Tara's G-Spot - Event Special: BLIZZCON 2011 Coverage by Tara Babcock - www.impulsegamer.com

EVENT SPECIAL: BLIZZCON 2011 COVERAGE

Blizzard Entertainment was founded in 1991 under the name Silicon & Synapse. The Last Vikings creators finally became the company we've all heard about, and whose games we love to play today, in 1994, just before shipping out their first in a series of many Warcraft real-time strategy games. Since then, Blizzard Entertainment has enjoyed the success of three award-winning, and record breaking, massively popular franchises. Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo are legends among PC games and Blizzard's MMORPG even holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for "Most Popular MMORPG by Subscribers". StarCraft titles are played competitively all over the world, even more than ten years after their release, and Diablo fans have been dying for the new installation for just as long. A game created by Blizzard is not soon forgotten, and whether it is real-time strategy games or role-playing games set in their brilliantly crafted, lore-oriented worlds, a game created or developed by Blizzard Entertainment will almost surely be a hit.

BlizzCon is an annual convention, often in the fall, with several panels, stages, and halls dedicated to experiencing their newest content before release. Although the event is only centered around Blizzard's three main franchises and is not an industry-wide super convention full of booths of every topic a nerd's mind (like mine!) can wrap around, I think many will agree that it is the one event that's a must-visit each year. Personally, I would trade a handful of E3 passes for some time enjoying BlizzCon in Anaheim, California! I could center a lot of cosplay and paid work around it too!


Actual Diablo cosplay from the event! Miss Tyrael was pretty cute, but the winner of the costume contest was amazing. Funny how I couldn't find a picture of the "Paladin in Tier 2 gear"... probably because he wasn't a chick with big boobies! Hah!

This year's BlizzCon was the best yet! Blizzard appeared much more organized and, even though there were no promised release dates (as usual), they appeared prepared to go more in-depth than ever with the content from the new World of Warcraft expansion, the new Zerg-based StarCraft II expansion and an enticing teaser for Diablo III that they swear is right around the corner. The Global StarCraft II League held matches for the first time in the USA, alongside BlizzCon and their tournaments. Blizzard DOTA was elaborated with an amusing trailer featuring some of my favorite heroes from all of the Blizzard franchises. Most surprisingly to me, though, was the steal of a deal offered to fans who sign up to the 12-month subscription commitment through the WoW Annual Pass!

DIABLO

THE DIABLO III COLLECTOR'S EDITION

The Diablo franchise is turning 20 this year, and Blizzard won't let us forget it! The beta for Diablo III is out and thousands of lucky fans are invited to test out all there is to offer with the desperately anticipated new installment. With the beta already out, the Diablo scene had the least breaking news and exciting updates to offer fans, but that's just speaking relatively to the rest of the bustling convention.

With Diablo III supposedly right around the corner, Blizzard has announced the contents of the collector's edition. Fans who want to pay upwards of a hundred bucks will receive, along with the game, a soundtrack, behind the scenes DVD, aesthetic perks for all three of the company's current games, and a 4GB USB drive with Diablo I and II already pre-installed.

I'm excited to sport Tyrael's wings while I run around as a Demon Hunter with my buddies when the game launches! Anyone who knows me also knows I am an avid collector of WoW companion pets, so the little Fetish Shaman (I know, it sounds hotter than it is! Haha!) will be an awesome addition to my over-one-hundred-strong collection. He also might be useful during WoW Pokemon... but I'll touch on that later! I'm also looking forward to to cycling between Starcraft II Diablo avatars! My Night Elf Banshee is getting a little old. I am most excited about the USB drive, though. If not already epic enough because of its storage size and pre-loaded content, it also comes in the shape of Diablo's soul stone! Further epicness is that it also comes with a stand; not any ordinary stand, but a large skull of Diablo with a hole right in the forehead for insertion and nostalgic perfection! How awesome is that!?


"The Ultimate Diablo III Experience"... in all of its glory!

REAL-CURRENCY AUCTION HOUSE, HARDCORE MODE AND ITEM LIFE-CYCLE

I was also excited to see how the question and answer panel would address the real-currency auction house and how that will work with Hardcore mode. After all, no one wants some rich jack ass running around beating Hardcore mode every which way because he can afford epic gear! Blizzard assured us that all of the variables will be removed from the picture, and trade will only be allowed between players in the same mode. Blizzard stated, in regards to the real-currency section of the auction house, that it is not projected that anyone will make a living off of the feature, but that it might be nice to make ten bucks off of an amazing item that the player does not need. I am still unhappy about the implementation of real money into the game, and I feel it will become a game about how much cash you want to spend on your gear, rather than how long you've been playing and how skilled you are at doing so. Only time will tell, and until then, I will try to have faith in the decisions they have made, and that they won't totally ruin a game we have all waited so long to see come to fruition.

