BlizzCon 2014 Schedule Revealed – Hype Train with Empty Slots

Blizzard Entertainment has unveiled the BlizzCon 2014 schedule and map with a strong tournament presence spanning World of Warcraft, StarCraft II and Hearthstone throughout Hall B, Hall C and the Arena stage.

BlizzCon Schedule

BlizzCon 2014 is almost here! Whether you’re joining us at the Anaheim Convention Center in person or viewing from home with the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket, we’ve got a lot of activities and events lined up for you.

To help you form a plan of attack, we’ve just posted a schedule of the panels, eSports tournaments, and other activities happening at BlizzCon on Friday and Saturday. You can also check out the floor map to get a lay of the land.

If you’d like to watch online, the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket grants you access to the events on the Main and Panel stages, along with this year’s in-game goodies. We’ll also be broadcasting the opening ceremony and this year’s eSports tournaments—including the StarCraft II WCS Global Finals, World of Warcraft Arena World Championship, and Hearthstone World Championship—for free at www.blizzcon.com. Stay tuned for more information.

 

Speculation-Mode On

Analyzing the BlizzCon 2014 schedule, one can’t ignore the big empty slot on the Main Stage and Hall A (Friday) from 11:45am to 2:15pm. Taking off 15 minutes of rest on each side of that time-frame, that’s two hours of empty slots on both stages.

blizzcon-2014-friday-schedule-2-hour-empty-slot

Here are three possible explanations:

1. Either … Blizzard has no new games to announce this BlizzCon and thus Blizzard wants the fans to enjoy the tournament on Hall B, Hall C and the Arena before they head back to the Warcraft Movie Presentation Panel at 2:15pm; or …

Medievaldragon: Last BlizzCon was so packed with panels that a large portion of the fanbase was culled from the tournament halls. It would make sense to a degree to let fans experience some of the tournaments by having empty slots there without panels.

Update: Josh Mull (PvP Live) says: “That’s a 2 hour block of solid esports on three other stages. Good time for panel goers to experience the excitement!”

After all, this might be the reason for the no panel pause. I have never personally attended tournaments before, but I visited the Hammerstein Ballroom last October 4th to see the Hearthstone World Championship Americas Tournament till the end. I had an appointment next day, on the 5th, but I arrived in the afternoon until the tournament ended. Obviously, there is something with tournaments that excites and makes you come back for more. Maybe that’s the strategy with allowing fans some spare time at BlizzCon to enjoy any of the three tournaments.

blizzcon-2014-friday-schedule-2-hour-empty-slot2

 

2. Either … Blizzard might have something to announce.

On the other hand, if Blizzard Entertainment had anything to announce they would remain silent about it until the very last moment. Each panel usually lasts about one hour. This Friday schedule shows 2 empty hours on the Main Stage; plus an equally empty 2 hours on Hall A.

To me this spells there is potentially two new projects Blizzard might be planning to announce.

 

New Game Announcements?

At this point we know that production of the Next-Gen MMO (codenamed: Titan) has been cancelled.

However, for those of us who have kept track of job postings these past few years, Blizzard Entertainment also had openings for a “Unannounced Game”. I am not making that up. The image below shows today’s Blizzard Careers page.

blizzard-careers-unannounced-game-job-openings

That might be a possible game to announce, and from past experience we know that it takes Blizzard at least a couple of years to launch it.

However, there are two stronger candidates for announcement at this point:

1. StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm shipped on March 12, 2013. However, development was announced at BlizzCon 2011. It would make sense to announce StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void at BlizzCon 2014 to see it shipped in 2016 (at the latest).

 

2. Hearthtone: Unannounced Adventure

Hearthstone has been an astonishing surprise for Blizzard Entertainment. Returning to its roots, a small team of developers was assigned to develop a game that has surpassed 20 million players worldwide on PC, and mobile devices.

Hearthstone was originally announced at PAX East on March 2013, and it was launched on March 2014. The first adventure, Curse of Naxxramas, was released on July 22, 2014 adding 5-wings (unlocked over the course of several weeks) and added 30 new cards to the online card game.

Think about it … this team was capable of deploying a new adventure barely 4 months after Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft launched. When BlizzCon 2014 goes live on November 7-8 it would have been 4 months since the launch of Curse of Naxxramas.

It would make sense for Blizzard to announce a Hearthstone adventure or other type of Hearthstone gameplay in that time-frame.

