RDR2 – The Dream Dies

Plot spoilers?  Can you actually do that for a prequel?

RDR1 is the closing chapter of the American frontier, the end of the West.  RDR2 is the same theme, but a larger scope since it’s set earlier.  It certainly is about the impacts to the main character, but it’s also a heck of a commentary on society.

I am just entering Chapter 4 (I guess 50%?), where you can start to see the wheels really come off the dream-wagon that Dutch is pushing.  Backtrack a bit, and you start off in a blizzard, in a run down town.  You move to a small frontier-like town that has only one street.  You then move to Rhodes which has a couple streets and electricity.  Then off to Saint Denis which is a large industrial town.  Each one feels like I’m travelling 10-20 years into the future.

The parallel to today’s urbanization is evident.  Small towns are drying up everywhere as people chase jobs/money in the “big city”.  Something like 90% of Canada lives within a 2 hour drive of the US border.  The people I know who live in small towns mostly work in nearby large cities, and have regular runs into the to do complex errands.  Driving an hour is easy for them.  People in the city freak out about a 5 minute walk.

RDR2 is predicated on the charm of Dutch’s american dream of freedom and choice.  He sells it well, and his flock certainly believe him.  As the world around them closes in, he makes more and more rash decisions that lead to even further disaster.  Just the fundamental principle of “get enough money to buy some land” makes no sense if Dutch really believed in freedom.

As much as the game has you playing as Arthur Morgan, the story has little to do with him.  It’s about watching the dreams and the people around you die a slow death.  Even the mail carriers are aware that they are no longer relevant in a world with carriages.  It’s incredibly depressing.

Spectacle

The true testament to the success of this game is in the use of spectacle to provide depression.  One mission has you find mementos of an old vet who has turned to drink – you empathize with his descent, as you slowly discover he was a slave trader.  Another has you destroy the livelyhood of an old blood family, burn down their house, and make their matriarch go off the deep end.  There’s a giant firefight in the middle, and the final view of the event is straight out of any period film.

I am convinced that West World changed the direction of this game.  Sure the themes are not identical, but the concept of a very grey western, dealing with oppression, lack of power, the chase… all of it feels refined.  RDR1 (and GTA V) had a lot more black/white decision points.  The characters filled archtetypes.  RDR2 just has people.  People that are driven by their own motivations rather than the plot.

Crafting your own story throughout is extremely personal but you are only making tiny changes on the larger path.  Do you want to rescue the lady being kidnapped for who knows what?  Do you feel the need to help the farmhands defend themselves, and then rob them?  Help or hinder the drunk who crashed his cart?  Arthur has a set path – he’s an outlaw through and through.  But maybe he’s more like Robin Hood than El Chapo.  Maybe you prefer quiet to guns blazing.

Seeing it Through

I really enjoy The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  I’ve seen my fair share of the Duke.  There very few good “happy” westerns.  The hero is not meant to win, he’s meant to barely survive.  Shane anyone?

I know how the next game starts, so I have a pretty darn good idea how this one will end.  The destination is still a bit cloudy, but that’s really in the details.  Dutch, Javier, John, and Bill all live.  The rest… who knows.  But that journey is ridiculously captivating.  Watching the world close in around, slowly picking away at the dream until there’s nothing left.  Seeing the world trying to accommodate them, but the old style not wanting to give in.  People fight so much harder when they think they are losing something, rather than trying to gain.  It’s quite a mirror to today’s society… making it all the more enjoyable to experience.

RDR2 – Fishing Time

It’s not really a game until it has fishing in it.

RDR2 has horrible controls, built out of molasses, tar, and the 1980s.  What it hides behind those controls is spectacular.  It’s about as close to West World as anything that’s ever been released.  Staggering the depth of retention here…people live their entire lives in the background, for that single random event to meet you, then go back to their lives.  It’s not so much a game, as a simulation.

And it has fishing.

