At Friday’s developer panels, attendees got an in-depth look at Diablo III’s wizard class, heard some big news about StarCraft II’s single-player campaign, and got a chance to ask game designers, artists, and programmers all their burning questions. If you couldn’t make it to any of the panels, here’s a quick recap of what you missed:
Diablo III Class Design
After Mike Morhaime kicked off BlizzCon 2008, the Diablo III developers took the main stage to discuss the game’s newly unveiled class, the headstrong young wizard, and demoed the class’s marquee skills, such as magic missile, electrocute, slow time, disintegrate, and teleport. They also divulged new information about the game’s current skill system and the myriad concepts (from simple rings to three-dimensional Horadric skill cubes) they discarded along the way. The developers also unveiled a brand-new system of runes — random drops that you can use to customize skills with new effects. Adding a multistrike rune to a wizard’s teleport spell, for example, generates multiple copies of the wizard to distract demons. The panel concluded with some audience Q and A. The first question: “Will there be a secret cow level?” The devs’ answer: “That’s a secret!”
World of Warcraft Classes
People get passionate about the World of Warcraft classes they play — which is why this panel is always one of the most packed and energetic every year. The developers began by focusing on the death knight’s design and followed up by explaining changes to existing classes to increase group flexibility (the developers’ goal is for groups to be able to “bring the player, not the class”). Cheers erupted for the upcoming dual-spec system, which is being designed so players will be able to switch between PVP and raiding specs, for example, without having to untrain their talents. After the panel was over, attendees had more questions than the developers had time to answer — but they’ll get another chance at a second class panel and an open Q and A session on Saturday.
StarCraft II Gameplay
Attendees of the StarCraft II Gameplay Panel got to hear big news about the single-player campaign first-hand: The epic story of StarCraft II will span a trilogy of games, with each game’s single-player campaign focusing on a different race. The first game will go into great depth telling the tale of Jim Raynor and the terrans. Two expansion packs will continue the story, delving separately into the saga of Kerrigan and the zerg, and that of the mystic protoss. By structuring the story this way, each campaign can be substantial, lengthy, and include meaningful choices for the player. Each campaign can also include more missions (the developers are targeting 26 to 30 for the first game alone), more interactive settings for players to explore, and more pre-rendered and in-game cinematics than would have been possible within a single game. Attendees also got to see several new cinematics, including a minute of the StarCraft II intro movie and an early peek at a dream sequence related to the Queen of Blades’ origin.
Diablo III Gameplay
Epic, large-scale combat with powerful characters; random dungeons, bosses, and events for maximum replayability; and deep character customization. The Diablo III developers gave a complete overview of the game and how it’s evolved from Diablo II. Attendees got to see gameplay videos of characters in action, monsters’ myriad new strengths and weaknesses, and more — and then play the game themselves in the Diablo III demo stations on the show floor.
World of Warcraft UI
From the layout of action bars to the color choices in the new player calendar to the revamped pet and mount interface: the user-inferface team is responsible for them all. In this panel, the UI designers discussed designing the Achievements system interface and the challenge of presenting tons of potentially overwhelming information in an accessible way. They also showed off the numerous revisions the death knight’s rune and runic power interface went through before the team hit on something that would put a smile on even a death knight’s face.
World of Warcraft Art
The cities, dungeons, animations, environments, characters, and props of Wrath of the Lich King were the focus of this panel. Attendees got to witness the reconstruction of Dalaran, from early concepts to final, floating execution. The World of Warcraft artists also showed off the creative process behind designing the death knight’s spell animations, the new creatures and denizens of Northrend, and the huge variety of landscapes and environments players will find in Northrend.
StarCraft II Art
The StarCraft II art team started off where other panels ended: by fielding questions from the audience about influences, unit design, and the big artistic differences between Blizzard’s three main universes. Afterward, the team discussed what defines Blizzard Entertainment’s art style — strong silhouettes, exaggerated proportions, and bold colors — and showed off how much the marine, viking, and other units have changed since StarCraft II was first unveiled. The presentation closed with several movies demonstrating how animation and special effects can bring a battle to life, along with a visual walkthrough of how StarCraft II’s maps (set in 20 unique environments) go from blank canvas to fully textured, populated, lit, and lively battlefields.