 

3. World of Warcraft expansion?

On a lesser possible degree, a new expansion when Warlords of Draenor hasn’t shipped yet could be surprising. We have heard for years that Blizzard would like to ship World of Warcraft expansions more often; but unless we see it happen any speculation would have to be held with a grain of salt.

Whether Blizzard Entertainment announces one or more games, expansions or adventure packs at BlizzCon 2014, or none at all, fans will certainly have a lot of fun with the World Championship tournaments, and a sense of discovery with the Warcraft Movie Presentation panel and the Warlords of Draenor, Diablo III, Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone panels.

Note: This article is more an opinion piece based on speculation of different potential possibilities rather than a prediction.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Patch 2.1.5 Released

Blizzard Entertainment deployed Patch 2.1.5 for StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm to address some technical issues with the client and UI.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Patch 2.1.5 is being distributed to all regions throughout the week, and may not be live in your region yet. Please read on to check out the full patch notes.

StarCraft II 2.1.5 Patch Notes

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed an issue that could cause the post-game score screen to become stuck while loading.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented replays generated in patch 2.1.3 from loading in newer versions of StarCraft II.
  • Fixed an issue where Mac clients could freeze when experiencing a game application crash in Full Screen mode.
  • Fixed an issue where the Hotkey UI panel would not appear correctly on initial selection.

 

Patent Claims Against Activision Blizzard’s Use of Lip Sync and Facial Expresion in StarCraft II Dismissed

McRO, Inc. d.b.a. Planet Blue recently brought Activision Blizzard to The Supreme Court to litigate a patent claim against the use of lip synchronization and facial expresion technology in StarCraft II and Skylanders. Today, The Supreme Court dismissed the patent claim.

Patent Claims Against Activision Blizzard’s Use of Lip Synchronization and Facial Expression Technology in Call of Duty(R), Skylanders(R) and StarCraft(R) II Are Dismissed

Dismissal Follows The Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling Confirming that Abstract Ideas are Not Patentable

SANTA MONICA, Calif. –(BUSINESS WIRE)– Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) today announced that the United States District Court, Central District of California has invalidated all patent claims asserted against the Company by McRO, Inc. d.b.a. Planet Blue.

The Court concluded that two patents for automatically animating lip synchronization and facial expressions of 3D characters were invalid, and as a result, the case against Activision Blizzard has been dismissed.

“Meritless patent cases such as this stifle innovation and the creative process across the industry,” said Chris Walther , Chief Legal Officer of Activision Blizzard . “We will aggressively defend our investments in the innovative franchises at Activision Publishing and Blizzard Entertainment , as we did in this case with Call of Duty®, Skylanders® and StarCraft® II, from entities whose sole purpose is to use patent litigation to hold innovative companies captive for monetary gain.”

As part of its jointly filed motion on behalf of the Defendants, Activision Blizzard argued that the two patents in question — 6,307,576 and 6,611,278 – were invalid because they claimed well-known and long-practiced lip-synching methods implemented on a computer. On September 24, 2014 , the District Court agreed, finding that the patents lacked any inventive concept, and therefore the claims would inhibit rather than promote the progress of the useful arts.

The Court’s decision to invalidate the patents follows precedent set by The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Alice Corp. , confirming that abstract ideas are not patentable.

 

Selection of JINX Blizzard Products $14.99 and Free Shipping

Jinx is preparing to announce a new Summer 2014 line-up, and needs to clear inventory space to accommodate them, for which Jinx has moved some Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo products to the $14.99 category (33% off) with an additional savings of FREE shipping on orders above $35.

While not part of the $14.99 deal, these do qualify to the Free Shipping offer — you can browse through the latest Jinx Blizzard licensed products here:

starcraft-ii-logo-t-shirt-day9-2052p_0c_1m

Blizzard Entertainment Acquires Metal Arms Trademark

The United States Patent and Trademark Office lists Blizzard Entertainment as the last listed owner of the Metal Arms trademark. Metal Arms, was formerly registered by Sierra Entertainment and it was originally developed by Swingin’ Ape Studios — which took the reins of StarCraft: Ghost (after Nihilistic departed development).

Blizzard Entertainment acquired Swingin’ Ape Studios in May 16, 2006.

Metal Arms was a top-notch FPS game. Blizzard Entertainment is currently developing a few unannounced games — the Next-Gen MMO Titan, the unannounced game, and a third one. These are now dubbed Unannounced Games (in plural) at the Blizzard Careers page.

blizzard-unannounced-games-in-plural-june-11-2014

It is all speculation at this point. The only fact is that Metal Arms appears on the Blizzard Entertainment trademark list. Of course, it might have simply been … a glitch in the system. got it?

blizzard-entertainment-trademarks-metal-arms

Blizzard Entertainment Returns Full Force to San Diego Comic Con 2014

The StarCraft Twitter was updated with awesome news for lore fans. Blizzard Entertainment is coming strong to the San Diego Comic Con this year.