Getting Started

Fishing unlocks in act 2, but only partially.  You need to be in act 3 to get all the lures opened, and the option for legendary fish.  Time is meaningless in RDR2, when comparing players.  What may take me 10 minutes may take someone else an hour, and vice versa.  Still, it’s one of the much later unlocks as compared to the other game mechanics.

You get access to a pole and some simple bobbing bait to start.  Eventually you upgrade to more complex bait for different fish.  Then you unlock lures, which you drag through the water (retrieve is the technical term) and hope a fish bites.  You can fish from land, or get into a boat and fish the water.  Time of day matters, where dusk/dawn have a positive impact… as does fishing in the rain.

Fish meat can be used as food sources, and is generally a whole lot easier to acquire than game – so it fills you up a fair bit less.

The Mechanics

Rod + bait/lure + cast = fishing.

The easy part is getting the line into the water.  The hard part is getting that fish back to you.  You need to turn the stick in a clockwise direction, but only when the fish isn’t struggling.  Otherwise you can lose the line and the fish.  Bigger fish will pull the line out when they are fighting, which you can try to stop, but again at risk of losing the line.  Fish can swim in obstacles, cutting your line.  There’s a line cutting theme here.

The very large fish can take a few minutes to pull in.  Or, you can follow the poorly written instructions and bring them in quicker with a tug down on the left joystick.  This only works if your rod is in a neutral position.  It will tug the fish closer, and you will real up the slack.  Typically can get this done twice while a fish is tired, before they get fighting again.  Cuts reel time by more than half.

Fish Variety

They have different habitats (lake, swamp, river, cold, warm, etc..) and can usually be seen at the surface splashing around.  Pike, gar, sturgeon, bass, bluegill, salmon, pickerel… there are a bunch others.

Legendary Fish

At some point you get a Stranger quest to fish up 13 legendary fish, and you need special lures to do so.  The bait shop in Lagras (SE of the map) has what you need.  These lures only attract legendary fish.  And these fish are monster size.  You then need to mail them (really) to get the associated rewards.

Rewards

Frankly, fishing is its own reward.  Sure, you get a couple bucks, some food and a neat quest.  But the fun is in the act.  It’s a lot like just riding through the country side to see the way the world looks.  Fishing gives a sense of serenity and calm, lets you appreciate the world built around you.  The people walking by, the gators tanning along, squirrels fighting over food…you get a real sense of scale.

So yeah, I’m spending way too much time fishing and not much time shootin’.  Going to be here a while.

BioWare Anthem – Let’s Talk

Wikipedia link for easy reference.

Like Gangbusters

Like quite a few gamers, I cut my teeth on the early BioWare RPG staples.  Baldur’s Gate, Planescape, Icewind Dale… all of them hall of fame titles.  All based on the concept of character development, choice, and consequence.  Baldur’s Gate 2 remains my all-time best example of an RPG with hundreds of hours soaked.

Jade Empire was a neat twist on the genre, blending action combat with RPG pieces – which was the basis for Mass Effect if you think about it.  Knights of the Old Republic was a smash to play through, and dramatically opened up the possibilities for Star Wars stories.  Mass Effect 1 was a near revolution in the way RPGs functioned in the west – and I argue the reason that EA purchased the company in 2007.

Following the purchase, we received Dragon Age (Bhaalspawn anyone?), which was a massive sprawling RPG.  Mass Effect 2 was right around the corner, and another smash hit.  Due to long production times on games, both of these were well into development before the EA purchase.  I consider this the BioWare apogee.

The Downward Trend

Dragon Age 2 felt like an expansion, with the same recycled environments.  DA:Inquisition had interesting characters, but played like a solo-MMO with no healing.  Mass Effect 3 was technically sound, but threw it all away with a ridiculous ending.  So bad, that the fan feedback caused BioWare to change it after launch.  (Imagine being mad at the end of King Kong, and then on DVD he lives.)

