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Scott Andrews

Philadelphia, PA - http://www.wow.com/category/officers-quarters/

Scott has been playing WoW since 2004. He writes the WoW Archivist and Officers' Quarters columns.

WoW Archivist: More beta surprises

Sylvanas models through the years
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

As the Warlords of Draenor beta rolls onward, Blizzard keeps managing to surprise us. Recently we've learned about a huge overhaul to guild systems, random upgrades for quest rewards, and an extra-awesome core hound mount.

In the last WoW Archivist column, we looked at the surprises from the original beta and the betas of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King expansions. This time, we continue with Wrath and also look at the surprises during the Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria betas.

(As before, I won't go into storyline surprises here. And I won't cover surprises announced at BlizzCon outside of a beta. BlizzCon already has its own feature for controversial surprises.)

Beta of the Lich King (continued)

Goodbye, night elf Sylvanas. Through vanilla and TBC, the Sylvanas model looked like a night elf rather than an undead high elf. With Sylvanas poised to play a big role in Northrend, Blizzard clearly needed to revamp her model. Players worried that they would have to look at the old night elf model through all her lore moments in Wrath.

A build in August 2008 gave her an initial makeover (middle image above) and lore-focused players breathed a sigh of relief. Clearly she still needed some work, but at least she wasn't a night elf anymore.

A later build in September gave her the fantastic model we see today. The same build also updated the models for Varian Wrynn and Alexstraza.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

WoW Archivist: Beta surprises

Death knights bomb the plaguelands
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Last week, we launched into the newest beta in WoW's history -- its sixth! -- for Warlords of Draenor. It's an exciting time for the game. Every beta has its surprises, good and bad. New things that were never announced. Prior announcements that changed unexpectedly. We've already had a number of surprises in the Warlords beta: the faction hub shift to Ashran, cross-faction auctions, and the removal of guild leveling.

Beta is just ramping up. We are sure to encounter more than one surprise over the next few months as we test the Draenor experience and gear up for the expansion's launch. Let's take a look back at the previous five betas and examine some of the twists that greeted testers -- and often shocked the WoW community. Caveat: I'm excluding storyline surprises.

The original beta

In 2003 and early 2004, players didn't really know what to expect from a World of Warcraft MMO. Blizzard, after all, had never made one before. Most of the original beta served up surprise after surprise. Yet, a few stand out.

Tired heroes. Patch 0.6 introduced the first incarnation of the rest system. Today it is simply a bonus for players who don't have time to log in every day. The original version was more like the Chinese government's "anti-obsession measures": it punished you for playing too long. The system looked like this:
  • Well rested gave 200% of the XP from a mob kill
  • Rested gave between 100% and 200% XP
  • Normal gave 100% XP
  • Fatigued gave 50% XP
  • Exhausted gave 25% XP
Your hero needed a good night's rest -- a full eight hours at an inn -- to go from exhausted to normal.

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Filed under: The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, WoW Archivist

Blizzard's vision and player choice

Temple of Karabor assaulted
This past Thursday, Cory Stockton (aka Mumper) answered a simple question on Twitter. He told players that the faction hubs would no longer be located in the Temple of Karabor and Bladespire Fortress, but on the island of Ashran.

The firestorm of controversy that followed seemed to take Blizzard by surprise. Lore took to the forums to explain the change. He gave Blizzard's reasoning, including the lore explanation for the new hubs. Far from mollifying the player base, it only served to inflame those who disagreed with the shift in locale.

My response is this: Why not both? Why must one city or the other be the One Hub to Rule Them All? Why can't we, the players, choose which city to bind our hearthstone to -- without being punished for it? Why does there have to be one "right" answer on such a basic quality of life issue? Let us choose and use phasing so we only see our own choice as a hub.

Although I don't condone the extremely negative way that some reacted to the announcement, the anger didn't surprise me at all. It points to a problem that has loomed over WoW for a long time: lack of player options and personalization.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Warlords of Draenor

WoW Archivist: Expansion gaps

Gap in the bridge on the Timeless Isle
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Expansion gaps are the most reviled of all content gaps. It's not just because they are the longest -- it's because at the other end of the gap lies so much to look forward to. Expansions change WoW from top to bottom. They usher in brand new worlds to explore and bring us new ways to play the game. That's part of why it takes Blizzard so long to release them.

