The 2010 Game Developers Choice (GDC) Online Awards have announced the opening of the Audience Awards which allows fans to cast a vote for their favorite persistent online game.

The deadline to submit nominee suggestions is Sept 24th at 12am PDT. The winners will be announced at the Choice Online Award ceremony on Oct 7, 2010

World of Warcraft is currently nominated by the development community to the following categories:

1. The Best Community Relations Award

The Best Community Relations Award honors the currently operating online game that provides the highest quality community feedback and experience, including customer support, forum moderation and leadership, weblog and information updates, real-life events, and other community outreach.

Blizzard Entertainment is contending this award with Eve Online, Guild Wars, Free Realms and Wizard101.

2. The Best Live Game Award

The Best Live Game Award recognizes the best currently-operating online game, having been launched in North America for at least 12 months (before May 2009), and distinguishing itself by that exceptional new content through expansion packs, patches, or other updates in the last 12 months, as well as a vibrant player community, high-quality community management and network operation during that period.

Other games in this category are EVE Online, Dungeon Fighter Online, Farmville and League of Legends.

The 2010 Game Developers Choice (GDC) Online Awards have announced the opening of the Audience Awards which allows fans to cast a vote for their favorite persistent online game.

The deadline to submit nominee suggestions is Sept 24th at 12am PDT. The winners will be announced at the Choice Online Award ceremony on Oct 7, 2010

World of Warcraft is currently nominated by the development community to the following categories:

1. The Best Community Relations Award

The Best Community Relations Award honors the currently operating online game that provides the highest quality community feedback and experience, including customer support, forum moderation and leadership, weblog and information updates, real-life events, and other community outreach.

Blizzard Entertainment is contending this award with Eve Online, Guild Wars, Free Realms and Wizard101.

2. The Best Live Game Award

The Best Live Game Award recognizes the best currently-operating online game, having been launched in North America for at least 12 months (before May 2009), and distinguishing itself by that exceptional new content through expansion packs, patches, or other updates in the last 12 months, as well as a vibrant player community, high-quality community management and network operation during that period.

Other games in this category are EVE Online, Dungeon Fighter Online, Farmville and League of Legends.

World of Warcraft: Shaman is a new manga from TOKYOPOP. It’s written by Paul Benjamin (known as co-writer with Dave Shramek of the Starcraft: Frontline series, Weapon of War [Vol. 1], War-Torn [Vol. 3], Orientation[Vol. 4]). Pretty much you already love this writer if you enjoyed the Colin Phash storyline. This new WarCraft manga is part of a line of class stories based on key characters of the World of Warcraft mythos.

imageThe first one of these class series debuted with DEATH KNIGHT (by Dan Jolley and Rocio Zucchi) which dealt with the backstory of Thassarian. MAGE (by Richard A. Knaak) dealt with the Nexus War and the invasion of Dalaran’s Violet Hold, and how a young mage disciple helped thwart the initial invasion of Malygos and its azure flight.

All three class mangas, in synthesis, inspire you to question what makes your class special, what’s your class’ origins, motives and beliefs.

SHAMAN is definitely another home run in the series. It’s been probably the most awaited manga in the class series for a couple of reasons: it is a Cataclysm expansion tie-in; and its main character is well-known only by old Warcraft lore fans.

The “most awaited Warcraft manga” might be an exaggeration by most people considering this character has never been an NPC in the World of Warcraft MMO. That group of fans who read the World of Warcraft RPG: Dark Factions book by White Wolf Publishing stood on their toes when they heard a few months ago this character would be the main character of this manga.

The reason? High Shaman Muln Earthfury is the leader of the Earthen Ring. A Tauren. He is a legend among Warcraft lore fans. Like the Ashbringer, which started as hearsay among NPCs, fans went crazy elaborating theories and started exploring all of Azeroth in search of clues — for lack of info or a presence in-game. The Warcraft RPG book elaborated the backstory of the Ashbringer, and later Blizzard released the Naxxramas dungeon in Eastern Plaguelands. Later, Micky Neilson wrote the World of Warcraft: Ashbringer comic book (Wildstorm) and that Ashbringer legend has been fleshed out nicely in-game thereafter in Wrath of the Lich King.

At this point, Muln Earthfury has been a legend among fans. The long-wait is over folks. This is the real deal. Muln Earthfury lives, he is canon, and you will have more things to talk about him in wikis and forums. The question is … will we see Muln Earthfury as an NPC in the game? The answer: Yes.

