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Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard Entertainment is an American video game developer and publisher headquartered in Irvine, California. It is a division of Activision Blizzard. Blizzard is probably best known for its successful multiplayer online roleplaying game, World of Warcraft. They also created several games including the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo series.

History

Blizzard Entertainment was founded by Michael Morhaime, Allen Adham and Frank Pearce as Silicon & Synapse in February 1991, a year after all three had received their bachelor's degrees from UCLA. In the early days the company focused on creating game ports for other studios. Ports include titles such as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I and Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess. In 1993, the company developed games like Rock N' Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings (published by Interplay Productions). In 1994, the company briefly changed its name to Chaos Studios, before finally settling on Blizzard Entertainment after it was discovered that another company with the Chaos name already existed. That same year, they were acquired by distributor Davidson & Associates for under $10 million. Shortly thereafter, Blizzard shipped their breakthrough hit Warcraft: Orcs and Humans.

Blizzard has changed hands several times since then: Davidson was acquired along with Sierra On-Line by a company called CUC International in 1996; CUC then merged with a hotel, real-estate, and car-rental franchiser called HFS Corporation to form Cendant in 1997. In 1998 it became apparent that CUC had engaged in accounting fraud for years before the merger; Cendant's stock lost 80% of its value over the next six months in the ensuing widely discussed accounting scandal. The company sold its consumer software operations, Sierra On-line which included Blizzard, to French publisher Havas in 1998, the same year Havas was purchased by Vivendi. Blizzard was part of the Vivendi Games group of Vivendi. In July 2008 Vivendi Games merged with Activision, using Blizzard's name in the resulting company, Activision Blizzard.

In 1996, Blizzard acquired Condor Games, which had been working on the game Diablo for Blizzard at the time. Condor was renamed Blizzard North, and has since developed hit games Diablo, Diablo II, and its expansion pack Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. Blizzard North was located in San Mateo, California.

Blizzard launched their online gaming service Battle.net in January of 1997 with the release of their action-RPG Diablo. In 2002, Blizzard was able to reacquire rights for three of its earlier Silicon & Synapse titles from Interplay Entertainment and re-release them under Game Boy Advance. In 2004, Blizzard opened European offices in the Paris suburb of Vélizy, Yvelines, France, responsible for the European in-game support of World of Warcraft. On November 23, 2004, Blizzard released World of Warcraft, its MMORPG offering. On May 16, 2005, Blizzard announced the acquisition of Swingin' Ape Studios, a console game developer which had been developing StarCraft: Ghost. The company was then merged into Blizzard's other teams after StarCraft: Ghost was 'postponed indefinitely'. On August 1, 2005, Blizzard announced the consolidation of Blizzard North into the headquarters at 131 Theory in UC Irvine's University Research Park in Irvine, California.

In 2008, Blizzard was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for the creation of World of Warcraft. Mike Morhaime accepted the award.

Titles

Game Name Release Year Genre
RPM Racing 1991 racing game
Battle Chess (Windows and Commodore 64 ports) 1992 chess
Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess (Amiga port) 1992 puzzle game
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (Amiga port) 1992 role-playing game
Castles (Amiga port) 1992 strategy
MicroLeague Baseball (Amiga port) 1992 sport
Lexi-Cross (Macintosh port) 1992 game show
Dvorak on Typing (Macintosh port) 1992 education
The Lost Vikings 1992 platform game
Rock N' Roll Racing 1993 racing game
Shanghai II: Dragon's Eye 1994 mahjong solitaire
Blackthorne 1994 cinematic platform game
The Death and Return of Superman 1994 side-scrolling beat 'em up
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 1994 fantasy real-time strategy game
The Lost Vikings II 1995 platform game
Justice League Task Force 1995 fighting game
Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness 1995 fantasy real-time strategy game
Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal 1996 expansion pack
Diablo 1996 action-oriented fantasy role-playing game
StarCraft 1998 science fiction real-time strategy game
StarCraft: Brood War 1998 expansion pack
Warcraft II: Battle.net Edition 1999 fantasy real-time strategy game
Diablo II 2000 action-oriented fantasy role-playing game
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction 2001 expansion pack
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos 2002 fantasy real-time strategy game
Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne 2003 expansion pack
World of Warcraft 2004 MMORPG set in the Warcraft universe.
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade 2007 expansion pack
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 2008 expansion pack
StarCraft II under development science fiction real-time strategy game
Diablo III under development action-oriented fantasy role-playing game
An unannounced next-gen MMO under development MMO
StarCraft: Ghost indefinitely postponed third-person shooter

Notable unreleased titles include Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans, which was cancelled on May 22, 1998, Shattered Nations, and StarCraft: Ghost, which was "indefinitely postponed" on March 24, 2006 after being in development hell for much of its lifespan, and whose current status is in question. The company also has a history of declining to set release dates, generally saying their products are "done when it's done.

