Posts Tagged ‘ Blizzard ’

Ulduar Preview

For countless millennia, Ulduar has remained undisturbed by mortals, far away from their concerns and their struggles. But since its recent discovery, many have wondered what the structure’s original purpose may have been. Some thought it a city, built to herald the glory of its makers; some thought it a vault containing innumerable treasures, perhaps even relics of the mighty Titans themselves. They were wrong. Beyond its gates lies no city, no treasure vault, no final answer to the Titan’s mysteries. All that awaits those who dare set foot in Ulduar is a horror even the Titans could not, would not destroy, an evil they merely… contained.

Beneath ancient Ulduar, the Old God of death lies, whispering…. Tread carefully, or his prison will become your tomb.

As the next step in tiered raid progression in Wrath of the Lich King, Ulduar is set to blow players away with gorgeous setpieces, sprawling battlefields, and innovative boss encounters. Ulduar’s design aims to provide a fun, unique, and innovative raid experience, but it also includes additional challenges – and rewards – for seasoned raiders. In this sneak-peek at World of Warcraft’s newest raid dungeon, we’ll take a look at some of the new content that makes Ulduar rise above the crop of amazing dungeons already available in World of Warcraft.

Welcome to Ulduar
Many players have already gotten their Wrath of the Lich King raiding feet wet in Naxxramas and the Sartharion raid, but Ulduar is the first example of the expansion’s much larger, truly epic scope of raiding, as will be evident from the second you set foot in the instance. The most obvious difference between Ulduar and its predecessors is that the dungeon actually comprises two separate raid areas. The first section is an epic battle against a vast army standing between you and the entrance of the dungeon proper; in the second area, you will dive into the heart of the dungeon itself and finally discover the secrets of Ulduar.

Ulduar’s new master has rallied his own massive Iron Army to guard the entrance to Ulduar and to prevent any unwanted guests – including you, especially you – from reaching the inner sanctum. Thankfully, you’ll be able to face the Iron Army on even footing: although the main Horde and Alliance forces are focused on the forces beyond the Wrathgate and on each other, some who are better able to appreciate the true magnitude of Ulduar’s threat have managed to scrap together a small fleet of siege vehicles to aid you in the assault.

You and your friends will have to use these vehicles wisely to break through Ulduar’s defenses. A mix of motorcycles, demolishers, and siege engines will be at your disposal, each granting unique abilities to the pilot and the passenger. Motorcycle drivers, for example, can create pools of liquid tar that snare opponents and can be set on fire by area effect attacks, while demolisher passengers can load themselves into the vehicle’s catapult so that the pilot can launch them into the distance. If used judiciously, these and other abilities will help decimate the Iron Army and any other threats lying in wait between you and Ulduar.

One such threat is the Flame Leviathan. After you’ve plowed through the innumerable ranks of the Iron Army, you will be confronted by an enormous tank. Mimiron built the Flame Leviathan as part of the V0-L7R-0N weapons platform, which means that it packs quite a punch. Normal spells and abilities won’t be enough to take down this juggernaut, so you will have to rely on your siege vehicles to outmaneuver and defeat the boss. After wearing the massive war machine down, you will have to launch players onto the tank’s back to destroy its defense turrets and sabotage the Leviathan before you can move on. Of course, if you’d like an additional challenge beyond this naturally frantic (but extremely fun) fight, you can try your hand at one of the Flame Leviathan’s different Hard Modes (see sidebar).

Of course, the vehicle gauntlet, the Iron Army, and the battle against the Flame Leviathan are only the start of World of Warcraft’s most ambitious raid to date. Patch 3.1 will hit the Public Test Realms very soon, so you will be able to see for yourself what other challenges await beyond the gates of ancient Ulduar.

Hard Boiled
Ulduar brilliantly illustrates the new design challenges and innovations that come with the bigger scope of the expansion’s raids. In order to make raid content more accessible, it has to offer a lot of variety, but it also needs to include a very granular means for players to adjust a raid’s difficulty. This concept was first realized in the Burning Crusade with the introduction of Heroic mode, and Wrath of the Lich King is developing the idea even further with new Hard Modes.

Boss fights that have a Hard Mode are affected by certain variables which players can control and which change the encounter’s difficulty. For example, spread throughout Ulduar’s vehicle section are four defense towers you can destroy. The more towers you leave intact, the harder the encounter with the Flame Leviathan will be, but the loot will also be better.

