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*.
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.
Eurogamer has become quite used to attending Blizzcon and asking the World of Warcraft team about their stance on Legacy servers. We're not so used to Blizzard actually having anything to say on that front.
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.
Yesterday's media briefing by Blizzard brought us details of new Heroes and a new battleground coming to Heroes of the Storm, as well as even more mischievous mechanics for Hearthstone, but the publisher's not done with Gamescom quite yet.
At 5pm this evening there'll be a special stream to lift the lid on the sixth expansion for World of Warcraft. It's a timely announcement too, given the notable wobble in WOW's subscription numbers that was revealed in this week's financial update.
Can Blizzard find a way to convince lapsed subscribers from the past to come back home, and maintain the enthusiasm of those still playing the game in the present? How long will we have to wait until the new expansion arrives, and what exactly can we expect from the game between now and then?
I'd tried saving the hard way, and it wasn't working. That glowing skeletal horse seemed permanently out of reach, so I kept dipping in.
World of Warcraft turned ten on Sunday, and through the week we've been marking the anniversary with a series of features from across Eurogamer's editorial team. John's already taken us through the game's finest dungeon - not to mention its toughest achievement - now Bertie sets out to discover if you can ever really go back.
World of Warcraft turned ten on Sunday, and all throughout this week we'll be marking the anniversary with a series of features from across Eurogamer's editorial team. Having taken you through the game's finest dungeon, today John tells the tale of how he bagged WOW's most elusive achievement.
World of Warcraft turned ten on Sunday, and all throughout this week we'll be marking the anniversary with a series of features from across Eurogamer's editorial team. Today, John reminisces on the game's early raiding scene, and pays tribute to one of Blizzard's greatest dungeons.
Before every new WOW expansion there's a patch which lays the foundation for the next round of adventuring in Azeorth and beyond. This week's release of Patch 6.0.2 introduces extensive changes to the game's combat stats, plenty of interface tweaks across the board, and a new dungeon and quest-line to help players get accustomed to the Warlords of Draenor expansion before it arrives next month. Here's what jumped out at us as while we were poking around in the new content.
A rather uninspiring quest-line introduces WOW's next chapter
WOW's questing has come on leaps and bounds since 2004, but there's still an overwhelming dependence on point-to-point adventuring. While it serves a certain purpose nevertheless, there's nothing about the brief quest-line which introduces the next chapter of the game's grand story that suggests things will be radically different in Warlords of Draenor. The Iron Horde are storming through the Blasted Lands' Dark Portal to make their first tentative claims on Azeroth, and you're part of the vanguard monitoring the enemy's arrival.
In a little over a month from now, World of Warcraft's fifth expansion will be released. Titled Warlords of Draenor, the new expansion raises the level cap to 100, introduces a new garrison system to give players a permanent sense of place in the world, and ushers in the usual feast of new dungeons, raids and player-versus-player content.
Every week we bring you an article from our archive, either for you to discover for the first time or enjoy again. Today, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of World of Warcraft and to kickstart a week of celebration on the site, we bring you Oli Welsh's take on Blizzard's defining MMO, originally published as part of our series on games of the generation..
"NOW FOR YOU, INSECTS! BOLDLY, YOU SOUGHT THE POWER OF RAGNAROS. NOW YOU SHALL SEE IT FIRSTHAND!"
Traditional MMOs have gone out of fashion lately. It used to be that every gaming brand had exciting untapped MMO potential and every publisher wanted an MMO in its stable, but the gold rush inspired by World of Warcraft yielded little precious metal, and a lot of publishers got burned in the process - especially Electronic Arts with Star Wars: The Old Republic - while the term "MMO" has become taboo when discussing a new breed of games that includes The Division and Destiny, even though in many respects they are both massively multiplayer and online.
Blizzard launches Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion for World of Warcraft, at midnight tonight at perhaps the most crucial time in the gargantuan fantasy MMO's seven year history.
