At this year's Blizzcon, we got to try out a section of Diablo 3 that was pulled directly from the single-player storyline and playable with all classes. A large number of skills and abilities were playable, and the skill rune system has been implemented, a feature that was lacking for last year's demo build. We also got to spend some time trying out the newly announced PvP system — Battle Arenas. Read on for a walk-through of Diablo 3 as we've seen it so far. In short: it's shaping up to be an excellent game, and a worthy successor to Diablo 2. Read on for more.
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As World of Warcraft prepares for the launch of its third expansion, Cataclysm, on December 7th, the design team is busily trying to finish all the new high level content, the destruction and rebuilding of Azeroth, and major changes to many of the game's systems and classes. At Blizzcon we spoke with Greg Street (a.k.a. Ghostcrawler), Lead Systems Designer for WoW, about Blizzard's goals for this expansion, the problems they're trying to solve, reasoning for the creation of a few new features, and why they aren't willing to simply throw more people at complicated projects. Read on for our discussion about World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
The StarCraft 2 team spent most of Blizzcon talking about the map editor and custom games. We spoke with Alan Dabiri, a Lead Software Engineer for Wings of Liberty who worked on the user interface and helped out on the game's integration with Battle.net. He provided some more details about plans for making the map editor more approachable, the coming updates for Battle.net (including chat channels), and a bit about the development of Heart of the Swarm, the Zerg-themed expansion being worked on now. Read on for our conversation about StarCraft 2.
At Blizzcon this past weekend, we got a chance to speak with Julian Love, lead technical artist for Diablo 3. We discussed skill runes — items that modify the form and function of your character's spells and abilities — as well as the newly announced PvP Battle Arenas, the Demon Hunter class (and why it took so long to create), the future beta test and the importance of getting the game in front of players to collect feedback. Read on for our discussion about Diablo 3.
StarCraft 2 launched in July, and since most of the developers' efforts since then have gone into tweaking balance issues, fixing bugs and further developing Battle.net integration, the second part of the trilogy is still quite a ways off. So, in lieu of announcements about Heart of the Swarm, the devs are using Blizzcon to showcase the map-editing tools and encourage the community to get more involved with custom maps and game types. Using the map editor, they created internally four custom games for StarCraft 2, which they’ll soon be releasing over Battle.net for free alongside three fan creations that won a recent contest. Read on for more details.
Blizzard kicked off Blizzcon 2010 today with the announcement of Diablo 3’s fifth and final class – the Demon Hunter. The class uses crossbows, bolas, traps, and other gadgets to rid the land of Diablo’s evil minions. Blizzard also unveiled a major new feature for Diablo 3 – PvP Arena Battles. Players can join solo or in groups to take on other players through the Battle.net matchmaking service. Read on for more about Diablo 3
The launch of Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001 vaulted Bungie to the top of the game development industry and helped provide a stable foundation for the success of the original Xbox. Nine years later, having completed a trilogy and a standalone expansion for the Halo universe, Bungie has returned to the IP one last time for a prequel called Halo: Reach. They clearly wanted to do right by the fans and the franchise with their final sendoff, and the effort they put into the game reflects that. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.
Slashdot regular Bennett Haselton has written a piece on a new program called Collage that can circumvent censorship by embedding messages in user-generated content on sites like Flickr. The program demonstrates that a long-standing theoretical concept can be reduced to practice but Bennett wonders if anybody would actually need it, as long as they can exchange encrypted messages over Gmail and AIM. He begins "In a presentation delivered at USENIX, Georgia Tech grad student Sam Burnett and his colleagues described how their new program, "Collage," could circumvent Internet censorship by embedding messages in user-generated content on sites like Flickr. The short version is that a publisher uses the Collage system to break a message into pieces that are small enough to embed into a photograph using standard steganography, the photos are published according to some protocol (e.g. "all photos in the photostream of user xyz" or "all photos tagged with the 'xyz' tag"), and receivers who know the protocol for identifying the photos, can retrieve them and decode the message. According to the authors' paper, the system is general enough that it could be adapted to almost any site where user-generated content is published. (All of this can be done by hand using existing tools, but Collage automates the process to hide the individual steps from the user.)"
Slashdot regular Bennett Haselton writes in with an essay on a subject we've dealt with internally at Slashdot for years: user abuses of social news... this time at Digg. He starts "Alternet uncovers evidence of a 'bury brigade' coordinating efforts to 'bury' left-leaning stories on Digg. Digg had previously announced that the 'bury' button will be removed from the next version of their site, to prevent these types of abuses, but that won't fix the real underlying issue — you can show mathematically that artificially promoting stories is just as harmful in the long run. Here's a simple fix that would address the real problem."
Western-themed shooters are not a particularly well-explored video game genre. When the first details of Red Dead Redemption began leaking out, there was skepticism that an open world in such a setting could rival the depth of the Grand Theft Auto series. One of Rockstar San Diego's biggest challenges was building a world that looked and felt like the cultural and historical image we have of the Wild West. It's a task with more constraints than in many similar games — futuristic sci-fi settings, stylized interpretations of modern places, or Tolkien-esque fantasy all allow nearly unbounded creativity — yet no less in scope. In Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar achieved this, building a world that is huge and unknown, yet still deeply familiar. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.
Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton contributes the following piece on trying to get some measure of satisfaction in the struggle against pop-up ads, writing "The most annoying thing about some pop-up ads, is that you have no way of knowing which ad-serving network served them or who the responsible parties are. Could we reduce the incidence of illegal or deceptive pop-up ads, by giving users an easier way to trace their origin and figure out where to send complaints? Here's one way to do it with a simple right-click." Read on for the rest.
Frequent Slashdot Contributor Bennett Haselton writes in "A federal judge rules that a student can seek attorney's fees against a high school principal who suspended her for a Facebook page she made at home. Good news, but how could the school have thought they had the right to punish her for that in the first place? Posing the question not rhetorically but seriously. What is the source of society's attitudes toward the free-speech rights of 17-year-olds?"
Slashdot frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes a piece advocating for Pop-Ups and even more obtrusive advertising. But not for the reasons you might think. He says "Annoying pop-up ads have been a great friend to Internet freedom, by enabling the operation of proxy sites that would be too expensive to operate otherwise. With the rising costs of making new proxy sites to stay ahead of the 'censorware' companies, even more intrusive ads could be an even bigger friend to Internet freedom. Got any ideas for how those more intrusive ads could work?" Clicky clicky below to read his point.
Slashdot frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes "Sites that have been hacked by malware writers are now serving infected content only when the visitor views the site through a frame on Google Images. This recent twist on a standard trick used by malware writers, makes it harder for webmasters and hosting companies to discover that their sites have been infected. Automated tools that check websites for infections and training procedures for hosting company abuse-department staffers will have to be updated accordingly." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
Mass Effect debuted a little over two years ago to almost universal praise, getting high marks for the rich story, endless exploration options, and entertaining gameplay. Despite the game's success, BioWare listened closely to player feedback, promising to revamp the parts of the game that needed improvement while developing the sequel. They didn't hesitate to refine the elements they wanted to keep and do away with the ones they didn't. The result is a familiar, but much more streamlined experience. Rather than being a shooter with a great story added in, Mass Effect 2 a great story that often has you shoot things. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.