Tokyopop Editor Troy Lewter sent me a copy for review. This manga is no fruit, but my mouth was watering all over when I was opening the package as if it were.

World of Warcraft: Shaman starts with a short recap of the War of the Three Hammers as an intro to how the earth trembled, 257 years ago, with the accidental summoning of Ragnaros into Azeroth. Sorcerer-Thane Thaurissan invoked a desperate spell and unbeknownst to him he summoned an elemental lord. Even Kalimdor felt the tremors of the earth, and the uneasiness of the elemental spirits around the world. Tremors that caused deep consequences and casualties to the Tauren.

The tauren Shotoa was born with a unnatural connection with the elemental spirits, in contrast with other shaman apprentices. The tremors of the earth took away the life of his apprentice. His raging emotions no doubt helped shape his view of the elemental spirits and to question his faith in the old traditions of the shaman. Shotoa determined the tauren should control the elemental spirits by force, to be their master, rather than imploring their help humbly.

The story goes fast-forward in the second chapter of this manga. Exactly 27 years after the Dark Portal was opened between Azeroth and Draenor. That places World of Warcraft: Shaman manga’s timeline in synch with World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King during the pre-Cataclysm world event. (thanks Omacron)

The story of Muln Earthfury begins here, in the Bloodhoof Village, teaching his disciple the ways of the Shaman. She is a young female orc named Kettara Bloodthirst. The manga gives you small glimpses into the recent past when Muln and Kettara first met (five years ago, year 22). After a centaur and elemental attack upon Bloodhoof Village, their savior turns out to be Shotoa — long thought dead when the earth itself swallowed him 257 years ago.

This manga challenges fans to question their knowledge about ancient shamanic traditions. Should the tauren implore humbly for the aid of the elemental spirits, or should they demand and control their powers by force of will?

Fans who have read the World of Warcraft comic book (by Walter Simonson, Wildstorm) know how the ordeal went with Med’an and Cho’gal, the Twilight’s Hammer in Ahn’Qiraj and the chaotic awakening of the elementals in an effort to weaken the barrier between Azeroth and the Elemental Plane. What we see in the printed stories soon or later become reality in the MMO, and as Cataclysm beta testers have learned, there are elementals raging chaos everywhere in the game, and Twilight’s Hammer inciting them against their enemies.

The Twilight’s Hammer helped Deathwing break the barrier between Deepholm and Azeroth at the center of the Maelstrom — as you will learn in Cataclysm quests. The elemental spirits are in turmoil and confused. The Earthen Ring is hard pressed as the elemental spirits ignore their call.

Will the shaman society embrace a new way, or continue their old traditions in the upcoming Cataclysm?

World of Warcraft: Shaman hits local and online bookstores on Tuesday, September 28th, 2010.

Artwork

If you loved the artwork of World of Warcraft: Death Knight, then you will love World of Warcraft: Shaman. Rocio Zucchio penciled both. She’s amazing. As you can read in the Rocio interview at the end of this manga, she has no time to play World of Warcraft. Yet, she’s hit the nail with the Tauren’s looks. It’s her first time drawing tauren, and her past experiences drawing previous Warcraft manga have helped her mature as an artist.

That short recap of the Three Hammers War really makes you wish she takes on a Dwarf manga. Those huge battle scenes with dozens of dwarves probably took her a while. So detailed. Michael Paolilli as usual does a great job with lettering and adding tonality, different shades, to each artwork. The manga is not just black lines on a white paper. They are thoroughly worked up with different shades of gray to mimic a painting.

Characters

Muln Earthfury: High Shaman of the Earthen Ring.
Kettara Bloodthirst: Muln’s apprentice female orc shaman
Zur’ak Firefist: male troll shaman (Earthen Ring)
Lenka: female tauren shaman
Krelna: female draenei shaman
Thrall: Warchief of the Horde, a member of the Earthen Ring.
Drek’Thar: Far Seer of the Frostwolf clan.
Oreg Earthfury: Great-Grandfather of Muln, and best friend of Shotoa.

World of Warcraft: Shaman is a new manga from TOKYOPOP. It’s written by Paul Benjamin (known as co-writer with Dave Shramek of the Starcraft: Frontline series, Weapon of War [Vol. 1], War-Torn [Vol. 3], Orientation[Vol. 4]). Pretty much you already love this writer if you enjoyed the Colin Phash storyline. This new WarCraft manga is part of a line of class stories based on key characters of the World of Warcraft mythos.

imageThe first one of these class series debuted with DEATH KNIGHT (by Dan Jolley and Rocio Zucchi) which dealt with the backstory of Thassarian. MAGE (by Richard A. Knaak) dealt with the Nexus War and the invasion of Dalaran’s Violet Hold, and how a young mage disciple helped thwart the initial invasion of Malygos and its azure flight.