“Blizzard is returning to San Diego Comic Con full force this year with new products and show exclusives! Details coming soon!”

san-diego-comic-con-2014-confirmed

 

Blizzplanet staff member Naka (@dperschonok) will be there to take photos and video.

Speculation-Mode On

The tweet hasn’t been yet posted on the Warcraft and Diablo Twitters, or anyone else at the moment of this report. It came out of the StarCraft Twitter. Considering Blizzard Entertainment exhibits at the San Diego Comic Con details about upcoming licensed products, we might be seeing some sort of StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void novel tie-in announced.

Shortly after that, BlizzCon 2014 might have some really nice things in store.

JINX Celebrates 15th Anniversary – $15 Off Orders Over $45

J!NX is celebrating 15 years of making game themed T-shirts, Hoodies and Jackets with a new promo code that allows you to get $15 off all orders over $45.

We’d like to thank you all again for 15 great years! We look forward to at least 500 more years of serving you. That said, it’s time for one last birthday deal. Today and tomorrow only, get $15 off all orders over $45 when you use promo code J!NX15BDAYOVER during checkout. You heard that right. That’s pretty much 30% off everything. For two days only.

jinx-horde-alliance-logo-t-shirts

 

PAX East 2014 Speculation: Blizzard Trademarks Overwatch

As seen in WoW Insider, Blizzard Entertainment trademarked “Overwatch” at the US Patents and Trademark Office website and the date filed was April 1, 2014.

blizzard-trademarks-overwatch-on-april-1-2014

WoW Insider mentions something that other people incorrectly associate. The Dark Below, as reported by MMO-Champion, was never trademarked by Blizzard Entertainment in the US Patents and Trademark Office. Some say it was a hoax. Someone pretending to be Blizzard. We might never know actually what that was all about. The fact is it was never listed where it counts. On United States soil.

Overwatch, on the other hand, it is listed where it can’t be denied, confused with, nor considered a hoax. It is listed and factual. So what one must ask oneself is: What the heck is Overwatch?

Blizzard has filed a few trademarks over the past 4 years that are not necessarily a video game. For example, Cute But Deadly turned out to be a series of tiny figures which have been sold at the BlizzCon 2013 store (The set contained: Kerrigan, Diablo, and Arthas) and the SDCC exclusive Sylvanas.

Battletag raised eyebrows a few years ago too, and we know what it turned out to be. A Battle.net feature spanning across all Blizzard games. BattleChat, that’s another Battle.net feature we are now familiar with. These three trademarks — we know now what they are for.

To understand the meaning of Overwatch, you can go to any dictionary online. For the sake of picking one, let’s go with Wikipedia:

In modern warfare, overwatch is the state of one small unit or military vehicle supporting another unit, while they are executing fire and movement tactics. An overwatching, or supporting unit has taken a position where it can observe the terrain ahead, especially likely enemy positions. This allows it to provide effective covering fire for advancing friendly units. The term overwatch originates in U.S. military doctrine.

An ideal overwatch position provides cover for the unit, and unobstructed lines of fire. It may be on a height of ground or at the top of a ridge, where a vehicle may be able to adopt a hull-down position. If the overwatching unit is in a position to fire over advancing friendly units, great care must be taken not to let fire fall short. The friendly units should be within tracer burnout (the range at which tracer rounds are visible).

Overwatch can be performed by platoons during company fire and movement, by individual armoured fighting vehicles (especially tanks) or infantry sections, in platoon fire and movement, or even by fireteams or individual soldiers, in the final stages of an assault.

Overwatch tactics and firing at the short halt were especially important in armoured warfare before modern tank gun stabilizers were developed, since moving tanks were unlikely to hit any target. Even in modern tanks, however, it is much easier to spot enemies at a halt. — source: Wikipedia

 

By that description, one can assume this is either StarCraft related or at least a First-Person Shooter (FPS) based on a new IP.

It is an idea that could be a bit hard to wrap our mind around. I would expect an FPS game from Blizzard to be titled StarCraft: Ghost. Maybe StarCraft: Ghost: Overwatch as the first episode? Plausible.

