Kirkburn's BlizzCon 2009 report
Good morning, your friendly neighbourhood admin here! As many of you know, I was lucky enough to go to BlizzCon again this year - and once again it was a great experience.
With this recap, I'm going to cover my most interesting experiences of the Cataclysm playthrough. While there, I completed the available worgen and goblin areas, which covered levels 6-8. Do remember that these areas are still under development, models may change, and many of the announced gameplay changes are not in this demo (which appeared to be based on the current development patch, 3.2.2). The new races don't have any emotes implemented yet, either, sorry!
Worgen starting zone
A worgen is for life, not just for Christmas
First things first, what choices do you get to customize your worgen? So far, you can choose hairstyles, hair colours, face styles and skin colours. Nothing extraordinary here, but in a nice touch, your face style chooses the colours of your eyes, such as luminous green, orange or purple. The fifth customization option is currently unusable, and female worgen are not yet in-game.
Note that in both demos, you start at level six. This is because Blizzard are wanting to keep a bit of the starting experience for the new races hidden. We do know, however, that you start off at level one as a human and get afflicted by the worgen curse. It probably takes place in the main Gilneas city, Greymane City and involves some kind of mass exodus. Note that your worgen and human form appearance is connected, and you only customize your worgen form.
Training your worgen
So, to the play experience! The general feel of the worgen area is somewhat gothic Transylvania - dark, rainy, Victorian stylings, high-angled roofs, and a high chance of Dracula being just around the corner. I expect multiple Jack the Ripper references. Your character starts in worgen form, locked up in stocks in a small town called Duskhaven. Other similarly afflicted humans are also locked up around you. It appears you have been locked up for the safety of others - the NPCs in the zone appear to be mostly humans, and are a little afraid.
Lord Godfrey is watching over you, when King Genn Greymane walks up. The king believes in your ability to retain your humanity, and speaks of "protocol" in the sense of how they deal with the affliction. You are given some kind of juice that returns you to human form.
Throughout this scene, the NPCs are only reacting to you. You don't see these events occur for other players - this appears to be another improvement on the phasing tech, and one that should help fix many of the old issues with arriving while events are in mid-flow.
At this point, you are released from the stocks, and have all of your normal abilities. You can switch between worgen and human form at will when out of combat, but you will always be in worgen form in battle. Your choice of form confers no benefits. Moving from human to worgen form has a pretty impressive animation, where your body changes in stages, and it works even while running. A worgen idle animation involves your character having a sniff around, just like a dog - I half expect them to bark and growl :) Looking into the character options, a "worgen" language option is available, and their main reputation is "Gilneas", which is listed under "Other" during the demo. You also start at friendly with Exodar, Darnassus and Gnomeregan, but this is probably just an oversight.
Worgen in the woods
Wandering around, the unrelenting rain is noticeable. The rain effects appear to have been improved again, with water cascading off structures - likely because the rain in this area is permanent. The ambient music is mostly harpsichord, and many of the NPCs wear awesome top hats. Even the scarecrows wear them. Foxes are a new neutral mob wandering around the nearby orchards. They're very cute. Lighting for the paths is via yellow, smoky candlelight, very Victorian in style. There are also many posters around the town, very high resolution, but written in an unknown script. They appear to deal with worgen, and a couple have drawings.
Moving on, one quest causes a brief in-game cinematic when you complete it - a camera swoop over to some nearby boats. I fully expect this will have some kind of voiceover or modifications in the final version, to make it fit in better. The next quest involves you hijacking a catapult, then using it to fire yourself onto these otherwise inaccessible boats.
As you move further afield, you come across the sea. The new water looks gorgeous - no more yucky tiled textures on top, and the edges are even smooth - yet it still manages to retain its cartoonish Warcraftian feel. It may even have a rough surface, though it's hard to tell whether it's just an excellent optical effect. It also has reflections, and appears to reflect everything it can - however the customizations options are not available to check.
Worgen in the water
Very soon you are sent on a quest that shows off one of the big new tech improvements: terrain phasing. You are sent to a storm shelter to hand in an unrelated quest - but while inside, there is a sudden, loud booming noise, and lots of rocking. When you emerge outside, the world has changed. Only a few feet away, a large area of the zone has given way to the sea, with scenes of mass destruction - houses underwater, boats overturned, and guards drowning. The world map doesn't appear to reflect the change, but this could change. The next quests directly continue on from this event, leading you to help organise a mass evacuation.
The evacuation involves quite a few different activities, such as saving horses from a hungry ettin (a creature which currently looks like a gronn), collecting materials, and rescuing a cat. The demo ends fairly abruptly as you finish the evacuation preparations, so who knows where it goes next? Well, a clue seems to come from the one of the developer panels that showed a three stage destruction of very similar terrain, so yet more land may slide into the sea. We shall see...
Finally, a quick overview of the areas. You start in Duskhaven, which is the quest hub for levels 6-8. It's possible there are a few more quests here following the end of the demo. The area is bounded by hills and water. There are two gates out of the area: Queen's Gate, a large gate down a hill, and King's Gate, a smaller gate much higher up in the hills. Both are currently locked. Greymane Manor is also halfway up the hill, but is behind a locked gate. Towards the water, you can visit Allen Farmstead, Wahl Cottage, Crowley Orchard and Hayward Fishery.
Goblin starting zone
I got what you need
Once again, the demo starts at level six for the goblins. This is because levels 1-5 appear to deal with the evacuation of the goblin's home island of Kezan, and it is strongly implied that you helped with this mass exodus in a big way.
