Blizzard Watch’s 2017 year end review
It’s been a busy year for Blizzard as they focused on expanding World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm. Diablo and StarCraft got some love, too, but not nearly on the scale of the other games. And BlizzCon, as usual, set the tone for 2018’s content roll out.
But if your memory of what happened in 2017 is a bit foggy, join us as we look book at the year that was for our favorite game studio.
WoW: With Legion’s launch still fresh, Blizzard made good on their post-Draenor promise of content, content, CONTENT! In January, patch 7.1.5 rolled out with Mists of Pandaria timewalking, the first round of Artifact catch-up items, and the return of the Brawler’s Guild.
That was followed a week later with the release of the Nighthold raid where we started farming our T19 gear and gave Gul’dan what was coming to him. Blizzard immediately put patch 7.2 on the PTR and debuted the Call of the Scarab microholiday (which will return this month).
Overwatch: Blizzard wasted no time kicking off the new year, rolling out the Oasis map on the first week of January. They followed up with a new in-game holiday honoring the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rooster, which introduced some a-MEI-zing new skins. (Editor’s note: Dan no.)
Heroes of the Storm: Ranged Assassin Zul’jin skipped the PTR to make his debut the first week of the year. Later in the month, we got Stealth Melee Assassin Valeera and a revamped Lunar Festival event. Who doesn’t love chocobo– I mean rooster racing?
Diablo: We celebrated the game’s 20th anniversary with a blast from the past by playing the original Diablo in Diablo 3 in The Darkening of Tristram. Even WoW players got in on the fun with Treasure Goblins and secret Cow King level added to the MMO.
WoW: Players worked their way through Nighthold while watching for updates to the 7.2 PTR. In addition to the Broken Shore we would spend so much time in, the PTR showed off Legion flying and class mounts as well as the new Transmog UI and associated achievements.
Non-7.2 highlights included the Hatching of the Hippogryphs microholiday and the ability to use WoW Tokens to buy Battle.net balance.
Overwatch: A new PTR led players to believe Doomfist was heading to the game, but other hints pointed to a young girl named Efi Oladele.
Heroes of the Storm: Mobile healer Lucio showed up to drop the beats and begin his dominance as a Support Hero. The For Azeroth event also made its debut, awarding players with the Primal Saber mount in WoW and the Flames of Judgement Charger mount in Heroes.
Hearthstone: After the December launch of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, Hearthstone news was quiet until February. Now in the Year of the Mammoth, we learned there would be no more Adventure releases, but future expansions would include Adventure content — except for the Journey to Un’goro expansion announced a few weeks later.
WoW: Patch 7.2 continued on the PTR, giving Legendary items their first round of tweaks and adding solo Artifact challenges. The patch went live on March 28th, introducing the Broken Shore, Cathedral of Eternal Night dungeon, and, at long last, flying in the Broken Isles.
Overwatch: A newly buffed Bastion got nerfed, but on the bright side he got his own digital comic co-starring Torbjorn. Blizzard dropped the hammer on players AFK exp farming and Orisa made her debut as the game’s newest tank.
Heroes of the Storm: Ranged Specialist Probius beep booped onto the scene along with major changes to Anub’arak, Arthas, Cho’Gall, and Gazlowe. And a Cheerleader Kerrigan skin was announced as part of the Heroes of the Dorm bracket challenge.
Diablo: Patch 2.5.0 went live with new Armory loadouts for quick switching between specs and easier storage with stacking of crafting mats.
WoW: Though patch 7.2 was already live, new content was still rolling out. In April the first Mage Tower appeared and the Legion began assaults on the Broken Isles, a must-do for anyone wanting to unlock flying (though it was later removed as a requirement).
Later in the month, patch 7.2.5 was announced and went live on the PTR. Black Temple Timewalking, the Trial of Style, and the Auction House dance party were all included. Blizzard also announced some serious class tweaking, starting with Destruction Warlocks, Outlaw and Subtlety Rogues, Brewmaster and Mistweaver Monks, Havoc Demon Hunters, and Guardian Druids.
Heroes of the Storm: Following up on a BlizzCon 2016 promise, Blizzard launched the Heroes of the Storm 2.0 beta and pushed it to the live servers at the end of the month. It included a new leveling system, Overwatch-style loot chests and cosmetics, and a new currency system to wrap it all together.
That didn’t slow down the regular content progression. Diablo 2-themed Ranged Assassin Cassia was released, Genji and new map Hanamura arrived with the 2.0 patch, and the 4-week Nexus Challenge 2.0 began with a reveal of the next hero on the docket, D.Va.
