Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?
The following is an opinion piece dealing with Blizzard's ongoing litigation. The opinions and views expressed are solely those of me, Mathew, the columnist.
You might have heard that Blizzard and its lawyers have recently started new litigation against three StarCraft 2 hackers in District Court. To a lot of people, this looks like another case of Blizzard going after more hackers for screwing with the online experience. To me, I see Blizzard's lawsuits as positive EULA-builders with huge benefit to the independent game market. It sounds crazy, but less so when you think about the concept of buying precedent.
As BlizzCon 2010 comes to an end, Paul Sams (chief operating officer of Blizzard) started out the ceremonies. A series of intentionally bad gamer jokes followed as he got the crowd ready. He then took it to a serious note and thanked attendees both attending in person and at home.
Blizzard used this opportunity to bring out the tournament winners. Warcraft 3winner Remind (night elf) from South Korea and StarCraft 2winner NEXGenius (protoss), also from South Korea, were presented with $25,000 for being grand prize winners. They will also be getting an eSports ring customized to their game that's the size of Superbowl rings. The WoW Arena tournament was still going on at this point (*aAa* vs compLexity.Red), so there was no winner to announce for it yet.
The release of StarCraft II brought about a surprise for the observant player -- an object in the cantina of ship that lets you play an arcade game called Lost Viking right in StarCraft II. This is a fun little shooter that's a cross between Asteroids and Space Invaders (Alex tells me it's a lot like Touhou, although I've never played that) and easily took up an hour of my night. Just the kind of thing to do while waiting for a raid to begin.
The name of the game is a nod to an original Blizzard game called The Lost Vikings which was released back in 1994. In that game, you are a Viking and have to find your way home as you escape the evil Tomator. In the StarCraft II arcade game, you're a mighty Viking on a ship and must fight your way back to Vikingville. And watch out for the evil Terra-Tron; he does not like you!!!
I hope that Blizzard sees this game as a success and includes a minigame like this in Cataclysm. Something that can be accessed from the mini-menu would be perfect. Given the awesomeness of Blizzard's newly released Lost Viking (see screenshots below for more pictures), let's give Blizzard a helping hand here and suggest what mini-games they could include with Cataclysm.
Nethaera (Blizzard community manager) posted answers to some of the common Real ID questions and concerns on the forums today. With the PR disaster that was Blizzard's original Real ID on the forums concept, a follow-up aimed at easing tensions in the community -- even after the retraction -- was to be expected. While Blizzard offered some good news on things people have been requesting, they also dodged other points for the moment in true Blizzard style.
Some highlights from the announcement:
no current plans for an online handle to be used in game with Real ID instead of your name
feature to disable your name's appearance in Friends of Friends list coming around the time of StarCraft II
plans for some sort of unique ID on the WoW forums
Ever wonder what happens to raid bosses when they get bored? For Thaddius, it seems he has been spending some time moonlighting over in StarCraft II. While he was there, it also seems like he's picked up a few more tricks and upgraded his armor. After all, Naxxramas was only a setback!
IIam4 used Thaddius as an inspiration for his entry into the custom ability contest on SC2Mapster by recreating his Polarity Shift. While he was recreating this ability, he also decided to add a few new features of his own.
Shocking Grasp A random target will be paralyzed and take damage over time. If any other unit comes within range of the afflicted unit, Shocking Grasp will jump. This can create a chain reaction.
Spawn Volatile Spark Two volatile sparks are spawned, serving as summoned adds that should be DPSed down right away.
These abilities combine to create a very interesting and creative boss battle using the StarCraft II editor. The amount of micromanagement required to keep all of your units alive adds a nice level of complexity to the boss encounter. I personally like that Thaddius is a giant Maruader unit. This video is a nice showcase of the tools that were available even in the beta and exactly what could be done with enough motivation.
StarCraft II is set to release on July 27, 2010. While I'm absolutely certain it will be a fantastic game in its own rights, I can't help but wonder if we will see any more player-created World of Warcraft crossovers with the tools that are shipping with SC2. Can you imagine a campaign where the end boss is casting Defile while you try to micromanage all of your units safely around it? How about navigating your troops into position for a Shatter or managing Burning Adrenaline. Maybe a little Doomfire for good measure! This could bring a whole new level of fun to Tower Defense and Mastermind-style game mods!
So, if you could recreate any one boss or ability from WoW in a StarCraft II fight, what boss would it be?