When customizing your character, you can choose skin colour, face design, hair style and hair colour. Goblins always have ruby eyes, and the fifth customization option is again, missing. Similar to worgen, you can only choose male at the moment, but there are at least female goblins around the zone to see. Looking around, this suggests that - at least for female goblins - the fifth option is earrings and nose rings/bones. In general, the new goblin model is certainly an improvement on the old, but it managed to retain its definitive look.
You start, dead. Well, almost dead. Your character lies on a floating piece of wreckage just off Shipwreck Shore. Two goblins discuss your involvement on Kezan, and one tries to revive you with jumper cables. Eventually he is successful, and you complete a quest to "not go into the light". You also start without most of your gear, but after helping a few other stranded goblins (aided by some super-speed flippers), your clothes are returned to you.
You come ashore at Shipwreck Shore, so named because half your boat is lying on the beach. In the distance, across the water you can see Alliance ships - the ships apparently responsible for your current situation. Your initial tasks are cleanup and defense, part of which involves exploding monkeys. It's always fun to see exploding monkeys. Local fauna: Tyraptors, Daggertooth Sharks, Pterrordax Scavengers (aggressive, but flying well above the area), Bomb-Throwing Monkeys (neutral), Ancient Island Turtles (neutral, followed by lots of baby Island Turtles).
Wandering around the tropical island, the fantastic new water effects are of course very much in evidence - but now with a much more tropical light blue flavour. The ambience is tropical island jungle, and the music is very relaxed and mostly made up of low cello plucks. Path lighting is electric lightbulbs, but jury rigged - these are the goblins after all. Near the shipwreck is a new creature: a hobgoblin. Essentially slaves to the goblins, one of the goblin racials lets you have one as a personal servant which gives you access to your bank on a cooldown.
More Monkey Mayhem!
Next, you are sent to a mine which has been taken over by Smart Mining Monkeys. This is because of the Kaja'mite - a luminous green mineral which once gave goblins their intelligence, but which now appears to be aiding the monkeys too. Unfortunately, these monkeys aren't very friendly, and have been killing the goblin miners. So, of course, you are tasked into helping out. While doing so, you come across a dead orc - this sparks off the next part of the story: meetings the orcs of the Horde who have also become stranded on the island.
While in this cave another new piece of tech showed up: quest popups based on your movements. By running into the mine, you run towards some cave paintings. Once you get close enough, the quest window pops up, letting your accept the quest. I don't expect this to be used a great deal though, since it would be annoying in combat situations, but is a great addition nonetheless.
Back outside the cave, you are sent to the nearby Orc Camp. On the way, you pass neutral Jungle Cats, and start to see the interior of the island. Aggra, a female orc, meets you here and explains that their ship, Draka's Fury, has also been shipwrecked. From this point you get a good view of the ship itself, lying on its side on some rocks, apparently also a victim of a run-in with the Alliance ships. She sends you on to Kilag Gorefang further inland in The Deadly Jungle - so named for the evil plants soon to be blocking your path. Kilag sees your goblin utility belt and has an idea, turning you into a giant weed whacker - so now you move around the plants, cutting down Poiston Spitters, Freezyas and Strangle Vines (which are having a fun time lashing and throwing around orc scouts). Handing in this quest causes a small phase change, and when you return all the plants are dead.
Your next quest uses another fun new item: Infrared Heat Focals, which you use to spot Alliance SI:7 Operatives. They come in pairs, and you and an orc companion go around looking for their heat signatures to take them out. After this, you are put on the back of a cat, which takes you to your next destination: the Alliance Beachhead. Here you're tasked by Scout Brax to steal the keys for a gyrochopper and fly it over some Alliance ships at Vengeance Wake, while looking for their "precious cargo".
Ooh, spoiler alert!
The cargo is, of course, Thrall, contained in a magical prison powered by an Alliance Wizard. The prison looks somewhat similar to those seen in the Dalaran dungeons: a metal box, with magical glowing designs on the surface - in this case, purple. All the Alliance Sailors are wearing a white tabard with a golden anchor insignia.
Freeing Thrall is a simple matter of killing the wizard, and he runs off to the ship to get vengeance. Turning you into a cyclone, he has you massacre the sailors in an on-rails shooting quest. However, this is no normal on-rail quest: it continues on the rails up until you complete the quest objective: 50 kills. The moment you reach this, you are thrown across the map to the Wild Overlook. You passed this earlier, but now it has turned into a small camp, dominated by a giant Rocket Sling.
All the orcs and goblins you have seen so far are here - the trainers, the vendors, the questgivers and more. All are waiting their turn on the rocket sling, which will take them across to the next island which is separated from yours by the Dire Straits, which are "shark infested waters". Just before you take your ride, the goblin Trade Prince Malady appears: he's not happy. He appears to be angry at you for all the heroic stuff you've been doing and plans to get his own back. I'm sure we'll understand more from the earlier and later quests - he's even one of the guys you saved from the shipwreck at the beginning.
So, you take your rocket ride and land (well, explode) on the next island. It appears much bigger than the first island, but is unnamed. A huge mountain, possibly a volcano, dominates the center, and expect a small goblin town. Bamboo fences dot the landscape, but you cannot explore far ... for this is the end of the BlizzCon demo.
I hope you enjoyed the read!
Kirkburn, 24th August 2009