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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: Tier 0.5 and the birth of modern dungeons

Bokk
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?

For a long time in classic WoW, nonraiders felt neglected. Dungeons were the only endgame PvE option for nonraiders. Back then, dungeons didn't have a 5-player limit. They could be "raided," even though they weren't considered raids. Blizzard added new raiding content on a regular basis, but the developers didn't release new dungeons after adding Dire Maul in patch 1.3, four months after the game's release.

Until the launch of The Burning Crusade in early 2007, nonraiders ran the same dungeons for almost two years.

Amidst a storm of complaints, Blizzard said they wanted to offer additional content for nonraiders. In patch 1.10, Blizzard delivered a new endgame quest line using existing dungeons. Comprised of 29 steps in all, this was one of the game's most elaborate -- and most punishing -- quest lines ever.

Blizzard called it the "high-level armor set" quest line. Players called it Tier 0.5. To create it, Blizzard had to reimagine what WoW's dungeons should be.

This quest line was removed, like many others, when Deathwing brought the Cataclysm. Let's walk through what once was, and explore how it gave rise to the modern dungeons we tackle today.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

Blizzard should rethink their content release model

Sleeping druids
Blizzard changes many things for each new expansion: raid structures, class spells and talents, game systems, UI elements -- few aspects of WoW survive an X.0 patch untouched.

It's time for Blizzard to change the one thing that has stayed the same since The Burning Crusade: the "event patch" release cycle. In WoW today, every patch is a big deal. We get previews. We get a trailer. We get fancy artwork with the X.X numbers. The patch release is an event.

Every patch has tons of content for nearly every aspect of the game. It's exciting -- there's almost too much to do. When a new patch releases, we're in WoW heaven.

Then months go by and that content grows stale. Blizzard doesn't give us new content at that point, but peeks at future content. We're starving for a delicious content meal, but we can only look at pictures of the food.

It's a feast and famine cycle that has to end. It creates this massive gap between the final content patch of one expansion and the release of the next. We must cross it once again in 2014. Players put up with it because we know Blizzard will deliver, eventually, a tremendously fun experience. But should we have to endure this, still, after the game has been around for almost ten years?

It's time for Blizzard to rethink the way they release content.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

WoW Archivist: The Martin Fury incident

Flame Leviathan
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?

Almost exactly five years ago today, WoW Insider broke the news about one of the craziest stories in WoW's history. Some called it a "scandal," but I disagree with the term. Everyone involved, I believe, acted without malice. The entire affair was a matter of one colossal blunder, followed by a series of unfortunate assumptions and, ultimately, heavy-handed repercussions.

The real victims here, after all, were the bosses.

But the event is a fascinating and unique one: one player, given the kind of unlimited power that only a game master or developer was meant to wield. How did it all go down? Read on to find out!

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

Four ideas Hearthstone should borrow from Magic

Faceless manipulator card art
I've been playing Magic for almost 20 years. In all that time, Hearthstone is the only other collectible card game that has ever really won me over. Hearthstone is a very different game from Magic, despite some obvious similarities. I want Hearthstone to remain a very different game. Even as wildly successful as Hearthstone has been, however, Magic and other card games have some great ideas that I think Blizzard should borrow to make their own game even better.

1. Format variants

Magic has many fun variants, most of them multiplayer: free-for-all, Commander, Two-Headed Giant, Star (or Color Wheel), Planechase, etc. Some of these were invented by players and later adopted and supported by Wizards of the Coast. One of the joys of Magic is how flexible its formats can be.

Compared to that, the single format of one-on-one battles in Hearthstone is less exciting. (Of course, Hearthstone is limited by its technology in a way that real cards aren't.) Sure, we're getting a raid in Curse of Naxxramas, which could shape up to be a fantastic single-player variant. But an online game like Hearthstone, with millions of available players, begs for multiplayer formats. They could be competitive or cooperative, playing against other teams or "bosses."

