Design by Marty Smith
A little over three weeks ago, Blizzard Entertainment opened the beta test for its upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft. Currently expected to ship in late 2004, World of Warcraft is one of the year's most highly anticipated games for the PC. Since the game's announcement almost three years ago, the flow of information on World of Warcraft has been somewhat closer to a trickle, despite a huge amount of interest from Blizzard's fans, and fans of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games in general. Now that the beta test is open and the nondisclosure agreement has been lifted, the floodgates have opened, and gamers are drinking up the information as fast as it's made available.
The interest surrounding the game stems from a number of factors. One is that Blizzard, while known for producing quality games, has never developed a massively multiplayer online game. Blizzard does have experience in providing an online matchmaking system for tens of thousands of Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft III players simultaneously on Battle.net. But creating a fast, stable environment for an MMO game is a whole lot different, as many larger companies would attest. Another reason for the interest is that this will be the first commercially available game set in the Warcraft universe that isn't a real-time strategy game.
Longtime Blizzard fans may remember that the company attempted such a venture shortly after Warcraft II, with a game called Warcraft Adventures. Blizzard eventually canceled the game, citing dissatisfaction with the slow pace of that game's development. In light of that, Blizzard faces some interesting challenges with World of Warcraft, which will be stacked against a couple of next-generation MMO games, such as Sony Entertainment's EverQuest II and NCsoft's Lineage II. Both of those games promise to be more technically advanced than World of Warcraft will be, and obviously each company has the benefit of years of experience with MMO games under its belt.
A number of GameSpot editors have taken the opportunity to participate in the World of Warcraft beta test. We've already posted a quick first impressions piece, but after a few weeks of play-testing, we've each formulated some opinions on the game, coming from a number of different points of view. In this feature, you'll hear about how the game is paced, how the art style sets it apart from the crowd, how longtime players of Blizzard games may react to seeing the Warcraft universe from a different perspective, and more. Perhaps most importantly, you'll hear how the game stacks up compared to existing MMO games, from the perspective of an editor who's tried just about all of them and has "been there, done that."