Blizzard wasted no time in addressing the shadow hanging over its annual mega-convention Friday, but then quickly moved to make sure the focus of those in attendance and watching live around the world returned to its intended target — their new games.

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack opened the convention with an apology for the company’s handling of a Hearthstone player who called for the liberation of Hong Kong during a live-streamed interview in early October. At the time, Blizzard suspended the player, Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung, for a year and stripped him of his winnings. It later reduced the ban to six months and restored his prize money after outrage poured forth from multiple fronts, including the U.S. Congress and within the company itself.

“Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together at a tough Hearthstone esports moment about a month ago,” Brack said. “We did not. We moved too quickly in our decision-making, and then, to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you.

"What I’m most unhappy about is two things. We didn’t live up to the high standards we set for ourselves. The second, is we failed in our purpose. And for that, I am sorry and I accept accountability.”

Brack did not say if it had further adjusted blitzchung’s ban.

The Blizzard president went on to speak about the “positive power of video games” and said the company’s actions would show how dedicated it is when it comes to freedom of expression.

“I hope it’s clear how committed we are to everyone’s right express themselves in all kinds of ways and all kinds of places. I’ve actually seen and heard many of you expressing yourself this morning,” he said. Several protests had been planned for the event and Friday morning some 40 protesters gathered outside the security entrance.

The words were well received by the audience and that positive vibe grew when he transitioned to the company’s upcoming game titles, starting with a nine-minute cinematic trailer for the highly-anticipated game Diablo IV.

Diablo IV, the rumors were true

Developers at BlizzCon showed off a first look at Diablo IV, corroborating leaks from earlier this week about the game’s tone and content.

In a post published on Wednesday on the r/Diablo community on Reddit, user u/PracticalBrush12 previewed several details about the then-rumored follow up to 2012′s Diablo III. Among other things, PracticalBrush12 said the game would include:

  • A darker, “gritty and gross” tone, with bleak and morbid environments
  • Three playable classes: a mage, a druid, and a barbarian.
  • Ride-able horses (and potentially other mounts).

A cinematic short and a gameplay preview of the game presented at the top of BlizzCon’s opening ceremony confirmed most of these leaks. A gruesome trailer that played immediately after an opening statement by Brack confirmed the notes on tone; the subsequent game play preview showed off the three classes, some environments and players riding on horses.

Another leak, published earlier Friday in the r/Diablo subreddit, appeared to show an official art book, with quotes from Diablo IV art director John Mueller confirming the sequel’s “return to darkness.”

“Diablo IV’s artistic vision was built using several key pillars: ‘Return To Darkness,’ ‘Embrace the Legacy,’ and what the art team calls the ‘Old Masters Pillar,’ which is shorthand for striving to make each part of the new game look like it was painted by a venerated artist such as Rembrandt or Ilya Repin,” reads the text in a photo of the art book’s pages.

Overwatch 2 is coming

As part of its opening ceremony, Blizzard also announced Overwatch 2, the sequel to 2016′s Overwatch, with no fewer than three distinct cinematics and two interstitial explanations by game director Jeff Kaplan. Overwatch 2 will feature an increased focus on player vs. environment (PVE) and story missions, alongside increased customization, a new player vs. player (PVP) mode, and a new, albeit barely noticeable, change in art direction.

“Why a sequel?” asked Kaplan on stage. “What we’re hoping to do with Overwatch 2 is really redefine what a sequel means.” He went on to explain that players of the original Overwatch would have access to all the new maps and heroes from Overwatch 2, and that players from both games would ultimately play together in a “shared multiplayer environment.” Cosmetics from the first game would also be transferable to the sequel, according to Kaplan.

Besides new story content, Overwatch 2 would introduce co-op missions, branded “hero missions,” with new leveling and customization options for heroes. A new game mode titled Push, slated to debut in Overwatch 2, would also be introduced to Quick Play, competitive play and the Overwatch League.

The gameplay trailer also showed a new hero, Sojourn, though Kaplan declined to go into further detail about her abilities or role in the game’s story. In a stream earlier this year, Kaplan mentioned that Sojourn had been in development since 2015, or possibly even 2014.

World of Warcraft and Hearthstone expansions announced

The developers of World of Warcraft and Hearthstone didn’t come to BlizzCon with any new games to announce — but both teased new expansions.

In a lengthy cinematic, World of Warcraft premiered Shadowlands, an expansion that promised to take players to the Warcraft universe’s afterlife. In a follow-up gameplay trailer, Blizzard teased new zones — Revendreth, Ardenweald, Maldrazzus and Bastion — as well as new factions, dungeons and raids. The expansion is slated for 2020, with deeper explanations of the new features in later BlizzCon panels.

Hearthstone had two announcements: a new expansion, titled Descent of Dragons, and a new gameplay mode, Battlegrounds. The latter is an eight-player mode inspired by autobattlers such as Dota Auto Chess, and will task players with recruiting and upgrading combatants to subsequently do automated combat. An open beta for the new mode will open on Nov. 12.

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