PAX East 2015 Blizzard Panel Video

I took video of the Blizzard Entertainment panel held at PAX East 2015 where announces flew left and right with two new Overwatch heroes: Zarya and McCree, Overwatch beta slated for Fall 2015, the new Hearthstone: Blackrock Mountain Adventure pre-orders start on March 19th.

The developers plan to launch one wing per week for a total of 5 wings focused on Blackwing’s forces and Ragnaros’ forces. The adventure will introduce 31 new cards. There are plans for a launch on iPhone and Android in few weeks from now. These are currently in Alpha. Both iPhone and Android players will have different UI than the Tablet and the PC, but will still play against Tablet and PC players under the same server infrastructure.

In addition, Heroes of the Storm beta testers will soon be able to play as Sylvanas Windrunner, and the Tomb of the Spider Queen battleground is on its way for testing. Watch our Blizzard panel video (transcript coming next week).

PAX East 2015 Blizzard Panel Video

Transcript

The PAX East 2015 Blizzard panel had the participation of Jeff Kaplan (Overwatch), Dustin Browder (Heroes of the Storm) and Eric Dodds (Hearthstone).

The transcript begins:

Kaplan: I hope you can all join me in also saying a big hello and good morning to everybody out there watching on Twitch — wherever they are in the world. So come on guys give them a hand.

My name is Jeff Kaplan. I’m the game director on Overwatch. We are really excited to bring Blizzard here to Boston, to PAX East to talk about a lot of cool stuff. We are going to have Eric Dodds (the game director from Hearthstone) out here talking about some really great new stuff; and also Dustin Browder (the game director of Heroes and Storm) and he’s really going to come out and talk about what’s going on in the beta and also make some pretty cool announcements; but we figured we’d start the morning with a little bit of an Overwatch discussion.

(Applauses)

Kaplan: So just out of curiosity, was anybody here at BlizzCon?

(Cheers)

Kaplan: Awesome, you guys rock! So you guys went from the solar vortex to the polar vortex; I think it was eighty degrees in November at BlizzCon. At BlizzCon, we announced our upcoming title called Overwatch and here’s a screenshot from the game.

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Overwatch for those of you guys who weren’t paying attention to BlizzCon and weren’t aware of it is Blizzard’s first foray into the first person shooter genre; and it’s something we are very very excited about. There’s a lot of passion at Blizzard around making a great shooter and at BlizzCon we talked about what makes Overwatch sort of different or what makes it Blizzard. You know, what’s Blizzard about this game and really what it boils down to is a game that takes place in the near future; bright vibrant colors, really relatable heroes; at its core Overwatch is a game about heroes.

A good friend of mine, Chris Metzen, likes to describe Blizzard as a hero factory; and what he means by that is that every Blizzard game tries to make the player become a hero and bring out the hero, the inner hero of all of our players and that’s what Overwatch is trying to do. Mechanically it’s a PvP game at its core: I think that is something you guys have seen a lot of from Blizzard… our love from competitive play, our love for E-Sport, or love from just getting online and showing who’s boss and playing games with friends so it’s a 6v6 team-based shooter with that focus on the heroes and when you start to play the heroes you’ll see that they are really defined by these sort of epic over-the-top crazy abilities.

We like to talk about it in terms of other shooters where a gun is the most important thing that your character is carrying. In Overwatch, the abilities that the hero can do is the most important and most defining thing. So we’ve got our talking-ape Winston who leaps around in a primal rage.

You’ve got Tracer who can get from one side of this hall to the other in the blink of the eye and could come back; and she would probably leave some devastating damage in her wake when she does that as well; so these heroes are really defined by their abilities.

But we didn’t just come here to recap BlizzCon. I think a lot of you guys are here to hear about new stuff today and we want to bring you some new stuff. Right here they want to hear new stuff (applause) awesome!

So first of all, the first new thing we have to talk about is a new map and it is called Watchpoint Gibraltar. Overwatch, so far, we’ve announced three maps in the game: there was Hanamura (which has took place in an idyllic version of Japan), there was Kings Row (which harkens to London) and we also have the Temple of Anubis (which is our Egyptian map).

Watchpoint Gibraltar is really cool to talk about because it brings something new to Overwatch that we haven’t really done before and it brings some of the Overwatch history into the game. So even though the game is a competitive 6v6 shooter, we want there to be a lot of story to this universe and one of the things that we are having a lot of fun with is slowly revealing information about what’s going on in this Overwatch universe and really building it out to be the type of Blizzard universe that can someday stand side by side with the likes of StarCraft, Warcraft and Diablo.

So Watchpoint Gibraltar at the heyday of Overwatch: Overwatch was sort of this universal peacekeeping group — think of something like the United Nations if they had a really crazy army with talking apes in it… real world stuff there… (smirk) but Overwatch was shut down at one point.

