BlizzCon? More like ZzzCon.

Is it just me, or was this one of the most underwhelming BlizzCons in, well, ever?

I had a gut feeling from advance mentions and hints that we should be setting our expectations really low for BlizzCon this year, but it turns out that “low” wasn’t low enough. I could forgive the extremely annoying preshow announcers (who were calling the experience of eating breakfast cereal “AMAZING!”) and even the various low-key presenters who looked painfully uncomfortable in front of the crowd (I’m looking at you, J. Allen Brack), but this was obviously a year in which the studio had nothing great to say about its lineup.

World of Warcraft had no new expansion nor classic server announcement to spring on us, and so instead we got a lame tease of Patch 8.1 and a Summer 2019 launch date for WoW Classic. That’s pretty much it. I wasn’t expecting much, but c’mon… they could have at least hinted at 8.2 or beyond. They might have said something about Old Gods. I watched the keynote looking for some reason to be really enthusiastic about WoW, and they gave me nothing. I know they talked a bit more about future patches in the panel, but even after reading up on that, I’m not seeing anything that new, surprising, or engrossing.

Overwatch had a strong showing, although that isn’t at all interesting to me. Heroes got a new hero, Hearthstone got a new expansion, and StarCraft II got its corpse dragged in front of everyone so they could acknowledge that it still exists.

The Warcraft III remaster — which had been rumored — received some positive reception. I suppose it’s something if we’re not getting Warcraft IV, but again, I’m not that keen to play a game that I played way back when I was still in love with RTS titles. I’ve moved on.

Then there was Diablo. We all knew that this show was going to be Diablo’s moment, and with multiple projects in the works, perhaps we were going to get a lot of reveals. Instead, Blizzard talked up the Nintendo Switch launch and then announced Diablo Immortal, an MMO mobile version.

Now to be fair, this is kind of interesting to me. I’ve really wanted a good Diablo experience on my smartphone ever since I had my first iPhone back in 2009, and I am sure that I’ll be playing this a lot more than I did Diablo III. It does seem like a good toilet break — er, Bio Break — game, doesn’t it? As long as it loads quickly and plays smoothly, I’ll be there. I know it’s a huge disappointment to many, and I get why, but I’m a little more flexible on this because I’m not as passionately invested in the Diablo franchise.

Alas, with that one medium-sized bullet fired, Blizzard slunk off-stage and we weren’t left with much to be that excited about. I suppose that WoW Classic’s demo is supposed to bear the weight of that franchise at this moment, but in a way, that all feels like last year’s announcement leftovers reheated.

I guess it’s a good sign for me that my decision to push WoW to the gaming backburner is justified. There is a lot else to play and a busy month of gaming ahead, so I’ll stay the course and hope that next year’s BlizzCon will give us something to talk about once more.

Diablo 3: Machine gun in leather boots

demonh

I would post a picture of my character, but currently I’m wearing the most ridiculous headpiece and I’m ashamed of it (even though it’s legendary).

So like several fellow bloggers, I jumped on board Diablo 3 this past Friday for the start of Season 5. For me, this was my first time participating in a season and potentially completing the game (I’ve only gotten through Act 2 in the past — and it’s been a while). Instead of going with my traditional Witch Doctor (for pets), I decided to start up a Demon Hunter instead. It helped that I learned just a week or so ago that the DH gets a companion pet, and that tipped me over into trying out a new class.

I wasn’t power-leveling to 70 like others in our guild; I needed to relearn the game and wanted to explore the full story before buckling down and doing the seasonal stuff (I have three months, anyway).

I bumped up the difficulty to hard and went at it. My main focus was just to experiment with the different skills and builds at the Demon Hunter’s disposal to see what worked best for me. I took an early shine to rapid fire, although multishot is pretty awesome for screen-clearing potential. I haven’t been killed yet, so perhaps it’s time to push the difficulty higher, I don’t know.

I was pretty excited to start getting legendary drops here and there, which certainly helped to bolster my character to the point where it was actually hard for her to take damage when fighting bosses.

It’s all mostly mindless fun, like popping bubblewrap. There’s a certain satisfaction from going on a massacre or clearing an entire screen and then running around to pick up all of the loot left behind. I got into the mid-20s (I am slow, I know) and part of the way through Act II.

