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WORLD OF WARCRAFT PREVIEW, MAY 14, 2003

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 possible.

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.






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