SW:TOR launched in 2011, right at the tail end of the MMORPG bubble.  Two reboots along the way – F2P and KoFE. It solidified the trend to F2P conversion, in particular what not to do (hotbars for sale!)  It was tremendous in scale and took a couple years to find it’s identity.

The founding doctors quit in 2012.  At the same time.  Then the old guard started leaving.  Long time game directors, story writers, programmers.

Shadow Realms (4v1) was announced then cancelled.

ME:Andromeda launched to lukewarm reception.  So lukewarm, they shut down the studio that made it and put all future ME development on hold.

What’s Next

BioWare has only 2 active projects that we know of.  SWTOR, which has had slow but steady updates of the years.  The long term plans for this game aren’t clear, as most expected an expansion announcement by now.  Not sure how that really impacts the player base mind you, since there are still some mechanical changes underway.

And Anthem.  A game that appears to strongly follow in the footsteps of Destiny and The Division.

It’s fair to say that SWTOR isn’t exactly a cash cow, and Anthem must have an insane amount of pressure to deliver that the very existence of BioWare is in question.  Anthem is clearly an “all hands on deck” project.  Launching in 3 months.

Anthem Chances

People following the Destiny and Division clearly realize that making one of these games is extremely difficult.  The leveling process is easy, but keeping people engaged long term means a serious level of understanding of grind mechanics.  The good news here is that BW has some experience here with the end-game mentality in SWTOR.  The bad news is that the SWTOR model isn’t drawing all the kids to the yard.

The advantage for Anthem here is that there are two clear examples from popular games on how not to do it.  Destiny 1 was all about first out of the gate and learning with the community.  Division took months to learn that lesson, and paid a heavy price before providing a decent experience.  Destiny 2 took all the goodwill from the first game, and repeated the exact same mistakes, until a recent expansion.  I won’t say it’s easy, because it isn’t.  But good golly, do not repeat these same mistakes of others.

(Side Note: Activision’s earning call indicated that Destiny 2 undersold expectations.  It was one of the top selling games in 2017.  That’s where the bar is.)

PvE squad based games aren’t exactly popular right now.  PUBG/Fornite are dominating the market – and both are insanely popular in the mobile space.  That is a massive part of the market that is no longer available.  It is not possible to measure trends when making games… the dev cycles are so very long.  Timing is certainly key.

That said, there’s a whole lot in common with ARPGs like Diablo or Path of Exile.  You’re continuously running the same areas for chances of improved stats.  That positive feedback loop is the driver.  The concept of it never having an end is the carrot.  It’s the perception that the carrot is actually in reach that’s important.

If I was BioWare I would do everything in my power to avoid introducing PvP at launch.  The market for PvP is extremely small, given the breadth of options to gamers today.  PvP in Destiny/Division are side activities with the chance for rewards to be used in all other content.  Rare is the player who focuses solely on PvP.  Let them continue to play Fortnite/PUBG, or CoD.

The EA tarnish is hanging over everyone’s minds.  It’s surreal how people hate EA more than say oil, finance, or pharmaceutical companies who have actually caused real deaths. But they do hate EA.  And EA has a knack for exploiting every possible opportunity.  SW:BF2 took a massive beating due to micro-transactions, enough to get actual laws passed. They take great companies and turn them into a shell of their former selves.  Drug dealers have a better reputation.  People will criticize the smallest piece of Anthem just because it has an EA sticker.

The game launches in late Feb 2019.  It just posted about reaching Alpha.  It honestly does look like alpha, since they are in the “how the game responds” feedback phase.  In all honesty, that post is friggin’ solid.  It’s the sort of transparency that is missing in development.  But we’re also well past the time for a beta.  Beta is all about optimizing the numbers, bug fixing, stress testing… A good beta is 6 months.  A quick one is 3.  Had this post come out in the summer…

I do hope this game has success.  More than for the game’s sake, but for BioWare and the industry as a whole.  Quality co-op games are not common in the AAA field – we get PvP and solo.  Monster Hunter is top of mind right now, but then the list gets ultra short. Going to find out in a few short months.