Even though I’m enjoying playing it, I foresee difficulty writing blog posts about Diablo 3 in the future. What am I going to say — “I clicked! I clicked again! More clickage!”? Action RPGs are the popcorn of gaming: fun to partake but not with as much substance as other titles.

It’d be great to get to 70 and figure out what I’m supposed to be doing as part of the progression track. I read some posts that made me go a little cross-eyed at everything to be done, but like everything, it doesn’t all need to be done at once. Little bit at a time and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Postscript

Last night I switched over to adventure mode and… yeah, this is what I should be playing. Missions that skip you around the map and lots and lots of XP. I started zipping up through the levels pretty quickly — and I got my sentry turret, which is now my favoritist thing in the whole world. Well, my wife, my children, and then my sentry turret that shoots homing missiles. If only my kids could shoot off homing missiles.

Diablo III: Jumping spiders or exploding frogs?

d3I haven’t gotten a lot of spare time to run around in Diablo III as of late, but I try to log in for at least 15 minutes a day to push my Witch Doctor a few more steps through Act I.  It’s still surprisingly enjoyable in a mindless, bubble-popping way.  I suffered a lot of indecision on the class choice, as none really were calling out to me, but pets plus some pretty visually funky attacks have endeared me to the WD.

Right now I’m running around with poisonous zombie dogs, tossing out exploding frogs, and generally feeling OK about my choices in life.  I’m hitting a level every play session or so, which almost always unlocks a new skill or rune or follower ability, and I’ve even found a couple of legendaries (I have legendary pants!  My pants are legendary!  They emit a stench when enemies are near!  I can’t stop telling my friends this!).

Above all, what really endears this game to me is its atmosphere.  It’s like going through a giant Halloween playground with all sorts of visually impressive set pieces.  I forgot about the farmer you rescue who has his wife — now a skeleton in a rocking chair — down in the cellar.  It’s a goofy, grim world that would actually be pretty enjoyable to play as a proper over-the-shoulders MMO, methinks.  But this is almost as good and still quite visually detailed.

Last night I hit level 21 and finished up Act I.  It had been pretty much a cakewalk up to that point, so I bumped up the difficulty level from normal to hard, which started to feel more like a challenge.  I also got two skills I was looking forward to: my gigantic zombie pet and a fireball basic attack.  The last time I played Diablo III, I never progressed far into Act II, so I’m looking forward to seeing what lies beyond the boundaries of my past experience.

Weekend gaming report

gwwwwwwI had a very busy if scattered weekend of gaming, so here’s what I’ve been up to:

LOTRO: I’ll write up a longer post later on about the continuing adventures through Update 13.  It definitely feels like a much smaller edition so I’m trying hard not to zoom through it too quickly.  If nothing else, it reminded me how much I dislike the visuals of Isengard and am very glad I’m leaving that place behind forever.

Guild Wars 2: Nothing super-special here, just logging in to do dailies.  Dailies definitely seem to take a lot longer after the feature pack drop, mostly due to a smaller selection of options.  Some days I can breeze through them, but I’ve had at least two days where it’s taken me a good hour or more to wrap them up.  My Mesmer is level 41 and more or less doing well.  I haven’t really figured out a build with her yet, but since I won’t even hit the second tier of traits until 60, I have plenty of time to figure it out.  Hilariously enough, I’ve yet to leave the starting zones (I’m on the last one, the Sylvari zone).

The Wolf Among Us: I took an hour and a half to do the third episode, The Crooked Mile.  I really lament how short these episodes are, especially since there are no puzzles to slow down the rapid pace through the story.  It was definitely interesting and kept the twists and turns of the plot coming.  I also decided I must grab this soundtrack if it’s available.

Diablo 3: This actually sucked up quite a bit of my time.  Maybe I’m just in the mood lately for mindless action-RPGing, but dang if it wasn’t a fun couple of sessions.  After poking around a bit on a Monk, I rerolled a new Witch Doctor because throwing spiders on things is far too awesome to ignore.  I even joined a guild (er, clan) and appreciated the more social aspect of the game that’s arisen since the expansion.  Speaking of, I’m debating getting Reaper of Souls, but I think I’ll wait to see if I stick this out through the end of the storyline.  Other than the Crusader class, I don’t think the lack of the expansion is limiting my play experience at all.