Ulduar isn’t the first dungeon to include Hard Mode, but it certainly makes the most use of it. Out of 14 bosses, 11 will have a Hard Mode that offers additional challenges and rewards. Ulduar will appeal to a wide range of play styles, but the dungeon also has great longevity and a high replay value.

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A Sinking (Flag)Ship

When Hellgate: London finished beta, the forums where full of beta testers trying to tell the company that the game was not ready, and post by fanboys screaming it was the best game ever and a miracle patch was coming. Well, Hellgate: London launched and was ripped apart by most critics and the majority of the fans. I was very sad because I saw it coming, and nothing was done.

Now Gamasutra is reporting that Flagship Studios the company made up of mostly ex-Blzzard North developers is having some major problems. It starts with rumors of layoffs and has moved to this:

Gamasutra has received confirmation from a Flagship Studios representative that the Hellgate: London developer has seen significant staff cuts.

This morning, Gamasutra obtained information from a source close to the company indicating that staff at both the Flagship development team as well as online services subsidiary Ping0 were let go. Both companies operate out of the same building.

Flagship declined to go into further detail about the layoffs, beyond stating that there was truth to the reports.

Hellgate: London was released last October to favorable-skewing reviews, but was plagued by notorious launch issues and certain major gameplay criticisms. The company’s core founders were comprised of former Blizzard North developers responsible for the Diablo games, and Hellgate was intended as a spiritual successor to those titles.

The news comes despite claims by co-publisher Electronic Arts that Hellgatehas over one million active subscribers – being particularly successful in Korea. 

In a statement last month, Flagship intended to reassure fans of the company’s health despite worries generated by a post on CVO David Brevik’s blog. 

“All our Directors and Founders are still working at Flagship, and all of them are working on Hellgate: London or Mythos,” read the statement. “The team size for Hellgate is as big now as when we shipped.”

A second source close to Flagship indicated to Gamasutra that even at the time of such outward confidence, the company was going through internal turbulence.

[UPDATE: Fan site Hellgate Guru has translated a Korean news reportindicating that Hellgate: London‘s publisher in the region, HanbitSoft, “…is taking full control over the Hellgate: London intellectual property from Flagship Studios,” and intends to continue the game using in-house staff.

However, Flagship has officially responded: “This story is an outright lie. We have no idea where they are getting their information from and have asked legal counsel to pursue the issue… We are mystified by Hanbitsoft’s conclusions and any attempt to take over the IP will be met with a strong and swift response.”]

Poor Flagship. I can’t feel that bad though, as they had plenty of warning.

Diablo III Coverage

So now that we know it is Diablo 3, there have been quite a lot of coverage. Lets see whats going on:

From Kotak:

by Lesley Smith

Blizzard Entertainment President Mike Morhaime formally announced Diablo III during the WWI’s opening ceremony this morning, not that this will come as a surprise to anyone with the Diablo III forums already active on the official Blizzard site and rumours running rampant for nearly a fortnight.

After recapping on the success of the previous Invitational held in Korea, Morhaime premiered a trailer and then demoed a level playing as a Barbarian and a Witch Doctor, showcasing some of the improvements over the original game as well as giving attendees a hint at what they can expect from the final product. This includes a new UI in place of the potion belt and the ability to play the game just by using a mouse. Similarly the health system has been augmented by God of War and Devil May Cry style red globes which replenish not just the health of the character but also those near by.

After the Fire Dancers had left the main stage and the crowds has dispersed, many jubilant, I headed for the jam-packed press conference where journalists got to give Blizzard’s Jay Wilson (Lead Designer on Diablo III) and co-founder Frank Pearce a grilling about Diablo III.

“It’s been in development for a few years. About four.” Wilson admits and of course, when asked the next Big Question: a release date, he gives the typical Blizzard response. “When it’s done,”

Blizzard co-founder Frank Pearce was quick to add that, even after four years, “it’s far too early in development.”

Despite being vague on many points such as how much of the game was complete – a process Wilson described as ‘super fun’ – and the specifics of the storyline, He revealed the game is set twenty years after the War of Destruction and the events of the original games have become regarded as myth, indeed even those who were alive (and that’s not many) are either insane or convinced that nothing happened.

