Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Blizzcon Dissected – Part 3: Martial Arts and Caprica Six

As promised, here’s part three of my Blizzcon Dissected series. This part will deal with the upcoming games Diablo III and Starcraft II. Sorry WoW fans, go reread parts one and two instead.
I will start out with Diablo as the new information on Starcraft is somewhat sparse. If you only care about Starcraft, click here.

New Character Class: Monk
It’s funny. When they introduced the monk on Blizzcon they kept talking about how the character has classic fantasy roots. What they neglected to mention is that the expansion to Diablo I, Hellfire, already included the monk as a playable character – and it bears many resemblances with the new monk. I suppose this is because Hellfire was a third party product – but seriously people, can’t you admit that you’re bringing the Diablo I monk back?

Verdict: Hooray, the monk!

Kung-Fu Fighting
And bringing it back they are. The new monk is a melee fighter with a staff or his fists, using combo attacks to bring down his enemies. As far as we know, so far, combos will have three stages. If you are using the “Way of the Hundred fists” combo for example, you get a single target dash attack on the first hit. If you then use it again in quick succession you get a flurry of small hits on targets around you and the third hit will be a powerful AoE attack.
You can just repeatedly hit the same combo key three times to get to the finishing move, or you can mix and match combos – i.e. charging up with Way of the Hundred Fists two times, but finishing with Exploding Palm because you have no need for AoE.

On the one hand, mixing and matching combos is very cool as it opens options. On the other hand I feel that this removes some interesting design space, such as a combo with weak charge-ups but a very powerful finisher. They haven’t decided on the monk’s resource system yet, so maybe this will limit wild mixing a bit. If not, I’d suggest that they take a page out of Aion’s book. Aion has combo (chain) skills too, including choice within those chains, but there are separate chain “trees”. You can mix and match within the trees but you can’t just combine anything you want.

Verdict: Will be good, could be great if implemented correctly.

Not Your Grandfather’s Runes
If you’ve played Diablo II: Lord of Destruction at all, you know runes. They could be socketed into gear for an effect (much like WoW gems) and if you used the right combination (rune word) you would get a much bigger effect.
Diablo III will also have runes, only they will be nothing like the runes of old. Instead, they will rather work like glyphs in WoW in that they improve spells and not items. One rune for example might be used on a lightning bolt spell and turn it into chain lighting.
A system like this could create great diversity, especially if there are rare rune drops. I just hope they don’t follow the WoW glyph system which leaves little choice and rare glyphs don’t exist.

Verdict: I love it!

Replayability
Diablo has many effects that further replayability, such as random map creation and rare loot. Diablo II, however, often deteriorated into mind numbing farming runs of the same boss or area over and over again. Blizzard have promised to address these issues, making endgame and levelling play more diverse. They also said that they would like to keep the “magic find” stat in the game, but take care that you don’t get classes that implement it much better than others. In Diablo II everybody and their little sister’s dog had a sorceress equipped for magic finding. The sorceress relied much less on itemization than other characters and had a quick way to skip trash on the way to the boss as well.

Verdict: Keep your promises and I’ll be one happy panda!

Instanced Loot
A dead boss in Diablo II would just drop his spoils on the floor for everyone to take. Fast clickers and melee characters had a clear advantage. Diablo III will introduce personalized loot drops – any item that drops can only be picked up by one person. Who gets what will be randomly distributed. Unless they introduce bind on pickup items into the game (which I really don’t hope), this is a great change. No more “the fastest clicker with the most inventory space gets all the loot from Baal.”

Verdict: Great!

Starcraft II
And now for something completely different.
New information on Starcraft two is rather sparse – or should I say unspectacular? The game has been delayed to 2010 due do the battle.net implementation, but the game itself seems to be in the stages of fine-tuning. That means we don’t get any big changes to talk about and I honestly can’t make news like “Roach gets Carapace Upgrade” interesting. Not yet at least.

Voices
Tricia Helfer. Nuff said.

Not satisfied? Alright. There was a panel with voice actors from Starcraft II that is pretty fun to watch. It seems like we will get some very high quality voice acting, including the voice of Caprica Six from Battlestar Galactica – Tricia Helfer as both Sarah Kerrigan and Kerrigan, Queen of Blades. Apparently the story will contain chunks of Kerrigan’s past as a ghost.

Verdict: My favourite Starcraft character in the focus, and voiced by Tricia? Sign me up!

The Mission Editor
Blizzard Strategy games traditionally come with a mission editor, and a powerful one at that. Fans have used these editors to create popular custom maps in the past, such as tower defense and DotA. It seems the new editor will be even more powerful. Dustin Browder showed a few examples of things that can be done with the editor.

  • The Uberlisk – A modified ultralisk model with all new abilities, including one that can permanently alter the terrain. It also has smaller units on it’s back that shoot emenies in sight.
  • A third person shooter in the Starcraft II engine, complete with keyboard control, mouselook and NPC interaction.
  • An arcade shoot-em-up in which a single viking spaceship (the lost viking) has to fend off hordes of incoming protoss.

    Verdict: The mod community will provide some excellent content!

    Paid-for Maps
    Apparently Starcraft II will include a marketplace in which map makers can sell their work for real money. This should not only encourage even better mod-work, it is also a huge step away from Blizzard’s controversial World of Warcraft addon policy.

    Verdict: Way to go!

    That concludes the last part of my Blizzcon series, but it surely doesn’t conclude the discussion. Comment! Buff! Share! (I’m not sounding desperate, am I? ;))

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