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BlizzCon 2010 Contests Sign Up Announced

With BlizzCon 2010 fast approaching, it’s time to prepare in advance to be worth of $25,000 in prizes, or fame. Blizzard has announced that sign ups for all BlizzCon 2010 contests have begun. You can participate in any of the following contests: Costume, Dancing, Fan Art and Machinima. The clock is ticking. Sign up and start preparations.

Blizzard Quote:
Signups are now open for the BlizzCon 2010 Costume and Dance contests! Eligible entrants are invited to strut their stuff live on stage, with the festivities being hosted by our master of ceremonies, comedian Jay Mohr. You have until October 4 to sign up for the live contests, and you must sign up online if you want to participate. With over $25,000 in prizes for our Friday night contests, this is one you don’t want to miss.

Speaking of which, submissions for the Fan Art, Original Song, and Movie contests close in less than a month on September 27, so if you haven’t entered yet, you’d better get cracking!

If you aren’t attending BlizzCon you can still check out these contests, all panels and tournaments, and even receive extra goodies including the “Deathy” World of Warcraft in-game pet by purchasing a BlizzCon 2010 Virtual Ticket.

PAX 2010 - Blizzard is A-Coming

Blizzard Entertainment will have a few representatives answering questions to PAX 2010 attendees. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty will be playable at the NVIDIA booth.

Sadly, the Diablo III demo won’t be showcased at PAX, but if you are heading to BlizzCon at least you will have a more updated demo version than the one shown in previous events.

PAX 2010 kicks off through September 3-5 in Downtown Seattle, Washington. The uber bad news for you is if you didn’t buy a PAX ticket, don’t even waste your time walking to the front door because ALL tickets were sold out on August 28. There won’t be ticket sales at the front door.

Some of the PAX 2010 locations have been moved to a different place, so check out the official PAX website and read the 08/04/2010 update for instructions.

Review – Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2

imageStarcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 hit the bookstores recently on August 3, 2010. The former author Keith R.A. DeCandido is no longer aboard as writer of the manga. He’s busy with Boom! Studios comic books; and for some months he was knee deep working with the U.S. Census 2010 — so at least we know he’s all good. We’ll miss him. He’s earned it.

Tokyopop’s David Gerrold (aka Jerrold David Friedman) took over the Starcraft: Ghost Academy mantle, and as you will soon find out, he’s quickly sync into the Nova universe. No surprise here. David Gerrold has written a Starcraft story before, which means he’s read the Starcraft Bible 101 and been in contact with Chris Metzen and the Blizzard Creative Team.

David Gerrold wrote the story titled “Fear the Reaper” in Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 4. He’s written several Star Trek novels and manga. He’s a celebrity among Trekkies as a matter of fact — don’t believe me? Guess who wrote the televised story of “The Trouble with the Tribbles” (Star Trek: The Original Series, TV) which aired on December 29, 1967. The original script was titled “A Fuzzy Thing Happened To Me…”

The artist Fernando Heinz Furukawa did a kick ass job through each page of the manga, specially the zerg scenes, but overall academy scenes were great. We’ll see more of him in Starcraft and Warcraft manga no doubt.

Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 explores the ongoing happenings within the Ghost Academy under Mengsk’s close watch. The ghost academy was formerly a Confederate program, and as such, Mengsk needs to protect his image before the people; and to make sure the academy is run by the book to avoid inhuman treatment scandals. (more below)
For those fans who love to keep track of the Starcraft timeline, at the end of Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2, Emperor Mengsk is weeks away from celebrating the first anniversary of the Terran Dominion.

Mengsk controls every single word that airs on the UNN network, but there are pirated broadcasts sent by people working for Michael Liberty — and those do bite a dent into Mengsk’s reputation.

The manga starts with a UNN TV show titled “The Dominion and You” by reporter E.B. James [suspiciously sounding like EB Games]. He interviews the Ghost Academy director Kevin Bick in relation to the recent expulsion of Aal Cistler from the ghost academy. This took place at the end of volume 1.