A Planechase variant could be adapted quite easily by using the different game boards, once Blizzard adds a few more. Multiplayer variants will be more tricky due to the game's current layout, but I have faith that the developers can make it work.

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Filed under: Hearthstone Insider

Warlords of Draenor: New info from PAX East

Elekks on Draenor
PAX East 2014 has come and gone, but we at WoW Insider have come away from the weekend with juicy new information to share with you about Warlords of Draenor. During the expo, I sat down for a chat with senior game designers Steve Burke and Brian Holinka, lead class designer Kris Zierhut, and other developers.

In our brief time together, they told me some exciting info about garrisons, raiding, transmog, and the expansion's starting experience. They also provided insight into what a boosted level 90 will experience after the expansion launches.

Please note that mild spoilers about the early story of Warlords of Draenor will follow. Join me after the break for all the new info!

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Filed under: News items, Raiding, Interviews, Transmogrification, Warlords of Draenor

WoW Archivist: Talents have come full circle

Circle of Healing
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?

The Warlords of Draenor patch 6.0 notes have revealed the latest changes to WoW's ever-evolving talent system. Talents have remained a core system in WoW since its earliest days, the primary method that allows players to make their characters distinct.

In the beta for WoW and throughout vanilla, talent trees were a bit of a mess, as Archivist covered. Today, we'll examine how those early trees came to be expanded, refined, and then scrapped for a very different system. We'll also look at how Warlords is bringing back the earliest version of talent trees in a brand new way.

The golden age of hybrids

Talent possibilities exploded during The Burning Crusade. Ten more levels granted players ten more points to assign. Players could now combine abilities in ways that vanilla's trees had never allowed, opening up exciting new gameplay paths.

Players didn't choose a specialization like they do today. Instead, they assigned points to three different "trees." Each tree represented a spec, but each also had talents that helped the other two specs as well. So players could pick and choose just how far down they wanted to go in a given tree, and thus how much to commit their character to one spec. "Hybrid" builds were not ideal from a min/max perspective, but they were popular. And TBC was the golden age of such builds.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

Professions divorced from combat in 6.0

Armored draenei
The Warlords of Draenor 6.0 patch notes brought many surprises, but one of the biggest is that professions will no longer provide bonuses that affect combat.

Amidst the endless sea of notes, it's easy to miss these two sentences that will forever change the role of professions in WoW:
Warlords of Draenor: Alpha Patch Notes
Some of our goals with Professions in Warlords of Draenor are to make them more of a personal choice, and less of a mandatory "min/max" selection. To that end, we're removing the direct combat benefits of Professions.

For many years, theorycrafters and min/max'ers have baked profession bonuses into their calculations. The crit from skinning, the Synapse Springs of engineers, the eye gems of jewelcrafters, the warmer wrists of leatherworkers, etc. -- all of them have affected which professions are "best" for certain specs.

In recent expansions we've seen Blizzard try to make the bonuses more or less even across specs, with mixed success. Now, all of these bonuses are headed to the chopping block in patch 6.0, at least in their current incarnations.

Maxed-out professions will no longer be essential for high-end PvE or PvP activities. We will no longer need to weigh our personal preference against possible combat advantages. In fact, players will be able to skip leveling professions at all, if they choose, without penalty to their character's performance. This strikes me as a good change.

Will professions only provide an economic advantage from 6.0 on? Or will they give us other bonuses, such as extra lesser charms, bonus pet battle XP, or faster garrison construction? Will Blizzard tweak the existing combat-related recipes to provide different bonuses? Or will the developers remove them entirely? Many questions remain to be answered as the alpha progresses!

Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

WoW Archivist: Warlords of Draenor hates The Burning Crusade

Draining a naaru
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?

In many ways, The Burning Crusade was the birth of modern WoW. Most of TBC's innovations are still going strong in WoW today and have been ever since their introduction. Looking back, it's striking how many key features of WoW were absent in classic, only unveiled during the game's first expansion.

