At a small press conference, WoW Production Director J. Allen Brack and Diablo III Lead Designer Jay Wilson took questions from assembled staff members from various Warcraft and Diablo fansites on a wide range of topics - with a few exclusive tidbits of information coming out in the process.
Diablo III Not a Subscription Game
Gamers and press alike had been concerned over the surprise revelation that Blizzard had been discussing ways to monetize their multiplayer Battle.net service. When asked to clarify, Wilson admitted that they weren't even sure themselves what form the monetization would take, but he was adamant that D3 would not be a subscription-based game: players will not have to pay to play the game. What they will have to pay for is still up in the air.
Arthas Kill Confirmed?
In response to a question about whether or not players would be able to kill Northrend's Big Bad - Arthas the Lich King - Brack similarly responded that since they had not yet designed the specifics of the encounter, he couldn't say for certain either way. He did suggest that it would be unlikely for Arthas to survive his encounter with players, pointing out that not only had Blizzard not been afraid to kill off major lore characters in Burning Crusade like Lady Vashj or Illidan, bosses rarely outlived their battles anyway as a general rule of thumb.
Of course, it was always possible that they would, in fact, choose a route where Arthas escaped to deliver his "Wrath" another day ... but Brack reminded us that even Arthas himself was a relatively recent villain, first appearing in 2002's Warcraft III. They hadn't quite run out of villains yet - some names tossed around included Deathwing or even the Dark Titan, Sargeras - but there was "no shortage of ideas" at Blizzard, said Brack. They'd even introduced a new group of baddies in WoW itself with the Old Gods - who will be playing a larger role in Northrend.
Since the specifics of the Arthas encounter were still up in the air, so was the fate of Arthas' legendary rune-sword, Frostmourne. Brack acknowledged with a chuckle that there were a "few problems" with having every player on the server carrying their own Frostmourne around, but said that the development team hadn't quite settled on a solution. They had looked at options such as making Frostmourne a once-per-server legendary drop, or letting players only loot a "Shard of Frostmourne," itself a legendary weapon in its own right ... but not the full blade.
WoW Will Have "Paid Character Customization"
When asked to expand upon a button found by sifting through the Lich King beta's data files named "Paid Character Customization," Brack initially hesitated to give any answer at all. Several questions later, he went back to the matter, saying that he could, in fact, confirm that World of Warcraft would eventually have some form of paid character customization, though they themselves hadn't yet worked out any details.
Diablo III Party Limited to Four
On the Blizzcon show floor, the number of players able to join a multiplayer session of D3 was capped at four, half that of Diablo II. While Jay Wilson cautioned the group that this was by no means a final decision for the game's direction, it was a number that "grows more solid every day." In Diablo II, it was extremely rare to find an eight-person game where all eight people were playing together, and while playing and testing internally, D3 didn't feel right with a larger party size - there were "too many people."
Wilson also dismissed oddly-persistent rumors that Diablo would ship before StarCraft II, though he jokingly acknowledged that he "wished it was true."
WarCraft IV Likely ... Sometime
The Blizzard developers were very aware that players were interested in having a new Warcraft title other than WoW, said Brack. However, the design team who would be responsible for a true RTS sequel to the Warcraft series were currently busy with getting StarCraft II out the door, and would be for quite some time. In the end, Brack emphasized that it was ultimately up to that RTS team; they wouldn't work on a project they weren't passionate about themselves. However, while there was no way to be certain either way, Brack himself thought it was extremely likely that there would eventually be a WarCraft IV ... eventually.
Knowing the average pace of development at Blizzard, maybe gamers can start looking forward to it around 2015.
Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of the press conference, coming shortly!