It’s kinda funny to have two non-heroes take centerfold in the story. Kevin Bick runs the academy with unscrupulous drug experiments to research how ghosts’ abilities can be affected or increased. Some students are panbrained, brainwashed, and tortured in secrecy.

Aal Cistler by the other hand is a young playboy with wits who thinks his every whim comes into reality by paying the right price. He might not be too far from being right though — he’s the son of Emperor Mengsk’s finance minister — ouch. Not an enemy you would want to cross with in your path.

Aal isn’t a telepath, but he loves challenges. He came to the ghost academy to train, but was caught selling drugs to Lio Travski (a technopath, student). While the Ghost Academy knew about the drug addiction of Lio and that Aal was providing it, they allowed it to happen to study Lio’s performance under heavy addiction. When the ghost academy grew tired of Aal, they expulsed him from the academy and provided the UNN with camera recordings of Aal’s drug selling activities.

Aal, however, goes to the UNN to denounce he was framed, and the unusual training practices held at the ghost academy. The reporter E.B. James crucified director Kevin Bick in the show. The director got the message … Emperor Mengsk disapproves.

Mengsk controls everything the UNN says, so this was a direct on-your-face slap message to Kevin Bick to immediately detox Lio, and to stop underground experimentation with students. Most of this is in the Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 preview scans.

From what we have learned in Starcraft: Frontline, Mengsk is turning around the old-ways of the Confederate who used cruel brainwashing and aggression inhibitors to control the Ghosts, who were likely former criminals.

Mengsk is now using Wranglers [psi-sensitive agents with a PI 3.5] to hunt for kids and teens with latent telepathic abilities to train them as teams in the ghost academy under the excuse they are too dangerous to themselves and to the populace if not trained properly — because untrained ghosts attract the Zerg.

In reality, that’s a lie. Mengsk has used psi-emitters before to control the zerg, and he continues to do so underground without the knowledge of the public. Such was the case of the Colin Pash story in Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 1-4 — where wranglers are authorized to use lobotomized zerglings with a neural gadget to control them to hunt for the telepath kid.

The same can be proved with Starcraft: Ghost Academy when we see an unidentified terran vessel launching a drop-pod on planet Shi [of the Baker's Dozen] which contained a … zerg drone. Mengsk has much more under his sleeve than we originally taught — as you can see in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty [Piercing the Shroud mission].

Why should you read this manga? It brings a fresh view into the ghost academy with at least four cliffhangers. Don’t you love cliffhangers? I do. They keep the plot in suspense. Sometimes you can foresee things, but sometimes the writer surprises you with a twist. That’s what keeps you coming back for the next volume.

GHOST ACADEMY

Nova Anabelle Terra, Gabriel Tosh, Lio Travski, Kath Toom and Delta Emblock of Team Blue continue their ghost training with high stake life-threatening missions within the academy where they must learn to use their abilities in a teamwork environment.

When you see an older Gabriel Tosh in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, and see this younger Gabriel Tosh in the Ghost Academy and compare both — you can already see where the story is heading to. Tosh used to be an idealist teen who idolized and believed in Mengsk as a humble leader who works for the people and for the benefit of humanity.

What the Ghost Academy does is to train the best telepaths to service humanity and to unite it under the flag of Mengsk, who fights for freedom — Or so used to think Gabriel Tosh in his early days at the Ghost Academy.

Considering we will see more of Gabriel Tosh in Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm — now that Jim Raynor sided with him to free New Folsom’s Spectre prisoners — it would be nice to keep in touch with this character’s past and backstory, and how his loyalty to Mengsk shattered. We will learn more of that in Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 — and hopefully in the upcoming novel Starcraft: Ghost Spectres by Nate Kenyon (on sale November 1, 2010).

