Paul and Yolanda Miller hauled themselves and two friends out of bed at 3 a.m., the four patiently waiting at 3:30 to be the first in line to buy tickets. Having flown in from Georgetown, Ohio, the day before, this was their vacation, the four eagerly shouting, “For the Horde!!!” to other line attendees while waiting for the BlizzCon convention to open.
Photographs by Rachel Hoyer
It didn’t begin subtly.
At approximately 10 a.m. on Friday, October 22, the Millers and more than 35,000 die-hard Blizzard fans walked, jogged, or outright charged through the doors of the Anaheim Convention Center for the keynote, security personnel yelling for them to slow down. Blizzard’s annual show was underway.
But could anything match the massive announcements at last year’s BlizzCon--namely, the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion pack, two new races for the game and the complete destruction/overhaul of a game world the millions-strong player base had intimately known for the past several years?
Still, Blizzard came out swinging, the lights dropping to begin a cinematic of an armored female character stalking through a woodland setting, dual crossbows in hand. This is the Demon Hunter, the fifth and final playable class of Blizzard’s upcoming Diablo III character--and quite possibly the single greatest badass female character since Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens movies.
Blizzard also announced a new player-versus-player mode for the upcoming Diablo III, asking, “Who will stand victorious? And who will lose their ear?”
“You’ll be able to show up, pick a class and beat the brains out of each other,” quipped Blizzard VP of Creative Development, Chris Metzen.
Other announcements came in the form of additional content for Blizzard’s real-time strategy StarCraft II. Although a final release date hasn’t been revealed for the much-anticipated Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void expansion packs, Blizzard announced the forthcoming release of four new custom multiplayer games to be released over the coming months:
» Starjeweled: (akin to the classic Bejeweled, players match sets of three jewels on a grid to release additional forces against each other in classic a StarCraft multiplayer match)
» Aiur Chef: Players go head to head and must gather ingredients as well as kill specific enemies to complete recipes in order to defeat each other in multiplayer gameplay.
» Left 2 Die: Players must cooperatively fend off a new strain of Zerg as well as purge the infestation from the planet’s surface.
» Blizzard DOTA: Player must use an all-star team of heroic characters (such as the Dark Templar, the Abomination, etc.) to defeat wave after wave of approaching enemies. Units can be leveled up and given upgrades throughout the game.
Beyond the hype of the keynote, the interesting things tend to surface in the midst of panels and interview sessions. Follow the jump to find out what else we learned about Diablo III, StarCraft II, and WOW: Cataclysm, and see some of our favorite awesome costumes.
Continue reading on the next page »
Rounding out the available player classes (Monk, Wizard, Witch Doctor and Barbarian), the Demon Hunter will be more of a gadget-driven character, her background detailing her as a nomadic character solely fixated on studying demons, incorporating their technologies into her arsenal and making them as afraid of her as she’s been of them. The detail that demon hunters are “not born, they’re made” highlighted the idea that while the other classes were formally trained in their professions, Demon Hunters typically find someone who’s been tormented by demons in the past, recruit them and begin training them from that point on.
Diablo III will feature a new, more accessible skill tree as well as a new tab system that makes customization easier to work with.
Concept drawing of the new Demon Hunter class.
New attacks and techniques include a Raging Spear attack for the Barbarian, a Meteor attack for the Wizard, and a Spirit Walk technique for the Witch Doctor that allows players to walk around and through enemies, his body teleporting to the place his spirit traveled to.
A new Talisman system within the game serves as a dedicated inventory for your collected charms.
She's badass, all right...
In Diablo III, collected charms are more focused on revising the player’s core attributes for your characters. Under Diablo II, this was more of a wild card system and there was no telling what abilities a charm would augment.
Players can now collect Skill Runes, which modify your character’s abilities. This has been intensely varied and per the last count, over 96 billion combinations were possible, some interesting variations occurring with the Witch Doctor’s spells, certain runes now allowing them to summon a rain of flaming toads as well as call forth a single giant toad, which will happily eat your opponents but leave the loot behind…
The Skeleton King has come for your soul.
Diablo III’s newly announced Battle Arenas will both act as a dedicated place for one-on-one duels as well as focused on team-based play.
With Battle Arenas, players will be able to take their main character (which they’ve no doubt leveled and upgraded a bit) into battle, the Battle.net system supporting matchmaking, custom games and progression-based rankings.
The Barbarian attacks with fire bats!
Developers stated that they’re aiming for a similar gameplay time as found in Diablo II while vying for a much more replayable experience.
Randomization is going to be key, and developers are currently designing an engine to add random events, random monster encounter and random level exits into the game.
Next up: StarCraft II and World: Cataclysm »
The StarCraft II expansions will take longer than expected, developers citing the year between WarCraft 3 and its Frozen Throne expansion pack and commenting that this might take longer, as the team is adding in new art, mechanics and a detailed story line…
Where the Cataclysm expansion pack is concerned, the changes caused by Cataclysm will be universal and seen across the board to the entire player base. Additional perks such as creating a Goblin or Worgen character, advancing to level 85 and being able to fly across the entirety of the game world will be limited to players with the expansion pack.
When the Cataclysm changeover (aka “the Shattering”) actually occurs, players’ characters will be placed in safe holding locations on the map. The developers are trying to shift this over as smoothly as possible over a couple of weeks.
Worgin vs. Goblin, the struggle of our time.
The starting zones have been redone across the board, players being able to take on new initial missions and experiences as they enter the game and begin building their characters.
Mounts will now be available at level 20.
Certain classes will be able to receive movement speed bonuses at level 12. Blizzard representatives also cited a focus in having quests require less travel and more convenient to complete (certain quests can now be turned in remotely from the field).
The Abyysal Seahorse mount in Vashj'ir.
Players will see a noticeable bump in Cataclysm’s graphics and audio. In one case, developers worked on a new water shader, allowing water to reflect everything as well as feature ripples and splashes. Polygon counts for models have also increased, boosting detail where they felt it was needed.
A new guild leveling system allows guilds to progress up to level 25, each level returning a perk. Bonuses are also awarded for speed, unlocking achievements as a guild (such as completing quests, killing bosses, winning Battlegrounds, etc.) An XP cap will also be installed limiting how much a guild can advance in a day, thereby ensuring that a larger guild doesn’t overpower a smaller guild.
Next up: BlizzCon 2010 Cosplay Gallery! »
Between the paid models and the enthusiastic fans, BlizzCon is a cavalcade of awesome costumes. Here are a few of our favorites: