World of Warcraft has remained fairly low on the radar since it's
announcement. However, Blizzard has blown the top off it's secrecy, showing an
open demo of the game on the show floor at E3. We spoke with John Staats, one of
the developers, and got an interesting preview of the game.
Even at first glance you'll notice what an amazing engine WoW uses. Staying
true to the animated look of WarCraft III, WoW's engine is very impressive. We
were able to view a wide range of environments, including dungeons, a sunken
ship, underground caverns, lush forests, and looming castles. The main thing
that stuck out about the engine and it's world was the attention to detail. In
fact, every piece of the world has been handcrafted, lending amazing views and
vistas all over the world. Also, the robust engine allows for some very detailed
scenes. For example, the forest that we were allowed to explore showcased an
incredible lush environment. This forest was full of plant and wildlife.
Hundreds of trees and ferns made it seem as if you were hiking through an actual
forest, and things such as birds flying overhead gave it a great sense of life.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the bustling human castle that we viewed
was massive. We felt as if we were actually walking through a life sized castle
as huge statues of the heroes of the Warcraft world towered over us. It feels
like the Warcraft world right up to the playable. Currently the playable races
are dwarves, humans, night elves, taurens, and orcs. Blizzard has stated however
that more races will be added as game progression continues.
Aside from the impressive engine, the general design elements seem very
promising. World of Warcraft has been designed to appeal to the first time user
as well as the MMORPG veteran. The interface is very simplistic and easy to use,
with excellent camera control which allows you to easily switch from first to
third person. Also, every command can easily be remapped on the keyboard to
cater to any gamers preference. The entire interface is mouse driven, and
consists of easy right and left click commands. Everything that can be moused
over will display tooltips as well. Blizzard has stated they are really looking
to make the interface simple to use. Looting is an excellent example of how they
have streamlined the system, where no dragging and dropping is necessary. Merely
right click on the item and it's transferred into your pack.
World of Warcraft also promises some very unique and interesting game play.
One of the primary systems, combat is simple at first, where you merely have to
auto attack. But as you grow in level more and more special moves are learned,
and combat gets very involved as you must learn which moves are needed for which
situations. "We won't have anyone reading a book while they fight,"
Jason said. "Combat won't be boring like that. It'll need your full
attention." WoW will also support PvP. Blizzard wasn't able to tell us much
about it, but they promised that player battles on epic levels would be
Combat won't be the only point of the game, however. WoW will also have a
robust crafting system that should occupy players that aren't interested in
hacking up monsters. There are all sorts of crafting skills, with wide ranges of
abilities. For example, the engineer was able to create a mechanical pet
squirrel that followed the player around. Despite it's lack of use, it's one of
the more popular crafted items. Crafting will be fairly in depth, with
components acquired from a variety of sources. "We won't have any useless
drops," Jason stated as he showed us crafting. "Every drop can be
either used, worn, or used in crafting. Of course some things will be better
than others, but there won't be any junk." Also, crafters will be
interdependent upon each other. One crafting class will need to supply the part
that another crafting class needs.
WoW also supports a variety of other features, such as player housing,
different rideable mounts for each race such as wolves, horses, and griffins,
and epic encounters to keep even the most uber of guilds happy. "The EQ and
DAoC players would hate us if we didn't have high level content for them."
Jason laughed. "We totally cater to the guilds." Quests are another
interesting feature that WoW is revamping. Quests are easy to follow, kept in a
quest log. Also, the reward is usually visible before you undertake the quest.
NPCs also notify you when they have a quest for you by displaying an exclamation
mark over their head. All this is done to make the game easily accessible,
eliminating the frustrations of other MMORPGs. Many quests won't be obtained
through NPCs, however, and instead dynamically thrust upon the player. While
journeying through the wilderness you may come across an encampment which is
being attacked by orcs. It's up to you to decide how the situation goes. Custom
GM run events will also be present, as Blizzard has a live team that consists of
both content personnel and tech support.
Beta is scheduled to be begin sometime this year. Blizzard will be utilizing
their internal QA department as well as randomly selecting players who register
for their beta through the Internet. Stay tuned for more news on WoW as it
begins to shaped up. It definatly looks promising.