Blizzard announced something that should evoke plenty of nostalgia for those of us who remember playing StarCraft against our friends at LAN parties back in the day – StarCraft: Remastered. It is an upgrade of the original StarCraft game and its award winning expansion, StarCraft: Brood War. This could inspire those who stopped playing StarCraft to get back into the game.
We’ve remastered our units, buildings, and environments, improved game audio, and broadened our supported resolutions. Illustrated interludes bring the struggles and victories of heroes like Artanix, Fenix, Tassadar, Raynor, and Kerrigan to life like never before. Most importantly, the strategy gameplay that StarCraft perfected years ago remains unchanged.
In StarCraft: Remastered, players will be able to zoom out for a Battlecruiser’s view of the battlefield. They will also be able to zoom in to see fine details – such as “the veins on a Mutalisk’s wings.” The original StarCraft soundtrack and dialogue has been re-recorded and rejuvinated. There are race-themed comic book interludes that tell the original story with a fresh coat of paint.
Players can choose from Terrans, Protoss, or Zerg. Players need to finish the campaign portion of the game first, and then can battle against their friends or team up with other players online.
In the StarCraft Forums, there is a post in which Community Manger Traysent provides some clarification to players about what version of StarCraft will be free. “The original game will be free. The HD version will be an upgrade you can buy.” Kotaku reported that StarCraft: Remastered will be due out later this summer.
Blizzard has enacted the first of a series of measures designed to dissuade Overwatch players from gaining experience (EXP) while they are away from their computer’s keyboard (AFK). This problem is happening in Custom Games, and Blizzard has enacted the first of their escalation plan in order to dissuade players from doing that. If the behavior continues, more of the escalation plan will be put into place.
Game Director Jeff Kaplan explained things in a Forum Post in the Overwatch Forums on Battle.net. He makes it clear that the purpose of introducing the Game Browser and Custom Game features was to enable players to experience Overwatch in unique and different ways. They were aware the features could be exploited, and created an internal escalation plan – just in case players abused the features. From the Forum post:
…It’s very disappointing to us that players abused the system to gain experience while inactive. As some of you have noticed, Skirmish in Custom Game no longer rewards experience. Also, the AFK timer is now in place in Skirmish mode (in Custom Game only). This change is rolling out over a 24 hour period and should be live in all regions by the end of today.
Jeff Kaplan also took the time to make it abundantly clear that there is no moral ambiguity about gaining EXP while AFK in a Custom Game.
I’ve seen some discussion in the community and in the press on this topic and sometimes it gets talked about as if this is a grey area. Is this wrong or is this ok? Well, let me take a grey area and make it starkly black and white for you. Abusing and exploiting Custom Game or any other game mode to earn experience in Overwatch while inactive is NOT ok. The reason I want to be absolutely clear about this is in part because we are going to start to take disciplinary action against people who partake in these activities.
He goes on to clarify behaviors that will get your account banned:
If you create a Custom game that in any way encourages players to gain experience while inactive, you risk having your account banned.
If you join any game mode – including Custom Games – with the intent of gaining experience while being inactive, you risk having your account banned.
Do not name your Custom Game that in any way even implies that gaining experience while inactive is OK – not even as a joke – because doing so puts you at risk of having your account banned.
If this behavior doesn’t stop, more of the internal escalation plan will be enacted – until it reaches the final part that involves turning off the ability to gain experience in a Custom game. Players who don’t want to see the Custom Game feature limited further are asked to help Blizzard by reporting players who get into a game, and then go AFK, for the purpose of gaining EXP.
Blizzard Entertainment announced on a World of Warcraft Forum post that they will be ending support for two operating systems. Those systems are Windows XP and Windows Vista. If you are still using one of those operating systems, you are going to need to upgrade if you want to keep playing Blizzard’s games.
The Forum post was posted by Community Manager Ornyx said:
Starting later this year, we will begin the process of ending support for Windows XP and Windows Vista in World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm. Microsoft ceased mainstream support for these versions of Windows in 2009 and 2012, respectively, but since a decent portion of our audience was still using them at the time, we continued supporting them. However, there have been three major Windows releases since Vista, and at this point, the vast majority of our audience has upgraded to one of the newer versions.
Community Manager Ornyx points out that when Blizzard ends support for Windows XP and Windows Vista, their games will not run on them anymore. Players who are still using either one of those older operating systems should upgrade to a newer version.
Blizzard is going to roll out this change on a staggered schedule, which should give players who are currently using Windows Vista or Windows XP time to upgrade their OS. Additional notices about this change will be posted as Blizzard gets closer to making that change for each of their games.
Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows XP on April 14, 2009 (with extended support ended on April 8, 2014). Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows Vista Service Pack 2, on April 10, 2012. Extended support for Windows Vista Service Pack 2 will end on April 11, 2017.
