Aussie helping to shape World of Warcraft


IT wasn't that long ago that Julian Morris was a chef. Now Mr Morris is living in California working on World of Warcraft, arguably the hottest videogame on the planet. How did an Aussie chef of nine years move from hot plate and oven to textures and polygons? Almost by accident it would seem. “For many years after work, I would come home after a long night in the restaurant and play games to unwind,” he said. “At some point along the way I started having just as much fun using the various game editors as I did playing the games. "I really enjoyed using game editors to build the mountains I was familiar with from snowboarding or to create worlds from my favourite books.” Related galleriesWorld of Warcraft: Take a tour through Sunwell IsleThis passion for creativity and world design saw Mr Morris and his brother brainstorming ideas and trading maps they’d made, until eventually he noticed he was creating level layouts on white boards at work. "(I) realised that it might be time to seriously look at the possibility of moving out of the kitchen and into the games industry,” he said. Dream gigIt’s a far cry from designing virtual landscapes for fun to doing it professionally, but after cutting his teeth at a game development studio in Sydney, Mr Morris' talent shone through and he was hired by Blizzard Entertainment in California. Now he helps create virtual landscapes that millions of gamers around the world will traverse. “From Azeroth to Outland we shape the mountains, forests, seas, lakes, rivers, roads, and every land feature in between,” he said. “We basically create a base for the layout and placement of every city, town, building, rock, tree, ancient ruin and all the thousands of other objects that make up the cultures and details of the world.” A dream gig? You could say that. “I have always been a huge admirer of all things Blizzard Entertainment, especially the Warcraft series of games,” Mr Morris said. “To say it’s a dream gig is a huge understatement. "I get to contribute to the future of my favourite game, World of Warcraft, on a daily basis, and I‘m working with a great group of people," he said. "They quickly got me up to speed on how everything works at the company and… are a constant source of motivation to me. "I’m still surprised and in awe of the stuff that I see coming out of the various departments every day.” Constant growthTo say that World of Warcraft is a huge success would be an understatement. A massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that’s both refreshingly social and worryingly addictive, it recently surpassed 10 million subscribers worldwide. That’s 10 million people paying a monthly fee to access a persistent online game world, in which they can get together with one another to embark on epic quests and adventure through its gorgeously-realised high fantasy world. World of Warcraft is also the product of one of gaming’s most revered studios, Blizzard Entertainment. The company has produced hit after hit across its 14 year history, including the classic real-time strategy title Starcraft – which has become almost the national sport of South Korea – making it one of the most sought-after studios to work for in the industry. By its very nature, World of Warcraft is ever-changing and ever-expanding. Players thirst for new areas, new equipment and new quests, and Blizzard regularly oblige through content updates and expansion packs. Virtual architectsMr Morris and his team have an ongoing role in shaping the future of the game by crafting the very land on which the World of Warcraft saga will continue. One such area, Sunwell Isle, is one of the most visually arresting locations seen to date. Its cobble-stoned streets, autumnal trees, picturesque harbour and ornately-patterned circular towers are vibrant and full of life; a testament to the strength of the various art teams at Blizzard. “(The game) clearly has a strongly defined art and design stye... everyone on the exterior level design team is able to bring a personal touch to their work", Mr Morris said. "Each of us has certain strengths within art or design and we often work together to continually evolve the techniques and styles that we utilise as a team. "This approach helps us define the unique variety of locations and environments found in World of Warcraft.” Sunwell Isle will be available for players in the next couple of months, and brings with it a slew of new content, including Magister’s Terrace, a five person dungeon where players will face Prince Kael’thas, and Sunwell Plateau, a 25-player dungeon, which will serve as the final chapter of the Burning Crusade storyline. The Burning Crusade plot will culminate in a battle against Kil’jaeden – “one of the most challenging boss encounters we have developed to date,” according to Mr Morris – while the Aldor and Scryer storylines will also reach their finale on Sunwell Isle. Whether that last paragraph made sense to you or not, it’s clear that with 10 million acolytes around the world Mr Morris and the team at Blizzard are doing something seriously right. Perhaps it’s their passion for their work, perhaps it’s their philosophy of creating games that are easy to get into but difficult to master, or perhaps it’s the intense community support that’s lifting them higher. Then again, it could be the Aussie connection.