There are heroes from Overwatch who feels like the group need to be back together and are basically trying to put the band back together. So, you know, Blues Brothers was one of my favorite movies; so we took a little cue from them on that one; but Watchpoint Gibraltar is located obviously in a very strategic location in the world; the Rock of Gibraltar and it was this Overwatch outpost guarding the Mediterranean where they could deploy and react to different issues happening throughout the world (I think I’m going to start to have a look at some other places on the map) but these days the base is shut down.

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Kaplan: There has been activity happening in the base though and the players will learn… or you guys will learn today as you go and play them out downstairs… that Winston (our good friend) is trying to put Overwatch back together and the first step to do that is getting the Overwatch communications network back online.

So he has constructed a satellite drone. He needs to get the drone to this rocket and who better to do that than you and five of your bad ass buddies downstairs in the Overwatch booth today and get that drone to this rocket so we can get the communications network back online.

PAX-2015-overwatch-announcement-screenshot-2

Kaplan: So we talk a lot about and at BlizzCon this came up frequently about: “How you guys are going to tell a story in this game?” So we have big plans. There are a lot of things we want to do like our announcement trailer. We are really proud of our Blizzard cinematics group. We think they did a very good job with storytelling.

So there is more to come in that direction, but we also want to do things in the game to reveal some of the background and give context to the players’ actions. For example, the attacker spawn on our Watchpoint Gibraltar map is Winston’s laboratory and we hope when you are in there you will take some time to look at the computer screens and look at Winston’s whiteboards; small tip in the future: they are back to being black boards. So it’s gone way to the future at this point but the futuristic blackboard that was once a whiteboard — we hope you look at that and we hope you get a little bit of context and background.

For the people who are downstairs playing right now, we put together a training video, we know they don’t have a tutorial experience to go through and they are going to wait in the line and get right up to the machines with no sort of training; so we put something together so they’ll know what they have waiting for them and we want to share it with you guys as well so you can get an idea of what Watchpoint Gibraltar is all about and how it plays. Let’s take a look at this right now.

VIDEO PRESENTATION

It’s a really fun map; I can’t wait to hear what you guys have to say about it. As you can see, it’s a complete payload map. At BlizzCon, we featured two different types of maps: we had capture point maps and we had a hybrid capture point map and a partial payload; this one is a full payload and adds a lot of new gameplay (I think) to Overwatch.

There’s also some really fun level design elements like a really cool choke down the bottom of a hill that the development team has dubbed the “car wash;” so it’s fun to try to get the payload through that — especially when Symmetra puts some little turrets up above; but like what I was saying at the beginning of the presentation today; Overwatch is a game about heroes first and foremost and if there is one thing to take away about Overwatch is that there is a hero out there for everyone and they all speak to different fantasies.

We are very excited today to announce not one but two new heroes — the first of which is one of my favorite to play; a gentleman by the name of the outlaw Jesse McCree. McCree is the ultimate futuristic gunslinger. He is primarily defined by his ability to be a dead-eye with his peacekeeper revolver.

It’s got a really fun primary fire. If you are a talented shooter player you can snipe people all the way across the map with it, it’s amazing at short mid-range as well, it’s got a really fun alternate fire to it as well. When you do your alternate fire you find the hammer and you unleash all the shots that are left in the revolver. So that’s a lot of fun especially when somebody gets up on you point blank… you just hit that, right click and watch them go crazy.

He’s got some other abilities that are really fun too; he’s got flashbang. That combos amazingly with his other abilities that briefly stuns enemies for about a second and he can do a combat roll which is really a great way for him to have mobility either in or out of a bad situation; and we added some new answer for really high skilled players to get some fun combos off; when he does that combo roll he also reloads the peacekeeper.

You can think of some of the things you can do with that, you can alternate fire, unload the full revolver, combat roll and then you are back again with six shots point blank on somebody so that’s a lot of fun and then he has this ultimate ability and in a lot of ways Overwatch is becoming defined by these characters’ ultimate abilities; his is called “Deadeye” and when I tell you about it then I’m going to show you a video also, it’s going to seem just like the most crazy, wildly overpowered thing ever and it probably is but we’ll worry about that when the time comes.

(audience laughs)

Kaplan: What “Deadeye” does (it’s not in beta yet so we can do that) what he does when he uses his “Deadeye ability,” he actually holsters the peacekeeper (and you are going to see this) he kinda starts to move really slowly and he takes a count of everybody who is in front of him and what is going on in the game is your UI is drawing little targeting radicals around all enemies within line of sight; if any of those get small enough and little skulls appear that means it’s a fatal shot and then McCree fires once again, draws his gun and will take everybody out who’s under it.

