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Elizabeth Harper

Austin, TX - http://www.vampiresdontdance.com/

Writer, gamer, herder of puppies.

Latest Curse of Naxxramas cards revealed, and more coming! [Updated]

With Curse of Naxxramas, Hearthstone's first expansion, slated to be released tomorrow, we're seeing a lot of last-minute previews of the soon-to-be-live cards. We know Naxxramas will feature 30 brand new cards and though we haven't seen them all yet, it seems Blizzard plans to reveal each of them before the expansion goes live.

So far, we've seen:
  • Mad Scientist, a minion with a deathrattle effect that puts pulls a secret from your deck.
  • Stoneskin Gargoyle, a minion that returns to full health at the start of every turn.
  • Stalagg, a legendary 7/5 minion with a deathrattle effect that summons Thaddius if Feugen has died in the same game.
  • Sludge Belcher, a 3/5 minion with taunt who summons a 1/2 minion with taunt on death.
  • Maexxna, a legendary 2/8 beast that destroys any minion it damages.
  • Zombie Chow, a 1-mana 2/3 minion that restores health to the enemy hero when it dies.
  • Deathlord, a 2/8 minion with taunt and a deathrattle that lets your opponent put a minion from their deck onto the battlefield.
  • Echoing Ooze, a minion that summons an exact copy of itself at the end of the turn.
  • Feugen, a legendary 4/7 minion with a deathrattle effect that summons Thaddius if Stalagg has died in the same game.
  • Spectral Knight, a 4/6 minion that can't be targeted by spells or hero powers.
Added since earlier this afternoon:
  • Haunted Creeper, a 1/2 beast that summons two 1/1 spiders on death.
  • Kel'Thuzad, a legendary 6/8 who, at the end of the turn, summons all friendly minions that were killed during the turn.
  • Nerub'ar Weblord, a 1/4 that causes all minions with battlecry to cost 2 more mana.
  • Unstable Ghoul, a 1/3 minion with taunt that deals one damage to all minions on death.
  • Wailing Soul, a 3/5 minion that silences your other minions when summoned.
  • Thaddius, a legendary 11/11 minion who's summoned when both Feugen and Stalagg have died in the same game.
We expect more cards to be revealed throughout the day, so stay tuned to Hearthstone's Facebook page for the latest! Update: With the latest additions, all 30 new cards from the set have been revealed.

Filed under: Hearthstone Insider

World of Warcraft earns over $1 billion a year

According to statistics from SuperData Research, World of Warcraft still dominates the MMO market with 36% market share. The game raked in just over a billion dollars in revenue in 2013, putting it well ahead of its nearest competition -- $253 million for NCSoft's 1998 title Lineage. The ranking of top subscription titles suggests that MMOs need staying power -- WoW is nearly 10 years old and Lineage is 16 -- and a strong Asian presence -- the top 3 are all big titles in Asia -- to sustain them over the long haul.

However, even though WoW continues to pull in strong subscription numbers, the industry has seen the subscription model declining sharply while microtransaction revenue has been on an upswing. With both a healthy subscriber base and its own microtransaction strategy, WoW seems prepared to succeed no matter which direction the industry goes. However, the overall subscription trend begs the question: will we ever see a free-to-play version of WoW? Blizzard has said no, and with subscription stats like this we can see why.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

The BlizzCon Meeting Stone is no more

Last year's BlizzCon introduced a real-world version of the Meeting Stone to provide a central place on the show floor to arrange meetups and find your friends. But while basking in the presence of a giant, Meeting Stone was pretty fantastic, the dark, noisy convention floor wasn't a great place to have conversations. This year, Blizzard is nixing the Meeting Stone idea altogether and encouraging attendees to set up their own meetups when and where they like.

On one hand, you're freed from the tyranny of organized meetups... but on the other hand, this year's BlizzCon won't have any central meeting space to find your friends. You'll still be able to find members of the community team at the Community Booth and you can arrange your own meetups (if you're into that kind of thing) on the BlizzCon Meet-up forum.

