World of Warcraft: Cataclysm PC Games and Downloads
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Released on 07/12/2010
A cataclysm is coming to Azeroth, a fire that will burn the land, changing it forever. World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm is a new expansion for the massively popular massively multi-player online role-playing game World Of Warcraft.
World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm is a must-buy for any players of the game, offering massive amounts of new content to expand the world.
World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm features: two new player races; a new high level cap of 85 with new high-level raids, abilities and talents for the most dedicated adventurers; new areas, as well as exciting changes to existing areas as the cataclysm tears through Azeroth; new, previously unavailable class/race combinations; new flying mounts; and much, much more.
With World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm, change is coming to Azeroth. New adventures, new opportunities, new dangers await you…
Hidden away in a secluded sanctuary, the corrupted Dragon Aspect Deathwing has waited, recovering from the wounds of his last battle against Azeroth and biding his time until he can reforge the world in molten fire.
Soon, Deathwing the Destroyer will return to Azeroth, and his eruption from Deepholm will sunder the world, leaving a festering wound across the continents. As the Horde and Alliance race to the epicenter of the cataclysm, the kingdoms of Azeroth will witness seismic shifts in power, the kindling of a war of the elements, and the emergence of unlikely heroes who will rise up to protect their scarred and broken world from utter devastation.
- Adventure as one of two new races - the cursed worgen with the Alliance or the resourceful goblins with the Horde.
- Level Cap Increased to 85. Earn new abilities, tap into new talents, and progress through the path system, a new way for players to improve characters.
- Familiar zones across the original continents of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms have been altered forever and updated with new content, from the devastated Badlands to the broken Barrens, which has been sundered in two.
- Explore newly opened parts of the world, including Uldum, Grim Batol, and the great Sunken City of Vashj'ir beneath the sea.
- Enjoy more high-level raid content than previous expansions, with optional more challenging versions of all encounters.
- Explore Azeroth as a gnome priest, blood elf warrior, or one of the other never-before-available race and class combinations.
- Progress as a guild to earn guild levels and guild achievements.
- Take on PvP objectives and daily quests on Tol Barad Island, a new Wintergrasp-like zone, and wage war in all-new rated Battlegrounds.
- Archaeology. Master a new secondary profession to unearth valuable artifacts and earn unique rewards.
- Flying Mounts in Azeroth. Explore Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms like never before.
After making its name with the puzzle series Lost Vikings, and making an ill-advised detour into console action with limp fighting games like Justice League Task Force, Blizzard finally found its true calling as a developer of rich, deep PC games. That they happened to invent, or reinvent, several genres along the way is just one reason why the Blizzard name is enough to make PC gamers sit up and drool. Like a reclusive rock star dropping a long-awaited new album, the Californian developer has driven fans into a frenzy with not one, not two, but three major titles arriving in the next year or two.
For many fans StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, out now, is Blizzard's holy grail. Arriving a mere twelve years after the original game, it builds on the real-time strategy bedrock that the developer set in place way back in 1994 with Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.
On the surface, StarCraft II is much as you'd expect. The three races that form the game's finely balanced power struggle are still present and correct. Terrans are still the default option, exiled humans struggling to survive in a hostile universe. The Zerg are their evil insectoid enemies, hellbent on galactic domination. Lurking mysteriously in the corner is the Protoss empire, technologically advanced and able to use powerful psionic abilities in their quest for glory.
Wisely, Blizzard has opted to refine and update rather than fix something that was never broken. A non-linear single player campaign is a break with tradition, but in terms of nuts and bolts play, with over 11 million copies of the original sold, and with its multiplayer component still in regular circulation on the professional gaming circuit, it would be foolish to tamper with such a successful formula.
Instead, StarCraft II takes advantage of the advances in internet and social networking technology, not least in Blizzard's own Battle.net system. Originally incorporated into Diablo in 1997, Blizzard launched the revamped Battle.net 2.0 last year in anticipation of the gaming triple whammy planned for 2010 and 2011. StarCraft II players will be able to utilise more sophisticated matchmaking tools, as well as use cross-game messaging, buy and rate new maps in the Marketplace and progress up a more balanced and subtle leaderboard ladder.
There's a good chance that the excitement surrounding StarCraft II will be dwarfed (literally) when World of Warcraft: Cataclysm launches later this year. Any new expansion to a game that now boasts a population larger than most real world nations is sure to cause a stir, and after The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, the ominously titled Cataclysm looks set to rock the world of Azeroth to its core.
