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Blizzard shines the spotlight on account security

At least judging by the number of emails we've been getting about them, WoW scams have never been more popular than they are now. So I'm very happy to see that Blizzard has launched a new Account Security section on their Battle.net site, featuring tips on how to keep your Battle.net account safe.

A lot of it is common sense - things like using an authenticator (which also gets you a nifty Corehound pet), not giving your account name/password to anyone (even if they say they're a Blizzard employee), and keeping up-to-date browser software and anti-virus on your computer. It never hurts to reiterate these things, though; many accounts get compromised every day through not observing these rules.

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Filed under: Blizzard, Account Security

Curse Client for Mac v4 reviewed

Curse Client version 4 for Mac has been in open alpha for some time now, and I'm happy to report it's pretty good -- far better than version 3 ever was. I have no idea how the Windows version is, but the Mac one is probably better than WoWMatrix ever was, from a usability standpoint, without that nagging "steals bandwidth from hosting sites" issue.

Things I like about it:

  • It's pretty fast. It doesn't lock up for seconds at a time, and it doesn't max out my CPU.
  • It works well with links on the Curse site to install addons; it also makes it pretty easy to get new addons from within the updater.
  • It's easy to update all your addons; one click does it.
  • The changelog for a new version is pretty easy to bring up, in case you're wondering whether to update.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Add-Ons

You are not invited to the Cataclysm alpha

In the wake of yesterday's rumor that the Cataclysm Friends and Family alpha will be starting this Tuesday, January 12, we should expect an increase in scammers trying to get your account details by offering phony alpha invites. We saw a lot of these for both Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King as well, and some of them were very well crafted.

At this phase of Cataclysm's development, though, it will be comparatively easy to keep yourself safe. Since this is a friends and family alpha, if you don't have friends or family that work at Blizzard, you will not get an invite. Therefore, anyone offering you one is trying to pull a scam. Basically, everyone who's going to be getting legitimate access to the alpha should know who they are already. Everyone else, sit tight and stay tuned to WoW.com for the latest on WoW's next chapter.


World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In WoW.com's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

Filed under: Expansions, Account Security, Cataclysm

The Dungeon Finder and gear disparity

There is some confusion as to whether/how the Dungeon Finder matches characters according to internal gear score. To the best of my knowledge, it actually attempt to create a discrepancy between characters' gear, so that you're likely to wind up with a few heavily geared members 'carrying' lesser-geared members. This is directly contrary to a claim I've seen circulating that the system attempts to match internal gear scores.

If the system doesn't attempt to create disparate groups, it should, and if it does, I'm glad it does. It may be disheartening to see someone in your group in full blues or maybe even a couple greens, instead of the now-familiar suit o' purples, but as some commenters pointed out in my post on Dungeon Finder bingo, we all started out in blues and greens at 80 (with the possible exception of some crafted gear and BoEs), and heroics were designed to be run with that gear. Where are the epics supposed to come from, for a pre-raid character?

Furthermore, a less-geared character might actually need some of the gear that drops in the ilvl 200 heroics (i.e. everything except CC, FoS, PoS, and HoR), which is a nice change of pace from the usual shardfest. It may take you a few extra minutes to farm your emblems, but PuGs are about more than just you: they're about a group of people coming together to help each other out, and enjoy a dungeon.

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Instances

Dungeon Finder bingo

Tinwhisker sent us this link to a set of entertaining PUG bingo cards on the official forums, made by Cruce of Scarlet Crusade. While I'm not sure I would actually have gotten bingo on any single run, some of the squares have certainly happened in many of my runs:

  • A pure DPS class doing triple digit DPS (especially Death Knights; sorry to all the good DKs out there).
  • RankWatch. Almost every run.
  • Three or more members are "the Patient." I guess it's nice to show that they have some PuG experience, but that just makes egregious failures that much more disappointing.
  • Someone starts on a mob the tank hasn't even hit yet. More often than not.
  • Melee DPS attacking from the front. It's really not that hard, folks.

One thing I'd add to the list is people protesting that they don't take the game that seriously when you give them advice, like that they might want to put up diseases before using other strikes on their DK. You don't have to break out the spreadsheets, but there's a certain minimum effort to not be letting everyone else in your group down.

What do you guys think of this bingo set? Going to print out a few sheets to keep you entertained during those long, cold dungeon runs? Are there any squares you'd add?

Filed under: Instances

Completion tracker and more from Wowhead

Wowhead has given us a few new features for holiday presents. The navigation tabs have been tweaked to showcase some of the features and pages they've been adding recently. There's also a super-cute wallpaper by Noxychu, featuring cartoon avatars of various Wowhead employees.