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wow The Virtual Playmaker

Source: http://www.itemchannel.com
Author: itemchannel

Forget the old business models of enterprise software and services, Vivendi's video games branch just posted one of its best margins ever, all thanks to a bunch of druids, goblins, orcs, elves, and fairies.

The company whose parent owns Universal Music Group said Friday that its net profit rose 8% in 2007 to .27 billion and it expected sales to rise by as much as 40% between 2007 and 2009.

One of the central factors, according to a Reuters assessment of the French telecoms and media group, is its games business, which includes Activision (makers of Guitar Hero) and Blizzard (the brains behind World of Warcraft).

"Between 2003 and 2007, Vivendi Games said it doubled its sales to more than 1 billion euros (.52 billion) and turned an underlying operating loss of about 200 million euros into a profit of 181 million euros," Reuters reported Friday. Vivendi brass indicated that there will be more acquisitions in the future to support its games group.

Vivendi has a huge cash cow in WoW. The MMOG supports 10 million gamers with very little overhead. It's an all-encompassing game and if you are not playing it yourself, surely some of your employees are. They may even be sapping your servers (more on that in a later post).

"I think there is a very, very big market that is opening up out there," Vivendi Games chairman Rene Penisson told Reuters in an interview. "It is changing the way people play video games."

The game's next expansion "Wrath of the Lich King", is expected to launch in the second half of 2008.

To their credit, WoW citizens have created their own economy, language, pornography, and even entertainment. The video methodology called machinima has allowed even nongamers to get involved and create videos based on WoW's same graphics engine.

And while a large portion of the fan-inspired movies are simply lip synched to music or boorish conversations between Level 8 Blood Elf mages (you should never trust an elf, BTW), there are some really inspired exchanges.


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World of Warcraft Patch 2.4 Fury of the Sunwell