In this volume, we learn the two most important ghost trainees in observation by Superintendent Angelini are Nova and … Lio the technopath. No one else matters. Just those two. Thus … we should keep an eye on what plans Blizzard might have for Lio, if any. Will he be an ally when we next see him in future games, or will he be a dangerous enemy (knowing his special power set)?

Lio can telepathically control technology, he created an android that resembled his girlfriend, and he seems to be a powerful telekinetic — [in a scene he telekinetically floats some PDAs into the air and sorts them out to his teammates, and he also blocks incoming projectiles with a TK shield]. Now that he’s not under the influence of hab (a drug), he seems to have better control of his powers.

We get to see the influence that Team Red’s jealousy and rivalry has on Team Blue. Things get more complicated when Aal Cistler makes his triumphant return to the Ghost Academy and this time around he joins Team Red to make Nova and her team’s lives more pleasant … not.

With how Lio has been manipulated by director Bick and superintendent Angelini, one has to wonder … how such a powerful telepath as Nova and her teammates never detect the psi-screams of Lio when he gets panbrained? Why are all these odd things going on backstage without other telepaths knowing about them?

The answer is too complex to guess in its entirety, but the author gives you enough hints to figure out some of it … Colin Phash.

The Ghost Academy is using this boy’s ability to project his astral form away from his body as a surveillance system. Nova has been able to see his astral projection, but never manages to talk to him. However, there must be something else shielding other telepaths from the atrocious acts of the Academy’s leaders. Maybe a mysterious figure from the past? Likely someone we have heard of in Starcraft: Ghost Nova [Looks at the odd humanoid in Chapter 2: Shadows Before Them].

There was one male telepath as high-level a telepath as Nova and Sarah Kerrigan who is mentioned in DeCandido’s StarCraft: Ghost Nova book to be dead, but you never know. Maybe his body and brain were kept alive to serve as an instrument of the Confederates? Those cables coming out of the skull with no pupils on his eyes made me remember that deceased character. Matter of fact, that figure is never shown in Vol. 2, so we might learn who exactly this guy behind Angelini is. Maybe a half-cybernetic-enhanced Old Family slave of the Dominion? I might be seeing too much into it.

COLIN PHASH

Like in the first volume, the fate of Colin Pash continues to be unfold in short scenes that let you figure out how the Ghost Academy tutors do what they do with the students, and why the telepaths aren’t aware of what’s going on.

Colin Pash is the telepath child son of ex-Dominion Senator Corbin Pash. Colin was captured by the Dominion in the Starcraft: Frontline series. His father Corbin Phash now resides as a guest of the Umojan Protectorate, plotting to take revenge against Mengsk and to recover his son back. The story of Colin Phash is told throughout Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 1-4, and continues in Starcraft: Ghost Academy.

THE OLD FAMILIES

Another plot hanging in the manga is the fate of the offsprings of the Old Families. Ever wonder if any of the Old Families survived the Zerg invasion to Tarsonis? Let’s remind you a bit of old-school Starcraft lore … The invasion was caused by the Psi-emitter Arcturus Mengsk ordered Kerrigan to activate. Ya’ know, that Starcraft mission where Mengsk abandons Kerrigan to her fate before the Zerg.

As the invasion of the Zerg hit Tarsonis, the Old Families sent their offsprings to safety to planet Shi — the fourth planet in the Baker’s Dozen system: a collection of 13 mining planets owned by Arturro Calabas [one of the Old Families].

This story runs parallel with the main plot without interacting with each other; using the narrative technique of going back and forth in the timeline.

Every now and then, the narration about the fate of the offsprings of the Old Families takes you to a year before the present time [ghost academy Vol. 2's time which is nigh a year after Brood War]. Then to the present.

When least you know, you are taken to 8 months before the present, seven months, six months … so and so until we reach the point of a month before the present.

