BlizzCon 2010: Hands-On Blizzard DotA, Left 2 Die, Starjeweled

BlizzCon 2010: Hands-On Blizzard DotA, Left 2 Die, Starjeweled

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Blizzard's homages to Defense of the Ancients, Left 4 Dead and Bejeweled are playable, fun, and (best of all) free.

Earlier today, at the BlizzCon 2010 opening ceremonies, the PC developer announced that it would releasing four free mini-games built within the StarCraft II map editor - all of which were available on the show floor. How do they hold up when they're actually played? Surprisingly well.

As the name might indicate, Starjeweled is Blizzard's own take on PopCap's immensely popular Bejeweled. While the standard match-three gameplay is as familiar as ever (it's hard to mess that up), Starjeweled throws an interesting twist into the mix by adding a RTS element. Starjeweled is a competitive title, with each player in control of their own base.

Matching gems will spawn grunt units at your base, which march toward the enemy lines - but, similar to games like Puzzle Quest, matching gems will also give you resources that you can spend on bigger, tougher units. If your opponent is just flooding your lines with Marines and Zealots, spawn a Colossus and a Siege Tank, or fly overhead ground-only units with Banshees. As games get involved with large armies clashing in the middle of the map, it becomes important to divide your attention equally between the Bejeweled gameplay and the RTS action - which is hectic, intense, and surprisingly entertaining.

Aiur Chef is the tongue-in-cheek member of the and the only one that owes no inspiration to other videogames (TV shows, though, are another matter entirely). As an aspiring Aiur Chef, you must use your skills in cooking - and hunting - to triumph over the others in order to be named Executor Chef. Like in Iron Chef, every round has a special key ingredient - bananas, Pylonade and peanuts to name a few - but unlike Iron Chef, the focus isn't on the cooking, but on the acquisition.

The ingredients are scattered all over the map, though the camera is unmovable and fixed on your character, which means that you need to explore to find them. Players need to divide their time between exploring to acquire ingredients and interfering with your foes - it's a fun balance, and you'll need to determine what recipes you're going to go for on the fly, since different recipes will give you different amounts of points on completion. The most points wins at the end of the round, and then you get another secret recipe. It's definitely a unique style, and works best the more players you have.

If people were expecting Left 2 Die to be a shooter a la the Valve game it takes its inspiration from, they'll be disappointed. It's a co-op take on the "Outbreak" mission in StarCraft II - colloquially known as "that zombie mission" - where players had to divide their attention between building up their forces and destroying enemy structures during the day, and defending their base against the undead by night.

Like Left 4 Dead, Left 2 Die throws "Special Infested" into the mix, like the Hunterling (it pounces!) and the game's own take on the Boomer (vomits corrosive acid on structures and explodes when killed). Killing Special Infested and destroying the Infested structures will reward players with Biomass, which is used to research new structures and units like the Medic, Firebat, and Perdition Turret (a submerging flamethrower turret). It may not be a shooter, but the "Outbreak" mission is frequently cited as one of the highlights of SC2's campaign by gamers and press alike - and this co-op version of it will probably become extremely popular on Battle.net.

When it comes to popular custom maps, though, you can't beat Defense of the Ancients, the obscenely popular Warcraft III mod. Blizzard DotA - officially called Blizzard All-Stars - takes that single-hero gameplay and updates it in the current game. If you've ever played DotA, the familiar aspects are there: You have three lanes, you have auto-spawning waves of creeps, and you have towers that need to be danced around and eventually taken down. There is an item store back at the base, a fountain of health that restores you to fighting strength, and a central structure that must be destroyed or defended.

There are currently ten or twelve heroes in the game (with more to come), divided between the Terran/Protoss side and the Infested/Zerg side - including warcraft heroes like Sylvanas Windrunner and Muradin Bronzebeard (as well as the Murloc Marine and Tauren Marine easter eggs). I picked Zeratul, who is heavily based around sneak attacks, Blinking in (and out) of danger, and phasing through enemies to damage all in his path ... though the trade-off is that he's fragile as hell.

It definitely works smoothly, and though it's clearly a work in progress - there were no "neutral" creeps around on which players could grind experience, for one - it feels like DotA ought to. The balance seems a bit off at the moment, with certain abilities feeling exceedingly overpowered (one of my base skills could kill almost an entire wave of creeps) and the defensive structures coming across as rather weak. While there are several item shops in the game, it's lacking the cool bit of DotA where you could combine and upgrade items which made it feel like you were building your character with a defined goal in sight.

Those, however, are problems with rather easy fixes. Blizzard All-Stars has the core and the soul of the original DotA, is very responsive and has a fun sense of humor. Between this and Valve's DOTA 2, there is a war on the horizon - and it should be a fun one to watch.

All four mods will be released by Blizzard for free to all owners of StarCraft II in the coming months.

(Image courtesy Malgayne)

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Very cool stuff.