All three class mangas, in synthesis, inspire you to question what makes your class special, what’s your class’ origins, motives and beliefs.

SHAMAN is definitely another home run in the series. It’s been probably the most awaited manga in the class series for a couple of reasons: it is a Cataclysm expansion tie-in; and its main character is well-known only by old Warcraft lore fans.

The “most awaited Warcraft manga” might be an exaggeration by most people considering this character has never been an NPC in the World of Warcraft MMO. That group of fans who read the World of Warcraft RPG: Dark Factions book by White Wolf Publishing stood on their toes when they heard a few months ago this character would be the main character of this manga.

The reason? High Shaman Muln Earthfury is the leader of the Earthen Ring. A Tauren. He is a legend among Warcraft lore fans. Like the Ashbringer, which started as hearsay among NPCs, fans went crazy elaborating theories and started exploring all of Azeroth in search of clues — for lack of info or a presence in-game. The Warcraft RPG book elaborated the backstory of the Ashbringer, and later Blizzard released the Naxxramas dungeon in Eastern Plaguelands. Later, Micky Neilson wrote the World of Warcraft: Ashbringer comic book (Wildstorm) and that Ashbringer legend has been fleshed out nicely in-game thereafter in Wrath of the Lich King.

At this point, Muln Earthfury has been a legend among fans. The long-wait is over folks. This is the real deal. Muln Earthfury lives, he is canon, and you will have more things to talk about him in wikis and forums. The question is … will we see Muln Earthfury as an NPC in the game? The answer: Yes.

Tokyopop Editor Troy Lewter sent me a copy for review. This manga is no fruit, but my mouth was watering all over when I was opening the package as if it were.

World of Warcraft: Shaman starts with a short recap of the War of the Three Hammers as an intro to how the earth trembled, 257 years ago, with the accidental summoning of Ragnaros into Azeroth. Sorcerer-Thane Thaurissan invoked a desperate spell and unbeknownst to him he summoned an elemental lord. Even Kalimdor felt the tremors of the earth, and the uneasiness of the elemental spirits around the world. Tremors that caused deep consequences and casualties to the Tauren.

The tauren Shotoa was born with a unnatural connection with the elemental spirits, in contrast with other shaman apprentices. The tremors of the earth took away the life of his apprentice. His raging emotions no doubt helped shape his view of the elemental spirits and to question his faith in the old traditions of the shaman. Shotoa determined the tauren should control the elemental spirits by force, to be their master, rather than imploring their help humbly.

The story goes fast-forward in the second chapter of this manga. Exactly 27 years after the Dark Portal was opened between Azeroth and Draenor. That places World of Warcraft: Shaman manga’s timeline in synch with World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King during the pre-Cataclysm world event. (thanks Omacron)

The story of Muln Earthfury begins here, in the Bloodhoof Village, teaching his disciple the ways of the Shaman. She is a young female orc named Kettara Bloodthirst. The manga gives you small glimpses into the recent past when Muln and Kettara first met (five years ago, year 22). After a centaur and elemental attack upon Bloodhoof Village, their savior turns out to be Shotoa — long thought dead when the earth itself swallowed him 257 years ago.

This manga challenges fans to question their knowledge about ancient shamanic traditions. Should the tauren implore humbly for the aid of the elemental spirits, or should they demand and control their powers by force of will?

Fans who have read the World of Warcraft comic book (by Walter Simonson, Wildstorm) know how the ordeal went with Med’an and Cho’gal, the Twilight’s Hammer in Ahn’Qiraj and the chaotic awakening of the elementals in an effort to weaken the barrier between Azeroth and the Elemental Plane. What we see in the printed stories soon or later become reality in the MMO, and as Cataclysm beta testers have learned, there are elementals raging chaos everywhere in the game, and Twilight’s Hammer inciting them against their enemies.

The Twilight’s Hammer helped Deathwing break the barrier between Deepholm and Azeroth at the center of the Maelstrom — as you will learn in Cataclysm quests. The elemental spirits are in turmoil and confused. The Earthen Ring is hard pressed as the elemental spirits ignore their call.

Will the shaman society embrace a new way, or continue their old traditions in the upcoming Cataclysm?

World of Warcraft: Shaman hits local and online bookstores on Tuesday, September 28th, 2010.