The auction house will also have a smart stacking AI and a newly designed search and advanced search, so players will be guaranteed to be able to find what they are looking for with ease. In addition, items will have more versatility and use to players for a longer period of time due to Chambers for Mystics, Blacksmiths, and Jewellers that will be able to alter items and add to their life-cycle, and expand choices for players who want to create a character based on the feel of gameplay or personal preference. I'm not convinced whether Blizzard has added these upgrades in the interest of player satisfaction and gameplay, if they noticed the problems with the AH after years of troubleshooting WoW issues, or if they are just trying to make it as easy as possible to use so that they make a profit off of the real-currency transactions. Yeah, did I forget to mention that Blizzard takes a cut from each trade? Eliminating gold farming or getting desperate for cash? I'm not sure of the position I take yet!

The most amusing question I heard from the panel was "Is Diablo male or female?" I scoff at such a notion of the massive, fiery behemoth being an estrogen-pumping woman! The answer, however paraphrased this is, was, "Well, Diablo comes in many forms and is not bound by our human gender characteristics." How politically correct is that!?

HOW TO GET DIABLO III FOR FREE!

Blizzard took me by surprise when they announced that anyone who commits to making monthly payments for a World of Warcraft subscription for a whole year will receive a digital copy of Diablo III the instant it is released. In addition, players who decide to take advantage of this subscription commitment also receive Tyrael's charger as a mount in WoW, and an access code to WoW's new expansion's beta as soon as it is available! It's a brilliant idea to make WoW betas less exclusive, as whole guilds will get the opportunity to learnt the new content and their toon's talent and class alternatives. As much as I have researched, I see no downside to this. Although the title, "World of Warcraft Annual Pass" can sound expensive, you do not have to pay the whole years’ worth up front to receive the perks, and if you need to cancel, you just lose your virtual game copy. What's more, for those of us who want the collector's edition hard copy, entering the pin into your Battle.net account will discount the amount spent from your Warcraft subscription so that you end up getting the collector's edition difference back in free WoW months! The only caveat is that you must have created a World of Warcraft account on or before October 18 of this year in order to qualify, but deactivated accounts will still be eligible.

As a last thought, the Book of Cain is coming out soon! That's going to be a really intense read so it's best to keep an eye out for that also! I can't wait for the upgraded town portal-slash-hearthstone coming in Diablo III either!

STARCRAFT

NEW CHANGES TO MULTI-PLAYER UNITS

With the Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm expansion on its way, Blizzard decided to announce all of the new units, and upgrades to old units, all races will be seeing in multi-player mode. My favorite, being a Terran-only player, is the Hellion's Battle Mode. Hellions will now be able to transform into a standing unit, and though their flames reach a shorter distance, it will be wide Area of Effect damage that will make Hellions viable in later game strategies against a barrage of light units. The Shredder is a new Terran addition. When an enemy gets near, it will activate and AoE damage ability as well, but if a friendly player comes within range, it will deactivate. This will minimize friendly fire and will also eliminate the possibility of Terrans being over-powered by sticking a bunch of them in each base and desecrating any enemy units who try to advance. But the main thing it will prevent, is adding to the already crazy “Terran Death Balls” (clever compositions of units clumped up and moving together), because they would have to be far away from it in order to be able to engage. I'm never opposed to being over powering, but I understand (I guess!) the need for balance, which is Blizzard's main objective in the new SCII multi-player changes. The final addition that Terrans will receive is the Warhound. Essentially a mini-Thor, this unit will be more mobile, but have a shorter range. It's effective against air and ground units with extra damage toward mechanical units. I'll definitely be training them for Terran and Protoss opponents!


Hellion Battle model, Shredder and badass Warhound, respectively.

The Zerg enthusiasts will encounter two interesting new units this expansion for further multi-player action! The Viper will be a flying unit with abilities such as Occular Parasite. This is a freaky one-time ability that allows the viper to pull out his own eye and attach it to a small friendly unit nearby, making him a detector, and instilling more paranoia in me about the random Zergling scouters who come in proximity to my base. Vipers will also have an ability that pulls an enemy to it, in real Mortal Kombat fashion, and another that will reduce attack range of enemies. Essentially, the Viper will be a bad ass saboteur, screwing up my Marines and Thors every chance it gets! The other Zerg unit is the Swarm Host. This weirdo is slow-moving with no attack, but let him burrow underground and he'll unleash a ton of Locust that will make you say "GG"!


