Friday, October 10, 2008

Blizzcon Wrap Up

I've had a mixed record on predictions, with things turning out better when I predicted less of Blizzard. In that vein, I posted a very unambitious set of predictions for Blizzcon 2008. Though there may still be information trickling out from fansite interviews, most of the con is now in the books, so let's see how I did.

I predicted that very little new information would be unveiled, beyond the already-revealed features of post-expansion content patch. Here's the pile of minutia that we actually learned:

- The dual talent spec system that got mentioned at the WWI is going to be in the game, for patch 3.1, not in time for the launch of Wrath. The revamp may come with a better talent allocation UI (e.g. a confirmation box, so you don't end up accidentally spending points by mis-clicking), and players will be allowed to swap specs on the fly (the implication was anytime out of combat). This would be big news except that they pre-announced that they would be talking about it at Blizzcon. Notably, they did say that you will be allowed a second set of glyphs for your second talent spec (along with keybindings and action bars), which should help save a bit of money (especially since you can't swap glyphs outside of town).
- Ground mounts will learn to swim in patch 3.1.
- Ingame default UI's for Item Rack, boss warning mods, and random mount/non-combat pet are all being considered, along with some tweaks to the quest log UI.
- The Dance Studio, which was included in the feature list when Wrath was announced a year ago, is also not yet ready to go but will be added to the game somewhere down the line.
- They may remove the internal cooldown from Windfury, which I don't claim to fully understand (I don't know much melee theorycraft), but the melee seem to think this is a good thing.
- They also may, at some point, allow raid leaders to hearth AFK players out of the raid zone, to free up a slot for their replacement. (If you've never raided, it might never occur to you that this would be a problem, but it happens.)
- reports that there will be some kind of paid character customization in WoW's future. Blizzard also touted the recent recruit a friend program as a solution to the length of time it takes to get through sub-standard pre-Outland content in the game. It's going to be interesting to see how far they're planning on taking microtransactions, especially after adding the barber shop (and the hypothetical dance studio) as major non-microtransaction features in the expansion.

That's not an impressive slate of information.

Diablo III
I predicted: "Playable on the show floor, with the unveiling (but not necessarily playable debut) of a third playable class."

Indeed, the game is playable on the the show floor, and indeed there's a new class, the Wizard. The Wizard sounds like a Sorceress, but they've opted to re-name it; I'm guessing so that fans of the previous version don't get to insist on all the same skills the previous version got. The other news is that there will be skill respecs, and Blizzard will remove the idiotic incentive to hoard skill points in order to avoid wasting them on skills you won't use at higher levels. Nice to see that Blizzard understands the flaws in the Diablo II's skill system, even if the members of the DII team who went on to work on Hellgate: London did not.

Starcraft II
I wrote that Blizzard would unveil a beta date at best. They've confirmed that this year's Blizzcon beta cards are for the SCII beta, but no firm date and certainly no release date.

There was an announcement that IGN is calling a "bombshell" on Starcraft II - The game will be split into three campaigns. This sounds new, scary, and intimidating, but Kotaku was able to get an explanation out of Blizzard. Basically we're looking at a regular release, with all three races playable in multiplayer, and one triple-length single player campaign (Terrans only) instead of three regular length single player campaigns (for each race). Then we'll get two expansions, with triple length Zerg and Protoss campaigns instead of three normal length campaigns. So basically all this alarming headline indicates is that Blizzard is planning two expansions to the game instead of merely one. Hardly cause to stop the presses; if it takes them another 10+ years to finish Starcraft III, a second expansion to SC II is hardly breaking news.
I predicted more information about the upgraded bnet would be revealed. None was.

Mystery Project
I predicted that it would not be at Blizzcon. I was right, though they did confirm that it is an MMO and is NOT based on one of the big three franchises.

Misc WoW ramblings
There wasn't real game news, but there was some interesting insight on design philosophy.
- The 51 point talents are intended to be more situational, instead of adding yet another button to add to your regular rotation. This may seem like a subtle point, but it makes a difference with specs; I expect to see many specs that bypass 51-point talents in favor of more signature talents in a second tree.
- I previously posted about Wrath's UI. Apparently it took the UI design team literally months to cram everything in.
- The expansion has in fact had the meaningless "gone gold" announcement I predicted back in August.
- Blizzard admits that Sunwell was tuned above the heads of most of the raiding playerbase, and claims they won't go that far overboard this time out. (This did not sit well with the people in the crowd who've beaten Sunwell.)
- Blizzard was also asked about the potential for a more puggable 10-man instance like oldschool UBRS, but said they weren't considering it because they'd have to remove the lockout and therefore wouldn't be offering good loot. I could probably type a whole post in response to that one, but I guess this is what we put up with for paying the devs by the month. (See also, resist check fights, which Blizzard defended despite immense boos from the crowd.)
- Allowing players to swap out their talent specs mid-raid defeats the whole purpose of dual specs. Tanks and healers have been crying that they can't farm in their group content specs. Now they're going to be expected to carry a single target spec and an AOE spec for different raid encounters.
- Blizzard officially confirmed that Pandaren were not added to the game because of cultural issues with China. This was heavily heavily rumored after every journalist who got to tour Blizzard before the announcement of TBC said the Alliance race may be Pandas, but this is, as far as I'm aware, the first time it's been stated publicly.

Overall, I got more right than wrong, but that's only because it was a very lackluster show. They barely even confirmed that patch 3.0 is scheduled to go live on Tuesday (only indirectly, via a comment about the old Naxx at the raid panel). Very disappointing.


  1. may remove the internal cooldown from Windfury, which I don't claim to fully understand

    I can give a brief summary, if it would be helpful.

    In the original WoW, Windfury was the ultimate in random damage. Each melee hit had 20% chance to trigger two windfury hits, and it could trigger off itself, so if a shaman got lucky with the random number generator, he could land 5 or 7 hits as a result of one swing.

    To reduce the potential for "one swing" deaths, a cooldown was added: after windfury triggers, it cannot trigger for another three seconds.

    This removed the possibility of crazy damage from windfury triggering windfury triggering windfury. However, it also made shaman melee hard to understand, because it means that your weapons swing speed now has a very subtle interaction with internal game mechanics. A 3.1-speed weapon is dramatically better than a 2.9-speed weapon, because the 2.9-speed weapon will sometimes land hits which cannot trigger Windfury because Windfury is on cooldown.

    People have developed shaman melee simulators to calculate thousands of rounds of melee combat, to determine how much net damage particular weapons do.

    The fact that you need a simulator to decide what quest reward to choose is... poor game design. Blizzard is trying to make shaman melee "less mathy".

  2. That last comment about the patch going live this Tuesday..... GOD I HOPE YOUR RIGHT! The difference between 2.4 pally and 3.0 pally is like the difference between a Whirlpool dishwasher and F-22 fighter jet, and the sooner I get my jet fighter the happier I will be.

  3. @ Jacob: Thanks for that, I knew it must be something specific like weapon speeds. But I thought Enhancement shammies Dual Wielded these days? Ah well.

    @ Ryukyu: I'm a bit annoyed that they won't go out on a limb and admit that it's planned for Tuesday. They say that the Arena season will end for scoring purposes, and that old Naxx will be going away, both of which were stated would be happening with 3.0. But they won't actually come out and say 3.0 comes out on October 14th. Anyway, you're right, I've never liked the Ret Pally until now, but the new one is great. Even if it doesn't wash dishes.


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