Tag Archives: blizzard

The Big Stories To Follow For Overwatch League Season Two

Photo: Robert Paul (Blizzard Entertainment)

Tomorrow, after several cold, OWL-less months, Overwatch League season two kicks off. The first season had its ups and downs, fittingly ending on a simultaneously high and low note with a blockbuster grand finals match in New York that ended up being a one-sided blowout. Since then, a lot has changed, leading to questions about what this season will look like and who’ll come out on top. Here’s what to watch for as we head into season two.

New Team Takeover

The most obvious change to Overwatch League’s structure this season is the addition of eight new teams, representing places like Hangzhou, China, Guangzhou, China, Chengdu, China, and even some places that aren’t China, bringing the total number up to 20. Current teams like Shanghai Dragons and Florida Mayhem have overhauled their rosters to the point that they’re basically new teams, too.

How will things shake out once the fur (and mecha parts and Scream Halloween costume scraps) start flying? And how will old teams, like surprise season winners the London Spitfire, perennial underdogs the Philadelphia Fusion, and dominant-until-they-weren’t mega-team New York Excelsior—who’ve made tweaks to their coaching staffs and rosters, but haven’t overhauled things—fit into this suddenly more complex puzzle? And, most importantly, how will they react when they all get beaten by my precious Houston Outlaws? While diehard fans have spent the off-season trying to figure these things out using such time-tested scientific techniques as “math” and “interminable internet arguments,” the jury’s out until teams take the stage.

As we learned last season, which began with many believing Seoul Dynasty and Dallas Fuel (lol) were the two top teams, a grueling regular season brings with it a plethora of intangibles. Performance in the moment and performance over the long haul are very different things, and communication, chemistry, and the ability to bounce back from adversity are musts. There’s also the question of how new players will fit into the Overwatch League’s pre-existing culture, which has produced enough ill-advised internet tantrums, racist gestures, and account-boosting schemes to warrant an official discipline tracker.

Of the new teams, Vancouver Titans seem most likely to have that battle-hardened “it” factor, given that their roster is renowned Overwatch Contenders Korean team and Apex tournament champion RunAway with a fresh coat of blue-green paint. They play their first match on Saturday against Shanghai Dragons. Speaking of…

Photo: Robert Paul (Blizzard Entertainment)

Shanghai Hopes

You might not be surprised to learn that, after one of the losing-est seasons in sports history, Shanghai Dragons decided to change things up a little. During the off-season, they gutted their old roster, replacing all except three players. Fan favorite Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim is still part of the team, and now playing alongside fellow Koreans, meaning the language barriers that plagued Shanghai during season one should be minimized.

Still, the blame for a 0-40 season doesn’t just fall on the backs of players. Defeat that crushing at this level is almost always the product of institutional issues, and the brief glimpses behind Shanghai Dragons’ curtain during season one weren’t pretty. Practice schedules even more grueling than the rest of the league were the order of the day, but they led to only marginal improvements. Shanghai lost and gained multiple coaches last season, to little avail. Is the infrastructure surrounding the team better this time around?

Photo: Robert Paul (Blizzard Entertainment)

Meta Physics

The GOATS meta: it’s bad. That’s what a large contingent of Overwatch players will tell you about the game’s current dominant composition, which is a giant, rolling meatball of tanks and healers. It takes more nuance to play than you might think, but it’s still an attrition-based play style that’s rarely as aesthetically pleasing as high-flying DPS antics. This has some pros and fans worried that matches won’t be all that fun to watch.

On the upside, the only thing consistent about video game metas is change, and active esports scenes tend to accelerate the process. But this particular calcified meta, combined with a slow bleed of enthusiasm for Overwatch due to recent updates that have failed to freshen up the nearly three-year-old game, have some fearing that interest in Overwatch is flagging. Will a new OWL season revive it, or will lapsed players no longer see any reason to give a hoot?

Photo: Robert Paul (Blizzard Entertainment)

Leaving On A Jet Plane

While the Overwatch League has yet to achieve its goal of sending teams to their respective “home” towns—all 20 teams live in Los Angeles, and they only play in the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California—it is taking the first steps in that direction this season. It’s more of an experiment than anything at this point, with only three teams—Dallas Fuel, Atlanta Reign, and Los Angeles Valiant—hosting a smattering of road games, while all other season-two matches will take place at the Blizzard Arena. What will production be like during those games? Can the teams’ arenas match the standard Blizzard has set with its own? What will turnouts for matches be like? Will players feel extra pressure competing in front of hometown crowds, or will that raise their spirits?