Quality toilet time and Diablo III

Food poisoning sucks.  I’ve never had it before, but boy howdy did I make up for that oversight this past weekend.  My wife, my one-year-old and I all got it within a couple of hours of each other, and let me tell you that there’s nothing like trying to care for a projectile-vomiting little kid while you just want to be curled around the toilet yourself.

I bring this up because my gaming plans for the weekend got preempted by all of this, which is to say that I didn’t get to game much at all.  About the only thing I did was to reinstall Diablo III to see how the expansion updates changed the game.  From about 20 minutes into Act 1 I can’t see any huge changes, but it’s been over a year since I last played it, so I barely remember what it used to be like.

I did have one thought pertaining to MMOs from this brief expedition into D3, which is that I kind of really like the 3D isometric perspective — and I wouldn’t mind having that same view for an MMO.  Your character and everything else is smaller, sure, but you get a much greater sense of your surroundings.  It reminds me a lot of the worlds of Baldur’s Gate II and Fallout and those older RPGs.  Even though I’m not face-first into the surrounding details, the total sum of everything in the area sort of makes up for that.

Maybe there are MMOs apart from action-RPGs that do this, but it’s early on a Monday morning and my facilities have yet to be brought back online fully.  Ultima Online, definitely.  Salem?  I recall that there’s a sandbox MMO in the making, Albion Online, that uses this perspective and I definitely liked the look of it, at least.

albion

Guest Post: The Diablo III that should have been

Syp’s out of town this week and has turned the keys to Bio Break over to fellow bloggers.  Today’s post is from Doone of T.R. Red Skies.

I was wondering to myself: what would have made for a proper sequel to Diablo 2? Diablo 3 clearly isn’t it, even if it’s great on the action of gameplay itself. In my opinion, it’s not an actual sequel in terms of gameplay. It’s actually a few large steps backward. Some players try to compare Diablo 2 at releast to Diablo 3 at release. This is a flawed approach; Diablo 3 came after the last patch of Diablo 2. Therefore players are expecting things to improve on Lord of Destruction and patch 1.12. That’s the starting point for Diablo 3.

Keep Itemization the Same

Let’s see …the sheer variety of items alongside a robust skill system meant players had a level of character customization no game on the market has yet met. Throw in ladder competition and you have a game that’s STILL entertaining players the world over (after 10 years)! Cool things I would have kept:

  •     Ethereal Items: Could have been enhanced by allowing Tyrael, the fallen angel, be able to upgrade and imbue them with special powers.
  •     Rune Words: Doesn’t need an explanation. The exploration and experimentation this promoted made the farming game richer and worthwhile.
  •     Jewels and ALL gems would still be in game.

I guess I wouldn’t have harmed itemization too much except to improve balance and desirability. It would have been nice to take some of those loot algorithms and improve their relevancy to players based on what class is doing the killing.

Clans on Bnet

It’s like, they keep talking about connecting players and Bnet *still* doesn’t have ways for guilds/clans to socialize online. Real ID and friends lists, sure. But all of their games feature multiplayer. What’s the reason there’s no functionality on Bnet for build boards, guild messaging, and guild calendar?

They just keep confirming that Bnet wasn’t really made to improve the player experience. That just happens to be a pleasant side effect that they *might* get around to implementing one day. Currently, it’s little more than a glorified friends list. There’s no interaction for players; it’s not a tool that allows players to more easily connect and game together. It’s just a friends list. Guild support, armories, ladders …just a few throwbacks that should have been default features of Bnet are completely absent.

In Diablo, like so many other games, clans were an important part of the community. Diablo 3 should have made space for them. Currently, Blizzard is proving that Battlenet is nothing more than their DRM control center. It doesn’t have gamers in mind, not the way it’s currently designed. This is the sad state of affairs at the company; all of these changes really show that the player experience comes second to their coffers. For me, Diablo 3 shows that the developers are doing as little as they possibly can to deliver a great experience. We can always count on Blizzard to deliver seamless combat gameplay …but just think of your experience in Diablo: that’s the ONLY area that’s really achieved greatness in this game. The story is an example of awful video game narrative, itemization is the worst this game has ever seen, and now a Real Money Auction House (RMAH). It couldn’t be more apparent what was important to devs.

The Horadric Cube

This little mysterious object was an important part of the itemization meta-game of Diablo 2. It’s a shame something like it wasn’t carried forward in D3. But this needs little explanation; if the game had continued with runes as items, the cube may have made it in. I think, coupled with bringing back D2 itemization, the cube would have been a great hit with the community.