Blizzard appears to be cleaning house in preparation for its StarCraft II release as well as its Battle.net revamp. In a recent announcement on the service's forums, Blizzard rep Bashiok revealed that over 300,000 accounts were punished for violations of the terms of service for Warcraft III and Diablo II for using hacks and illegal third-party tools (which are essentially hacks).
For those of you who have had past experience with Battle.net, these numbers probably don't surprise you. The network has had a long reputation of being fairly easy on people using hacks as Blizzard tends to save up over a long period of time in order to do a massive batch of bans at once. This means that those who are using hacks have a long period of time to abuse the system before anything is done about it. The hacks for some games were rampant enough that other players began using hacks that detect other hacks. Regardless of the reason behind using a hack, it is still against the terms of service and means if you get caught, you're out.
Blizzard has just recently announced StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty's collector's edition. Normally this isn't something we would talk about here on WoW.com, but the contents make it worth mentioning. Specifically, WoW players will receive a Thor mini-pet, seen to the right. For those of you who don't follow StarCraft at all, the Thor is a new ubermech unit for the Terran faction. It's not only voice acted by Chris Metzen, but the pilot of the unit is based directly off him. One of his old aliases is Thundergod, after all. The Thor is big and it's bad-ass, and that's about all that you need to know. I wonder if it will interact with Grunty and the Zergling?
BigDownload has the full scoop on the contents of the collector's edition. There's great value there, even for people who don't play WoW. The collector's edition also includes a 2GB flash drive made to resemble Jimmy Raynor's dog tags, a 172-page art book, a behind the scenes DVD and more.
BlizzCon 2010 has been officially announced! The convention will run October 22nd and October 23rd at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. This was as we previously reported back at the beginning of February.
Despite the very sparse information available from Blizzard, we do know at least one thing -- Jay Mohr will be hosting again. Ticketing information is not available yet, and we don't expect it to be for some time. What this says about the release date of Cataclysm is also anyone's guess. We don't have any solid information on that at this time.
BlizzCon 2010 Announced
If you've been holding your breath waiting to find out when and where the next BlizzCon would be held, then... you've probably passed out by now. But if you've just been patiently watching for an announcement, then we've got good news for you: BlizzCon will be returning to the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday, October 22 through Saturday, October 23! Just as in years past, BlizzCon 2010 will feature an exciting mix of discussion panels, tournaments, hands-on gameplay, contests, and much more. Check out the announcement press release, and keep an eye on www.blizzcon.com in the months ahead for further details, including ticketing information.
Many of our readers have already weighed in on what they expect from this upcoming BlizzCon -- expectations are high. Hopefully we'll be getting for information about the event soon. You can bet that WoW.com will be there again this year, and we've already got plans in the works to hold an even bigger meetup than last year!
People are getting actual StarCraft II beta invites, but that doesn't mean that all beta invites (or any other emails that look like they are from Blizzard) are real. If you got an email saying that you have been invited to StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, don't click anything in that email. Instead take the following steps:
Type battle.net into your browser (no typos) and it will go to the secure battle.net site appropriate to your region.
Enter your account info.
Under Manage My Games, choose Add or Upgrade a Game.
Enter the Beta Key provided in the email where it says Enter Game Key.
Press Add Game.
If you are able to successfully add the game to your library, then you received a real beta invite. If the email tells you to go someplace else for the beta key or the key provided did not work, then you received a phishing email.
Just in case we weren't completely sure of it yet, Activision Blizzard confirmed in today's quarterly earnings call that World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will be released in 2010. For general Blizzard fans, another game was given a 2010 release date: StarCraft II, which will begin its beta phase within a month. As was pointed out during the conference call, it has been twelve years since Blizzard released two major titles in the same calendar year.
The Cataclysm news is in line with everything we've heard so far, including Mike Morhaime's comments during BlizzCon that the expansion has a targeted release date of 2010. Things seem to be moving along right on schedule, but remember that this is Blizzard. Things could change at any time, so I wouldn't start preparing for leveling vacations yet. Actually, you probably shouldn't do that at all. It's kind of silly.
Blizzard mentioned this new cross-game social aspect of Bnet at last year's BlizzCon. Real ID is an optional system for chatting with and keeping track of "real life" friends in any Battle.net game. You invite friends with your Real ID. If they accept, you can find out what game they are playing and on what realm and character. You can also chat across realms or games. You won't have to remember the usernames of your Real ID friends and family, because you will see their real names on the interface. And you will also be able to broadcast messages to all on your Real ID friends list, rather than just chatting one at a time.