Again we put together these training videos so as people are waiting in line to play the game they get little bit of sense of how the character will play but I want to share with you today so you guys can see some of the abilities in action. Let’s take a look at the outlaw McCree.

Kaplan: McCree is a lot of fun and I think one of the things that I really think brings him to life is that fantasy fulfillment and our goal with Overwatch heroes is that there is some level of fantasy fulfillment for as many players as possible and to really deliver on that promise of a very diverse heroic experience. So with that, I’m very very excited to announce our very first female tank in Overwatch: Aleksandra Zaryanova.

She is a dedicated and loyal hero, so her goal in life was to become a championship weightlifter and she was right on the cusp of fulfilling that fantasy that she was going to have in her life and she was extremely competitive; and it was just before the world championships that strife broke out near her village and she put it all aside to defend the homeland; and she picked up this amazing weapon that you guys are going to see later on called the “particle cannon” and basically put her personal goals aside for that of protecting humanity; and that’s one of the things that we think really defines Zarya which is her nickname.

There are other things that we think really defines who she is: she is lawful good, she’s a hero, she’s who you want to be when you grow up but there are some other things to talk about too. We’ve been hearing a lot of discussion amongst players about the need for more diversity in video games and that means a lot of things; they want to see gender diversity, they want to see racial diversity, they want to see diversity along lines of what countries people are from but there is also talk about diversity in different body types and that not everybody wants to have the same body type represented. We just want you to know that we are listening and we are trying hard and we hope that Zarya is a step in the right direction to show you that we are paying attention.

So let’s take a look at what she does, let’s talk a little bit about it first.

Like I said, the particle cannon is how she is defined; the weapon is amazing. Its primary fire is a beam attack. It shoots out about fifteen meters in front of her, does pretty good damage at close range and because she is a tank that’s what gets her in there, mostly the weapon is short to medium range. It also has an alternate fire for those times when she needs it that does an area-of-effect particle explosion that she can lob out there; sort of like a grenade almost and then she has other abilities.

Because she is a tank and because she is about protecting her allies she has the ability to use the particle cannon to either put a particle barrier on herself or on one of her allies and what this thing is, it’s basically like a shield that will absorb all the damage coming into it. It actually blocks line of sight so if she is standing in front of somebody and has this on her, if she puts it on somebody next to her it will block line of sight and allow them to block for their teammates.

There is a cool resource mechanic in here as well; as the particle barrier whether on her or one of her teammates takes damage, the power on the center of her reticule goes up and it can go up to one hundred; the higher that number is the more charged the particle cannon is and the more damage it will do.

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Last but not least is her ultimate ability which we call the “Graviton Surge.” This is an element that she shoots from the cannon; she can shoot it out into a group of enemies, stick it to the wall, stick it to a ceiling and it’s a gravity well. It will suck in all enemies within a certain radius to the center point of that graviton surge. It combos extremely well with some other abilities; think of a Pharah rocket broad shooting into that or a Tracer dropping her time bomb or a McCree getting off a deadeye at that moment. You guys I’m sure will come up with even more interesting combinations than we can dream of so let’s take a look at Zarya in action.

(Work in progress)

Just to recap real quickly on Overwatch, we talked about our new map Watchpoint Gibraltar, we introduced the outlaw Jesse McCree who hates to be called Joe by the way and then also introduce you to Alexandra Zaryanova our newest tank in Overwatch; all of this available for you guys to play on the show floor, we can’t wait to hear what you have to say about it, Beta is coming this fall and we want you to go to playoverwatch.com and sign up, we are super excited to have you guys sign up for the Beta and we can’t wait to see you all in there playing. I’d like to introduce one of my favorite people; the game directors from Heroes of the Storm and the hero of my storm, Dustin Browder.

Dustin: Good morning Pax East, yeah! One of the reasons we love doing this show is it really gives us a chance to connect with players and in a lot of ways, this is a community made show, it’s one of my favorite shows to go to all year long and the combination of video games, board games, role playing games, miniature games; whoo! It’s awesome; enjoy the show. This is one of the best shows in the world you guys are at here today.

I’m going to talk to you here today about a bunch of things going on in Heroes; again more sort of community player focused than anything else; you get some Beta stats, an update on our battlegrounds, a look at our next new hero, some game systems and some changes to our progression systems; so those of you who are playing in the Beta now who obviously appreciate some of those changes a little more hopefully more and more of you will be joining our Beta soon.

BETA STATS

Let’s talk about some OP heroes. These are the heroes that you want to be playing tonight; now let’s be clear. These guys are like three percent, one percent up on everybody else, if you’re not that good at the game like me chances are you need to do a couple of things: don’t face check the bushes by yourself, show up to the team fight on time and make sure you are paying attention when you come back to life so you get right back into the action but if you want a one percent bonus you could be playing Lost Vikings; they are pretty good right now, they are up by a couple percentage points. This is a new hero that is controlling three heroes at the same time, it’s one of the most challenging heroes to play but they are doing pretty well right now, probably because nobody knows what to do with them right now.

