Blizzard gave us access to the starting Pandaren area (The Wandering Isle), and we were able to play through with any of the Pandaran classes. I created a female Pandaren Monk and got to play through The Wandering Isle. Not too much has changed since BlizzCon, but it is still a fun experience. Blizzard has taken their experience from the Cataclysm’s starting zones and applied it here creating a very awesome, unique, and detailed starting zone for Mists of Pandaria.
The female Pandaren is a beautifully done model, and I think many players will enjoy playing as the female Pandaren. Most of the facial customization models were very ‘cutesy’ and the animations were solid. It will be something to look forward to in the Mists of Pandaria beta.
Some of the unique quests included fighting with other monks while keeping your balance on beams and jumping from beam to beam (which was accomplished by clicking on the beam itself). There was a lot of story behind all the quests as well, as you went through various areas to get the different alemental types (elementals made of ale).
A fun element in the opening area for Pandaren were the pools that change the player character into a different animal while standing in the pool, like a frog or a crane.
The Monk is fairly unchanged since BlizzCon, as well, as it still is a class with quick cooldowns, although now it appears that the Monk outputs white damage. We were unable to 100% confirm this. The Monk has really fun play mechanics such as a kick that shoots the Monk through the air for a long time that looks like it will be retuned before release because of the amount of people I saw killing themselves with that skill.
The Pandarens are an awesome addition to World of WarCraft, and the ability to choose your faction later on, is a pretty unique mechanic which I think most players will enjoy.
Blizzard invited the press to show off the progress on Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard’s newest expansion for World of WarCraft. The general feel for the event emphasizes lots of content for max level players (90 for this expansion). There wasn’t any shocking news from the event, but I feel the big reveal and takeaway from it was when Chris Metzen revealed the final raid for Mists of Pandaria, and that it would take place in Orgrimmar and have both the Alliance and the Horde taking down Garrosh Hellscream.
They overviewed the expansion as a whole, with Metzen explaining that this is the perfect expansion for WoW at this time. It’s a perfect “throttle off” chapter for WarCraft, and Pandaren are an idea that they’ve thought about for many years (WarCraft 3: Frozen Throne, Samwise’s artwork, etc.).
Dave Kosak and Cory Stockton overviewed the zones then detailing the seven zones that players will be playing through in level 85-90. The Jade Forest is the first zone everyone will be going through and it’s an expansive forest zone where all players will be starting their adventures in Pandaria.
New features in Pandaria, include the scenario feature, which is an extension of group quests. They showed a very rough UI of the scenario feature where you would be able to queue up with two other adventurers, and you are not required to have a tank or healer to be able to start it. Queues should be very quick to hop in.
The pet battle system, also announced at BlizzCon, is being designed to not feel mandatory. It’s completely optional. The first mini-game for World of Warcraft. There was a rough animation shown in-game between Arthas and Illidan fighting with various WoW pets. They announced that it wouldn’t be ranked and would be anonymous (i.e. you wouldn’t be able to communicate with your opponent).
The Dungeon Challenges UI was also shown off showcasing leader boards, and three tiers of rewards; bronze, silver, and gold. Rewards for clearing all dungeons at each level include achievements and titles for bronze, transmog gear for silver, and an awesome epic cool mount. You will be able to sort by your realm and then by your guild, which should promote competition within the server.
Ghostcrawler went over the talent system, which hasn’t undergone any major renovations since BlizzCon and the new talents don’t add player power directly. There is a new item “Tome of Clear Mind” which is used to clear out glyphs and talents now. It also appears that there are only two tiers of glyphs now, Major and Minor and Prime glyphs have been removed and some moved into the Major glyph category.
Overall the expansion looks packed with content for everyone including the casual and hardcore alike. There will be nine level 90 heroic dungeons (Six new dungeons, and three revamped old world dungeons, including Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery), three raids with 14 bosses total with three difficulty levels (looking for raid, normal, and heroic).
They overviewed two new battle grounds: Silver Shard Mines, a Venture Company Mine at the center of a mine depot in Stranglethorn Vale, where mine carts head off on each rail line. Three are going one at a time, and each faction tries to claim it before it reaches the end. Along the path, there are rail line changers which allow you to alter the path of the carts. Think of this as similar to a payload map in Team Fortress 2.
There is also the Temple of Kot Mogu in Uldum, with a new gameplay type where players carry an ancient artifact and gain points for their team. You get a damage buff while holding it, but you also receive reduced healing and receive damage over time. Different areas of the map are worth more points, such as the center being worth the most, but you are most exposed. This battleground will be available to players in the upcoming beta.