In the meantime, we wait, mired in the old, but excited about the new.

We are experiencing what is likely to be the longest expansion gap so far in WoW's 10-year history. But what about the expansion gaps of the past? How do they stack up? What did Blizzard offer and what were players' reactions to them? Read on to find out!

Classic WoW to The Burning Crusade

Dates: August 22, 2006 to January 16, 2007
Duration: 4 months, 25 days
Subscriptions: Rising
Mood: Excited

The first expansion gap was also the shortest. It felt like a long time to players back then, since classic WoW offered patches and content at a blistering pace for the first two years of the game. Players were impatient, yes. That never changes. But we knew WoW was a hit and we were thrilled that the success of the game had made an expansion possible. We couldn't wait to roll a blood elf or a draenei, or take to the skies and fly for the first time. Plus, most raiding guilds hadn't conquered every boss (or even close), so they had plenty to keep them busy.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

WoW Archivist: Flight

Sparkle Pony
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Flying is second nature to WoW players. We've been doing it for almost eight years now. Sure, we've adventured in a few flightless places, like the Isle of Thunder, the Isle of Giants, and the Timeless Isle. Even The Burning Crusade, where flying originated, had a no-fly zone on the Isle of Quel'Danas. (What is it with these isles anyway?) But almost always, since 2006, we've flown. And we always expected to, for the vast majority of our in-game time.

Now, because of Blizzard's impassioned arguments against flight on Draenor, flying is suddenly controversial. If you look back, you can see why: flying has changed the game like no other feature before or since. Let's start where it all began, however, with classic WoW's humble flight paths.

They used to be cool

I'm about to express something that you may not believe. Once upon a time, flight paths were cool. Yep, I said it. Before flying mounts, when you couldn't even get a ground mount until level 40 and epic ground mounts were just a dream for most due to the steep cost, in that early version of the game where you spent most of your travel time walking or riding at the pace of a Throne of Thunder gastropod, flight paths were cool.

Not only did they get you around the continent at the fastest possible speed, they gave you a cinematic view of Azeroth from the skies. It was the only time you could get that view from above. The first time most classic WoW players rode a gryphon or wyvern from A to B, we loved it.

No other MMO at the time had anything like it. We felt like masters of the world -- at least, when we could afford to take the trip. Most players were broke in the early days, and using flight paths too liberally often meant forgoing buying a new skill when you leveled. Taking a flight path was an indulgence, a treat, instead of the annoying hassle we see them as today.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

Behold Placeholder, Blessed Holder of Places

Admiral Placeholder
A new Warlords of Draenor alpha build went live yesterday. Along with the usual assortment of new creature models, maps, icons, and class changes, datamining revealed perhaps the single greatest sword in Azeroth's history: Placeholder, Blessed Holder of Places.

The Placeholder name has a storied place in WoW's history. Long ago in the original beta, an NPC named Captain Placeholder teleported players from Menethil Harbor to Auberdine before the transport ships had been created. He triumphantly returned to live realms for a time after a bug broke the ships. Years later, he showed up in the Cataclysm beta as Cap'n Placeholder, though he served no purpose and never appeared in the release version of the expansion. An NPC conversation in Menethil harbor spoke of him as an Alliance hero, stating "Nobody could hold a place like him. Nobody."

In the Mists beta, a newly promoted Adm'rl Placeholder once again saved the day. He transported players from Orgrimmar and Stormwind to the Valley of the Four Winds while the Jade Forest zone was closed for remodeling.

Is Placeholder the famous captain's sword? What item will it become? Why is it marked as junk? Why does it stack to 20, and what "reward not yet complete" will eventually find its way into our backpacks? A future patch will reveal all! Until then, hold a place in your heart for this amazing sword.