At the heart of this new multiplayer campaign is the return of the dragon Deathwing the Destroyer. Clearly, with a name like that he's not going to be popping in for a flagon of mead and a hearty sing-song. Last seen in Warcraft II, this leathery lizard rips his way back into the Warcraft dimension, unleashing all kinds of ruckus in his wake.
In terms of new features, Cataclysm expands World of Warcraft's boundaries in many directions. New areas with new raids are a given. The level cap has been raised to 85, giving long-term devotees new goals to aim for. And for those starting out, or starting over, there are new playable races - Goblins and Worgen.
As with any MMORPG, a new expansion is a chance to inject new life and new adventures into a virtual world that can become dulled by routine. Based on previous form, and knowing Blizzard's commitment to excellence, Cataclysm should be more than enough to lure back even the most jaded player.
Which only leaves Diablo III, the dark horse of Blizzard's upcoming lineup. Almost as overdue as StarCraft II, this direct sequel to the 2000 smash hit refreshes the frantic role-playing action of old with modern twists like real-time physics and a fully 3D gameworld populated by enemies that will actively use the environment to get the upper hand. As with StarCraft II, Battle.net functionality will play a major role, not only in competitive multiplayer, but in drop-in cooperative play, allowing players to work together on a whim. Frustratingly, Diablo III is the furthest from release, with fans left looking at 2011 with hungry, curious eyes.
Three games, three enormous fanbases to placate. For most developers simply maintaining one enormous franchise is a herculean task, yet Blizzard seems to manage it with ease. After seven years of concentrating on World of Warcraft, this giant is stretching its muscles once more, and that can only be good news for gamers.
Blizzard date World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Here that? That's our social lives grounding to a halt this Christmas. Why? Because Activision Blizzard has just announced that its latest World of Warcraft expansion, Cataclysm, will be released on 7th December. Uh-oh.
Available for the Mac as well as the PC, Cataclysm will also be available in a special Collector's Edition that's "packed with bonus items".
"Cataclysm includes the best content we've ever created for World of Warcraft," says Mike Morhaime, CEO and of Blizzard Entertainment (thanks, Eurogamer). "It's not just an expansion, but a re-creation of much of the original Azeroth, complete with epic new high-level adventures for current players and a redesigned levelling experience for those just starting out.
"With the help of our beta testers, we're putting on the final polish, and we look forward to welcoming gamers around the world to enjoy it in just a couple of months."
Cataclysm is the third expansion for the criminally enjoyable MMORPG, following in the footsteps of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. Pick the new release up, and you'll get two new races - the Worgen and Goblins - and see the level cap leap to 85. Ding!
Cataclysm Launch Event!
On 7th December a Cataclysm was unleashed across Azeroth as the latest expansion to monster MMO World of Warcraft arrived on UK shores.
Hours before that fateful event however we were delighted to be able to be involved with the Official London Launch Party at Sound in Leicester Square.
We sent along James and Nick from our web team to give their impressions on the big night. Here's what they thought!
I arrived at London's Sound nightclub, no.1 Leicester Square, at 9pm and couldn't help but notice a massive queue that wrapped almost completely around the square. It led all the way up to a small entrance, which had been transformed for the night with WoW and GAME branding.
We walked into the venue before the doors opened and straight into a fancy porch area, all lit up with red lights that pointed towards a very flash looking motorbike. On closer inspection, the bike had Wrath of the Lynch King graphics all over it - now that's what I call an epic mount!
We were then taken up to the fifth floor of the club where we were ushered into a room which looked like a haunted house queue in a theme park; replete with original Warcraft artwork covering the walls and big TV's showing Warcraft in 3D!
Here, SteelSeries were showing off the impressive accessories they're renowned for; a gaming keyboard with a follow key on it particularly caught my eye. No serious WoW fan should be without it.
We were jammy and had a play on Cataclysm using SteelSeries gear for a little while, then moved on to the last table in the area where we got stuck into the Warcraft trading card game. It seemed quite complicated, and it became quite apparent that the guy showing us the game was just playing against himself, but I still claimed victory by defeating Nick with my Shadow Bolt . . . owned!