Bright Wing has been really good for a long time, this is a hero that can teleport to any ally on the map, she has an area effect heel that is always pulsing around her; she’s been pretty good for a while now. Again two percent up if you play Brightwing. Nazeebo our witch doctor but a strong choice for a while; absolutely! Make sure you stun him, if you fight against Nazeebo one of you is on Nazeebo duty; make sure you have somebody with a stun ready the minute he decides to use his spirit otherwise you are all dead.

Uther: very powerful support hero, one thing we love about Heroes of the Storm is our support heroes, I can be very mighty in this game with team leveling with no gold, you don’t need to earn you can be a pure support hero and be a very, very effective member of your team and back that up.

Reghar: our pure support hero, not pure but pretty supportive, very powerful hero in this game; Uther of course has tons of stuns which is one of the reasons he’s so powerful but Reghar very strong healer, very good addition to your team. Our lowest tier hero right now is Li Chen: sorry Chen, we had one little nerf; anyway we’ll get Chen back on top any minute now and if you want to show what a great player you are Diablo, Zagara, these guys are almost perfect fifty-fifty right now across the board. That was for everybody that was for all of you all. If you are looking at the top players in Hero League, these are the most competitive players we have right now; their best heroes look a little bit different so the best hero right now, one of the best heroes right now Illidan is like maybe three percent up; very skilled-based hero kills me all the time that’s for sure and usually says mean things to me in chat too actually. Reghar also a strong hero here, Sgt. Hammer: this is a siege hero, it’s a siege tank, and she can deploy and set up like a siege tank can in StarCraft II so it’s very important we position her; if you position her incorrectly, you don’t get much, you positon her in the right spot she’s absolutely awesome so that’s some surprise to see here, here in top tier.

Lost Vikings debuting here as well; this is one where so different, so strange, so unusual for us to make and so difficult to play in some cases. We know we are going to see the top players showing us what’s broken about this here, it’s why we love being in Beta to detect this stuff and Tyrande is surprisingly also in the top tier as well. Our lowest tier hero is Murky: sorry Murky we’ll get you back up there any minute now, I promise; and even tiered are Zeratul and Valla. Let’s talk about battlegrounds.

BATTLEGROUNDS:

We are going to be unveiling a new battleground here today; you guys have seen hints of this Tomb of the Spider Queen at BlizzCon this last year, absolutely Tomb of the Spider Queen. One of the things we love about Tomb of the Spider Queen is it’s starting to fulfill our promise of what battlegrounds can accomplish for us in Heroes of the Storm. Tomb of the Spider Queen is an underground location very different from other environments but what’s important about Tomb of the Spider Queen makes it play so differently is it’s incredibly small; we call this sort of “night fight in a closet” kind of map: it’s very contained, the lanes are very close together and what you are trying to do in this map is you are collecting gems from these spiders that are moving down these lanes and when you collect gems, you can drop them off at a couple of central points and if you get enough gems you can summon some spider queen who are going to push both lanes. Look, you see the top left of that screen there you can see a lane and there’s a lane here in the middle; these lanes are very close together and you are almost always in lane on this map, always trying to collect gems, always trying to grab those spider queens to help push lanes and destroy your opponents. This is ultimately a very, very different experience from the battle ground we just released; Sky Temple which is a huge map. This is a map where you are always out of lane; you are always trying to grab temples so you can blast enemies with rays of sun from the tops of these temples so releasing these maps back to back and they play completely different from one another and the types of heroes that are effective on either one of these maps are very different as well. This is where we are going for battlegrounds. When you get on to a battleground and you are playing seriously competitively you think about the heroes differently, you think about your talents differently, you think about your team compositions differently as well.

NEXT HERO:

Let’s talk about our next hero. We debuted our teaser last year at BlizzCon, the next hero for Heroes of the Storm.

VIDEO PRESENTATION

That is Sylvanas. Sylvanas is classified as a specialist for us; we debated many times to call her an assassin or a specialist. She sort of walks the line between both; she has a lot of abilities she can use against enemy minions, against enemy mercenaries, against enemy talons. It makes her a deadly, deadly pushing hero; at the same she can do some really ferocious burst damage as well. One of her core abilities is this ability to firewall on the move with withering fire, even firing behind herself there; it makes her ferocious, amount of burst of burst damage; she has charges for this. She sort of bangs the button and all these bullets come flying out of her hitting the nearest enemy all these arrows fly out and you charge those by killing enemy minions so you want to collect the souls of the fallen to power that ability. You also have an ability called Shadow Dagger and this is just damage overtime but it also spreads from minion to minions and nearby enemies so you can use this to clear whole lanes of minions, very effective damage over time gives her some of that sneaky evil kind of feeling from her.

