Let’s be real. You all knew this editorial was coming. Let’s not waste time, shall we? Blizzard released a statement to the whole Warcraft 3 Reforged embarrassment which had some words in it. Their response is craven, pathetic, but ultimately, unsurprising.
First, some context. I know there are some of you who may simply be unfamiliar with what exactly is going on. So as not to reinvent the wheel, I’ll refer to PC Gamer’s excellent summary here. Basically, Warcraft 3 Reforged was announced during BlizzCon 2018, the trailer for which specifically listed:
- "Fully remodeled characters and animations"
- "Remastered maps and campaigns"
- An "upgraded UI and world editor"
- "Reforged in 4K resolution"
Rather infamously, The Culling cutscene featuring Arthas and Lord Uther (below) was shown off providing an example of what fans could look forward to. (As a brief but relevant aside, this is why I hate it when devs/publishers show us footage of a game when said game won’t be released for years. That initial footage instantly becomes the yard stick against which consumers rightfully measure the final product, for better and – more often than not – for worse).
It looks slick, doesn’t it? Except, this is simply not what was shipped in the final game. This now infamous comparison has cropped up showcasing the differences:
The key thing to keep in mind here is that this isn’t the only affected cutscene. The differences are pretty damn obvious. For the sake of accuracy, Blizzard did mention in a 2018 panel that limitations with animations would restrict just how much they could do to keep this new version compatible with the OG Warcraft 3.
Additionally, Production Director Kaeo Milker told US Gamer on January 28,
“Part of the genesis of this project was focusing in on what should Reforged be… I think where we landed was really agreeing that while we did touch every single campaign mission, every single cutscene in every campaign mission, and we did everything we could to really show off all this great art to its fullest capabilities, we also used the original storyline, we used the original dialogue."
But people understandably don’t remember that. What they remember is the cutscene Blizzard showed off because, well, it’s a visual representation. It’s a tangible example. A Blizzard person talking in a panel isn’t that. An interview literally on launch day isn’t that.
So what was released? Players were delivered a game with visuals which looked very similar to the original game (hence the “downgrade” claim). More egregiously, features from the original version were outright removed.
- Automated tourneys
- Offline play
- Ranked ladder
- Much more…..
On top of this, the EULA effectively gave Blizzard complete ownership of any and all custom games you create. Of course, this draconian autocratic limitation – while not necessarily new – is still nevertheless a giant middle finger to the amazing creative community in Blizzard’s games which have arguably kept them alive all these years.
"Custom Games are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Blizzard. Without limiting the foregoing, you hereby assign to Blizzard all of your rights, title, and interest in and to all Custom Games, including but not limited to any copyrights in the content of any Custom Games."
Fan backlash was immediate and entirely justified. This absolutely brilliant website was set up, mocking the game as Warcraft 3 Refunded. Seriously, I want to meet the hero(es) who built it. The game also got bombed on Metacritic, sitting at a user score of a truly impressive 0.5 as of this writing.
Just last night, February 3, Blizzard issued a statement which – true to form for these companies – contained a bunch of words but said absolutely nothing. In it, they promised to release a patch to address fixing portrait animations, audio bugs, UI fixes, “and more.”
It’s filled with your typical garbage PR canned response, stating their [insert statement to affirm excitement for game] and [insert statement on committing to supporting aforementioned game] and [insert thank you to community for their support] while [insert statement on listening to community feedback].
But what absolutely enraged me was the following (emphasis added),
“First off, we want to say we’re sorry to those of you who didn’t have the experience you wanted, and we’d like to share our plans for what’s coming next.”
We’re sorry to those of you who didn’t have the experience you wanted.
One editorial simply isn’t enough to properly convey my anger on this, so I’ll vainly attempt to condense it. This sentence is effectively shifting the blame of Warcraft 3 Reforged’s abhorrent state to the consumer by couching their statement in player expectation.
Blizzard. No. You don’t get to shift blame. You don’t have the right to even hint at consumer misunderstanding.
Has Blizzard even considered where this consumer expectation came from? It couldn’t possibly be due to the fact that The Culling cutscene was shared at Blizzard’s largest convention, thereby having the greatest reach.
It couldn’t possibly be that, as of this writing, that cinematic is still being used in official marketing for the game on the official site.
It couldn’t possibly be due to the fact that the official site heavily reinforces visual upgrades, extensive campaign missions, and “limitless custom games.”
Blizzard’s pitiable excuse for an official statement does nothing to genuinely apologize to the playerbase it misled, nor does it even begin to understand just why people are so rightfully upset. This complete silence, delayed response, and non-apology is nothing new for Blizzard. In fact, we have very recent evidence of that.
BlizzCon 2019 opened with J Allen Brack giving what I believe he believed was a heartfelt apology regarding Blitzchung’s suspension. Yet he did absolutely nothing to address steps to remedy the issue. Instead, BlizzCon hurriedly moved from one trailer to another trailer in an attempt to distract and divert.
That lack of contrition and failure to address corrective next steps showed Blizzard’s lack of understanding of why people were upset with Blitzchung’s suspension to begin with. We’re seeing that exact same pattern play out once again with Warcraft 3 Reforged.
Blizzard’s fall from grace from the hearts and minds of gamers now rivals Bethesda’s absolutely atrocious last few years with Todd Howard’s gross misdirections at E3 about Fallout 76, his laughable claims about how Elder Scrolls Blades is a “true Elder Scrolls” game with loot boxes and pay-to-wait mechanics, the botched launch of Fallout 76, and beyond.
Listen. I get it. I’m angry just like the rest of you. But I’m not surprised. I hate to say this, but it’s still true: Blizzard is a company. Companies only care about their bottom line. Unless something drastically upsets that bottom line, absolutely nothing will change.
As a cynic, I don’t believe for one second that any of this outrage will have an effect on Blizzard. This cycle will continue. All I can say is keep up the anger. A flash in the pan won’t do anything. A sustained, prolonged, constant effort is what is needed. That’s what got EA to react with Battlefront 2.
So be mad. Be mad as hell.