ANAHEIM, California--BlizzCon 2009 has thus far been an eventful one for fans of Blizzard Entertainment. The biggest announcement so far pertains to Blizzard's massively popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft, with the game maker announcing the game's third full expansion, Cataclysm. As part of the opening ceremony, Blizzard also unveiled the monk class as the fourth that will be playable in its action role-playing game Diablo III.
Starcraft II fans haven't been left out in the cold either. Blizzard has confirmed that the sci-fi real-time strategy game's eagerly anticipated beta-test period is expected to begin before the end of the year. Earlier this month, Blizzard said that the first installment in the Starcraft II trilogy, Wings of Liberty, is now expected to launch during the first half of 2010 alongside a revamped Battle.net, which executive VP of game design Rob Pardo discussed in detail during a panel yesterday.
With so much attention already paid to Starcraft II's lauded multiplayer component, the company has also begun to pull back the curtain on the game's single-player campaign. As previously announced, Wings of Liberty will largely follow the human faction, focusing primarily on the travails of Terran marine Jim Raynor, who has gone rogue and must grapple with human Emperor Mengsk from the first game as well as his ongoing conflict with one-time love interest and Zerg hive queen Kerrigan.
To delve deeper into the game, Blizzard will discuss Starcraft II lore, as well as maybe reveal a few surprises for the upcoming game.
[2:28] It's day two of BlizzCon, and convention attendees are beginning to show signs of being overloaded by the avalanche of Blizzard's wares.
[2:29] But the turnout for the Starcraft II lore panel appears to be substantial. With five minutes before the session begins, the masses have already taken their seats, filling up easily a hundred rows in front of the BlizzCon main stage.
[2:29] With a melodramatic rock tune wailing over the stage's towering main speakers, the crowd emits a hum and bustle...a marked contrast from the raw enthusiasm seen during the opening ceremony yesterday.
[2:29] Just a few more minutes before the panel is expected to begin, and not a single A/V guy in sight. The stage is heavily stocked with Mountain Dew, though.
[2:30] And we've got an A/V dude sighting! He appears to be fiddling with one of the laptops set up on the stage.
[2:33] And here we go, as the giant projector screens flip to a Starcraft theme.
[2:33] On hand is Chris Metzen, VP of creative development.
[2:33] Metzen greets the crowd, and they spring to life. He says that this year's lore panel will be a bit different, and he is talking about the voice-overs in the game.
[2:34] He says the cast of Starcraft II is going to be on the panel.
[2:34] Metzen introduces "the one honest man in the universe," Jim Raynor, and he plays a clip of an in-game cinematic.
[2:35] And out comes the man voicing Raynor, Robert Clotworthy.
[2:36] Metzen then rolls a second clip, and its Protoss Zeratul, voiced by Fred Tatasciore.
[2:37] Metzen is now introducing a new Starcraft character, someone they made up after beginning work on the game, Tychus Findlay, who is voiced by Neil Kaplan.
[2:39] Metzen now introduces voice director Andread Romano.
[2:39] Another new character, Metzen says, one who hasn't been talked about much, is Gabriel Tosh, voiced by Dave Fennoy.
[2:40] Another old-school character, Metzen says, is next, the tyrannt you love to hate, Arcturus Mengsk, who is voiced by James Harper.
[2:42] After replacing the original Kerrigan, a move that caused some measure of uproar on the forums, Metzen introduces Tricia Helfer, best known as Six on Battlestar Galactica.
[2:44] Metzen says that the panel will be roundtable, mostly.
[2:44] He asks Clotworthy what it's like to be Jim Raynor, who replies that he's thrilled to see so many people in the audience.
[2:45] He seems genuinely awestruck by the massive amount of people, but plays to the crowd saying "this game rocks."
[2:45] Metzen says that Clotworthy's voice really influenced the development of Raynor's character.
[2:45] Metzen then directs a question to Romano, who essentially directs the voice actors.
[2:45] Romano says that what's interesting about voice acting is that you can never tell what kind of voice is going to come out of a person.
[2:46] Romano, who had worked with Clotworthy on shows such as Warner Bros.' Animaniacs, was shocked that Clotworthy was the voice behind Raynor. She was surprised by the depth and range in his voice.
[2:46] Clotworthy says that Raynor is the reluctant hero and a great role model, and there's a great responsibility in performing the role.
[2:50] Metzen is now talking Tatasciore, who voices Zeratul. The previous voice actor of Zeratul passed away a number of years ago, Metzen says, and Tatasciore was a lucky find.
[2:50] Tatasciore, who also voices the SCII character Swann, begins in a highly, nasally voice and then switches to a booming baritone. Yeah, he's got range as well it would seem.
[2:50] Tatasciore says that he sees the character as a kind of "good Darth Vader."
[2:50] Metzen is now talking to Neil Kaplan, who does Tychus Findlay, saying that Kaplan's voice also influenced the character development of Findlay.
[2:51] Findlay, who is scrawny, with large glasses, doesn't even remotely fit the profile of someone who emits the voice of Kaplan, a brawny, special ops warrior.
[2:51] The best thing about playing as Findlay, he says, is that you can stay up until 5 a.m. drinking scotch, and you'll be OK voicing him.