The New Early Access

Fallout76 is about to launch.  November 14th to be exact.

Fallout 76 is riddled with game breaking bugs and more hacks.

Bethesda has replied with an acknowledgement of the issues, and that they will be fixed in time.  Just not to expect a smooth game at launch.

This is the exact same model as early access on Steam.  Though in large fairness, Early Access was for devs who couldn’t find a way to subsidize their costs before being ready for release.

I am really curious as to how that works out.  A multiplayer game that knowingly launches with this lack of polish is pretty rare, and usually loses most of the playerbase unless it’s the only one in the market, or offers something super interesting.  H1Z1 and PUBG are recent examples where that applied.

And it’s not like Bethesda has ever releases a game that was bug free.  Skyrim was chocked full of bugs on launch, but it was a single player game.  I can’t really think of any multiplayer game that launched with this list of bugs, and had long term success.

Now we’re in AAA expectations, early access, and multiplayer with PvP options.  From an IT dev perspective, I would not be looking forward to the next few months.  From a business perspective, I don’t see how this actually is going to work out positively.  There won’t be positive news cycles, except for the blurbs Bethesda themselves put out (e.g. like the how to get a nuke posts recently).  Players… I can’t hazard to guess.  Bethesda players are traditionally tolerant of bugs due to the giant scale of the games, but the last release was 3 years ago (FO4). But what market is FO76 actually aiming for?  And does FO76 offer something that other games do not, outside of the Fallout universe?

I think this will be an interesting experiment in major game launches.

Diablo 4 Leak – Ermahgerd

You know one of those news cycle elements in where everyone looks bad?  This is one.

Kotaku’s Jason Shcreier put an update on with “insider notes” that Diablo 4 was supposed to have a teaser at the end of the Immortal showcase, which would have apparently made all right in the world.  But it was pulled at the last minute.  Drama!

Then Blizzard responded this wasn’t the case.  More drama!

Then the article was appended to say the video was made after all, but the timing for it being at Blizzcon was the issue.  It was never planned for that event.  Even more drama!

Does it Matter?

It generated reactions, including this post.  But…

No one in their right mind thinks that Diablo 4 is not being worked on.  It’s the real black sheep of the Blizzard franchise – the only one with a sell it, have no e-sports, and upkeep for free model.  That doesn’t work with Blizzard in 2018, as made ultra clear with the announcement of Immortals.

Everyone has a good idea of the basics.  You have heroes.  You attack demons.  Loot drops.  The story makes little sense.  Infinite replay through infinite grind.  Small-group multiplayer.

Is D4 so far out on the schedule that even a teaser isn’t viable?

Lessons Learned

For a company that prides itself on ultra polishing the genre, and paying attention to trends, the work on Diablo was ultra tone deaf.  Bethesda knocked it clear out with FO4 + Fallout Shelter, then ES6 + ES Blades.  Even though there’s a mobile game, the main line game is there too.  EA didn’t get this memo when they announced C&C Renegades.  Blizzard apparently ignored that too.

And really, of all the mobile games to launch, who here was surprised that WoW Pet Battles wasn’t on the list?  PokemonGo has been gangbusters.  Seems like a license to print money.

No, instead we get game writers (whom by their very profession get various leaks) to spread a message, and then paid to give a counter message, which gets people talking.  Except all the parties in this case look bad.  The writer looks more like a shill (which is funny, because isn’t that the point of being a writer?), and Blizzard looks all the more foolish to have both prepared and not prepared for this event to unfold.  And it keeps Diablo in the news, entirely based on speculation which has never worked out for the best in any time in history.

It’s amazing I’m even blogging about it.

SWTOR – Hindsight Nostalgia

From both Wilhelm’s post, and Shintar’s reply.

