BlizzCon: Opening Ceremony (Live Updates)

The BlizzCon opening ceremony begins today at 11am PT/2pm ET! We'll be live updating this article as the ceremony progresses, so keep checking back.

The ceremony has ended, check out everything below!

Private Servers, MMO Piracy and the Future of DRM

While piracy in MMO gaming isn't as prevalent as in other video game markets, Activision-Blizzard and other publishers remain aggressive in their hunt for operators of rogue, "private servers." Last week World of Warcraft publisher Blizzard made headlines across the blogosphere after the company was awarded more than $88 million in damages in federal court; the complaint was originally filed in October 2009, alleging Alyson Reeves—the defendant and operator of a popular "Scapegaming" private server—broke the company's EULA by hosting the illegal server and selling in-game items for real money via PayPal.

The recent lawsuit is one of the most extreme cases of piracy in the MMO industry; Scapegaming hosted 427,393 total users, with 32,000 to 40,000 players online each day, according to the court order [via THR, Esq.]. But is piracy in MMOs a widespread problem for most of today's publishers? Or is online gaming, by nature, more prohibitive to "digital theft" than traditional video games? Some publishers are taking cues from the cloud-based nature of online gaming, adopting new forms of digital rights management (DRM) for single-player or "offline" games that rely on users' Internet connections to constantly validate their usage rights.

StarCraft II Collector's Edition Details Announced

In a recent press release, Blizzard announced the "Collector's Edition" of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the long-awaited sequel to its classic StarCraft real-time strategy game. Customers of the regular and collector's edition of StarCraft II will both have access to the same multiplayer features, although the collector's edition includes several bonus items and additional game content. "We've been looking forward to revisiting the StarCraft universe with our players for over 10 years, and we wanted to offer an epic collector's edition that commemorated the occasion," Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said in the press release. "This special version of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty—easily our biggest collector's edition to date—does just that, and we think StarCraft II gamers will really enjoy all of the exclusive contents."

The "box set"-style collector's edition will be sold for $99.99 in retail stores only (as opposed to the regular edition for $59.99, available at retail stores and as a download via the online Blizzard Store). In addition to the game DVD, the collector's edition includes a 176-page book featuring artwork from the game, a 2GB USB flash drive replica of Jim Raynor's dog tag preloaded with the original StarCraft and Brood War expansion, a StarCraft II soundtrack CD, a redemption code for a "mini Thor" in-game WoW vanity pet, exclusive StarCraft II downloadable content and more.

Click past the jump to read the complete press release, which includes a listing of all the collector's edition bonus items and additional release information. Afterwards, head over to ZAM's latest BFF Report to see our early in-game impressions of StarCraft II from the closed-beta.

Fan-Made BlizzCon 09 Mini-Docu Making Headlines

While most of the non-gaming media continues to cover events like BlizzCon as a nerd-fest gathering of an incomprehensible and socially-inept subculture, one guy is helping to lift the curtain and change those preconceptions. Well, from his standpoint, at least. Chris Nguyen, a.k.a. ddrfreak5o3 on YouTube, directed and produced his own fan-made, mini-documentary called "BlizzCon: An Event For Fans" while attending BlizzCon 2009 last month.

"I suppose the main purpose of this decision was to challenge myself, prepare for some documentary film classes (as well as a few other Journalistic Electronic Media classes), and update my digital portfolio," he wrote in the video's description on YouTube. Although he might not have originally intended it to be a deep, sociological insight into the die-hard gaming community, it's a fairly distinct and refreshingly alternative piece, compared to similar "fish-out-of-water" documentaries and news reports.

The mini-docu runs just over 10 minutes long and is surprisingly well-edited and shot. Nguyen captured high-quality video throughout a variety of BlizzCon events and exhibitions, including the Ozzy Osbourne performance. He also interviewed a couple of WoW gamers, and the winner of this year's costume contest. All in all, it's an extremely polished video for a fan-made documentary; one that shines a light on the best elements of BlizzCon, and the community behind it.

New Interview With StarCraft II Lead Writer

If you've been craving some new and substantial StarCraft II info (especially after the surprising lack-thereof at BlizzCon) you'll want to check out this new interview published by IGN with StarCraft II's Lead Writer, Andrew Chambers. Interestingly, Chambers worked at Games Workshop for 14 years before signing up with Blizzard, according to the interview. As they point out, that should definitely instill a little faith in any StarCraft fan familiar with Games Workshop, considering one if its flagship properties—Warhammer 40k—is all about sci-fi warfare and space marine combat.

Chambers talks about the lore and storytelling involved in StarCraft II from the "trilogy" standpoint, and the process he and the writing team are using to make it work.There are some other tidbits thrown in there as well, including a bit of info behind the dialogue and voice acting process used in the game.

Echos of StarCraft: Ghost in StarCraft II?

An interesting little feature popped up on earlier today; it's called "StarCraft: Ghost Lives On In StarCraft II," by Mike Fahey. The story features an interview with StarCraft II art director Sam Didier, in which Fahey sarcastically asks when StarCraft: Ghost is coming out. The reason I say "sarcastically" is because StarCraft: Ghost is widely-known throughout Blizzard's die-hard fans to be one of the biggest let-downs in the company's history. Originally announced back in 2002 as a spin-off of the original StarCraft, the game was meant to be a stealthy, third-person shooter released in a variety of console formats. But year after year, StarCraft: Ghost's development kept falling behind as console technology advanced; the game made Wired's annual Vaporware Awards in 2005. In 2006, Blizzard finally announced it was on "indefinite hold."

