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BlizzCon 2009: Noobz on display



Noobz are a series of blank figures created in the form of armored Terrans from Starcraft. For the festivities at BlizzCon 2009, Blizzard put on display a special treat regarding these little Noobz. Two hundred and fifty Noobz figures had been passed out to Blizzard employees several months ago. The employees were encouraged to paint and decorate the Noobz for themselves. At BlizzCon, the best of the painted figures were put on display.

I hope to get my hands on one of the blank Noobz soon. I didn't pick one up at BlizzCon, since my bags were already packed from taking so much other swag home. I think the idea of decorating one of these is awfully fun, and I totally salute Blizzard for promoting the idea.

I especially think it's awesome that they featured the artwork of their general employees in this way. It really helps build a sense of community, and they should be commended for that. Besides, the employees who created the figures in our gallery below showed off a lot of talent, and I thought the Noobz were a lot of fun to see. Check it out yourself!


Gallery: Noobz

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, BlizzCon

Sons of the Storm to appear at BlizzCon, unveil another member


The Sons of the Storm is a kind of artists' collective connected with Blizzard -- they're responsible for the majority of the concept and game art coming out of Blizzard, from the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo series. They count Samwise Didier and Chris Metzen in their ranks, along with many of Blizzard's most popular artists. And apparently their ranks are growing -- on their latest website update, they have posted a new group picture, along with a mysterious "eighth son" that they say they will introduce sometime later, possibly months after BlizzCon. From left on the picture above, you can see Samwise Dider, Chris Metzen, René Koiter, Travis Thammer, Glenn Rane, Peter Lee, Mark Gibbons, and the Eighth Son, who a commenter over at Blizzplanet speculates may be Wei Wang.

Speaking of BlizzCon, the Sons site also says that all of the seven current sons will be signing at the convention, so be sure to bring your TCG cards, Warcraft novels, art books and anything else these guys may have worked on. We're sure there'll be a line, but if you're willing to brave the wait, you might get to meet some of the most creative minds behind Blizzard's beloved universes.

Filed under: Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Galleries, BlizzCon, Fan art, WoW TCG

Rumor: The9 loses WoW license in China to Netease


The9 has been the target of persistent rumors over the last few months that they're on the verge of losing their license from Blizzard to operate World of Warcraft in China. First, we heard about their financial troubles, and then came rumors that Blizzard was going to ditch them. And now we've got WorldofWar.net reporting a rumor that Netease will be the company to take over the reins there. It makes sense -- Netease has been growing a lot during their history, and they successfully operate Fantasy Westward Journey, an MMO with a US value of $761 million, with 400,000 average concurrent users. They're already supposed to take over Blizzard's Warcraft III and Starcraft II in China, so Blizzard will actually be consolidating their properties.

The rumor supposedly comes from a leaked internal memo to The9 employees, which says that an unnamed company (supposedly Netease) is trying to pick up the rights and hardware for the game for a cool $22 million. The9 reportedly paid $73 million for the same capability, so they're losing twice on the deal -- both the license and the money they spent on it.

Not good news for The9 if it all turns out to be true, but maybe this means Chinese players will get their expansions a little sooner. Of course, a lot goes into releasing new content overseas (translation is definitely not a small part of it), but having a more capable operator probably won't hurt.

Update: Confirmed. Thanks for playing, The9. Their stock is down big time since the announcement, and Netease's is up.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King

IBM exec: Games are great for employees

Hot on the heels of last week's news that employers are staying away from hiring WoW players comes this article from the BBC, quoting an IBM executive who says that gamers are actually exactly the kind of people you want on a team: David Laux, global executive in charge of games and interactive entertainment (wait, maybe that's why he's so keen on game players) says that casual games can improve memorization and the abilty to discern details, first person shooters can help with rapid decision making, and games like World of Warcraft can boost leadership skills. He says WoW specifically helps players learn how to work well on a team, assess risks, and put the group first to achieve a common goal.

Which is true -- if you're actually the one in charge of groups. I'm of the opinion that it's very possible to play a game like WoW and get a nice boost to your leadership skills (leading a guild is often a job in itself), but I think it's also very possible that you could play WoW and not get a thing out of it -- I know quite a few people I've grouped with that I'd never want to have sitting next to me in a real office.

The bottom line, as always, is somewhere inbetween the two opinions. If you're already interested in taking charge and being a leader, WoW is a great simlulation to let you do those things. And if you're already a lazy worker and interested in helping yourself more than whatever team you're on, WoW probably won't cure you of that (there are certainly plenty of selfish people running around the game every day). In short, if your hiring policies are based on whether or not someone plays videogames, you might want to reconsider them completely.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Guilds, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Instances

The voices of Azeroth

Last week we looked at who made the soundtrack of Azeroth (and I heard-- and saw-- those very people at the Video Games Live BlizzCon concert), and this week, olanthe on WoW Ladies wants to know who's behind the other, very memorable part of WoW's audio: the voices.

Unfortunately, just like the music, Blizzard doesn't actually credit the talent part by part, so while it's easy to find a list of who's voiced something in game (the IMDB entry is probably the most comprehensive, as it contains all the names from the booklets to both shipping WoW and Burning Crusade), finding out who's done what is a little harder. Tony Jay did the intros for all the races, and Cam Clarke has been pegged as the male Blood Elf (among others, including Nexus-Prince Shaffar and Medivh). Voice actress Erin Fitzgerald has done quite a few voices in Burning Crusade, including Dorothy and the Wicked Witch, as well as Sarannis and the Essence of Desire in the Black Temple. Kath Soucie, another well known voice actress, has also done voices in BC, as has Michael Dorn (yes, Worf).

But most surprising on the list is probably the sheer number of Blizzard employees-- some, like Samwise Didier, Chris Metzen and Mike Morhaime, are well known, but others, like Tracy Bush, Derek Duke, and Glen Stafford, are usually working on the music of Azeroth. And even others-- Michele Arko, and I'm sure a few other names that I just don't recognize, work in completely different departments of Blizzard, from QA to Administration. So it seems like they invite a lot of their local employees to come in and record voices for their games, and not until recently, with the Burning Crusade, have they turned more often to more high profile actors.

Unfortunately, that doesn't exactly answer the question of who the female Night Elf is. But especially for the shipping game, odds are that it's someone who works at Blizzard, not a professional voice actor.

Update: You guys are the best. A reader of ours is friends with the Night Elf voice, so here she is: Debi Mae West. And yes, her goods really are of the highest quality. Apparently, she was also Meryl in Metal Gear Solid.

The CMs ain't so bad after all

Eona from Durotan saw a picture of Drysc (perhaps via that very helpful faces of BlizzCon guide yesterday), and determined something that might surprise you: the CMs are people after all. Who knew?

But seriously, I've always kind of felt for the CMs-- they're given the responsibility of transmitting messages to the community without actually being given all the information. There might be all kinds of good reasons that your class buff didn't show up in the patch, and yet while they may even know some of them, the CMs can't just say it was because the devs wanted to wait until the Northrend expansion, or because they clashed with something you'll find when the actual patch is released in a few days, or because this really amazing item that hasn't dropped yet makes it irrelevant anyway. At times, Drysc, Neth, Eyonix, and all the rest can seem like the Iraqi Information Minister, but more often than not, I'd guess they're just not allowed to tell us the whole story.

So if you do see the CMs at Blizzcon, suppress that urge to run up and ask them why Shaman clearcasting got nerfed. Instead, give them a hug show them your support in a completely nonphysical and nonthreatening way. Because while the CMs may play as NPCs, apparently they really are people too.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Blizzard, Humor, BlizzCon

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