still just a concept. We’ll have to wait and see if it will be enough to reverse the losses in subscribers.
In the past, Blizzard has made promises it never fulfilled. The company rarely gives explanations about its creative process. One glaring example of an unfulfilled promise is the prospective dance studio for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion a few years ago. The dance studio was included in a company-announcement trailer and then faded into obscurity. Being a long-time player of WC and WoW I have to think that the new prospective feature that includes garrisons might have the same fate and diminish from the grand ideas Blizzard has planned. Garrisons borrow from the idea of base building in WC1-3. Here the player can zoom down to the ground floor and create a walk-through environment, interacting on a character level.
An interesting twist also touched upon was the potential inclusion of managing these garrisons from mobile devices and having your residents embark on quests or complete tasks on your behalf. This, along with mobile pet battles (a feature that resembles Nintendo’s Pokémon franchise), would go far to grow Blizzard’s audience with a generation that is already very accustomed to mobile gaming via their smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, mobile access is only an idea that the developers said they wanted to explore and isn’t promised at this point. In my view mobile expansion should be a top priority as it is the future in many respects for gaming and beyond.
And finally, note that lead systems designer Greg Street (aka Ghostcrawler) left Blizzard shortly after BlizzCon 2013.
Greg was a vocal member of the development team on the company’s official forums for a number of years and was directly responsible for many of the changes (good or bad) that transpired within the game. Should this be viewed as turning over a new leaf for Blizzard? As a player I would like to think so. Just as with any company that makes a product, it is good to have fresh ideas from new people. Perhaps this is the expansion that will make the fans remember why Blizzard is one of those companies that should never be ignored. What do you think? Check out the video below.