I cannot wait for this to be implemented for WoW accounts. I would love to be able to chat with my friends who are scattered across many realms and who defect to play StarCraft. I really think this is great for more hardcore players (I'll be on my Alliance alt until you Hordies can get your act together for the raid) or very casual, chatty altoholics.
Acknowledging the power of social media and networking, Blizzard has created fan pages for their three big franchises on Facebook. Following the trend of other products and companies who have created Facebook pages in order to deliver updates, promotions, and other fan extras, Blizzard has set up pages for Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft. Interested fans need to have a Facebook account in order to "become a fan" of the pages, which Blizzard says they have big plans for.
Through these fan pages, Blizzard will be able to give a constant feed of news updates and media such as video, galleries, or links. Fan pages are also a common conduit for promos and contests as frequently used by Blizzard partners such as Razer and Figureprints. There are also forums for discussion and a "wall" that allows fans to write on for questions, comments, or anything related to the franchises.
Interestingly, and perhaps owing to its massive player base, the Warcraft fan page has already gained three times as many followers as the other two properties in the short time it has been active. This reflects a similar trend on Twitter, another social networking tool that Blizzard has utilized lately, where @Warcraft has over twice the number of followers of either @Diablo or @Starcraft.
As noted in my previous article on the subject, the new and improved Battle.net won't affect only StarCraft II -- among other things, the Real ID feature will allow you to see what other Blizzard games your real-life friends or acquaintances are playing, should they desire it. But that's apparently not the only perk for WoW players. Blizzard recently announced that migration of WoW accounts to Battle.net accounts will soon be mandatory, and posted a FAQ about it on the official website; one detail immediately caught my eye...
What will change in World of Warcraft after the forced migration?
The core gameplay experience will remain unchanged as a result of the migration. However, you'll be able to take part in all of the new Battle.net features, such as cross-realm, cross-faction, and cross-game chat.
That's right. Got a friend that plays Horde and you play Alliance? You'll be able to talk to them from inside WoW, even if they're on a different server. Heck, even if they're playing StarCraft II or Diablo 3, you'll still be able to chat with them. How cool is that?
To quell some concerns that'll surely get posted in the comments, the extent that others can utilize your Real ID is completely up to you. You decide who gets to see what information and to what extent -- if you want your best friend to be able to see what game you're playing or what server you're on, you can do that, but you can also prevent your annoying cousin from pestering you to play StarCraft II while you're raiding. No, Jeff, I actually can wait for you to "pwn" me. Gots to get me some purps.
We recently learned of a quiet little announcement that Blizzard's three hot properties now each have Twitter accounts of their own. If you use Twitter, you can now follow @warcraft, @starcraft, and @diablo.
All three accounts are pretty bare at the moment aside from some catchphrases, but I'm going to bet the accounts will be used as another miniature news outlet, much like the front pages of their respective websites. It's probably also safe to say we'll be seeing a lot of product and tournament plugs, too. If you're a Twitter fiend, you might want to click that follow button for them (and our account, too). If you don't normally use Twitter, it's too early to say if these accounts are anything you should go out of your way to check out. If there's any major WoW news showing up there, it will find its way here too. Your life probably won't end if you don't follow them. Probably.
Can't make it to BlizzCon but still want to check out Blizzard's latest offerings? Blizzard has appeared on the list of sponsors for Penny Arcade's PAX convention, which takes place later this year on September 4-6, 2009 in Seattle, Washington. PAX is a great time and a ton of fun -- I went a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. In addition to a terrific lineup of geeky musicians and demo panels from game developers, they always have a nice open floor full of the latest games to check out and play. And since PAX will be going down after BlizzCon (which takes place in two weeks), if you go, you'll likely have a chance to check out whatever Blizzard wants to put on display, be that Starcraft II or Diablo 3, or, you know... anything else they might announce.
Plus, tickets to PAX are cheaper and even easier to get than BlizzCon tickets anyway, not to mention that you'll be seeing way more games and companies than just Blizzard. In fact, why am I going to BlizzCon again? I'd almost rather go to PAX this year. I'd love to see Freezepop!
Oh, right, I can't miss our legendary meetup (wait until you guys see the giveaways we have planned!). But even if you're going to Penny Arcade's show because you can't make it to Blizzard's convention, stay tuned here to WoW.com -- we'll make you feel like you're there anyway.