GameSentral Rewind 102: BlizzCon 2016

This is a special edition of the GameSentral Rewind, focusing on BlizzCon 2016.

Another BlizzCon has come to a close, and Blizzard made news across the company’s major franchises. Here’s a recap of what you’ve might’ve missed.

Overwatch unveils new hero Sombra


Sombra is the latest character to join Overwatch. The “stealthy offensive infiltrator” hacked her way onto the con’s opening ceremony, bursting with the personality of all the game’s cast of characters.

New gameplay footage showed off her hackish abilities.

The Oasis and Echo Point Arcade maps were announced along with a new Arcade, featuring two new game types including 1v1 and 3v3 arena-style modes.

Sombra, Arcade, and Echo Point Arcade will come to the Public Test Realm this week, while Oasis will come next month.

Single-Hero limit coming to quick play

Overwatch’s Quick Play mode will have a single-hero limit.

The game’s dev team also shed light on the game’s pending Arcade mode, which will feature a no-limits option when selecting heroes.

Server Browser being worked on “actively”

During a Q&A session with fans, the Overwatch team said that it’s “actively working” on adding server browser to the team-based shooter.

Overwatch League e-sports organization includes city-based teams

Overwatch is expanding into e-sports with the Overwatch League, which is built upon consistency, stability, and accessibility.

The league will have permanent teams unlike e-sports organizations for games like League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm.

“Promotion and relegation is really exciting and awesome in European football, where you have 120 years of history and eight divisions in every country. Overwatch is a brand new game and a brand new ecosystem. We thing having permanent spots for teams is really going to give team owners confidence – and not just team owners, but media partners, sponsors, everyone that’s going to be involved in the Overwatch League.”

-Gio Hunt, Blizzard executive vice president of corporate operations

Blizzard is working to give fans a shorter but more exciting and reliable season. An abbreviated first season will begin in 2017, according to Overwatch e-sports global director Nate Nanzer, starting “around Q3.” However, starting in 2018, Overwatch League will recognize a lengthy off-season each year during the fall and winter months.

“An off-season is really important and something that’s missing in a lot of esports. You have this 12-month calendar, and we’ve heard from teams and players that an off-season would be a welcome addition. The other thing an off-season allows us to do is to make sure that there’s a third-party ecosystem that exists outside of the Overwatch League. While the Overwatch League is the pinnacle of competitive Overwatch, we want to make sure that there’s a robust ecosystem outside of that. You can’t just build the top of the pyramid. You have to have the whole pyramid, right?”

-Nate Nanzer, Overwatch esports global director

The league will also run city-based teams, encouraging a local groundswell of fans, greater merchandising opportunities, and the ability to run matches across many different cities.

“We think there’s an opportunity to bring in people who are interested in esports but maybe haven’t engaged much with it by adding that geographic element.

“We’ve heard from our fans and esports fans more broadly that what they love most about esports is global competition. We want to make sure that we’re delivering as much of that as we can. That’s definitely our vision, to create a global league with lots of global competition that has cities representing every region in the world.”

-Nate Nanzer

While Blizzard will still keep the traditional prize pool, it hopes to transition more towards more mature signs of a league’s success. For example, the company plans to implement a guaranteed minimum salary for players and to require team owners to give them full benefits.

Lastly, Blizzard is drawing a clear path from hobbyist to pro, including a “first of its kind esports combine.”

“We’re going to put players through tests that will determine if they’ll be an excellent Overwatch player. We think that’s a really cool way to give a very clear path.”

-Nate Nanzer

Blizzard has also done more work on the game’s spectate and broadcast features to make esports broadcasts more watchable.

“We’re still iterating on that. We’re still making improvements. We’re exploring things like adding team colors. We’re making lots of quality of life improvements right now.”

-Nate Nanzer

Original Diablo returns in Diablo 3 anniversary patch


In celebration of Diablo’s 20th anniversary, according to Blizzard Chief Development Officer Frank Pearce, the original game is coming to Diablo III.