Next stop was the red-lit VIP lounge on the fourth floor, where a massive countdown clock took pride of place next to a photo area. Immediately I wanted to know what the green screen was for so I led the group down a small flight of stairs to speak to the young lady with the camera in her hands. Within seconds Nick was stood in front of the bright green screen and snaps were shot, with our curiosity piqued. I was next up, still wondering what that green screen was for. I now have a photo of myself looking awkward on my desk with Deathwing breathing fire behind me. Awesome!
All the way down to the ground floor we went next, where we could see the full extent of the festivities: a massive screen, an impressive stage, a countdown clock and queuing posts, leading to a GAME branded till area. And behind that was solid gaming gold - piles and piles of boxes full of Cataclysm. Exciting!
Not too long later the doors were open and punters were filling the queues with goody bags in hand. The countdown clock was now running down to minutes rather then hours and Jason Bradbury had taken the stage in his trademark enthused manner, capturing the crowd's attention.
After talking for a while about his love of all things WoW, Jason then invited Greg Street, aka 'Ghostcrawler', the Lead Systems Designer on Cataclysm, and Game Designer David Kosak. After the introductions they leapt into a Blizzcon-style question and answer session, include questions put to them from our very own Twitter followers.
Before too long the entire room was chanting "30, 29 ,28... it was time.
Having been there since 6pm the day before, the guys n gals at the front of the queue were understandably buzzing with excitement. They even had camping bags hanging off them - now that's dedication!
Finally the clock hit zero and in a flurry of excitement the Horde (and Alliance!) surged forward to start purchasing the game and then headed home to play well into the night!
You can join them now by purchasing World of Warcraft: Cataclysm!
The Cataclysm London Launch event was attended by two of Blizzard's WoW team, Greg 'Ghostcrawler' Street, Warcraft's Lead Systems Designer, and Game Designer Dave Kozak. Hosted by TV's Jason Bradbury it was a brilliant night with a real WoW flavour.
As a big World of Warcraft fan, I found the Q&A session perhaps the most enthralling bit of the whole night. Here, questions were asked about the lore of Azeroth and how decisions are made with progressing the story, given the sweeping changes made in Cataclysm - which reforms the entire gameworld, bringing destruction to some of the most well-loved places in Blizzard's virtual world.
Dave and Greg explained that Blizzard employ a 'Story Council' of senior staff who get together and decide the direction of the story while making sure 'it's cool to play'. Who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall in that, eh?
Another question involved levelling of characters and how it's much quicker in Cataclysm than it used to be. Greg and Dave answered by saying the intention is for players to level multiple characters to be able to see every quest and area, rather than having to do every quest and area to be able to level. With Cataclysm, then, you'll never feel like you're missing out on one big part of the experience because it's not tailored to your chosen race.
Finally a question was asked about the level of difficulty in Lich King and how high level gear was too easy to acquire. The guys confirmed that epic level shoulder armour would only be available from Raid bosses, to much cheering from the gathered crowd!
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is OUT NOW.
Blizzcon 2010 Interview with Alex Afrasiabi, Lead World Designer on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
He's the lead world designer on the biggest virtual world in the... err... world - so it's amazing that Alex Afrasiabi ever leaves the office! Blizzcon is a pretty special occasion however, which gave us time to talk to him about the rise and rise of Warcraft, why Blizzcon rocks, and his shady online past.
Oh, and of course, snap his mugshot with a certain mystical horse!
Hi Alex. Before we start, I must warn you; I have a unicorn and I am not afraid to use him.
Yep, he's called Eugene, he's our site mascot.
What's that blanket he's got there?
That's his cape! Mind if I take a pic of you and Eugene?
Sure, go ahead!
Ahem. Anyway, the interview! For people who don't know, could you tell us your name and role on World of Warcraft?
I'm Alex Afrasiabi and I'm the lead World Designer on World of Warcraft. That entails a veritable slew of different things; I'm in charge of all content in the outdoor world: all quests, all spawns, encounters, as well as all content within the dungeons and raids, as well as shaping the story of the world, and to a degree the terrain and landscapes that you see out there.
Just a small job then...
[Smiles], oh yeah, small job.
When I found out I'd be talking to you I actually Googled you and found out that you were the first ever Everquest player to reach level 50...
I was in fact, and then that character got banned because I'm a bad, bad man.
How do you go from that to being the lead world designer on World of Warcraft?
Easy! It's a five-step job! [grins]
Seriously though, back when I was playing Everquest I didn't really think about being a game designer, I was just having fun playing games. Geoff Kaplan who was our Game Director for Wrath [of the Lich King] was a good friend of mine and a leader of a competing guild on Everquest; him and I talked a lot and laughed at each other's rants on our websites. He saw something in me that I didn't and said "are you interested in game design? Why don't you put out a resume?" So I did, and the rest is history.