She also has an ability called Haunted Wave which she can teleport to and it does a bit of a slow but she can also pop to it; now you are going to stay where you were when you started it so you are going to make sure you got time to get to where you want to go that your health doesn’t run out but you can use it to escape from enemy attackers. You can also use it like I use it foolishly to close “oh I’m going to catch that guy, I’m going to kill him” and you close and suddenly some of your friends show up and you die so I would say save it for when you are in trouble but if you really think you can burst somebody down you can use it to charge forward. Like every hero in Heroes of the Storm she’s got two core heroic abilities that you can choose from at level ten. The first one is Whaling Arrow which you can activate and it gets to whatever distance you want it; does a little bit of damage in silence which is really important for Nazeebo so Nazeebo your nerfs are coming, it’s Sylvanas and she is going to be able to shut players down with this powerful initiating ability for this character.

She’s also got the power to possess mercenaries and minions; it just makes you think of mercenaries in a whole different way in this game. You may also notice sometimes some dark things going on in that map when she hits stuff, she can shut down minions, mercenaries and towers by attacking them just with the basic attack; it’s her Dark Arrow and she can use it to shut down towers so very powerful ability, very great at pushing. If you leave Sylvanas alone in one of your lanes, that lane is going to be gone before you know it.

One of the things that we’ve been working on, on StarCraft for the last many months is obviously to campaign and these guys have done an absolutely amazing job of putting together what I think is one of the best campaigns we’ve ever done on StarCraft for Legacy of the Void. What’s so incredible about this campaign is it really captures that feeling of (we have to talk about it), that feeling of the Seven Samurai with just a handful of warriors who are probably not going to be well remembered and they are not going to be famous and nobody is going sing songs about the deeds they’ve ever done but they absolutely are going to lay down their lives for everyone else and it really gets that tragic feeling of war and this really sort of awesome feeling that these noble honorable warriors in the form of the Protoss and I’m going to say that it’s got a very strong sort of dark tone to it and it feels really appropriate for this final chapter of the StarCraft II trilogy to bring it home for the Protoss and show this dying race as they take on a whole new level of problems. I think you saw some of this as we progressed from Wings of Liberty through Hearth of the Storm, James Rainer is worried about his would be girlfriend Sarah Kerrigan and he is worried about Minx and this evil ruler who has taken over the dominion and has created this dark government; these are pretty serious problems but they are nothing in comparison to the problems Kerrigan is dealing with. Kerrigan has got an entire race that is basically a slave race to whomever controls them and she is constantly trying to evolve and build and save these monsters and not make them something completely horrible and yet they are what they are. At the same time then we go to the Protoss; things get more serious still, we are going to get to this place where the Protoss are trying to solve some of the problems in the galaxy. We’ve hinted at some of this stuff with Amon and with the dark forces that are gathering around this whole trilogy so it begins with Rainer in this very sort of mundane space ends up in this sort of battle with the gods when it comes to Protoss. It’s been very, very cool; I think the team has done an amazing job in putting together a great, great StarCraft product: (applause).
We’ve been working a lot on our game systems fortunately actually the visuals aren’t hugely essential going forward and what matters is we are redoing our whole UI, I know those who have been in Beta have said “really, the UI again?” We are making it much better, there’s a bunch of stuff these guys have done; the team has put together to make portraits more prominent, we just added Hero League into the game, all of our end of game score screen stuff didn’t really work what we had so we are going to put that together. We finally had a score screen after the game finishes, I know right; huge. It’s not the greatest score screen ever but it’s a step in the right direction, it was one of the things we said we desperately needed before we went to an open Beta so progress has been made.

We also have Team League going into this next patch so those of you who weren’t at BlizzCon, we’ve added Hero League which allows you to sort of play with whoever you want playing in sort of a draft mode; it’s a semi competitive mode, you can certainly compete in this environment but Team League is meant to be the ultimate competitive space for Heroes of the Storm. This is a chance for you to get together with four of your buddies, actually you can have a team of up to nine people; now you can only play with five at once but you can have nine guys on the roster in case in guys don’t get on, on a particular night or whatever so you got five and four alternates and this would be the ultimate way to play. You can be up to a member of three teams at once and each of these teams will have their own separate rankings so you can have the team you play with your buddies who aren’t so good and you can have the team only with the players you want to see go to MOG with you or whatever you want.

We are also working very hard on what we can do for sort of play nice, play fair; we got a bunch of feedback from players that their biggest concerns about games of the genre is how you might be treated in chat while you are playing the game; people might have some comment s for you about your play style. We are going to add the ability to mute all allies in a future patch here very soon; this will be if you are having a rough night and you are tired, I’m hearing it, you can mute all your allies. The pink system in our game does work very well and because of our objective based gameplay, because it’s often pretty obvious where you need to be next go to tribute for example. You don’t need to hear the allies nearly as much as we certainly would have thought, we have tested this and surprisingly effective at a wide variety of skill levels have played.