[2:53] Metzen is now talking to Dave Fennoy, who voices Tosh. Fennoy's appearance isn't far off from Tosh's, actually, with his long braids.
[2:54] Tosh (no relation to Peter) is a bit of a lethal Jamaican, and Fennoy has fun onstage describing in the voice the ways in which Tosh likes to deal with people.
[2:55] He says that someplace deep inside, there's something good about Tosh, but he knows that if he is going to survive, he has to look out for number one.
[2:56] Tosh's inclusion in the storyline is the "kind of do as thou will," Metzen says, a product of the very hard, brutal, rough universe.
[2:56] Yeah, things are tough all over.
[2:57] Tosh also has a tie to the character of Nova, best known as the lead in the canceled Starcraft: Ghost console title.
[2:57] She will apparently make a cameo in the game.
[2:58] Metzen is now talking to Harper, who voices the maniacal Arcturus Mengsk.
[2:59] Harper says that it took about three and a half hours to voice his part in the game.
[3:00] He says that he's still got an unopened copy of the game.
[3:03] He is also recalling the process from the original game, saying that Blizzard wasn't that big back then, and it's such a different experience now.
[3:04] Metzen now moves to Tricia Helfer, the new Kerrigan. Metzen asks if there are any Battlestar Galactica fans in the room, and the crowd goes absolutely nuts.
[3:04] Helfer says that it's very intimidating to come into a game that you don't really know the history of. "I'm kind of a video game virgin in terms of playing."
[3:04] "Frogger was the last game I played, and that was in the '80s."
[3:06] She says her experience on Battlestar has helped with the role of Kerrigan, as well as "voicing more than that character for the game." She will also be voicing the Queen of Blades, since they stem from the same person.
[3:06] She says that it was interesting trying to bring in the character of Kerrigan into the voice of Queen of Blades, who is apparently fun to play due to her diabolical nature.
[3:07] She says that her role will be fairly light in the first installment in the game. "Cut to next year, and I'll have a lot more to say."
[3:08] A lot of the scenes Helfer will be doing in the first game will be delivered as flashbacks from the original Starcraft storyline.
[3:11] Metzen is then asking Romano what it was like to corral all the highly vibrant characters in the game.
[3:11] Because she came into the game about a year ago, Romano says that when she came on, it was important to know if Blizzard had the full story arc planned out.
[3:11] She says it was very helpful to have Metzen close by, and she regularly checked in with him to keep all of the storyline straight so that she would know how to have the actors act and react to one another.
[3:12] Romano says that thanks to the long development cycle of games, it's a luxury to be able to go in and fix dialogue and recraft it so it comes out with the highest quality possible.
[3:13] She says that Blizzard's games are in many ways like directing a movie, thanks to the complexity of the scenes and the intricate storyline.
[3:13] Looks like the panel is transitioning to a question-and-answer section.
[3:13] There's a mad rush to the microphone.
[3:18] The first is for Romano, and the question is whether or not the voice director will also be working on Diablo III.
[3:18] The questioner also wanted to know how to break into the business, and Romano says that the best way is to take acting lessons. If you just have a good range in voice, "you're probably good at parties, but it may be hard to find a job."
[3:18] She apparently wasn't interested in answering the Diablo III question. Next questioner!
[3:18] Talking with seeming marbles in his mouth, the questioner wants to know if the voice actors visualize themselves as the character they are playing when they are doing the voice-over.
[3:18] Kaplan, who voices Findlay, says that it helps him a lot, and he makes a self-deprecating joke about his spindly size in comparison to Findlay.
[3:19] Fennoy agrees, and he says that it's important to know Tosh's backstory as much as his visual appearance to get into the role.
[3:19] Tatasciore chimes in, saying it's also important to know what your character wants.
[3:20] Helfer says that taking acting lessons really helps in this process, because it really teaches you the prep work involved. Because she is newer at voice work, she finds that she has to visualize the character more so than when she herself is in front of a camera.
[3:26] Metzen takes the chance to give kudos to the writing team and designers, who have helped to paint these portraits for the voice actors.
[3:26] Next question: At the end of Brood War, there is a hidden map. Will that come back?
[3:29] Metzen says that it heralds everything and will impact all three games to come.
[3:29] The theme that Dark Origin sets in our minds, he says, is one of the most central points to the Starcraft lore.
[3:29] Next question: Is the cast onstage all signed for all three games?
[3:29] "We certainly want that to happen."
[3:29] The actors appear to be keen on returning.
[3:29] Helfer chimes in, "I know you don't, I know you don't," to which Metzen replies, "Yeah, I'm going to leave it at that."
[3:30] Question for Clotworthy and Harper: In the original, there's a lot of talking to the player. Does this make a difference?
[3:30] Clotworthy says that he uses substitution when he voices dialogue that isn't aimed directly at a person.
[3:30] Next question: Any intention to purge Kerrigan of her infection.
[3:31] He visualizes someone he actually knows, so that the place he's coming from is a place of truth and reality.
[3:31] Metzen says that the character was a bit of a McGuffin, as it served originally only to move the story along. He does leave the window open for the magistrate to return.
[3:31] Alright, that will do it for the question and answer session.
[3:32] Check the site for more from BlizzCon 2009!