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.
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*.
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.
Alright, Donlan's not in today, so I'm writing the bit that goes along with this podcast. Incredibly, he's gone to Disneyland for the week, as that's the sort of ridiculous, whimsical life he leads.
It's been a long journey for World of Warcraft, and it's been a long journey for me with it. I've played it more than any other game, and loved it just as much. Yet for most of that time, I've been what the WOW community would term a casual. I dip in and out, questing mostly, solo or with a friend, working on crafting, running the odd dungeon, not really raiding any more. I have a fling with every new expansion and then move on, sometimes returning mid-season for a few weeks of idle comfort gaming when I'm bored.
It's easy to take for granted what an extraordinary body of work Blizzard's Battle.net game launcher represents. By any measure of quality, profitability and breadth of creativity, Blizzard has everything most publishers could ever dream of - and yet it's never looked more vulnerable when measured against the standards of its own achievements.
StarCraft's eSports crown has long sat on another's head, while Heroes of the Storm has yet to penetrate the public consciousness in the same way that Hearthstone has managed to, and to such a remarkable degree. Hearthstone! Even this seemingly unstoppable rising star of the Blizzard family has yet to prove its longevity at a publisher where the value of franchises is measured in decades, rather than years.
What did yesterday's reveal of the Legion expansion do to bolster the foundations of World of Warcraft, the game that remains the jewel in Blizzard's crown, yet continues to suffer a slide in subscribers? Part necessary summarising of a knotted ball of unfinished business, part name-dropping fan-service, the positioning of WOW's sixth expansion felt, in truth, like a bit of a mess at first.
Wilkommen to our third and final Gamescom update. The show's going to continue over the weekend, but the business folks are packing up and fleeing, leaving the vast showfloor to the general public to drift between heaving booth demos, like Dead Rising but with more Final Fantasy cosplayers.