This also raises longer-term questions: Last season, players suffered from burnout and extreme fatigue, to the point that some had to go on extended hiatuses from the game and others retired after the season ended. This season, teams only have to play one game per week instead of two, and teams swear up and down that they’re relaxing their practice schedules, but what will all of that look like with the addition of travel atop the teetering luggage heap? And if teams really do relocate to their home cities after this season, what happens if, say, a player gets traded to a team halfway across the world, then traded again a season or two later? What sorts of protections do players have against callous treatment, if any? Will these sorts of concerns finally get them to unionize?

Photo: Robert Paul (Blizzard Entertainment)

Behind-The-Scenes Blues

Activision and Blizzard just announced a mammoth round of layoffs after a record year that apparently didn’t set enough records for their shareholders’ tastes, and alongside publishing and QA, Blizzard’s esports division got hit especially hard. I’ve spoken to sources working on OWL who say they’re shorter-staffed this year than last year, which means some people will probably be spread thin. OWL, on the other hand, has become bigger and more demanding than ever. Will something give, or will the machine just keep chugging along?

Source: Kotaku.com

The Fallout Of Activision Blizzard’s Massive Layoffs

Photo: Blizzard

Yesterday, at the exact moment Activision Blizzard chief executive officer Bobby Kotick hopped on a quarterly earnings call to inform shareholders that his company had just gone through a “record year,” employees across the publisher of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and more were being brought into conference rooms and informed that they were losing their jobs.

“It’s a bloodbath here,” one Blizzard employee told me last night. “A lot more cuts than we were expecting.”

As Kotick and other executives were telling investors that the next Call of Duty was shaping up to be the best one yet, employees across Activision Blizzard’s various divisions nervously sat at their desks, waiting to see who would be next to get the severance envelope. In Blizzard’s publishing department, management had booked a series of meetings from 1pm to 3pm Pacific. On the calendar, they were all blank. Everyone knew what that meant.

“The look on people’s faces as they’re pulling in through the [campus] gates is just awful,” said another Blizzard employee. “This is the fucking worst.”

Later on the call, Kotick delivered the grim news: Activision Blizzard, which employed around 9,600 employees last year, would reduce its workforce by 8%. That equated to around 800 people. Some were junior employees, having started at the company just recently; others had been with Activision Blizzard for 15 years or longer. Some were informed yesterday; others, particularly in Europe and other non-U.S. divisions, didn’t find out their fates until this morning.

It was carnage. People were laid off at Activision’s main office in Santa Monica, California, where an entire team of Destiny publishing staff had been coming to work with nothing to do. (Some of them were laid off; some were moved to Call of Duty or other teams. Some in other departments were also laid off.) People lost their jobs at King, the developer of Candy Crush, and at Activision’s various development studios including Vicarious Visions (Albany, NY) and High Moon Studios (San Diego, CA), both of which had handled support on Destiny 2. Activision Blizzard staff in Europe, Latin America, and other regions across the world also lost their jobs. Some who were laid off wrote messages on social media to say goodbye, while developers all across the video game industry tried to help by posting job listings on Twitter and Facebook. Although the bulk of laid-off employees were support staff, some were in departments like art and design as well.

Over the past week I’ve talked to around 20 people who were laid off or close to those being laid off, as well as others with knowledge as to what’s happening at Activision Blizzard. If there’s a consensus, it’s rage. Rage at Kotick’s comments, at the way Activision executives seemingly view their employees as numbers on a spreadsheet, at the callousness in which this layoff was handled. There’s rage at who was chosen to be laid off—two people told me that it felt like a random, haphazard practice—and rage that some important employees were let go. Some who had been laid off told me they had felt safe, expecting their studios or departments to not be affected. Even those who felt layoffs were necessary or justifiable said they were shocked by the scale, scope, and coldness from executives.

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick
Photo: Mike Windle (Getty Images)

At Blizzard, for example, rumors of big layoffs had been circulating as early as November. Back then, as I began to learn about the sweeping changes that had come to the legendary game studio in 2018, I heard from a former high-level employee that layoffs were coming in February. I heard the same from a source plugged into the investor community. Another Blizzard employee told me today that the layoffs had been an “open secret” for months.

Blizzard, founded in 1991, has developed critically and commercially successful games from Warcraft and StarCraft to Diablo and Overwatch. It has kept its game quality high even after Activision merged with the studio in 2008. It just hasn’t produced many new games of late, increasing tensions with management in Santa Monica. Since the beginning of 2018, as Kotaku has reported previously, the mandate at Blizzard had been to cut costs and produce more games.

To those who worked outside of Blizzard’s development teams, in departments like publishing, esports, QA, and IT, it felt last year like the axe was about to fall. After all, if Blizzard was looking to develop more games without spending more money, they’d need to lose headcount in non-game-development departments. But management said nothing. With no union or other method for collectively communicating with executives, employees were left with nothing but whispers. As November turned into December and the new year came, all they could do was wait.

