Hey everyone! We’re at BlizzCon, by which we mean we’re playing as much Diablo III as our broken, caffeine-riddled bodies will allow. However, some angry, impressively large-looking Blizzard people just approached us with looks in their eyes that basically said, “remove your hands from that demo station or we’ll remove your hands,” so we decided to graciously allow others to give the game a try.
So now we’re writing, because we suppose that’s our job or something. Anyway, BlizzCon! Stuff happened. Find out about that stuff below. Diablo III “way over half-way done” – Sorry, folks. No release date this year. Fortunately, just as we prepared ourselves to walk away from the convention information-starved and tail between our legs, Blizzard threw us a bone. See, Diablo III’s “close” to launching its friends and family beta. And according to the developer, when that beta churns to life, Diablo III will be “close” to completion. So close, yet so far away.
If you're a fan of SteelSeries' original World of Warcraft gaming mouse, then you'll probably love this follow-up act based on WoW: Cataclysm.
"Since the release of the original World of Warcraft MMO Gaming Mouse in 2008, we've received feedback from thousands of World of Warcraft players, both Horde and Alliance, on how they've customized their World of Warcraft mice and what they would like us to do next," said Bruce Hawver, SteelSeries CEO. "For two years, our R&D team worked hard with Blizzard Entertainment to incorporate the great feedback and to enhance the mouse technology and game integration. The new Cataclysm mouse is the result of that collaboration: it provides a wide range of customization options and delivers a more comfortable, intuitive, and ultimately better experience."
The Cataclysm sports 14 programmable buttons with more than 130 preset game commands. Other features include a 5,040dpi sensor, braided nylon cable, the ability to create custom macros, and of course the funky styling.
Look for SteelSeries to launch the Cataclysm on December 7, 2010 for $100.
There are now more World of Warcraft subscribers than there are people living in Ireland, New Zealand, and Jamaica combined. More specifically, the most successful MMORPG of all time now claims over 12 million users, a milestone that Blizzard says was reached in the wake of the mainland Chinese launch of Wow's second expansion.
"The support and enthusiasm that gamers across the world continue to show for World of Warcraft reaffirms our belief that it offers one of the best entertainment values available today," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "We are as committed as ever to taking the game to new heights, and we look forward to demonstrating that with Cataclysm in December."
WoW had been holding steady at 11.5 million subscribers for over a year, leading some to assume the franchise had peaked. Apparently not, and once the game's third expansion arrives in early December, we're willing to bet that number will surge even higher.
Mark your calendars, former WoW addicts. December 7 is your final test. You will be tempted and goaded, and – for the first time in your life – you will feel like a social outcast for refusing to pretend you're a burly, heavily armored orc man. Cataclysm's coming, you see, and while it may herald the beginning of an in-game apocalypse, it doesn't have to be the end of your real life.
"Cataclysm includes the best content we've ever created for World of Warcraft. It’s not just an expansion, but a re-creation of much of the original Azeroth, complete with epic new high-level adventures for current players and a redesigned leveling experience for those just starting out," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment. "With the help of our beta testers, we're putting on the final polish, and we look forward to welcoming gamers around the world to enjoy it in just a couple of months."
Re-creation of Azeroth? Best content ever? Well, we suppose we could maybe give it a quick try... Wait, no! We have to be strong. Resist! Resist like our guild did against Onyxia when our tank went down and we had to hold her off until he charged back in and saved the day!
These days, it’s rare for a game to drop out of nowhere and turn us into sweaty, drooling masses capable only of slobbering out the words “Woah,” “Dude,” and “[Speechless],” but to say Firefall pulled it off would be a serious understatement. See, the game heralds from Red 5 Studios, a startup founded by World of Warcraft’s former team lead and Tribes’ lead designer, and it basically woah, dude, woah, [speechless], woah, dude. Sorry about that. See what we mean, though?
The game’s described as a "a team-based action shooter that thrusts hundreds of players together into a lush, dynamic open world combining intense competitive multiplayer and large-scale cooperative gameplay," but that really doesn’t do it justice. The first in-game trailer – which you can see on Firefall’s official site – makes up for that in spades, however, and we highly, highly recommend you take a break from our halfway-incoherent ramblings to give it a look-see.
However, for those unable to view the trailer for whatever incredibly unfortunate reason, here’s the gist: it’s like they’ve taken the best bits of WoW, Tribes, and Borderlands, baked them all into a casserole, and then served them up on a tray garnished with all our hopes and dreams. In other words: Jetpacks! Loot! Bug monsters! Jetpacks again!
If you hadn’t guessed already, this is one to watch. It’s currently slated to launch at the end of next year, but you can sign up for the beta test right now. So go! Make haste! If it helps, take this paddle and canoe down our giant river of drool! You (probably) won’t be sorry!
Ever thought of starting up your own World of Warcraft server? Given the billions of dollars Blizzard has raked in over the years we don’t blame you, but a recent court ruling suggests it probably isn’t worth the effort. A federal judge has awarded Blizzard over $88 million in damages inflicted by private gaming server “Scapegaming” which has been found guilty of violating the companies EULA along with aspects of the DMCA. Scapegaming allowed users running a modified version of the client to join their third party server, and the owner recorded over $3 million dollars in revenue by selling virtual items.