Swarm Host and Viper, respectively. *Shiver* Aren't they cute!?

The Protoss will see a swap of units. Unfortunately they are eliminating the Carrier unit as the main airborne capital ship, for the Tempest. Although cool-looking, it is disheartening that I won't have to try killing a giant ship that spits out crazy AoE babies anymore! Oh, wait... The Tempest is pretty much the same design, just a bit more menacing and a little less appearing as it is capable of flight, with an additional ground attack. The Oracle is another new Stargate airship. It has multiple abilities to harass and ruin my SC experience. Among them are the spell to force field minerals so that they cannot be mined, access of vision of an enemy building, along with what it is doing and its upgrades, and the protection of a targeted building through phasing. Replicants are another new unit, and are pretty damn cool. One of the developers from the StarCraft panel stated that the design had been something he created as more of a personal project, and he was excited that they finally found a use for it. Essentially, a Replicant will transform into any unit, but at a cost. It makes me want to play around with the Protoss a bit, just so I can try out the added strategies they will offer after the expansion is out!


Oracle, Replicant and Tempest, respectively. For Aiur!

BLIZZARD DOTA

The Blizzard DOTA is going to be the new official Blizzard developed custom game in Starcraft II. What's really exciting about this custom game, besides all of the work that Blizzard is putting into perfecting it and making it as good as if it were a stand alone game, is that it is a revival of the Defense of the Ancients custom map from Warcraft III. I'm totally going to play as Nova, the blonde bombshell Terran Ghost that I mentioned in my 20 Hottest Video Game Babes article. There will also be a plethora of other well-known heroes from Starcraft, Warcraft and Diablo universes as well as distinct roles that they play. Tanks, damage-dealers and supporting, or healing, heroes will be available to help lead your team to victory! The graphics look awesome and the match-making engine appears to be great; Blizzard wants to put extra care in making sure matches are balanced and that your gameplay experience is up to par with everything else they offer.


Is that Tychus, or just some random Marine? Man, I can't believe he's gone!

2011 GLOBAL BATTLE.NET INVITATIONAL: STARCRAFT II

The 2011 Global Battle.net Invitational was also held during BlizzCon, and was comprised of some of the best StarCraft II players from around the world. Players like Dimaga, NesTea, SeleCT, Mvp, Sen and NaNiwa battled it out for the last spot on the bracket. It was a close battle between NesTea and Mvp, with Mvp even having to compete in the consolation (cough, loser's, cough) bracket, but he came out victorious in the end, despite his losses suffered the day before during the GSL competition.


Go Terrans! Why aren't there virtually any Protoss pros!? 

THE GLOBAL STARCRAFT II LEAGUE: OCTOBER SEASON

Excitingly, the GSL decided to hold their league competitions for the first time in America alongside BlizzCon and the Battle.net invitational. Many players from Korea, as well as GOMtv flew to California for the event and, despite most people believing that Mvp would take te gold, MMA came out on top and won the check for, what looked like, an enormous amount of Korean currency. Either that, or they scale up like crazy similar to Yen! Hey, guys... can I exchange this penny for 3408383208429384 Yen plox, kthanks! Hah! It was surprising to see Mvp do so poorly when it seemed as though the crowd favored him and appeared to be certain he would reign victorious.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT

THE NEW EXPANSION ANNOUNCED: MISTS OF PANDARIA

Blizzard surprised the crap out of me when they announced that the new WoW expansion was going to have an Asian theme, and that it was going to be based around... pandas? I was convinced that the next patch was going to be a lot like the others where some crazy event, or evil demon, was going to come and threaten life on Azeroth, but Blizzard decided to innovate their linear path of destruction for something very, very... different!

As the story goes, there's this place called Pandaria that has been hidden by a thick cloud of mist for millennia. The place is ancient, and the people have not been tainted by the warring conflicts of the Horde and Alliance factions. When they discover that there is this rich ecosystem with skilled Monk Pandaren fighters, and new ways to make money and further their war, they invade. Chris Metzen, VP of creative development at Blizzard, had stated at the event that this fourth expansion will be the calm before the storm; that a massive war is brewing between the red and blue. To me, that foreshadows the fifth expansion also differing from those of the past, and focusing not on the Horde and Alliance having to come together to defeat a similar enemy, but that the fight will be between each other. The thought of your faction changing what kind of raids and dungeons you will be doing, or what kind of content will be available to you, is exciting!

