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BlizzCon 2009

» Articles, Features, Convention / Event Reports | posted by hinatasou on 08/23/2009 [Discuss]

[WARNING - not 28.8k modem friendly]

Official Website

http://www.blizzard.com/blizzcon/


Floor Plan

http://www.blizzard.com/blizzcon/events/map.xml

The now fourth annual Blizzard Convention located at the Anaheim Convention Center. I got there at 6:00am. Parking was $10. There was already a line to go in for those who picked up their badges yesterday, Day 0. I waited in the registration line.

7:15am they led us downstairs. Staff members went around with a highlighter checking your IDs and barcode confirmation form.

Barcode scanners

It’s just like waiting in Disneyland!

When you shelf out $125 for a ticket, of course you can expect to get some good stuff in your goody bags. In particular the Raynor vinyl toy which will never be reproduced again. (Mike Morhaime: ‘Never sold except on eBay for the price of a small car.’) Details below:

http://www.blizzard.com/blizzcon/events/goodybag.xml

Last April, Blizzard had an internal contest where over 250 employees designed their own figurine. Other entries:

Kinda reminds me of Build-A-Bear where you can pick up a blank doll and color your own in Hall B.

After registration, there was another line to go inside stretching all the way to the arena outside.

At 9:58am, the gates of hell opened. At the security checkpoint, the guards peered into your bags and purses for any weapons.

Drop by the Official BlizzCon Store on either side of the hall to purchase featured items.

Cute!

Opening Ceremony 11:30am

First on stage was Gary Platner, lead artist of World of Warcraft. He shared his pet peeves (people going LOL, GG). He told everyone to be courteous and mindful. When you exit the gameplay demos, there were feedback stations where you could complete computer surveys of your experience. I noticed staff members were also asking you how you liked the game upon finish. There were over 1700 PCs here.

Next we have the big man himself - Mike Morhaime, Blizzard Entertainment CEO. He didn’t shave haha. Shout out to all the Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg. Then the Horde and Alliance. A big welcome.

Mike (referring to the attendees): ‘We outnumber the undergraduate population of UCLA. We root for something cataclysmic to happen.’

Blizzard is really committed to being the ultimate gaming company as well as the ultimate gaming community. At Blizzard Headquarters in Irvine, CA he mentioned that in the waiting room are binders of fan letters which include angry ones. He stressed that he himself has a boss - the fans.

World of Warcraft China is in beta testing.

If you didn’t get in que within 30 seconds, you didn’t get a 2009 BlizzCon ticket. Over 20,000 tickets were sold out in less than a minute. It took 45 minutes to process all the orders. BlizzCon is bigger than half of the countries in the world. Over 50,000 people from over 100 countries were watching BlizzCon on Pay-Per-View.

A big thank you to all service men.

Video of the midnight release of Wrath of the Lich King all around the world (New York, Anaheim, Paris, Mexico, and England). 2.8 million people turn out. Video of BlizzCon 2008 highlights.

November will be the 5th anniversary of the launch of World of Warcraft. 2010 is set for the shipment of Starcraft 2.

Sam Raimi will be directing the World of Warcraft movie by Legendary Pictures. There could be a Leroy Jenkins cameo.

Level 80 Elite Chieftain, Ozzy Osbourne, so much in store. We’re part of something epic.

/cheer

Rounding up the pack we have the other big man, Vice President Chris Metzen. It’s Blizzard philosophy to not put out games until they are done. So we have to wait around a little longer than the average bear. He understands that this will hurt sales.

Trailer for Diablo 3 new class - the Tiger Strike Fury of the Monk. You were able to demo the male at BlizzCon.

http://www.blizzard.com/diablo3/media/movies/monk.xml

Next, he unveiled the newest expansion World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. He called it ‘earth shattering.’ The planet has diminished resources. Deathwing has returned. As a Ragnarok player, this reminds me of the Revival of Satan Morroc. All of Azeroth has been reforged. Character level now reaches 85. Two new races - Goblins for the Horde and Worgens for the Alliance.

http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/cataclysm/media/

Once that was over, I went to check out the Starcraft 2 single player campaign missions. There are four difficulty levels - easy, normal, hard, and insane. There are mission achievements upon completion such as beating it in hard mode without destroying any photon cannons. So you’ll need to be careful and knock out only the pylons instead.

