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The QueueMar 2, 2016 11:00 am CT

The Queue: Overwatch, fantasy, games, and more

Hello Queuers!

It’s been a while. Do you remember me? My name is Adam, and I’m a writer here. I’ve been a writer here for a long time, over eight years infact. But for the past year I’ve been behind the scenes a lot, once in a while popping out from my business and coding hole to write a post. A rare thing, but it does happen!

That said, I’m doing a few Queues. It feels good… it’s like wearing an old shirt. So comfortable and warm. Let’s begin!


Q: Is Blizz making a mistake by trying for force class fantasy on classes that have had little traditionally?

Not at all. I think Blizzard is really knocking it out of the park with their class lore, halls, quests, and everything else they’re doing in Legion. What Blizzard is doing is returning WoW to what its roots truly are — a good, deep story. Giving all this extra lore surrounding the classes you play puts into context your place in the universe that Blizzard is creating.

One of the most often lamented features that disappeared throughout the years were the early class quests. I remember getting my priest staff with my guild watching, and then hanging around my hunter friend as he went for his bow. I remember getting my warrior sword with the friendly help of another warrior, learning early on that this game was all about the community. I looked on in envy at the paladin mounts, leading me to level a paladin and running through all those quests.

Blizzard could do a lot worse by putting a backstory into the classes and making us play through them. It has worked incredibly well for other games, including other major MMOS — look at what Star Wars: The Old Republic is doing. The game is so much better than it was at launch, and it’s developed nicely the idea that each class is unique. Dragons Age is another good example of a game that has a strong class-based fantasy; the more we’re able to do this, the better.


Q: Is blizzard hurting themselves with such a limited beta for Overwatch

I actually think they’re doing the right thing by keeping the beta limited. In my opinion they should limit it even more, however. Blizzard has, quite  unintentionally I believe, made getting into a beta of theirs an expected event. One that people (rightly) look forward to, but (wrongly) expect it to happen all the time.

This sets up a situation that’s bad for a number of reasons. First, despite the mass availability of early access to Blizzard games, people still don’t understand that these games are in development, that it’s expected they’ll break and not work correctly. People want and demand polish, even when a game has just been coded five days ago (if that!). That kind of expectation needs to be managed, and Blizzard has done a very bad job at setting expectations.

Second, early access has become a critique of the gameplay that’s treated as if the game had already launched. Blizzard designers are well known, moreso than any other company, for drastically changing game elements midway through a beta. What you’re seeing now isn’t what you’re going to see when the game hits the street. They use the beta as a period for testing of ideas, some of which will (thankfully) never see the light of day. People don’t understand this, however, despite the designer’s best efforts at communicating their intentions.

Finally, this early access to beta sets up a situation where players pick and choose a game at a much earlier stage then they should. It’s not about a polished game, it’s not about a game with bad gameplay, it’s simply putting the cart before the horse. Overwatch now, Legion now, all games in beta now are not ready for prime time.

The increased availability of games makes a beta essentially the first public release of the game, versus what it truly should be — a way test to test systems at a larger scale than internal QA. “Beta” used to mean something that wasn’t ready and that you had to have developer knowledge to handle; now it’s something people kick and scream about not getting into. Blizzard should lead the charge and go back to limiting access to them and resetting the conversation. Make it known that a beta isn’t a game, it’s feedback on a piece of art that’s work in progress.


What’s your favorite game of the last year?

Is it wrong of me to say that it’s not a Blizzard title? Because I’m going to: my favorite game of 2015 wasn’t from Blizzard. It was Witcher 3, hands down.

Witcher 3 not only has good graphics, but the story is really solid and the gameplay can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. There’s a ton of depth in all the systems; from profession and world completion / exploration, to combat and character interactions. All this is stuff that makes me want to sink my teeth into a game and spend hours upon hours in it.

Fallout came close, but I was never able to get into it the way that I was able to with its past iterations. Sometimes I have to be in a Fallout mood, and that just hasn’t struck yet.

Now all this begs the question, why didn’t a Blizzard game take my top spot? Well, for one I’ve found myself really into games that let me get lost in their story, and Witcher has an incredibly deep story that spans multiple games and assorted novels / comics. That’s the kind of environment I like, and it’s the kind of environment that Blizzard creates with their games too, but there wasn’t exactly anything ground breaking in 2015 that did that. Sure we had some nice patch content to WoD and good HotS and Hearthstone stuff, but nothing really took over everything from a MMORPG perspective like Witcher did.

Can Blizzard reclaim my personal top game of 2016 spot? I doubt they care much, but yes — if there’s a deep and winding story in Legion. I think they’re headed there from what I’ve played in the beta, but the devil will be in their post-expansion patch release content… and to be frank, I don’t think they have a very good track record of that as of late.

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