E3 2002World of Warcraft impressions

We get an up-close look at Blizzard's upcoming online role-playing game.


World of Warcraft

We got to see Blizzard's upcoming online role-playing game on the show floor at this year's E3, and even in this early stage of the game's development, it seems to be coming along well. As the developer recently announced, World of Warcraft will let you play as dwarves, as well as orcs, humans, and taurens. Blizzard is attempting to make its game accessible even for completely new players--this was reflected in the current game's working interface, which resembles the icon-based interface of Warcraft III. Just as in Dark Age of Camelot, players will be able to create hotkeys for their various abilities, as well as any items they may be carrying, by dragging the corresponding icons into a hotkey bank in the lower-left corner of the screen. World of Warcraft will also have a mini map in the upper-right corner of the screen that will, among other things, display key areas, like towns and colored waypoints to help players finish quests. World of Warcraft will also have a fully 3D camera that can be controlled easily with a mouse. The game will primarily be played from a third-person perspective, though you can zoom forward to change it to a first-person perspective. Blizzard wants to make sure that players can see their character at all times, so if players approach an important character or item, their character will become transparent to let players see the object without losing sight of their character. We saw an example of this when dealing with the game's merchants--buying and selling is performed through a simple point-and-click icon interface. Items such as food and drink won't be necessary to keep players from starving to death, but they may help players replenish their health and energy supply.

In World of Warcraft, players will need to keep track of their characters' health and energy. Energy is required to perform most combat and magic abilities--warrior classes, for instance, use energy to perform different attacks and defenses, while wizards use energy for spells. Blizzard is attempting to make sure that every class is viable when played alone so players who don't have the time to look for a good group will be able to solo productively. When fighting, players will need to use their abilities in a timely manner, rather than simply watching auto-combat resolve itself. Each character class will have certain core abilities. For instance, warriors will have basic combat skills, but players will also be able to learn and improve in secondary skills, such as first aid, lock-picking, or alchemy. World of Warcraft will have a hybrid experience system whereby players will improve by gaining experience levels, but characters will also increase their skills through use up to a character-level-based cap. Blizzard wants to make sure that new players don't end up unwittingly creating a poorly developed player, so the game will let players reinvest any skill points they may have earned over time into different skills.

World of Warcraft will take place in the large, colorful fantasy world of the Warcraft universe. Players may encounter characters and monsters they've fought in the Warcraft games, such as Warcraft III's ghouls. As with other, newer online RPGs, monsters will have a certain range of aggression. If you can run far enough away from a monster, you'll be able to escape with your life, as the monster will lose interest and turn away. You'll be able to hunt the game's different creatures alone or with a group--Blizzard intends to implement a full player-guild structure. However, other details, including large-scale transportation, trade skills, quests, and player housing, remain unresolved. We'll have more on those features later.

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