PARIS--Blizzard fans have lined up around the block of the Porte de Versailles Exposition Center in Paris, hoping to become among the first in the world to see the newly announced game from the popular developer/publisher. The 2008 Blizzard Invitational marks the first time that the company has held a fan event in Europe; during the two-day event, fans will be able to participate in tournaments, check out playable versions of two Blizzard works in progress: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and Starcraft II, attend sessions dedicated to various Blizzard games, and, most importantly, find out all about the next game the company is working on.
The Blizzard event is taking up Hall 5 of the Porte de Versailles Exposition Center, with two levels of the hall devoted to all things Blizzard. Hundreds of fans poured into the center once the event opened at 9 a.m., looking to get hands on time with Starcraft II and the Lich King expansion. In addition to huge areas devoted entirely to those games, there is also a gaming area devoted to the latest WOW expansion, The Burning Crusade. In addition, there are two stages devoted to competitive tournaments, as well as a Blizzard store, where fans can stock up on all things Blizzard.
Of course, the big news of the day is the announcement of Diablo III, and GameSpot was on the scene at the Expo Center for it. You can see the archive of our live minute-to-minute coverage of the show below.
[UPDATE] Since the initial showing, Blizzard has confirmed that Diablo III is being developed for PC and Mac only "for now," with the aim being for it to run on a broad set of systems rather than just high-end hardware. When asked for a release window, all anyone from Blizzard is willing to say is simply: "When it's ready."
Diablo III has been in development for about four years, and now has a team of 50-55 developers dedicated to it, according to Jay Wilson, the game's lead designer. The game will offer drop-in/drop-out co-op play over Battle.net throughout; though it will be doable as a solo player, gamers will be able to bring friends in at any stage.
Although the game is obviously not yet rated, Blizzard confirmed to GameSpot that it plans to stay true to the series' M-rated roots. The company is aiming for an ESRB M rating, and a PEGI 16+ in Europe. For more of our impressions of the game, including new information from today's Diablo III gameplay-design session, check out the just-posted first-look preview of the game.
[11:42] A smattering of applause as some (presumably) Blizzard devs walked in and took a seat in the front row...
[11:43] Here we go...quite exciting. Screens have come alive with WOW characters and artwork.
[11:46] After a brief intro, the opening ceremony has begun. A host comes out with translator... Welcome to the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational!
[11:48] Managing director of Blizzard has taken the stage to welcome the attendees.
[11:50] The hosts inadvertently try to kick the MD off the stage...but not before he declares the 2008 Invitational open!
[11:52] More Blizzard introductions include Rob Pardo, Mike Morhaime, and more...rounds of applause for all. You go, VP of Global Human Resources!
[11:54] Eight Starcraft pro gamers are welcomed onstage. First four are from Korea, natch.
[11:55] The other four pro SC players represent Germany, Poland, China, and USA.
[11:57] Warcraft III pro gamers are coming on stage now, representing France (big applause for the home guy), Korea, China, Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden.
[11:59] Teams competing in World of Warcraft Arena tourney are up on stage now.
[12:01] European WOW Arena competitors now... There's a ton of them.
[12:03] Asian teams now. Sixteen teams in all are taking part in the tourney. Not a one is dressed in costume. Bummer.
[12:05] Blizzard CEO and cofounder Mike Morhaime is taking the stage now.
[12:07] This is the first time the Blizzard Invitational has been held outside of Korea. Morhaime says it's also the biggest European gathering of Blizzard gamers ever.
[12:08] Mike recounts market research that said WOW wouldn't work in Europe. Looks like the analysts were wrong!
[12:09] Burning Crusade sold 2.4 million copies in 24 hours when it came out, says Morhaime. He also talks about Activision/Blizzard merger as a "leveling up" for the company.
[12:11] Showing video of last year's Blizzard Invitational in Seoul now, where they introduced Starcraft II. This is all fun stuff, but can we skip ahead to the new game now?
[12:13] I'm wondering how this year's Invitational stacks up to the 2007 Invitational event in terms of attendance. Last year was packed, but there's a ton of folks here in Paris too.
[12:15] Dude with guitar comes on stage...playing that familiar strummed-guitar Diablo theme! Could this be it?!
[12:15] "It is my pleasure to present to you the world premiere of Blizzard's newest game..."