One mission takes place on the planet Monlyth where you have to steal relics from the Protoss while they are distracted by the Zerg. This mission I actually completed within the 20 minutes you were given to play. *SPOILERS* The final relic is guarded by 4 statues that come alive.

At the end of the mission, Kerrigan arrives and gains possession of the final relic.

Kerrigan (to Raynor): ‘You gonna keep your promise to put me out of my misery?’

Raynor: ‘You know it Darlin'’

Kerrigan then says for Jim not to keep her waiting too long.

The other mission is on the farm planet Agria where you help evacuate convoys carrying refugees from a Zerg invasion. There are two choke points. You decide whether to use the bunkers or stick your men to escorting the convoy. Sub-mission is to gather 3 Zerg cystalis.

Starcraft multiplayer 1v1 - THANK GOD THEY REMOVED THE GAS OVERHEATING FROM LAST YEAR. Map was either a large Big Game Hunter style or a smaller two player on opposite corners map. You were out of minerals by minute 18. For the Protoss, the Warp Prism covers a smaller area than before.

Lunch was $9 penne pasta.


3:30pm Starcraft2 Battle.net panel

Got in a tad late. They were talking about selecting your own decal, circular emblem, which will be displayed on all your units and buildings.

Ladder will be divided into varying leagues based on skill level: Practice -> Copper -> Bronze -> Silver -> Gold -> Pro. Practice is anti-rush with slowed down gameplay. 100 players in each league with the top players able to participate in an end of season tournament.

There’s also a co-op mode where two people can play together.

You can customize the game list by map type or filter upon genre. You can make a private game lobby, form teams with friends, then open it up to the public. To ensure fairer games, pros can’t make unlimited new accounts (what they call ’smurfing’). A single account is bound to when you first purchase the game.

All games like your World of Warcraft account and future games (Diablo 3 and the secret new MMORPG) will come under the same roof in Battle.net. This will help keep the community together. So you can hook up with the same friend or guild member from the previous game. Battle.net will have something similar to an instant messenger friend list. You choose what kind of personal info you’d like to share. With the Battle.net real ID you’ll be able to carry over achievements across games and realms.

Some discussion of map creation. The Starcraft 2 engine is going to be much more powerful than Warcraft 3. They envision something better than DotA to be created for Starcraft 2. Tower Defense type like Plants versus Zombies. There will be a marketplace for maps. People will be able to comment and rate maps (maybe a star system). There will be free maps and premium maps to buy. A portion of the proceeds will go to the map creator. So here’s your head start to come up with ideas.

Up for some Diablo 3. Trying out the monk class. His right click special was an area multi-attack where he split into clones. He could only equip a staff. Couldn’t use sword, axe, or knife. So there seems to be weapon restrictions unlike Diablo 2 (loved my battle Sorceress).

Desert level. I ran out of pots. Must have died like five times. When you die you re-spawn at your checkpoint. No need to return to your corpse naked.

I also played a female Barbarian. They don’t have a blue mana pool but three circles that fill up the more you kill. Barbarians have three skill trees: Berserker, BattleMaster, and Juggernaut.

That’s it for Day 1. I left the venue at 5:00pm.

Now for Day 2! I arrived at 8:00am. There were electric signs saying BlizzCon parking straight ahead. They may not be incorrect, but they were incomplete. I parked at the same spot yesterday in the lot on Katella. People lined up outside again. It didn’t open until 10am (hey the employees need their sleep too). It was cloudy in the morning. Since I had downtime and wasn’t going to wait in line, I hung out at the remodeled Marriot. Free water. Some pageant was going on there for little girls (National American Miss). Anyways long story short, I got into the halls at 10:10am.

World of Warcraft open Q/A 10:15am

* Will Druids get their own legendary weapon? You mean make them a weapon they won’t even use since they’ll be either a cat or bear the whole time. They will get around to all classes. But next will be casters.

* Comparing hybrids to pure classes. They did increase the DPS for hybrids. But there still will be a place for pures.

* Will the Cataclysm impact Northren? It will affect everywhere in small ways.

* Any plans for Outland? Got their use out of it. Level flow feels right. There will be archaeology in Outland. Not affected much by the Cataclysm since it’s a different planet.

* Why are Warriors tanks but have no DPS? Every class will have the tools they need. Warriors will get 2 new buffs.

* Will Hunters be able to have specific control over their pets? They talked a lot about this. Improve the AI so that it’ll walk around a wall of fire. Have it teleport to you? Or like Starcraft, Right click on map.

