Members of the ZAM staff are currently on the floor at the first day of BlizzCon, and we heard some exciting news during the opening ceremony: Cataclysm is indeed the new World of Warcraft expansion, and the monk will be the fourth playable class in Diablo III.
Both of the announcements were made by Vice President of Creative Development Chris Metzen at the end of the ceremony, so for now I'll pass over Lead Artist Gary Platner's introduction and Blizzard CEO and co-founder Mike Morhaime's speech and jump right into the big news. You can read what both of these men had to say after the jump.
Let's actually start at the very end of the ceremony with the Cataclysm announcement. Metzen mentioned the rumors that where circulating about the expansion before BlizzCon (without naming MMO-Champion), and then said the wait is over. He said the expansion is "nothing less than earth-shattering. It will very literally change the face of the world of Azeroth as you know it."
Metzen then played the trailer for Cataclysm, which brought loud cheers from the audience. Goblins are indeed the new playable horde race, while the Worgen will join the alliance. Azeroth will be reforged, the level cap will be raised to 85, Archaeology will be added as a new secondary skill, and there will be new race and class combos. The new character progression will be "Path of the Titans," there will be guild leveling and guild achievements, and of course new monsters and raids. Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep will be heroic class instances and Deathwing will return.
Whew. That's quite the expansion. The ceremony then quickly ended and went into a panel explaining the lore and development of Cataclysm, so stay tuned to ZAM.com for an article with that information.
Before the big WoW reveal, Metzen unveiled the monk as the fourth playable class for Diablo III. He said the class has its roots in old-school fantasy, but has been implemented in the game in a way you've never quite seen before. The cinematic trailer and gameplay video for the monk showed a class that fights with fast physical strikes as you would expect.
The rest of the ceremony
OK, now that the big reveals are over, let's look back at the rest of the ceremony. Platner opened the event by covering the top pet peeves players expected to see at BlizzCon as listed on the official forums:
1. Someone who tries to say GG, pwn, or LOL out loud.
2. audible chewing
4. People who want fight you in real life just for not being Horde.
There were loud cheers for the Horde comment. Platner mentioned that there are 1,700 PCs on the floor of this year's BlizzCon, includin a bank of 150 computers to enter one-site competitions during the convention. He then introduced Morhaime, who said StarCraft II just won the best of GamesCom award and the event in Cologne, Germany.
Morhaime tipped fans off to the WoW expansion news early on by saying players were expecting "something Cataclysmic to happen." As you would expect, there were some loud cheers for that comment. He then commented on the fact that China's version of WoW, which is under license by NetEase, is now back online for a huge beta test. The audience had no noticeable reaction.
Morhaime then said it took 45 minutes to process all the orders for BlizzCon tickets, but 20,000 tickets sold out in less than one minute. "That's even faster than ret paladins can storm the forums after a nerf," he said to loud applause.
The CEO said an estimated 50,000 viewers in more than 100 counties were watching BlizzCon via Pay Per View and then showed some clips from last year's BlizzCon and the midnight release of Wrath of the Lich King. Morhaime jokes the queues at some of those midnight openings were so long that GameStop and Best Buy had to open new stores and set up free transfers.
Morhaime then mentioned the upcoming faction change system, which will let you switch between Horde and Alliance. Then comment received a loud round of booes from the audience, and Morhaime joked the system is like flip-flopping in politics.
World of Warcraft will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in November, and Morhaime reminded us that Blizzard is revamping Onyxia in celebration. "The first encounter with her was merely a setback," Morhaime said. He also noted that Blizzard will be shipping Starcraft II next year along with the new Battle.net platform. it will "enhance how you all interact with each other and Blizzaard games," he said.
Morhaime mentioned that even though Sam Raimi is directing the WoW movie, Bruce Campbell will not be playing Leeroy Jenkins. The comment got booed, so he responded by saying, "Now that I think about it, it's not a bad idea."
Morhaime ended his speech by talking about e-sports, which Blizzard has given more than $340,000 in prizes to this year, the n00bz line of vinyl toys, tomorrow's Ozzy concert, and the return of Jay Mohr to BlizzCon to host the contests.
Keep an eye on the wow.allakhazam.com front page for twitter updates from all ZAM representatives merged into one feed. The direct Twitter link is here or you can follow us seperately: Fewyn, Togikagi, and wowhead. You can also head over to our WoW General forum and discuss Cataclysm in here.
Darryl "Togikagi" Gangloff