Artwork

If you loved the artwork of World of Warcraft: Death Knight, then you will love World of Warcraft: Shaman. Rocio Zucchio penciled both. She’s amazing. As you can read in the Rocio interview at the end of this manga, she has no time to play World of Warcraft. Yet, she’s hit the nail with the Tauren’s looks. It’s her first time drawing tauren, and her past experiences drawing previous Warcraft manga have helped her mature as an artist.

That short recap of the Three Hammers War really makes you wish she takes on a Dwarf manga. Those huge battle scenes with dozens of dwarves probably took her a while. So detailed. Michael Paolilli as usual does a great job with lettering and adding tonality, different shades, to each artwork. The manga is not just black lines on a white paper. They are thoroughly worked up with different shades of gray to mimic a painting.

Characters

Muln Earthfury: High Shaman of the Earthen Ring.
Kettara Bloodthirst: Muln’s apprentice female orc shaman
Zur’ak Firefist: male troll shaman (Earthen Ring)
Lenka: female tauren shaman
Krelna: female draenei shaman
Thrall: Warchief of the Horde, a member of the Earthen Ring.
Drek’Thar: Far Seer of the Frostwolf clan.
Oreg Earthfury: Great-Grandfather of Muln, and best friend of Shotoa.

Blizzard has a new developer interview with Quest designers Eric Maloof and Steve Burke about the design of Ashenvale in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

What was the original concept for the zone?

The concept for Ashenvale was to show the effects of the Cataclysm while taking the opportunity to streamline the zone’s level design. There were areas of Ashenvale that were pretty unfriendly in terms of accessibility and quest flow. The level designers and quest designers worked together to alleviate the problem areas and highlight the big changes.

Who will be using this zone (what levels/factions)?

Both Horde and Alliance players, roughly from levels 20–25. We anticipate that this will be a well-traveled zone in terms of general player flow.

Without giving up any spoilers, what’s the general storyline for this zone? How has it changed from the original design?

Among other catastrophes, an enormous volcano has erupted in central Ashenvale. As the night elves struggle to deal with the chaos caused by the Cataclysm, the Horde is seizing what it perceives to be a golden opportunity. Garrosh Hellscream’s forces are now bearing down upon the night elves and have overtaken several key positions that once served as Alliance strongholds. There is a definite feeling that the balance of power in this region now teeters on a goblin tripwire….

These changes also mean that Horde players will have much more to do in Ashenvale.

What do you think is the most exciting new feature of the zone?

Visually, it has to be the volcano. It’s stunning, and it provides a great landmark in a place otherwise known for its dense forest. Thematically, the tension present in the zone gives it a whole new feel. The Horde is barricaded inside the walls of Splintertree Post under a massive assault by the night elves and their allies. Meanwhile, Astranaar is desperately fighting off waves of Hellscream’s forces. Practically everywhere you go in Ashenvale, it’s impossible to escape the fact that it has become a warzone.

What goes into redesigning a zone like this?

A bit more than meets the eye, we think. Ashenvale is deceptively large, and previously there were many issues in terms of quest flow and Horde/Alliance content balance. Soon after we rolled up our sleeves and broke ground, we realized that our work was cut out for us. There were numerous quests we wanted to keep, but there were also a great many that no longer fit or didn’t play out efficiently. We also needed to create a variety of new quests, especially ones “For the Horde”™.

What was the most challenging aspect about implementing these changes?

It can actually be a bit tougher to come in and “do surgery” to an existing zone than it is to completely gut it and start from scratch. Given our ambitious time constraints, trying to determine what stays, what goes, and what other changes to make is certainly a challenge.

What should players do or go see first?

Horde players should visit the Mor’shan Rampart first. There’s a new Horde contingent there who is fighting hard to make sure that no night elves escape Hellscream’s onslaught — not that they’d make it far into the Northern Barrens! Alliance players who come down from Darkshore will want to help defend Maestra’s Post and Astranaar as both settlements struggle to keep from falling under Hellscream’s control.

Who seems to have the upper hand in the zone: the Horde, the Alliance, or the elementals?

The Horde and the Alliance are throwing themselves at each other on many fronts; neither has a clear upper hand here. The elementals in Ashenvale are a minor nuisance in comparison to the faction struggle.

Should we expect any changes within Blackfathom Deeps?

There are no significant changes planned for Blackfathom Deeps at this time.

What has happened to Silverwind Refuge?

The Horde has happened!

What has changed the most: the storyline or the terrain?