* When will we have a /robot dance? Dances are ongoing. When they compile enough of them, then they will release as a feature. It’ll be killer next year. Of course, dance competitions.

* Guild leveling? Trying to make it better to be in a guild. Have a guild talent tree. There will be guild heirlooms that anyone can wear in the guild. Scaled with level.

* Will Cataclysm affect the starting areas of Burning Crusade? It’ll affect questlines. They’ll mention that the Cataclysm has happened.

* Spirit will be for healing only. Other casters will use Int for spell power.

* Why can’t you get the actual Frostmourne? Only get an imitation legendary. Frostmourne will take your soul. He will play your character, not you. But Frostmourne is going to suffer a unique fate…the encounter is going to be mega.

* They will enable you to change races. Not game breaking to do so. They can’t stop multiple accounts. That way all the characters will be on the same side.

* Explain fire mage. DPS is in good shape to the developers. They’ve seen some good ones in guilds.

* Why does the regen talent for Trolls suck? They admit they want more people to play Trolls in game. They need boots. They will take a look at it.

* Buff the assassin tree for rogues. Dagger should be the staple.

* For Cataclysm they have to re-itemize the whole game from herbs and mines.

* Will you be able to reorder characters on the character select screen? Fantastic idea. It’s on their list.

* How will Blizzard make it easier (as in maintenance times) for the Australian player base living in a different time zone? They acknowledge it. But they don’t know…

* How will you retain a character’s identity visually? For example, you toss old gear for new gear and by end of the game everyone looks the same. It’s a real problem that is getting worse over time. It’s harder to look different. They don’t know what’s the right solution.

* Why are Warlocks weak starting off? True they are weak starting off. But they are good counters. At the tournaments today teams have been swapping in Warlocks.

* Guild was hacked. How will Blizzard increase the security? It is a serious issue. They are investing more in those mobile authenticators.

* Removing armor penetration. Make it up with a talent. Or give attacks magical damage.

* Will the Druids for the new races be unique as well as their swimming? Yes. Cat long tusk.

* Blacksmithing was shafted in Wrath of Lich King. Will there be improvements to it in Cataclysm? They felt that Blacksmithing limited player choices. It pigeonholed you. It wasn’t good gameplay.

* For Shamans, often have to run in and out of battle to lay down totems. Perhaps they could make super long range totems.

* Thrall versus Garrosh? There’s a lot going on there. When the whole world is in the state that it’s in, what would the mightiest Shaman need to do?

* How will they buff pet DPS? Scale few more into stats or every one of their stats. Definitely will buff pets.

* Why night elf mages? Because it’s pretty sweet. Interesting fit. Outcast group going back to their roots. You can role play that your night elf is really 11,000 years old.

* New character creation slots? They want to. But they think very few have actually maxed out all 10.

* Pets will be not immune to AoE in PvP. But will be immune to boss AoE.

* More inventory storage? Yes bigger sacks with every expansion.

* Will they improve the phasing system? Yes, you’ll be able to share phasing with others. Terrain phasing. Be able to play content with friends.

* Less powerleveling. Implement a mentoring system. Downlevel yourself. Maybe not for Cataclysm but the next expansion. Abilities that level up as you do.

* Bone armor will get Crit bonus.

* Will there be a second hero class like Death Knight? One is plenty. Probably not in Cataclysm.

* Arena observer mode? Will expand it.

Lunch $7 soft tacos.

Diablo 3 Open Q/A panel 11:30am

* Item duping? They learned their lessons from WoW. They want Diablo to be as hack free as possible.

* Will there be interaction with Tyrael? Play the game to find out.

* PvP? Didn’t like the go hostile anytime. Hurts co-op game too much. They don’t want someone to randomly hop in and force everyone to quit the game.

* Battle.net for Diablo 2? Starcraft 2 has taken main stage. But they plan on there being matchmaking, finding players same level as you. And joining your friends instantly.

* There will be a more variety of quests. Want there to be less boss farming. They want there to be a variety of gameplay experience.

* Will there be an easter egg haduken for the monk? They can’t say…

* What is the replay value in Diablo 3? Randomized environment, bosses, and items. New random events. Magic find.

* Wizard spell damage will come more from items and equips. Less on stats.

* There’s a lot of content. They want the fastest way to progress to be the most fun way.