I guess it's the ultimate affirmation of Blizzard being all about people who are passionate about games and interacting with that community...
Yeah, totally. We're a company of gamers; some more hardcore than others, but we all love games and to game,
WoW has turned into this juggernaut - does it consistently surprise you? What point did it go past expectations?
Um, like, the first month! I remember we all had a big pool about how many subscribers we'd get and how many boxes we'd sell, and at the time Everquest was king and the highest concurrency was like, either 50,000 or 500,000, I don't remember exactly. We all had that in mind when we put our guesses down, and all our numbers were under 200,000. Even that number seemed crazy.
Then one of our artists said a millions and we were like "you're insane", but sure enough he was the only sane one apparently. Immediately out of the gate, walking into stores on release day we were freaked out, like "what are all these people here for? It can't be for WoW!" and ever since then I'm constantly surprised. It's nice and it's humbling to know we have so many fans, and we love them too, that's why we do what we do.
Do you think that initial success was owed to the high quality level of the Warcraft games before it and the reputation Blizzard had for putting out high quality products?
It's always good to have a foundation like that, and of course much of that success came from our RTS roots, no question. But I want to say that we absolutely stand on our own feet now, we've surpassed everything we'd done in the past.
Is it fair to say Warcraft is now a byword for the MMO genre in the same way that Gameboy and PlayStation were once that for consoles?
I don't want to say that, but yeah, it's possible. It's more of a mainstream term; you definitely see that in the atmosphere a lot more, and has definitely become synonymous with MMOs.
I've got a question I've been asking everyone that I wanted to put to you. The opening ceremony dealt with geek and geek culture. There's a certain group of people who look at that culture and percieve it negatively. What's your take on that, and does Blizzcon as an event feed into that perception or help dispel it?
I don't know what they're saying. I think I see where you're coming from with that, but I think Chris [Metzen's] presentation about the geek inside us all said what we wanted to say. And even those people that may look down on gamers... I think there's geek in them too. They may not know it, but I think it's in all of us, to varying degrees for various things.
I think Blizzcon's amazing, I think it's wonderful to bring all these people together from all over the world. Is it a sign of peace, solidarity or whatever? I don't know; I think it's just a cool, cool event. Certainly there will always be doubters, and haters out there, and that's okay - that's their right. Not a problem.
Cool. Let's talk about Cataclysm; it's the third expansion, and not just another area unlocked with another two classes to play as and another big boss to ultimately defeat - it actually changes the entire world of World of Warcraft. Could you go into all of that to outline just how much more Cataclysm offers compared to Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King?
BC and Lich King stand on their own as superb expansions. With each expansion we get better at what we do, we are all fanatics and play to varying degress, and especially the content designers have got multiple level 80 characters.
Cataclysm is honestly the culmination of what we've learned through WoW, Burning crusade and Lich King. One of the big imeratives for our old world revamps was the bear minimum is a Lich King zone, which is crazy when you think about it because we had 50 zones, but it can be nothing less. That's what you get - we go through and think "this can't be a level 10 or 15 zone", but it is.
It's a lot of work and man hours, but it was totally worth it. It's a tremendous improvement on Lich King - and the next one will be a tremendous improvement on Cataclysm, let's be real; but Cataclysm right now is the pinnacle of our design prowess. You'll see that in everything from the level-up experience which is renewed 1-60 to the 80-85 zones, to our dungeons and our raids; our class system to trade skills... everything, we've touched it up to that next level. The game's just incredible right now.
So people coming in fresh to WoW, they shouldn't be worried that with the world being revamped they're going to be missing out on the authentic World of Warcraft experience?
Oh nooooo. This is the most authentic WoW version you're going to get - this is amazing right now, absolutely.
That must mean a heck of a lot more content - I think I heard that Lich King had 1,000 quests whereas Cataclysm will have 3,500?
Yeah, this expansion has the most new content by far. We're talking fully-fledged quests, too - not just daily kill quests; we're talking big, epic events. It was a monumental challenge head-on and I think we hit a home run.
Speaking of revamps, Battle.net is getting one too to coincide with the launch of Cataclysm. Are you able to talk about that yet?
We've not announced anything on that.