Every Sunday we bring you an article from our archive, either for you to enjoy for the first time or for you to discover again. This week, with Blizzard's latest World of Warcraft expansion going strong and as we await the launch of Elite Dangerous, we return to John Bedford's opinion piece from 2012 on how to build better worlds.
This interview appears simultaneously on Eurogamer and on our sister trade site, GamesIndustry.biz.
You can hardly say that World of Warcraft is fighting for survival. Blizzard's online world approaches its seventh birthday in the same position of total dominance over subscription gaming that it's held since the servers were turned on.
But with every year that passes, the pressures on it increase - from big-ticket rivals like Star Wars: The Old Republic, the busy gaggle of free-to-play games, and from untamed community hits like League of Legends and Minecraft which seem to be able to summon tens of millions of players out of nowhere.
Nevertheless, WOW's greatest enemy by far is itself. Or, perhaps, it's its age. It's been a long time, now - for all of us.
Blizzard's head writer and lore guru - or senior vice president of story and franchise development to his friends - Chris Metzen has just announced his retirement. To mark the moment, here's a profile of the man we originally published on 20th October 2011.
In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the ancient and powerful Dragon Aspect known as Deathwing returned to and laid waste to the world of Azeroth. He, once known as Neltharion, was created by god-like Titans along with four other Dragon Aspects to watch over the land of Kalimdor. But the roaming terrors of the universe, the Old Gods, made Deathwing go mad.
Now you, in patch 4.3, get to finally face and fight Deathwing. He, it, is the most powerful thing in World of Warcraft, so killing Deathwing will be far more complicated - and dramatic - than an upfront head-to-head. Just imagining the loot from such a monumental encounter is enough to stimulate millions of saliva glands around the world.
While the Deathwing fight - the culmination of the Deathwing raids - may be the focus, it is by no means the only attraction of Patch 4.3. These patches are closer to mini-expansions than they are bug-squashing updates. Patch 4.3 also brings the intriguing new ability to Transmogrify your armour and weaponry to resemble other pieces of armour or weaponry. You could have a Tier 10 set of armour look like a Tier 1 set of armour. You could even have High Warlord armour look like Tier 1 armour. How will that play out?
It was Oblivion's horse armour that set the alarm bells off for me. There was a mixture of amusement and incredulity, which quickly descended into horror as the numbers started rolling in. It was the beginning of a fragmentation from the boxed product you'd scurried away from the shops to greedily indulge yourself in, towards one where a breadcrumb trail of further expenditure lay between you and completion of an adventure.
There are countless good reasons why I've never crossed the threshold of a bookies. First and foremost is my poor relationship with lady luck. However, it's also about my natural inclination towards chain smoking fistfuls of cigarettes and chewing my fingernails to the bone.
Third World of Warcraft expansion Cataclysm launched last night and, as has become tradition, Blizzard staff fanned out across the globe to field questions from the media and sign game boxes for excited fans at midnight launch events.
The release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm marks six years of Blizzard's MMO dominance and the raising of the bar for MMO standards. But now, as servers buckle and players frantically level up their Worgens and Goblins, some will rightly ask: How long can Blizzard keep this up? Or, to put it another way, what can topple World of Warcraft?
The headline, I'm told, became an all-too-regular mantra for Activision's beleaguered communications team long ago.
Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz's widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial, is a weekly dissection of an issue weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.
Every Sunday, we dust off one of our favourite articles from the archive for you to enjoy again or maybe read for the first time. As Hearthstone goes into open beta and Blizzard sits on the cusp of another potential phenomenon, we thought we'd go back to November 2009, as World of Warcraft celebrated its first five years.
In part one of our exclusive look at how the biggest game in the world was made, key Blizzard developers took us through development from the earliest concepts to the game's launch. In the second and final part this week, we look at how Blizzard reacted to its unexpected success, and how it's changed in the years since.
Eleven million players. Two expansions. $1.2 billion a year in revenue. 16GB of your hard disk. Billions of hours played. Acres of news-print. A Sam Raimi-directed movie in the works. A billion-dollar grey market in gold and items. An episode of South Park. Therapists creating in-game characters for addiction counselling. Eleven million players.
