Commentary from BlizzCon

At the end, and despite an early comment, BlizzCon was useful to delve a bit deeper on the plans about the game.

Here you can find three screenshots of concept art for Tier 2 armor sets that look a bit too much like Power Rangers. (mirrored at the bottom of this article, will be back in a few days)

And linked through FoH some surprisingly interesting and information-dense articles on various aspects on the game that were discussed during the conference. I don’t think we will get much more than that in the upcoming months and I’m also sceptical that those features planned for the live patches will be added in time as planned.

You can go follow those links or “read more” for my consolidated backup. (I’ll repaste it when the kids move on)

P.S. For the goons thinking I’m taking the paternity of what was written below: I DIDN’T WROTE THAT. Hell, I didn’t even go to BlizzCon. If I take informations from the internet and archive them here instead of just linking them it’s because after a couple of months I have the blog filled with broken links. To preserve the integrity of the informations I back up them AND provide the original links to the sources till they are available.

What the hell. Fuck you all. Get away from this fucking site. Follow the goddamn links you LAZY ASS.



BlizzCon: A Brief Look at Blood Elves

The new Horde race for the World of Warcraft game, blood elves, will become available in next year’s expansion, and it was previewed at BlizzCon in Anaheim this weekend.

A guildmate of mine pointed out that waiting in the 90 minute line to play the Burning Crusade expansion wasn’t necessary, since we could wait for two minutes at the Nvidia booth to play it there. So we did.

Pregenerated blood elves — mage, warlock, warrior and priest — were set up on all the demo machines at BlizzCon, and we each gave Blood Elves a whirl. Only one quest was initially available on Sunstrider Isle, although I suspect people before us did most of the level 1 quests. The one quest available was to kill mana worms — think tiny versions of the flying dragon snake thing in “The Never Ending Story.” But running around the island, we got to see hostile miniature treants, a banished blood elf warlock (hostile) and some small great cats, also hostile.

The blood elves are definitely not simply repaints of the existing night elf models. Their features are more rounded, their ears stick straight up, and their bodies are less muscular. All of their newbie gear has a more stylized look, including kukri-inspired daggers and swords, and newbie robes with gold ornamentation. They jump in sort of a flying martial arts pose and instead of sometimes flipping, they sometimes spin instead. Their dance is a 1950s style shimmy of the hips combined with rubbing a toe on the ground — I think that might be called the Mashed Potato, I’m not sure. It was too loud to hear any vocal emotes, if they’ve even been added at this point.

Their innate mana-draining ability is pretty impressive against level 1 and level 2 foes, but only the silence ability — which has a significant cooldown period — is likely to be useful past level 20 or so.

Sunstrider Isle looks sort of like I’d imagined: Take night elf art and architecture, rip out all the nature-based motifs, and replace them with a strong reliance on magic. Objects like bookshelves float or even rotate in the air. There are small translocation gates used to get around between floating platforms. Pet Siamese cats are everywhere. Life for survivors of the Scourge attacks on Quel’Thalas looks to be quite comfortable, even if they’re effectively just living in a small gilded cage.

The one quest text I was able to read specifically mentioned the destiny of the blood elves is on Outland.

Having seen the new race creation process through the alpha period, from this brief glimpse — only one quest, and I wasn’t able to get to the zoneline for the next zone, if it was even open, with a level 1 blood elf dodging angry treants — the polish and quality looks comparable.



BlizzCon: Rob Pardo talks WoW classes, up to level 70

Blizzard Entertainment’s Rob Pardo presented an overview of the classes in the World of Warcraft, addressed questions about what raising the level cap to 70 in the Burning Crusade expansion would mean for characters and fielded audience questions Friday afternoon at BlizzCon in Anaheim.

For starters, he noted that on “normal” servers, players with level 60 characters respecced their talents an average of 2.8 times. On player-versus-player servers, the average was 3.6 times.

With the understanding that talents are important to players, Pardo said that they would be extending the talent trees up 10 points, so that players would have to choose between putting their additional 10 points in previously available talents, or going after new 41 point abilities.

