Developed by: Blizzard
Warcraft 3 official page: http://www.blizzard.com/war3/
Estimated Release (based on palm reading, crystal balls, bribery, and stargazing): Q1 2001
Back in the day
If I had to pick one game that fully defined and cemented my love for multiplayer PC gaming, it wouldn't be Doom - it was actually Warcraft II. It was the first game where I was so concerned about winning that I spent time searching the 'net for strategy guides. Sounds like a simple, basic thing to do now; sites like Gamers.com make it easy to find those kinds of resources today. But back in 1995, we were using Netscape 2.0 and it was rather difficult and time consuming to find good gaming links. Not only did I skip hours of class and homework to play Warcraft 2, but I was actually spending just as much time reading and re-reading Shlonglor's and Shaf's online strategy guides. Sad to say, but I ended up studying the intricacies of building placement and the wall-in more thoroughly than I pored over my textbooks.
Starcraft came out a few years later, and its popularity took off well beyond that of Warcraft 2's, thanks to built-in, free, Battle.net matchmaking support. Those who wanted to play War2 online had to do so through Kali or some of the pay for play services. While Starcraft was a great game in its own right, many of the old school War2 players have wished for a true sequel to their favorite game. Warcraft's following has been so rabid that domains like Warcraft3.net and Warcraft3.org were snapped up over 4 years ago!
When Warcraft III was finally announced at ECTS in Britain last fall, Blizzard proclaimed that they were going to add more RPG elements into the game, and redefine the genre as "RPS" (role playing strategy). Beyond the obvious change from a 2D to a 3D engine, there were more widespread alterations. Warring parties would have to be led by special hero units, the camera was no longer user controllable, and the viewpoint was closer in and at a lower angle, to promote a more tactical approach to gameplay. These were all radical departures from what Blizzard fans were used to. Many people approached the announcements with guarded optimism.
Many dead orcs
Blizzard recently scrapped a few of these plans and began work on a slightly revised design for Warcraft 3. Heroes will still be important to the gameplay, but your normal units can now move independently of them. The view screen is scrollable now, and the camera has been pulled back up and overhead to expose more of the battlefield. With the new design in place, Warcraft 3 is resembling more of a strategy game, but still different enough from their previous titles that no one can say it's a rehash.
These kinds of adjustments are not unprecedented with Blizzard - hardcore fans may recall them completely scrapping the original Starcraft design (it was too similar to Warcraft 2) and starting over from scratch.