What is Blizzard North Up To?
    Any day now, Diablo fans everywhere will be thrilled, or not, with the release of 1.10, sparking a new wash of strategies, hacks, complaints, character builds, and ladder play. For Blizzard North, however, it means that yet another chapter in the long Diablo saga is finished, and they can focus all their energy on the next project.

    But what is that next project. After some poking about the internet, the best clues seem to be on Blizzard?s own web page, in the employment section. Many of us have already poured over these tidbits many times. However, there are enough highly interesting little tidbits on these pages to make a second look worthwhile.

    I will start with the page advertising an opening for a 3D background artist. Much of it is standard stuff you would expect to see in any such advertisement. The applicant needs to be familiar with industry standard programs such as Maya, 3D Studio Max, and Photoshop. The applicant must love playing games, creating illustrations and… architecture? Architecture as in big buildings, or architecture as in the structure of a games code? The answer is definitely big buildings. Under ?Pluses,? the page lists ?Education in architecture.? That is interesting.

    There is only one reason that Blizzard North would want a 3D Background Artist that likes architecture and has some education in the subject. Blizzard North must be working on a game in which there are buildings! Slightly less obviously, they want the buildings to be somewhat realistic. Any of the artists could create the design for the structures, but in seeking someone with education in architecture, Blizzard North is seeking someone who understands how buildings are supposed to work, and how they are put together. This could be an indicator that Blizzard North?s next project will go somewhere Blizzard has spent relatively little time in is games… inside buildings. By no means does this mean we will be seeing a game that is primarily inside, but it is an interesting hint as to what Blizzard North is doing.

    Moving on to the listing for a 3D Character Artist, Blizzard drops another small surprise on us. The standard stuff for this posting includes experience with Maya, and the ability to work full time around San Francisco. The applicant should be very good at animating the human body as well as other organic forms. Thinking of the Diablo series, this is not at all surprising, and essentially tells us that the next came will likely have creatures which are not human. I hope no one is startled by that revelation. The really fascinating part comes a bit farther down. Blizzard is seeking someone with ?Outstanding 2D animation skill.? This is another example of a point that might be meaningless, and might be huge. 2D animation skill could be an indicator of talent in working with 3D. Or, Blizzard North might might just want to keep a good 2D animator on staff, but does not need one enough to make it a separate position. Or, the next thing could require a good 2D animator. That alone does not mean much either, as nearly all 3D games have in them places where there is 2D animation. However, this could imply that Blizzard North has as a project something that would be primarily if not exclusively 2D. Something such as a game for the Game Boy Advance. A game based in the Diablo world could work for the GBA platform, and Blizzard, with its Classic Arcade line, has shown an interest in entering that market. Could this be a sign of mini-Diablo? Might be.

    Naturally, I have saved the most interesting opening at Blizzard North for last. Blizzard North needs a game programmer. Nothing surprising there. The applicant must have skills in C and C++, be willing to work long hours, and love playing games. It would also help if they had experience creating games for PCs and consoles. And consoles? Yes, and consoles. That does not mean a great deal, by itself. It could just mean that Blizzard is wanting an experienced game programmer. However, given that Blizzard North began as a console company and has long said it wanted to return to its console roots, this might a sign of something else. Blizzard North might be loading up on people who have worked on multiple platforms, with the idea of no longer being tied down to one platform. No need for the die-hard PC crowd to panic yet, though. Another criteria is ?Experience in Windows programming.? The PC side is not forgotten. Again, the console comment could be meaningless, but it does open up several doors.

    Ok, so after several paragraphs of wanton speculation, I have not shed any new light on anything. Or have I? Blizzard North is going 3D. That is clear. They are building for the PC. That is clear also. However, there are multiple indication that they might now be looking hard at other platforms. Blizzard North, it appears, could be soon in a position to create content for consoles.

    It has been a few years now since LOD came out, and in that time we have had no idea what Blizzard North has been up to. I think an eye on ECTS this September might be in order. Blizzard likes to make big announcements at that particular show, and the long awaited Blizzard North secret project would certainly be an announcement worthy of the show. Diablo for GBA? Maybe a whole new world? We cannot know for sure, but there certainly are some intriguing clues.


    [B]Disclaimer:[/B] Salem’s Fire was written by Luke Blaize and hosted by diabloii.net. The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.


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