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TOPIC: Let's Talk- Blizzard

Let's Talk- Blizzard 17 Jul 2017 16:19 #251276

There was the talk somewhere on here about that SNES retro console, and old v. new games, and it got me thinking about Blizzard, and trying to dissect their success and think about what it means for modern games. Blizzard could make an online multiplayer game about literally anything now and get a huge player base, because they have a huge fan base. It's self fulfilling because one of the biggest factors in getting people to play an on-line game is to decrease the waiting time. It helps that they make good games, and are able to publish things when they're done instead of being beneath cracking whips that imperil every other company. But why Blizzard, I wondered?

My first introductions to Blizzard were The Lost Vikings and Warcraft II. Both had a cartoony, "we're not taking ourselves seriously," feel to them. The Lost Vikings turned popular platformers into an almost turn-based feeling puzzle game, and even allowed you to play with 2 or three players simultaneously. Nothing it did was brand new, but its synthesis was novel and clever. Warcraft II was hardly asymmetric and offered very few new things to the Gygax/Tolkien brand of fantasy,* but again, there's that humor in there that would have you clicking on the peons just to see what they'd say.

Another innovation in Warcraft II was the map editor. The tools were robust and user-friendly, and continued in their later RTS releases. Tower Defense and MOBAs, two juggernaut genres of the last 15 years, were the brainchildren of bored high schoolers and college kids making goofy scenarios to play on battle.net. It's pretty insane to think that Starcraft and an entire genre that spawned from a Warcraft III mod are a huge chunk of eSports. They don't have a successful competitive FPS, but they're trying with Overwatch. I have a prediction for where they'll go next.

Between Warcraft II and Starcraft, Diablo II came out. Again, nothing inherently new here- it was grim dark to get all the goth kids and D&D players in. It owed a lot to the roguelikes of the past. But there was loot! And it exploded out of stuff when it died or when you opened a chest. You'd highlight over it and look at the color or see the item type. But... you wouldn't know what it was until you went back to town or otherwise managed to identify it. If you had memorized the sets or unique items, you'd know those, but often the best gear could be some totally random Rare (yellow) item. Diablo II had a huge online following. They embraced the internet and made their service free to get as many players on there as possible. They continuously banned cheaters and updated the game to keep it evolving and growing.

They saw the success of Everquest and even hired some of the big players to become designers of World of Warcraft. They combined that successful model with their love of loot and their existing cartoony property, leaving Starcraft to be their RTS world. And they continually evolved the game as they listened to the community.

They looked at the failures of MTG online while the paper game did well, (and even their own paper game floundered), and made Hearthstone.

Overwatch is a great design, but it's not new at all. It takes a little bit of MOBA here, a huge chunk of Team Fortress there, and combined a bit of the cosmetics that TF2 and Mobas make with their exploding, color-coded loot from Diablo and Hearthstone. It's always a string of numbers and "just one more." Why am I playing obsessively on a "double XP weekend," to get some new skin or dance that's available for such a short time? If I had to name one defining characteristic of Blizzard's games, it's their uncanny addictive quality.

So where to next? I think they'll go one or both of the following directions, while simultaneously supporting and building on the success of their existing series.

1. They'll try a 2D fighter, that is some unholy mash up of Street Fighter, Marvel Vs. Capcom, and Super Smash Brothers. Between all of their games, they certainly have enough characters for it. Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm have already laid the groundwork for making a ton of disjointed character archetypes in the same game. (Overwatch's different nationalities and over-the top stereotypes remind me A LOT of arcade fighting games). I would expect lots of game altering super moves, an extremely accessible control scheme (even easier than Smash Bros), and a bit more varied design than you see in those games. They might do something fundamentally weird like make it so not everyone can block (leave that to Reinhardt and Olaf). They might even do a 3v3 mode like Marvel v. Capcom but have the different fighters actually be controlled by different players. I would expect them to fiddle with different modes frequently, much as they do with Overwatch now, and allow for customization in the rules much as Smash does.

2. Another turn-based tabletop-but-digital game. After the WoW minis game didn't take off, I think they might try something to get some version of that digital X-Wing/Warhammer money, much as Hearthstone converted CCGs to the digital era. I could see a space-only spin-off of Starcraft with 3 factions, or maybe a ground-based one using Warcraft again.