I love those interludes in stories to be honest. All that apparent, unrelatedness with the main plot comes to an end when the next ghost academy mission is scheduled to take place in the fifth planet of the … Baker’s Dozen. That’s a cliffhanger alright. That takes us straight into collision course with Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 3 [in stores March 1, 2011].

The aweful part of this manga is the long wait for the next one. Can’t you guys clone your staff to pump these babies monthly? I want more!!!

Special thanks to Troy Lewter (Tokyopop Editor) and Hope Donovan (Tokyopop Editor).

You can view the Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 preview here.

Flights, & Frights - Inside the Storm Exhibition Photos

As reported a few days ago, Blizzard Entertainment launched a museum expo in Taiwan titled “Flights, & Frights – Inside The Storm“. A fan named ddsnet posted on Flickr hundreds of photos from his visit to this exhibition for the less fortunate who couldn’t attend it.

The exhibition consists of concept art of Starcraft and Starcraft II, Diablo II and Diablo III, Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. You can also see the prototype sculptures of the Diablo III Overthrown diorama, the Tychus Findlay diorama, the new Starcraft II action figures, and World of Warcraft action figures.

Those who participated in past Blizzard Fan Artwork Contests should update their resumes. What’s better than winning Blizzard’s Fan Art Contest? Earning the zomg opportunity to get your artwork exhibited in an international museum.

Browse through hundreds of photos of this exhibition here.

Thanks, Flux

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Sells 3 Million copies in a month

Blizzard Entertainment proudly announces Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty sales have soared above the 3 million copies worldwide since launch.

Blizzard Quote:
IRVINE, Calif. — Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. today announced that StarCraft® II: Wings of Liberty™ has sold over 3 million copies worldwide in the first month of its release, building on the game’s momentum as the bestselling PC game of 2010 and the fastest-selling real-time strategy game of all time.*

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was released simultaneously in North America, Europe, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau on July 27. With day-one sales topping 1 million copies, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty became the bestselling PC game of 2010 within its first 24 hours of availability. The game went on to sell more than 1.5 million copies in its first 48 hours, setting the record for fastest-selling strategy game of all time, and has won numerous critical accolades, including multiple editor’s choice awards from major gaming publications.

“We appreciate all the enthusiasm that players around the world have shown for StarCraft II,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “It was important to us to deliver an overall gameplay experience that was accessible, balanced, and fun, and it’s been gratifying to see how strongly the global community has already embraced the game.”

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is the sequel to Blizzard Entertainment’s 1998 hit StarCraft, which has been hailed by players and critics worldwide as one of the top real-time strategy games of all time. Sporting a vibrant 3D-graphics engine, StarCraft II once again centers on the clash between the protoss, terrans, and zerg, with each side deploying legions of veteran, upgraded, and new unit types. Unparalleled online play for

StarCraft II is available through a new version of Battle.net®, Blizzard Entertainment’s world-renowned gaming service. Battle.net has been redesigned from the ground up to be the premier online gaming destination for Blizzard gamers, with several enhancements and new features, such as voice communication, cloud file storage, leagues and ladders, achievements, stat-tracking, and more.

The solo campaign for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty continues the epic saga where it left off in StarCraft: Brood War®. The story line chronicles the exploits of marshal-turned-rebel-leader Jim Raynor and features both familiar faces and new heroes. Players are able to tailor the experience, choosing their own mission path and selecting technology and research upgrades to suit their playing style throughout the 29-mission campaign. Several challenge-mode mini-games are also included, with focused goals designed to ease players into the basics of multiplayer strategies.

For more information on StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, visit the official website at http://www.blizzard.com/games/sc2/.

Rob Pardo Envisions James Cameron on Starcraft Film

Rob Pardo told MTV that Blizzard Entertainment has always wanted to bring its franchises to the silver screen, but they first need to find the right production team.

Rob Pardo thinks a Starcraft film could be possible with someone like James Cameron leading the project. He is currently involved in the sequel to the box office success Avatar. Check it out at MTV.

