Blizzcon kicks off with wicked cool Blizzard gaming news

If you’re a Blizzard fan… boy, oh boy, does Blizzcon ever have a lot of kickass news for you today.

Blizzcon is Blizzard’s yearly hootenanny where fans of their games gather to party, dress up in ridiculous outfits, and hear news about upcoming games and projects from Blizzard. This year’s event is no different, and many big announcements dropped today (in fact, Editor in Chief Joshua Schnell and I finally said “If we make a post for each news item that came out of Blizzard today we’re gonna have to call the site Blizzardgasm.”)

Right off the top, Blizzard blew minds by announcing the upcoming expansion pack for World of Warcraft (What is this, their fiftieth expansion? Sixtieth? I’ve lost track). Titled “Mists of Panderia”, it focuses on one of my favorite tidbits from Warcraft lore: The Pandaren monks. A panda-like race who drink beer and are masters of martial arts, their home (Panderia) has been a well-kept secret for many long years. Now, in this expansion, we get to know the Pandaren and explore a whole new continent, quest your characters up to level 90, strike forward as a Monk — the newest character class — and play as a Pandaren, which will be the game’s first fully neutral race (neither Horde nor Alliance). The official press release is right over here, and oh look! A trailer!

No word on the expansion’s release date yet, but… what if you want to be part of the beta test phase? Funny you should ask.

Blizzard offered two kickass perks for those who sign up for the one-year World of Warcraft subscription option (rather than you cheapskates who go month to month). The first is that you will be placed automagically on the Mists of Panderia beta test list. There’s no set date for that to begin, but when it does that’ll be a sure way to guarantee you’re part of it.

The other perk for one-year-subscribers is they will receive Diablo III for free. Yes, that Diablo III. The third installment to Blizzard’s Diablo series that’s got the entire nerdosphere breathing hot Mountain Dew breath in fevered anticipation. There’s no set release date for Diablo III yet (even today at Blizzcon, Head of Creative Developent Chris Metzen  said “It’s done when it’s done”), but when it drops you’ll receive a code to download it for free.

Year-long subscribers also get a special in-game World of Warcraft mount, called Tyrael’s Charger. So there’s that.

There’s relatively little Diablo III news so far, aside from the Diablo III: Collector’s Edition unboxing, which reveals the game itself, a “Behind the Scenes” DVD, a collectors’ edition soundtrack CD, an “Art of Diablo III” book, exclusive in-game content, and even a Diablo skull and a 4GB “Soulstone” USB key. Nice, tidy little package. No word on price or release date yet, but it will be coming in the next few months.

Moving on to Starcraft 2, there are two neat little tidbits: First, the upcoming expansion pack, Heart of the Swarm, got a lot more details revealed with some new video and a reveal of the new units which will be included with the expansion. New Zerg units include the Vipers (a flying support and detector unit) and the Swarm Host (a unit that gradually spawns endless waves of attackers while burrowed). There’s a third unit that’s not yet revealed. Terrans will get the Warhound (a factory unit that specializes in fighting mechanical enemies and can attack with ground-to-air AOE damage), the Battle Hellion (a slower but tougher version of the Hellion) and the Shredder (deploys a “whirlwind of death”). The Protoss receive the Replicator (becomes a copy of a targeted non-massive unit, taking on its powers as well), the Oracle (a flying unit that can disrupt building construction and resource harvesting) and the Tempest (a flying unit that dishes out massive AOE attacks against light units in the air and a beam attack against ground units).

Here’s the teaser video I mentioned and, interestingly, it’s all rendered from within the Starcraft 2 engine. Pretty nifty.

Is that all? Nooooo that’s not all. If you’re a fan of the Defense of the Ancients mod that was a huge hit when Warcraft III was the new hotness (and spawned League of Legends, a stand-alone game that was supposed to be on the Mac until Riot Games pussed out), you’ll love knowing that DOTA will be available for Starcraft 2 in all its Massive Online Battle Arena glory. If you want to get a taste, head over here and take a look at the trailer.

What? That’s not enough? Well, just think… if you were at Blizzcon tonight you could be checking out Foo Fighters, who will be performing at the event.

Anyone want to go with me next year?

Corey has been been a tech journalist with a focus on Apple since 1998 and has written for The Loop, MacHome magazine, and as games contributor for The Mac Bible, and co-hosts the iGame Radio Podcast. He works as a… Full Bio