Spent the weekend in BetaVille.

I had intended to get some blogging in this weekend, especially after seeing headlines that the Big Three might become the Big Two which would be huge news for us Michigan people, but I couldn’t think of what to say that would be all that interesting. In fact I’ve been in a bit of a blogging malaise lately. Maybe I’m just burned out from all the political drama what with the upcoming election and all, I’m still astounded that the Presidential race is going to be close, or maybe it’s the changing of the seasons. Not sure, but I know several of you have sent me some very good links lately hoping I’d write something on them and so far I’ve had little to nothing that seemed worth saying. It probably doesn’t help that I’m currently participating in both the Wrath of the Lich King and LittleBigPlanet beta tests and both ate up a good chunk of my weekend. So I’ll write a little bit about those for now:

With regards to Blizzard’s expansion to World of Warcraft all I can say is: Wow! As far as I know they haven’t updated the graphical abilities of the client in any way, but you’d almost swear that they did with just how gorgeous the WotLK expansion looks. The designers have really learned how to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of the client. If I had to guess I’d say that most of the improvement comes from improved texture use, but it’s also clear that they’ve learned a few tricks to making the low-polygon models look like they’re more detailed than they really are. Of particular note are some of the special effects. Fire, for example, has always looked a bit cheesy in WoW so when I first stepped foot into the Ember Clutch and saw all the trees caught in the midst of a fairly realistic looking forest fire I was, to say the least, impressed. There’s another effect when fighting the ghosts of a Norse looking race new to the game on the beaches of Riplash Ruins that caught my eye immediately. When the ghosts die they explode into a pile of seaweed. The expansion just looks fantastic all the way around and the variety in landscape is higher than I thought it would be given the frozen theme of the expansion.

It’s also obvious that Blizzard has learned a lot over the years in how to tell a story in a MMO and make people feel a part of the world. The main villain of this expansion, Arthus aka The Lich King, shows up early and often rather than just sitting in his dungeon waiting for players to get high enough to take him down. Not only do Death Knights interact with him quite a bit during their first two levels of experience—you have to go through a quest line to free yourself from being his slave—but he also shows up in at least one of the two starting zones for people arriving in Northrend. Reportedly he shows up through various quest lines all the way through the different zones of the expansion. Did I mention the expansion is huge? I’ve been playing the beta since shortly after it opened up and I’ve only gotten to level 72 on two of my characters, my hunter and my mage, and I’ve only made it to three of the different zones so far, not counting Dalaran which I got portaled to at one point. I’m sure someone will power level their character to level 80 in just a day or two, but for those of us who actually play the game for the content it should take a couple of months at the least to get to 80. It’s amazing to see how much stuff they’ve crammed into the game and I’m looking forward to seeing client 3.0.2 drop tomorrow bringing a good chunk of the user interface and game changes along with it. It’ll basically contain everything except for the new Northrend content to the current game.

The LittleBigPlanet beta has been a blast. The first few platform levels you’ll go through teach you everything you need to know about how to play the game and control your sackboy as well as getting you started on your collection of items you can use to customize the game. It feels a little simplistic at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that it has a lot of hidden depth. Already there are a ton of user created levels available all of which it was recently announced will be carried over to the live game. The game is as gorgeous and cute as the screenshots have shown and it can be surprisingly difficult to snag all the collectibles in a level. I’ve not created much of anything myself yet, but I’ve had a blast seeing what others have come up with. One person managed to put together a fully functional electronic calculator in the game using the available parts. It’s a surprising creation that leaves one to wonder what else might be possible. I think this one is going to sell a lot of PS3s.

So that’s what I did with my weekend. How about you guys?

“Wrath of the Lich King” hits stores on November 13th.