Last week, as rumors began heating up and culminated in a Bloomberg story on Friday night reporting that hundreds of layoffs were coming, one Blizzard employee reached out to me to ask if I knew whether or not they’d get severance. The person said they weren’t expecting to be affected, but wanted to know if I’d heard anything about how impacted employees would be treated. Just in case. On Tuesday night, I found out they’d been laid off. (Full-time employees who were laid off across Activision Blizzard did get severance, although contractors did not.)

I heard other stories, too. Some people supposedly learned their fate early, signing non-disclosure agreements last week in exchange for severance packages. Others took buyouts thanks to the Career Crossroads program that allowed QA, customer service, and IT employees to voluntarily leave, as we reported in December. Some were given hints from their managers—warnings to polish their résumés before Tuesday. One Blizzard employee told me they’d see the job networking website Linkedin open on computer screens as they walked around the office over the past week.

Some outside of Blizzard, at Activision’s various development studios, thought they were safe but on Tuesday and Wednesday reached out to let me know that they or their colleagues had been unexpectedly laid off.

Last night, the picture at Blizzard became clearer. Support teams had been gutted. The layoffs were largest in non-development departments like IT and QA, according to those who were there. The esports department was hit hard, as many within Blizzard had expected—after all, it had been led by Amy Morhaime, wife of Mike, the long-time Blizzard CEO who left the company last fall. She departed around the same time. The two Morhaimes were seen as big advocates for esports within Blizzard, even when it wasn’t quite as lucrative as Activision’s executives might have hoped, and with them gone, the department was in danger.

Photo: Blizzard

Blizzard’s publishing department, which is comprised of PR, marketing, community, and other game support divisions, was also hit hard. Around late 2015 or early 2016, Blizzard had split North American and global publishing into two departments, according to long-time employees. It was seen as a bad move by those who worked there, one that caused resentment, redundancy, and unnecessary bureaucracy. As part of this week’s layoffs, Blizzard reconsolidated those divisions, laying off dozens in the process. Executives like chief operating officer Armin Zerza and marketing boss Todd Harvey, both of whom are heavily connected to Activision, are running the show.

So what does this all mean for the future of Blizzard? Since the beginning of 2018, Activision has been exerting more influence on Blizzard, pushing the company to release more games and find more ways to make money. General consensus, even among rank-and-file employees, is that Blizzard’s lack of new game output over the past few years hasn’t been healthy or sustainable. But Activision’s influence has raised questions among Blizzard staff about whether the studio can retain its culture. Said one former Blizzard employee to me last December: “There’s a real struggle now between developers and the business people… Strategic decisions are being driven by the finance group.”

For decades, Activision’s philosophy has revolved around annualized releases, most notably with the gargantuan Call of Duty series, which hasn’t skipped a year since 2004. That sort of schedule is diametrically opposed to Blizzard’s “release it when it’s ready” philosophy, which has led to massively successful games like Overwatch and Hearthstone but has also led to periods like the present, in which Blizzard has gone three years without releasing a major game. The tension between annualized releases and “games as a service” that don’t have to have new, boxed releases and sequels is one of the main reasons that the Activision and Bungie relationship never worked out. Last month, the two companies split, with Bungie buying the full rights to sell and publish Destiny on its own.

This year will likely be a slow one for Blizzard, as the company implements its new strategy across franchises like Diablo, Warcraft, and Overwatch (all of which have new games in development, many for smartphones). Then, we’ll likely see more new Blizzard games come out more regularly than ever before. And we’ll have to wait and see if they live up to the quality bar Blizzard has set for itself over the past three decades.

At the Yard House restaurant in the Irvine Spectrum mall in California last night, a group of current and now-former Blizzard employees met up to drink and commiserate. The mood was somber, according to one person who was there. There was plenty of sadness and blame to go around. There was anxiety expressed by those who now need to hunt for new jobs, and those who might be forced to uproot their families for new cities or countries. And among those who remain at the company, there’s survivor’s guilt. The fallout of this layoff will linger for a long time. “Work again tomorrow,” said one Blizzard employee who remains at the company. “I have a feeling no one will be doing much work the rest of the week.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Activision Blizzard Lays Off Hundreds Of Employees

Photo: Michael Buckner (Getty Images)

Publisher Activision Blizzard has begun its long-rumored layoff process, informing employees this afternoon that it will be cutting staff. On an earnings call this afternoon, the company said that it would be eliminating 8% of its staff. In 2018, Activision Blizzard had roughly 9,600 employees, which would mean nearly 800 people are now out of work.

This afternoon, the mega-publisher began notifying those who are being laid off across its various organizations, which include Activision, Blizzard, and King.