…Ladders

I think this will actually re-emerge with the new PvP Arenas. I’m just not confident it will deliver in the same way that it did in D2. In the previous game, the ladder went hand in hand with the item grind. Current itemization in D3 shows that even if a ladder were instituted, it wouldn’t go hand in hand with it. Itemization is designed to be mostly uninteresting by intent. A ladder isn’t going to save this. All of my imaginings here depend a lot on stronger, funner itemization. I fear Blizz has crossed the Rubicon on that.

On the one hand though, that makes it that much easier to bring Diablo 3 up to par with it’s predecessor: improve itemization and all other things will follow.

I guess these are the things I see as most important to making a proper sequel to Diablo 2. But everything hinges on the devs bringing itemization up to par with D2: LoD 1.12. Slim hopes are slim.

Character Building

Progress? Character customization screens from Fallout 2 (top) and Mass Effect 3 (bottom)

Yesterday, Azuriel wrote an excellent post in which he responded to some of the current backlash going on regarding soling and solo-centric content in MMOs.  It’s an interesting argument, especially the “show and tell” element, and I encourage you to read it.

As with all good posts, it got me thinking on a tangent — specifically, how utterly lackluster modern single-player RPGs are in regards to their combat and character building systems.  Azuriel made the point that they don’t really have to be as deep as MMOs, because the time spent in the game will be quite limited in comparison.

Several of the newer RPGs I’ve played in the past year felt extremely basic in comparison to what I’m used to in an MMO.  Dragon Age II, Mass Effect 3, Skyrim, even Diablo III — all have some measure of character-building, but it feels like a token effort in comparison to the legacy of the single-player RPG genre that came before.  The stats are swept under the rug, the choices are made with BIG BOXES AND SIMPLE NUMBERS that convey the message that you’re not to be trusted with complex decisions, and the talent trees or class paths are a mere handful of steps from beginning to end.  Mass Effect 3, in particular, could have just chucked the entire character-building system and been just fine (and in fact the game does allow you to play in a mode that doesn’t require any combat).

They’re great games, for the most part.  They tell wonderful stories, have engaging cinematics, and are action-heavy.  And yet one of the most enjoyable parts of any RPG — online or offline — has been dumbed down to such a basic level that it’s no longer enjoyable to spend any time building up my character.  The system feels like a vestigial tail that’s there to justify the “RPG” moniker, instead of dropping it and revealing itself to be an action-shooter-platformer like these games apparently want to be.

I love, love, love building up a good RPG character.  It’s always been one of the greatest attractions that the genre’s ever had for me.  I used to pour over RPG sourcebooks just to look at all of the character-building options and imagine what I’d make.  When 1988’s Wasteland came out, I agonized for hours how I wanted to build my team and what skills I would take.  Likewise with Baldur’s Gate II, Fallout 2, Arcanum, and scores of others.  Even my Final Fantasy journeys were made more exciting because of the depth of the character building systems.  Engaging in this builds a connection between you and your character — you’re a vital part of their development and choices.

Yet somewhere along the line, the complexity and detail of character building was inherited by MMOs and forsaken by single-player titles, which is why I vastly prefer MMOs (not the only reason, but one of).  I’m not just building up characters for a short 50-hour stint; I’m building them up for an epic journey spanning months and even years.  There’s always so much to attain, to pursue, and to choose when it comes to my character’s growth that I’m rarely bored.

I vividly while not proudly remember spending many walks back in 2004 and 2005 planning out the lives of my World of Warcraft characters (this was back when hitting 40 was a huge game-changing event for you that included your first mount and first 31-point talent).  City of Heroes’ main draw to me was always the powerset choices to be made and how my character would gradually grow in abilities and strength.  And while I might bemoan how top-heavy LOTRO’s features have become, I’ll still take that complexity over Commander Shepherd trying to decide between shotguns and pistols while puzzling over tying her shoes.

It’s this complexity and depth that makes sticking with a character for a long journey fun and rewarding.  It’s why these characters often feel more alive to us than those of long-dead games that existed for a brief flash.  It’s why any time a new game is announced, the first thing I want to know is just how much I can customize and tweak when it comes to my character.

So while some may elect to lavish praise upon single-player titles, keep in mind that there are plenty of reasons to be praising MMOs for different reasons.

