BlizzCon 2009: Day 1

BlizzCon began today, but since it was completely sold out, we couldn’t make it there in person. Luckily, we watched the whole thing through Blizzard’s live stream, and we’ve got all the important highlights you need to know about three of the most anticipated PC titles to come in the next couple of years. “Did they just say COUPLE of years?” Yes, we did. More on that below.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

It’s finally official, even if WoW heads knew all about it already. Thisexpansion, planned for 2010, introduces the usual new levels, new races, and new areas, but does something different: it changes the entire world of Azeroth. The lore is that Deathwing, an evil dragon banished to Deepholm, the elemental plane of Earth, has finally awoken and broken out from his underground prison. The sheer force of the event reshapes the entire world. Where once familiar terrain stood, now broken earth, lava rivers, and new plant growth will be found.

The two new races include Goblins, the new Horde race, who are refugees shipwrecked on the Lost Isles. They will be gadget based, with rocket belts, and their mount is a vicious-looking car. The Alliance get werewolves, known as Worgen, who add a bestial flavor to the usually “friendly” Alliance races.

The long desired flying mounts will now be available in Azeroth. There will be no restrictions for where you can fly.

There will be seven new zones, including the Sunken City of Vashj’ir, Mount Hyjal, the Lost Isles (the starting area of Goblins), Uldun, Deepholm (the elemental plane of Earth), the Twilight Highlands, and Gilneas (the starting area of Worgen).

New race/class combos are coming. For instance, we saw a Tauren paladin, a Gnome priest, and a Dwarf shaman.

The level cap has been raised to 85. The reasoning for not going to 90 is that the developers decided to focus resources on revamping levels 1-60 (with all the new areas and quests).

A new secondary profession will be available, known as archaeology. Players will be able to explore ruins to find archaeology nodes. This leads into the Path of the Titans – which is new type of advancement, not limited by class.

Now, beyond just leveling your character, there will be a Guild leveling system (20 levels) and a host of achievements to go along with it.

There will be a new Mastery system: passive bonuses based on how many talent points you spend in a tree.

And finally, the Sundering happens to everyone, even if you don’t buy the expansion. So the world will be forever changed for all players, although there will once again be more phasing, which allows different amounts of world changes to be visible to different players based on what they’ve accomplished.

Diablo III

It’s not coming in 2010! That’s right, we may have to wait more than another year before we see Diablo III. That’s just bruuuutal.

Anyway, they did announce the new class:the Monk. It looks like he has a move similar to Street Fighter Sumo Wrestler E.Honda’s hundred hand slap. He causes enemies to explode into blood clouds, and he can teleport around, bouncing everywhere like a pinball.

He looks very swift and agile. We’ve seen him hit enemy projectiles back at them for some serious revenge damage.

We also got to see a lovely outdoor desert environment, where the player can use things like tornadoes to their advantage and throw monsters into them.

And lastly, although we don’t know what it is yet, there is still one more class to be announced sometime down the line.

StarCraft II%26rsquo;s new and improved

Blizzard is calling it an “Always connected experience.” Even when you’re playing single-player, you’ll be connected to, which allows things such as tracking Achievements, including popups for when friends get achievements.

With accounts and persistent characters, all of your achievements, ranking, and friends will be tied to a single account. For one, the system combats smurfing, a practice where WarCraft III players would create new accounts so they could stomp on newbies. With only one account for StarCraft 2, it will be next to impossible to pull smurfing off. This should also combat cheating because if your account is banned, you have to buy another copy to come back and cheat again.

In order to make the game friendlier to all player skill levels, there are several implementations that should help. There are challenges to teach you how to play competitively. Ladder play will not be just for the hardcore players anymore, as players will be separated into leagues, such as Pro, Gold, Silver, and all the way down to Practice. This will help keep players having fun by playing people of appropriate skill levels.

The Real ID is a way for you to see friends and connect with them based on how you know them – not just a random nickname that’s easy to forget. The Friends network spans games, realms, etc. So WoW players and SC II players can still communicate, plan raids, or whatever.

There will be an IM style chat interface, with different windows popping up so you can keep track of who you’re talking to. Along with this is the Party system, where players agree to join a party so that they can talk to each other and automatically enter games together. So for instance, you and your friends make a party, then the leader chooses 2v2 game type, and you’ll all get put into a game together.

Finally, an even more powerful map editor than WC 3 will be in SC II. A Map Publishing system allows you to get your maps out there and known. Sometime after launch, a Marketplace will become available that allows players to browse custom maps, rate them, and download them. Blizzard will even add official Auto matchmaking to custom maps that are popular. And possible most intriguing, although we have no idea how this will work: but map makers can actually make money! Blizzard will PAY us to make maps!

Aug 21, 2009

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.