A Look Inside the Blizzard Summit of 2009

Ahh, the hallowed halls of Blizzard Headquarters.  We got our annual look at what goes on under the hood of this gaming monster right at the crack of dawn on the day before Blizzcon.  We...

Ahh, the hallowed halls of Blizzard Headquarters.  We got our
annual look at what goes on under the hood of this gaming monster right
at the crack of dawn on the day before Blizzcon.  We got
information on every universe's games, and got completely shut down
about their 'unannounced project'.  Undeterred, we'll give you
the rundown on what you missed out on here at Ten Ton Hammer!

src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/73099" hspace="5">Staying
in a hotel right outside Blizzcon's main doors, it was about an hour
long trip before we got the pearly gates of gaming.  Well,
maybe not THAT attractive, but after a bit of a debacle going back and
forth with the gate attendant, I managed to make my way into the
complex and immediately had to pay tribute to the incredible 12' tall
Orc Wolfrider statue that resides on the main patio between
buildings.  'Dedicated to creating the most epic entertainment
experience ever', the plaque on the ground stated.  After
picking up my jaw off the concrete, I made my way through what was more
or less the Museum.  Framed pieces of classic art from style="font-style: italic;">Warcraft manuals
and boxes, concept art ranging from Blood Elves to Druids, and a trophy
case that could rival top college teams, it was so filled with silver
and gold.

Bashiok gave us the run down on the day's agenda and immediately fired
up Diablo 3
to show us what the Male Wizards are capable of.  It took
place in a desert canyon that somewhat resembles Act II, but more
confined.  Some details below.

  • There's a new status view above your spell list. 
    It shows your active spells, such as Ice Armor, their duration
    remaining, and when the spell expires, the icon shows up over your head
    and turns red to remind you it has expired and you should probably
    recast it!
  • Mana globes are out.  Instead of having multiple
    types of orbs drop, mana dependent builds can now take a skill that
    causes health orbs to also regenerate a set number of mana as
    well.  This leads me to believe they'll be ineffective later,
    but time will tell!
  • Potion cooldowns are in, but potion healing is
    instant.  Knowing when to fight and when to be patient is
    going to be key to surviving.
  • Inventory system is somewhat back.  The basic
    inventory workspace is 5x8. All items are either 1 or 2
    spaces, no more gigantic shields it seems.
  • Pants!  There's now a pants armor
    slot!   Now you can finally  be stylin'.
  • Shrines are back with a 1 minute duration. 
    Bashiok specifically stated that shrines are a reason to go nuts
    because the bonuses have been increased.  Increased magic find
    shrine?   Yes please!
  • Mix and Match Skill Trees.  You no longer need 5
    points in Fire to access the next tier, you can actually spend 5 points
    ANYWHERE and get to the next level of spells for all 3 trees. 
    What's the point of trees then?  They've actually merged them
    all together into one big skill interface.  You'll have to see
    it to believe it, but no pictures were allowed.
  • Synergy is out.  It was said that they are taking
    steps to make sure the lower tier abilities are still useful in the
    end.   I think we should have faith in them
    personally; they did a great job in style="font-style: italic;">Diablo II with it.
  • The ability to reset your skill tree is definitely in, but
    no details were available as to how often or how it is done.
  • The wizard has a mirror image skill to attract fire while
    he gets to safety or unleashes hell.  He actually has a melee
    range only spell called Spectral Blades to give him some potency in
    close combat... since there are enemies that laugh at ranged, such as
    the new Sand Dervishes that spin into a whirlwind that reflects
    projectiles back at you with deadly results if you're not careful!

Whew, that was a lot.  With that demo down, we got a good look
at the real offices, where the work behind the scenes is done to give
us that glossy finished product.  Without going into any
details for sake of the individuals, they have great taste and line the
walls with their favorites.  Perhaps it's to give them
inspiration to go the extra mile.  Whatever the case may be,
it's certainly working.  And the Frostmourne replicas are a
great touch.  If that wasn't enough, the new Blizzard Library
that just opened gives them access to a wealth of development tools for
all aspects of their jobs... as well as access to some of the finest
fantasy materials around in Dungeons and Dragons, Wheel of Time,
Tolkein, and even graphic novels.  Oh, and they can check out
games from there too.  I could certainly use some of that

Before I lost myself in that wealth of knowledge and entertainment,
thankfully, it was time to head to the cafeteria for lunch. 
Much of my time was spent with Alex Tsang, the Tools Producer for the
game and a bit of a connoisseur of PvP.  Seeing as this man
knows how to report to the powers that be, we got to talk about a lot
of important things.


  • Beast Mastery is being looked at.  Pet Scaling has
    been considered but isn't a real option due to it being, well,
    boring.  He did have a good laugh about it being entirely
    worthless in PVP at the moment since the pet can be slaughtered by any
    DPS and that instantly cuts the hunter's total output by 50%.
  • Explosive shot got what it deserved and probably still
    isn't fully balanced yet.
  • More people need to realize the power of the 90% AoE
    Reduction of Snake Trap Snakes in PVP since it forces multiple
    cooldowns to be used typically rather than one instant.  All
    which aren't aimed at you.

The Rise to the Top

started as a 12 man project. It was originally planned for 24 servers
with 24 more to come by the year's end.  Unfortunately,
someone big called them the day after it went on sale and said "Put
them up.  Now."  And the rest is history.

They're starting to run out of good ideas for server names. 
He mentioned Area 51 was particularly bad and that the names originally
weren't even decided on at HQ, but elsewhere!  Would you play
on a server named Cookie Crisp?

Back at E3 when it was originally shown, it was a game with no UI more
or less.  They pasted together an extremly shoddy (but decent
to look at) UI for the purposes of the trailer.  The following
year, everyone had copied that UI, and Blizzard unveiled the REAL UI
that was shipping with the game.  Now look, everyone's trying
to copy Blizzard again.  When will they ever learn?

WoW and Warcraft 3 were
originally designed to run under the exact same engine.  But
as each game evolved it became quickly apparently that each one had far
different needs and WoW was rebuilt, and eventually, that engine formed
those legendary alpha Warcraft

They dream about breaking the healer, tank, DPS archetypes.

And a few
key things with everyone's favorite forum man in blue, Ghostcrawler

  • Fan of Knives has deserved this nerf coming in 3.2.2 for a
    long time.
  • He's confident in all of his answers, but isn't afraid to
    admit he's wrong on a few things.  Of course, we see it as
    corrective/turnabout posting later on and call shenanigans, but the man
    earns my respect for putting up with us and admitting to his faults
    when he is in error.

Lastly, we had a brief panel on the future of contact with the company
at the moment, and it's Twitter!  Head on over to /starcraft,
/warcraft, or /diablo and you'll see that they're serious about their
fans with up to the date info and contests.  At the moment
they're handing out 500 beta keys, so they're serious about making it a
major part of the Blizzard fan experience.  Might be time to
make an account if you haven't already!  After all, you won't
get a tour quite like this one without making yourself known as their
number one fan or player! 

That wraps up our trip to the magnificent headquarters of that which
produces our addictions, Blizzard Entertainment.  If only they
could do something about the traffic in the area, I'd call it
perfection.  See you on the floor at Blizzcon!

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