Can't wait.

we already got Storm of the imperial sanctum for DOTA like map, and its got everythign mentioned here and more, but new variety sounds cool. Im looking forward to seeing these

"(as well as the Murloc Marine and Terran Marine easter eggs)"

a terran marine? that is quite the easter egg ;P

Although these 4 little maps seem quite cool, not sure how much playtime ill give them. it is nice to see that blizz wants to show us just how far you can take their map builder.

Left 2 Die sounds absolutely badass, if I do say so myself.

..."Pylonade"? Okay, there's my cheap laugh for the day.

Fabo Craven:
"(as well as the Murloc Marine and Terran Marine easter eggs)"

a terran marine? that is quite the easter egg ;P

I think that's supposed to be Tauren Marine.

Dota2 V Blizzard All-stars V Heroes of Newerth. this is gonna be interesting

Where does homage end and copyright infringement begin?

Seems that no one is allow to infringe, except for the companies.

They might say 'it's just a bit of fun'... but why should it be allowed , when we try to have the same fun we are sued into oblivion.. or failing that our hardwork is just simply stolen..most likely so they can use it themsleves... There are a few devs who are willing to play fair..

...but the big boys just shit on you from a high height and there's bugger all you can do because they got the law changed, always in their favour.

Hmmm a Dota game from Blizzard. Let's see..Heres hoping for a dragoon hero!

On a unrelated note, Dota2,Hon, and LoL must be at least a tad worried about this. Well except for League of legends, they seem to just do thar own thing.

Also to note, Blizzard and Popcap have a pretty content relationship what with the bejeweled adon for WoW and of course the new minigame of plants vs ghouls.

Infringement on video games is currently about impossible. Look at medal of honor / call of duty. Or about 50% of the MMOs released since WoW. As long as you do not use trademarked names or characters you are basically in the clear.

A style of gameplay cannot be copyrighted, just like you can't copyright a love story, or a war movie.

Trust me when I say, if there was a snowballs chance in hell of a lawsuit for it, Bobby at actbliz would have it going for a long time going now.

thethain:
Infringement on video games is currently about impossible. Look at medal of honor / call of duty. Or about 50% of the MMOs released since WoW. As long as you do not use trademarked names or characters you are basically in the clear.

A style of gameplay cannot be copyrighted, just like you can't copyright a love story, or a war movie.

Trust me when I say, if there was a snowballs chance in hell of a lawsuit for it, Bobby at actbliz would have it going for a long time going now.

You forget that 'likeness' is part of the law too... and 'left 2 die', about zombies, starjewelled, the name alone and the DotA (all stars no less) is definately recogniseable.. all bear ridiculously close recogniseable 'likenesses'... if anyone not company based was to do this, you can be absolutely sure a way to litigate against them WOULD be found.

(DotA is a bit of a grey area atm.. it's being claimed, but the community who created it are counter claiming it)

Here's the thing. Icefrog would update DotA often, sometimes twice in a week if obvious balance issues arose. That's what made DotA great, the ridiculously devoted team that keeps updating the game.

Runsta:
Dota2 V Blizzard All-stars V Heroes of Newerth. this is gonna be interesting

Cough League of Legends. Of course, with a F2P model we won't really lose too many players.

Fumbleumble:
Where does homage end and copyright infringement begin?

Seems that no one is allow to infringe, except for the companies.

They might say 'it's just a bit of fun'... but why should it be allowed , when we try to have the same fun we are sued into oblivion.. or failing that our hardwork is just simply stolen..most likely so they can use it themsleves... There are a few devs who are willing to play fair..

...but the big boys just shit on you from a high height and there's bugger all you can do because they got the law changed, always in their favour.

What infringe?

Left 2 die and left 4 dead only have their name in common. So is Iron cheif and Auir cheif. Not like we never see people making fun of other game in thier games. The thing is the title of the game is called Starcraft 2, sueing people for a mission name is unheard of.

About DotA the creator didn't mind for like 5 years of other player remaking it(, and he disappeared anyways, no one knows if he is even alive.) For example, DotA: Allstar, DotA: Outland are all Fan made version of DotA. Yes, later DotA: Allstar became the biggest of all fan made DotA and people consider it as "offical". Honestly, I don't see how Valve is going to get the copyright of DotA, for the fact IceFrog didn't dreate DotA, or even DotA: Allstar.

Then Blizzard will never have issue with Popcap... their dev seem very freindly with each other. From the interview with Popcap, their dev work together for some projects. For example the Bejeweled mod for WoW was created by Popcap with the help of Blizzard's dev. Then this is not the first time Blizzard put Popcap's game in thier game. For example, peacebloom vs ghoul (in WoW) is basicly plant vs zombie (game from Popcap).

Runsta:
Dota2 V Blizzard All-stars V Heroes of Newerth V League of Legends V DotA Allstars. this is gonna be interesting

fixed that for you.

 

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