According to Blizzard “By agreeing to the EULA, you promise not to "host, provide or develop matchmaking services for the Game or intercept, emulate or redirect the communication protocols used by Blizzard in any way, for any purpose, including without limitation unauthorized play over the internet, network play, or as part of content aggregation networks." Essentially this is a lawyers way of saying Blizzard is the one and only provider you are entitled to use.
Given how drastically the penalty outweighs the company’s revenue I doubt Activision/Blizzard will actually get paid, but clearly that’s not the point. The main victory here is the ruling which helps the company establish a precedent that should help deter others from trying this in the future. Since it takes Blizzard almost 10 years to develop and release a new game, I guess it’s important to defend the cash cow that keeps the lights on.
You could be forgiven for thinking that even Blizzard – perhaps the only company more powerful than the natural disaster it's named after – might not escape a run-in with and subsequent buy-out by Activision unscathed. After all, if the Infinity Ward fiasco proved anything, it's that Activision isn't afraid to bust down the doors and assert control when it feels like things aren't going its way. But unless Activision's got some kind of 24-hour hypno-ray constantly blasting Blizzard's offices, it sounds like Activision has yet to recreate the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo developer in its image.
“Since we had our merger with Activision, it hasn’t changed anything at Blizzard,” Blizzard VP Michael Ryder told MCV. “We operate in pretty much the same way we already have. Since we have been working with Activision we continue to be who we are. We make the same decisions in the same way we always have, and the relationship with Activision hasn’t changed that.”
“For example, one of our values is that gameplay is supremely important. We talk about play nice and play fair, which has to do how we work with each other and our partners. Preserving that culture is a key part of our ability to continue to deliver great games. We nurture it, protect it and take care of it as much as we can, because it is a big part of who we are.”
So yeah, if you thought Activision might have been pulling the strings behind the whole Real ID debacle, this seems to suggest that you were wrong. Granted, we're not ready to about-face and start handing out fliers for St. Activision's Church just yet. After all, what happens when Blizzard starts pitching something that doesn't fit nicely into its steady diet of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo? If the goose stops laying golden eggs, will its goose be cooked? Tough to say. Hopefully we'll get a definitive answer when Blizzard reveals that new MMO it's been working on.
We don’t usually bat an eyelash when a game’s official forum undergoes a policy change, but we’re making a special exception and batting harder than a mafia hitman against someone’s kneecaps at Blizzard’s decision to switch its forum over to a real ID system. In a nutshell, this means that in order to post on, say, the official World of Warcraft or StarCraft II forums, you’ll soon have to display your real name for all 11.5-million some-odd players to see.
“The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players -- however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild,” said Blizzard’s announcement of the change.
“Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.”
Makes enough sense at first glance, right? Look closer, though, and you’ll realize that Blizzard’s missing so many points that anyone not hiding behind a giant, red bull’s-eye probably oughta duck. Foremost, there’s the issue of potential identity theft or other forms of harassment. In this day and age, odds are, if you've got someone's name, you'll find a treasure trove of personal information waiting for you on Google. Also, in these games, you are your handle. You are your character. Why play an MMO if not to become part of another reality – live another life? Worst case scenario, having your real name attached to your character could even change how you act in-game.
On top of that, has Blizzard taken a look at its own game lately? Of course there’s conflict on your forums. It’s called World of Warcraft for Pete’s sake! The trolling, flaming, smack-talking, etc is symptomatic of WoW’s intrinsic, PvP-based design, and forcing players to display their real names isn’t going to change that.
Is general hostility and confrontation an issue in many gaming communities? Certainly. “Issue” is probably understating it, in fact. But this definitely won’t fix it. It will, however, in all likelihood turn Blizzard’s forum into a ghost town. Please, other developers, learn from Blizzard’s potentially community-destroying attempt to unify its community. Think about the consequences of such a huge change before you make it. Look before you leap.
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. And there ain’t no such thing as a free MMO, either. But there is such a thing as an MMO that doesn’t slowly-but-surely siphon a small fortune from your bank account, and it seems to be all the rage these days. Dungeons & Dragons Online rolled a last-minute, tide-turning 20 by giving the boot to its subscription fee, and Lord of the Rings Online seems poised for a similar resurgence. But what about the perennial king of the subscription-based MMO hill?
“At some point, it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee,” World of Warcraft lead designer Tom Chilton told PC Gamer.
Of course, at this particular moment, 11.5 million subscribers say it still makes plenty of sense. In fact, many have speculated that subscriptions are going the way of the Dodo precisely because Blizzard’s hogging all the potential subscribers. Chilton, however, doesn’t buy it.
“I feel like they’re doing that to compete with other games that are on a similar subscriber level to what they were at. I imagine that when one of them went free to play it cannibalized some of the other subscribers. I can definitely imagine that being the case with World of Warcraft. If another game comes along and blows us away it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee. Or even further down the line, when we have another MMO out.”
For now, though, keep on pinching those pennies. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, after all, and WoW’s the most well-oiled machine on the block. And besides, we all know where that money’s really going. Yep: Warcraft IV. Please, Blizzard? Pretty please with a reactivated WoW account on top?
Normally, designing a headset for one specific game would limit you to a relatively small segment of the gaming community. But we’re talking World of Warcraft here—a game whose massive popularity makes a game-specific headset seem viable.
Enter the Sound Blaster World of Warcraft Wireless Headset from Creative Labs. The headset uses a small USB dongle that broadcasts in the 2.4GHz range. We found the reception to be fairly good, allowing us to walk into a different room during use without static.