Collecting The Lost Vikings, Rock N Roll Racing, and Blackthorne the Blizzard Arcade Collection is out now for Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One with only backwards compatibility bringing the pack to the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.
These games are still available as free downloads from Blizzard’s site, and have been for a long time, so it is a little surprising to see Blizzard charging $20 for them now, but you also get them bundled with assorted other add-ons for Overwatch, Diablo 3, and other games, and a few upgrades like widescreen support, the ability to rewind over mistakes, save-anywhere support, and co-op. Blackthorne also got a weird interactive let’s play kind of thing that Blizzard calls “watch mode” where you can drop in at any time and control the game. Neat.
Blizzard doesn’t have a great track record on remasters right now, their Warcraft III remaster was very poorly received, but this is their announcement trailer for a re-make of Diablo 2 and the Lord of Destruction expansion pack for $40 coming to Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, and the Xbox Series X & S consoles later this year. Sadly, I don’t see any mention of a macOS release, giving up on decades of support by Blizzard.
Blizzard says that Diablo 2’s 2D graphics are revamped with “…full 3D physically-based rendering, dynamic lighting, revamped animations and spell effects…”, they’ve re-shot the cutscenes, and added surround sound for the game’s audio and soundtrack. Like many recent remasters, Blizzard says you can swap between the new and old Diablo 2 graphics quickly.
Vicarious Visions and Blizzard are co-developing the re-master and say that progress is supposed to be portable across platforms for characters and their inventories.
Diablo 3’s console port was awesome, I loved playing it with direct control on a gamepad instead of the sort of indirect control you had on computers with a mouse and keyboard. Hopefully this is an easy slam-dunk for Diablo 2. There’s an “technical test” of Diablo 2 coming soon for Windows players who opt-in and are chosen by Blizzard at their Diablo 2 site. Who loves to get exploited by one of the richest companies in video gaming to test their products without compensation? I guess I do, because I signed up for the test and if it comes without any NDA I’ll write about the experience.
Activision Blizzard, a company of more than 9,000 employees who’ve built some of the world’s most popular games, is a few things. They are a company who bragged about having a “record year,” on an earnings call this afternoon, a quarter where only raking in $2.4 billion in revenue was considered a disappointment. They are a company who granted a $15 million signing bonus and a $900,000 salary to a high-ranking executive who joined last month. And they are a company who just laid off around 800 employees, or 8% (!!!) of its total workers.
800 people will be without jobs at the end of the day. 800 people head into an uncertain future, wondering how long their severance and health insurance will get them before the next job.
After a recent earnings report announced record revenue, Activision-Blizzard initiated layoffs by handing out boxes to its 9,600 employees that had 8.3% odds of containing employment termination paperwork.
“A lot of companies might just hand out pink slips to a select few, but our ‘layoff boxes’ allow every employee to be part of the overall firing experience,” said Blizzard human resources manager Clint Bullock. “Our employees have all worked hard to make our company so successful over the past few years, so it’s only fair that everybody have an equal chance of having their lives totally upended while we keep making huge profits off their creations.”
Unionization in today’s companies and employee-ownership of new businesses would help prevent mass layoffs.
The remastered version of StarCraft has updated graphics, resolutions, cloud saves, and multiplayer features with leaderboards and matchmaking from Blizzard’s modern online services. You can also just get the regular un-remastered version for free at this link, which plays just fine on modern desktop operating systems.
What I really want to know is: When are they remastering Warcraft 2?
It’s a sentiment I completely agree with, and I’ll slightly disclaim my discussion of this game by noting that a good friend works at Activision. When I first tried HOTS a few years ago it was clear that they had made changes to make the DOTA-style of gameplay more palatable, but it didn’t click with me until the 2 year-anniversary updates. Yes, I was another Overwatch player who initially went back to HOTS for the skins, but stuck around for the gameplay.
Now I play it a few times a week, and it’s great to not have to worry about last-hitting and other stuff I didn’t care to grasp from more traditional MOBAs like having to come up with an item build for each game and map and situation. Maybe that’s something that hardcore DOTA players miss, they can stick to DOTA so I don’t have to hear them whining on team chat.
There’s also this part of the interview:
One of McGeathy’s favorite moments was when a high-level player told him about their experience with Zarya. “They said, ‘I never really enjoyed Zarya in Overwatch until I played her in Heroes of the Storm and I figured her out.’ So that’s a special case. Just in general we’re always looking for new and unique ways for heroes to work.”
I don’t play much Overwatch so I never understood the use of D.Va’s defense matrix ability except as a blunt shield. It took Heroes of the Storm for me to understand that her Defense Matrix actually powers up her self-destruct ability faster. Duh.
The only big criticism I have about HOTS is that while it is available (free to play) on macOS and Windows Blizzard hasn’t chosen this opportunity to bring the game to Linux yet. It’s an obvious next-step that is baffling to me at this point.