Brace yourself for the Fury of the Sunwell, the latest content patch for World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. You have traveled through the Dark Portal and braved the perils of Outland; you faced off against the might of the Burning Legion itself, and you prevailed. Now the journey that began with the arrival of the draenei on Azeroth and the blood elves' inclusion into the Horde comes full circle as a mighty army gathers to purge evil from one of Azeroth's most important loci of power: the ancient, magical Sunwell. Explore the mystical grounds of the new 5-person dungeon, Magisters' Terrace, where one of the Burning Crusade's most notorious villains is preparing to make his desperate last stand. Lead your raid group straight into the heart of the Sunwell Plateau to confront the most terrifying and deadly agents of the Burning Legion. But beware, for your enemies will not go down without a fight. Expect the demons to send in their most ferocious, brutal, and powerful officers. Your greatest challenge yet awaits. The new dungeon and raid content is not the only new addition of this patch. More than a dozen new daily quests provide fresh new challenges, and a brand-new faction stands ready to reward you for your bravery and commitment. The call goes out to the strongest, most cunning, and bravest heroes to join the Shattered Sun Offensive in the battle to reclaim the Sunwell. Sunwell PlateauFor millennia the mystical pool of energy known as the Sunwell fueled the potent magic of the exiled high elves. The Sunwell's inexhaustible power permeated the elves and infused them with a constant supply of arcane energy. For generations the high elves protected and cherished the well, benefiting from its powers even when outside the borders of their homeland, Quel'Thalas. Although the elves sustained heavy losses in the Troll Wars and the Second War against the Horde, the Sunwell remained secure... until the coming of the Scourge. Without warning the death knight Arthas, a mighty servant of the Lich King, led his undead armies in a merciless attack upon the elven kingdom. Undeterred by the desperate struggles of the elven defenders, the Scourge marched on toward the Sunwell, slaughtering any who attempted to bar their path. The legendary king Anasterian Sunstrider faced off against Arthas in an attempt to slow the undead advance, but even his unyielding will and extraordinary powers proved insufficient against the merciless death knight. With the elven capital lying in ruin, Arthas marched triumphantly to the Sunwell and tossed the bones of the fallen necromancer Kel'Thuzad into the radiant beam of light. With this act the sacred well was instantly corrupted. Knowing he had sealed the fate of the high elves, Arthas departed with the newly resurrected Kel'Thuzad to carry on in service of the Lich King. Many of the Scourge, however, remained behind to prey upon the few elves who had not yet fallen. The ranger Lor'themar Theron organized the remaining survivors to fight the undead, but it was the return of Prince Kael'thas that brought the elves a fragment of renewed hope. Tragically Kael'thas soon learned that the greatest danger to his people was posed not by the Scourge, but by the Sunwell itself. The corrupted powers of the well still permeated not only the elves, but all that they had built. Given enough time, the vile necromantic energies would kill the elves and spread an incurable poison throughout the surrounding land. Kael'thas painfully concluded that the Sunwell, the heart of their society, must be destroyed. And so he executed a plan that would irrevocably change the fate of his people. With the aid of the most powerful remaining magi, accompanied by Lor'themar and a party of volunteer defenders, Kael'thas succeeded in destroying the mystical Sunwell. Or so he thought. The Sunwell's energies had been dispersed, and yet not all of its essence was lost. A mysterious individual named Borel gathered what remained of the energies and hid them away in the guise of a mortal girl, Anveena. In the aftermath of the Sunwell's destruction, Kael'thas declared that his people would be forever known as the sin'dorei, or blood elves, so they would never forget those who had fallen in defense of their homeland. Although the Sunwell's threat was ended, Kael'thas could not have foreseen the effect its loss would have on his people. The elves suffered terribly from withdrawal, for many of them had been infused with the arcane energies of the well all their lives. Only in the absence of the Sunwell did the blood elves come to realize how addicted they had grown to its powers. Over time the elves grew ill, and the youngest and oldest among them died. Determined to find a cure for his people's crippling addiction, Prince Kael'thas sought a renewed source of arcane power, and he soon fell into the service of the demon Illidan Stormrage. With Illidan's aid, the blood elves found a temporary reprieve, learning to siphon the magical energies of others to ease their own suffering. As Kael'thas joined the fight against Illidan's many enemies, the prince came to rely more and more on fel energy: the dark and corrupting essence wielded by the demonic Burning Legion itself. Now, bristling with newfound power, Kael'thas has turned his back on his former master, Illidan, and has finally returned to Quel'Thalas, promising final deliverance to his people. To this end he has harnessed the mortal possessor of the Sunwell's energies, Anveena. Yet many believe that the prince's exposure to fel energies has made him unstable, and that he has sought out a new master, a demon lord of the Burning Legion so terrible that even the mighty Illidan would tremble in fear at the sound of his name: Kil'jaeden. Sunwell IsleWith the next patch, the Sunwell Isle will be available for play. This area includes a new quest hub and 5-player and 25-player instances. Join the Shattered Sun Offensive in shutting down Kael'thas' nefarious operations. This new force is comprised by both the Aldor and Scryers and is led by the naaru. Players will take part in claiming Sun's Reach and setting up a larger base of operations to stop Kael'thas and the Legion. New Daily QuestsThe combined forces of Shattrath have launched an attack on the Isle of Quel'Danas, to confront Kael'thas and the Legion at the Sunwell and surrounding areas. Players will be able to gain reputation with the Shattered Sun Offensive and participate in a new set of daily quests, including new daily dungeon quests for both the heroic and non-heroic five-person Magisters' Terrace dungeon at the Sunwell. And last but not least, this update will increase the daily quest limit to 25. Global Arena TournamentPlayers will now be able to create level-70 characters with epic equipment on special tournament realms and compete in a new global arena tournament. For more information, details, and entry requirements, please visit the official tournament pages. UI ImprovementsThe combat log has undergone improvements that allow more robust combat text filtering including the ability to define custom colors for enemies and friends, as well as combat text filtering for self and others.