Blizzard Entertainment announced that the Primal Flamesaber Mount is now available. It is a mount that can only be used in World of Warcraft. In order to get this new mount, a player must play Heroes of the Storm (another one of Blizzard’s games).
Mounts are very useful in World of Warcraft because they can help your character get from one place to another very quickly. It is possible for players to earn several mounts just by playing World of Warcraft. Other mounts can be purchased from the Blizzard Store. Once in a while, Blizzard offers a World of Warcraft mount that players cannot get unless they play a different Blizzard game.
Such is the case with the Primal Flamesaber mount. To get this mount, players need to leave Azeroth and venture into the Nexus. Play 15 Heroes of the Storm matches with a friend from your Battle.net friends list between now and March 13, 2017. Both you, and your friend, have to play Heroes that originated in World of Warcraft.
In addition, players who complete that goal will also get a Judgment Charger mount, and a 10-day Stimpack, that they can use in Heroes of the Storm.
This offer is great for players who already play both of those Blizzard games and who have at least one friend on their Battle.net friends list who plays Heroes of the Storm.
This is not the first time that Blizzard has offered a special mount to World of Warcraft players who spend some time playing one of Blizzard’s other games. In 2014, players who won three games in Hearthstone earned themselves a Hearthsteed to use in World of Warcraft.
Blizzard Entertainment created the WoW Token in 2015. In my opinion, the purpose was to give players a safe and secure way to buy in-game gold directly from Blizzard (and not from a disreputable gold seller). Today, Blizzard Entertainment expanded the potential uses for a WoW Token. Players can now exchange a WoW Token for Battle.net Balance.
Previously, the WoW Token had two purposes. A player who wanted to buy in-game gold could log in to World of Warcraft and spend real world currency on a WoW Token. After buying one, that player would put the WoW Token onto the World of Warcraft in-game Auction House. The player would get a quote that confirmed how much gold they would receive whenever their WoW Token sold.
Another player, who wanted to buy game-time, but did not have the real world currency to spend on it, could use their in-game gold to buy a WoW Token from the World of Warcraft in-game Auction House. That player would spend their in-game gold and use the WoW Token to pay for a month of game-time.
Today, Blizzard Entertainment has added a new option. World of Warcraft players who want to add to their Battle.net account can visit the World of Warcraft in-game Auction House, buy a WoW Token, and choose to redeem it for Battle.net Balance. In short, this gives players a new way to add to their Battle.net Balance without having to use real world currency.
The cool thing is that a player can spend the money in their Battle.net Balance on World of Warcraft Pets and Mounts. Or, they can spend it on items from other Blizzard Entertainment games like Overwatch or Heroes of the Storm. This gives more options to World of Warcraft players who also play other Blizzard Entertainment games.
Blizzard Entertainment has announced the creation of Overwatch League. It is a professional sports league for Blizzard’s popular Overwatch game. The inaugural season will begin in 2017.
Overwatch League is a world-class sports ecosystem for professional Overwatch competition. Combining Blizzard’s esports pedigree with the best practices of major professional sports, the Overwatch League will focus on long-term stability for teams as well as opportunities for players to establish the types of professional careers associated with traditional sports.
At the start of the 2017 season, Blizzard will host a combine, where eligible players who have previously distinguished themselves in competition will be invited to try out for teams. Players at the combine will be evaluated across a range of tests, giving teams the opportunity to sign those who best round out their rosters. Anyone picked up by a team during the signing period will be guaranteed a contract that includes a baseline minimum salary and benefits package.
Blizzard Entertainment has launched the WoW Legion Companion App. It is for players of World of Warcraft who have the recently released Legion expansion. The app can be downloaded for free from either the App Store or Google Play.
The WoW Legion Companion App can be used by players to keep track of their progress in game. It is not a substitution for the World of Warcraft game (or the Legion expansion). In other words, the app lets you do certain in-game things through your mobile device, but you still need to use your computer to play WoW.
Players can use the app to:
Track World Quests – View your active world quests and emissary bounties from the app. You can check on rewards and figure out which quests to do once you’re in-game.
Mission Control – See which missions are available to you in your Class Order Hall and get them started through the app. You can complete missions, collect rewards, manage your followers, upgrade their gear, and recruit troops for future missions.
Order Hall Progress – Conduct research and track the status of your Order Hall tech tree to maintain the momentum of your in-game progression.
The app requires players to have an active World of Warcraft subscription, the World of Warcraft Legion expansion, and at least one character that is at the appropriate level. Some things do not unlock until after your character reaches certain levels.
In November of 2015, Blizzard Entertainment acquired King Digital Entertainment. Since then, there has been much speculation that the result would be an app that connected to at least one of Blizzard’s games. The WoW Legion Companion app appears to be that result.