A day with Diablo 3

Diablo III, early test build.

So after my weird psudo-rant about watching the Diablo III launch week from the outside, I ended up with a copy of it yesterday (unexpectedly but not unwelcome, mind you).  So I put aside my normal MMO lineup for the evening and spent several hours getting acquainted with the latest in a series that I remember playing when I first moved to Michigan.  In 2000.

Honestly, it’s a pretty strong but not terribly revolutionary action RPG, and it goes down smoothly.  If you like killing lots of things quickly, watching big numbers happen, getting tons of lot, and exploring a haunted house of a world, then it’s right up your alley.  It’s got the trademark Blizzard polish, so everything handles nicely.  There was about a ten-second learning curve on all of the features, and that says something good about how intuitive the design is.  Even the new skill/rune setup is really simple to grasp, although I spent some time initially trying to figure out where the complexity came in (more on that in a bit).

I rolled a Witch Doctor (because zombies) and enjoyed the play while disliking the look of the character.  It’s interesting to me how unconventional most of the classes are in D3 versus most fantasy titles, and I appreciate that Blizzard was willing to at least make an attempt at providing something other than knight/ranger/priest, if only in name and outfit design.

Little touches improve D3 over what I remember of D2.  For instance, no more town portal scrolls (you just get a permanent skill) or identify scrolls (just right-click on unidentified objects).  The crafting system makes more sense to me than the weird cube thing of D2, you don’t have to click to pick up gold (just run near it), and the areas are pretty straight-forward to navigate.   Click click click, loot loot loot, level up.

I’ve heard people call it “kiddy WoW” (which is amusing as an oxymoron), and I can see that.  It feels like a stripped-down version of World of Warcraft, from the interface to the stats (should I feel insulted that the weapon DPS number is font size 96 so that I don’t miss it?) to the skillbar.

Initially, I really thought that there was no customization to be had apart from gear.  The game automatically grants you skills as you level up, and you can choose just one skill per category at any given time.  Later on, you start to get runes, which allow you to choose a skill variant, but again, only one of each.  Finally, there are passives, which is the closest thing the game has to a talent tree.  Taken separately, it feels like hand-holding, but all together it does have the promise of some interesting builds and combinations.  It made me think of League of Legends, how characters there only have a small handful of skills and yet that game is able to offer a huge amount of variety and complexity within that framework.

I do have two big complaints from the get-go.  The first is — as everyone else is saying — the sheer stupidity of not offering a non-DRM offline mode for a single-player game.  If Blizzard’s servers are down, and they were twice during the short time I was playing, you simply can’t play the game.  Blizzard’s taking a ton of heat over this and yet I can’t see the company admitting that this is a bad idea or that it should listen to its customers.  Nay, you’ll buy your Diablo III and then shut it while we count your cash!

“Requiring that players be online is one thing – but we are!  We’re online right now!  They’re the ones who aren’t online.  Who watches the watchmen?!?!” (Penny Arcade)

I hate DRM.  So much.

The second complaint came at the end of the night.  I was trying to be outgoing and jumped into a couple of groups with fellow bloggers B.J. and Tipa.  The multiplayer does work surprisingly well, it’s very pain-free to engage in, and I enjoyed it.  The problem came when I joined Tipa’s party, as the game sent me over to help her out with a quest I’d yet to do.  Fair enough, kill kill, I died a lot since I was underlevel for the area, but oh well.  But when I left, I noticed that the game “saved” my progress to her quest — I couldn’t go back to do the one I was working on originally.  I looked everywhere for a way to do this, but nothing doing.

Now, if this was my tenth playthrough or something, it wouldn’t be a problem.  But it was my first time through the game, and I wanted to actually see it all from the start to the end, including what little story there was.  I did not want the game to trick me into leapfrogging content just because I was grouping up.  So now I’m faced with either pretending as though my character got amnesia for three levels or rerolling.  I guess I’ll reroll; it was only three hours in, after all.

Update: Rohan was kind enough to inform me that I *can* roll back my quest progress, but I have to do so on the character login screen.  Big button and all that.  Thanks!

Anyway, I don’t see this taking the place of my MMOs, but it certainly is a nice distraction for when I want something more basic and simple.

