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

World of Warcraft: Legion Preview 4

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

World of Warcraft: Legion Preview 2

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.

Always Sunny In The Badlands: An Interview With Daniel Wu

Always Sunny in the Badlands An interview with Daniel Wu 2

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

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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.

The Epic Full Length WarCraft Trailer is Here

The Epic Full Length WarCraft Trailer is Here - 2015-11-06 08:47:20

The Warcraft movie has been in development for a while now, in production since 2014, the film is planned to be a fantasy epic. Telling the story of the epic war between Orcs and Humans, the film directed by Duncan Jones is sure to be a feast for the eyes.

This week, Legendary Pictures gave us the first taste of what the film will look like, now they have let loose the full trailer. Filed with as much action as you would expect in 2:14 minutes, it gives us a better feel for what the full length movie will be like.

I know I am excited, finally a videogame based movie that has a budget, a good director and a level of quality sorely lacking from all but few films in the genre. Let’s hope the final product is as exciting as the trailer was.

The Cancelled Games of Blizzard

The Cancelled Games of Blizzard - 2014-11-07 16:55:55

Blizzcon begins in a few hours, and word on the street is that the powerhouse developer is set to announce a new game. Blizzard announcements are always huge, but more often than not they’re about an expansion, re-release, or sequel to an existing IP. Not that they deserve much flak for this, when you have franchises like Diablo, StarCraft, and the genre defining World of Warcraft, the possibilities even within those boundaries are endless and people will eat it up. Blizzard doesn’t seem like the type of company to release something that isn’t going to generate crazy amounts of sales, and when they do release something, they want to be completely sure fans are going to enjoy it. So before the chaos begins, let’s take a quick look at some of the games we almost got from Blizzard over the years.

Nomad


AKA the game we almost got instead of World of Warcraft.

Many moons ago, a team at Blizzard were working on a tactical squad-based game based on a Warhammer-esque tabletop game called Necromunda. Players would assume control of a platoon of soldiers that could be upgraded, learn new skills and acquire new weapons and then battle other teams online. The development began stalling when the team split on which direction they wanted to go. Half the team wanted a tactical X-Com style approach and others were keen on something akin to Final Fantasy. Eventually two of the members who were deep into Everquest decided to pitch an idea to Jeff Strain, a senior programmer. Why not make a game like Everquest instead? Two days later Nomad got the axe and the team began work on WoW.

Lord of the Clans

I remember watching the trailer for this game when I got my first copy of Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal. This was way back in the mid-90s, when Lucasarts were at the height of the point-and-click adventure genre. Games like Monkey Island and Full Throttle were quite successful, and a lot of Blizzard employees were enjoying them in their spare time. Lord of the Clans would put players in charge of Thrall, a young Orc who begins as a slave and battles his way to becoming head honcho of the Orcish Horde. What was cool about this idea was giving players a chance to explore the world of the Orcs from their point of view. In a 1999 interview with Gamespot, producer Bill Roper shed some light on what exactly happened and why the game got cancelled: “When we got to the point where we cancelled it, it was just because we looked at where we were and said, ‘you know, this would have been great three years ago,’ but we have to go someplace new and someplace different.” There are several videos available on YouTube showcasing the game, including a 10 minute gameplay video.

Starcraft: Ghost

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Until the recent news of the Titan cancellation, Ghost was the game that everybody remembered NOT getting. According to the original press release:

“[In the game] players take the role of Nova, a lethal Ghost operative skillfully trained in the arts of espionage and tactical combat. Twenty years of ruthless physical conditioning and techno-psychological instruction have made Nova a being of terrifying potential. With the help of a determined group of allies, players follow a series of story-driven missions, engaging in a deadly mix of planetary battles and dangerous solo operations. To complete their mission objectives, players must execute intelligent tactical decisions while mastering an advanced arsenal of sophisticated weaponry.”

The game is now notorious for defining the term “development hell”. Never technically cancelled, the slide began in 2005, when the Gamecube version was cancelled. By the time 2006 rolled around, Blizzard put the game on hold while it took some time to get acquainted with the new generation of consoles beginning to roll out. Slowly but surely the game faded from memory, and was never really spoke about again. Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime explained in an interview with MTV that that Blizzard was focusing on other things, and while the game isn’t gone forever, it would appear that by this time we probably aren’t going to see an actual release.

Titan

This one stings a bit, specifically for the team that poured seven years into making a game that last month officially got shut down. Nobody really knows what Titan was actually about, despite knowledge that it would be a sci-fi MMO. Whether or not this was essentially WoW but in the StarCraft universe remains unclear, and until the inevitable flood of screens, concept art and video clips, will remain so. Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime and Senior VP of story and franchise development Chris Metzen spoke to Polygon last month describing what happened:

“We took a step back and realized that it had some cool hooks. It definitely had some merit as a big, broad idea, but it didn’t come together. It did not distill. The music did not flow. For all our good intentions and our experience and the pure craftsmanship that we brought together, we had to make that call,” Metzen said.

Morhaime concurred, saying: “We didn’t find the fun, we didn’t find the passion. We talked about how we put it through a reevaluation period, and actually, what we reevaluated is whether that’s the game we really wanted to be making. The answer is no.”

Apparently the project was just too massive, too time consuming, and not financially viable, so they shut it down. With much reluctance and sadness it would appear.

There have been a few other games cancelled or shifted to other devs, Pax Imperia 2 and Shattered Nations come to mind, but these were minor compared to the drawn out and tortuous executions of Ghost and Titan. On the plus side, it’s nice to know that the folks at Blizzard know when to call it quits, and if a game just isn’t worth it they won’t continue for the sake of pushing an unfinished or low quality product out the doors. It will be interesting to see what they have up their sleeves for today’s conference.