On the earnings call, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick told investors that the company had “once again achieved record results in 2018″ but that the company would be consolidating and restructuring because of missed expectations for 2018 and lowered expectations for 2019. The company said it would be cutting mainly non-game-development departments and bolstering its development staff for franchises like Call of Duty and Diablo.

Development sources from across the industry told Kotaku this afternoon that the layoffs have affected Activision publishing, Blizzard, King, and some of Activision’s studios, including High Moon.

At Blizzard, the layoffs appear to only have affected non-game-development departments, such as publishing and esports, both of which were expected to be hit hard.

“Over the last few years, many of our non-development teams expanded to support various needs,” Blizzard president J. Allen Brack said in a note to staff around 1pm PT that was obtained by Kotaku. “Currently staffing levels on some teams are out of proportion with our current release slate. This means we need to scale down some areas of our organization. I’m sorry to share that we will be parting ways with some of our colleagues in the U.S. today. In our regional offices, we anticipate similar evaluations, subject to local requirements.”

The letter also promised “a comprehensive severance package,” continued health benefits, career coaching, and job placement assistance as well as profit-sharing bonuses for the previous year to those who are being laid off at Blizzard. (Blizzard employees receive twice yearly bonuses based on how the company performed financially.) “There’s no way to make this transition easy for impacted employees, but we are doing what we can to support our colleagues,” Brack wrote.

The news follows months of rumors about layoffs at the publisher, which heated up early last week as word began to spread that hundreds of people across Activision Blizzard’s various divisions might lose their jobs. Leading up to today, some of the publisher’s employees had been coming to work with no clue as to what might happen. One person at Blizzard told me this morning that as employees arrived, they cried and exchanged hugs in the parking lot.

Last fall, Kotaku reported that Blizzard’s 2018 mandate had been to cut costs and produce more games, and that as a result, layoffs would likely hit the company’s support departments even as Blizzard continues to expand its development teams. Brack’s email suggests the same. “It’s critical that we prioritize product development and grow the capacity of the teams doing this work to best serve our player community,” he wrote. “We also need to evolve operationally to provide the best support for new and existing products.”

Meanwhile, in a press release to investors this afternoon, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick wrote: “While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn’t realize our full potential. To help us reach our full potential, we have made a number of important leadership changes. These changes should enable us to achieve the many opportunities our industry affords us, especially with our powerful owned franchises, our strong commercial capabilities, our direct digital connections to hundreds of millions of players, and our extraordinarily talented employees.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Overwatch League’s Once-Dominant Team Opens Up About Their Season One Failings

Photo: Robert Paul (Blizzard Entertainment)

New York Excelsior’s first season in the Overwatch League ended with more questions than answers, most of them boiling down to some variation on “What happened?” The answer to that question depends on who you talk to. Two members chalk it up to the choppy waters of a shifting meta, but to hear another tell it, sandbagging played a role, too.

For most of Overwatch League’s first season, it seemed like the playoffs and finals would just be a formality. The newly-christened OWL throne already had its heirs apparent: New York Excelsior, aka NYXL. The team dominated nearly every match they played during season one’s first three stages. But when it came time to seal the deal, NYXL fell apart.

As the close losses (and less-close losses) started to pile up during stage four and the playoffs, everyone was taken by surprise—even Blizzard, it seemed, who rented out New York’s Barclays Center for the finals, only for NYXL to get bounced from the playoffs by perennial underdog Philadelphia Fusion. NYXL still ended the season with the best record in the league—34-6, 10 games better than both teams competing in the finals—but faltered when it mattered most.

Speaking to Kotaku at an Overwatch League season two preview event in Los Angeles last week, NYXL players chalked the sudden downturn up to an unfavorable meta. For most of the season, teams relied on fast, aggressive “dive” compositions, which involved coordinated, high-damage plays and targeted healing. This turned players like Zenyatta maestro Sung-hyeon “JJonak” Bang and Widowmaker genius Do-hyeon “Pine” Kim into stars. But then, toward the end of the season, a double-sniper meta centering around Widowmaker and Hanzo took over, leaving NYXL’s tactics looking antiquated.

“I didn’t perform well,” JJonak told Kotaku through a translator. “I didn’t adjust to the new meta well because it was a Widow-Hanzo meta, and I couldn’t adjust to the Widow headshotting me and killing me in one shot. Things like that.”

DPS player Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park agreed. “Before the new meta, I was a Tracer player. I was used to the faster tempo and focusing on the same target as [NYXL tank] Mano, as part of Winston-Tracer. But then the meta changed. It was Pine who played more Widow, but when I did play, I didn’t perform well. I’m good at Widow now, but back then, I wasn’t at the level I am now.”