A whole new IP? Can’t be ruled out. Maybe one that is not related to any of the three franchises: Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft. However, a new IP doesn’t necessarily mean it is not based on one of those three. Hearthstone is considered a new IP but based on Warcraft. It is not an RTS. It is not an MMORPG. It’s an online multiplayer collectible card game.

PAX East 2014

Now that I reached the point of mentioning Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, I wanted to point out that even if it was filed on April 1 (April’s Fool) it may have been coincidence. I remind you that Blizzard Entertainment surprised everyone on PAX East 2013 when they announced Hearthstone out of the blue.

Well, PAX East 2014 begins this very Friday, April 11, 2014. Blizzard plans to showcase Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Diablo III Ultimate Evil Edition (PS4) and World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor.

Can there be room to announce a new Blizzard game at PAX East 2014 with such a packed roster? Who knows. One thing to consider is that last year Blizzard Entertainment did issued a press invitation to fansites and gaming sites hinting at a new game to be announced at PAX East 2013.

The problem with Overwatch being a new game to be announced at PAX East 2014 is that Hearthstone’s press invitation went out on February 26th (without informing what the event was about or what game it would be about), and PAX East took place on March 22, 2013. Nigh a month after the teaser.

We are barely two days away from PAX East 2014, and we haven’t heard zippo about a brand-new Press Invitation nor about a New Game Announcement. So the chances for that to happen are slim, but can’t be ruled out either. The press is still going to have a massive presence at PAX East with all these Blizzard games to be showcased. The problem is that there is only one panel scheduled by Blizzard Entertainment, and that’s for the Heroes of the Storm. I am willing to give it a 1% chance probability, but I’m mostly skeptic for Overwatch to be announced at PAX East.

Overwatch

Overwatch. An April’s Fool trademark? A brand-new IP? A non-RTS StarCraft-related game? A First-Person Shooter? A Zombie Apocalypse game? Yea, yea — remember how the Diablo III TV spot aired during The Walking Dead TV series? Red Herring of something Zombie-themed coming our way?

So many possible scenarios one can speculate on about this Overwatch trademark. There is yet one more to consider. There is actually two Overwatch trademarks. This is the second one:

blizzard-trademarks-overwatch-on-april-1-2014-b

Now this one is the interesting one: “Entertainment services, namely, providing on-line computer games; providing computer games that may be accessed via a global computer network.”

Ok, now this points me toward something completely different. Could this be a Battle.net feature? This second Trademark description sounds more like the Battle.net Launcher. Or some sort of Steam environment where one can download and purchase video games through the app itself.

Yet, why name it Overwatch? (taking in mind the militaristic definition). We are only left pondering the many possible speculations. While it is still possible for it to be an April’s Fools, Blizzard Entertainment this year posted in the front page of each gaming website a big April’s Fools seal for each of the crazy news they dished out on April 1. Yet, none of them mentions Overwatch.

aprils-fool-2014

Are you completely sold on the idea that “Overwatch” was an April’s Fool? I don’t think so.

FPS Game

We go back to the drawing board. Overwatch. Militaristic term. We have a brand-new job openings for an Unannounced Game. Now — a few years back Blizzard Entertainment coined the term unannounced game in the Careers page for a couple of games. These were in reference to Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. Those were secret until they were announced. The Titan MMO was later coined Next-Gen MMO in the Blizzard Careers page. Since the only unannounced game we know of, Titan, is referred to as Next-Gen MMO — this new Unannounced Game is something else.

Overwatch does sound a lot like something akin to Half-Life 2, Call of Duty, or Halo.

To further dilute the term Unannounced Game and to filter it as a brand-new thing — the job listings specify this is a new team similar to the Hearthstone team. A small team created by Blizzard.

Here are some quotes and keep a close eye on the underlined words:


Lead 3D Modeler

The way the light glints just off the barrel of a Terran Marine’s rifle as he takes aim. The intricate, grinding dance of gears as a vault door opens to reveal the treasure within. When it comes to creating a living, breathing world, it always comes down to the details. As the lead 3D modeler for Blizzard’s next epic game, you will be the architect of these moments, bringing to life the next generation of truly kick ass weapons, equipment, and dynamic environmental props.