In a future patch we also want to add the ability to add clans to the game and this is very vital for us; we think that in many cases your ability to self-organize into the type of social group you want to be a part of is absolutely vital to having a great gameplay experience, maybe you want to be in a group where you are telling people how to choose their talents and how to play because you guys are a serious clan. Maybe you want to be in a more casual space where you are like “dude, I just want to play; I don’t care if we win, I don’t care what you think of my talent bill” then you can play in a clan that has that social contract. Right now we are just throwing you into a big paint with everybody, everybody has a different expectation and our belief is if we can give you the opportunity to self-organize this will be to your benefit. We’ve also had a lot of feedback from players asking for rating systems; we don’t have a specific idea here yet but we are definitely open to your feedback and ideas of what would be the best rating system for Heroes of the Storm.

PROGRESSION

I got to move quick now because I got to get Eric up here to talk about Hearthstone; we are going to do a lot of stuff in progression here in the next few patches, this is based on a lot of feedback we’ve had from the community, they want more gold, more opportunities to get stuff in this game, we are going to have a seven day Stimpack at account level ten, Hero levels will now go from eleven to twenty. Those of you who are playing know that when you get to level ten you get your masters skin, you should stop playing that hero and that feels terrible so we are going to take you from eleven to twenty. These levels are going to be a bit of a grind but it really lets you show off your skill or certainly your engagement with the hero.
We have this concept for those who don’t know called “talent gating” where we don’t have access to all the talents: we are going to turn that off at level thirty. This does give us some benefits with new users so we do want to keep it into the game for a little bit; we figure by the time you get to level thirty you’ll get it, you are ready to go so talent gating will shut off. More gold, lots more, here it comes, there’s some more, so more gold.

I got a lot of questions in Heroes about E-Sports; what are we doing for E-Sports and we say “hey we are going to let the community take the lead here” and that’s still by and largely true but the E-Sports team have been working very hard on something that’s coming very soon: Heroes of the Dorm, and here’s a little video explaining what that is…

So heroesofthedorm.com; you can go ahead and get signed up on that, we are also proud to announce that we are partnering with ESPN to televise this not only on online channels but on television as well, so very excited to bring you this amazing E-Sports event, see you all guys in the nexus. I’d like to bring up the best presentation of the day, the game director on Hearthstone; Eric Dodds.
Hello, hello, awesome! So Hearthstone is sort of the scrappy team so we’re going to see if I can do a twenty minute presentation in about eight minutes, here we go. Pax East and Pax is awesome, love this show, it’s amazing; I’ve been coming here for years, yeah I’m stuffed. We announced in Pax East 2013 and it was awesome there too when we announced Pax East or we announced Naxxramas in 2014 here at Pax East, so Pax East has just been an amazing show for Hearthstone. There is a thing called Fireside Gatherings; you can go to www.firesidegatherings.com, it’s an amazing program and if you go there it is fun when you’re you set up, when you’re you, it’s just super kick ass and I recommend it: here are some awesome pictures from Fireside Gatherings. Ok enough of that.

It was just a year ago that we launched (I knew I was going to mess that up) and we’ve done a lot of awesome stuff; we had the world championship, we have a new world championship coming if you want to participate, there is even more tournaments going on this year than there was last year which is kind of crazy because there was a lot going on last year, pretty much every weekend you can go and find one and watch it, we are just being with the good stuff, Government vs Gnomes was awesome yeah, we released on android and iPad also this year for tablet was awesome, ok. So really the question you are going to have though at this point is yeah tablets are awesome but what about phone because we’ve been talking about phone and we’ve run into some challenges on phone; nothing we can’t overcome but certainly when I first started looking at phone I was a little bit concerned that we weren’t going to make a triple A version of Hearthstone on phone, make it an amazing game just as cool as it is on tablets, I’m happy to say after a bunch of work on the UI we’ve been able to do that; we are actually in Alpha right now so within Blizzard we are all playing it and the feedback we’ve generally gotten is people saying “I didn’t know if it was going to be awesome on phone but I’m actually now playing it even more than it thought I was, than I thought I would”, I’m going to show you some pictures of what the UI looks like on phone. We actually managed to get the feel of the UI on phone and still make it entirely usable so we have Collection Manager which was definitely a challenge, there was definitely some work here but we feel like it’s useable and we have play mode which there are the cards and they become larger or smaller depending on the state of the board but it’s very easy to play in this mode; I’ve been playing a ton in this mode and one thing to mention here is that if you are playing on phone your account is the same as if you were playing on phone, as if you were playing on tablet, as if you were playing on PC; you are playing against the same people who you could be playing on phone, somebody else is playing on tablet or PC; it’s all mixed together it’s all one group playing together. That’s Pac opening but really the most important thing to talk about here is that within the next couple of months it’s going to be out on phone and on android so we are very, very close; so IOS and android phone coming very, very soon.

