August’s monthly wrap up is fairly concise, even though it was the busiest month ever, for news. Why? Since the Gamescon and [[Blizzcon]] conventions resulted in such massive info releases that they can’t possibly be covered in this monthly review. Gamescon would have been a huge info event in any other month, but when Blizzcon began two days later, all eyes turned to Irvine, where the Monk was premiered in a new cinematic, a 12-minute gameplay movie was released, we got dozens of new screenshots and concept arts, panel discussions, and countless previews and reports based on hands-on play.
The rest of the month paled in comparison, with little more than Bashiok forum action and miscellaneous tidbits before Blizzcon, and more follow up Blizzcon goodness over the last few days of the month.
The month started off with an good Guest Article question; does a game like Diablo 3 *need* shared skills? Not things like auras or warcries, but skills that multiple characters have access to. Virtually every skill was of that type in Diablo I, but there were very few in Diablo 2, until mudflation in later patches brought oskills to Runewords and Uniques and made it possible for every character to use powerful skills like Teleport, Battle Orders, Whirlwind, Fanaticism, and more. The D3 Team has said they do not want such +skill bonuses in Diablo 3; but what do the fans think? Judging by the feedback to this conversation, most fans do not want that, and think the introduction of them has broken the game balance and betrayed the unique nature of the classes in D2.
Click through for the rest of the month…
Bashiok’s first appearance came on the 5th, when he made a very short reply to a long complaint that the Barbarian’s Whirlwind skill didn’t look cool enough. Bashiok’s message: we’ve only seen the basic type of Whirlwind so far, since skill runes are going to be what really alters the appearance of skills. So if skills looked incredibly amazing right at level 1, they’d have nowhere to improve at higher levels + skill runes.
On August 5th Starcraft 2 joined the long and proud tradition of Blizzard games when it was… officially delayed. No ETA! Beta starting sometime in 2010! Mark your calendars, but don’t hold your breath! Two days later word came that the delay was (allegedly) entirely due to delays in preparing Battle.net 2.0, and that this delay would not affect the progress of any of Blizzard’s other games under development.
The 8th brought word that some players on the European Server had achieved an amazing feat of teamwork. They’d completed a full clear of Normal, Nightmare, and Hell difficulty, including Uber Tristram, playing Ironman style, with naked (no equipment) Hardcore characters. They even handicapped themselves further by not allowing the Necromancer or Druid to summon powerful tanking minions. How? Overlapping skills, lots of stun attacks, and clever play. Read the post for many more details from the team themselves, and videos of them finishing off the hardest monsters.
August 11th brought a distraction from the Blizzcon preparations, when Bashiok leaked word that the long-awaited v1.13 patch would include some form of respecs. Diablo 3 has long been planned to include respecs, and most players suspected that Blizzard wanted a trial run on this, to see how players would use them in D2. They are presumably finding out now, since the patch finally hit the Patch Test Realm in early December.
August 13th marked a day that will live in infamy, since Blizzard used it to announce their plans to join the Twitter revolution. Their Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft Twitter feeds started up just before Blizzcon, and have remained active for the past 4.5 months. (Their social media outreach continued with the launch of Facebook pages in December.) The verdict from the end of the year? The @Diablo tweets have been frequent, though they’ve slowed noticeably since the first couple of months, and Bashiok has used them to pass along a number of tidbits we’d have been unlikely to see prior to the Twitter initiative. That said, the @Diablo tweets have been almost entirely trivial/chatty/noise-making (as the technology guarantees?), rather than imparting game content, and Bashiok’s informative forum posts have declined commensurately. This is unfortunate from the perspective of the hardcore fan, but might be exactly what Blizzard intended. They don’t need to try to reach hardcore fans; we’re already paying attention. They want to rope in more casual game fans, who will check Twitter or Facebook, but won’t read a fansite.
The Gamescom convention kicked off in Cologne, Germany, on August 19th, and brought a fair amount of new info. There wasn’t a presentation about the game, and the Monk wasn’t enabled until after the big revelation at Blizzcon, but Blizzard released half a dozen screenshots, some media sites wrote up their hands-on observations, and numerous fan-recorded, “ninja” gameplay movies popped up as soon as the show started. A thorough listing of those can be seen on the Media Coverage page.
August 20th brought the semi-start of Blizzcon, with representatives of dozens of fansites favored with a tour of Blizzard HQ in Irvine. (About 15 miles from the Anaheim convention center.) The tour itself was fun, as was the lunch with game developers on hand for chat (there were tables set up for SC, WoW, and D3, with about 5x the fansites/devs at the WoW table as the other two.), but the best part was the (brief) demo of Diablo 3, in the Blizzard movie theater. Bashiok briefly showed off the new build, and while the Monk wasn’t yet visible/playable, we got to see a lot of changed game details. I even wrote up a fairly detailed report that afternoon. (Amusingly, we got word later that another D3 fansite filed some sort of protest/complaint, since they hadn’t taken notes and couldn’t write about it themselves, and somehow thought it was unfair that we did?)
Blizzcon kicked off the 21st, and for about the next week we posted many, many news items a day, along with huge features and content blasts galore. The easiest way to relive that is to go by the links from the Blizzcon 2009 Media Coverage page in the wiki, where everything is sorted by type:
- Game reports and other in-depth coverage.
- Screenshots, Artwork, and Movies.
- Blizzcon D3 Panel Coverage.
- Blizzcon related news items.
Along with the hardcore game info, there were some amusing tidbits. One came on the 24th, when a site reader spotted an odd photo of Diablo from a Blizzard Cinematic Department office tour segment on the Blizzcon. It appears to be Diablo, in some early workup version, but with those skinny legs… Diablo’s a girl?
Another one came the next day, when MD posted the scan of a special Blizzard-themed restaurant menu I picked up, totally by chance, one night after Blizzcon. I recommend the Dark Wanderer Sea Scallops.
The rest of the month was busy with more Blizzcon content posts and game reports, which are best researched through the wiki pages linked above.
- All of August 2009’s interviews and major media.
- All of August 2009’s news headlines.