A lead 3D modeler must be able to be many things to many people. You must be an artist to the art director, collaborating closely to define the vision for weapons, props, and hard surface modeling. You must be a gamer to the engineers and game designers, eager to jam daily to ensure that those weapons play and feel as fantastic as they look. And of course, being a lead means being a leader, and you’ll be inspiring and guiding some of the most talented and passionate artists in the industry. — source: Blizzard Careers

 


Concept Artist

Using the skills of both artist and designer to their fullest potential, a concept artist lives on the front line of development. You’ll work closely with level designers and environment artists to imagine new lands into existence; just as your knowledge of anatomy and expression will be pushed to new heights designing the heroes, villains, and the creatures between to inhabit this all-new world. source: Blizzard Careers

 


Lead 3D Character Artist

Kerrigan, Raynor, Tyrael, Diablo, Arthas, Thrall…these are just a few of the epic characters that inhabit our worlds. Each one is as iconic and unforgettable as the last, and each one was brought to life by the hand of a talented artist.

And now it’s your turn…

As lead character artist for Blizzard’s next amazing game, you will lead the team that brings future legends to life.

Your unique skills as lead character artist allow you to be an unstoppable combination of visionary artist, gamer, and leader. As an artist, you’ll collaborate closely with the art director to define the vision for both the characters and organic modeling. As a gamer, you’ll be inducted into a cabal of designers, engineers, and artists whose singular goal is to create truly epic hero moments in gaming. Lastly, you’ll draw on your veteran experience to guide a team of the most talented artists in the industry in creating a legion of characters to inhabit this new and exciting world. – source: Blizzard Careers

 

These job postings are kinda telling us a few hints here and there of what we might expect. The following job posting reveals this is a small team similar to Hearthstone’s team.


Lead Producer

Blizzard’s newest game team is looking for someone to join its ranks as lead producer. With Hearthstone, Blizzard has revived its tradition of creating small and nimble game teams and we are following in those footsteps. As part of our team, you will join in the leadership of a small but mighty band of developers and exert your talents to help craft our processes, organization, goals and execution.

We can’t tell you exactly what the game is yet, but trust us, it’s awesome. — source: Blizzard Careers

 

Now the following job opening shows this will be a multiplayer and possibly have a Map Editor. However, one of these map editing examples are the Hammer and UnrealEd Map Editors. This is big folks. The Hammer is Valve’s Map Editor for Counter-Strike and Half-Life. The UnrealEd is the Unreal Engine Map Editor. A plethora of games made with that engine.

Is Overwatch a First-Person Shooter?


Level Designer

The team behind Blizzard’s next big hit is looking for a driven, passionate level designer with experience building compelling multi-player gameplay spaces. Are you motivated, enthusiastic, and geeked up by creating fun and interesting environments? Do you excel in creating exciting, replayable gameplay experiences within your levels?

You have extensive experience with industry standard level editors like StarEdit, Hammer, and UnrealEd – source: Blizzard Careers

 


VFX Artist

Is your portfolio full of crazy explosions, blasts of energy, and a whole bunch of blood splatter? Do you believe that playing with fire is a good thing? If so, Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of the most epic games in the world, is seeking a VFX artist to help develop Blizzard’s next hit game!

Work alongside a team of the best artists, engineers and designers on the planet and enjoy the support of a company whose culture is centered on collaborative game development. We are gamers at heart at Blizzard – across all levels – and it shows in our craft.

The ideal candidate has extensive experience working with 3D packages, in-game FX systems to create a wide range of VFX (fire, smoke, magic, electricity, explosions, etc.) — source: Blizzard Careers

 

Back on December 10, 2013, while searching through Twitter I came across a tweet from Michael Booth who joined Blizzard Entertainment to join this mysterious new team. Michael Booth was formerly Turtle Rock Studios CEO and worked on Left4Dead. He shares credits as one of the four programmers of … Counter-Strike.

Alright, my skepticism is starting to dissolve a few notches. April 1 …. Overwatch trademark. April 11 … PAX East. Every time a trademark comes out within 2 weeks of a gaming event, something big happens. Only a few hours to find out if it is true or not.

Blizzard filed the trademark Warlords of Draenor on November 1, 2013. Warlords of Draenor was unveiled at BlizzCon 2013 a week later on November 8, 2013. Something to think about with PAX East coming up.

Jinx Introduces New StarCraft II Premium Snap-Back Hats

Jinx stealthed its way into the store and added two brand-new StarCraft II hats. The Terran hat says “Lock and Loaded” in the back a bit above the snap-back area, and inside the hat by each of the seams. There is a Terran Marine artwork printed on the frontal hat’s duck-beakamajig.

The Protoss hat says “My Life for Aiur” in the back and in the interior too. The front has the artwork of Zeratul. Follow the links to order them. Remember the Diablo III T-shirts are 20% off until March 31.

 

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