Blizzard Veteran Chris Metzen Announces Retirement

Blizzard Veteran Chris Metzen Announces Retirement

It’s safe to say that Blizzard’s Chris Metzen is one of the giants of the video gaming world. Serving as Senior VP of Story and Franchise Development at the company, Metzen has supervised some of the most popular franchises in the gaming world today. From his early work on Warcraft to co-writing Diablo‘s world, from serving as lead designer on StarCraft to his role as Creative Director for Overwatch, gaming wouldn’t be the same without Chris Metzen’s contributions over the past 20-something years. But today, Metzen has officially announced that he will be retiring from his role at the company.

Posted across Blizzard’s forums by the company’s community managers last night, the news comes as a major departure for the organization. Metzen, who is 42, originally began working with Blizzard when he had turned 20. He was a major engine behind the company’s iconic lore, including the intricacies of 2016’s Overwatch. His work came from “an insatiable passion for ideas. For stories. For heroes,” he said in his official retirement post.

Originally, Metzen began his storytelling career by running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign among his close friends, creating complex and intricate worlds for his fellow role-players to explore. That grew over time as he worked at Blizzard, allowing him “the very distinct privilege of shaping worlds and building games with the brightest creative minds in entertainment.”

Of course, game development isn’t the easiest job in the world. There were hardships that Metzen had to endure. “I pretty much had the coolest job ever—but the truth is, sometimes it was really hard,” he explained. “Building games with dozens of brilliant, passionate alpha-geeks with their own red-hot instincts and perspectives can be pretty tricky. Coming to consensus about certain design decisions, story motifs, or courses of art direction takes a lot of communication, patience, and ‘give and take.’ It stretches you.”

“But engaging with your teammates and collaborating through the potential quagmire of all that creative tension is where the real magic happens,” Metzen said.

Don’t expect any new projects from Metzen after leaving Blizzard. As he outlined, there’s a reason why he chose the word “retire” in his announcement post. Instead of working on new games, he wants to spend time with his family at home. And with a new baby in the family, there’s plenty to do as he begins retirement.

A Quick Preview Of World of Warcraft’s Sixth Expansion Legion

A Quick Preview Of World of Warcraft's Sixth Expansion Legion

We are just a week away from the release of World of Warcraft’s sixth expansion, entitled Legion. In this preview we will take a look at some of key features of Legion and what Blizzard has planned for this massive expansion.

Following the events of the fifth expansion Warlords of Draenor, which took players to an alternate timeline in the story, we are returned to our own universe, but now the heroes of Azeroth will face possibly the biggest threat to their existence. The Burning Legion, a vast army of demons, has initiated the third invasion and seeks to raise their fallen master Sargeras and bring about the end of all life on Azeroth. Heroes will be sent to the mysterious Broken Isles, the centre of an ancient elven civilization and the location of the Tomb of Sargeras. Along the way, they will make use of powerful artifacts and forge alliances with unlikely allies, all in the hopes of putting an end to the Legion’s plans.

Now, on to some of the features Blizzard has jammed into Legion:

Artifact Weapons

World of Warcraft: Legion Preview

Upon beginning their adventure in the Broken Isles, players will be tasked with recovering a weapon of great power tied to their class and specialization. These are called artifact weapons and there are 36 in total, one for each class and spec. Players will recognize most of the weapons available to them if they’re familiar with the lore of Warcraft. Among the weapons that players can obtain include the Scythe of Elune, a powerful druid staff that ties in with the origin of the Worgen, and Ashbringer, the legendary holy sword used to smite the undead and reduce them to nothing but ash. Once players have reached level cap (110), they will be able to upgrade their artifact weapon, which is tied in with world and dungeon content. These include various different models for the weapons.