[12:16] Flame on a stick... "It has been said..." Flame reaches candles... "That in the end of all things..." Candles mounted on skulls... "We would find a new beginning."
[12:17] "But as the shadow once again crawls across our world..." Gorgeous castle setting...scorched landscape...another city shown...now a nighttime scene.
[12:17] Teeming hordes of bad-looking dudes...war machines. A sword hurls through the air. And there he is...DIABLO!
[12:18] Diablo III logo appears on screen. There you go, folks, the mystery game revealed!
[12:18] Jay Wilson, lead designer of Diablo III, takes the stage.
[12:18] They're going to show a demo here in a bit.
[12:19] Better RPG, and a better action game. Jay reminds us that this is a work in progress. "Now, who wants to crush some demons?" (Raises hand.)
[12:19] Demo kicks off with a barbarian in an evil-looking dungeon... Demons crawling up the side of a wall to attack him from all sides. He's slicing and dicing.
[12:20] Gorgeous 3D renderings of enemies and characters. Pace seems quick but maybe a tad slower than Diablo II?
[12:21] Jay is introducing the barbarian ("one of several classes you'll be able to play"). New improvements: hot bar where you can use skills. It's where the potion bar used to be. Can quick swap between skills using mouse wheel.
[12:22] Showed a little of the inventory screen. Barbarian takes hold of two axes, one with frost enchant, the other electricity...can freeze and stun enemies. He launches into some creepy snake-looking enemies.
[12:28] Okay... Wi-Fi gave out. Here's a recap of what we missed: custom loot that looks hot as H-E-*-*, whirlwind skill is in effect for barbarians, environments are interactive (you can use walls to take down enemies), and they just showed the quest giver from Diablo II. Same voice actor, too!
[12:29] More on that armor: treasure chests won't give full sets of armor, but the armor shown is really cool.
[12:30] Barbarian now in a dungeon area, where cultists are summoning nasty, fat demon who blows away the summoners as soon as he appears. Barbarian using ranged and close attacks to take him down, as well as charge attack. Nice, bloody finishing move takes down the fat guy.
[12:30] New class: witch doctor. Control over disease, summon pets, and control minds of enemies.
[12:31] Now that we have the barb and the good witch doctor together, witch doctor casts locust swarm that devours enemies. Swarm consumes bad guys and spreads automatically...good tactic against mobs.
[12:32] First pet is the mongrel...can cast locust swarm on them to give them attack bonus.
[12:32] Witch doctor is reminiscent of necromancer, not in visual design, but in ability to summon pets (like skeletons for necro).
[12:33] Even without pets, witch doctor is capable of dealing with surprises... Horrify skill will cause enemies to run like little scared girls.
[12:34] Mass-confuse spell will turn enemies against each other.
[12:34] You've seen walls of ice and fire...but how about a WALL OF ZOMBIE. The witch doctor rules.
[12:35] Witch doctor and barbarian working together now. There are many things dying onscreen. Now they bring female versions of barbarian and witch doctor. About time the ladies get their chance!
[12:36] Demo is almost done...one more fight to see... Quartet runs into area with living trees. Firebombs going off everywhere from the two witch doctors; barbarians are cutting things up like crazy. Could we see a boss?
[12:37] YES. Huge quadruped demon wearing massive spiked gloves over his hands erupts out of a wall.
[12:37] This enemy looks to be about 10 times the size of Diablo from Diablo II. Really new sense of scale in terms of enemies and the action.
[12:38] And he's down with a thundering crash. Crowd erupts with appreciative applause.
[12:39] So there you go, an amazing demo of DIII. Any other surprises left?
[12:42] Onstage hosts are doing shout-outs now to folks from various countries. Hrmm, not much of an ending...
[12:44] Ah, the finale. A fire dancer takes the stage, performing to what sounds like the theme to the just-announced Diablo III.
[12:46] More dancers, more fire. Music sounds just like the theme to Diablo II, with more percussion to give it some movement.
[12:52] Okay, there you go, that's the end of the opening ceremonies. No platforms were announced for Diablo III, but we'll be getting as much information as we can on the game for the rest of the weekend. Be sure to stay tuned for more of our Blizzard Invitational coverage all weekend. Au revoir!