I want to talk a little bit now about Curse of Naxxramas because it was our very first adventure and it did a lot of things that we really, really liked and wanted in an adventure; I mean it made it so that you could play in single player against a bunch of the different cool bosses from this environment week after week; so one week it would open, you could play a bunch of bosses, you could play a bunch of class challenges, you could play a bunch of heroic mode bosses if you wanted and you would earn cards that would sort of change the meta game week after week through doing battle with the bosses in Naxxramas and we really loved how that worked out and we really loved actually exploring the space that Naxxramas was; it was a well-loved space in Warcraft and we got to explore it further. We are thinking if we are going to do another adventure what could this adventure be? It would have to be a place that had epic and awesome bosses; it would have to be a place that has tons and tons of Warcraft lure that people could explore and see in a different way, sort of see how Hearthstone explore that lure, it would have to be a little bit mysterious, sort of a place that had a bunch of mystery about it and I think we have found the perfect place to do that and I just thought I’d show you right now…video presentation.

So as some of you had no doubt guessed Blackrock Mountain is going to be our very next adventure and it’s going to be mechanically a lot like Naxxramas in that each week there is going to be a new wing that’s going to come out and it’s going to have new bosses to fight and new class challenges to do battle with and if that wasn’t enough; new heroic bosses and when you beat up the normal bosses in the class challenges there are going to be cards that you earn that are going to affect the meta game; so week over week there will be new bosses, new class challenges, new cards, new meta games. The thing that’s a little different about Blackrock Mountain is it’s got sort of a different vibe, I mean Naxxramas has a very specific vibe; Blackrock Mountain is all about sort of two epic forces/villains that are inhabiting this place.

On one hand I want to talk sort of a little bit about the beginning where we have this mountain, we have these dark ironed dwarfs who are living in this mountain and they want to increase their powers so they think “we got a great idea, we are going to summon this fire lord Ragnaros and he is going to work for us; that will be awesome”. That didn’t work out entirely as they planned in that he showed up, enslaved them and brought a bunch of his fire buddies to hang out in the mountains and sort of tell them what to do; so the dark ironed dwarfs are still there but it’s really Ragnaros who’s running the show in the molten core of the mountain and he has the same goal that a lot of epic villains do and that’s of course to take over the world but there is only one thing standing in his way; there is another force in the mountain. There is the great dragon Nefarian, and Nefarian sort of rules the top, the upper spire of Blackrock Mountain and he has his Blackrock work buddies and tons of twisted creations that he and his alchemist has made to aid him, and he also has the goal of course to take over the world. The thing being said about those two forces is the one thing they hate more than the rest of the world is each other so they spend most of their time fighting each other; so what you are going to do is get involved in this struggle and start out by helping Nefarian going down to have a little chat with Ragnaros to see if you can convince him to probably die actually.

In the mountain you are going to see fire elementals and all the fiery buddies of Ragnaros, you are going to see tons and tons of dragons, you are going to see all of the bosses (well I shouldn’t say that), you will see a number of the bosses that you’ve seen from various dungeons and raids if you played World of Warcraft; so tons and tons of these characters will be all throughout the mountain and all throughout Blackrock Mountain adventure, we are going to have five wings, there is going to be seventeen bosses that you will do battle with. The first wing is going to be Blackrock Depths; that’s the dark ironed dwarves there on the left and they are going to be the first line of defense for Ragnaros trying to stop you from getting to him and so you are going to do battle with these dark ironed dwarves on your way to the second wing which is of course the molten core which is where Ragnaros lives. The question is what does one of these wings look like?
Well week one when Blackrock Mountain releases is going to look like this; these are going to be the three bosses that you will do battle with, that being said when you think about bosses in Blackrock Mountain, sometimes it’s the mountain itself that is the villain. In this case the first boss while it’s technically Coren Direbrew, it’s actually the Grim Guzzler is the boss; it’s the bar where the dark ironed dwarves hang out and drink, so there’s always a bar fight going on down there, there’s always guys from all over leaping into the fight and sort of his hero power is about that when you do battle with him where guys from both your deck and Coren Direbrew’s deck are going to be constantly leaping into the fight just on their own and you are going to have to build deck around that to sort of defeat that mode of play or that way of facing an enemy. You’ll then move into the Dark Iron Arena where you’ll battle tons of legendary minions from all over Azeroth if you want to fight your way through it and then finally to the Dark Iron Emperor who is the last boss on the end of the first wing on your way to Ragnaros and of course when you defeat each of these you’ll get a card, when you defeat all of them there’s a legendary card at the end of the wing and then there are more cards for the class challenges. This is what the new board looks like and I’m actually always kind of blown away whenever our artists give us a new kind of board because each time I look at one of the boards and I look at the clickables that they put on the board I sort of think that the new board is my favorite board and this is no exception; you are going to be able to upgrade weapons and as clickables on this board you can summon dragons, you can play with rooms, you can mess around with the lava; there is a lot of fun stuff to do with this board so, yeah just playing with this board makes me happy; it is pretty awesome.