Blizzard Entertainment is in the process of rolling out a high bandwidth server option to Overwatch. It was something that was part of the Overwatch beta. At the time, Blizzard said that they would investigate adding the high bandwidth option to other game modes if it performed well and players responded positively to it.
Keep in mind that this is being rolled out and may take a few weeks for it to appear on all regions. Right now, they are rolling out the high bandwidth option globally to PC. (Overwatch is not compatible with Mac). Blizzard is exploring how they can bring the high bandwidth option to console.
In the official post about this upcoming change, Community Manager Lylirra explains more about what the high bandwidth option means.
So what does that mean? In Overwatch, our high bandwidth option adjusts the game’s client update rate (the frequency at which your client gets updates from the game server) from 21 updates per second to 63 updates per second. This reduces the amount of time between when you complete an action and when your client hears back about the result, which in turn will help make the game feel more responsive.
In addition, Blizzard is adding in “tech that will automatically and adaptively scale down your update rate if we find your connection can’t keep up.” They are looking to add an option that will allow players to self-limit their update rate in a future patch. The reason for that is because Blizzard recognizes that “not all internet connections are equal”.
Yesterday, Blizzard Entertainment enacted a second ban wave of players who were cheating in Overwatch. Many banned players complained online and some of their comments suggested they were seeking some kind of revenge on Blizzard. Not long after that, Blizzard experienced a DDoS attack. This doesn’t prove that the situations are connected – but it certainly looks suspicious.
In May, a warning was posted on the Overwatch Forums that stated: “If a player is found to be cheating – or using hacks, bots, or third-party software that provides any sort of unfair advantage – that player will be permanently banned from the game. Full stop.” In June, Blizzard banned players who were cheating in Overwatch. One would think this should have been enough of a clue that Blizzard is serious about banning cheaters.
Despite a very obvious example of what would happen to cheaters, some players decided to cheat in Overwatch anyway. This caused Blizzard to enact a second banwave. Kotaku reported:
This time around, Blizzard sniffed out players who use “triggerbots”, which shoot for players when their crosshairs appear over a target, and “aimbots,” which aid in accuracy.
A Reddit user compiled a series of screenshots of complaining comments that were posted by people who were cheating and got banned. Many of the comments are overly dramatic, and some are NSFW.
Included in the Kotaku article are a few comments that imply that some banned players want to take revenge upon Blizzard via a DDoS attack. There’s no way to know whether those comments came from people who actually know how to do that, but it definitely looks suspicious.
Yesterday and today, @BlizzardCS (the verified Twitter account for Blizzard Entertainment North America Customer Support) posted a series of tweets stating that they were experiencing a DDoS attack. It affected players ability to log in to all of Blizzard’s games and also impacted their websites.
Shortly before I posted this blog, @BlizzardCS tweeted:
The DDoS attacks from earlier have ended and players can now log into BattleNet. We are investigating reports of World Server Down in WoW.
In September of 2015, Blizzard Entertainment added a silence penalty to Heroes of the Storm. (Blizzard will soon be adding a silence penalty to World of Warcraft as well.) Players who earn a silence penalty lose the ability to chat with most other players. It is understandable that being silenced will irritate players who were being abusive in game. Even so, that doesn’t excuse the guy who decided to threaten Blizzard Entertainment with an AK-47.
According to the Department of Justice (Eastern District of California) website, a 28-year-old man named Stephen Cebula has been charged with “making threats to injure employees of the video-game company Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.” The post also says:
According to court documents, between July 2, 2016, and July 3, 2016, Cebula transmitted messages over the internet to Blizzard Entertainment, in which he stated that he “may or may not pay [Blizzard] a visit with an AK47 amongst some other ‘fun’ tools,” and “might be inclined to ’cause a disturbance’ at [Blizzard’s] headquarters in California with an AK47 and a few other ‘opportunistic tools’..”. Cebula was arrested on July 12, 2016, and is in custody. He is scheduled to be arraigned July 26, 2016.
If he is convicted, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Department of Justice website says: “The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that in one threat, court records showed that Stephen Cebula wrote “Careful Blizzard… I live in California and your headquarters is here in California… You keep silencing me in Heroes of the Storm and I may or may not pay you a visit with an AK-47 amongst some other ‘fun’ tools.” Blizzard’s headquarters is in Irvine, California.
Players that earn a silence penalty in Heroes of the Storm receive it because they have been posting abusive chat, posting spam, cheating or botting, or doing things in game intentionally to anger the players on their team (like walking away from the keyboard). If you someday find that you earned a silence penalty, it’s ok to feel upset about it. Just be very careful about how you choose to express your irritation online.