Gotta say, it’s a bit ironic that a blood-soaked week of virtual warfare – during which, more than twelve million casualties met their abrupt, though most assuredly excruciating ends – is the perfect template for videogame immortality. But hey, when happenstance writes my jokes for me, who am I to complain? And so it is with Valve’s Team Fortress 2.
As you’re probably already aware, last week saw Valve launch its latest update for the now two year-old Team Fortress 2. Which, in videogame years, roughly equates to dead. And a half. At the very least, you’d expect the public eye – easily distracted as it is -- to have wandered elsewhere by now, leaving Valve’s wacky shooter to the vultures and tumbleweeds of the world. But it hasn’t. War, as with each of TF2’s other updates, grabbed all kinds of attention – even as newer games like Modern Warfare 2 watched jealously from the outside.
So, why hasn’t interest in Team Fortress 2 faded over the years? Well, I can’t uncover the entire recipe for Valve’s incredibly intricate immortality potion, but I can outline one of its major ingredients: presentation. When Valve gives TF2 a tune-up, it does so with style. While other developers are content to toss their DLC out into the cold, harsh world with little more than a press release to keep it warm, Valve rolls out the proverbial red carpet with comics, videos, week-long Advent Calendar-style reveals, and – most recently – in-game competitions.
If a speed run is the videogame equivalent of a 100 meter dash, then a WoW character by the name of “Little Gray” just won the Tour De France. On foot.
The character – given virtual life by a Taiwanese power-player – completed 5,906 quests, killed 390,895 creatures, and raided 405 dungeons en route to unlocking all 986 of WoW’s achievements, effectively 100% clearing the game.
Well, mostly. Little Gray hasn’t quite bagged the elusive “B.B. King” event-based achievement, but a glitched PVP achievement still brings his grand total up to 986.
According to WoW Armory, Mr. Gray hasn’t logged-in since November 23. We wish we could say he’s finally hung up his tier 9 pauldrons and moved on to some other game, but – having spent far more time with the game than we’d like to admit long before achievements turned its addiction factor up to 11 – we imagine he’s simply started an alt.
Aside from one obscure little game whose name escapes our memory at the moment, WarCraft has been out of action since WarCraft 3: The Frozen Throne’s release back in 2003. Don’t take this world without WarCraft to mean that Blizzard’s completely iced the idea of a fourth entry in the popular fantasy RTS series, though. Just be prepared to wait a tick before scratching your orc-commanding, night elf-outsmarting itch.
"Warcraft 4 is certainly something that gets talked about on a pretty regular basis," Blizzard’s J. Allen Brack said in an interview with AusGamers. "While I think we're all excited about a Warcraft 4, in concept, [the WarCraft 3 team is] going to finish up StarCraft 2, and then they're going to work on the two StarCraft expansions that we've announced, so they're booked for the next few years."
And though he stopped just short of nailing the team to the project, Brack did say that "it does sort of make sense."
Another Blizzard game, another tremendous wait. But at least we can while away the, well, years until Diablo III’s launch with Torchlight. As for WarCraft 4, though... hey Runic, ever think about making an RTS?
The elevator up from hell sure is taking its time. We imagine that Mass Effect’s Shepard -- even with his eternal patience for cramped spaces, boring music, and upward mobility -- would be cursing up a storm by now if he were aboard that infernal machine. So just imagine how poor old Diablo must feel – especially now the not-so-loveable lug may have a “few years” left before he finally surfaces.
A recent Blizzard presentation listed Diablo III as arriving in the “next few years,” along with StarCraft II’s expansions and Blizzard’s next massively multiplayer cash cow. In store for “next year,” meanwhile, are StarCraft II and WoW: Cataclysm. The bottom line? No loot-grabbing and Satan-stabbing until – at the earliest – 2011. Unless, of course, Diablo III goes into full-on beta mode next year, but we’re not getting our hopes up.
Honestly Diablo, at this point, we’re thinking you should’ve taken the stairs.
Initially said to be making a nuclear strike on our free time in 2009, StarCraft II’s beta test has officially shoved off into the murky, fog-of-war shrouded depths of 2010.
StarCraft II producer Chris Sigaty made the announcement during a presentation at Russian games expo IgroMir, much to the chagrin of the year 2009, which – after providing chronological sanctuary for a global economic crisis and the tragic deaths of multiple beloved celebrities – needed some sort of positive highlight to keep it from going down in history as the worst year ever. When reached for comment, 2010 had only this to say: “Neener-neener-neener.”
For the time being, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is still set to launch in the Spring of 2010. Could another delay be just around the corner, though? We sure hope not – but even if Blizzard decides to take its sweet time putting the finishing touches on its space-faring sequel, it’s not like early 2010 is hurting for majorgamereleases.
Wow. Just wow. We already fork over $15 per month to play World of Warcraft, and Blizzard seriously expects us to drop more of our hard-earned cash on a couple of… Good Lord. They’re adorable. Here’s all our money, as well as a winning lottery ticket and our collection of first edition Charizards.