Why do you guys think they've done so well? Which of their games do you play regularly, or have in the past? Where do you think they're headed next?

*Come to think of it, it's not so much Gygax/Tolkien as it is Games Workshop. Funny Orcs and a grimdark future... Yep. Chaotic demons (via diablo). Yup.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 17 Jul 2017 16:29 #251277

Blizzard really impresses me. They come out of nowhere with zero CCG experience and have an industry leading game generating almost 400 million , somehow beating a ton of companies that have been in the CCG and digital CCG markets for years. It's seriously impressive.

I really hope they do #2, Jexik. They add cartoonery fun and casual to their properties and this would be GREAT for a game that already has depth, like an establish tabletop game. I would like to see something like that for sure.

I think they do well just cuz their games are 'fun' and LOOK fun.

I played Overwatch a bit before I burned out on it. i burned out on Heartstone really fast but I had a ton of fun during those first few hours. Arena was incredible for me.
The single-player campaign of the first StarCraft mesmerized me. i couldn't get enough of it. I played a bit of multiplayer but I've never liked RTS much. i'm an avid TBS fan, which puts me at odds with Dunkey.

If you really want to understand Blizzard in a nutshell, look no further than a really early release of theirs, BattleChess. I hope many of you played this in your youth. Blizzard took an existing concept with tons of depth, and somehow made it fun. I like chess, but at the same time... fuck chess. I'm not sitting through that. But yeah, with BattleChess I was HAPPY to be playing chess! That's NUTS. That's what Blizzard's strongest draw is and I really hope they attack board games in the future. They can make stuff super fun. So just imagine if they START with a fun game.

Anyway, all my hopes and prayers would be for Blizzard to go down that road, but Michael Barnes and many others (including me) will be disappointed that Blizzard is surely just working on another shooter after the success of Overwatch. That's where the easy money is, that's where eSports is, that's where they're going. And if they're working on simultaneous projects, the other stuff is probably all MMOs :(

Also, for the stuff that suits our needs here, whatever they develop will be for mobile. That's for damn sure.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 17 Jul 2017 16:46 #251279

I don't think they'll make another FPS for a long time. They currently seem content to release a new hero for Overwatch every few months. They haven't made World of Warcraft II yet, and it has been over 10 years! But the game now is nearly unrecognizable to the vanilla game I bet. And Starcraft 2 was really 3 entirely separate games spread over a huge amount of time when it comes down to it and yet it's the same title.

They didn't have exactly zero CCG experience. They had the WoW card game, but it didn't really take off as they had hoped. I've spoken to people who have played both it and Hearthstone, and there are quite a few parallels, especially in the earlier sets. This is why I think they might try a digital "minis" game. It could totally work. A digital X-Wing or Armada that auto-checked your firing arcs and had exploding loot crates as you played more games would be the nuts. But I couldn't make it myself because I wouldn't have the name Blizzard behind me. :D
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 17 Jul 2017 17:34 #251283

Blizzard understands something that very few entertainment companies appreciate. That there is VALUE IN THE EVERGREEN. Things don't always have to be refreshed and rebooted. If you make a quality product that stands the test of time, it will make money in perpetuity. It will also establish your company as a brand. It will make your product releases- even if they are years apart- CULTURAL EVENTS. People still play the first StarCraft. People still play the first Diablo. And people will play Overwatch for the next ten years. They have a very small portfolio of brand names, but every one is a blockbuster. They are careful about what they release, and they tend to their existing releases rather than pushing out new IP. They just put out a major update for Diablo III, when other companies would regard that game long past its sales cycle. And probably would have put out ten games since then.

This is what makes Valve and Nintendo and Kojima so successful too. Fewer releases with an extremely high degree of refinement and polish. Best-in-business development. And a careful, deliberate avoidance of over-saturation. Contrast this to the yearly Assassin's Creed releases or the ever-diminishing returns of 10 years worth of Call of Duty titles.

As for what they will do next, it will be something they haven't done before and it will be something that is uniquely Blizzard. I wouldn't be surprised to see them do something more with the StarCraft world, like Hearthstone does for Warcraft. I'd love to see some kind of strategy game set in the StarCraft world.