The official release date for the next expansion to World of Warcraft has been announced:

Anne and I have been playing in the beta for awhile now and I can say that it’s going to be a major change to the game. Not just in new content, but in how long-standing features and various class spells work. For example there’s been a lot of effort put into reducing how much stuff uses up bag space. It used to be that if you wanted to collect non-combat pets, of which there’s already a stunning number in the game, you ended up devoting a lot of bank slots to store them and bag slots if you wanted to actually carry them around with you. The same is true for mounts. Balfour, my level 70 dwarven hunter, has three epic riding mounts and three epic flying mounts that I keep on him at all time using up six bag slots in the process. I only need one of each, but I keep three of each so I can randomly chose which of the three I want to use. There’s no advantage to one over any other other than it’s nice to have some variety, but I have to give up four more bag slots to do it. However, in WotLK I won’t have to give up any bag slots as all mounts and non-combat pets become spells I can learn. This will come in very handy when I’m grouped with people who don’t have their epic mounts yet as I’ll be able to use my non-epic mounts to match their speeds. I still have the non-epics, I just don’t tend to carry them with me all the time.

Plus Death Knights will finally be available on the live realms. We’ve been having a blast playing the DKs in the beta. In particular the storyline you go through after character creation has been done remarkably well. When you first created a DK it starts at level 55 with a full set of decent gear and you’re still enslaved to the Lich King, Arthus. You’ll go through a series of quests that teaches you how to use your abilities, slowly gives you all your talent points for the level you’re at, and upgrades your equipment to a decent set of blues. The cool part is that the quests are phased so that the environment changes as you make your way through them in a manner similar to the phased quests in Lord of the Rings Online. There’s been lots of updates to the user interface as well that’ll eliminate at least a few of the mods I regularly use. A built in calendering system for scheduling events and raids as well as keep tracking of in-game events such as the holidays, a built-in threat meter, and a whole bunch of other improvements. 

Going to have to start saving our pennies now if we hope to pick it up on launch day.

“World Of Warcraft: Wrath Of The Lich King” opening cinematic.

Yes I realize I’ve been posting a lot of videos on video games lately, but the news coming out of Leipzig has been so much better than what came out of E3 so bear with me.

Next up: is the official opening cinematic for the next World of Warcraft expansion:

At some point I plan to sit down and write up some of my impressions on the beta so far. Let’s just say that the fears of Azeroth being overrun by Death Knights are probably well founded as they are fun to play.

WoW “Wrath of the Lich King” beta starting very soon.

Beta testing on the next major expansion Wrath of the Lich King for World of Warcraft is about to get under way. According to the folks at WoW Insider the pages explaining how to get the client and beta client patch notes along with the first beta invites have already started going out as of late last night.

No word yet on if Anne and I have been accepted into the beta, but we remain hopeful as it’d be a blast to put it through its paces and perhaps provide some useful feedback on how it’s coming along. Still it means we’re one step closer to the expansion’s release and that’s reason enough to make me giddy.

“Wrath of the Lich King” will be WoW’s next expansion.

BlizzCon started today and already with it comes the official announcement of the next expansion which will be called World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King.

In the cold, harsh northlands…

The Lich King Arthas has set in motion events that could lead to the extinction of all life on Azeroth. With the armies of the undead and the necromantic power of the plague threatening to sweep across the land, only the mightiest heroes can oppose the Lich King’s will and end his reign of terror for all time.

Blizzard Entertainment’s latest expansion to World of Warcraft – Wrath of the Lich King – adds a host of epic content to the existing game world. Players will achieve soaring levels of power, explore a vast new continent, and battle other high-level heroes to determine the fate of Azeroth. As you pit yourself against the dangers of the north, prepare to:

  • Master the necromantic powers of the Death Knight – World of Warcraft’s first Hero class.
  • Quest to level 80, gaining potent new abilities and talents along the way.
  • Learn the craft of spell augmentation with the new Inscription profession.
  • Brave the harsh new continent of Northrend, the icy domain of the Lich King.
  • Engage in epic siege warfare, deploying mighty siege engines to lay waste to destructible buildings in your path.
  • Transform your hero’s look with new character-customization options, including new hairstyles and dances.
  • Explore perilous new dungeons filled with some of the deadliest creatures—and greatest treasures—on Azeroth.
  • And much, much more…

Players have been waiting for access to Northrend since WoW was first launched so there’s going to be a lot of happy gamers. No word yet on when the expansion is due to hit store shelves, but it’ll probably be awhile yet. For the moment we’ll have to make due with the official trailer: