ANAHEIM, Calif.--It may be a cool, balmy morning in Anaheim, but the fires of Cataclysm and Diablo have the town's Convention Center running hot. Twenty thousand of Blizzard Entertainment's faithful have come to BlizzCon 2010, all waiting to get the latest word on their favorite franchise from the studio, be it World of Warcraft, Starcraft II, or Diablo III.
As is customary, CEO Mike Morhaime will take the stage this morning to greet attendees and offer a state of the union address on his company's wares. Last year, the studio used the opening ceremony to announce Cataclysm, the latest expansion to the 12-million-player-strong massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft.
However, with Blizzard offering a December 7 date for the expansion earlier this month as well as saying that Starcraft II's second installment would not arrive until 2012, it remains to be seen what, if anything, the studio will announce today.
Could it be word on the final class for Diablo III, or perhaps an even bigger announcement for the infernal franchise? And what about that highly secretive new massively multiplayer online game Blizzard is working on? Those answers may be revealed, shortly…
[10:58] It wasn't just like a stampede entering the Anaheim Convention Center…it was a stampede, as literally tens of thousands of eager gamers flooded through the doors at 10 a.m. sharp.
[10:59] An hour on, and Blizzard appears to be ready to take the stage, though the lights have yet to come down.
[11:00] Of course, plenty of dry ice is in the air, fogging concert stage lights and providing an eerie glow in the auditorium.
[11:01] The stage itself has been flipped this year, with Blizzard forgoing the long and narrow corridor of the ACC's main hall in favor of a more horizontal view.
[11:01] And it begins!
[11:01] The lights have dimmed, and a trailer begins to unspool on the main stage. It appears to be for Diablo III.
[11:02] Nope, more than that, a sizzle reel for Blizzard's entire catalog: Diablo III, Cataclysm, and Starcraft II.
[11:02] And to the stage comes Gary Plattner, a lead artist on the WOW team.
[11:02] Plattner caters to the crowd, promising that everyone here will "make friends that will last a lifetime."
[11:03] Plattner is taking care of a little housekeeping, warning the crowd that if they leave their seat in this cavernous hall, they may not get their seat back.
[11:03] Plattner is now going over "appropriate audience reactions."
[11:03] First, the golf clap--"OK, all right." You give this one when you have no idea what Morhaime has said.
[11:03] The second, he says, is mostly verbal, and goes a bit like, "Whooa, wow, oooh, yeah."
[11:04] "Awesome, good job everyone, that sounded really weird."
[11:05] Now, he wants everyone to go crazy. "I want everyone to hear it back in Korea."
[11:05] On the count of three a chorus of cheers erupts, some whistles, a few yays.
[11:09] Star Jeweled, Aiur Chef, Left 2 Die, and "Blizzard DOTA" are all games that Blizzard made with Starcraft II's map editor.
[11:09] They will all be released for free over the next few months, but BlizzCon attendees get to try them today.
[11:10] Morhaime is now running through panels that will be hosted during the next two days.
[11:11] The pandaren monk pet charity auction earned more than $1 million for the Make a Wish Foundation, he says.
[11:11] The moonkin hatchling will be the next charity auction.
[11:12] Blizzard will also be auctioning off actual WOW server hardware, with 100 percent donated to charity.
[11:13] This year apparently wasn't a very good one for the Lich King, Morhaime says. The archvillain has now been slain in excess of 400,000 times.
[11:14] It's a good year for Blizzard, because it is the first time since 1998 that the company will ship two games: Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
[11:14] Starcraft II, he said, is the top PC game of 2010 and the fastest-selling strategy game of all time.
[11:15] Morhaime now introduces a trailer touting the company's highlights from the past year.
[11:16] It begins with BlizzCon 2009, with footage from the event including intros for the monk in Diablo III, the announcement of Cataclysm, and the ever-popular costume contest.
[11:17] It then transitions to Starcraft II's global launch, with footage of launch events from around the globe.
[11:17] France, Germany, Africa, and, of course, Korea.
[11:18] Following the game's release, hundreds of tournaments were held.
[11:19] The Global Starcraft League gets ample playtime, as this year's grand winner is shown kissing a crystal trophy.
[11:19] And Morhaime is back.
[11:19] The two top Starcraft II players in the world will apparently be playing an exhibition match tonight.
[11:20] More than $200,000 will be handed out in prize money over the next 48 hours.
[11:21] Morhaime is now trumpeting the panels again, as well as noting that comedian Jay Mohr is back to host the community contest.
[11:21] The contests involve cosplay and dance-offs.
[11:22] The crowd reacts favorably to Morhaime's name-check of Tenacious D, which will be playing tomorrow night.
[11:22] "Some of the content will not be appropriate for most age groups," he notes.
[11:22] He's now talking about Cataclysm, saying the beta testing has been "extremely successful" so far.
[11:23] Players will be able to preorder the expansion directly from Blizzard for the first time.
[11:24] You can download all of the content in advance and start playing as soon as the servers come on, at midnight PST on December 7.
[11:24] Preorders will begin soon.
[11:24] And now, a "major update on Diablo III."
[11:24] Senior VP of creative development Chris Metzen takes the stage.
