11:30 AM CEST: T minus 15 and the hall has been jam-packed for quite some time. From those early enough to secure seats to the mass of people standing at the back, it's clear that there's a lot of excitement in the air -- people can't wait to hear what Blizzard have to say today.
11:45 AM: The lights dim and a video containing a montage of WoW and Diablo imagery fills the big screens, segueing into Starcraft. Presenters Anthony Kavanagh and China Moses take the stage to say welcome.
11:47 AM: Frederic Menou, MD of Blizzard Europe, steps up to the podium. He thanks players for their continued support and for showing up to the invitational, making the event possible. He talks about WoW's 2 million European players; they are making a Russian language version and looking forward to WotLK. He tells us to enjoy the invitational: Amusez-vous!
11:50 AM: Several Blizzard 'celebrities' are highlighted in the audience -- it seems anyone who's anyone in the company is here. Now on to the players, particularly the pro-gamers who've travelled from around the world to be here, who take the stage to loud applause. The Starcraft competitors take bows, followed by the Warcraft III pros.
Now on to the WoW players: the 16 arena team finalists. Teams from the US step out first, remaining cool onstage. The European teams get a louder cheer -- Nihilum Arena's fans are deafening. Finally, the Asian teams step out. They'll all be competing later today.
12:03 PM: The presenters wish good luck to the competitors.
12:05 PM: Mike Morhaime takes the stage. Comments that the invitational is the largest gathering of Blizzard players in Europe, ever -- it's "breathtaking". He talks about how technology enables the world to become smaller and allows communities to transcend conventional boundaries. Blizzard were told European market was too small for WoW; we proved them wrong.
12:08 PM: This past year has been incredible for us. Last year: TBC launch sold 2.4 million copies in first 24 hours. Fastest selling PC game of all time. Also announced merger with Activision (they "leveled up"). Shouldn't notice any difference as a player. Blizzard's focus remains "to continue making great games".
12:10 PM: Video of highlights from last year's invitational is played.
12:13 PM: Mike outlines the events coming up: tournaments, hands-on computers for WotLK and Starcraft II, developer panels, costume, dance and machinima contests.
12:15 PM: World premiere video of Diablo III played onstage.
Audience goes wild.
12:18 PM: Jay Wilson, lead designer on Diablo III, takes over. WWI audience will be see a demo of Diablo III in action. Diablo "reinvented the roleplaying action genre". Gameplay demo on big screen.
12:20 PM: Introducing Barbarian, one of several Diablo III classes. Overcomes enemies with pure brute force: no such thing as too much power. Several improvements: Hotbar to help players use skills quickly and easily. Quick swap between two skills using mouse wheel or Tab key. Game is so simple you can play it with just hte mouse but allows deeper, more satisfying combat. In demo, axes enchanted with frost/electricity to stun/freeze enemies.
New type of dropped item. Red globes allow you to recover health and fight without having to use potions. Shows the Barbarian fighting berserker and cultist enemies. Environment is a big part of Diablo III, can destroy it, interact with it. Can also work against you. Treasure chests might be traps!
Loot: gear custom designed for each class's unique look. Endless stream of items to be found. Shows barbarian using a wall to crush zombies. Whirlwinds through enemies to loud cheers from the audience.
World of Diablo III will have quests and story events -- 'more so than previous games'. Shows character interacting with the npc Deckard Cain and embarking on a quest.
12:30 PM: "Diablo III is first and foremost a co-operative game." Witch Doctor is a brand new class, uses ancient tribal magic: diseases, pets, mind control. Can cast locus swarm to devour multiple enemies. First pet is the Mongrel, can become empowered by Witch Doctor's attacks to do additional damage. When near death, can be killed by the witch doctor to destroy nearby creatures.
Witch Doctor's Horrify spell causes enemies to flee. Firebomb attack is slow but very powerful. Mass Confuse spell to temporarily turn some enemies against each other. "You've seen walls of fire, ice and bone, but have you ever seen a wall of zombies?" We see a party of barbarians and witch doctors battle a siegebreaker assault beast as a demo fight.
12:40 PM: The presenters are back on stage. Running through all the European countries -- the attendees are from all over the world.
12:43 PM: A dance piece is performed on stage, set to a new piece of Diablo music against a "Diablo III" backdrop. If you were late to the ceremony, you'd still be in no doubts what the big news is today.
12:50PM: End of the ceremony -- that's all folks!