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.
LAN? You still use that? People gathered together and sat around the old LAN, like, back in the days of vee-see-arrrrs and stuff, right? That’s old news, man. But how about that new thing Blizzard’s got cooking? It lets you play multiplayer games with a blazing connection, as if the Internet isn’t even involved. It’s crazy. What will these developers think of next?
"We are working on solutions with regard to things we can do to maintain connectivity to Battle.net in some way, but also provide a great quality connection between players," said Battle.net developer Greg Canessa.
The plan, it would seem, is for the game to authenticate with Blizzard’s server before switching into LAN mode.
"Something like that," Canessa replied when asked about such a solution. "Maintaining a connection with Battle.net, I don't know if it's once or periodically, but then also having a peer-to-peer connection between players to facilitate a very low-ping, high-bandwidth connection… those are the things that we're working on."
So then, can we never talk about LAN in Blizzard games ever again? With this solution, Blizzard’s happy and you’re happy. Unless, of course, you’re a pirate, in which case, it looks like your luck's finally run out.
In this day and age -- where print’s allegedly on the verge of casting off its mortal coil -- the announcement of a new magazine is a bit of an oddity. But then, we’re talking about World of Warcraft here, the brand that once had us a friend eying a bottle of Mtn Dew with something akin to legitimate interest. It’s with that rationale, then, that Future Publishing’s launching a World of Warcraft magazine.
The quarterly publication will “cover all aspects” of WoW, and will be stitched together by an all-star editorial team comprised of people like former Official Xbox Magazine Senior Editor Dan Amrich and industry vet Julian Rignall.
Interested yet? If so, a subscription will run you $39.95 per year, or you can strap in for the long haul and drop $69.95 on two years. But hey, the magazine’s nice and glossy, and ad-free to boot! Gotta pay a little extra for class.
And remember, don’t be too rough on the new publication. It was born and bred under Future’s roof, so that makes it MPC’s big, green, chainmail-clad sister or something. Go easy on the gal, or we might have to rough you up a bit.
Ok, first of all, deep breaths. Lead producer Chris Sigaty wasn’t banging the gavel on the StarCraft II vanilla edition’s sentence to development hell. That’s still set to launch next year. Rather, he was talking about the full StarCraft II trilogy, which is a flavorful mix of Terran, Zerg, and Protoss. Still though, “several years.” That’s a lot of time. So, what’s up? Sigaty explained:
"We expect everything to be different when you play through the Zerg story and when you play through the Protoss, so you're not going to be mercenaries, and you're not going to be buying tech in that sense.”
"What we're doing with multiplayer, we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of, so all those things, we're just starting to move into discussions about now," he added. "I really don't expect us to get into any action on it until we actually ship the game."
Thus, Sigaty concluded, it’s not unrealistic to expect Blizzard’s no-stone-left-unturned tinkering process to last several years. “That's a fair statement,” he replied when presented with such a possibility.
At least, though, they’re not calling the whole multi-year package “episodic.” There's always that.
The petition may already be having fond, nostalgic memories of the time it was at 100,000 signatures, but Blizzard’s decision to keep StarCraft II LAN-free remains set in stone. So, one might wonder, is Blizzard an unfeeling, out-of-touch monster? Does it even care what its fans think? Blizzard’s Rob Pardo was taken to task with such a question, and he fired back with this little number:
“Of course we care, but it’s not like we’re surprised that there’s a petition about LAN in Star II. It’s not like we went, ‘D’oh. People care about that?’ Clearly, we knew, it was a very tough decision, and I’d say we’d been talking about it back and forth for well over a year before we finally decided that this is more the direction for the future for us, and actually for the industry.”
“If you look at LAN, that goes back to the War II days, with Cali and stuff like that. I think LAN will be a great footnote in our history, just like DOS was. It’s just something that, with broadband and with the connections and the things that we can do on Battle.net, and having to support LAN in addition to that… It’s the sort of decision we have to make that has to be the lowest common denominator for both. I don’t necessarily think [LAN’s] going to be the way of the future. And that’s going to be the best thing for Star II and our future games.”
So there you have it. Blizzard thinks history is all well and good, but the future’s where it’s at. And we imagine Blizzard knows a thing or two about the future. After all, the company did birth one of the greatest futuristic sci-fi gaming series of all time. And that concludes this week’s installment of Flawless Logic Theater.
The number of decent videogame movies can scarcely be counted on two hands (and even then, it only works if you count Metal Gear Solid 4 as a movie), but World of Warcraft’s cinematic debut is looking to turn that trend around. First, the film snagged The Dark Knight’s producer, and now Spiderman director Sam Raimi is lending his significant skills in the field of not being Uwe Boll to the project.
“Blizzard Entertainment and Legendary Pictures have a shared vision for this film and we searched at length to find the very best director to bring that vision to life,” said Paul Sams, chief operating officer of Blizzard.
“From our first conversation with Sam, we could tell he was the perfect choice. Sam knows how to simultaneously satisfy the enthusiasts and the mainstream audience that might be experiencing that content for the first time. We’re looking forward to working with him to achieve that here.”
In addition to the Spiderman films, Raimi has also directed “Evil Dead” and the recent “Drag Me to Hell,” among others. Honestly though, while we’re sure Raimi‘s got something special planned for the WoW movie, we’d love to see Blizzard’s cinematic team branch its talent tree into the realm of movie magic. If WoW looked as mind-blowing as they make it out to be, well, even the four people who aren’t currently addicted to Blizzard's potent substance might give it a shot.