Blizzard Quote:
“We’ve always had an interest in seeing our stuff on film or TV. It’s just tricky to find the right partners. We probably could have made a ['StarCraft'] movie or something on TV years and years ago, but it’s really important to us that we find creative people that are really talented but also really excited about our properties. That’s always been the challenge for us. I think if Jim Cameron came to us tomorrow and said, ‘You want to make a ‘StarCraft’ movie?’ we’d probably sign that.”

Sons of the Storm update: Starcraft II Michel Koiter Tribute

René Koiter (of Twincruiser) updated the tribute page dedicated to his brother Michel Koiter. This extensive update adds short messages sent to him by Samwise and Chris Metzen back on 2003; and spotlights the tribute to his brother with the M. Koiter dog tag held by Jim Raynor when he says: “”…because some things are just worth fighting for” during a Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty cinematic.

It was a special touch added by Nick Carpenter, the Executive Art Director, who is inspired by the work Michel Koiter did for Blizzard Entertainment years ago. The new update at the SonsoftheStorm website is very emotive, showing us the unending love and admiration of this developer for his twin brother.

Situation Report: Patch 1.1 and Beyond

The Starcraft II Team announced an upcoming major balance patch that’s gonna address some bug fixes, map editor and mod features, and nerf some units to prevent certain rush mechanics that are deemed unbalancing. These are only a limited listings of what the developers are planning for short and long term. The developers welcome fan feedback to address balance issues. Read the official blog.

Blizzard Quote:
Balance Changes

We have several balance changes in store. One general change we’re making is that friendly units will no longer provide vision after being killed. Enemy units previously revealed will no longer be targetable. Now let’s break down the additional balance changes we’re implementing.

Maps

We’re going to be adding destructible rocks to the Desert Oasis map to make natural expansions easier to protect. In addition, the center map watchtower area is being narrowed.

Protoss

We have two key changes in mind for the zealot: the build time is being increased from 33 to 38 seconds, and the warpgate cooldown is being increased from 23 to 28 seconds. Zealot rushes are currently too powerful at various skill levels, particularly those that rely on rapidly assaulting an enemy base from nearby “proxy” gateways. We feel the window players have to scout for and fend off this rush is too small. We also want to address the problem of protoss being able to dump minerals a bit too quickly with the combination of warpgates and Chrono Boost.

Terran

There are several changes in the works for terrans. Reapers against zerg are stronger than expected. Due to the zealot build time increase, reapers would be a bit problematic in combination with proxy barracks, bunkers, and/or marauders against protoss. Therefore, we have decided to increase the build time of reapers as well from 40 to 45 seconds. Fast reaper + bunker, or fast marine + bunker rushes are problematic against zerg. Although this rush would never outright destroy the zerg player, we feel zerg suffers too much of a disadvantage from either having to cancel the fast expansion, or getting trapped inside the main base for too long, so we are also increasing the bunker build time from 30 to 35 seconds.

Siege tanks in large numbers are performing too well in all matchups. In the mid- to late-game, siege tanks are too dominant against all ground units. We want a small set of light and unarmored ground units to perform better against siege tanks. With this in mind, we’re changing the Siege Mode damage of the siege tank from 50 to 35, +15 vs. armored; to correspond with this, damage upgrades will be changed from +5 to +3, +2 vs. armored. This change reduces the base damage of the siege tank against light and unarmored units, as well as the splash damage.

Battlecruisers currently lack good counters from the ground and still perform very well against a wide array of unit types. We’re aware that it is not easy to get battlecruisers out for the cost, but at the same time, it is possible in both 1v1s and team games to create stalemate situations to bring them out. Overall, we feel that battlecruisers are too strong for their cost, and the terran-forced stalemate situations are causing less interesting gameplay. We will be lowering their damage against ground units from 10 to 8.