The amount of change has been pretty equal between storyline and terrain. The terrain is much less frustrating than before, and the visual results of the Cataclysm tell the story as much as the quests do. Story-wise, the theme hasn’t changed so much as its intensity has.

Thanks, Eric and Steve, for taking the time to tell us about the work you’ve done to evolve a classic zone in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm!

Future US, the special-interest media company, is offering new subscribers of World of Warcraft: Official Magazine the chance to win a trip for two people to attend BlizzCon, hosted by Blizzard Entertainment. Taking place at the Anaheim Convention Center on October 22-23, 2010, BlizzCon is an annual celebration of the Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo franchises and the communities that surround them.

HOW TO ENTER

Today through September 30, 2010, new subscribers can submit an essay of one hundred (100) or fewer words describing why he/she would like to attend BlizzCon 2010, online at www.worldofwarcraftthemagazine.com. One Grand Prize Winner will be selected by a judging panel, comprised of editorial staff of World of Warcraft: Official Magazine, who will evaluate all eligible entries. Entries will be judged on the following criteria: equal parts originality, creativity, and consistency with theme. Judging will be completed by October 4, 2010. There is a limit of one entry per household and the contest is open to individuals only.

For fans of the World of Warcraft franchise, BlizzCon offers a unique opportunity to meet fellow players and the game developers in person, take part in casual and competitive tournaments, attend panels and more. Attendees at the show can stop by the booth to purchase single issues of the magazine or sign up for a full year for $39.95. New subscribers of World of Warcraft: Official Magazine will receive a free green Murkie plushie, while supplies last.

The contest is open to all new subscribers in the US, UK and Europe. There is also a no-purchase necessary submission option for US residents. The grand prize is a trip for two people to attend BlizzCon 2010, which includes roundtrip airfare, three nights hotel and passes to the event.

For more information on the BlizzCon trip for two contest and how to subscribe to World of Warcraft: Official Magazine, check out www.worldofwarcraftthemagazine.com, their Twitter and Facebook.

With BlizzCon 2010 fast approaching, it’s time to prepare in advance to be worth of $25,000 in prizes, or fame. Blizzard has announced that sign ups for all BlizzCon 2010 contests have begun. You can participate in any of the following contests: Costume, Dancing, Fan Art and Machinima. The clock is ticking. Sign up and start preparations.

Blizzard Quote:
Signups are now open for the BlizzCon 2010 Costume and Dance contests! Eligible entrants are invited to strut their stuff live on stage, with the festivities being hosted by our master of ceremonies, comedian Jay Mohr. You have until October 4 to sign up for the live contests, and you must sign up online if you want to participate. With over $25,000 in prizes for our Friday night contests, this is one you don’t want to miss.

Speaking of which, submissions for the Fan Art, Original Song, and Movie contests close in less than a month on September 27, so if you haven’t entered yet, you’d better get cracking!

If you aren’t attending BlizzCon you can still check out these contests, all panels and tournaments, and even receive extra goodies including the “Deathy” World of Warcraft in-game pet by purchasing a BlizzCon 2010 Virtual Ticket.

Blizzard Entertainment will have a few representatives answering questions to PAX 2010 attendees. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty will be playable at the NVIDIA booth.

Sadly, the Diablo III demo won’t be showcased at PAX, but if you are heading to BlizzCon at least you will have a more updated demo version than the one shown in previous events.

PAX 2010 kicks off through September 3-5 in Downtown Seattle, Washington. The uber bad news for you is if you didn’t buy a PAX ticket, don’t even waste your time walking to the front door because ALL tickets were sold out on August 28. There won’t be ticket sales at the front door.

Some of the PAX 2010 locations have been moved to a different place, so check out the official PAX website and read the 08/04/2010 update for instructions.

As reported a few days ago, Blizzard Entertainment launched a museum expo in Taiwan titled “Flights, & Frights – Inside The Storm“. A fan named ddsnet posted on Flickr hundreds of photos from his visit to this exhibition for the less fortunate who couldn’t attend it.

The exhibition consists of concept art of Starcraft and Starcraft II, Diablo II and Diablo III, Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. You can also see the prototype sculptures of the Diablo III Overthrown diorama, the Tychus Findlay diorama, the new Starcraft II action figures, and World of Warcraft action figures.

Those who participated in past Blizzard Fan Artwork Contests should update their resumes. What’s better than winning Blizzard’s Fan Art Contest? Earning the zomg opportunity to get your artwork exhibited in an international museum.

Browse through hundreds of photos of this exhibition here.

Thanks, Flux