There is a ton of content coming out for players in Mists of Pandaria, a new continent, tons of max level content in dungeons, pet battles, challenges, scenarios, daily quests, raids, and PvP content. There looks to be a lot of content that will be available to players at the beginning of the expansion with a variety of gameplay types that will fulfill the wants and needs of the player base.
Blizzard gave us pre-made level 85 characters to use for leveling through the Jade Forest with fairly high level gear (Firelands normal raid gear). The quests started off with sieging the coasts of the Jade Forest and having to put out fires that started during the assault and killing off some of the invaders. You then are sent on various tasks to help rescue some of the lost members of the Alliance.
The initial quests used some pretty heavy phasing as I tried to group with some of the other press members and immediately we were in separate phases, only a few quests in. The quests were varied though and brought in a variety of gameplay elements similar to the quest design in Cataclysm.
There wasn’t anything that stood out as far as questing in the first few hours of questing in the Jade Forest, but it felt more like an extension of Cataclysm design and very well done as quests were in Cataclysm.
While this wasn’t talked about or announced, we saw in the version of Mists of Pandaria that we were playing on that the character creation screen was completely revamped. While we don’t have any screenshots, the new interface breaks down their character creation into multiple screens where you first select your race and class, also included in the bottom right was a video box, which we assume will be showcasing the character class you select, currently the WoW intro video was there as a place holder.
You then select how your character looks, and instead of like before, there is a visual representation for the options you have to change your characters look (ie. you have all the options laid out visually for you in a preview box instead of having to select each one to see what it looked like). While it wasn’t fully implemented, the idea was there and it looks gorgeous and it is a huge improvement over the previous character creation interface.
Overall the new leveling area (which is unique for horde and alliance players) looks to be a good leveling experience for new and veteran players. With what they detailed in the expansion as far as end game content there will be a long time before there is shortage of things to do for players. I am definitely looking forward to the new experience in Mists of Pandaria.
DJTyrant attended the Diablo III Beta Press Event on behalf of Blizzplanet, and now shares with fans all his experiences while playing the Diablo III beta at Blizzard Entertainment’s Headquarters in Irvine, CA.
DJTyrant: “Blizzard ushered those of the press into the theather and showed us a brief two minute clip of a rough 2D animated version of the opening cinematic. There was sound and voices included, but the 3D animation either wasn’t complete, or in a form that they were ready to share with us and we also couldn’t record it. Blizzard then brought Chris Metzen up and talked about the lore of Diablo 3 and caught us up on what happened with D1 and D2. The direction of the story will be around Deckard Cain, 20 years later and he put together a journal that prophesies that the fight isn’t over against evil.
The story starts in a new Tristram which is still rebuilding 20 years after the events of Diablo 2. Fire is falling from the sky and the risen dead are rising from the grave, which brings the players into the game, asking the question of what the fire is, is this the beginning of the end?
Leah, who we’ve seen quite a bit in the trailers so far, is then brought into the story who is the adopted niece of Deckard Cain. She has spent her life searching through old ruins and burial grounds. Her role in the story is to fill in the gap between what Deckard Cain knows and the players don’t. Blizzard explained that she fulfills the need for an everyday man knowledge from Deckard Cain through someone the players can identify with.
Discussion about the combat system and gameplay systems proceeded forward from this point as a lot has changed since the last time Blizzard has publicly talked about the game. There was a lot of discussion at last BlizzCon about how the talent/spell system had gone through many iterations, now it has been completely tuned down to a much simpler system where you pick the spells you want, and you can equip 6 active skills, with two being selectable at the start with new slots being unlocked at 6, 12, 18, 24 for a total of six active skills. Also added are passive skills unlocked at levels 10, 20, and 30 for three total. Every level a new skill is unlocked and with the active skills you can swap out at any time.
The rune system was also discussed, and will be used to create different builds for each class with the lack of a talent tree system now. The example that Jay used was the battle mage, or melee wizard, (in this case the Wizard class). Items are dropped in the world that modify skills and abilities.
And then the discussion about the new Battle.net features, which can be detailed here:
Battle.net & Auction House Features
Blizzard dropped a bombshell in the press event announcing an auction house and online-only gameplay for Diablo 3. The big news of the in-game auction house is that it will be regional, and feature in some regions, the ability to buy and sell items for real world money, yes you heard that right Diablo 3 items for REAL WORLD MONEY. Blizzard will facilitate the transactions in-game.
The key to the new auction house is that Blizzard is facilitating a need for the players to buy and sell items with real world money, which was prevalent in Diablo 2. The currency auction house will be supported in as many countries as they can get it up and running in.
