First came the hum of anticipation as media and attendees with special needs were filed into Anaheim Convention Centre’s cavernous hall for BlizzCon 2016.
Massive speakers blasted out theme music from Blizzard’s games – World Of Warcraft, Diablo III, Hearthstone and the like – as the press bundled themselves into a chained-off section of chairs and desperately tried to connect to the WiFi.
There was a brief respite before we all heard the Convetion Centre’s doors crash open and then the BlizzCon 2016 attendees came swarming into the room at such speed, they created their own little wind tunnel that enveloped the lot of us. BlizzCon regulars call this annual occurance the Zerg Rush and with good reason.
Within the following hour, the temperature rose as tons of bodies took up their seats, the noise levels in the room rocketed and the sense of excitement and anticipation was palpable. Then Blizzard CEO and founder Mike Morhaime took to the stage. He dialed through Blizzard’s busy year, thanked fans for their commitment and investment and if you missed the broadcast or weren’t there – here’s what went down.
BlizzCon 2016 Keynote: Overwatch
Stealthy offensive infiltrator Sombra will be the next hero to join Blizzard’s MOBA/FPS hybrid. She also boasts hacking abilities that Morhaime said ‘can change the tide of battle’. Admittedly the Russian bandit’s presence in the game had been hinted at for ages, so this announcement wasn’t a massive surprise. Still it was nice to have her confirmed.
Alongside the arrival of Sombra, Overwatch players can expect some new maps available towards the end of the year. Lock ‘n load.
BlizzCon 2016 Keynote: Starcraft II
The Starcraft II announcement held more for the world at large than the Blizzard faithful. Although the third and final Nova Covert Mission pack was confirmed for November 22nd alongside new co-op missions, the main attraction was news that Blizzard’s RTS was going to be opened up to AI developers. It was announced that Google’s Deepmind AI project would start playing Starcraft II as part of its learning process.
Naturally, this led to a lot of pundits on Twitter predicting mankind’s demise; what does it say about me that I was more interested to know if Deepmind would prefer playing Terran, Protos or Zerg?
BlizzCon 2016 Keynote: Heroes Of The Storm
Mark ye calendars for November 15th, me hearties! For that’s when Blackheart’s Brawl will be debuting. This is a new pirate-themed brawl in which players have to defend the blaggard, Blackheart’s ship, or take it out as it tries to destroy some docks.
Other than that the recently deceased Alliance king, Varian Wrynn, and big flaming demon, Ragnoras The Firelord are the latest pair of Heroes to be added to the Nexus. The latter sounds like a massive beast, and to be honest, ridiculously overpowered – you can use him to take over forts and super-size his abilities for heaven’s sake! Wrynn, for his part is a multi-class hero offering three distinct types of play. Oh – and there were a bunch of new skins for heroes and mounts too. You know you love it.
BlizzCon 2016 Keynote: Hearthstone
So it wasn’t called Greetings from Gadgetzan. At BlizzCon 2016, the Hearthstone crew confirmed its battle card game’s new expansion is called Mean Streets Of Gadgetzan and as the name implies, crime cartels play a huge part of it.
The three gangs in question are The Grimy Goons, The Jade Lotus and The Kabal and each offer players a new card with unique benefits – The Goons offer Hunters a Piranha Launcher that… well, launches Pirahanas. On top of that, Blizzard announced the creation of tri-class cards, which are cards that can be played by three different classes. Your deck building just became a hell of a lot more involved.
BlizzCon 2016 Keynote: Diablo III
Blizzard COO Frank Pearce took the stage for Diablo III’s announcement – fitting since Blizzard’s dungeon crawler was celebrating its 20th birthday as a franchise at the Con.
For this anniversary, Pearce said, Blizzard wanted to do something special both for the game and the community. To that end, he said, the team were recreating the original game in Diablo III. Far from being a remaster, this will be the classic Diablo experience complete with 8-direction movement and grainy pixleated visuals.
On top of that Diablo III will be receiving a couple of new areas, and a brand new hero – The Necromancer. Nasty enough looking dude you’ll agree.
With that, the keynote was over. If you love Blizzard and you aren’t here at BlizzCon 2016, keep it locked here on htxt.africa, because we’ll be posting coverage throughout this weekend.
Ahem, FOR THE HORDE!!!!