I wrote a LOT about SWTOR in the day – nearly 1/3rd of tagged gaming posts were about this.  I’ve always been fascinated by MMOs, and the Star Wars mythos has held a special place for many years.  When SWTOR was announced, I was giddy.  Even when the Lightsabers were 3x larger than normal.  I seem to recall the main pitch

  • The mystical 4th pillar of story
  • The feeling of a hero vs the masses.  Less busywork, more large scale fights
  • The ability to support a grey playtstyle
  • Applying lessons learned from other MMOs, with a focus on accessible content

I played beta from the first day until launch.  I submitted more than my share of bugs, I interacted with the devs, I wrote very long guides, I wrote DPS calcultors, I played a stupid number of hours and was one of the first folk to hit 50.

I was playing up until the massive server merges (90% population drop from launch) and go back maybe every 18 months for a look around.

Screenshot_2013-10-27_21_45_24_013160

Finally dead. (that is a busy UI)

If we consider an MMO launch to be the first 3 months after go live, then SWTOR was a massive failure.  It was riddled with bugs, the max level content was almost non-existent, the professions were broken, the social tools didn’t work, the loading/travel screens were ultra long, PvP wasn’t balanced, and the Hero engine clearly had issues.  The F2P conversion will certainly go down in history as the floor from which no other game could possibly reach.

Still, let’s cover those larger points – in relation to the game at/near launch.

The 4th Pillar

We were spoiled rotten with KOTOR 1 & 2.  Expectations were set for a multiplayer KOTOR 3.  I would say that Act 1 supported that notion… then it just died as the game grew on.  The planets and storylines from Act 3 onwards were very bland, and there was simply too much Darth Malgus.  The Imperial Agent class storyline was amazing, but that simply shone a negative light on most of the Light side classes.  It was somewhat clear that it was more than could be chewed upon.

The idea behind dungeon storylines was neat, but after the 10th run, you had memorized every speech.  It was a race to skip dialogue.  Which also impacted the overall replayability of a game.

Companion storylines were all over the map, some with really interesting backgrounds and other were just a background for your story.  I really like Khem Val, much better than Talos Drellik.  And Skadge… that guy didn’t work.  The issue here was that you had a primary companion that you enjoyed, and the others just sat there.  Very little dynamic between them.  And to unlock more stories from them, you needed to feed them with gifts.  Where Dragon Age and KOTOR always had 2 with you, this seemed like really cool idea that just didn’t pan out as well as it could have.

Do You Want to be a Hero?

The idea of being the savior of a galaxy is certainly intriguing.  The storyline certainly pushed that mind set, and the leveling content with class story quests was big on that idea (for most classes at least).  But it broke down with the masses.  How many heroes can there be?  It’s certainly better than green jesus in Cataclsym, or Yrel/Khadgar in WoD – as your character was essentially an assistant to the in-game heroes.

In terms of actual gameplay, this did work out for single player content.  Quite a few personal instances had you taking out a veritable army of opponents.  It felt epic.  Group content… that part was painful.  The Hero engine just couldn’t give the right amount of data to players to figure out what to do next.  Interrupt, move, defend, attack…it’s hard enough against 1 large foe – but 5 or more?  The enemies had to be down-tuned to trash mode.

I’ll compare to the depiction of Legolas in the LOTR trilogy.  His level of awesomeness in combat has nothing to do with his ability to react, but everything to do with his ability to turn enemies into fodder.  It’s almost pure offense.  We have that in MMOs.  It’s called AE grinding.  Never in Star Wars would you see a hero take on 5 enemies in a climatic battle.

All told, I think the system worked better after that realization came to pass.

Grey Playstyle

It was certainly possible to play a grey playstyle.  You were just punished for it, due to the MMO mechanics.  The best loot and power items were locked into deep alignment requirements.  This was probably the first bit of beta feedback I had, and the problem arguably got worse after launch with even more alignment-focused items were deployed.