But the worst part of this news is that the Meeting Stone itself isn't slated to be on the show floor. How are we ever going to summon everyone without it?

Filed under: News items, BlizzCon

Leveling your battle pets into a formidable pet army

Last time, we covered a ton of details about how pet battles work -- but now it's time to put that knowledge into practice to get your pets leveled. It's tough starting at level 1 and building up a team of pets high enough level to collect the pets you might be interested in, much less pick up achievements like Taming the World (which grants you the Safari Hat that will help you level even more pets) or World Safari (which grants you the Zookeeper title).

Getting your pets up to level 25 so you can take on anything the game can throw at you (pet battle-wise, at least) will take time -- but it's a somewhat less daunting task if you combine it with another in-game project. Are you working the loremaster achievement? Thinking of leveling another alt? Because you'll be traveling zone to zone, both of these are a great time to work in some battle pet leveling -- and since you get experience from winning pet battles, they can help with leveling, too.

Wherever you are in your leveling journey, we can help you get closer to 25.

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Filed under: WoW Rookie

Battle pet basics to get you started building your pet collection

Though I started working on an article about how to collect battle pets much in the same vein as collecting titles and mounts... I quickly realized it was going to be a lot more complicated than that. Though you certainly can collect plenty of vanity pets by buying them, farming for drops, and getting achievements, the bulk of pet collecting in WoW needs to be done by capturing wild pets for yourself.

So if you want to amass a fine collection of WoW pets, what you need to do is get into pet battling so you can find and capture your own pets. However, it's a daunting prospect if you're starting from level 1 and want to pick up pets from Northrend or Pandaria. We've already walked you through the very basics of starter battling and some tips on advancing through the levels, but today we'll walk you through the battle pet details you'll need to go from 1 to 25 and collect as many pets as you'd like along the way.

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Filed under: WoW Rookie

Editorial: On impractical playstyles and too much change

Adam recently wrote an editorial on why change is an essential part of the MMO experience -- after all, WoW is 10 years old at this point and not changing is more likely to cause problems than shaking things up. Change is what makes the game stay fresh and fun after all of these years and it's a large part of why those of us who are still playing WoW are still playing WoW.

Unfortunately, the flip side of that coin is that change can be taken too far. Change can alienate players who no longer feel attached to the game -- and no need to stick around long enough to relearn how to play something they used to love. It's a fine line to walk between changing enough to keep things new and not changing so much that your audience is pushed away... and it's arguably a line Blizzard crossed when many of the game's mechanics turned upside down in Cataclysm.

Is Blizzard doing the same with the upcoming Warlords of Draenor? With the beta in a constant state of flux, it's hard to tell -- but if we look back on the tumultuous era of Cataclysm, maybe we can learn something about just what these big changes mean for World of Warcraft.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Mike Morhaime apologizes for lack of diversity in Blizzard games

It's been a bad year or so for women in Blizzard games, for a lot of reasons. At BlizzCon, Warlords of Draenor was described as a "boy's trip" that Aggra wasn't invited to -- which fits with the Warlords marketing material that shows almost exclusively male characters (a few women appear in the trailer and one in the art, but they're unnamed). But Warlords isn't the only concern: the company's April Fool's joke came off as tone-deaf to many, Heroes of the Storm uses female characters as eye candy (which game director Dustin Browder argued didn't send a message), and, recently, Rob Pardo stated in a talk at MIT that diversity wasn't really a value for the company.

Though Warlords has come a long way since BlizzCon and both Browder and Pardo apologized, the fact that any of these things were an issue in the first place is off-putting -- at best -- to female gamers. Even long-term Blizzard fans have started to wonder why they're continuing to play in a gaming world that didn't accept women amongst the cast of heroes. It's from this place of disappointment that Starcunning wrote to Mike Morhaime, explaining why she's walked away from Blizzard's games. The surprise, however, is that Mike Morhaime responded stressing Blizzard's commitment to listening to the playerbase and building games that are fun for everyone.
Mike Morhaime
We are very conscious of the issues you raise and are discussing them more than ever, at every level of the company, in an effort to make sure our games and stories are as epic and inclusive as possible. Blizzard's employees form a broad and diverse group that cares deeply about the experiences we are creating for our players. And we know that actions speak louder than words, so we are challenging ourselves to draw from more diverse voices within and outside of the company and create more diverse heroes and content. We are also actively looking at our story development and other processes to ensure that our values are fully represented. We've always believed that positive, lasting change comes from examination, discussion, and iteration, and this applies as much to story as to gameplay. There is no reason why inclusivity should come at the expense of an amazing game experience.