However, the team’s members aren’t entirely in agreement on what went wrong. When NYXL started dropping off, the prevailing theory is that they were sandbagging—that is, slacking in the wake of their unprecedented dominance in order to rest and shield new strategies from the hungry eyes of their rivals. At the time, this made a degree of sense, especially given that Pine had missed an entire stage due to what he called “stress and panic disorder.”

When I asked JJonak and Saebyeolbe if NYXL had purposefully stopped giving it their all to recover from a season of multiple games per week and brutal practice schedules, JJonak offered only a brief response. “It just wasn’t a good meta for us,” he said.

However, on a recent episode of the OverSight talk show, NYXL support player Yeon-joon “Ark” Hong offered a slightly different explanation, mentioning both the meta and sandbagging.

“We were trying to do something that was not in the meta—trying to counter it,” he said. “We kinda failed. It’s not that we didn’t try or something. Though it’s kinda true that we sandbagged, like, one or two matches, I would say.”

He justified the sandbagging by saying that when teams are in the lead, it makes sense to scrim with other teams less and focus on gathering information instead of giving it away.

This season, NYXL will do their best to live up to the volcano of potential that seemed prime to blow its top last season. Since the end of season one, Overwatch’s meta has undergone multiple shifts, mostly involving an HP-heavy tank-and-healer-based composition known as GOATS. The meta isn’t exactly beloved—JJonak and Saebyeolbe said GOATS is too similar from match to match, and they miss the days of high-flying, highlight-reel DPS plays—but NYXL is ready for it.

“The meta will be mostly GOATS, and some teams will prepare counter comps,” said Saebyeolbe. “How we’re preparing is a secret.”

Will their secret strategy involve Zenyatta?

“Yes,” said JJonak with a smirk.

Source: Kotaku.com

Activision-Blizzard Employees Brace For Massive Layoffs

Photo: Activision

Staff at the game publisher Activision-Blizzard are preparing for big layoffs next week, waiting to see who will be one of potentially hundreds of employees who could lose their jobs on Tuesday.

There’s been no official news from the publisher yet, but we first heard word of upcoming layoffs late last year. At the time, Activision and Blizzard staff told me they expected the axe to fall in February, and I started hearing more and more rumors earlier this week, with whispers suggesting that the layoffs would happen ahead of the publisher’s quarterly earnings call, which is on Tuesday, February 12. Employees across all of Activision’s offices have been kept in the dark as they wait to see what will happen. Some say they’re pretty sure they’re safe; others say they fear they will no longer have jobs next week.

Last night, Bloomberg reported that the layoffs would take place on Tuesday and number in the hundreds. When contacted earlier this week by Kotaku about the upcoming layoffs, a spokesperson for Activision did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Blizzard declined to comment (twice).

This news comes after a tumultuous year for the publisher, which consists of two entities, Activision and Blizzard. Both Activision and Blizzard operate autonomously but are governed by the same C-suite of executives, including CEO Bobby Kotick (whose salary in 2017 was roughly $28.6 million).

At Blizzard, 2018 was a year full of cost-cutting, under chief operating officer Armin Zerza, whose mandate has been to reduce spending and produce more games. (Other than expansions and remasters, Blizzard has not released a new game since Overwatch in May 2016.) Employees all across Blizzard have been told to cut their budgets and spend less money, and there’s general concern about Activision’s creeping influence as the company looks to make more financially-driven decisions. In October, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime stepped down, to be replaced by Blizzard veteran J. Allen Brack—not as CEO, but, notably, as president. In December, Blizzard abruptly killed the Heroes of the Storm esports program and cut down the development team for that game, its least successful.

People who work or have worked at Blizzard told me that they expect Tuesday’s layoffs to be primarily in non-game-development departments, such as publishing, marketing, and sales. Some of those jobs and roles may then fall to Activision proper, further reducing Blizzard’s autonomy.

Activision, meanwhile, has also been struggling. Last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was successful, one of 2018’s best-selling games according to NPD data, but the publisher lost one of its major franchises after Destiny 2‘s Forsaken expansion failed to meet Activision’s lofty expectations. In January, developer Bungie announced that it was parting ways with Activision and ending its development contract early, putting the bow on a long-doomed relationship. Bungie would hang onto the Destiny franchise as a result.

The business angle is that Activision is now missing one of its biggest tentpoles, but the human angle is that the split leaves people in danger of losing their jobs. Activision employed an entire team full of Destiny support staff—PR, marketing, social media, business, and so on—who now have no work. Two people close to the company told me that there have been a few opportunities for those former Destiny staff to move to other teams, but those opportunities are limited, and members of that department are perhaps the most worried about their job security.

The layoffs will likely happen on Monday and Tuesday. For now, those who might be affected can do nothing but wait.