Of course, with the expansion, level 90 will be the new maximum level, and a new class, the Monk, will become playable, as well as the Pandaren race as characters. What's the most ground-breaking about the Pandaren is that they will not be faction-specific. There are a few adventurous Pandaren who sought to explore the world outside of Pandaria, so they created this place to live in (on the back of a giant sea turtle, no less!) and set sail. They are the Pandaren we will be playing. Once characters level up to 10, they will be forced to choose a faction, because of the invasion of Azeroth, and will from then on support the Horde or Alliance. The real mystery still is... what do the women pandas look like!?


The Pandaren race is far better graphics than the older classes, with nearly ten times more polygons in the facial structure of the creatures! Cool!

Nine new dungeons and three new raids will also come with this expansion, as well as some very interesting new enemies, content, and changes to existing characters that I'm excited to explore... and kill!

RENOVATED TALENT SYSTEM

Anyone who plays World of Warcraft knows that the specs of each class are best found online. Talents are not chosen based off of what the players want, or what is interesting to them, but rather, what will make them the best. Blizzard was sick of this lack of customizability and formulated a plan to be rid of the cookie cutter builds once and for all! No more talent trees for Restoration Shamans with a bunch of healing talents and spells that are necessary for success. No more added talents that no one will ever choose!

The new idea is to give each class and spec all of the passive abilities and spells necessary to be that spec right off the bat. There will be no need to talent into things that are do-or-die for your class and, in theory, no need to check another player's spec to see why he is so damn bad during a pick up group. There will be six tiers of talents that become available at different levels, with three choices each. The choices are said to be balanced so that players can choose any they want, based on their playing styles. Any choice made will be viable, and will not directly affect the amount of damage or healing done, but instead the way that it is performed. In addition, all characters of a specific class will have the same tree. For example, the first tier of Hunter talents allows for the choice between Frozen Arrows, Arcane Arrows or Venom Tipped Arrows. This is simply a choice between whether you want to slow your opponent, get a bit of focus regeneration, or do a Damage over Time effect to your enemy. Blizzard swears that any damage differences in choices are so minute that players can feel free to choose any without scrutiny from other players. I am excited for more customization, and I will not be looking up my talent tree online any longer!


An example of the new talent system. This is a Hunter tree. YAY!

While I am on the topic of Hunters, all pets will also be able to be Tenacity, Cunning or Ferocity as they please. Although I am a little sad that these pet talents will no longer make sense (Turtles are obviously tanks and not damage pets! Come on!), I am excited to have my invisible Jormungar Worm pet in my raids when I am DPSing, then switch him to a Cunning PVP build with ease!

The last notable thing to mention is that they are going to attempt to make spec changing easier than ever before. Think slowing arrows will work better for specific adds on a certain boss fight? Go right ahead! Blizzard claims to have a reagent-based, class trainer absent way to change your talents freely in the new expansion. This will be similar to changing glyphs, and I cannot be happier to hear this! Now a Paladin can easily be a tank, DPS, healer, or have a PVP build without the hassle!

CHALLENGE MODE DUNGEONS AND THE RETURN OF WORLD RAID BOSSES

From what I have gathered of Blizzard's new challenge modes, I am in love! Gear will scale up and down, so there is no reason to whine or complain that someone is better because their gear excelled, and they are timed with different leaderboards that show off who is the best of the best, skill-wise. As a co-guild leader, I've always found it frustrating that people who have the time to play for hours a day, or who have the most people in their guild, get the best gear first, accelerating their success to the top of the server in raids, etcetera. This way, the challenge is just to be better at your class, and a more skilled player. I also feel like I will use this to compare myself to other Hunters, Shamans and whatever other classes without wondering, Hmm, I have a lower item level than Naay, but he's in PVP gear. I wonder if I'm doing well or poorly! I'm excited to get a guild group together and compete! As a reward, you will get Valor points, as you will with everything after the expansion debuts, and you will also get awesome gear for transmogrification to show off your skills!

