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Alex Ziebart

Milwaukee, WI - http://www.alexziebart.com/

When not writing for WoW.com or his personal projects, Alex is most often found playing WoW Alliance-side on the Cenarion Circle server.

How I came to love the Timeless Isle

I make it no secret that I don't have much love for Mists of Pandaria. For reasons I haven't been able to quantify, most of it bored me beyond belief. I can make some guesses, but no individual thing clicks with me as the reason, though all of it combined may be the cause: the tedium of daily quests in the earliest stages of the expansion, the lack of new 5-man dungeons in content patches, a general disinterest in the renewed faction war, and not being compelled by the story or aesthetic elements that formed Pandaria. I kept on trucking through those early months, and I did find some fun in it, but the fun faded quickly and I found myself less and less engaged throughout the expansion. Because of that, I ignored many of the expansion's later additions, particularly the Timeless Isle. When it released, I poked around on the island, but left quickly. Now, in the final stretch of the expansion, I gave the Timeless Isle another shot ... and realized too late that it's wonderful.

One of the things I once loved about World of Warcraft was the daily choice between structured and unstructured gameplay. If I wanted to go questing, I could do so -- and Blizzard's quest design has consistently improved since the game's launch. If I didn't want to quest, just screw around solo and fight monsters, that option was available, and not only available, but rewarding. That changed over time.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

BlizzCon 2014's potential mystery game

There's no better time for wild speculation than the weeks leading up to BlizzCon. This year is no different. Topics of debate among Blizzard fans include whether or not a Hearthstone expansion will be announced, whether we'll finally see StarCraft II's Legacy of the Void, or if there will be a dark horse World of Warcraft expansion teaser. More tantalizing than those, however, is the possibility of an announcement for a brand new game.

The rumor of a new game announcement has been spurred on by curious gaps in the BlizzCon 2014 schedule and floorplan. In previous years, there was only a 45 minute gap between the opening ceremony and the first panel on the main stage -- the opening ceremony ended at 11:45 a.m. and the panel to follow began at 12:30 p.m. This year, while the opening ceremony ends at its usual time, neither the main stage nor panel stage in Hall A have anything scheduled whatsoever until 2:15 p.m. That's a gap of two hours and 30 minutes. That timespan could accommodate an entire panel, if not two panels per stage. The Main Stage has gaps in its schedule on Saturday as well, one hour and 45 minutes and two hours respectively, but Saturday gaps are slightly less suspect than those of Friday morning.

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Filed under: BlizzCon

Blizzard announces locally hosted Australian realms

Blizzard Entertainment held a Warlords of Draenor pre-launch celebration in Sydney, Australia last night. To much rejoicing among the Aussies, Blizzard announced Australia will soon have locally-hosted servers. Until now, Oceanic realms were hosted in the US, resulting in consistently subpar latency. Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has released an FAQ for the transition for those unsure of its ramifications. A few highlights:
  • Oceanic players on North American realms will, for a limited time, have optional character and guild realm transfers available free of charge
  • Players on the new Oceanic realms will still be able to play with friends on North American realms
  • The new realms will ideally be live before the release of Warlords of Draenor
  • Oceanic players on North American realms may remain there if they so choose
Let's hear it, Aussies: are you excited?

Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

Hearthstone on Android possible "before the end of the year"

Those of you waiting for an Android version of Hearthstone, your wait shouldn't be too much longer. The Hearthstone community team provided an update on the game's mobile development today, stating their aim is to release the Android version before the end of the year. Phone versions of the game, both iPhone and Android flavors, are further off, potentially releasing in early 2015. Hearthstone's desktop and tablet UI don't translate well to the phone, what with the significantly smaller screen size, and will be customized for the phone experience.

It's somewhat surprising that this information was shared via a blog post with BlizzCon right around the corner. Then again, this isn't the biggest news in the world -- we've all known Android and phone versions of the game are on the way, we simply didn't know when. There may be bigger and better things in store for BlizzCon, such as the possible expansion the developers have mentioned in recent months. Or there may be nothing. We'll know in a few weeks.

Filed under: Hearthstone Insider

The Queue: Swimming kitties

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

Today we address the real issues. Issues like kitties on broomsticks.

aldristavan asked:

I'm very upset. My feline familiar isn't riding on a broom. Kitty's just floating in air! >:( Is this a bug?

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Filed under: The Queue

Heroes of the Storm adds Hallow's End skins

Hallow's End has made its way into Heroes of the Storm with a handful of new Halloween-themed hero skins: Countess Kerrigan, Skelethur Abathur, and Infested Tychus. Technically Infested Tychus is not a Hallow's End skin, but rather Tychus's Legendary skin, but it's creepy nonetheless. If you aren't in the alpha, no sweat. The skins are a permanent addition to the game and you'll be able to buy/acquire them when the game goes public if you so desire.

Countess Kerrigan is my favorite of the lot because it plays into one of the alternate universes presented by select alternate skins -- Vampire Slayer Valla's description specifically mentions the Countess. You can imagine Vampire Slayer Valla pursuing Countess Kerrigan in a Victorian Van Helsing-y landscape. Considering the characters are from two completely different games, it tickles the imagination. Throw in World of Warcraft's San'layn as a haughty aristocracy and the scenario could support a game unto itself.

Filed under: Heroes of the Storm

Metallica to perform at BlizzCon 2014

Blizzard Entertainment has announced Metallica will be performing live at BlizzCon 2014. As with previous years, the performance will take place during the convention's closing ceremony Saturday, November 8. If you won't be attending BlizzCon, you will be able to watch the concert with the BlizzCon virtual ticket.

Performances at previous BlizzCons included Foo Fighters, Tenacious D, Blink-182 and Ozzy Osbourne.

Filed under: BlizzCon

Last Week on Massively: Drifting back to World of Warcraft

This post originally appeared on Massively from Editor-in-Chief Brianna Royce. At the end of every week, we round up the best and most popular news stories, exclusive features, and insightful columns published on Massively and then present them all in one convenient place. If you missed a big MMO story last week, you've come to the right post.

This week, World of Warcraft saw subscriptions rise to 7.4 million ahead of its long-awaited pre-Warlords of Draenor patch. Meanwhile, news rolled in from EVE Vegas, where CCP and players discussed the ships of the Rhea update, the allure of spaceship spreadsheets, the importance of community involvement, and the new player experience and potential for permadeath.

Read on for a look at the rest of this week's top MMO stories.

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Filed under: MMO Roundup

The Queue: Is this new? What about this? Or this?

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

Two weeks from today, I'll be joining Anne Stickney to begin our road trip down to BlizzCon. We had a blast last year, and we're planning for bigger and better this year. I'm excited. You should be excited, too.

RebeccaChallenger asked:

Are people still getting ejected from Ordos when they try to get to him without the Cloak?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Queue

Azmodan Week in Heroes of the Storm

It's Azmodan Week in Heroes of the Storm. As usual when Heroes features a new character, they've posted Developer Insights this week, examining the design philosophy behind the character. Azmodan is a Specialist in Heroes, pulling from his role as a general of a vast demon army in Diablo III. Though he can be played as a brawler if you wish, he's more heavily based around long-distance siege damage and commanding many summoned minions and mercenaries.

Head over to the Heroes of the Storm official site to keep up on this week of Azmodan.

Filed under: Heroes of the Storm