Broken Isles

World of Warcraft: Legion Preview 1

Every expansion of WoW has lead players to exciting areas in the Warcraft universe, and Legion is no different. Players will now have the opportunity to experience the Broken Isles, an area tied heavily to the lore of Warcraft. Long ago, the world of Azeroth was one giant continent known as Kalimdor. At the end of the War of the Ancients, Queen Azshara, the ruler over the Night Elves at the time, created a portal for Sargeras at the sight of the Night Elves source of power, the Well of Eternity. However, things went astray and the spell created an unstable vortex within the Well which violently exploded. The result shaped the world of Azeroth into what it is today. The Broken Isles are one of the results, and contain some of the most interesting pieces of WoW’s story, including the Tomb of Sargeras, the remnants of the Temple of Elune which houses the Avatar of Sargeras (a piece of his spirit), and the ancient Night Elven city region of Suramar.

Demon Hunters

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Legion will also introduce to the playerbase a brand-new class for them to play: the Demon Hunter. It is the second hero class introduced to the game (the first being the Death Knight) and will therefore start at a higher level than other classes. Demon Hunters start at level 98 and players must have at least one level 70 character on their Demon Hunter’s starting realm. For players that pre-ordered Legion, they already have access to the Demon Hunter and can go through their starting zone and bring it out into the current world. On the lore side, Demon Hunters can both be Night Elves or Blood Elves, and follow in the footsteps of Illidan Stormrage, the first and most famous Demon Hunter. There are only two specializations available for the class, where other classes have at least three. The specs are: Vengeance, the tank spec, and Havoc, the damage dealing spec. Demon Hunters are distrusted through many cultures in the Warcraft universe and become outcasts to society. Many do not understand the sacrifice they make to devout their lives to taking down the Legion and view them as dangerous creatures who delve into dark powers.

Class Halls

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Also known as Order Halls, these are class-based areas where players will be able to hangout, recruit class-specific followers and send them on missions. In Warlords of Draenor, Blizzard introduced Garrisons, which Order Halls are directly inspired by. Garrisons gave each player their own area that they could add profession buildings, recruit NPC followers and send them out on missions that will earn the player different rewards. Order Halls will work as a base of operations and be class specific. You will be able to see other players in the hall, but only those who are the same class as the player. Players will be able to upgrade their Artifact weapons here and start quests through the NPCs and the Scouting Map. The followers players can recruit will be major characters from the lore of Warcraft, such as The Four Horsemen for Death Knights.

Legion will be releasing on August 30, and currently a pre-expansion event has been going on in-game where the Burning Legion has been invading specific areas of the world and players can head to the invasion sites to defend it and drive back the demons. Check back soon for CGM’s review of the expansion.

Warcraft (Movie) Review

Warcraft (Movie) Review

World of Warcraft was, at one point, one of the biggest games played consistently by people from around the world. At its peak, it managed to capture the attention of over ten million players worldwide—it was a global phenomenon. So, it was no surprise they announced plans to make a major motion picture based on the franchise lore. With The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit crushing box office numbers, people were poised and ready for a new fantasy world to jump into. Now, years after the initial announcement, a new director at the helm, and a slew of new technology at their disposal, the film finally released. Directed by Duncan Jones, Warcraft paints the world of Azeroth in striking detail, giving audiences a sense they are watching the most expensive cut-scene from a game ever. The only issue is there is no game at the end of this mess…just a sense of confusion and disappointment.

Sticking to the source material, Warcraft spends its 123-minute running time exploring both sides of the “epic” conflict between the Alliance and the Horde. This divided focus has the film following two factions; showing how they interact, grimace, and act like one-dimensional Muppets with little focus or clarity on their motivations. On the one side you have the orcs: a race of dimension traveling, green-skinned warriors. These hulking creatures are lead by Durotan, (Toby Kebbell) a chieftain and new father. Full of honour and angst, he is uncertain of the path his people have set out for them by their evil, death-magic-wielding, shaman leader, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), and wants to find a better. To ensure not all the orcs are made up of pure special effects, we have Garona (played by Paula Patton), who acts as a link between the world of orcs and men.