The game will be playable in the Darkening of Tristom area in the Diablo anniversary patch. The area will feature the first game’s four main bosses, original music, and graphics filters to make Diablo III look like the original. Character movements will also be locked in eight directions.

The patch will be on the Public Test Realm this week.

New Character Class revealed

The Necromancer class is coming to Diablo III as part of the Rise of the Necromancer character pack next year. The pack includes a new in-game pet, two additional character slots and slash tabs (on PC), and a portrait frame, pennant, banner, and banner sigil.

Blizzard called the class part of a “thorough, in-depth analysis” of players’ most requested character class.

Varian Wrynn, Ragnaros announced as Heroes of the Storm’s newest heroes

Heroes of the Storm

Varian Wrynn and Ragnaros will be the newest playable characters for Heroes of the Storm.

Varian comes to the test realm this week and officially next week, while Ragnaros will come in December.

Varian is the game’s first multi-class hero with the ability to fight as a shield-wielding tank or a deadly assassin based on the player’s choices.

Blackheart’s Revenge is the game’s newest brawl, and will debut next week.

The Nexus challenge was also announced to let players unlock rewards in Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch.

Hearthstone ‘Mean Streets of Gadgetzan’ expansion announced

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone’s Mean Street of Gadgetzan expansion was announced with a theme around the bustling port town of Gadgetzan. Keeping with the theme, it features three city factions: The Grimy Goons for Hunters, Paladins, and Warriors, the Kabul for Mages, Priests, and Warlocks, and the Jade Lotus for Druids, Rogues, and Shamans.

Most notably, they introduced tri-class cards, allowing specific cards to work with multiple classes for the first time in the game. This expansion brings 132 new cards to the game.

The expansion will launch in early December.

Allen Adham returns to Blizzard

Blizzard co-founder Allen Adham has returned to the company after leaving in 2004.

He’s been at the studio for just under three months, and is currently working on new projects.

“I’ve been coached not to say too much, especially given the role that I’m in. So, I’ll just leave it at: We are working on a bunch of cool new stuff.”

Allen Adham, Blizzard co-founder

World of Warcraft: Legion 7.2 patch adds new raid, flying

World of Warcraft

The World of Warcraft: Legion panel outlined a host of new features coming in Patch 7.2, including a brand-new raid and the addition of flying around the Broken Isles.

The new Tomb of Sargeras raid, which features a total of nine bosses, will have players explore the depths of the tomb and harness the Pillars of Creation. The new four-boss Cathedral of Eternal Night dungeon is also coming.

Additionally, the patch brings the ability to fly in the Broken Isles, with new Epic Mounts coming for each class, all of which are flying enabled. The patch also marks the return to the Broken Shore, continuing the Class Order Campaign, as well as adding new quests and introducing the new Armies of Legionfall faction.

Before Patch 7.2 launches, Blizzard will release the smaller Patch 7.15 update, which brings back Brawler’s Guild, new bosses, and a new currency. The patch is also adding “micro-holidays” that provide fun diversions from the core game, along with class updates that increase talent diversity, fine tune secondary stats, and add class-specific utilities.

7.1.5 will launch “soon,” and is available now on the Public Test Realm.

No plans to remaster Warcraft 1, 2

A fan asked whether the first two Warcraft games will eventually see a remaster. The short answer is no.

“We are fortunate enough to have all of the original source code and assets to everything we’ve done in the past. But actually, it turns out, it’s really hard to access that stuff, unlock it, and figure out how it all works. Because we’re old, we’ve forgotten.

“We had some dedicated folks that were passionate about the idea, dig up the Warcraft 1 assets and code. They got it working and they got it running in a window. And I played it. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was awesome for its time. I promise you, in today’s world, by today’s standards, it’s just not that fun anymore.

“We have limited resources with everything that we choose to do. We would much rather work on amazing content for World of Warcraft for you guys, or for Overwatch, or evaluating what a future project pipeline might be and devote our time to that, rather than going back and digging up those fossils.”

-Jack Pearce, Blizzard co-founder


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