Fair enough. I was trying to think of another company that could be likened to Blizzard, and about the only one I could think of was [Halo creators] Bungie: You both have high quality benchmarks and big communities served through online play and comprehensive websites which those games plug into. They have Bungie.net, you have Battle.net. Bungie put out Halo Waypoint onto Xbox Live and that's now coming to Windows Phone 7. I was wondering if we might see something similar for Blizzard games on iPhone, for example?
Could you tell me what Waypoint's about a little bit?
Waypoint integrates all of your Halo game Achievements into a single Halo Career and lets you unlock special in-game and Avatar items, while at the same time giving you lots of different media and news. It's like an all-in-one stop for everything Halo - and now it's going to be available on mobile. I know a lot of people want a Battle.net app on iPhone, so I was just wondering if that could happen.
I wish I could answer that for you - what you've just described sounds really cool! Wouldn't it be great if we could do that? Unfortunately it's not my department, but it sounds super-cool.
A lot of MMOs have tried to copy the WoW template with limited success - Aion and Warhammer spring to mind. On the other hand there's Final Fantasy which is probably the biggest RPG brand in the world , but hasn't got close to WoW numbers as an MMO. In fact the new online instalment Final Fantasy XIV has received mixed reviews. Why do you think that is? Is WoW the only way to do an MMO?
No I don't think so. I think it's constantly evolving as a genre. Some games will take from WoW, and we'll take ideas from them - and some won't. I don't want to be vague or obscure, but basically what I think you'll see is variances of WoW that are successful, and there should be no reason there aren't. WoW isnt the only formula in town that should work, and I don't think it is.
You mentioned Aiaon - Aion does okay. Is it WoW sized? no. But it depends on your definition of success; these games in their own right are doing okay, and it's cool to see people veer off the beaten path and try different things; it's great for the genre too.
And last question - there wasn't a huge announcement in this year's opening ceremony like there was with the Cataclysm reveal last year. This year it's more about getting ready for what's about to drop. Does that leave people to be a bit... disappointed perhaps? Is this a different kind of Blizzcon because of that, and what would you hope for next year's event to trump that?
I'm not disappointed at all. What Blizzcon's about for me and for the fans is to come together and share what we're passionate about. Is it cool that last year we had a new WoW experience to announce? Sure. But this year we had the new Demon Hunter class for Diablo III and I thought it was really cool to see that.
Blizzcon is a great stage for us to announce new things, but also to interact with fans; that's a more important part of it: us as designers being able to reach out to our fans, and our fans being able to reach back to us - I think that's what makes Blizzcon really cool and gets us geeked up. I'm actually having a better time this year than I was last year, so take that for what it's worth. [smiles]
Thanks Alex, enjoy the rest of the show!
Interview by: Mark 'Deathling' Scott.
Cataclysm is the fastest selling PC game ever
Whoa. We all knew that World of Warcraft was a big deal. Planet Earth's most famous MMO has sucked in plenty of man hours, and made millions of players very happy with its social blend of character upgrading, combat, and exploration. But even we were surprised to hear that Cataclysm, the latest expansion, has sold over 3.3 million copies in its first 24 hours on sale, making it the fastest-selling PC game of all time.
Of all time! And want to know what the second fastest was? That's right! It was the second World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, which sold a not-too-shabby 2.8 million copies in its first 24 hours back in the dark old days of November 2008.
Seriously, what is Blizzard doing so right? With 12 million subscribers to the game, the answer's actually fairly simple: Blizzard's offering big expansions and upgrades to a huge world that people already love playing around in. Cataclysm raises the bar significantly for MMO expansions, offering new races to play with, a new level cap to aim for, and an extensive remodelling of most of the world following a dragon-based catastrophe.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is out now for the PC and Mac, and it's brilliant.
2012 might well be the year that the Mayans reckoned the world was going to end, but it's not all bad news: Blizzard should be releasing two games before the year is up! Hooray!
The news comes from a recent announcement by Activision-Blizzard's chief financial officer, Thomas Tippl. Tippl said that if Blizzard, the developer of the world-beating MMO World of Warcraft, didn't release a game in 2011, it would release "a minimum" of two in 2012.
That's something to consider, not least because Blizzard is a company of perfectionists. Its games are all masterpieces, but they take time.
So if there are two games headed our way next year, what could they be? Likely contenders would be the epic action RPG sequel Diablo III, which is scheduled for PC's sometime in the future, or perhaps the second part of the StarCraft II saga. Subtitled Heart of the Swarm, the next instalment in the amazing sci-fi RTS franchise is said to revolve around the alien Zerg race. Can't wait!