Warcraft (Movie) Review 4Standing up for the regal humans, we have Travis Fimmel as the battle steady Anduin Lothar, Dominic Cooper as the king and Ben Foster as the Merlin inspired Medivh. For moral grounding/comic relief, we have Toby Kebbell as Durotan: an ex-mage in training who realizes something is wrong with this new magic of the orcs. Despite having the benefit of not being CGI, these human characters are often the weakest points of the movie. Half the time they feel like they were ripped out of some mediocre Renaissance fair; the other half of the time the audience gets the distinct impression that none of them want to be on set. It is the one-note, human characters that are the cause of many of the biggest problems with the film.

Visually, Warcraft is stunning. The team managed to recreate, in great detail, all the scenes players know and love from the game, from the lands of Azeroth, to the wasteland of Draenor, to the detail in the design of each unique crc and mount. There was variety and a sense of scale and stretch that I did not think was possible to capture on the silver screen. The effects team should be commended on their ability to translate the magnitude and scope of an entirely new fantasy world through the effects they employed. Every ounce of turmoil that twists Durotan as he struggles to find a place for his race in a new world, every corrupt smile sprawled across Gul’dan’s evil face, each flash of fortitude and motherly tenacity that remained omnipresent on the face of Draka, was believable. The problem is, it was often far more believable than anything the humans where doing. It is an issue when a collection of data does a better job expressing emotion than the actual actors on screen.

The story and pacing are the other major issues the film faces. There were clearly some lovers of the franchise working on the script. There are nods to everything fans of the games hoped to see; from the way the world is depicted to the locations they visit. Visual shots of the world of Azeroth bring small callbacks to the titles in the series, with one shot even resembling an overhead strategy game with all the characters appearing as units on a map. Yet with all this, there was no clear motivation or sense of urgency for anything the characters where doing. Events seem to take place at random, with much of the beginning of the film feeling jumpy and rushed. The relationships between the characters is not developed beyond a few throw away lines about a back-story. Despite a run time exceeding two hours, the film felt rushed and missing many important scenes that could further develop the characters.

As with every modern fantasy epic, the film climaxes with an epic battle between the two armies, and as with the regrettable Peter Jackson Hobbit movies, this is where things devolve into the realm of cartoons rather than action movies. It is hard to get a sense of place or character with hordes of CGI people running, slashing, and dying for the film going audience. Despite all the chaos on screen, it still manages to have a sense of scale. The world of Warcraft never looked more impressive, even if it is ultimately shallow.

Warcraft (Movie) Review 1Warcraft is not a horrible movie. It manages to capture the scope and concept of the game in a film, build a sense of place with a fictional world never before captured in Cinema, and also features believable CGI characters. Yet with all this, the one-dimensional characters, bad acting, and poor script, make this a movie I could only recommend to die-hard fans of the series. It would be fun to revisit the world of Azeroth, but only with a script that makes sense, and a cast that actually wants to be in the film.

Battle Worlds: Kronos (PS4) Review

Battle Worlds: Kronos (PS4) Review

I can’t quite remember what the first major strategy game I ever played was. Perhaps it was Command & Conquer, or the original Warcraft. Or maybe, if we’re counting some of the lesser known Sim games like SimAnt, that would apply. Either way, I was introduced to the genre at a young age, and even though I don’t always have the time to absorb every ounce of each individual game’s meta strategies, I still have a soft spot in my heart for them. Battle Worlds: Kronos seeks to appeal to exactly those kinds of gamers, but that spot will need to be very, very soft to look past its shortcomings.

Battle Worlds: Kronos (PC) Review 1When I use the term “old school” when referring to the overall presentation of Kronos, I’m not stating it lightly—this thing looks like it’s from the early 90s, and was only recently ported to current generation systems. CG character models look rough, like early pre-Toy Story Pixar animation. Cutscenes struggle to keep up with the rest of the game even at a 30fps framerate on the PS4. The UI in particular looks like it didn’t pass a proper Q&A inspection. Even Command & Conquer, the original, looks like a feat compared to this.

