Broadcast live for the first time ever, Blizzcon 2008 was heralded to be bigger and better than ever before. With high hopes and expectations, gamers from around the world descended upon Anaheim California for the third Blizzcon. Taking place one year after the previous, gamers gathered in hopes of seeing a glimpse of their favorite unreleased game in the blizzard franchise. This year marked the first time in history that a game from each of Blizzards marquee franchises was available for public test play: Starcraft II, Wrath of the Lich King, and Diablo 3.
As expected the lines to pick up the ever popular goodie bags and convention badges was just as long as last year. The only difference is that this year marked an increase in attendance. Despite internal website problems with the blizzard shop, President Mike Morhaime stated that the convention sold out of its 15,000 tickets in only 15 minutes, making it the highest attended Blizzcon since its conception in 2005. Attendees this year were pleased to learn during the opening ceremonies that this year they would have the opportunity to demo Diablo 3 and its newly announced class, the wizard.
The stunning visuals of Diablo 3 are enough to attract even the most graphically elitist of next-gen console gamers. Highlighted during D3 gameplay discussions were the visceral deaths of a wide variety of mobs in the game. Players will be pleased to discover that their characters actions will directly impact the manner of their opponent’s demise. The wizard, described by the developers as a “light show”, showed off a variety of classic Sorceress abilities updated for D3. Abilities which now can be augmented and changed via a new rune system, allowing players customization of their fighting skills. Players had the chance to adventure either alone or with other attendees into a multi-level physics enhanced dungeon where you could control either a barbarian, witch doctor, or wizard and slash and cast their way to victory over a skeletoneseque final boss. Many of the frustrating and otherwise annoying minor details of Diablo 2 have either been done away with or redesigned. Gone is the act of continuously chugging potions to keep your health and mana up during battle. Instead, health globes from fallen opponents keeps you standing, and taking a break from slinging fireballs for a few seconds causes your mana to regenerate at a rapid pace. Also gone is the crazy tetris-like game of managing your inventory space, a more conventional slotted inventory takes its place. Picking up gold no longer requires clicking, as merely passing by is enough to grab onto it and pack it away. The favorite addition of many is advancement in audio lore. Once in your inventory, a lore item will give you the option of starting an audio only dialogue, which does not require a break in gameplay. The dialogue track will play over your monster slaying allowing you to experience the lore and plot without putting a pause on your progression. The big question revolving around Diablo 3 (other than the possibility of a cow level) is whether its classic gameplay style of “Point, Click, Die, and Loot” is enough to satisfy today’s gamer. Judging by the long lines and the smiling faces at the exit of the demo stations, it’s safe to say things are looking good.
It’s been over ten years since the first Starcraft was released, and perhaps no game has ever had such an eagerly anticipated sequel. Starcraft 2 appeared again at Blizzcon, this time with two surprises. First, all attendees at Blizzcon received a code for the Starcraft 2 beta test, which should begin soon. Also, the world’s first ever Starcraft 2 tournament! Even for those who didn’t possess the skills to win such an event, the news that the game was already in such a playable state was enough for cries of celebration throughout the convention. The greatest diversion from the original Starcraft seems to be the dynamic storylines of the single player campaign. Now the actions the player can alter the direction of the storyline and influence what future battles will take place. Single player replay ability may just be the most improved aspect of Starcraft 2. Gamers from all across the globe anxiously await the sure to be record setting release of this franchise giant.