So if you did end up playing grey for most of it, and wanted to swap, there was a fair bit of grinding involved.  I do think this system worked well, if you ignore the rewards handed out for alignment.  Especially if you turn off the light/dark visual cues for decisions.

Lessons Learned from other MMOs

When SWTOR launched, MMOs were in the transition from slog fests to games of convenience.  LFG may not have been the best thing for WoW but it was miles better than EQ’s version of finding other people to play with.  SWTOR had no real social or grouping tools at launch… or for 6 months after launch.

Alt support, through the Legacy system was pretty neat.  I think this was one of the few highlights from SWTOR that other games should have attempted to replicate.

Role balance for leveling was ok, but had some balance tweaks needed.  It wasn’t really practical to level as a healer with a tank companion.  It also heavily favored specific companions for leveling, even if you may have found another one more interesting.  The concept of any companion filling any role took a bit too long to come to fruition – but again this was due to the MMO mechanics getting in the way of the storytelling.

Travel took forever (loading zones!) and the zones with the most travel tax were empty (Illium).  While it was fun exploring Hoth, there were limits to the sanity of a player spending more time travelling to have fun, than the actual duration of the event.

I’d talk about crafting, but the less said the better.

Side quests were a near requirement for progress.  Which is fine, if those side quests have any merit.  They often didn’t, had horrible respawn timers, significant bugs, and moving from one area to the next was train city.

Stat balance was all over the place.  In nearly all cases, Alacrity (haste) was a downside as it certainly made you attack faster, but that caused your ‘mana’ to drain faster too – with no way to speed up recovery.  Ooh, this one brings back memories.

Player-driven story elements.  Remember that SWTOR triggered the shut down of Star Wars Galaxies, which was mostly player driven (NGE excepted).  People really wanted to set up their own piece of the large world, and SWTOR allowed next to no flexibility in that regard.

PvP had a really interesting mechanic where if you were sub-50, your stats were buffed to level 50.  The downside was that actual level 50 players had much worse stats – so it was better to be level 49.  PvP zones were randomized based on faction balance, and the only zone that allowed the same 2 factions was Huttball.  So PvP ended up being something like 90% Huttball.  I loved me some Huttball!  But PvP gear scaling, and pre-made groups really took that fun away quickly.

Sense of ownership.  At launch, the only piece that was yours was the spaceship.  Sure, everyone had one, but it did feel like it was yours once inside.  It took a long while to get personal quarters – and even then it’s not exactly intuitive or easy to make work.  Better than most other games mind you.

Overall

The biggest challenge for SWTOR was trying to be one game while delivering another.  It really wanted to be KOTOR 3, but was also clearly mandated to be a WoW copy.  For every risk it wanted to take with telling a story, it was shackled by the MMO construct of number-based progress.

It lacked the tools (Hero engine) and the experience (this is another long post) to build a real number-based MMO.  It needed a solid 6 months of more work before launch in order to iron out the bugs and build the social tools to keep people connected.  SWTOR today is a much different game, with many of those earlier mis-steps corrected.  It’s both unfortunate that it had to learn the lessons the hard way, and good that we still have it around.

Nailed It

And I was just throwing some bull to the wind at that!

Be forewarned, this is more rant than much else.

Wyatt Cheng

I think it’s fair to say that Diablo 3 would not be here today without Wyatt at the helm.  He took the junk that Jay Wilson delivered and somehow managed to give us Reaper of Souls.  Seasons, real legendaries, Kunai’s Cube, sets that mattered, balanced skills, adventure mode, nephalem rifts, GRs, drop rate changes, and the removal of the auction house.

At no point does anyone question Wyatt’s devotion to the Diablo franchise.

The people who Wyatt works for… those are the ones that put him on stage this weekend.