* Will there be a Necromancer faction in game based on the books? You mean like finding Zael in game? Maybe. It’s a living world. They don’t want to ruin the surprise. More like they don’t know yet.

* Will the new patch for Diablo 2 help transition players into Diablo 3? The Diablo 3 team doesn’t do Diablo 2. It’s a different internal team so they can’t speak for them. They make recommendations only.

* Will the last class be a Paladin? You might run into the previous game characters like the hero from Diablo 2. Still long term plans.

* Will there be a hardcore mode? They do want it. That’s the only way to play. They mentioned a hardcore naked mode achieved in Germany. No town support. They beat Diablo in their high 80’s.

* How do the high heavens feel about Tyrael? Can’t reveal that yet. They will address the issue in game. Let’s just say that they are not pleased with Tyrael’s actions…

* Diablo 3 has an emphasis on geography. Wanted to make it have a real world feel. Explore cultures and nations.

* Will there be UI mods? Nope. Want to keep the simplicity of control.

* Why so much monsters blowing up in the demo? Blizzard is a fan of blood. Still tunning the effects. Don’t want to impede the gameplay. But there will be a payoff for hitting things.

* Question about toggling certain features and sounds. It’s gameplay before anything else. They can’t remove what’s necessary.

* What is gold for? It has lost it’s value in Diablo 2. They want to make gold in Diablo 3 more meaningful as an actual currency.

* Will there be cookiecutter items or more unique sets? Prominent to Diablo are the random generation of items. Randoms will be better than uniques. But there will be other roles that uniques will fulfill.

* Town portals? Insta-teleport? The waypoint system from Diablo 2 will return. They want to remove town portals. They are convenient yes but not intended for battling. It was a sloppy design. There are checkpoints for re-spawning upon death. This is intended to decrease travel time. Also built in exits in dungeons.

* Why is the Wizard slow paced in the demo? Arcane tree is slow. Other skills are faster. Also equips that will increase cast speed and boots to increase movement speed.

* Last year Witchdoctor can set the element for the pet ie. fire or plague. Why was that removed this year? They will bring back the customization upon actual release.

* Will Diablo have phasing of environments similar to WoW? Won’t have. Story is linear and it would be too time consuming.

* Will there be class specific quests? Great idea like 4 barbarians. There will be more dialogue.

* How will you control item looting? Items will be dropped on a per player basis. You won’t get to see each other’s, only your own. So everyone will have a chance.

* Can you trade items between accounts? There will be a way. They are still unsure of the method.

* Will the gameplay be new player friendly? Easy introduction. Developing a robust tutorial system. They want their community to be as big as possible. For both new and veteran players alike.

* Will there be more chunks of flesh flying off? Yes there’s a good chance of that. You can rip the skeletons from off monsters if you hit them hard enough.

* Will there be runes? No Rune Words. Crafting - no comment.

* There will be music specific for each zone setting the tone and feel. But implementing music will lag behind the developer team.

* Why are projectiles slow and inaccurate (ie. charge bolt)? That’s the weakness to projectiles. They don’t always hit. With a particular build you can have an extremely fast projectile. Have to sacrifice faster/slower, stronger/weaker.

* Will there be a Diablo 3 map editor? No. Maps are randomly generated. They use Maya.

* Will there be a Horadric Cube? They did like the combining mechanic. Actual implementation of that idea is unknown.

* Why is Diablo still alive? Hahaha, nice try. We never said he was in the game.

* Gambling? It’s a black box. Some get nothing and never do it again. Some are experts at it and know how it works. They want to revise the Diablo 2 system.

* Sound effects? Pay tribute to the older versions of the game. They are there.

* Monk weapons? Orbs and staffs. There will be specific signature weapons for each class. Crazy axe barbarian, very flashy. There will be certain builds but not exclusive. Wizard with a shield for example.

* Will Baal be back? I dunno, you kicked his ass pretty good in Lord of Destruction. But don’t count anyone out yet…

* Monster recoil? Every creature has a percent.

Starcraft 2 Lore panel 2:30pm

This year it was a bit different. Introduction to the voice cast members of the game.

Robert Clotworthy returns to play Jim Raynor. Robert is thrilled. ‘This game rocks. Chris Metzen is god.’ Robert has over 1000 different voices in his arsenal. It’ll surprise you. As you work, the voice of the character evolves. Talks about how Raynor as one man can make a difference. He’s the reluctant hero but also a role model. We all wish we were him. So it’s a great responsibility.

