Even if it wasn’t for that quote, I must say that I doubt that Blizzard would pick Blizzcon as their arena for such an announcement.
I can totally understand the speculation from a fan point of view. You wish they would do this, that they would put such a huge value into their fan community that they would give them first hand VIP access, telling their friends before tehy told anyone else.
Imagine yourself being in the audience at the opening cerimony. Imagine how they turn down the lights and BAM the screen lits up and you’re thrown into a cinematic that blows you away, and you are the first one to experience it and people will stand up and gasp and applause and…..
OK, stop. That’s enough. Realize: it’s just the wet dream of a fan boy. It's not the way those things normally work.
I know I’m sticking out my neck, and that I might be proven wrong in just a few days, and if I am, please, please go ahead and mock me as much as I deserve.
But, if you ask me, Blizzard will rather make there announcement in a different setting, probably at some important international game expo/convention, which will attract a wide range of media coverage from all over the world – not only the gaming press, but also investors. Just because fans like put a huge importance to Blizzcon, it doesn’t mean that the entire gaming industry is circling around it.
Wolfshead’s article made me curious about what it looked like the last time Blizzard made an announcement like this, more precisely on September 2, 2001, as they first revealed their plans for World of Warcraft. Apparently they did it at a press conference at the European Computer Trade Show, taking place in London, which is something different from a convention directed at Blizzard fans.
Development in full swing
But let’s leave the place for announcement for a moment and ponder a little bit more about what their next MMO could be like. There are a couple of tickling lines in the Forbes interview. According to Sam, the size of the team working on the game is close to the size of the team working on WoW, more than 140 employees, and the project development is in “full swing”:
“The product is something we think is going to redesign the way these type of games are looked at”.
I’m trying hard to imagine what new aspect they’re going to bring to the table, but I must admit that I fail badly, probably due to lack of overall gaming knowledge.
I reckon we’re still talking about something you’re playing with a computer, in front of a screen, using a mouse and a keyboard, being connected to other players by some world wide servers? Sure, I dream about playing the holo deck for real one day, but we aren’t quite there yet, are we?
A look at the announcement 2001
In my search for the circumstances around the first announcement I stumbled upon an article, written in September 2001 by the signature “Rushter”, published at the website Incgamers, which gives a perspective on what kind of "revolution" we possibly could expect.
It contains an in-depth coverage from the crowded press conference, which was given for specially invited reporters. Rushter gives a detailed eyewitness report, including details like the “poor sods had to be content with pressing their faces against the windows to catch a glimpse” The quotes by the Blizzard manager, Bill Roper is an interesting read, as a documentation of what was on their mind at that time.
What I find most fascinating though, is to see how the author enthusiastically highlights certain features of WoW, which were great improvements at that time, but we take for granted now. Reading this, I ask myself: will the new secret MMO do the same thing again, but at a higher level? In what way? Is there something in the current game that I hate, possibly without even knowing it, that the new game will “fix?
And: will I be as pumped up about the secret MMO as it’s announced as Rushter was when he got his first glimpse of WoW?
Below, I’ll give you a bunch of samples from the article from 2001 just to give you an idea, but if you’re as intrigued by it as I am, I suggest you read it in its full length.
About the environment
“Our characters started in an area called Westfall, a devastated farmland that was once part of the Human Kingdom and has become run-down and over-run by thieves. We stood in the middle of a wheat field looking out onto an absolutely stunning ocean. (You may have seen the impressive lighthouse in the gameplay video that was released). We noticed the sun was rising and were pointed to the little clock in top right of the interface that shows the current time in the world. You could see the movement on the water with the waves as the sun beams streamed across it. The sky looked stunning.
As we stood in the World of Warcraft for a few moments and soaked up the breathtaking scenery, it was evident that Blizzard wants gamers to feel they have been transported to a completely new fantasy world. A place that is full of rich vibrant colours where buildings and trees are exaggerated and not photo-realistic.”
"We marched through the field until we came across our first enemy in the world, a Harvest Golum which was patrolling the field. These burly mechanical creatures plod round the farmlands, guarding the crop. When we held the mouse over the Golum our cursor icon changed red which meant our option was to attack. The Golum approached and we engaged in combat. The status of combat is all shown on screen so if you hit a small tag will rise indicating how much damage you have inflicted or indeed if you missed. What this means is that combat status won’t be spamming the chat window and the actual combat is easier to follow.
When you attack you click once and your character will continue attacking until the target is dead, or your character of course. This allows you time to cast spells and even change equipment. "
"It was time to move on to a new area with the use of teleport scrolls from our inventory where each one would take you to a different location. Teleport scrolls were created for the purpose of the demo and may not appear in the final game. We asked if there would be other modes of transport other than foot. At the start of the game when the character is low level, on foot will be the main way of getting around. Bill Roper then said that there will be other ways to get around the game world but these have yet to be decided. Now wouldn’t a horse be cool we suggested?:) "
"We approached a trader who issued a quest to find the Treebeast and assemble a weapon called the Firestar, a mythical sword. You can then accept the quest and begin your journey. We were close to a new area called Darkshire and it was here we saw the transition between two very different areas of the game. As we moved towards and over a bridge Darkshire loomed ahead. Our hero crossed the threshold into Darkshire and our world changed dynamically. The trees became thicker and the sky ominous and overcast. This was one of the most impressive moments in the game. The transition was seamless, as were the environmental changes, the light, textures and clouds. All this changed with the help of Blizzard’s procedural skies and procedural lighting to great effect. We stopped just inside the Darkshire boundary and looked back. Beyond the edge of the murky forest we looked back from where we came and could see the sun hitting the ground, it was like looking into another world."
"A feature that we really liked was the ability to move an item, whether it be armour or a weapon, into your inventory and the game will automatically move it onto the correct spot on the body as long as it’s not already occupied. In other words you don’t have to place armour directly on the body, the game is intelligent enough to know that it’s armour so it will place it directly in the correct body slot, so it’s easy to ‘throw’ items on, making it quicker to change on the fly to suit your situation.
The backpack inventory can also be accessed without blocking the gaming environment which allows you the freedom to utilise items in your backpack without having to stop playing. "
"We talked to one the NPC character who had issued us the quest to find the Firestar Sword. To complete the sword quest we handed over the pieces to have it assembled. Duly assembled, we took the sword and replaced the standard one we had been using. As the name suggests, subtle flames licked the edges of this gigantic blade as we stood defiant with our new toy. It was about 3 times the size of our previous sword, positively massive Blizzard is promising something rather special as far as weapon effects go. They want players to feel they have really achieved something when they complete a quest by having impressive looking items that will allow you to show off to other players in the game. "
The author’s demo session ends in a place called “Stranglethon Jungle”:
“Again this area was very different to previous. More of a jungle with murky swamps and giant trees with overgrown foliage. We were placed new a small lake with a waterfall to the rear and paused for a moment to marvel at the realistic cascading waters. We stepped closer to the lake to watch the wee fish dart about just below the surface. There is a possibility that the final game will see characters with a swim ability, walking through shallow waters is also a possibility.”
“As short as it felt, we saw three very different areas, all rich and packed with incredible detail. It is a world you will have no problem losing yourself in. It’s fantastical and exactly where Warcraft should be heading. If the character development, quest content, guild support, PvP aspect are nailed down then this will be the new standard for MMORPGs.”
Hopefully we’ll get some answers in a not too far distant future. But probably not at Blizzcon, if you ask me.