Pax Imperia II was originally announced as a title to be published by Blizzard. Blizzard eventually dropped Pax Imperia II, though, when it decided it might be in conflict with their other space strategy project, the now-legendary StarCraft. THQ eventually contracted with Heliotrope and released the game in 1997 as Pax Imperia: Eminent Domain.

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that they will be producing a Warcraft live-action movie. The movie will be released by Legendary Pictures.

Former employees

Over the years, some former Blizzard employees have moved on and established gaming companies of their own:

Controversies

Battle.net

Battle.net is an online gaming service used for its games Diablo, Starcraft, Starcraft: Brood War, Diablo II, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, Warcraft II: Battle.net Edition, Warcraft III, and Warcraft III Expansion Set: The Frozen Throne. It was released in January 1997 coinciding with the release of Diablo. It functions as a way to play over the Internet, featuring cooperative and player-versus-player game playing, a game matchmaking system, and online chat among other features. Battle.net is free, and only requires an Internet connection and account registration in order to use.

A group of gamers reverse engineered the network protocol used by Battle.net and Blizzard games, and released a free (under the GNU GPL) Battle.net emulation package called bnetd. With bnetd, a gamer is not required to use the official Battle.net servers to play Blizzard games.

In February 2002, lawyers retained by Blizzard threatened legal action under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act against the developers of bnetd. Blizzard games are designed to operate online exclusively with a set of Blizzard-controlled servers collectively known as "Battle.net". Battle.net servers include a CD key check as a means of preventing software piracy.

Despite offers from the bnetd developers to integrate Blizzard's CD key checking system into bnetd, Blizzard claims that the public availability of any such software package facilitates piracy, and moved to have the bnetd project shut down under provisions of the DMCA. As this case is one of the first major test cases for the DMCA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation became involved, for a while negotiations were ongoing to resolve the case without a trial. The negotiations failed however, and Blizzard won the case on all counts: the defendants were ruled to have breached both StarCraft's End User License Agreement (EULA) and the Terms of Use of Battle.net.

This decision was appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which also ruled in favor of Blizzard/Vivendi on September 1, 2005.

Warden Client

Blizzard has made use of a special form of software known as the 'Warden Client'. When running, the client scans an individual's computer in order to verify compliance with the EULA/TOS. The Warden client is known to be used with Blizzard's World of Warcraft online game, and all players consent, via the EULA and terms of use, to the Warden software performing these scans while World of Warcraft is running.

The Warden client scans the process names, window titles, and a small portion of the code segment of running processes in order to determine whether any of these third-party programs are running. This determination is made by hashing the scanned strings and comparing the hashed value to a list of hashes assumed to correspond to cheat programs. The Warden scans all processes running on a computer, not just the World of Warcraft game, and could possibly run across what would be considered private information and other personally identifiable information. It is because of these peripheral scans that Warden has been accused of being spyware and has run afoul of controversy among privacy advocates.

The Warden's reliability in correctly discerning legitimate vs illegitimate actions has been called into question due to actions Blizzard has taken regarding the information gathered by Warden. Most notably, that it appears that many players are reported as violating the EULA/TOS by the program, and subsequently banned, when in fact they are not cheating. A large scale incident happened when many Linux users were banned after an update to Warden caused it to incorrectly detect Cedega as a cheat program. Blizzard issued a statement claiming they had correctly identified and restored all accounts and credited them with 20 days play. Blizzard has regularly stated that the Warden sends no information, only a violation flag, to the home server. However, without specific information, having been sent by the Warden software initially, it would have been impossible for Blizzard to discern Cedega users from actual violators.

The Warden is not the first time Blizzard Entertainment has attempted to look at their customer's computers. In 1998 Blizzard Entertainment had a class action lawsuit filed against them for "unlawful business practices" for the action of collecting data from a user's computer without their permission.

FreeCraft

On June 20, 2003, Blizzard issued a cease and desist letter to the developers of an open source clone of the Warcraft engine called FreeCraft, claiming trademark infringement. This hobby project had the same gameplay and characters as Warcraft II, but came with different graphics and music. As well as a similar name, FreeCraft enabled gamers to use Warcraft II graphics, provided they had the Warcraft II CD. The programmers of the clone shut down their site without challenge. Soon after that the developers regrouped to continue the work by the name of Stratagus.

Blizzard Account

Blizzard released its Blizzard Account system in 2008. This service allows people who have purchased Blizzard Products (particularly StarCraft, Diablo II, and WarCraft III and their expansions), to download games they have purchased, without needing the CD. Soon, it will store a player's "Blizzard Level" (similar to a Gamerscore), when World of WarCraft's Achievement Points get added to the system, and expanded with future Blizzard titles, like StarCraft II and Diablo III.

See also

References

External links

Company & Corporate

The Bnetd case

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