But in the recent Kotaku interview, Didier offered a little insight into the graphical design process that implies we might be seeing elements of StarCraft: Ghost in the upcoming StarCraft II:

"We actually looked at a lot of the art assets so we could include them in specific missions in the game, or if there was a specific installation in Ghost that we wanted to include in StarCraft II. We look at all our assets."

Didier also alludes that influences from the StarCraft: Ghosts novel that was published back in 2006 might appear in StarCraft II. "[...] we're definitely not throwing away the lore," he told Kotaku. If you thought you'd never even see a trace of StarCraft: Ghosts, you might be wrong. At the very least, we might see a little of the blood, sweat and tears that went into the game's development at some point in the upcoming StarCraft II trilogy.

BlizzCon 2009 Recap: News Highlights

As covered live by the reporting team, BlizzCon 2009 ended with a roaring thunder of a performance by Ozzy Osbourne and BlizzCon-regulars Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain. After two days of new and exciting announcements, fun contests and fan-driven celebrations, around 25,000 people left Anaheim, California as the convention came to a close.

The news and announcements that came out of BlizzCon 2009 will be dissected, analyzed and refined by the media and fan community for months to come. Even though BlizzCon 2009 provided a finite amount of information, nearly every piece of it will be examined with a fine-tooth comb, leading to almost infinite speculation and pondering. New questions spawn from the answers we received, and this is just the beginning.

World of Warcraft is headed to a new era; the upcoming expansion, Cataclysm, will forever change the world’s most popular MMO. Blizzard’s new-and-improved system is poised to change the way we play upcoming games like StarCraft II and Diablo III; possibly impacting the market as substantially as services like XBox Live. If you weren't able to find out what happened at BlizzCon until now, don’t worry; you'll be reading about it for months to come. In the meantime, here’s a succinct recap of the most important news and announcements that came out of BlizzCon 2009.

BlizzCon 2009 Day One: News Recap

For those of you just waking up, getting off work or getting online for the first time since BlizzCon 2009 began on Friday afternoon; I promised you a quick-and-easy round-up of the most important news and announcements from "day one" of the convention. The biggest news of the day for most fans was the confirmation of the World of Warcraft's upcoming third expansion, Cataclysm. It turns out the rumors and "leaked" info we've been reading about was spot-on, for the most part. The Old World of Azeroth will indeed be permanently changed forever; the landscape of many low-level zones like the Barrens and Darkshore will be completely altered by the event, as will the rest of Azeroth's zones, to some extent.

Our next two playable races will be the Goblins and Worgen, aligned with the Horde and Alliance, respectively. The level cap will be raised to 85, and professions will increase by another 75 points. Archaeology will be a new secondary profession that everyone can use, and Azeroth will be retro-fitted to allow flying mounts the ability to traverse the skies. You can read about all this and more at Blizzard's newly-launched, official Cataclysm website.

Blizzard also announced Diablo III's next playable class, the Monk. Attendees saw a video of the Monk in action, and had the chance to play the game shortly after the announcement. The StarCraft, Warcraft III and WoW Arena tournaments raged on as the developer discussion panels began...the Class, Item and Profession panel proved extremely interesting; Zam's own Togikagi attended and reported a recap of the panel. Finally, returning MC Jay Mohr closed out the night and hosted the costume, dance, and sound-alike contests. Check out a few pics of the winners and other contestants at Blizzard's own TwitPic photo stream.

Check out the official recap of BlizzCon 2009 "Day One" after the jump, with all the links you need to find out more.

Blizzard CEO Opens Mouth, All Hell Breaks Loose

Sometimes it's tough being blue. Blizzard, that is; or technically, Activision-Blizzard. It can be easy to forget that the developer/publisher that launched World of Warcraft a few years ago isn't quite the same company it is today. Except, that is, during times like these.

Because of a recent remark made by Activision-Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick about raising the price of video games (and, perhaps, the recent news that StarCraft II's release is being pushed back until 2010), some gamers and MMO fans are on the verge of an all-out, nerd-rage meltdown.

The ZAM Preview Guide to BlizzCon 2009

Since 2005, tens of thousands of gamer fans have flocked to southern California each year (with the exception of 2006) to take part in BlizzCon; Blizzard's celebration of its complete IP lineup. The first convention took place on October 28, 2005 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA, and it's remained there ever since. About 8000 people were in attendance; a fairly substantial turn-out when you consider that no one knew exactly what to expect.

By the end of the weekend though, fans were thrilled with what they had finally found: a convention for gamers, by gamers. Technically, BlizzCon is similar to a trade expo in some functions, but Blizzard knew from the get-go that it wanted to offer its fans something other than the stuffy, industry-only direction in which tradeshows were headed. One weekend out of the year, Blizzard wanted to throw a massive party disguised as an expo, where its fans could gather and celebrate the entire array of the Blizzard franchise—including the Warcraft RTS series, StarCraft, Diablo…and of course, World of Warcraft.

For those of you lucky enough to score tickets to this year's convention (Aug. 21 and 22), ZAM has you covered, in this preview guide to BlizzCon 2009. You'll find a round-up of this year's highlights, along with some sage advice gleaned from attendees of years past. And if you weren't able to purchase tickets this year (along with seemingly everyone else who tried), don't worry! We'll give you all the info you need to consider the live "virtual pay-per-view" service being offered this year—which also entitles you to receive the same "Grunty the Murloc Marine" in-game vanity pet in this year's swag bags.