Source: Kotaku.com

World Of Warcraft Guild Beats Newest Raid Boss Before Anyone Else, Twice

Earlier this week, top World of Warcraft guild Method defeated the Mythic difficulty version of the game’s newest raid boss, Jaina Proudmoore, who became available to fight on January 29. Yes, the Jaina Proudmoore, an Alliance leader you’re probably familiar with even if you haven’t touched Warcraft since it became an MMO. It took Method 347 tries. And then they did it again.

As typically happens with new raids, Method raced against a plethora of other top guilds to be the first to solve, slay, and loot the gilded socks off the new boss. First, they had to take down the Battle for Dazar’alor raid’s other bosses. Guilds “Big Dumb Guild” and “Wildcard” saw early success with the Champion of the Light and his much less grandiosely-named counterpart Grong, respectively, but Method’s longtime rival guild, Limit, proceeded to world-first the next five bosses, putting them in prime position to win the fantasy character murder race.

All of this happened within about 24 hours of the Mythic version of the raid going live. Then the guilds slammed face-first into Jaina. Jaina’s multiphase fight challenges players with ice spells that stop them dead in their tracks unless they’re near a certain amount of other players when those attacks hit. Jaina also casts other ice-based debuffs that can trip players up and leave them susceptible to additional damage from subsequent attacks.

Interestingly, to partially counteract this, Method ended up switching their characters’ races—which costs $25 per character—to trolls in order to get a racial ability that reduces the duration of movement-impairing effects by 20 percent.

Here’s the moment Method finally won on February 5:

Even so, Method spent months preparing for the raid and is now, according to database site Wowhead, 40 to 100 million gold in debt, having cleared out three auction houses for crafting materials. That didn’t stop them from downing Jaina a second time yesterday, three hours before Limit managed to become the second guild to defeat her.

You might be wondering why these top guilds—especially Limit, who spent money to switch over to the Alliance faction in order to exploit factional imbalances in preparation for this raid—are fighting Jaina Proudmoore, longtime Alliance hero of all things good and frosty. After all, she spent most of her early years, starting with Warcraft III, trying to compromise with the Horde and then-Warchief Thrall, figuring they had bigger problems on their hands (and/or claws, hooves, etc.) in the form of the demonic Legion battering down their entire dimension’s front door.

Jaina’s relationship with the Horde soured over the years, shattering entirely when Garrosh Hellscream assumed power and—among other heinous acts—bombed Jaina’s home isle of Theramore into oblivion. Since then, she’s oscillated between skepticism and outright hostility toward the Horde, and the recent atrocities committed by Horde mega-heel Sylvanas Windrunner haven’t exactly helped. The Battle for Dazar’alor raid, then, sees Horde players facing off with Jaina after an Alliance assault on the troll city of Dazar’alor. Alliance players are transformed into Horde characters for the purposes of making the whole thing make sense.

Even upon defeat, however, Jaina did not die. She only waded into battle to slow the Horde’s pursuit, and after winning 346 times and losing once—you know, like you do when you’re a lore hero confined to the eternal state of living death that is being a raid boss—she teleported away so she could live to fight another day.

Source: Kotaku.com

Player Hacks Overwatch To Play In-Game Piano With A Real Piano

Image: Zbnone

You’ve probably heard by now that Overwatch’s new Paris map has a fully playable piano. You might have even heard somebody play “All Star” by Smash Mouth on it, because that song—a shimmering monument to the idea of unearned confidence—will outlive us all. Now, one player has taken things a step further.

Overwatch fan Zbnone rigged up a MIDI keyboard so that it can play the Paris map’s in-game piano key-for-key. It’s pretty impressive:

Given that Overwatch is a first-person shooter in which players can only directly interact with objects in the environment using their weapons, you might be wondering how Zbnone did this. It involves what they’ve taken to calling a “PianoAimBot.”

“I wrote the ‘PianoAimBot’ in Python,” they said on Reddit. “You can actually play anything you want live on it (no macros). You can also load and play midi files.”

They added that you have to be standing almost perfectly in the middle of the in-game piano for it to work, but it has a calibration feature to make that less of a headache.

It’s an inventive setup, but there’s just one problem: it might technically count as cheating. Blizzard explicitly forbids “using third-party programs to automate any facet of the game,” and this is an aimbot, meaning that it automates aim. Unless the game’s next hero is a sentient piano (fingers crossed), I don’t see this program conferring an unfair advantage, so hopefully Blizzard lets it slide.

Source: Kotaku.com

What I Learned From Watching A Great Deal Of Overwatch Porn

Last week, I stumbled upon Overwatch porn. I wasn’t looking for it—I know as much about Overwatch as I do about sports, cars, or how to talk to my parents about what I write—but it’s not hard to stumble across porn when browsing the gigantic nudity repository that is the internet.