Filed under: Warlords of Draenor

The complexity of Heroes of the Storm

Heroes of the Storm official art
Ten years ago, players told Blizzard that WoW was too simple compared to past MMOs like Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Asheron's Call. More recently, many (including me at one point) said the same about Hearthstone -- that too much complexity had been removed from the genre compared to games like Magic: The Gathering. Today, Polygon posted an interview with Heroes of the Storm game director Dustin Browder. His message: HOTS isn't "DOTA for babies."

"If you come looking for complexity in exactly the same places," Browder said, "you will be disappointed. If you come looking for complexity wherever it may be, I think you're going to be surprised and have a great time."

Blizzard has stripped away many MOBA hallmarks, such as the item store. Browder says that other features make up for this loss of complexity. Talent selection is crucial. Map-specific objectives also play a huge role in determining the course of the battle and require careful strategy to accomplish.

In a video included with the story, Polygon's "MOBA expert" Emily Gera had some further comments on the game: "The masses don't want to play big, scary MOBA games... Blizzard is trying to create a game that has less of a barrier to entry and bypass the classic issue of MOBA games -- that MOBA games are full of jerks... There's a lot of infighting. In HOTS, everyone on the team is in it together."

What do you think? Is HOTS dumbing down the genre too much, or are these the changes the genre needs?

Filed under: Heroes of the Storm

WoW Archivist: Tier 0.5, the epic conclusion

Incendius
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Last time on WoW Archivist, we reviewed the first half of the Tier 0.5 quest line, including the controversial 45-minute Baron run in Stratholme. As we left off, the ghost of Anthion Harmon had asked us to assemble the pieces of Valthalak's medallion. He sent you into Blackrock Depths with an enchanted banner to challenge the gladiator Theldren.

Laying down the law

The next step required a 5-player group to enter the Ring of Law inside Blackrock Depths. As you are being sentenced, you summon the Banner of Provocation. Theldren and his team step in instead of the usual BRD bosses. Now you were in for a scrap, and it was a wildly different fight that any other in classic WoW.

Theldren spawned with a mix of four teammates chosen from a pool of eight: Yes, you read that last one right. Lefty even had an ability called Five Fat Finger Exploding Heart Technique. Theldren himself was a warrior. Each boss had a potent set of class abilities. For example, Korv had Earthbind Totem, Fire Nova Totem, Frost Shock, Lesser Healing Wave, and Purge.

What made this fight so unique -- and so infuriating for many -- was that the NPCs had no traditional aggro table.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

Diablo III's Crusader at 70: Post-patch impressions

A crusader fights a demon
The Diablo III: Reaper of Souls expansion changed the game from top to bottom. With the extra 10 levels came an almost complete reimagining of how Diablo 3 would play: from the relentlessly on-rails story mode to the free-form adventure mode, from wheeling and dealing on the auction house for the items you wanted to hoping for those items to pop out of a freshly slain enemy.

In the wake of the game's sweeping changes, the new Crusader class has been something of an afterthought for many. However, Blizzard hasn't been shy to make adjustments to the newest member of their demon-slaying team. A patch just two weeks after the expansion's launch brought major buffs to the Crusader. This week, another patch featured a long list of changes that revamped the class from top to bottom.

If you're wondering whether you should invest the time to level a Crusader, join me past the break for my impressions. The class has come a long way in just seven weeks, and this latest patch has been a gamechanger.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Diablo 3

About the Bloggers: Scott Andrews

Blessing from the village elder
About the Bloggers introduces you to the people behind WoW Insider. You can find articles on more of our staffers in earlier About the Bloggers profiles.
What do you do for WoW Insider?

I contribute the WoW Archivist features and other articles. Recently I interviewed several Blizzard developers at PAX East 2014. For seven years, I also wrote Officers' Quarters, an advice column for officers and guild leaders.

If you have an idea for an Archivist feature that you'd like to see, please let me know! Keep in mind that the topic has to be meaty enough for 2000 words. That's almost double the length of this post.

How did you get started at WoW Insider?

When WoW Insider put out a call for contributors in 2007, I pitched the Officers' Quarters column. Since almost no one was writing about guild leadership back then, the editors loved the idea. I'm sure the master's degree in writing didn't hurt, either.

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Filed under: About the Bloggers