Thankfully, I learned that the in-game presentation isn’t even as close to as sloppy as the rest. The 3D models are reminiscent of a retro classic, sure, but they’re not clunky at all and are actually fairly smooth. The framerate issues are also alleviated, which is just as well given that you’re going to be using them a lot in long, calculated battles. Yep, as most strategy aficionados know, the gameplay is where it counts—and Kronos mostly delivers on that front.

Battle Worlds: Kronos (PC) Review 2Given that it’s on console, it would be natural to fret about the controls, but the developers have skirted that issue by providing hexagonal grid-like movement (think Panzer General) to facilitate unit control. All players have to do is select a unit with the “X” button on PS4, and then choose an appropriate target. As you might have guessed, the grid system hints that it’s turn-based, and although I can play RTS titles all the live-long day, it’s nice to get a good old fashioned chess experience every so often.

Units have access to a multitude of options as well, including counter-attacks, the ability to out-range enemies, repair themselves on the field, level-up independently, and so on. Combat is basic, with numbers flying about and no cool zoom-in effect like Fire Emblem or Advance Wars, but it’s functional, and I love how you can easily swap between units with the L1 or R1 buttons, even if others are in the process of moving.

Battle Worlds: Kronos (PC) Review 3The developers have stated that Battle Worlds “is meant to be a challenge,” and that’s apt. In fact, it’s very easy to lose the first mission, which features tutorials with three campaigns, multiple dialogue options, and a stark difficulty setting, there’s plenty to comb through here, even if the campaigns do get a little grating over time (the narrative itself is rather dull and mostly an excuse to fight more). No multiplayer also doesn’t help its case.

Beneath Battle Worlds: Kronos‘ archaic veneer is a strangely satisfying strategy game. Just make sure you’re the right candidate for the job before buying in.

Always Sunny In The Badlands: An Interview With Daniel Wu

Always Sunny In The Badlands: An Interview With Daniel Wu

Martial arts movies have fallen out of the sphere of pop-culture in recent years. When once, we saw offerings like Ong Bak, Romeo Must Die and The Matrix, now action movies only offer different kinds of guns and burly American soldiers shooting them. A show like Into The Badlands seemed very risky a time where it seemed everyone had forgotten about martial arts entertainment, however thanks to the shows producer and star Daniel Wu the show has an incredible amount of depth and some amazingly choreographed fights. CGMagazine sat down with Danny to discuss his training, acting and involvement with Into The Badlands.

CGM: My first question to you is: when and how did you start learning martial arts?

Danny Wu: I started learning martial arts after watching Jet Li’s first movie The Shaolin Temple. I think I was seven years old at the time and my grandfather took me to a movie theater in Chinatown. He knew that I was watching a lot of kung fu movies on television. In San Francisco, in the Bay area there was a kung fu theatre; that was like their double feature on the weekend. So he took me to The Shaolin Temple and he was like “that’s real kung fu! All the stuff you were watching before was fake, this is the real stuff”, and I totally bought into it. From that moment on I wanted to learn martial arts, and it wasn’t until I was 11 that my mom finally found a master for me to learn from. From that moment on I just never stopped training.

Always Sunny In The Badlands: An Interview With Daniel Wu

CGM: What exactly did you study?

DW: Originally, the first six years of my training was Northern style Shaolin kung fu. My teacher was an amazing guy. I called him a Chinese Renaissance man. He was a Chinese doctor; he did acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. He taught Tai Chi and Qigong. He was also an accomplished Chinese brush painter…he was also a lawyer. So he just had a wealth of knowledge, and for a Chinese kid growing up in America he was a real connection to my culture. So I learned A LOT.

When I got to about 17 or 18, I started wanting to compete. And he didn’t really believe in competition too much, so I switched over to Wushu. I still continued to train with him, but I was training with a lot of Wushu masters who came to the United States, then I started competing.  By the time I got to university I was training myself.

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CGM: I noticed Sunny is pretty good with a sword, did you study weapon fighting as well or was it mainly hand-to-hand?