NSFW Warning: This post is so incredibly NSFW, even though I tried really hard to crop the images for minimum genitalia. FOLLOW THE LINKS AT YOUR OWN PERIL.

The first time I saw Overwatch, I assumed it was a Pixar trailer. Widowmaker and Reaper sparred with Winston, a cartoonish gorilla scientist, while Tracer zapped around in the background, giggling like a cockney kid in a candy store. It was goofy, not sexy—the butts that would, over time, become polished and pert like glistening hams were just functional posteriors back then. Times were simpler. I am less innocent now.

GIF: Bewyx (https://gfycat.com/IndolentQuaintButterfly)

There were a few things that stood out to me while I browsed through the surprisingly broad selection of Overwatch porn.

Firstly, to absolutely no one’s surprise, the people doing the penetration in almost every video are headless, which is to say that they have the implication of a head, but they’re all cropped off. Evidently, no one’s interested in the person who managed to get into Mercy’s panties, as long as they’re packing something big enough to put a permanent look of lusty worry on her face—you know, the one that says “oh dear, I think I can feel you brushing up against my lungs.”

Secondly, everyone in Overwatch is incredibly flexible. Legs over heads, backs arched like someone in dire need of a chiropractor, and the ever-popular tits-and-ass angle that movie posters love so much. It’s hardly surprising that fictional CGI characters in porn are able to bend their bodies like sweaty fuckpretzels, but it makes me feel 90 years old. One particular clip featured Pharah being double penetrated, and I just couldn’t stop worrying about perineal tearing.

GIF: Yeero (https://i.imgur.com/E9u6Gvo.gifv)

But thirdly—and most importantly—the quality is so very, very high. My knowledge of video game-related porn extends about as far as that live-action Pokémon porn with the haunted Pikachu-Pennywise creature that doesn’t so much scream “sexy” as it does just regular screaming. But Overwatch porn is a genre all of its own: created by a small number of Patreon-funded animators who are able to recreate, in loving detail, what Mercy might look like if she was getting a sudsy dicking in the shower.

Overwatch porn—which is no means the only type of video game porn of this quality that I found—is fully animated, usually about 10-30 seconds long, usually voice acted, with impressive audio design that captures all the gross body noises that might happen during sex. Sure, the boobs might be overly jiggly, and some of the gasps of pleasure are a little too close to sobs, but the animation is amazing—subtle movements of flesh and hair, detailed fabric simulations, lifelike surfaces, realistic lighting—some of these animators are making almost $6,000 a month on Patreon for their work, and I’m not surprised. Even if someone needs to tell them that buttholes aren’t usually that spacious.

GIF: Gnomfist (https://gfycat.com/dangerousinnocentcaracal)

A large number of the Overwatch porn scenarios are pretty basic: Mercy giving a secret footjob in a fast food restaurant, D.va putting an entire candy cane up her chimney, Widowmaker Snapchatting herself banging in the park—any variation on character, sex act and location, really—but others take the character’s personality and preferences into account, like D.va in the arcade with her “favorite joystick” or Widowmaker deepthroating a baguette (apparently she’s French, which is one of the things I’d know if I’d ever played Overwatch).

I realize that many of you have probably heard of, or seen, Overwatch porn, and therefore to you this post might read like a toddler patiently explaining the nuances of using the Big Boy toilet to his parents. But, as someone who wasn’t really aware that 3D animated porn existed in such quality, quantity and specificity, I’m impressed—even if you, dear reader, are over it.

GIF: FPSBlyck (https://gfycat.com/BonyInfatuatedCarpenterant)

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and daisies in Overwatch porn-land. It has a lot of the same issues as the porn industry as a whole. Pharah always seems to be portrayed as far whiter than she is, Brigitte is heavily slimmed down, and there’s no sign of Zarya and very few videos involving Mei. It’s clear that the people making these videos are into a very specific, predominantly white, and almost always skinny version of women.

Why is that bad, if that’s what these creators and their audiences are into Well, if the porn industry—and the game industry—showcases conventionally attractive, thin white women over all other body types, races, gender presentations, and so on, that’s going to become the default for desirability. That default, in turn, affects the self-esteem of people who don’t look like that, as well as the general consensus on what’s considered “hot,” which is to say, “acceptable.”

(Also, far too many of the models don’t have clitorises. Hoo boy.)

Fun fact: there’s a dildo in this picture.
GIF: Bewyx (https://gfycat.com/evergreenpresentekaltadeta)

There’s also a fair bit of really nasty homophobia and transphobia that I found amongst some of the creators of Overwatch videos. Apart from how bigoted and wrong it is to be like that in the modern day, it’s always dismaying to see porn dominated by assholes in more than one way. Straight men aren’t your only audience, you know.