If that wasn’t enough, our own Alex Ziebart wrote his opinion piece on the sex appeal, or lack thereof, of Heroes champions.
WoW: New the weekly quests led up to the opening of the Tomb of Sargeras, and PVP got some love with the new Warsong Scramble and Tarren Mill vs. Southshore brawls, plus the announcement of new Prestige rewards for the upcoming Season.
In smaller news, the Spring Balloon Festival arrived and Blizzard talked about how they designed the Riddle of the Mind-seekers quest, which brought over 10,000 players together on Discord to solve.
Heroes of the Storm: While players worked their way through the month-long Nexus Challenge, D.Va joined the game as a disruptive Warrior and Battleground rotations were announced. At the end of the month, the Anniversary Event kicked off.
WoW: Patch 7.2.5 went live (with Legendary class rings) and the Tomb of Sargeras raid finally hit the servers. Blizzard continued the non-stop content train by putting patch 7.3 on the PTR before the end of the month. The new patch included Argus, a new 5-man, and the Antorus raid.
In between these highlights, players started getting their class mounts, delved into the Death of Chromie scenario, and another mount, the Sun Darter Hatchling, was discovered by the secret-finding Discord channel.
Overwatch: The Horizon Lunar Colony map hit the live servers, but other than that it was a slow news month so enjoy these community creations: Overwatch as a turn-based RPG, Overwatch as a retro adventure game, and Overwatch heroes in Lego form.
Heroes of the Storm: Diablo Assassin Malthael entered the Nexus with the Malthael’s Bargain event that rewarded Leoric’s Phantom Charger mount in Heroes and Ghost Kerrigan’s Wings in Diablo 3. At the end of the month, the Sun’s Out, Guns Out summer event kicked off and Stukov was announced.
Hearthstone: To give players more bang for their buck, the devs announced a change in the way Legendary cards are discovered in packs, eliminating duplicates and guaranteeing a Legendary with next expansions.
Diablo: Patch 2.6.0 arrived with Challenge Rifts and three new Adventure zones. We also got the Rise of the Necromancer pack, with a new class, new cosmetics, two more character slots, and whole lot of corpse exploding fun.
StarCraft: Two new patches hit the StarCraft universe this month! The original StarCraft got a patch making it compatible with DirectX 9 and adding a Latency Changer setting. For StarCraft 2, patch 3.15 went live giving esports caster Nathanias his own announcer pack.
WoW: Players worked their way through the Tomb of Sargeras with Method claiming the world first kill of Mythic Kil’jaeden. Patch 7.3 continued to add features on the PTR, including updated caster animations, Argus zone Mac’aree, and new mounts like the long-awaited Violet Spellwing.
WoW: August ramped up to the release of patch 7.3 as Blizzard teased us with Doomsayers in Dalaran and a new pre-patch scenario, Whispers of a Frightened World. The patch hit the live servers with three new outdoor zones in Argus and the Seat of the Triumverate, a new 5-man dungeon.
Overwatch: August was surprisingly busy. The Summer Games returned with new loot, new skins, and, of course, Lucioball. Blizzard followed up with the announcement of Junkertown, a new escort map. Then at Gamescom in Germany, they released a new Mei short, Rise and Shine which added some tear-jerking changes to the Ecopoint: Antarctica map.
Bonus clip: an awesome dad reenacted Overwatch dance moves.
Heroes of the Storm: Garrosh came into the Nexus like a wrecking ball (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and Kel’thuzad was announced with much hype. First came his animation-style cinematic, then his hero spotlight, and finally an extensive multi-part series about his development. Did we mention he got his own event the following month as well?
StarCraft: The remastered edition of the original game went live: for $15 players could relive the 90s, but with better graphics, audio, and cinematics. Also, Dehaka was announced as the next Co-op commander.
WoW: September was light on announcements as players dug into Argus content. The only big news was the Netherlight Crucible unlocking to mixed reactions from players. Then secrets Discord was at it yet again with the discovery of the Lucid Nightmare mount and Blizzard offered the new Shadow the Fox pet to raise money for Red Cross disaster relief.
Overwatch: A new patch rolled out with Junkertown and big changes to both D.Va and Mercy. Jeff Kaplan addressed player toxicity (again), the new Los Angeles eSports arena was announced, and both Zarya and Roadhog got their own comics.