You are probably saying at this point “all of this is cool, I’m excited about this but tell me about some of the cards that are going to affect the Meta game in new ways” because I mean that is really the heart of the Blackrock Mountain adventure so of course you are going to see several cards that are related to the dark ironed dwarves. Dark ironed dwarves are sort of core to the Blackrock Depths experience and you are definitely going to get to play with some of those cards. The first is the Dark Iron Skulker; this card is based around the idea (it’s a road card and it’s based around the idea) that the backstab ability rogues have is awesome and wouldn’t it be more awesome if rogues got to backstab everybody, it’s from the Meta game point of view. It’s pretty interesting because it gives you the ability to drop a card and deal with the rush that’s going on if there is a lot of low cost stuff coming at you and also leave a minion on the table to carry on the fight so it’s going to be interesting to see how this affects the rogue Meta game. We have another dark ironed dwarf, the Grim Patron; so whenever he takes damage another of his buddies jump in, he is sort of like the embodiment of Grim Guzzler bar so you can imagine playing this guy on the table, pinning him for one, okay there’s two of them on the table playing world wind, ok there’s four of them on the table and very quickly you can over run your enemy with just this guy so he is pretty amazing for that as well.

The heart of this adventure though is all about dragons so we love the idea of dragons in Hearthstone and we love the idea that “hey, I put Onyxia or I put Ysera or I put Alexstrasza but you can’t really build a full deck around that idea and we wanted you to be able to not just put that card into your deck and have it be a finisher for whatever the theme of the rest of your deck is, we wanted you to be able to put that card in your deck and have it be all about dragons so we have a bunch of cards that really support the dragon theme. We have the Blackwing Technician and when she comes into play if you are holding a dragon; if you have a dragon in your hand she gets plus one, plus one so becomes a three five for three which is a pretty strong minion. She is also pretty interesting because when she comes into play if she gets plus one plus one you are actually communicating to your opponent “hey I have a dragon in my hand and based on the Meta game your opponent may be able to figure out what dragon it is in your hand and play around that or maybe you have a dragon they didn’t expect and they play around something you don’t have so there is a lot of communication that goes on here as well but I definitely expect her to be one of the key pieces of a dragon deck.

Of course we have to have a dragon or actually we have multiple dragons but this is just one of them for Blackrock Mountain and so when it comes into play it summons a random one cost minion for your opponent so you think you can deal with it but you are just not quite sure but it makes for a lot of interesting things and a five six or four is very, very strong. It wouldn’t be an adventure around Blackrock Mountain unless we had this guy Rend Blackhand; the chief of Blackrock Orcs and he is so badass that he rides a dragon, so what he does is if you are holding a dragon when he comes into play he destroys a legendary minion. What that means is your opponent drops a legendary, they think they’ve got their end game statement, you drop this guy he takes out their legendary and suddenly you have a big guy on the table and you turn things around and suddenly it’s a whole different game; he is pretty awesome for that.

Of course we have a bunch more cards that will be coming as well, there will be more dragons, more fire cards, more class cards, more of all of that good stuff so tons more cards coming or actually I guess a thirty one total cards coming and lastly I wanted to talk about the card backs that are coming. That season card back is the card back you get for getting to level twenty or rend twenty or better in this season that is going on right now; it’s pretty easy to do and it’s an awesome card back, the heroic card back is the card back you get if you defeat all of the bosses throughout all five wings of Blackrock Mountain on heroic; that’s the card back you can show off that you are pretty much a badass and the last one is actually a card back for pre-ordering Blackrock Mountain so on the nineteenth or twentieth depending on your region it’s going to be available for pre-order. When you do that, when Blackrock Mountain comes out you will get the wings as they come out, one wing at a time but you get that card back immediately and of course March 19th or 20th wouldn’t make a lot of sense for Blackrock Mountain unless you knew that it was also coming out next month; so next month you are going to be playing at Blackrock Mountain and we are looking forward to all of the crazy decks you guys make with them and all of your feedback about all of it, so that’s it and thank you very much for coming to the Blizzard Panel. Have an awesome Pax East.

Special thanks to rettep for helping with the transcripts.

Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003. I post news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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