To get people involved with the real money auction house they are offering a set number of auction posting free per week. It will be run through the in-game client and you will be able to sell items, gold, and components through the AH, with the possibility of selling characters at some point in the future. Auction listings above and beyond that will be a flat rate per item listed whether or not the item sells, helping make sure items that players list items that would be useful or beneficial.
The players will be able to cash out in two ways, through a Blizzard eWallet, that will directly put the money into your battle.net account which can be used for any number of items on the store (even WoW time). You will also be able to cash it out to a bank account through a 3rd party service, with details being withheld at this time as to a specific service that that may be.
Other key points:
- Auto bidding and instant buyout
- Smart search by class
- Shared Stash (between characters)
- Secure Item Transfers
- Facilitate player trades – not a Blizzard Store
- Players will be anonymous during trades
- Will also have a gold auction house and in-game trading
- Hardcore characters will not be able to use the real money auction house
As far as Battle.net goes for gameplay:
Always connected to friends, persistent friends list. Always connected to the game, online only, persistent characters, and no local characters (prevent modification).
Play together, stay together.
- Public Game Finder
- PvP Matchmaking
- Quick Join Friends – advertises game to friends list, drop-in to friends games
- Dynamic Co-op – feel very fluid between 1p, to co-op, any point you can open game to friends, etc, dynamically adjusts difficulty.
With more details about Diablo 3 out in the open now there will be tons of discussion about these new features and gameplay decisions Blizzard has made.
Witch Doctor Preview
All classes were playable in the D3 beta build we played at Blizzard HQ, so I decided to check out the Witch Doctor. Probably one of the most versatile of the classes it can be played in a variety of ways. You can play as a very caster oriented class, or as a very heavy pet oriented class.
I tried a mix of two to see how viable it was and chose poison dart and poison toads. Poison dart is a ranged attack that poisons the target, and poison toads are released three at a time and randomly move around to explode on three targets. This allowed for a lot of ranged control and helped keep me safe in most fights without too much trouble. Both spells were extremely mana efficient, but I’m not sure if this was due to the nature of the beta, or how it is designed to be in the final product.
Other builds/styles of play that I tooled around with involved using the summon zombie dogs which are three permanent pets that fight for you, and using a grip spell that was an AoE spell that holds enemies in place (which works well in sync with poison frogs).
Overall the class was really fun to play and very dynamic. I see quite a number of different builds and ways to play the class.”
Melee class, uses rage
Leap, generate rage usable ~10 seconds
Ground Stop, enemy stun
Ancient Spear, pulls enemies close into melee range
Wrath of the Berserkers, gets giant, and gets tons of bonuses;
Pet Class, voodoo, creepy crawly pets (spiders, snakes, toads, zombies, etc.) mind control (when fighting WD don’t know what’s real or not), mana
Firebats, flamethrower with bats!
Soul Harvest, for every enemy nearby, gets stacking buff that increases damage
Big Bad Voodoo, fetish shaman any pets or allies get attack speed increase
Hex, a shaman who turns monsters into chickens
Fetish Army, little fetish dudes that will fight for you last ~20 seconds
Gargantuan, big tough brawler pet, really tough
Mage archetype class, prodigy, wizards in Diablo universe used deragatory term that they shouldn’t be delving in stuff they shouldn’t be.
Arcane Power, fast regenerating resource, has cooldown abilities
Electrocute – can jump between targets, even non-enemy targets, main stay spell
Diamond Skin – Allows her to conjure diamonds and take heavy damage for a short period
Stop Time – slow enemies and projectiles within bubble, allows for control
Meteor – Takes a few seconds to impact, but massive AoE damage
Disintegrate – powerful sweeping ability
Archon – transforms and completely new abilities, enhanced version of disintigrate, etc. When you kill an enemy ups the duration of archon
Spirit, defensive focused resource, base attacks generate spirit, precious resources, attacks have three stages to feel dynamic, can mix up abilities
Deadly Reach, hit enemies right before they reach you, control position
Exploding Palm, third hit is $$ applies a DoT, and if it kills them they explode + do damage to area
Mantras, ability unique to monk, buff extends to her and allies, big dodge bonus
Tempest , can’t get surrounded, slows enemies in path
Inner Sanctuary, monsters can’t pass through and creates choke points, etc. Allows for high control.
Seven sides strike, big spirit spender, invulnerable for short period of time does massive damage to groups of enemies.
Conventional ranges class, bows, crossbows, shadow magic, gadgets and traps.
Sentry, puts up a crossbow turret
Spike Trap, slices enemies up
Smoke Screen, invisible for a few seconds, gets out of combat
Mark for Death, mark enemy to get pwned
Check out Blizzplanet’s 2011 Diablo III Press Event Coverage for more.