World bosses are back! This hasn't been seen in WoW since the game came out, and by popular demand, they will be brought back for Mists! Groups can get together to find and fight a boss somewhere outdoors in the world, rather than in a portal or dungeon, and can kill it for loot and Valor. This adds a different goal to achieve weekly. Rather than just entering a portal, phasing out and running the same linear path, groups will be able to engage an enemy, as well as fight the opposing factions who are doing so as well. It adds a nice player versus player aspect and, in my opinion, it will imbue the game with a fresh new objective for my guild to complete frequently, without it feeling like a grind. You'll never know who's lurking around the corner waiting to screw up your encounter!

VANITY PET BATTLE SYSTEM

I've left this topic for the last item on my Mists of Pandaria checklist because it is my single favorite thing in the whole wide world! I am so, so, so (did I say so!?) happy to hear that they are implementing a larger scope for the WoW vanity pets than just the collecting of them and letting them follow you around! You will be able to rename them, level them up, and gain abilities for them. You will be able to put them in battle teams and yes, you will be able to fight and capture wild critters too! Blizzard staff tried hard not to even smirk at the Pokemon references during the convention, but in doing so proved to me that they've created it so similar, that they are in fear of a copyright lawsuit! Just like Pokemon, there are ladders and world trainers that you will have to travel to and battle for a badge. Is anyone else excited to fight Bisty and Mrock at the Celurean gym? Gotta catch 'em all!

I've always bought the vanity pets, looked for them, grinded for them, and spent my hard earned in-game gold on my favorites in the auction house. Now I am excited to name all one-hundred-and-fifty (no pun intended) of mine, and rule the pet arena of my server! Look it up, I'll be top five for sure! YAY! It makes me feel a little less depressed that Hunter pets and Beast Mastery are, again, getting overlooked and screwed.


W
ho doesn't have a Mechanical Yeti!?

2011 GLOBAL BATTLE.NET INVITATIONAL: 3v3 ARENA TEAMS

The team OMG placed first in the bracket this year. They've been pretty big in the arena scene thus far, and it was no surprise that they kicked ass once again, taking no names, only epic titles!


Why is it always 3v3 teams? Why not 2v2 or 5v5? Where the hell are the solo PVP arenas!? Why not!?

BlizzCon 2011 is truly one for the books. There was more information than ever on the upcoming World of Warcraft content, more stupendous contest coverage, and more interesting questions answered in the open panels. Blizzard appears to be trying harder than ever to let fans know what is in store, and why. I was impressed that there was not one single fan in the panel who could outsmart the team with a question they didn't have an answer for. Whether or not the new talent trees in WoW suck, or whether Diablo's real money will corrupt the game, is only for time to tell. Will the Protoss or Zerg be over powered? Either way, I stand by Blizzard and their games, because I know they are doing their best in an over-competitive industry and that's why they rock! My only question is... what's up with Titan!? 

MEANWHILE, IN TARA LAND...

I'm flying out to Los Angeles tomorrow for the Glamourcon 52 event this weekend! I'll be gone for a week, and even though it's been crazy, I promised to get another article to you guys before I go. I've been working my butt off to create the best booth possible, and the coolest outfits that I can, because you all know I'm an insane perfectionist! If I don't have the hottest look, the happiest clients and fans, and the coolest booth, then I am completely unsatisfied! The same goes for my articles here at Impulse Gamer. Covering BlizzCon was just something that had to be done, even with my busy schedule, and I know what I will miss the most while I am gone is my 2v2 Starcraft II team and my raid nights in WoW!


Last year's booth! Crap compared to this year for sure! Excited to see the results?

In addition to a cool booth, guess what I'm doing at Glamourcon! Nope... wrong. Cosplay! I'll have some pictures for you guys with my next article!

For Ask Tara this week some awesome human being and/or Super Saiyan submitted, "How do you game and keep such a hot body, and what are your tips for gamers?" Well, what I have noticed is that a lot of people get sucked into games because they're so much more fun than working, going to the gym and other activities. While I agree, I also feel like it would be no fun to be a fatty who loves video games with no career, hah! I view fitness and health as something that is non-negotiable. Sure, when I am out shooting for ten hours a day I am envisioning myself as Tifa Lockhart, battling monsters alongside Cloud, and yeah, I am wishing I could do that all day (and I occasionally do!), but there are priorities. Make a list of things you need to do and do them. Once that's done... go play! I was actually thinking of doing an article on a similar topic in the near future! Stay tuned! As for how I stay fit generally? I'm in the gym every other day doing cardio and weight lifting, I am a vegan and I eat healthy, and I have a cheat meal once a week for motivation!

Less than a week until my birthday! Check this out! Hehe! 

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