Home is a curious concept. Generally, we use the term to suggest a snuggly place that feels like ours. Where we can feel comfortable and secure. In many ways, it's as emotive a word as love. People use it sparingly. It truly means something to use it to describe a location. Understandably, if your parents' home doesn't feel like your home any more, you're liable to call it something different than you may have as a child. And yet, often, at Christmas, people with their own homes will still describe themselves as 'going home for Christmas' when they explain they're staying with their parents for a few days.
When I booted up the World of Warcraft Classic demo for the first time a couple of weeks ago - while BlizzCon was still in full swing, and the servers were busy - the general chat channel was flooded with nostalgic longing. People were loving this recreation of the great massively multiplayer game's early days and lamenting what WOW had become in the 14 years since. Someone celebrated freedom from the tyranny of item levels. Someone mentioned the hushed sound design, noting that they could hear every footstep and clink of their chainmail. Someone else remembered how the community was so much friendlier back then, in so much less of a rush.
Whenever World of Warcraft Horde warchief Sylvanas Windrunner was mentioned at BlizzCon 2018, division swept the room. Some people booed, some people cheered. Sylvanas is on a genocidal rampage, you see, and it's caused a schism in the Horde. Some people follow her - and will to the ends of the, um, Azeroth - while others openly rebel under the hashtag Not My Warchief.
For months I ran the Stratholme dungeon in World of Warcraft, over and over through the burning city, through the big gate towards the corrupted paladin lord Baron Rivendare and his coveted skeletal horse. But all the time I never really knew why. I never really knew the significance of the place, that it was the turning point for famous paladin Arthas on his path to to the dark side, to becoming Lich King. But I would have had I played Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos*.
"Not my warchief," says the goblin rogue who is moonwalking around impatiently as we listen to some dialogue. We're playing The Battle for Lordaeron, the scenario which introduces Battle for Azeroth, World of Warcraft's latest and seventh expansion. He's talking about Sylvanas Windrunner, undead elf, queen of the Forsaken, and current Warchief of the Horde, one of WOW's two quarrelsome player factions.
In a modernist hotel lobby on the outskirts of Barcelona I sit face to face with the President. He's pretty casual as far as presidents go, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, wearing sunglasses even though we're inside. He's got a tattoo up the underside of his forearm which reads 'Neverdie'. It's his alias, but more of a name to him now than Jon Jacobs ever will be. He is President of Virtual Reality. It has nothing to do with Oculus Rift or VR goggles, and it's not some silly title in a game. President of Virtual Reality means president of all virtual realities - World of Warcraft, Eve Online, Destiny, the lot.
At some point in 2007, I become hopelessly addicted to World of Warcraft.
On Friday evening Blizzard announced a seventh expansion for World of Warcraft called Battle for Azeroth. Headline features were Warfronts, Allied Races, character-level 120, and two new zones: Zandalar and Kul Tiras. We were also briefly introduced to a very important new medallion artifact, the Heart of Azeroth, which will power up other pieces of equipment you wear. Everything was explained in more detail in subsequent panels at BlizzCon 2017, which I've watched and unpacked below.
Separately of the expansion, however (which has no release date although next autumn is probably the earmarked arrival window), patch 7.3.5 will contain two key new things: the beginnings of game-wide level-scaling, and a preview of a new, dynamic control point PvP arena.
Game-wide level-scaling adjusts enemies within minimum and maximum level boundaries for specific zones, helping retain the feel that some zones are more deadly than others.