A BlizzCon Summer’s Night Dream

blizzcon_logo2009No matter what comes out of this past week’s Gamescon, Blizzard pretty much has the media and gamer culture squarely fixed on their recently-concluded BlizzCon.  Did it do the trick of fanning the slowly dying embers of WoW?  Are people more excited for StarCraft II and Diablo III?  And what does this jaded ex-WoWer think of the whole circus?  Let’s find out.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Complete lack of surprise notwithstanding, Blizz took the safe and predictable route of rolling out news of the new WoW expansion, with millions cheering anyway.  Mild cynicism aside, good for them for “shaking things up” in the old world and not just tacking on a new end game and calling it a day.  Great expansions, in my book, include content for the new, mid-level, and end game player — not just one out of three.  We’ve been asking Blizz to revisit the old world for years, and now that they’ve done it, I will at least tip my hat in their direction.

I think a lot of folks who thought they’d escaped WoW’s grasp are going to be sorely tempted to jump back in, especially if the leveling process is vastly different than the last 450 times they did it.  Plus, hey, werewolves and goblins, always crowd pleasers.  It is a vast shame that they didn’t announce another hero class, as slow as Blizzard is rolling out these expansions.  Assuming they release one with the next x-pack, that’s going on the rate of one new class every four years, which is far, far too long a stretch in between.  Plus, the whole “hero class” thing needs a bit of competition.

After the Cataclysm leaks of the past few weeks, the only mildly surprising factors (other than the leaks being pretty much on the nose) was the addition of guild leveling and Archaeology as a new profession.  There’s also “The Path of the Titans” to consider – which is being described somewhat like EQ’s Alternative Advancement, in letting characters further develop in different ways than just leveling.

So it’s all well and good that WoW’s continuing in their tradition of pickpocketing features from other MMOs (seriously, Battle for Gilneas = WAR’s Battle of Praag), but could it have hurt them to swipe a bit of player housing from EQ2 while they were at it?

Diablo III

Here’s something I was far more excited about — news concerning the slowly developing Diablo 3.  I predicted that we’d probably hear about a new class or two, but nothing more revolutionary than that, and behold, that is what happened.

Not to say the new class — the Monk — isn’t righteous and radical and cowabunga all on its own.  It is.  At this point, Blizzard doesn’t have to try to make a sale with me; it already has my D3 dollars, some indeterminate time in the future.  But it’s certainly great to get a new drip-drop of information, and for their sake, let’s hope they get it out the door before another action-RPG sweeps house with the long-suffering audience (Torchlight, perhaps?).

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing this in 2010, so… /alas

The Impact

We as MMO gamers are both easily excitable and swiftly swayed, hence the pronouncement that Blizzard utterly dominated the near future in terms of MMO announcements.  Well, I won’t argue that some folks are excited — and good for them if they are — and that Blizz managed to come out on top of a very news-heavy week for MMOs.  But, news-wise, this isn’t as huge as the moment may appear.

For one thing, our fickle personalities will continue to be fascinated with other MMOs and their announcements, and we’re going to see a lot of that in the next few weeks and months.  Star Wars TOR, Aion, Fallen Earth, DDO:EU, Star Trek Online, Champions, LOTRO’s possible 2nd expansion, AoC, WAR, Dust 514, the sixteen EQ/EQ2 expansions SOE will release this year, Free Realms — WoW is still a mighty big voice, but it’s a much more crowded field than it was back in 2004, or 2007, for that matter.  BlizzCon hands the sole microphone to one company; when PAX arrives, it will be far more representative of our widely diverse MMO population.

Another question is whether Cataclysm really changes things as much as they say.  At its core, WoW will always be WoW — very quest-driven, grindy, and gear-dominated from 1 to 85.  Yes, it’s a great new facelift to the world, but that kind of makes me think of a middle-aged person who gets a bit of cosmetic surgery to feel relevant again instead of doing something truly noteworthy with their life.  I’m not saying that their third expansion will be poorly received, but I fail to see how it will somehow revitalize the interest that flagged noticeably a couple months after Lich King launched.

I was really hoping that Blizzard would’ve shocked us with news of their super-duper secret projects, but my house is full of horses that my foolish wishes make, so I should have known.  Announcing an expansion pack, a new class for a game we won’t see for another year or two, and general back-patting is fairly mundane news — this is a company that hasn’t released a non-Warcraft game/expansion pack since two-thousand-and-one, after all.