More interesting, however, is the Completion Tracker, which works with their profiler and client to track your characters' endless quest to 100%. Areas tracked include quests, mounts, pets, and recipes. It's still in beta, but it seems to be working fairly well. It also lets you exclude categories that you may not be working on.

The other feature that Wowhead added is one that I'm honestly not a fan of - the little "share" button at the bottom of blog posts. I know we have it on Wow.com as well, but I still think it would be better not to have it; people are perfectly competent to submit links to Digg or Facebook or whatever without you encouraging them to do it. That's just a personal opinion, though.

Filed under: News items, Quests

Math problem: Average winning roll

Here's a question that occurred to me while I was walking home from the subway recently: What's the average winning roll in a five-man group, assuming everyone rolls? That is, if you randomly chose five numbers between one and 100, what is the expected value of the highest one?

I know a bit of statistics, but I really don't know how to begin getting at that one. However, I do know how to write a script that will calculate the answer. (Yes, these numbers are only pseudorandom, but I did some limited testing with real random numbers (from random.org) and the results were the same. Besides, I'm pretty sure Ruby's Mersenne twister pseudorandom generator is good enough for testing distributions like this.) The average winning roll out of a group of five people is 82.8 83.8 83.3 (tested over many, many repetitions). Now can any mathemagicians tell me why?

The graph above, in case it isn't clear, is average winning roll on the y-axis vs number of people rolling on the x-axis, tested over 100,000 trials for each group (the relatively small sample size is why the first point is not right at 50, and probably why the curve is a little wobbly).

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Instances

More dungeon finder tips

Like many of you, I've been spending the last few days happily hitting up the new dungeon finder over and over again. The rewards are pretty amazing for the time involved, and the whole system is usually pretty painless. I've picked up a few tips and tricks along the way, on top of what was covered in Saturday's post by Mike Schramm, and here's what I have to share.

  • If your dungeon pops and then gives you the dreaded "additional instances cannot be launched," you can try again by simply selecting "teleport to dungeon" from the DF menu on your minimap (the eye icon).
  • If you have a full group (of guildies, say) and want to do a particular instance, you can use the DF to queue up for just that instance, and thereby gain the ability to teleport straight there. Sure beats flying.

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Filed under: Patches, Instances

Addon Spotlight: RankWatch

Author Gronzig emailed us a note about this new addon of his called RankWatch, which serves a simple purpose: it alerts you if anyone is using downranked spells. I'm sure we've all seen the player who forgets to train, put on their bars, or update their macros with new ranks of important spells. Heck, I was using rank two of Binding Heal well into Naxxramas, since I had it bound directly to a key with Dominos.

If anyone in your party or raid uses a rank lower than the maximum for their level, RankWatch will tell then about it in a whisper. The only exception is for Life Tap, which warlocks will often use rank one of to proc effects without taking much of a health hit. Back in the day, healers would commonly downrank heals as a mana-saving measure (if I recall correctly, Heal rank four was a staple in classic raiding), but this strategy is long-gone (since patch 3.0.2), because downranked spells now cost the same amount mana as top-rank spells (or more).

Configuration options include turing off the auto-whisper and ignoring certain players, which are both vital for a potentially-annoying mod like this. Overall RankWatch looks like a useful little tool, if only so I no longer have to worry about checking up on myself.

Download RankWach at Curse

Filed under: Add-Ons, AddOn Spotlight

Wowhead store now open for business

A tipster named James sent us a pointer to store.wowhead.com a little while ago, and as a few people have noticed since, the Wowhead store is now open for business! Here's what they're selling:

  • Official Wowhead merchandise (a t-shirt, a hoodie, and a mousepad, so far - does anyone still use mousepads?)
  • WoW paraphernalia, like those steins, and some LapWorks and Steelseries hardware products.
  • Some random gaming hardware that seems to have nothing to do with WoW, like Guitar Hero for PS2, and Xbox 360 accessories. It is at a discount, though, so that's cool.
  • The Burning Crusade collector's edition. I guess they had some extra copies [now seems to be sold out].

One interesting feature of the store is "reward points." Every item you can buy gets you a certain number of reward points; the amount loosely correlates with price, but I couldn't determine a direct correspondence from one to the other. Basically they idea is: buy stuff, earn points, spend points on rewards. So far the rewards consist of the original WoW and the various Wowhead merchandise, and the points add up fast - as the site points out, a $30 Xbox controller nets you enough points for a copy of WoW, and almost enough for a t-shirt.

For the technically inclined, I inquired about the underlying technology of the shop. The front-end work is all in-house, and so should hold true to the beautiful Wowhead aesthetic, but the e-commerce engine is the popular open-source platform Magento.

Filed under: News items