Sitting in an office in the memorabilia-filled halls of Blizzard's nerve-centre in southern California, Rob Pardo is unassuming, chirpy and sincere - a manner which belies the fact that this is unquestionably one of the most influential men in the games business.
We've already covered the big class changes coming to World of Warcraft in the imminent Wrath of the Lich King - or the even-more-imminent Echoes of Doom patch that will precede it in the next couple of weeks. We've also romped through the incredible Death Knight intro. Over the next six weeks we'll explore Northrend and the expansion's new player-versus-player options - but before that, we have some nitty-gritty to attend to.
You might think a graphic novel series would be a logical spin-off for World of Warcraft, what with the game's unique art style and wealth of lore. And out of nearly 11 million players, surely one or two might be into comic books... But in fact it was only last November, three years after WOW's release, that the first graphic novel hit the shelves. WildStorm is now working on volume 2, with plenty of plans in the pipeline for the release of new expansion Wrath of the Lich King.
Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz' widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial is a weekly dissection of one of the issues weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.
Mike Morhaime is the chief executive of Blizzard Entertainment, co-founded with his college buddies Allen Adham and Frank Pearce under the name Silicon & Synapse in 1991. Over the next 17 years it built a formidable name for itself in real-time strategy (Warcraft and StarCraft), action RPG (Diablo), and more recently massively multiplayer gaming, with World of Warcraft, the proverbial golden egg that has brought in 10 million subscribers. Blizzard is known for its perfectionism, its lengthy, iterative development process, its early embrace of online multiplayer gaming, and its staunch support of the PC and even Mac as gaming platforms.
Let's be blunt: World of Warcraft is, for a lot of people, a lot of the time, a solo RPG. Whether starting a first character, casually dipping in to play old ones, or compulsively levelling "alts" in the gaps in your main hero's raiding schedule, it's a safe bet that the majority of players out there at any one time are on their own, in the wild, churning through quests. And it's also a safe bet that they're doing it wrong.
Art is important to Blizzard. The offices of the World of Warcraft developer, currently working on RTS sequel StarCraft II, are plastered with it. Vivid, colourful and extravagant concept art is hung everywhere. The offices even have a curator, part of whose job description is to ensure that huge floor-to-ceiling pieces are displayed around the campus. One such piece is in the canteen - a jolly painting of drinking dwarves by Samwise Didier.
Last night, HMV Oxford Street found itself surrounded by warlocks and orcs, warriors and night elves, paladins and mages and priests.
It's odd to learn that Blizzard Entertainment might be wary of taking on a new challenge. After all, the decision to create a Warcraft MMORPG, despite the huge amounts of time, money and risk involved, worked out rather well.
Concluding our coverage of Chart-Track's annual report, today Kristan picks his way through the PC market, the burgeoning Xbox 360 market, and any other markets he can find. He was round here the other day admiring fish and everything. Multi-Market Reed we used to call him. I'm not saying he's promiscuous though. He is, but I'm not saying that. All data (and trout) from Chart-Track's annual report. Used with permission. And in Fisherman's Pies.
The steady decline of the PC software market was in evidence once again in 2005, with the total market share (by value) of all PC software (including non-games packages from the likes of Norton) representing just 24.6 per cent. By contrast, back in 1999, this figure was a whopping 41 per cent, although the actual money spent by consumers has remained roughly unchanged since that time (£299.188m in 2005, versus £290.316m in 1999, when you were clearly a bit stingier). Compared to last year, sales are down from their all-time value peak of £310.856m, which is a curious statistic when you consider that the actual installed base of PCs across the country has never been higher, broadband penetration has been soaring and prices of PCs are at rock bottom.
World of Warcraft has been in the gaming news rather a lot lately. Sometimes for positive reasons, such as the announcement of The Burning Crusade expansion and the fact that there are now more than five million WOW players around the globe.
Downstairs there's a massed crowd of Blizzard acolytes. Upstairs, it's different. Quieter. With more tea.
