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Five things we want to see at BlizzConline

With almost — or perhaps only — three weeks to go until BlizzConline, it’s time to start thinking about all the wonderful news and previews we’ll see at the (free!) online event. While we can expect the usual suspects — World of Warcraft patch preview, Hearthstone expansion announcement — there are some things we’d like to see announced at BlizzConline that aren’t already on everybody’s bingo cards.

Announcement of an improved Anima experience in Shadowlands

There’s a lot to like in Shadowlands, but in my honest opinion, the Anima system could use a leg up. It’s not that it feels more grindy than Azerite or Artifact Power, it’s that Anima is used in so many features I don’t see how we can ever have enough to purchase even half of the rewards and upgrades. For example, as a Necrolord, it will cost almost 90,000 Anima to upgrade all my Sanctum features alone. Recolors of the Covenant armors cost around 35,000 Anima each (plus Grateful Offerings as well for some of the appearances). That fun pet you unlocked with Renown 27 this week? At least that’s only 1500 Anima (and of course more Grateful Offerings, so I hope you’ve been spending your precious Anima on your Anima Conductor).

And that’s for one Covenant! I don’t like to throw around the word “insane”, but I’m not sure what other word there is to use. I haven’t fully done the math — mostly because I started getting depressed when I tried — but I don’t see how it’s possible to experience all that Anima offers and still have a job or family. I understand that Blizzard doesn’t want us to consume all the content in the first month of the expansion, and of course there’s no need to collect everything possible. But the requirements are so overpowering they’ve basically made me give up the hope of getting the things I do want.

I’m sure Blizzard intends to add some sort of Anima catchup in 9.1, but even if they don’t introduce more things for us to spend Anima on (highly doubtful), it may not be enough. The system needs a full rework — either removing Anima costs from everything but Sanctum Upgrades, or exponentially increasing the rewards/decreasing the costs.

Diablo Immortal Beta announcement

Since we have good reason to expect the announcement of the next Diablo IV class, I’m not going to focus on that. Instead, I want to talk about Diablo Immortal which saw no activity from its announcement until last December, when it went into very limited Alpha. Since the Alpha started we’ve seen some datamining and gameplay — as well as some very favorable press — but otherwise there’s been no other information from the developer team.

A large part of that is likely due to knowing BlizzConline is imminent, but since it’s a virtual con there’s no opportunity for any hands-on play like at a normal BlizzCon. Unless they’re thinking it won’t be ready for release until 2022, starting Beta in February will serve as a nice appetizer for the community while waiting for the entrée to arrive later this year. If 2021 isn’t in the cards, expanding the Alpha to more regions is palatable, if not as sustaining as Beta would be.

Since this is a wish list post, how about a Switch port for those of us who don’t like playing games on our phones?

A new hero for Heroes of the Storm

I know what you’re thinking — but didn’t we just get Hogger? Or maybe you’re thinking: isn’t Heroes of the Storm a “dead game?” But I like to think that Heroes is only mostly dead, which means it’s slightly alive. While I don’t expect them to announce a return to the halcyon days of over a dozen new heroes a year, the arrival of only two heroes in 2020 was another entry on that year’s sinstone. While 6 new heroes a year would be amazing, I am a considerate man and would be content with four — and that means we’d need an announcement so one arrives during the first quarter of 2021.

The question becomes, who should the new hero be? We could look at the list of what franchises and roles have had the longest drought, but I’m a huge fan of synergy, and with Diablo IV/Immortal looking like they’ll have a strong presence at BlizzConline, adding a hero that ties into the Diablo universe makes a lot of sense. Might I suggest the Druid, as that’s already been announced as a returning class that missed out on Diablo III?

If they don’t go with a Diablo hero, they can still maintain synergy by adding a character from a different franchise while fulfilling my next wish.

Add Sojourn to Overwatch

When Overwatch 2 was announced at BlizzCon 2019, we were also told that the long-anticipated Sojourn would be the next hero, but would not be released for the original Overwatch. At the time, it made sense — with development of the sequel in full throttle, it didn’t make much sense for the developers to divide their focus.

Then 2020 happened.

I’m not just talking about COVID, which has likely delayed Overwatch 2 like it did everything else. I’m also talking about the Black Lives Matter movement that finally got the proper attention it deserved during the summer, which resulted in a lot of necessary reflection in our community and a heightened desire to stamp out inequality, racism, and stereotyping in our gaming environments, both digital and tabletop.

I’m not naïve enough to assume that retroactively adding the first female black character to Overwatch will be impactful when it comes to the real world, but the lack of a black female character has been the largest strike against Overwatch’s otherwise inclusive roster. Making the additional effort to put Sojourn into Overwatch would be a positive gesture on Blizzard’s part.

And finally, announce BlizzCon 2021 will take place this November

I think it’s very clear to us all now that it won’t just be the same online as it is in person. Even if you don’t get to attend in person, the audience brings an energy and enthusiasm that makes even viewing from home so much better. While I believe BlizzConline is a necessary event and one I’ll be watching closely, I’ll miss those moments like the time I got literal chills when Patty Mattson yelled “You are ALL NOTHING!” while recreating the Sylvanas vs Saurfang cinematic. Events like BlizzCon are a huge part of why I love participating in the Blizzard community, and I think two years without one would be a huge bummer.

Of course, I don’t expect Blizzard to pretend the past year didn’t happen, and I really don’t want them to act as if we’re back to normal, because even if we do get COVID mostly under control by the fall, we won’t be back to normal. There’s a lot that Blizzard could and should do to make sure BlizzCon 2021 is still safe: halve the number of tickets available, help ensure adequate spacing, maybe even shorten some of the sessions to reduce the risk of prolonged contact. They should also attach a gigantic caveat to the announcement: this will only happen if the world is in a much better place when it comes to COVID control.

Most importantly, I think Blizzard announcing BlizzCon 2021 will help a lot of us regain enthusiasm that had fallen by the wayside in 2020. It gives us something to look forward to, and may even encourage some of Blizzard’s fans to be safer, knowing that the failure to do so could lead to cancellation. I know, I know — I’m once again calling on the gaming industry to help with a real world issue. But Blizzard fans are the best, and I can’t help but think we could change the world if we truly wanted to.

Hopefully we’ll get a chance this November.

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