Gamescom 2011: Blizzard press event recap

As mentioned earlier in the Diablo III console version news post, I attended a behind closed doors press event held by Blizzard. The event was attended by about eighty journalists from all over the world and after a discussion on the new features in each of Blizzard’s main franchises, the floor was opened up for questions. The team of Blizzard developers and directors provided us with new features in Diablo III, Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. What follows is a recap of what they shared with us for each of these three games. There were some really neat new reveals, especially with regard to Diablo III and Heart of the Swarm. Diablo III with Jay Wilson and Josh Mosqueira Blizzard chose to discuss the new maximum level of difficulty that will be introduced in Diablo III, named “Inferno” mode. Inferno will be the fourth and highest level of difficulty in the game. Your character level will be capped at 60, but in Inferno all of the enemies will be capped at level 61. This, Blizzard claims, will rectify the problem that occurred in Diablo II whereby end-game characters could reach a level of 99, and enemies would be capped at level 85. This, obviously, made any levelling up after 85 somewhat pointless as the challenge went out of the window.

So if your level is capped at 60, what is the point of another playthrough on Inferno difficulty? Quite simply: unique loot. There is an entire set of loot all of which have unique looks and stats that you’ll only be able to find on Inferno difficulty – unless of course you buy it all in the Auction House, which Blizzard confirmed is possible. In fact, they also confirmed that no piece of loot will be exempt from sale in the Auction House. Each difficulty level (Normal, Hard, Hell, Inferno) will have unique loot; unique in stats, effects and look. There will be a big visual progression in armour and equipment over the skill levels, but the most badass looking sets will obviously only be found on Inferno difficulty. Enemies will also see a boost in health, speed, damage and aggression on Inferno difficulty. What’s more, boss enemies will have more powers and unique powers at their disposal. Artisans (your replacements for crafting with the Horadric Cube) will see a significant boost in their crafting abilities and recipe knowledge as you progress in harder difficulties.

A few more snippets of information provided included the fact that there will be a total of fourteen different levels of gems in the game. You’ll only be able to find the first four levels in the game world; the remaining ten levels will need to be crafted using multiple iterations of lower levels. Blizzard anticipates very few players being able to make their own level 14 gems. That being said you could always trade for them and buy them in the Auction House.   Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm with Johnny Ebbert – Senior Game Designer In case you haven’t been paying attention, Heart of the Swarm continues the storyline that we’ve all played through in Wings of Liberty. Kerrigan is now more human than she is Zerg and she is on a mission to kill the man who betrayed her: Arcturus Mengsk. She knows, however, that the only way she’ll be able to do this is by reuniting the Zerg swarm, which has been shattered thanks to the events in Wings of Liberty. As Kerrigan you will be tasked with scouring the galaxy for the last remaining Zerg Queens who you will then challenge so as to acquire their brood. By defeating the final Zerg Queens and claiming their units for your own, you will reunite the Zerg under a more human Kerrigan, and help her take her revenge. This single-player campaign will be spread over roughly twenty levels according to the Blizzard reps.

Throughout the single-player campaign Kerrigan will have a number of powers called “Battle Focuses” at her disposal. You’ll be able to swap these around before going into battle depending on the style of play you feel like using. Two examples of the Battle Focuses were mentioned: Spec Ops and Corruption. The former allows Kerrigan to call on her Ghost training to cloak, spot and nuke enemies; the latter allows her to tap into her Zerg powers to launch corrosive goo all over her enemies. There will be a number of these to unlock and use throughout the campaign. Additionally, you’ll be able to “adapt the swarm” by purchasing various levels of upgrades for your Zerg units. One final level of upgrade is a permanent super upgrade or Mutation. These Mutations will alter your units for the remainder of the game. For example you could choose between Mutating your Zerglings into a vastly more powerful type, or a Zergling type that permanently spawns three units for the price of one. Each Zerg unit in the single-player campaign will have unique Mutations for you to choose between. The final snippet of information provided for Heart of the Swarm is that each of the twenty-odd missions will have a unique hook and gameplay mechanic. This, according to Blizzard, will make the single-player campaign much more varied in objectives and gameplay style.   World of Warcraft: Cataclysm with Tom Chilton and Chris Robinson The focus during the World of Warcraft presentation was on the upcoming 4.3 patch and the additional content it’ll bring with it. The immediate additions include a Deathwing Raid, three new instances and Darkmoon Faire Island that will add all sorts of weird things for you to play with like “Whack-a-Gnome”.

A little more important, however, is the addition of three new features for Cataclysm: Void Storage, Raid Finder and Transmodification. Void Storage will allow you to gain access to an additional, larger Bank. This second Bank will let the Ethereals hang onto your excess loot for a small fee; there was no mention of what that fee might be. The new Raid Finder feature does exactly what it says on the box. This will be a sort of Raid matchmaking tool that will allow you to find players to fill those empty role slots in order to start a Raid. Finally, Transmodification will allow you to customise your character a little more. Amongst players in the higher levels there’s this tendency for characters to start to look the same. Transmodification will allow you to take the stats of one item and apply it to the look of another. This means that you’ll be able to put your high-end level item stats onto a set of armour that you perhaps used two expansion packs ago, providing you still have the armour set. What this will also do is make it harder for you to distinguish who is a high or low level character based on the look of their armour. This should make the PVP servers a little more interesting and n00b friendly.