Unlike Warcraft, this is not a game about crafting your own unique virtual persona. Other than the classes and the gender, avatars aren’t customisable; instead the idea is to “dive right in and get to the monster killing”.

Being a Diablo title, it really wouldn’t be right unless there were plenty of monsters to slaughter and bosses to defeat. The monsters themselves are huge but even the obese charging abomination we saw steam-rolling towards a Barbarian – a giant in its own right – was just a mob. But the most impressive aspect was not the size of the mobs – it was a wall of zombies which managed to elicit cheers from the crowds.

While the assembled masses were shown two areas, a dungeon and a grassy wilderness, that was more than enough to show off some of the more interesting aspects of the Barbarian and Witch Doctor. The first, for example, uses a special attack called Whirlwind to send zombies and other trash flying to their deaths while the Witch Doctor makes use of pets who do their bidding. They can also summon swarms of locusts who devour enemies and anyone nearby. Like World of Warcraft’s priests and warlocks, they also have the ability to send enemies running using an ability called Horrify as well as mind control which is going to make for some interesting fights. Even more so when you consider that maps aren’t all static, some are random meaning the exit and entrance to an area might not be in the same place each time.

Oh, and for those of you wondering what really was with that Blizzard splash screen well the Diablo theorists were right. Wilson confirmed that the design of the splash screen was meant to hint at Diablo III but doesn’t know anything about that purple penguin.

From Gamespy:

Just a few minutes ago, Blizzard kicked things off at the Worldwide Invitational in Paris, and did it by officially announcing their latest project: Diablo III. After showing off a short teaser unveiling the game, co-founder Mike Morhaime brought up lead designer Jay Wilson, who gave the crowd a 20-minute demo of the game in action.

The demo, which showed that Diablo III will use a 3D isometric view, included a look at the Barbarian and Witch Doctor classes and talk of destructible environments. The announcement ends a week of massive speculation throughout the online gaming community, who’d focused on a teaser image at the official Worldwide Invitational site through the week.

The unveiling of Diablo III is just the start of the festivities in Paris: through the weekend, we’ll be going hands-on with StarCraft II and the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King expansion back, as well as chatting with members of Blizzard on hand. Check back regularly, as we’ll have more news and hands-on impressions through the weekend.

From IGN.com:

June 28, 2008 – We caught up with Rob Pardo, Blizzard’s executive vice president of game design following the Diablo III announcement at their Worldwide Invitational 2008 event in Paris, France. During the course of the interview he expanded on some of Blizzard’s design philosophy as it relates to Diablo III, its development process, some of the game’s features, and managed to eat about one half of a slice of pepperoni pizza. Development on Diablo III began way back when Blizzard North was still around and currently the team working on it consists of around 50 people. Initially the game’s visual design was closer to the older games than what we saw in the gameplay demonstration. “We probably did three rev[ision]s on the visual direction until we got to this and now we’re really happy with it,” said Pardo.

The gameplay was also given several overhauls. “We were pretty heavily influenced by some of the games that were coming out like God of War, a very visceral game,” said Pardo. “A totally different genre but you kind of saw games like that and we thought we really needed to update this game’s gameplay…it has to be much more of an action game.”

With many before the reveal buzzing about a potential Diablo MMO announcement, we had to ask: was there ever any thought to moving Diablo away from its overhead action-RPG roots? “It totally crossed our mind but this is the game we ultimately wanted to make. Obviously I love MMOs, I think it’s a great genre, but that doesn’t mean that other genres aren’t great too. I actually see a huge opportunity in the action-RPG genre because nobody’s really doing a lot of games in that genres and I don’t understand why, personally.”

Though there have been quite a few action-RPG releases since Diablo II, perhaps there weren’t as many as there should have been, or perhaps action-RPGs get labeled incorrectly. “What I think often happens with the genre, with the games that I’ve seen, is that they kind of get confused as to whether it’s an RPG that just happens to be real-time or is it just an action game,” said Pardo. “I feel like that’s oftentimes you get these games that are not quite doing both. I feel like that’s the big opportunity for us. If you look at Diablo and Diablo II, they’re really action games. The story was light, the RPG were very light and I think one of the things we looked at with Diablo III was that doesn’t have to be the case.”

