Of all the games I saw at E3, Warcraft
III by Blizzard will, I think, be the next show-stopping title that gets millions of
people to gratefully drop fifty bucks. During
the convention, several members of the Gamesfirst! crew crowded around the demonstration
monitor, and I watched their jaws drop without a booth-babe in sight. WC III was spectacular to look on, and as the
demonstration progressed, I almost bum-rushed the keyboard jockey to get my hands on a
From reports, the design of WC III has changed significantly over the course of
its development cycle. The build at E3
features a 3D engine with a fixed isometric but zoomable perspective. And the graphics are beautiful. Each of the characters is lovingly animated with a
variety of detailed facial expressions. The
terrain varies in elevation and is incredibly sharp.
Watching a catapult roll down a hill while leaving tracks in the mud was
The setup is that demons have fallen from the sky and orcs,
humans, dark elves, and the undead must band together to do something about it. Originally, the demons were meant to be a playable
race, but balance and level design dictated that they simply be the enemy. Like Starcraft, there will be a campaign for each
race which, taken in order, will tell a story. The
demonstration I saw focused mostly on an orc adventure.
However, I got to see a dark elf town featuring living buildings that can
move and attack as well as an undead outpost.
The undead look something like the Zerg from Starcraft in that their buildings
require a land-covering substance, a la the creep, to operate.
The first big change from
Warcraft II is the inclusion of different types of heroes.
Heroes, as if in an RPG, have individual names and can gain experience
points. With higher levels, they also acquire
different types of powers. Additionally,
heroes can utilize various items such as cloaks that render the wearer invisible at night. (There should be 50+ different items.) When a hero dies, he can be resurrected, and
heroes travel with you between missions.
Next, the resource structure has been
altered. Peasants and peons will still mine
gold but will no longer chop down trees or look for oil.
Instead, players will have to harvest mana crystals by roaming the countryside and
killing independent monsters. These crystals
will be used to recruit heroes and in the construction of different buildings. The developers have done this to encourage players
to fully explore each map and add a different type of challenge to the game.
E3 featured a large
number of Real Time Strategy games like Warcraft III.
Some, like Battle Realm an orient-themed RTS may have been
technically more sophisticated, and others, like Empire Earth, had more large-scale
battles and better multiplayer capabilities. None
of that dissuaded me from the superiority of WC III.
WC III is built around a story, a story developed over the course of two prior
games. A coherent, inhabitable narrative is
proving itself to be the best and most user-friendly form of electronic literature, and as
such I find games built with narrative specifically in mind far more compelling then their
more code-oriented counterparts. The tale of
orcs and humans may be simple and straightforward, but I really want to find out what
happens. Whatever you want to say about the
boys at Blizzard, they have proven themselves to be excellent storytellers.