There's a third contender, of course, in the shape of Titan, the codename for the developer's next MMO. Nothing at all is known about this project yet, which suggests that it's maybe a little further off that 2012. Whatever happens, 2012 is going to be a great year for PC gamers!
Everybody knows that Blizzard's working on a new MMO, codenamed Titan, but while the developer has yet to reveal any hard information on the game, the company's CEO Mike Morhaime has announced it won't be a sequel to World of Warcraft.
Talking at the DICE developer summit in Las Vegas, Morhaime announced that the new game will cover new ground. (Thanks Ars Technica.)
"Without giving away any details, we have some of our most experienced MMO developers, people who spent years working on the World of WarCraft team, working on this project," said Morhaime. "We're really trying to leverage all the lessons we learned through the years. Some of which we were able to address in World of Warcraft and others that maybe because of the design decisions we've made, you just can't address. So we're kind of taking a step back with all that knowledge to make something that's completely new and fresh. We're not trying to make a WOW sequel."
According to Eurogamer, Titan's still a way off, and players can expect to get their hands on it in 2013. Yesterday, however, we reported that Blizzard will be shipping at least two games in 2012. Interesting!
Psst! Heard about Titan? It's the code-name for Blizzard's new MMO, which the World of Warcraft developer is hard at work on. And guess, what? According to Gamasutra - thanks, Eurogamer - it's already up and running.
"We're very confident in that product. It's an awesome one. We're playing it already," teased Paul Sams, Blizzard COO, when asked about the project.
"It is a total ball to play. We think that the reach of that product is greater than anything that we've done before. We're very excited about that. I believe that it's the type of game that will have a very long life, much like World of Warcraft has. The thing that we hope will happen is that it will not stop World of Warcraft but we believe will eclipse it."
According to industry rumour, the game is out in late 2013, but this being Blizzard, we wouldn't suggest setting your watch by that. The only other thing we know, as Eurogamer points out, is that it's not going to be a sequel to World of Warcraft, but something entirely new.
Excited? You bet. Annoyed we have to wait? You got it.
You wait years years! for each Blizzard game to arrive, and all of a sudden the legendary PC developer seems to be announcing new titles all the time.
Well, not quite all the time, but we already know that the Warcraft creators are working on a brand new MMO, codenamed Titan, along with the amazing dungeon-crawler Diablo III, and two further instalments for the dazzling sci fi RTS StarCraft II. Oh, and there are two more World of Warcraft expansions on the way too. And a Diablo III expansion, even though the game isn even out yet.
Well now there seems to be another game on the way, if a job listing, spotted by Eurogamer, is anything to go by. The job ad in question doesn give too much away, but it is encouraging applicants to come forward to work for an "unannounced game title."
Digging deeper, it turns out Blizzard after a "software engineer, tools," to join Blizzard's "newest game team". The developer adds that, "this is a key role in a new and exciting project within the company."
Well, it looks like the developers are going to busy for quite a while, then. More news on this one when we hear it.
You can pick up a beefy gaming PC for little more than the cost of a console.
It used to be that PC gaming was for the more masochistic gamer: the constant (and costly) upgrades, having to configure your system every time you bought a new game and the hours spent tweaking settings for optimum performance. Not so any more. While the whole gaming world will be watching E3 in June (where we know we'll see more of the Wii U, possibly the Xbox 360 successor, and perhaps even the PlayStation 4) the truth is that these days you can pick up a beefy gaming PC for little more than the cost of a new console.
You're no longer reduced to leaning over a desk after a hard day of leaning over a desk either. If you've got an HDTV then you need nothing more than an HDMI cable, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and maybe even treat yourself to a wired Xbox 360 controller - many PC games are now optimised to make use of console controllers.
So, you've got your powerhouse PC, you've cabled everything together and nothing has blown up - so what was it all for?
You get to play games the way the developers really want them to be played.
Well for a start, you get to play games the way the developers really want them to be played. The extra grunt afforded by your brand new rig brings us to Battlefield 3. One of the best shooters we've played in years looks good on the home consoles, plays great with 24 players, but plays even better in a full-on, massively multiplayer 64 player combat battleground.