Pardo cited what Blizzard did with real-time strategy design from StarCraft to Warcraft 3. “A lot of people in that time period were doing RTS missions where you just build up your base, slug it out against another base, do that 30 times and you’re done with the campaign. With War 3 we tried to come up with interesting scenarios and I think that’s the same thing with Diablo III. You guys may have been used to Diablo and Diablo II being really just kind of a point and click game…fun but not really immersive.”

Incorporating more involved questing and role-playing elements is something Blizzard is focusing on with Diablo III, but also make the gameplay more dynamic. “We had bosses in Diablo II but, again, they weren’t really involved. We really want to try to implement bosses that are much more epic, there’s much more gameplay to actually defeating them. We’re taking cues from games like Zelda, God of War, games like that, bring that to the action-RPG genre. We want to have side quests and scenarios that are much more involved…like defend the town from attack or something like that.”

Diablo III will be similar to Diablo II in terms of its overall structure. There’ll still be acts. There’ll be above and underground sections of maps, though the outdoor environment won’t be as randomized, as Blizzard wants to build more distinct personality into some of the game’s sections. There still will be plenty of randomization though when it comes to items, monsters, and dungeons.

While roaming around the game’s areas, you’ll have a selection of classes to pick from. At this point Blizzard is saying it’ll be similar to what was originally available in Diablo II before Lord of Destruction. Their official FAQ sheet says there’ll be five classes exactly. So far we know of the barbarian and all-new witch doctor, a spell-focused class that can summon minions, fear enemies, and summon walls of zombies.

Pardo had quite a bit to say about how Blizzard is going about the tweaks made to returning class skills and the new ones being brought in. “With any sort of sequel, and I’m going to go ahead and use Sid Meier’s rule because we use something similar…The way he approaches sequels is one-third proven, one-third improved, and one-third new. That’s pretty much how we approached StarCraft 2…some of the old units came in, some of the old units got improvements, we brought in some new units, and we also got rid of some units. I think you’ll see something similar [in Diablo III]. The barbarian as you saw has a ton of abilities that are totally new but we had to bring over things like whirlwind.”

So why announce Diablo now? We still don’t have release dates for StarCraft II or World of Warcraft’s Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which many were speculating would be announced at WWI, so why bring another high profile product into the pubic with yet another nebulous release date? “The announcement of our projects is usually when it’s time for that game to be announced,” said Pardo. “This project has been going for a while and it finally got to the point where it felt like it’s time to announce the game. We kind of have this rule of, ideally, we announce a game a year to a year and a half before the game comes out. That’s our theory, and then three years later [trails off]. We’re getting to be a bigger and bigger studio so we can’t just keep one game announced and everything else hidden. We have several games in development now.”

Finally, when might we hear something about another MMO from Blizzard? “I think it’ll be a while before we announce our next game.”

There you guys have it, release info on Diablo 3. Although I am sad to hear it wasn’t Starcraft Universe, a new Diablo is pretty awesome.

Diablo III

Thoughts?

Blizzard Watch 2008

Ok, so I know I said I would wait till tomorrow to post about the Blizzard thing, but this fan made speculation image is very good. I don’t think its going to be Diablo 3 if they are going by the teaser image. But still, this one is well done.

Starcraft Universe

Sorry. It is fake. But damn did I get excited for a few moments when I saw this. I would absolutely love a Starcraft MMO game done by Blizzard. Hell, reskin WoW with Space Marines and Zerg and I will be a happy camper. If they speed up the combat a bit I would be in heaven.

This image goes back to the teaser splash page that is up right now at the Blizzard website. For some more speculation and theory you can check out these pages:

Blizzard artist adds new image directory ‘Hydra’ to his site, promptly pulls it – the other folders on his site are Starcraft and Warcraft.

XFire pulls a mention of a new game announcement at WWI.

Digging into the .CSS file reveals more links to Diablo II.

Blizzard Teaser: What Does It Mean?

If you go to blizzard.com this is the image you will find as their splash page. What does it mean? Thats the questions all over the internet today. Is it Wrath of the Lich King release date? Is it Starcraft 2 release date? Maybe a new Diablo game? I am thinking that it is possibly the WotLK Beta announcement, but I am not sure.

If you look close at the picture you can see some kind of runes in the ice.

Let me know in the comments what you guys think it is.