Zeratul and Swan, the chief engineer/mechanic, are both played by Fred Tatasciore. The original VA passed away. Swan he does in a New York family accent. Zeratul he tries to match the previous actor’s. Like a good Darth Vader. Zeratul has no mouth.

New character Tychus Findlay is voiced by Neil Kaplan who doesn’t at all look big and strong like him. The voice literally took over the character design. Findlay is the foil to Raynor. He’s the coolest character ever played. He does his own thing.

Second new character Gabriel Tosh voiced by Dave Fennoy who totally looks like him. He’s a mercenary, do as thou wilt attitude. He’s the product of a hard universe. ‘I like to kill people,’ in a Jamaican accent. But deep down inside (way deep), he has a heart of gold. But to survive, it’s all about #1. He has a thing with Raynor (not THAT thing). He serves to counter Matt Horner who is an idealist. Both Horner and Tosh are like the angel and devil respectively over Raynor’s shoulders. Tosh is tied to Nova from Starcraft Ghost. They have a shared past.

Apprising the role of Arcturus Mengsk is James Harper. He jokingly thought he was Zeratul. ‘It’s so much fun in such a short period of time.’ He’s a Mac user so he never got the chance to play the original Starcraft.

Finally, new to voice acting, Tricia Helfer (more famous for Battlestar Galactica) as Kerrigan. Kerrigan is so principal to Starcraft 2. Helfer explains that at first it was intimidating since she didn’t know the history of the game. She’s a video game virgin. All she ever played was Frogger and never made it past the first level. She’s definitely not tech savy. She just goes up to the mic and does her thing. She has to play both the original Sarah Kerrigan for flashback scenes (Raynor’s nightmare when she got left behind) and the Queen of Blades. ‘It’s therapeutic. I get to go to work and be mean.’

Voice director Andrea Romano sitting in center. She corrals all the characters. Story input from Metzen to her, then her to the actors in terminology they can all understand. Benefit to a video game is the long production period. They have the luxury or improving the voicing afterwards. It’s like a movie to her.

Heading the panel is Chris Metzen. Chris did the voicing for the Battlecruiser, the Marine, the Ghost, and Thrall in Warcraft. Andrea, ‘Too bad he has no talent.’

Q/A

* How do you get into voice acting? Take regular acting classes. Learn all the terminology. Then take voice over classes. Learn microphone technique. If you can only do one voice, you have to be able to do it better than everyone else. Send your demo to agents. Andrea, ‘There’s always room for excellence.’

* As an actor you have to know what’s in the character’s head, what’s in their heart, what does the character want, where have you been, what obstacles are there to achieving what you want. All the subtext. You have to do prep-work to visualize the character. Pictures of the character help.

* The Xel’nagga heralds everything. They are the spine to all of the great questions in Starcraft 2.

* The VA’s will be the same for all three installments. They want to maintain the continuity.

* Will Raynor free Kerrigan from the Zerg? Helfer: ‘I know but you don’t.’

* What happened to the Magistrate from Starcraft 1? It was a crude contrivance to tell the story being in the briefing room. There won’t be that half step process in Starcraft 2.

* Usually like in a movie you get all the voice actors together and you do a group session. For Starcraft, it’s piecemeal. But Andrea did read the other lines to the actors so as to keep it alive. Never wanted the actors to feel that they were in a void.

Starcraft 2 Gameplay panel 4:00pm

Last panel of the day I attended. Powerpoint talked about mission design. One mission Raynor has to decide whether to slay the infested colony or try to save them. There are unique mini-games in each mission.

Lava level ‘Mine your own business’ you’re in a hostile environment. You have to gather 5,000 minerals. But the lava rises. You make the choice whether to wait last minute or move on to a different location. All the while the Zerg are attacking.

A third of the design team of Starcraft 2 were former mod makers.

They showed an ‘ubberlisk’ with spines on the back killing everything for fun. Upon death it exploded killing the impending Zerg army.

Next an exciting 3rd person shooter mod. It reminds me of Starcraft Ghost. You play as a Ghost unit and can cloak. She fights underground.

Finally, a Terran lost viking scrolling space shooter game. You fly around and fight the Protoss. Mothership boss.

Last but not least, Cosplay!

He added larger shoulder skulls to his costume this year

There is no cow level!

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