But those won’t be the only new abilities player characters will be getting: Look for new types of abilities or spells between 60 and 70 — “probably four or five new spells, per character class” — and in time, the team would be going back and adding more new abilities between 40 and 60.

Also look for more racial differentiation within a class, similar to how priests have a special spell based on their race.

Paladins wanting a break from buffing, buffing, buffing on raids will be able to buff all the members of a class at once on a raid in the 1.9 patch.

Fire mages concerned about the high fire resistance on many current raid targets (although Pardo said fire resistance wouldn’t be an issue in the next two raid dungeons added to the game, the Ruins of Ahn’Quiraj and the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj) have some help coming in the form of the Spell Penetration ability on equipment, which will allow a spellcaster a better chance of penetrating an enemy’s spell resistances.

And Invisibilty, a spell that was removed from mages during the beta test, will be coming back in a significantly altered form as a post-60 spell in the Burning Crusade expansion.



BlizzCon: Chris Metzen explores the lore of Warcraft

Blizzard Entertainment’s Chris Metzen delved deep into the lore of Azeroth, Draenor and the rest of the Warcraft universe in a discussion with Blizzard gamers Friday at BlizzCon.

He started by discussing the just-announced expansion to the World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

“It’s the proper name of the ongoing war of the Burning Legion to snuff out all life,” he said. “The Burning Legion has wiped out thousands, tens of thousands of worlds.”

The only world to ever survive being in the demonic Legion’s sights is Azeroth — and the world has done it twice now, most recently at the climax of Warcraft III: The Reign of Chaos.

“The Legion has thrown themselves against this planet twice now,” Metzen said. Recognizing their problems with Azeroth, the Legion is changing tactics as a result: “The Burning Legion is going full court press on every other world out there. And the heroes of Azeroth are being called into void to fight against the Cruasade.”

Although there are numerous other areas Blizzard could have chosen for this expansion — Metzen specifically mentioned Northrend, Undermine and the South Seas — the Burning Crusade’s Outland focus was chosen because it reinforced an important theme of WoW.

“At this point, we really want to stress that this is a cosmic conflict.”

(Northrend is also out for another reason: The expansion is only raising the level cap to 70 this tie. “I mean, come on. Arthas at level 70? No.”)

But there’s a wrinkle in the heroes’ fight against the Burning Legion. Illidan Stormrage, licking his wounds after his battle with the Lich King, has shut down all of the dimensional portals originally opened by the orc warlock Nerzhul to other worlds. Illidan is afraid the Legion will find him through the portals.

“We’re going to Outland to reopen these gateways and take the fight to the Burning Legion,” Metzen said. “Of ourse, Illidan is not going to be happy about this.”

Blood Elves were chosen as the Horde expansion race in the Burning Crusade because designers were thrilled with how well Samwise had redesigned the classic wood elves with the night elves. And they knew that, “one day, high elves are going to have to get a facelift, too.

“I don’t think anyone has abused high elves to this degree,” Metzen said.

Players surprised that the Blood Elves would have any interest in joining the Horde don’t know everything that’s going to lead the groups to joining up.

“Magic is absolutely corrupting. You shouldn’t play with it.” In the wake of the destruction of the Sunwell, the high elves of Quel’Thalas turned to demonic sources of magical energy to feed their magical addiction (which was thanks to thousands of years of constant exposure to magic, even for the high elves who didn’t practice magic themselves). But messing with “fel energy” is scary stuff, and it frightened the other races in the Alliance. “Dwarves and humans don’t want to hang around them. They’re not returning their phone calls.”

But the Blood Elves “could care less, they’re going to do whatever they have to do.” And thrilled by this new, seemingly endless supply of powerful magical energy, the Blood Elves have a unique take on the shattered planet of Draenor, now known as Outland. “They view Outland as an Eden. … Their homeland is great, but Outland is where their destiny is.”

