BlizzCon 2010: Report from the World of Warcraft

While people from around the globe traditionally journey to Anaheim, Calif., to see Mickey Mouse and his gang, more than 20,000 gamers from around the world converged down the street from Disneyland this fall to interact directly with the creative minds of Blizzard Entertainment at BlizzCon 2010.

The Anaheim Convention Center morphed into an interactive playground filled with exclusive swag and merchandise celebrating the game-maker’s StarCraft II  and the upcoming World of Warcraft: Cataclysm  and Diablo III

Blizzard is having a stellar year to mark its 20th anniversary. The company sold more than 1.8 million copies of StarCraft II worldwide in its first 24 hours of release. Since then, PC gamers have played more than 91 million ranked StarCraft II games on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is expected to compete for PC launch records as the 12 million devoted gamers get a chance to play the expansion pack as of December 7.

Blizzard has four new developer-created StarCraft II multiplayer maps that will be released for free, including StarJeweled, Aiur Chef, Left 2 Die and Blizzard DOTA. At a Starcraft II panel, developers provided a few keys to creating successful maps. Their first priority is to make it fun and intuitive. Secondly, it’s important the developers get the map up and running before fine-tuning and polishing it. Lastly, they emphasized that they listen to feedback from gamers.

With StarCraft II out and the wait for Cataclysm almost over, the real buzz at BlizzCon surrounded Diablo III. Fans have been waiting 10 long years for this sequel, and Blizzard announced that the development is more than halfway done.

Diablo III’s development team was on hand to unveil the fifth and final playable character class: the Demon Hunter. Jay Wilson, lead designer of the game, says the Demon Hunter was born out of a desire to feature an anti-hero, bounty-hunter figure utilizing ranged weapons, gadgets, traps and shadow magic. In essence, Blizzard has blended the Necromancer with the Ranger, creating a unique character that has the strength of both classes. 

Due to the nature of the MMO genre, Blizzard is constantly working on its games -- even after they’ve been released. That’s one reason its community and events like BlizzCon are so important. During a World of Warcraft: Cataclysm panel, Blizzard world designer Alex Afrasiabi and lore master Chris Metzen said that Cataclysm is the largest expansion the developer has ever created. As an example, Wrath of the Lich King offers gamers 1,000 quests. Cataclysm features more than 3,500 quests.

Cataclysm is a big game -- you can only do so much with an undertaking as large as this expansion,” says Afrasiabi. Metzen says that going back and updating the old world was the top priority of this endeavor, as players can now fly through these areas for the first time. But the plan is for the team to go back and update Outland and Northrend to bring the entire world in line.

It seems a developer’s job is never done when it comes to online space.

by John Gaudiosi