But I think what we will get, ultimately, is going to be Warcraft IV. It is time. RTS games are due for a big comeback, and it is prime time for Blizzard to come in and really revolutionize the genre again.

Overwatch 2 is, I think, at least five or six years out. There's really no reason for them to do a full sequel. It's a timeless game and it can be added to indefinitely.

The only Blizzard game I've never really played is WoW. All of the others are what I would consider games that are absolutely essential.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 17 Jul 2017 19:41 #251289

Diablo, forever. At least, for when I want mindless hack and slash sprinkled with just enough reward to keep me playing like an addict.

I have no idea what would be next. Buy I do know they recently made a hire just prior to the latest diablo update for a person who is very in tune with diablo. I'm thinking that will be a big release a few years from now.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 17 Jul 2017 19:59 #251291

Blizzard is the embodiment of one of my favorite sayings about games and movies: "Originality is overrated". Instead, it makes the best of what's familiar to me (and, apparently, a lot of people) with its unrivaled polish. I never jump in a game of Blizzard and *not* feel right at home.

Even if you go back far, you'll still see this. The Lost Vikings is so similar to the Apogee games back then, but a lot better. Even Blackthorne strikes home with its shotgun-totting hero fighting orks. Nothing really original, but everything's soooo good.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 17 Jul 2017 20:20 #251292

Blizzard is incredible. I just logged on here from playing Warcraft 3. I've played Starcraft to death and do so like every two years. Diablo III has been in heavy rotation since I got it (until recently I got burned out). The only games I haven't played are WoW and SC2.

Was SC2 not successful? I never heard much about it, really. It looks cool as fuck.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 17 Jul 2017 20:55 #251293

I played SC2 for the single player campaign and was very satisfied. Its multiplayer was overshadowed by MOBA though. I don't think it ever reached critical mass in terms of audience or player to be a successful e-sport game.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 17 Jul 2017 21:44 #251294

Hex Sinister wrote:
Was SC2 not successful? I never heard much about it, really. It looks cool as fuck.

It was very good, but Star Craft: Brood War was still being played competitively by the Koreans when it came out, so I think it fragmented the player base or something. It was a case of them making StarCraft too good the first time around. (Also, I think that some of the quality of life changes to the UI and control scheme were almost unwanted to some of the hardcore kids that had super high APMs and whatnot). I think the main reason that I didn't get into Diablo III was that it wasn't Diablo II, part 2. They recently added the Necromancer to III, haha.

One thing I forgot to mention was their cinematics. Back in Starcraft and Diablo II, it was great and created a lot of atmosphere, even if some of the overall story (especially in D2) was pretty cliché.
Sevej wrote:
Blizzard is the embodiment of one of my favorite sayings about games and movies: "Originality is overrated". Instead, it makes the best of what's familiar to me (and, apparently, a lot of people) with its unrivaled polish. I never jump in a game of Blizzard and *not* feel right at home.

And they're committed to continuing to polish those same stones. They support their games for the long haul, and people know that going into it now.
Michael Barnes wrote:
But I think what we will get, ultimately, is going to be Warcraft IV. It is time. RTS games are due for a big comeback, and it is prime time for Blizzard to come in and really revolutionize the genre again.

...

The only Blizzard game I've never really played is WoW. All of the others are what I would consider games that are absolutely essential.

Plotwise, they've kind of killed it. They've killed just about everything that has been mentioned. They can probably add some more stuff, but they'll basically have to make deities that rule over other deities, and after that, whelp.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 18 Jul 2017 00:05 #251297

The thing that Blizzard does better than almost anyone else is tell a story. That's the polish that many people refer to. They make people identify with their characters and worlds and feel that desire to keep returning to them. And when something doesn't measure up in terms of gameplay and/or story? They're not afraid to flush thousands (millions?) of dollars and man-hours away because it's not good enough. Warcraft Adventures? Starcraft: Ghost? Titan? All pitched because they felt they didn't have lasting appeal or wouldn't have the impact that they think Blizzard embodies. Blizzard's development cycle takes far longer than any other studio and is the origin of the Soon™ meme. ("When will X happen/be released/be patched?" "Soon™.") They take their time to get it right.