The Blood Elves will leverage their relationship with Sylvanas, leader of the Forsaken and the former Ranger-General of Quel’Thalas. And more importantly, the Blood Elves will not come to the Horde, hat in hand.

“The Blood Elves are going to bring something to the table the Horde can’t do without.”

Look for the lead-up to the Burning Crusade to play out across World of Warcraft servers in the coming months.

The Alliance heroes of Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, who sealed themselves on Draenor as Nerzul’s dimensional portals tore the planet apart — and whose statues can be seen in the Valley of Heroes in Stormwind — will play a major part in the Burning Crusade.

“They’re still alive, and they’re kicking ass. They’re BAD. ASS. There’s a reason their statues are in Stormwind.”

The development team also fielded questions from the audience.

The two Hakkars that appear in Warcraft lore was Metzen’s fault, he said.

“The answer is my bad.”

He liked the name when he read it in drafts for Richard Knaak’s War of the Ancients novels, but forgot where he heard it, and when it came time to give the Soulflayer the Zul’Gurub trolls worship, the name came right back out.

“That happens daily” to him, he said. “‘Dude, there’s already a Luke Skywalker.'”

Lingering quest lines, including the intrigue with the Grimtotem Tauren and the fate of the King of Stormwind will be resolved, although the team couldn’t promise an immediate resolution. But things are happening: The King of Stormwind will be gone from the island prison many players have found him in when the 1.9 patch goes live.

“We know there are some unfinished quest lines out there that we’ll get back to,” Pat Nagle said.

The racial lifequests talked about for each race before the game was released have been scrapped. The idea had apparently been to give each player a storyline that would take them from humble beginnings to heroism, but while the quests felt great in a single player context, they didn’t work when thousands of undead were dealing with feelings of abandonment, or everyone was searching for their long-lost father, and so on.

“We didn’t want to make this canned story for everyone,” Metzen said.

Players wanting more interaction with the dragons of Azeroth will get it soon. Anachronus, the dragon guarding the Caverns of Time, will begin giving players quests in the 1.9 patch.



BlizzCon: Blizzard surveys the battlegrounds

Blizzard Entertainment developers held a candid discussion of the bumpy learning process experienced when making player versus player battlegrounds for the World of Warcraft Friday afternoon at BlizzCon in Anaheim, including a discussion of two scrapped battlegrounds.

Alterac Valley was originally going to be a persistent — not instanced, in other words — and quests and non-player-character-driven content was added to give players something to do for the times when no one from the opposite faction was around. When the team ended up making the battleground instanced, the quests and NPCs remained, but Alterac Valley, as it was, had quests that took players away from trying to achieve victory conditions, had a high risk of player death due to NPCs instead of players and had several zone design issues that made achieving objectives harder than they needed to be.

Azshara Crater, which was to be the second battleground, was very similar to Alterac Valley, but given all the problems that had cropped up with the battleground, work on it was stopped, although its entrances are still located in the game.

Following the success of the “lunchtime battleground,” Warsong Gulch, which featured a PVP standard, Capture the Flag, Blizzard looked at using another PVP staple, single-elimination Deathmatch play. The battleground, Gurubashi Catacombs, was to be located beneath the Gurubashi Arena, in pens where dangeous animals were once kept.

But the 5 versus 5 single elimination match invariably turned into melee classes killing spellcasters immediately, which was great fun for the melee classes, but absolutely no fun for the casters: “Of course you’re going to kill the guy in the dress.”

The issue could not be resolved, the designers felt, without a fundemental class revision that would make every class equally able to survive an attack by any other class.

The battleground was scrapped, but group duels might be made a feature of the game independent of battlegrounds at some point in the future instead.