Even more striking, however, is how many of these innovations Warlords of Draenor seems poised to undo. Just as Garrosh will undo the transformation of Draenor into Outland, Warlords seeks to unravel most of what Blizzard innovated during TBC. The next expansion will take us through a portal into a very different WoW.

Archivist has now covered all the major patches of The Burning Crusade: patch 2.0.1, patch 2.0.3, patch 2.1, patch 2.2, patch 2.3, and patch 2.4. Now it's time to review the expansion as a whole -- and explore how Warlords will make most of TBC's innovations disappear into the nether.

Dawn of the quest hub

The idea seems so obvious it's hard to imagine that classic WoW actually didn't have quest hubs, at least not in the strict sense. WoW was the first MMO to promote the idea of leveling mainly through quests rather than grinding mobs. So Blizzard had no model to look at when they were designing the original quests.

In classic WoW, quests were put into the game wherever the developers thought they made sense, mostly from a lore perspective. Quests didn't necessarily guide you through a zone area by area. Quests were scattered, and their objectives were, too. They weren't breadcrumbs -- they were meant to be discovered. They didn't hold your hand -- they sent you on an adventure, like it or not.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

How Hearthstone won over a skeptical Magic veteran

New Hearthstone card backs
I started playing Magic: The Gathering in 1995. I've loved the game ever since a friend introduced me to it. I've played both face to face and online, in one-on-one tournaments and in 12-player free-for-alls. It's the only collectible card game I've ever committed myself to playing.

Then along came Hearthstone. I received an invitation to the closed beta. I gave it a few hours and then I dismissed it. I had a long list of reasons. The game was too simple. I felt helpless during my opponent's turn. I couldn't protect my most valuable creatures by keeping them out of combat. I didn't have enough interesting cards to develop the quirky strategies that I prefer in Magic.

A few weeks ago, on the advice of a fellow Magic player who had been playing Hearthstone nonstop since open beta, I gave it another shot. I tried to approach the game without my Magic prejudices. I soon discovered that Hearthstone has a lot more to offer than I first thought.

Here's how Blizzard won me over.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Hearthstone Insider

WoW Archivist: The battle for Hillsbrad

Fighting at TM
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?

Almost ten years later, people still talk about the Southshore versus Tarren Mill battles, the most infamous and celebrated world PvP in WoW history. They go on about how glorious it was, how they'd like to see that kind of intensity return to world PvP. It's not often, however, that they discuss the details.

If you want to know exactly what it was like to fight in those battles, keep reading. I lived it. My old tauren hunter still bears the scars. Pull up a bench and pour yourself a glass of ale. I will tell you about the war.

Why Hillsbrad?

Several places on Azeroth in classic WoW had two faction-specific towns in close proximity. You had Astranaar and Splintertree in Ashenvale. Arathi Highlands featured Refuge Pointe and Hammerfall. Theramore and Brackenwall squared off in Dustwallow Marsh. A few others had proximity also.

So why didn't any of these pairs become as legendary as Southshore and Tarren Mill? The fact is that battles did happen here -- some fairly major ones, too. World PvP ran rampant in the early days, even on PvE realms, and even before the honor system arrived to reward you for doing it.

Many raided faction villages for the simple joy of denying your enemy a stronghold, a questgiver, or a flight point. Such players sought out undefended towns, which these others often were, at least when you first struck.

Other players wanted resistance. They wanted to march forward as part of one vast army of players into an equally imposing force. They wanted the chaos, the rush, the endless bloodshed, the death cries of their foes echoing all around them. And they knew exactly one place you could find that experience, at virtually any hour of the day or night.

It had to be somewhere. Early forum threads began to buzz about such battles taking place. As word of mouth spread, more players wanted to make it happen on their own realm. It became the thing to do.

But why there?

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Filed under: WoW Archivist