DW: I mostly learned formwork; in karate they call it Katas, in Chinese martial arts they’re called forms. In competition, it’s kind of like a gymnastics routine. Each style of kung fu has its own specific form and you’re judged on that. I did sparring as well, but I didn’t focus too much on that when I was younger. That stuff is actually good specifically for movie work because it’s all about how you present your style.

CGM: Do you think you’ve developed your own specific style, or have you mostly perfected all the individual forms?

DW: I think I try to use Bruce Lee’s philosophy that you shouldn’t be held back by a single style, you should use what works best for you. In formwork it’s different because that’s about preservation of the style, but in terms of fighting, if you stick to one style of fighting it’s very limiting for you. The advent of MMA was teaching people to be more well rounded fighters. Over the years, especially the past ten years I’ve been trying to learn other styles of martial arts and pick and choose different moves to sort-of, I wouldn’t say “create” my own style; I’m putting a bunch of tools in my toolbox, essentially.

CGM: What then, made you decide to be an actor?

DW: Well that’s a whole different story. I graduated University in 1997; I studied architecture. During the five years of the program I had slowly begun to realize that the profession of architect was not for me. Mainly because school is 90 per cent creative, but the actual job is like, two per cent creative, and so I wanted to maintain that creativity and be in an environment that had a creative energy but I didn’t know what that was yet.

I graduated, and I went to Hong Kong to see the handover, you know, going back to China after being under British rule for 99 years. Then I was going to backpack around Asia for three months, figure out what I was going to do then head back to the US to look for a job. Halfway through that trip I had run out of money, was thinking about heading home, then one night I was at a bar with some friends and some girl approached me and asked if I wanted to be in a TV commercial. I said “does it pay?” And she said “Sure it’sabout $4,000 US,” and I was like “What! $4,000? For sure, I’ll do it.”

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I did the job, didn’t really think much about it and kept traveling. Then a month later, a director had seen the commercial and he called me to come in for an interview. We chatted for about an hour, and at the end he said, “I want you to be the lead in my movie.” And I was like what? What are you talking about? I had no acting experience, and I didn’t speak Cantonese at the time; the film was in Cantonese.  So I actually turned it down, and for a month he called me every day trying to convince me to do it. By the end of it I said “Look, if you really believe in me then I’ll do it. But you can’t blame me for fucking it up.”

We had three months of prep, I was trying to realize what the craft of acting was, as well as trying to memorize dialogue in a language that wasn’t my own. Then we started filming, and the first day on set I knew this was the environment I wanted to be in. Because it was like, 60 or 70 different people, from all different walks of life, passionately working to get this one thing done. I just love that feeling. So I was like, “Ok, I’m going to whatever I can to make this my career.”

Unfortunately I had to learn my craft as I went. You know, as I made each movie you can see me trying to learn how to act. But eventually I figured it out. Let’s just say, it wasn’t a path I planned out, it just sort of happened.

CGM: So what made you decide to take the leap from acting to directing and producing?

DW: I think it was because I had been in a lot of movies; I had seen the ins and outs. I always sat next to the director and watched how the process was done. I had always been interested in how problems arose on set and how they were solved. I think it came from my architecture background, and how you sort of, put things together. By my 20


movie, I had absorbed and learned A LOT.

Then there was a small independent film that someone brought me on as lead actor in, but also created opportunities for me to be a producer and bring other people in and do a lot to help the movie. And then every couple of years I would produce something, or I would try to get spearheaded, that I thought was interesting. I think that’s what really drove me to do it, thinking “This movie’s really interesting, no one’s really doing anything like this, and I want to do stuff like this so the only way to get it done is to produce it.”

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CGM: What about Into the Badlands drew you towards that project?

DW: Well I was originally brought on strictly as executive producer to deal with the martial arts side of the show. Stacey Sher, our executive producer (she led the whole team and got the deal with AMC and all that) brought me on because AMC wanted to do a martial arts show and didn’t know anything about martials arts and she asked if I could help do it. I said of course. And that was mainly my duty at first.

