World of Warcraft, Blizzard's first entry into the massively multiplayer role-playing genre, will be on display at this year's E3. Since the game was first announced at ECTS 2001, information updates about the game have been relatively sparse, as Blizzard has been wary of revealing too much too soon.
Currently, three player classes (warrior, mage, shaman) and five races have been announced for World of Warcraft. The races are humans, dwarves, orcs, night elves, and the bull-like tauren. Each of the races has its own starting area in the game, stretching across all known areas of the Warcraft world, including Azeroth, Khaz Modan, Lordaeron, and Kalimdor. New continents and islands will be included for players to explore, and a few subareas of the Azeroth continent have already been revealed, showing a wide variety of locales ranging from the steamy jungles of Stranglethorn Vale to the haunted, perpetually dark forest of Duskwood to the snowy home of the dwarves, Dun Murogh. Along with vast stretches of wilderness, the game will include dungeons, sprawling cities, and underwater areas to explore.
Blizzard maintains that one of the primary goals of World of Warcraft is to make the game accessible and fun to casual and hard-core players alike. New players will never feel lost or wonder what they should do next, and the game will be designed so that players feel as though they can accomplish something in a few hours of play per week. You won't necessarily have to devote dozens upon dozens of hours to have fun in World of Warcraft. Some specific plans are already in place to prevent some common problems in massively multiplayer games, like camping and kill stealing. One of the primary deterrents is that some areas of the game will be instance-based so that they are closed off to players outside the party.
World of Warcraft will primarily revolve around combat, although Blizzard still plans to have crafting skills be a large part of the game. Ranged weapons are included for some races and classes in the game, and the use of special abilities and spells in combat will rely on good timing in order to have maximum effectiveness. Blizzard also intends to include mounts for players to quickly traverse terrain, with humans favoring horses and orcs generally using wolves.
World of Warcraft is slated for a 2004 release on the PC, with a beta test planned for Q3 of 2003. We'll have more information on the game from the show floor.