There is, of course, a conversation to be had about the sinister nature of photorealistic CGI porn. In an age where we can recreate Grand Moff Tarkin and get rid of Henry Cavill’s moustache, it doesn’t take a genius to know the road we’re heading down—and we may already be there with the rise of deepfakes. Let’s just hope people stick to fantasy characters for as long as possible.

Source: Kotaku.com

Hearthstone’s New Tiger Card Will Tear You To Shreds

It was difficult to gauge the quality of Shirvallah, the Tiger before the Hearthstone card released as part of the game’s most recent set, Rastakhan’s Rumble. With its impossibly high Mana cost of 25, it was one of those cards whose strict requirement meant that its true value could only be tested after release.

Hearthstone Card Of The Month

Every thirty days, we take a close look at a card that’s been getting a lot of buzz—good or bad—in the world of competitive Hearthstone.

On paper, Shirvallah is just an expensive but powerful minion. Every time you spend 1 Mana casting spells, Shirvallah’s cost goes down by 1, even if it’s still in your deck. But considering that the maximum amount of Mana that a Hearthstone player can have is just 10, its 25-Mana cost means that you have to do a lot of spellcasting before it gets into “actually useable” range. Draw it in your opening hand, it’s a dead card. But draw it after you’ve already played 25 Mana worth of spells, and it’s a free 7-attack 5-health minion with Rush, Lifesteal, and Divine Shield, meaning you can use it to kill an enemy minion, heal for 7, and keep a big body on the board.

As its increasing popularity and win rates show, Shirvallah is way more than just a powerful minion. One of its most devastating applications can only be pulled off when it’s actually still in your deck. Shuffle a copy of it back into your deck with a card called Baleful Banker, then combo it with a card called Holy Wrath, which draws a card and deals damage equal to its cost. This is a 25-damage combo enough to kill most enemies in one go. You can pull it off twice at the end of a game to take out almost any opponent.

Shirvallah also has great synergy with another Legendary card called Crystalsmith Kangor, a 2-Mana minion that doubles all healing effects. Follow up Kangor with a Shirvallah, and you can heal for 14 health in one go—enough to bring you back into the game after getting beaten down by a more aggressive deck. Keep clearing the board, make it to the late game, and you can finish them off with any number of Paladin win conditions. When taken in tandem with the Paladin Death Knight card Uther of the Ebon Blade, whose hero power lets you auto-win the game over the course of a few turns, you have two potent options to close out games against more late game-focused opponents.

There’s a concept in Hearthstone called stabilization. If you’re up against a deck that’s powerful in the early game, and your deck does better in the late game, your goal is to survive the early onslaught until the opponent runs out of cards to kill you with. Once you’ve done that, you’ve stabilized, and since you’ve got a better late game, you’ve pretty much won.

The problem is that a lot of decks in the current Hearthstone metagame are capable of stabilizing against aggressive early game-focused decks. You need both early-game survival and late-game finisher options if you want to win against a variety of the stuff that’s currently popular in the game. It’s the combo of power and flexibility that makes Shirvallah and its combo partners such great cards in today’s metagame.

Source: Kotaku.com

Overwatch’s New Skins Are Based On Historic Figures

It’s that time again: Another year has passed, sapping us all of precious vitality and slowly pulverizing our faculties until we’re unidentifiable powder in the wind. But in return, we get new Overwatch skins as part of the game’s annual Lunar New Year event. Really, it’s a pretty even trade.

Overwatch’s “Year of the Pig” event just kicked off with its usual Chinese and Korean theme in tow. While previous years’ skins were snazzy, this year’s batch is based on specific historical and mythological figures.

Reaper’s skin, for instance, is inspired by renowned Han dynasty general Lü Bü, who you might have heard of thanks to 14th century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms—or the Dynasty Warriors games. Tracer’s skin, meanwhile, is based on Hong Gildong, a Robin-Hood-esque figure who may or may not have actually existed, but who was definitely the main character in a famous Korean novel.

Nearly every new skin fits this mold, so have fun brushing up on your history. Here they all are:

Hong Gildong Tracer

Lü Bü Reaper

Guan Yu Reinhardt

Huang Zhong Hanzo

Zhang Fei Torbjorn

Zhuge Liang Zenyatta

Sanye Orisa

General Brigitte

As always, the Lunar New Year event brings with it a focus on capture the flag mode—this time with a new Busan map, which is a rework of Overwatch’s preexisting Korean map. The balance update that launched with the event looks to shake up a long-entrenched and controversial meta by nerfing Brigitte and D.Va and buffing Reaper, so there’s a fair amount to dig into. Or you can just buy a bunch of loot boxes and go hog wild. (Get it? Pigs.)

Source: Kotaku.com