Diablo Immortal

It exists and I honestly thought it would be a great April fool’s joke when I posted earlier.  I have tried a few dozen ARPG games on mobile – all of them follow the exact same formula.  The best ones are fun for a week or two, never past that point.  It’s the limitations of the medium.  Certainly it supports the infinite grind.  Mobile is all about infinite grind.  What’s missing is the controls. (and the monetization, but there’s no details on that so I’ll skip it)

Controls from the perspective of people who will sink hundreds of hours into detailed and complex builds.  The quick info that I’ve read from the demo that proves that point with gusto.  The Barbarian build works due to whirlwind being a caster-centered AE attack.  The Monk struggles a bit more since you need to aim some attacks.  The Wizard doesn’t work since you need to aim almost everything, and some attacks have such a large wind up time that the creatures are dead before you get the cast off.  Will the game make money?  For sure.  Will the playerbase be those that went to Blizzcon?  No way.

And that is entirely the problem.

Head in Butt Syndrome

There’s a problem in large companies where people are conditioned to believe that they are correct and the client is not.  In most cases, those companies are taking advantage of a specific customer base and ignore both their feedback and the trends, while making disastrous decisions with long term impacts.

Kodak is right up there.  US automakers are a group that nearly everyone was impacted by.  At the ground level, the people who are helping the customers see the extremely boneheaded decisions.  Their feedback is either ignored, or so filtered that it’s near useless when it reaches the people who make the actual decisions.  Marketing seems to run all.  It takes a heck of a management team to course correct, or tell the execs that they are wrong… and great execs to demand that type of team.

I think we’re at the point now where it’s pretty clear that gamer-first culture is gone at Blizzard.   The ridiculousness of WoW’s BfA work.  The tone deaf responses on Hearthstone until M:TG launched.  HotS which still can’t seem to find forward progress.  Overwatch is one space where it seems to have something positive going – this from Kaplan.

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Does it make sense to make Blizzard Immortal?  From a business perspective, 100%.  They should have a ton more presence in mobile.  Does it make sense to have people PAY to come see you and decide to launch a product you KNOW they don’t want?  In what world would you run your own convention and get booed?  Wyatt knows this.  Everyone that has ever set foot at Blizzcon knows this.  That they decided to make this the item of discussion for this year is insulting to everyone involved – both fans and developers.

All Could Have Been Avoided

Blizz built the hype, which was pretty clear after 6 years that people were looking for something.  They tried to douse expectations, but that ship had clearly sailed.  Instead of just dropping this with nothing else (and no release date), they could have pitched a new D3 class with a TBD date.  They could have announced a D2 remaster, with a TBD date.  They could have just had a D4 trailer with pure cinematics, and a TBD date.

Or they could have simply waited to announce Immortal until a PAX-like event, or in Asia where 95% of the playerbase is going to be anyhow (like they did with Starcraft 2).  Hearthstone wasn’t even announced at Blizzcon – it was at PAX.  That makes sense since CCG games were already at PAX.

Blizzard is a billion dollar company, with some of the most hardcore fans on the planet.  It dwarfs all competition in terms of self-run conventions (EvE would likely be 2nd).  The company knew what it was doing.  Any possible defense to the opposite would mean that someone needs to be fired for incompetence.  A 10 minute google search would have told you that.  A 10 second visit to any fan forum would have made that super clear.

Customer Service

And to be again quite clear, none of the people that were on stage deserve any personal attacks.  They do however deserve every snarky comment.  They are the face of the company, just like any help desk agent would be. For every ovation a presenter may get, it comes with the risk of heckling and boos.

Someone isn’t toxic when they disagree with you.  They are toxic when they focus on the personal aspects rather than the business decisions.  There’s plenty of hyperbole.  The world is ending nonsense. But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to say, LoL chat.

What really sucks here is that clearly the fans and the developers are highly invested in the franchise.  A near 25 year relationship.  The players are looking around at things like Path of Exile, or Torchlight:Frontiers and wondering how their BFF Wyatt can improve on that model.  There is a still an opportunity here for dialogue.

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