It's not just about the sheer horsepower that makes PC gaming such a great experience. Everyone's an armchair critic, but many of those critics have a fair hand for designing game mods and content as well. In the award-winning Skyrim, Bethesda introduced their Radiant Story system to extend the life of the game. The party really starts though when the talented modders get to grips with the engine to bring enhanced graphics and brand new content - not to mention squashing a few bugs along the way.
Then there are the games that you just can't get anywhere else. Some of the best gaming experiences of the last 20 years have come from Blizzard's acclaimed studios. World of Warcraft taught the world to play MMOs, while Starcraft competitions continue to dominate the real-time strategy gaming scene. Not only is there a huge amount of content to catch up on, one of this year's most anticipated games, Diablo 3, is shaping up to revolutionise the genre.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is another must-play PC-only title that's thrilling Star Wars fans across the world. This story-heavy take on the MMO is the perfect single-player adventure tied up in the thrill and co-operation of a massively multiplayer world.
PC games not only look better and play better, but the games themselves cost less.
There's good news for your wallet as well. PC games not only look better and play better, but the games themselves cost less. Without the big three console manufacturers taking a slice of every game sold, you save money on that rig you treated yourself too every time you pick up the latest blockbuster.
Just as you'll need to upgrade to a new console in the next few years, it's true that you'll find yourself having to upgrade your PC in the future. But things have definitely changed, and that awesome new graphics card will stand up to the challenge of increasingly high fidelity graphics far longer than it ever would have in the past. Not only that, when the time to upgrade comes you get to make only the changes that you want to make.
With more and more titles being optimised for PC, there's never been a better time to get stuck into the choice, fidelity, and expanded world of gaming genres that the PC gaming scene provides.
A select few World of Warcraft players will soon be given the chance to try out Mists of Pandaria, the newest expansion pack for the hugely popular MMO title.
Annual Pass holders, press, fansites and opt-in beta testers are being sent invitations to try out the latest add-on, in order to help iron out the bugs ahead of its commercial release on PC later this year.
In addition to providing feedback on performance, participants will be permitted to take as many screenshots and videos as they wish, meaning fans will soon be able to share all sorts of juicy details on the new content soon.
Mists of Pandaria is the fourth expansion pack for World of Warcraft and introduces an entirely new continent, populated by a mystical race of martial arts-trained panda bears called the Pandaren.
The new add-on allows players to play as the noble Pandaren and unlock a new Monk character class as they explore new areas, embark on hundreds of extra quests and train their characters up to level 90.
Other fresh features include the all-new Challenge Mode and Pet Battle system, which lets players train up their vanity pets and pit them against each other.
It's hard to image there was ever a time when we couldn't assume our grimmest war-face, fire up our consoles and do battle with a global army of enemy combatants from the comfort of our armchairs. We're certainly come a long way from sitting hunched over our Commodores, battling as much for keyboard space with our siblings as we were on-screen! But where did it all start?
Things really started to evolve in the 90s though when LAN parties were the in-thing for the hardcore gaming hobbyist. If the prospect of the violently seductive Doom wasn't enough to keep you up into the early hours by itself, there was no better way to bring the competitive minds of a whole generation of gamers together than by syncing up a few PCs and spending hours, even days, doing battle in the flesh.
The blossoming Korean e-sports scene took the concept even further, and now commands a staggering national audience for televised championships. Blizzard's outstanding StarCraft series rules the roost in this domain, and not even the awesome sequel released in 2010 has put a dent in players' enthusiasm for the best-selling original. The competitive scene for StarCraft II is still buzzing in the West, and it's never too late to get stuck into a game that'll be around for years to come and still has two explosive expansions in the works.
Then there's World of Warcraft, the game that really did change everything. Released in 2004, it arrived just at the right time as the mass uptake of increasingly fast broadband connections became the norm, unleashing a greedy clamour for the world of Azeroth - one so extreme that it saw Blizzard pull the game from store shelves at one point, their servers unable to keep up with the snowballing demand. It now enjoys a seven-figure subscriber count, and with three award-winning expansions under it's belt, there's more content for you to get stuck into than you'll know what to do with!
While consoles such as the sadly-undersold Dreamcast teased gently around the potential for global gameplay, it was arguably Microsoft who broke new ground for console gaming with the launch of the Xbox LIVE service, putting a whole new world of gaming at player's feet - and long before PCs became a breeze to hook up for the living-room lounger!