Learning from the mistakes of their past, Blizzard has plans for future and present battlegrounds:

* They are lookin at a variety of ways to get battlegrounds to the critical mass needed to start a battleground more easily.
* They are looking into ways that, when possible, the game will automatically match up opponents more evenly.
* They will attempt to even out the honor gained per hour in each of the battlegrounds, so that people will choose a battleground based on what they enjoy, rather on where they will get the most honor.
* Battlegrounds will begin to have some sort of impact on the world outside of the zone.
* More improvements to the queueing system will be coming.
* Groups will automatically form when players enter a battleground.
* Siege weapons are currently not being worked on, since they couldn’t be made cool enough, but will be worked on again in the future.
* General PVP changes will be coming later, with announcements to follow.
* And in the 1.9 patch, multiple battleground queues can be joined at once time, and those who /AFK out early will be assessed a penalty on their times for the next queues.



BlizzCon: The shape of raids to come

Blizzard Entertainment’s Jeff “Tigole” Kaplan walked BlizzCon attendees through the design process for raids, starting some of the basic design philosophy.

“Players are only going to level up, and we want to have something for them to do.”

He also took issue with the belief that many players don’t raid.

On an average weeknight, he said, citing statistics collected by Blizzard software, 250 instances are running of Blackwing Lair, 700 instances are running of Zul’Gurub, 500 instances of Molten Core are running and 150 instances are running of Onyxia’s Lair. And given that all of those zones lock players out from visiting on consecutive days if they successfully kill a boss in the zone, the numbers of people using each is even higher.

Other things Blizzard designers take into account are what each class should expect to be doing on a raid to contribute — and it’s not always the same tasks: Druids were consciously given a chance to use their crowd control abilities in Zul’Gurub, for instance. Designers also like to design with a set duration for an average instance session in mind, which varies with each dungeon.

He also answered the common question of why non-player characters aren’t “smart” and behave like players, say, by killing characters who can heal others first.

“OK, we can kill you at any point we want,” Kaplan said. “That doesn’t make for a fun fight.”

How many healers would be interested in coming to fight Onyxia, he said, if the first thing the black dragon did was to target and pick them off?

Going back to results from Blizzard’s software, he ran through a list of the deadliest raid opponents in the game: Since the game went live, Vaelastrasz has killed more than 24,000 player characters, the Bloodlord had killed more than 11,000 and Firemaw has killed more than 10,000.

The software is used as part of an overall system of testing after content is released. In-house testing, he said, could never be as good as having players hammer on content, because despite having many highly skilled players on the team, a cohesive guild that raids together regularly will always be better at handling challenges than a group of competent people who rarely play together. (Quality Assurance has a new in-house raiding guild that is working their way up through the content, however, to help improve the testing of raid content.)

The panel also previewed the next raid content to be added to World of Warcraft: The Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj (an outdoor 20-person dungeon comparable to Zul’Gurub in difficulty) and The Temple of Ahn’Qiraj (a mostly indoor 40-person dungeon slightly harder than Blackwing Lair).

The zone will open with a war between the Horde and the Alliance (and presumably the Cenarian Circle) and the returning Ahn’Qiraj menace. The war begins in Silithus, but takes place all over the world. Before the new dungeons are opened up, players of all levels will help fuel the war effort by gathering materials and achieving certain military objectives. Meanwhile, the uber guild types will be assembling a four-part scepter, which is used to ring the gong outside the Scarab Gate. And at which point, all hell breaks loose, and Silithus is consumed in a massive war. When the dust settles, two new dungeons are available on the server forever more.

The expectation is that most servers will accomplish the tasks within three weeks of the dungeons being patched in with the 1.9 patch later this year. On the off-chance the players on a given server have no particular interest in advancing the war effort, non-player characters will eventually get the job done on their own.

A brief run-down of the Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj was given, including a glance at General Rajaxx, the first boss reachable in the dungeon. Players will fight him with the help of NPC allies, and the more allies that survive, the better the resulting loot will be, similar to how the tribute run in North Dire Maul works. (The Temple of Ahn’Qiraj will have a similar event.)

Even more so than Zul’Gurub, the ruins will be a non-linear dungeon, allowing raids to pick where they want to go and who they want to fight to a certain extent: “All roads lead to phat lewt.”