This interview was originally published on our sister site, GamesIndustry.biz. Check back there each week for the biggest industry interviews and news. And charts and jobs and other stuff. (Right, disengage pretentious-crosspromotional-narration voice.)
Blizzard likes to get things right. Whatever the game, if it has a Blizzard logo on the front end then the Californian developer won't let it out the door until it meets its own expectations - and frequently betters them. Indeed, only recently has the firm started to follow industry trends and farm out development of certain titles to other companies, and in doing so has been extremely cautious about who it works with, and equally mindful of their progress - you need only look at Starcraft: Ghost for evidence of that. So, in a sense, the "surprise success" of the American version of World of Warcraft - Blizzard's first MMORPG - has been nothing of the sort. The only disappointment, from our perspective, was that we were expected to wait several months longer in Europe than anywhere else in the world to get our hands on it.
For a game that isn't even available yet, World of Warcraft is remarkably popular. Indeed, when Blizzard decided to open up beta applications to Europe earlier this year, the developer received ten times the number of expected sign-ups.
It seems that you can't move without stumbling across a massively multiplayer game these days, with several major offerings already online and an apparently endless barrage of new titles on their way over the next couple of years. So the prospect of Blizzard joining this headlong rush with a new Warcraft role-playing game immediately brought to mind the words "band" and "wagon". Cartoon Networking The good news is that World of Warcraft is already shaping up to be far more than a tacky second-rate spin-off or an attempt to cash-in on the latest buzz word, and if nothing else the game's visuals should help it to stand out from the ever growing online crowd. Like Warcraft III, it has a stylised cartoon-like feel which is eye-catching without being overly cutesy. From curvaceous half-timbered medieval villages and farms to lush jungles and wide sandy beaches, everything is beautifully detailed while still looking like a twisted caricature. This world basks in the glow of the now traditional dynamic lighting, shown off in the demonstration we saw by a lighthouse casting its beam into the night as waves gently lapped on the shoreline below. The result is a nice middle ground between the extremes of overhyped photo-realism and gimmicky cel shading. The character models are equally impressive, with humans, orcs and bull-like taurens all intricately detailed and lovingly animated. Monsters range from fantasy staples such as the kobold (here portrayed as rat-like creatures with backpacks) to more outlandish creatures, including what appeared to be a Freddy Kruger look-a-like with glowing red eyes and fence posts attached to its back. The mind boggles. Faster Hooves The gameplay underlying the graphics is what really counts though, and at the moment it's hard to say whether Blizzard can bring anything new to the genre. On the surface it looks like more of the same, but there are some tweaks and tucks to the formula. Perhaps most importantly Blizzard are promising faster-paced gameplay with shorter, more tactical fights and less "downtime" between them. Given how tedious the current crop of online worlds can be, this is probably a good thing. The game will also feature more involved multi-part quests, ranging from short tasks you can complete in an hour or less to epic missions that will keep you busy for days at a time. The idea is to always have "something meaningful" for the player to do, regardless of whether you're just having a quick burst on the game or an all-night marathon. Blizzard's effort also has the advantage of being able to draw on several years worth of back story and settings from the Warcraft real-time strategy series and the cancelled Warcraft Adventures spin-off. This should really pay off when it comes to creating an on-going storyline for players to take part in once the game has launched, and to maintain consistency the writer behind Warcraft III is also sketching out a plot for the online game. Conclusion World of Warcraft is looking promising if not exactly revolutionary, but the biggest question surrounding the game is when will we actually get to play it for ourselves. When Blizzard first announced it at ECTS a few months ago, designer Bill Roper joked that "whatever release date I give you, you won't believe it .. and you'd probably be right". Shipping games on schedule has never been one of Blizzard's strongpoints, and massively multiplayer games have a much longer development cycle than those of any other genre to start with. Certainly we wouldn't expect to see the game until well into 2003, and by then players may be justifiably cynical given the remarkable lack of innovation we've seen elsewhere in the genre so far. Whether cartoonish graphics and the Warcraft name will be enough to overcome that remains to be seen.