So while PC gaming might have dominated the early days of competitive multiplayer, it was titles like Halo 2 that brought the idea of mass gaming to the forefront of game design. While the single-player components of the Halo games continue to blow us away, the passion for Halo 2 was so extreme that players left their Xbox 360s running for days at a time to prevent the eventual switch-off of multiplayer support for all original Xbox games in April 2010.
These days it's show-stopping blockbuster titles like Call of Duty that continue to change the way gaming is viewed and played online by the console crowd. For many, it's the only game they need to buy each year, and services like Call of Duty Elite are doing even more to add greater depth to the experience, allowing gamers to track, log and show off their finest moments on the battlefield.
No-one can guess what the next evolution in multiplayer might be, but we're already seeing some extraordinary innovation in the likes of Nintendo's StreetPass, allowing gamers-on-the-go to make new friends without ever saying hello, and the awesome potential of the augmented reality features in the upcoming PlayStation Vita. One thing's clear, multiplayer is here to stay and the future can only bring us even closer together.
Console shooters had their derby match at the start of November, when Battlefield 3 challenged reigning champ Modern Warfare 3 for the hearts and minds of virtual soldiers across the world. On December 20th, a similar clash will take place, with stakes that are arguably even higher.
That's when the Lucas-approved, Bioware-developed online role-player Star Wars: The Old Republic launches, offering the first serious challenge to World of Warcraft's dominance. And given that World of Warcraft has a population more than twice the size of Norway, and turns around enough money each year to dwarf most real world nations, it's territory worth fighting over.
But where did massively multiplayer online role-playing games (or MMORPGs) come from?
To answer that question you need to jump back to Essex University in 1978. It was here that two students, Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle, first took the early Dungeons & Dragons-inspired adventure games and adapted them to allow multiple players at the same time. They called their creation MUD, or Multi-User Dungeon.
The game remained very much part of the academic and computer science subculture, until the mid 1980s, when commercial publishers made their first efforts at packaging the idea of playing online in a way normal game consumers at home could understand. One of the first pioneers, appropriately enough, was a Commodore 64 virtual world called Habitat, developed by LucasArts.
The internet was still a basic and clunky thing, however, so these were little more than tentative toes dipped into online waters. It wasn't until 1991 that games we'd now recognise as offering true graphical online multiplayer experiences really took off.
First off the blocks was Neverwinter Nights, an official Dungeons & Dragons game hosted by the rapidly expanding AOL internet service provider. It was crude by today's standards, with a basic 3D view in a small window and text inputs, but it was a genuine virtual world populated by other players. Other adventure game specialists, such as Sierra, quickly followed suit and released their own spins on the formula.
In 1995, internet speeds were given a boost and data traffic restrictions lifted in the US, allowing this embryonic genre to really evolve. Meridian 59 was technically the first MMO game to take advantage of the technological freedoms, but it was the 1997 game, Ultima Online, that popularised the genre. Not only did it offer rich, varied gameplay, it boasted a colourful top-down game world to explore. It was Ultima's creator, Richard Garriott, who claims the honour of coining the term MMORPG.
As player numbers rose, and with them the chance to make serious money from subscriptions, more recognisable names joined the fray. SONY's Everquest debuted in 1999, with full 3D graphics. Sega, meanwhile, brought MMO games to consoles, with the Dreamcast title Phantasy Star Online. Square's legendary Final Fantasy went online-only for its eleventh entry in 2003. Online role-playing was fast becoming one of the most popular game genres around, and just needed one final kick to boot it into the mainstream consciousness.
Cue World of Warcraft. Released in 2004, this spin-off from Blizzard's fantasy themed real-time strategy series brought a speed and immediacy that previous titles, still clinging to the paper-and-dice role-playing roots and point-and-click adventure elements, had lacked. World of Warcraft was fast and satisfying, character classes were well defined, and progression brought more and more impressive powers and weapons into play. It had the depth and immersion of a true RPG, but the instant gratification of an action game. Needless to say, the realm of Azeroth was quickly filled with addicted fans.
Since then, many have tried to topple Blizzard's billion-dollar behemoth from its MMORPG throne. Some manage to tempt a few subscribers away, but most eventually return, lured back by the vibrant community and regular world-changing updates.
World of Warcraft has never faced a rival like Star Wars though. There are millions of fans around the world, who have long dreamed of fighting, working or just living in that galaxy far, far away and The Old Republic allows them to do just that. Will that be enough to cause a mass emigration from the realms of Warcraft? Who knows - either way, it's going to be fun finding out.
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