Titan was the "next generation MMO" that they thought would replace WoW. But they soon realized that it just wasn't going to live up to the standard they'd set for themselves, so they canceled it. They took the IP and turned it into Overwatch. That's why all the characters in a competitive shooter game are so fleshed out because that's the level of attention to detail that they apply. The joke dialogue from clicking on your minions too many times in their RTSs? That goes all the way to Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. They've always had those little touches in there because those are the things that make games memorable.

Now, admittedly, Blizzard has never been averse to borrowing what works from other sources and making it their own. One of their more prominent victims has been Games Workshop, as the first two Warcraft games are obvious abductions of Warhammer Fantasy, just like Starcraft is of 40K (Protoss = Eldar; Zerg = Tyranids; Marines = Marines.) But even if they ape some stuff, they always take it and run with farther than anyone could expect. Starcraft 2 didn't succeed on the competitive scene in the way that the original game did because the original game was still being played and because the complexity of SC2 was so much greater. But that didn't keep the game from being one of the best single-player campaign experiences ever made. Why? Because they told a great story. Incidentally, one of the main writers on Diablo 3 and World of Warcraft for the past decade has been Andy Chambers, formerly a lead designer at Games Workshop.

Everything they do has texture. You can feel it. It's not something that has a sales cycle of six months and then gets dropped for the next big thing. It's all built to last. ("Goblin products are built to blast!")
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 18 Jul 2017 00:23 #251299

Alright. I'll be that guy. I haven't enjoyed a Blizzard game since Warcraft 2. Maybe Diablo 2? Their games are so tired. Tired, rehashed takes on genres polished to a perfect shine. And that's something that gets to me---they rarely even introduce a twist that feels like an *attempt* at being new.

It's funny because every time one of their games gets big I *still* fucking buy it like a chump. Like you guys said, a Blizzard release is an event! I'm always like... everyone likes this! I should! Nope. Most recent was overwatch. Played it like 5 times and it was such a flop with me. Pretty, great artists and character designers on staff, boring team fortress/DOTA mashup clone with almost nothing new added.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 18 Jul 2017 00:44 #251300

One other thing that Blizzard does very well is art direction. Their games are never the best in pure graphical terms. Diablo 2 was a 256-color game for fucks sake. But they do their magic, and low poly games such as WC3 and WoW look great.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 18 Jul 2017 01:30 #251301

I'll admit that diablo 3 has a lot of warts, and is frankly an overall uninteresting story for campaign mode.

When blizzard north fell apart, diablo went with it. Or at least whatever subtle touch that made it so special left.

I have faith that the fourth iteration will be better. They learned a lot from number three.

The only reason I play it over 2, is because its on a console. Otherwise I'd still be playing.1&2.
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 18 Jul 2017 03:55 #251303

What didn't you like about Diablo 3?

I don't think I've ever thought any of the Diablos had a good story. They're mundane, but well-presented.

(even Starcraft in retrospect was pretty ordinary; anyone who says WoW got awesome lore simply doesn't understand how lore is created...)
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Let's Talk- Blizzard 18 Jul 2017 05:18 #251305

Michael Barnes wrote:
Blizzard understands something that very few entertainment companies appreciate. That there is VALUE IN THE EVERGREEN. <snip> They have a very small portfolio of brand names, but every one is a blockbuster. They are careful about what they release, and they tend to their existing releases rather than pushing out new IP.

Mr Barnes got in before me with the right answer. Their dedication to continuity and polish is unrivaled in the industry. No other company could have such a tiny stable of games and be so successful and influential.

Sevej wrote:
What didn't you like about Diablo 3?

D3 is perhaps their one mistake in my opinion. It's just too similar to D2. And, at some point, you just get tired of clicking on monsters. At least I did.

I can't really fault them for much, though. As most of you know I'm a hopeless Hearthstone addict. I realised a couple of weeks ago that it was just my go-to game, something I've played essentially every day since release and will continue to do so long into the future. So I'm better to quit whining about the minor missteps and occasional duff game and just enjoy myself.

This is a timely topic as I discovered yesterday that I own a Starcraft 2 expansion but not the base game. So I figured I better buy it. Be a waste otherwise, right?
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