The peek at the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj showed obsidian destroyers, and the first boss, the Prophet Skeram. The dungeon is huge — the map of the Scarlet Monestary library wing was showed beside the temple layout to scale.

“Scarlet Monestary can, like, fit in the boss room” of the temple.

They also briefly talked about Naxxramas, Kel’Thuzad’s necropolis floating above the undead-controlled city of Stratholme. The final fight will include a massive frostwyrm and the necromancer Kel’Thuzad himself.

The tower of Medivh, Karazhan, which will be part of the Burning Crusade expansion, will be a 10-person raid zone, probably, and one of Blizzard’s biggest dungeons to date.

“It will definitely be bigger than Blackrock Spire, upper and lower combined.”

Among the highlights: A fight in an opera house within the tower, including a battle on stage with a boss.

Also in the Burning Crusade will be the Caverns of Time, a dungeon with four wings, including at least one five-person dungeon and a full-blown battleground.

The Outland fortress of Kael’Thas Sunstrider, Tempest Keep, will also be designed with wings, and include a Molten Core-sized raiding instance.

In contrast, Hellfire Citadel, the prison where Magtheradon is kept, will be similar to Onyxia’s Lair, where players only need to dispense with a few “trash” enemies before getting to the showdown with Magtheradon himself.

And, of course, Illidan Stormrage will be the ultimate goal in the Black Temple.

Look for smaller raids in future rather than larger.

“We feel that even a hardcore raiding guild enjoys a smaller raid zone,” Kaplan said.

There will also be a change in the raid lockout system in the 1.9 patch, changing to a calendar-based system, but the details of what that meant were not clear.



BlizzCon: Morhaime & Dabiri kick off BlizzCon

After a horrendously long registration line — next year, Blizzard Entertainment needs to just mail tickets to folks, and if they don’t, make sure to get your tickets the night before the show, no matter what — Blizzard President Mike Morhaime welcomed gamers to the company’s first-ever convention, BlizzCon.

“Eleven years ago, we created the first Warcraft game, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. It could be played by two humans over a modem, and we thought that was pretty good,” he said. “When Frank Allen and I started Blizzard, we just wanted to make great games.”

Almost 8,000 people were expected to attend BlizzCon over the weekend, he said.

“So, on behalf of everyone at Blizzard, we want to thank you.”

He also had two bits of news. The second — that Blood Elves would be playable in the first World of Warcraft expansion, the Burning Crusade — was already fairly well-known via leaks from the international media prior to the show.

But the first was greeted with applause and cheers: The zerg will be playable in multiplayer StarCraft: Ghost, the forthcoming console game.

Shane Dabiri, the lead producer for World of Warcraft, then took over the presentation, segueing into a presentation of the Burning Crusade.

Like Morhaime, Dabiri thanked the players in attendance for making it all possible, and reaffirmed the development team’s commitment to content updates for the current game. Among the forthcoming additions to World of Warcraft were the two dungeons of Al’Qiraj, Kel’Thuzad’s flying necropolis of Naxxramas, linked auction houses “in every city” (at which the audience predictably went crazy), weather (“I’m not talking about Southern California-type weather,” but sandstorms, blizzards, driving rain, fog and so on) and more.

As for the Burning Crusade, he covered what had been rumored in light detail:

“You’ll be able to play two new races, the first of which we’re debuting today: The Blood Elves of Quel’Thalas.”

Also included in the Burning Crusade will be Medivh’s Tower of Kharazan and the Caverns of Time, along with a chance to face off with Illidan Stormrage himself, the main villain of the expansion.

“You get to go to the Black Temple and kick his ass.”

Epic flying mounts will be available in Outland, the shattered remains of Draenor. And they’ll be needed, since there will be areas that cannot be reached except by flying.

The new profession of Jewelcrafting, which owes a lot to the Diablo II socketing system, will also be added in the expansion.

“There’s just too much. I’d rather just show you,” he said, signalling for the video to play. (The video is also available at the Burning Crusade official site.)

“Blood elves, huh? I guess that means more guys playing girls,” he grinned.











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