[11:25] Metzen is rambling, saying he had no idea what he wanted to talk about on the stage today.
[11:25] He wants to roll a number of words out, and he wants people to respond.
[11:25] The first word is: Horde.
[11:26] A low rumble and some whistles come.
[11:26] The second word: Diablo.
[11:26] More rumble.
[11:26] Third word: Alliance.
[11:26] Lots of booing on that one. "Keep it clean, keep it clean."
[11:26] Fourth word: Starcraft. Some polite clapping.
[11:27] What he hears as people respond is "passion, identity."
[11:27] The fifth word…apparently requires a preamble.
[11:27] It can be contentious, it can be used in many types of speech.
[11:27] It can be crushing, it can be energizing.
[11:28] And the word is, and he gets out his "roboclicker." Nope, i guess he's going to take a drink of water first.
[11:28] This had better be good…
[11:29] The word is "geek," which is prominently displayed on BlizzCon's main stage screen.
[11:29] "This word is power, this word is identity, this is our word," he says.
[11:30] He's now rolling slides.
[11:30] What was that about Diablo?
[11:31] The first slide is some transformers. The second is a 20-sided dice.
[11:31] The third slide is Conan the Barbarian, as portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
[11:31] The next slide is of Captain America.
[11:31] All of these slides are accompanied by the chant "Geek is."
[11:31] Samurai Shodown II slide is next.
[11:32] And then it's a shot of Lion-O from Thundercats.
[11:32] And now the audience is cheering to a screencap from Star Wars IV.
[11:32] Action figures with a kung fu grip is next.
[11:33] Still nothing on Diablo…
[11:33] And now--Batman! Many attendees appear to begin wondering what the point of this exercise is.
[11:33] The Matrix, Keanu bending a spoon.
[11:34] Hey, now we're looking at Tobey Maguire looking at his fancy new Spider-Man suit.
[11:34] "Geek is!" a shot of Doom II, apparently.
[11:34] It's also Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.
[11:35] Thor's next? Thought we already touched on the comic book geekdom.
[11:35] What else is geek? Battlestar Galactica, of course.
[11:35] And now a name-check of EverQuest. "None of this would be here without EverQuest," he says.
[11:36] Geek is: the movie 300.
[11:36] Geek is: Avatar.
[11:37] Geek is: Jean-Luc Picard as the Borg.
[11:38] Geek is: the original dungeon master screen for AD&D from back in the day.
[11:38] Lord of the Rings is also geek, didn't you know.
[11:39] Hey look, more comic book characters, as Superman rips his clothes off on the main stage screen.
[11:39] "There is a hero inside of every one of us waiting to come forward," says Metzen. Is this BlizzCon or a Tony Robbins seminar?
[11:39] All right, the clicker is gone, and it appears as if Metzen might actually say something about Diablo III now.
[11:40] "The point of this is that our company builds giant video games. We run massive online worlds, and it can feel like big business," he says.
[11:40] "But despite all the high-tech stuff surrounding us, the truest spirit of BlizzCon is you. It's about our collective geekiness."
[11:40] "It's about having fun. It's about inspiration."
[11:41] "On behalf of all my brothers and sisters at Blizzard, I just want to thank you for coming."
[11:41] "With all of that having been said, we've got some business to discuss."
[11:42] All right! We're finally taking about Diablo.
[11:42] "In mere seconds, we will show the fifth and final player class in Diablo III."
[11:42] Looks like that's the big announcement this year.
[11:42] And a trailer rolls.
[11:42] It begins by showing corpses lined up in a mystical circle.
[11:42] A woman in armor is revealed.
[11:43] Her eyes glow gray as she appears to gain some kind of foresight by touching the bodies of the dead.
[11:43] "You probably ran until you couldn't take another step," the woman says to a survivor.
[11:44] On come hordes of demons, and the woman whips out dual crossbows.
[11:44] "No, as long as I'm here, they are the prey, and I am the hunter."
[11:44] It definitely looks like a Van Helsing-style class.
[11:45] "I stand alone, and if they keep coming, I will never stop killing."
[11:45] Demon hunter is the official name of the class.
[11:45] Metzen is back.
[11:45] He's wrapping up, saying that the demon hunter is playable.
[11:46] "Diablo fans, this isn't the only thing we have for you today."
[11:46] "We are also pleased to announce PVP battle arenas."
[11:46] Another video is cued up.
[11:46] It shows arena battles, with class-based combat.
[11:47] The monk, the barbarian, the witch doctor, the demon hunter, and the wizard are all here.
[11:47] PVP also has team-based battles, with three-on-three combat shown.
[11:47] The PVP battles show the same kind of isometric view that the Diablo series is known for, and it appears a good bit of strategy will be involved.
[11:48] Looks like Blizzard will be introducing a new title to its tournament circuit.
[11:49] Looks like that's it for Diablo III, as Metzen is now talking a bit about the new Cataclysm trailer that debuted earlier this month.
[11:49] Sounds like Blizzard's audio engineers have remastered it.
[11:50] Looks like an AV spectacle, as the screens go black and the concert stage's main lights do all the work.
[11:53] If nothing else, it certainly is loud.
[11:53] After the thunderous trailer ends, the opening ceremony concludes.
[11:53] And that's it!