Lucky for our credit histories, though, only two pets are on sale at the moment. First up, there’s the Pandaren Monk, which – in addition to warming the cockles of our hearts – brightens the days of sick children. From now until December 31, half the proceeds from each $10 Pandaren purchase will go to the Make-a-Wish-Foundation.
Lil’ K.T., the Littlest Lich, on the other hand, isn’t so charitable. Perhaps that’s because he’s the spitting image of his pop, the evil Kel’Thuzad. Apparently, he’s even been known to “randomly wreak icy havoc on critters who dare to cross his path.” But look at that face. Omnipotence and iron-fisted dominion over all existence notwithstanding, all Lil’ K.T. really wants is love.
So, readers, Pandaren Monk or Lil’ K.T. – which is it gonna be?
Are we in the midst of a videogame movie that might just be – dare we say it – worth looking forward to? Well, let’s see: first, the Dark Knight’s producer signed on, then Spiderman director Sam Raimi swung onto the set, and now, “Saving Private Ryan”/"The Patriot" screenwriter Robert Rodat’s attempting to prove to us that “WarCraft” won’t turn out to be a superhero movie, among other things.
"I've never made a video game movie, but my approach would be to work with the best character writer I can find, which in this case is Robert Rodat, and tell a great character story within the fantastic environment of the world of WarCraft, while staying true to their mythology,” said director Sam Raimi.
Wait. You mean, in order to craft a quality videogame movie, you need to hire talented people? Doh! We knew everyone else was doing something wrong.
At first glance, you’d think Paltalk Holdings Inc. has a few loose screws rattling around in its head. After all, it recently declared legal war on a who’s-who list of big-name MMO developers: Blizzard (WoW), Turbine (Lord of the Rings Online), SOE (Everquest), NCSoft (Guild Wars, City of Heroes), Jagex (Runescape) – you name it. If you’re on top of the MMO world, Paltalk is trying to knock you down a peg or two. So, why would Paltalk risk getting torn to shreds by some of the fiercest lawyers in the videogame business? Easy – because the company already forced Microsoft to pony up an undisclosed sum with the very same lawsuit.
Paltalk holds a potent pair of patents that basically spell court-ordered doom for any massively multiplayer game publisher. These patents grant Paltalk providence over “sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment.” Sound like any MMO you’ve ever played before? Because it sounds like every MMO we’ve ever played before.
So, will this super team of MMO publishers – forced together by circumstance – be able to overcome Paltalk and its sidekick, Johnny Law? Really, we have no idea. Are there any lawyers in the audience who might be able to give us a more solid answer?
In what’s starting to look like an annual occurrence, it’s time for another tiny morsel of info on Blizzard’s next massively multiplayer magnum opus. Blizzard’s Paul Sams spoke with Wired about the <insert adjective describing the game here once we actually know something about it> MMO, explaining that the game is unique enough to avoid stepping on WoW’s toes.
“I think the (new MMO) is going to be significantly differentiated enough,” Sams said. “Such that, you’re not going to feel like they’re one and the same resulting in that you have to pick or choose.”
“If the bad thing that happens to us is that they leave WoW and go to this other thing of Blizzard’s, then we’ll work through that pain,” he added.
Shockingly, we’d actually be pretty alright with knowing the “pain” of having one of our multi-million dollar MMOs cannibalize subscribers from our other multi-million dollar MMO. But then, that’s just us.
I had the pleasure of taking a stab (and a hack and a slash) at an obscure little game called Diablo III during last week’s BlizzCon and, well, it was pretty nifty. How nifty, you ask? Well, let’s see, I think I abandoned my infinitely stealable laptop to play the demo, oh, four or five times. (Happily, my laptop remains safe-and-sound. How anyone could refuse the allures of its sexy 900 MHz Celeron processor and cutting-edge integrated graphics card, though, is beyond me.)
So, Diablo III’s shaping up quite nicely. If you were afraid (or… hoping?) Blizzard might finally stain its spotless reputation with a sub-par game, you can put those fears to rest. Now then, without further ado, let’s dive into the specifics of Diablo III’s diabolical brand of fun.
The demo I played opened with my character in a small desert outpost. Other characters told me that leaving the outpost would mean certain doom and all that jazz, so – of course – I completely ignored them and dove headlong into the sandy deathtrap. As I strolled about, clicking on things until other things came out (usually blood, loot, or some combination of the two), I quickly noticed something: the desert was enormous. A departure from Diablo’s usual linear dwellings, it presented a plethora of potential paths, and without that medieval global positioning system sometimes known as a “map,” I would’ve gotten all kinds of lost.
Fortunately, my semi-aimless wanderings were anything but uneventful. When I wasn’t poking and prodding enemies until they erupted into gore geysers (more on that later), I was partaking from a veritable buffet of sidequests.