Heroes of the Storm: Kel’thuzad arrived in the Nexus with his very own Call of Kel’thuzad event. But this was quickly eclipsed by the announcement that Overwatch’s Ana and Junkrat were next up with a Volskaya map. Support Hero Ana and the map arrived at the end of the month with the Pachimari Mania Event.
Diablo: Major spec changes were announced, making the end game more fluid and giving players more options with armor sets.
StarCraft: Patch 3.1.8 went live, adding additional difficulty levels to Co-op mode and an announcer pack for popular caster Day9.
WoW: Players continued working their way through Argus while Antorus underwent testing on the PTR. A small quality of life patch, 7.3.2, was released, added Legendary tokens for alts.
Highlights for the rest of the month included the annual Running of the Gnomes to benefit breast cancer research, solo’er extraordinaire Mione single-handedly taking down Gul’dan, and speculation on new races in the anticipated WoW expansion announcement at BlizzCon.
Overwatch: The Halloween-themed Junkenstein’s Revenge event returned with a few tweaks, plus new skins and a new comic. The dev team continued to work on Mercy’s new kit. And yet another Overwatch-as-another-game fan creation emerged, this time in the style of Pokemon.
Heroes of the Storm: Pachimari Mania gripped the game, but was soon replaced by the arrival of disruptive Ranged Assassin Junkrat and the Halloween Event. We also saw changes to the AI which made it more challenging for players — and many weren’t happy about it.
WoW: We finally got our expansion reveal with the Battle for Azeroth announcement at BlizzCon 2017, which included six new playable races and the Artifact-inspired Heart of Azeroth. A close second in terms of big announcements was Blizzard planning its own WoW Classic servers. But the live game wasn’t neglected: new patch 7.3.5 features were announced, including Ulduar Timewalking and mob scaling across all zones in the game.
To cap off the month Antorus, the Burning Throne arrived for all your tier 21 farming needs, plus shiny new class trinkets.
Overwatch: At BlizzCon, Jeff Kaplan announced the theme-park themed Blizzard World map and new Support Hero Moira. Both landed on the PTR later that week and were went live a week after that! Other BlizzCon highlights include a Reinhardt cinematic, Honor and Glory, the story of how Overwatch rose out of Titan’s failure, and a sneak peek of 2018’s cosmetics.
And of course, no Overwatch month overview is complete without a new fan creation, this time Overwatch as a Metroid-style platformer.
Heroes of the Storm: While players were looking forward to BlizzCon reveals, they got a surprise with the announcement of huge nerf to stealth, making it easier to see invisible heroes. Blizzard followed this up with the reveal of the next two heroes coming to the Nexus: Support hero Alexstraza in a few weeks and Ranged Assassin Hanzo following in December.
They ended the month with an across-the-board nerf to all Support heroes to diminish their power in an attempt to make gameplay more dangerous and exciting. That didn’t go over well.
Hearthstone: The Kobolds and Catacombs expansion was announced to the delight of all.
Diablo: Unfortunately, it was revealed earlier that there would be no major announcements at BlizzCon for this franchise. But there was a BlizzCon-exclusive Challenge Rift that we played through.
But those features were overshadowed by something else in the PTR patch files: the Battle for Azeroth Allied Races, including new emotes and jokes and new areas of the game tweaked to accommodate them.
Overwatch: The Winter Wonderland event hit the servers with the requisite new cosmetics and a companion comic, Yeti Hunt. But the highlight of the month had to be Jeff Kaplan by the Yule fire on Christmas Eve.
Overwatch devs finished out the year with a nod to fans when Jeff Kaplan gave his blessing to a player made map on Reddit based on the city of Cairo.
Heroes of the Storm: Hanzo arrived in the Nexus (to underwhelming enthusiasm) alongside Winter Veil with all new cosmetics. The dev team tried to go out with a bang by patching in another major game “improvement” like last month’s Stealth nerf, but the laning changes have so far just created snowballed runs down one lane. And the latest PVP rankings were off with multiple fixes having yet to work it out.
At least they ended the year with the announcement of the next hero coming to the Nexus: StarCraft’s Firebat unit.
Hearthstone: The Kobolds and Catacombs expansion launched with a new Recruit mechanic and free to play dungeon runs. The expansion launch trailer was an amazing throwback to 80s TV and we got a companion comic as well.
Diablo: We found out that popular Darkening of Tristram event will be returning in January as part of Diablo’s 21st anniversary event.
StarCraft: Patch 4.1.0 landed early in the month with a new microtransaction chest of cosmetics and tweaks to Co-op play.
Whew, that’s it for 2017
Let’s see how 2018 goes, shall we?
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