Zerg

Ultralisk damage is being decreased from 15, +25 vs. armored to 15, +20 vs. armored. This reduction is comparable to the changes being made to the battlecruiser and siege tank. Like the battlecruiser, ultralisks are simply too powerful for the cost, even though they are difficult to muster. Also, in combination with other units, ultralisks are difficult to counter from the ground. The ultralisk building attack (Ram) is being removed because the damage rate is too similar to its normal attack, which will be used against buildings instead. When ultralisks target tightly packed smaller buildings such as supply depots, the Ram attack is actually outputting considerably less overall damage than its normal attack, as Ram only hits a single target.

GamesTM Magazine # 99 interviews Chris Metzen

I am not sure if everyone knows how much of a fanboy bootlicker I am of Chris Metzen. Ya’ know the bourbon cowboy developer, the thundergod, Blizzard VP of Creative Design. Father of the Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo lore who’s been around in Blizzard the past 17 years.

So you understand the scope of what a true fanboy is, I started playing Blizzard games since 2001 with Starcraft and its expansion Brood War. Obviously, I was a few years late from the 1994 (Warcraft: Orcs and Humans) and 1998 (Starcraft) big bang, but I quickly caught up getting Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, Warcraft III and its expansion Frozen Throne (2002-2003), Diablo 1, Diablo II and its expansion Lord of Destruction. All the World of Warcraft and Starcraft II Collector’s Editions — just to watch the Behind the Scene DVDs with the developers.

Right after my first public IRC chat interview with Richard A. Knaak back on 2003, I got hooked to any Blizzard-related novel and printed media that came out thereafter. I have all the Starcraft, Diablo and Warcraft novels, both comic books, and the manga. So it’s no surprise I am a fanboy of Chris Metzen, and all the people involved in the development of all these literature.

I have interviewed Chris Metzen face to face twice, at last year’s New York Comic Con with Micky Neilson (Publishing Lead); and at the Blizzard offices during a Starcraft II single player press-invite.

I was so nervous. It was like meeting your favorite Hollywood actor, Rock star, Comic books Stan Lee, Star Wars George Lucas — you get the drill. He’s that type of guy you get all geeked up about and go mute when standing before him. Inside you wish to bear-hug him, but you don’t obviously because he might freak out; or say: ” I don’t swing that way, bro”. — I’m ‘straight’ by the record.

I know many of you are crazed, geeky, diehard Warcraft lore fans [and if you ain't, I wish to infect you up with my fanboyism] — so I want to share with you a recent Chris Metzen interview.

A Warcraft lore community fan (Sarahmoo) from ‘ScrollsofLore’ posted scans from the Games(tm) magazine issue # 99 / August 5, 2010 (a British publication) which interviewed Chris Metzen. It’s a good opportunity for some of you to get to know this Blizzard developer more intimately. His early beginnings, before and after joining Chaos Studios (aka Blizzard Entertainment).

In the interview, you will learn how he views his position at Blizzard, what it feels like, his feelings when he’s done a mistake, and how he’s overcome them. He’s learned from those mistakes. He’s a geek and a fan like yourself, and he strives to keep everyone happy, and stay true to the lore because as Metzen says: “We don’t own Warcraft any more – the fans own Warcraft now.”

BlizzCon 2010 World of Warcraft & StarCraft II In-Game Items

According to Blizzard Entertainment, all BlizzCon attendees and BlizzCon Virtual Ticket viewers will receive an exclusive set of in-game items for World of Warcraft and Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.

A new murloc companion named Deathy will be redeemed by World of Warcraft players by entering the scratch code in their BlizzCon card. Starcraft II players may redeem a Murloc Marine character portrait in their profile, and a terran, protoss or zerg deep-sea decals that can be placed on your multiplayer units.

BlizzCon 2010 takes place on October 22 and 23 at the Anaheim Convention Center. For further details or to order the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket, visit www.BlizzCon.com

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