When it came down to casting, I hadn’t put myself forward to play Sunny because as an executive producer I was like, “We should probably get someone who is in his late 20’s, early 30’s because the amount of fights Sunny does in the show is incredible. And if the show is successful, this could go on for years so this dude needs to be a top form athlete to hold on for that many years.” I didn’t see myself in that role because I was already 40, and I was looking at it like I was at the end of my career doing martial arts stuff. I had already stopped doing martial arts films in Hong Kong for five or six years because of injuries and various other stuff. I was thinking, if I keep doing this how am I going to live a life in pain all the time? Jackie Chan was my manager for 11 years, and I’ve seen the pain that he’s in, and I didn’t want to end up that way. All the money in the world isn’t worth that.

Always Sunny in the Badlands An interview with Daniel Wu 3So they went out and casted the age group that we thought they should, and we either got really great martial artists who didn’t have any acting ability, or really great actors that didn’t have any martial arts experience. We had a handful of people who had both, but for some reason or another they didn’t really fit the bill. At the end of the day all the producers looked at me and said “Daniel, you know you gotta do it.” So I said, “Ok, let me figure out how I’m going to train for this, because it’s been a while!” So I consulted friends who are in this genre and talked to a bunch of people about how to train because it was kind of like Kobe or Jordan coming back from retirement going “Okay, how am I going to do this at this age and perform at that level again?” I submitted myself for an audition—I wanted to make sure I auditioned so I deserved it—and AMC saw that they were confident in me and not just hand it to me because I’m a producer.

CGM: Do you feel you connect with Sunny as a character? Not being sure of what you wanted and sort-of amassing the tools to figure it out?

DW: I definitely think it was an influence, but I think that my approach was much different in that I was never bound by any kind of rules. I could actually discuss how I’m feeling or what I wanted to learn. What’s sad about Sunny’s situation is that he has to figure everything out on his own. He has no one to confide in. Even Veil, he doesn’t want to discuss it too much with her because the more she knows, the more danger she could be in. He’s really got to figure this whole thing on his own, and I think that’s the biggest challenge of this role. You have to express that in that character but without any dialogue, without any scenes with him saying how he’s truly worried about. Whereas with my path in life, I’ve always had mentors, and people I could look to and talk to and figure things out. I think it’s similar in some ways, but not entirely.

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CGM: My last question to you regards the Warcraft movie. What can you tell me about that experience? Were you excited to play Gul’Dan? Are you a big Warcraft player?

DW: I’ll say this, the whole reason I’m in the movie is because my wife is, still now, a huge Warcraft player. So as soon as she found out I got that audition she was very adamant that I made sure I got that job so she could be on set and see all that stuff.

It was awesome playing Gul’Dan. Just the experience of doing motion-capture, it was the first time I’d ever done that before. It was the same team that did Avatar but it’s been 10 years, so the technology has moved on logarithmically since then. The level of detail and what they can do, that was amazing to see that. I’m really excited for that to come out.

Editors Note: Into the Badlands has been renewed for a second season.

Blizzard Announces Overwatch Open Beta

Blizzard Announces Overwatch Open Beta

There’s no denying the hype for Blizzard’s latest title Overwatch. So, to thank the fans who’ve supported the soon-to-be-released game, the house of Warcraft announced an open beta.

Originally, there was a closed beta. According to the game’s director Jeff Kaplan, it allowed them to make changes without disturbing players, but there’s been a push from the community to try the game out in full.

The open beta is for PC along with Xbox One and PS4 and is available in all gameplay regions. For those who pre-ordered or pre-purchased the title, this starts on May 3 to 4, and they can bring a friend along for the adventure . Everyone else has to wait until May 5 to 9.

“We thought about what should be an open beta…” says Kaplan in the YouTube announcement.” But we feel like the game shows itself best when you have access to all the content.” That means all 21 classes are available from the start along with maps and loot.

This is a really big deal for anyone interested in the Overwatch. There’s been so much buzz for the game, that it was only a matter of time before everyone got a sneak peak. The fact that so much is available right from the start will be a really nice way to find out if the game is good for you, and how you will play. Good call Blizzard.