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Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Rob Pardo is leaving Blizzard

Rob Pardo, currently Blizzard's Chief Creative officer, announced on the forums that he's parting ways with Blizzard Entertainment. Pardo has been a fixture of the company for 17 years now, and though he isn't saying -- yet -- where he's headed next, he did offer a thank you to Blizzard's fans and community:

Rob Pardo
The Blizzard community is ultimately the reason why we come to work every day and pour our souls into every world and experience we create. Blizzard's players are the most passionate in the world and your commitment and dedication are truly awesome to behold. Creating entertainment for you has been an incredible opportunity, and I know that you will continue to grow and become even stronger as a community over the years to come. It has been so meaningful on a personal level to help create joy for all of you.


Thanks for the games, Rob -- we'll be keeping our eyes open for what you're working on next.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Hearthstone tournament now open to all

Yesterday we reported about the oddity of a Hearthstone tournament that didn't allow women to compete. The reason? The International e-Sports Federation wanted gaming to be recognized as a "true sport," and was following the professional sports model of gender division. With fewer women competitors than men, this led to tournaments with a large selection of gaming events for men, but few for women -- in the case of this tournament, Hearthstone, Dota 2, and Ultra Street Fighter IV were all men-only events.

While e-Sports are often gender-divided (competitive StarCraft is notable in this regard), the idea of a men-only Hearthstone tournament was apparently the straw that broke the camel's back. Among many others, Blizzard spoke out against IeSF policy, telling VentureBeat, "One of our goals with e-sports is to ensure that there's a vibrant and also inclusive community around our games. We do not allow the use of our games in tournaments that do not support this, and are working with our partners to ensure they share the same goal."

The end result is that the IeSF has reversed the policy, and offers events open to all genders as well as women-only events to encourage the participation of women in the male-dominated field of pro gaming. It's a setup that's similar to the competitive chess scene, which has both a World Chess Championship in which anyone can compete and a Women's World Chess Championship. Now, at the 6th e-Sports World Championship BAKU 2014, men and women will be able to compete together in StarCraft 2 and Hearthstone tournaments, while there's also a women's only StarCraft 2 tournament. Time to get your game on!

Filed under: News items, Hearthstone Insider

Hearthstone tournament bans female competitors

No girls are allowed to compete in Finland's Assembly Summer 2014 Dota 2, Ultra Street Fighter IV, and Hearthstone tournaments, which are open to men only. According to the International e-Sports Federation's rules, the genders of competitors in e-sports are separated to help the competition be recognized as a "true sport." In response to complaints, the IeSF posted the following on their Facebook page: "The decision to divide male and female competitions was made in accordance with international sports authorities, as part of our effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports."

And while this means separate but equal style treatment for some events, for others -- like Hearthstone -- it means women simply can't compete at all. At Assembly Summer 2014, women aren't allowed into these tournaments because if they won, they wouldn't be allowed into the IeSF men-only world finals. Markus Koskivirta, head admin of the Assembly Summer 2014 Hearthstone IeSF Qualifier, speaking to PC Gamer, said that the Finnish eSports Federation is lobbying for equal rights for male and female gamers... but with the long and strange tradition of segregated e-sports (StarCraft competition often has such divisions), that could be a long time coming.

Though the IeSF says it wants to promote female gamers by hosting women's only events, the end result of this is to keep women on the outskirts of pro gaming by relegating their participation to smaller events and smaller stages. All this goes towards suggesting that women aren't good enough to compete with the men -- something that in an all-digital "sport" is difficult, at best, to justify.

We all love the same games, so why can't we play them together?

Filed under: News items