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Filed under: Blizzard

The mistakes of the World of Warcraft

It's been a long time, hasn't it? World of Warcraft has lasted ten years, and in that time things are bound to go wrong. It's inevitable. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, I make references to William Butler Yeats and then talk about video games. No game lasts as long as World of Warcraft without making some bad steps along the way. Like Indiana Jones stepping on the wrong tile, all we can do is clamber back up.

Some of these were completely unforeseen, others in retrospect were pretty obvious, but at the time not so much, and others you have to wonder how they managed to make it live in the first place. We're going to talk about them now.

Vanilla WoW: The PvP ladder

Before the ladder, there was mainly world PvP. Spots like the Crossroads in the Barrens (close to a convenient neutral port so Alliance could get there easily) and Tarren Mill/Southshore were hotly contended for almost no good reason at all besides simple factional hatred and a desire from players to kill players. All of that changed with the introduction of battleground and honor rewards, the best of which required a player to achieve a certain rank to attain. What happened next was simple - some players hit upon a means to achieve that high PvP rank, namely, play in shifts.

The ladder was abused from the moment of its introduction. People formed groups who hit the BGs together, sure, but that wasn't the abuse part. The abuse came in the form of people sharing their account information and playing a specific character in shifts, literally keeping said character in the BGs for days at a time. If you were trying to play your character fairly, you simply couldn't compete with the five people who were playing that one warlock nonstop until it had all the high ranking PvP gear, and then shifting to the next player's warrior or paladin. I knew people who tried to stay awake for two solid days doing nothing but hitting up Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch. It was painful to watch. The ladder ended up being removed before the end of vanilla, and it was the best change they could have made.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Expansions, introductions, and the rails


I was reading through twitter (like you do) when I came across an interesting conversation involving Jeremy "Muffinus" Feasel - he asked the question how long is too long for an expansion intro? Well, he asked it better than that.
But it still amounts to the same question, and it got me interested. Some expansions had extremely minimal introductions - The Burning Crusade, for instance, basically shoved you through the portal, handed you a few breadcrumb quests and said you figure it out, while Wrath basically had two starter zones so four different starts (two per faction) but still got you into the questing fairly quickly. Ultimately, though, those expansions had new races or classes, so you still got an introductory experience, just not necessarily for your max level character. Rolling a DK, blood elf or draenei, you had a more involved introduction to the expansion than you did as a formerly max level character embarking on the new climb to max level.

Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria continued this to some extent - if you were a level 80 character, you didn't get much more introduction than 'bad stuff is happening, you can go here or here' but the two zone options, Hyjal and Vashj'ir, were very detailed and had extended sections of on-rails questing. Cataclysm also had two complete starting zones for worgen and goblins that served as introductions to the meat of the expansion. Mists had the pandaren starting zone, but it also had the Jade Forest which had an outright introductory feel that was a lot stronger than any zone introduction had ever been, combining elements of the DK starting zone and the Vashj'ir start.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Shadowmoon Valley behind the scenes

If you guys have noticed, we like to feature the various throwback thursdays that developers have posted to twitter. Today we have another doozy from Cory Stockton. Previously he's shared really awesome looks back at places like Dalaran, today he gives us this look at Shadowmoon Valley in its conceptual stage. Looking it over you can see that things are still in the 'generic name' version, for instance 'Dwarf' and 'Broken Draenei Village' instead of names yet, but most of what we recognize as the Shadowmoon Valley of The Burning Crusade is on there. Considering we're going to be getting a look at an entirely new SMV as an Alliance starting zone, I find this look back very interesting.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, The Burning Crusade

The World as Story: Emergent storytelling in World of Warcraft

How does storytelling function in World of Warcraft? What are its limits? Does it have to unfold solely via quest text, or can it be told via other means? I ask this in part due to a developing discussion on the scale and scope of how the world we interact with as we play reveals the story elements. Back when I first started playing WoW, game story was almost exclusively revealed via quest text. When it wasn't, it was often revealed via in-game books. I remembered being floored with the pre-fight scene between Majordomo Executus and Ragnaros because it was a bit of story happening entirely in front of my eyes via dialogue and scene.

Over the years World of Warcraft has added a host of tools to its story delivery options - cutscenes, scenarios, events like Battle for Undercity, open-ended exploration, and quest integration with each of these kinds of vectors for story. It's not all just text anymore - we have in-game cinematics, cut-scenes rendered and played through using totally in game scenes, dialogue (the end of the Isle of Thunder, when Jaina and Lor'themar confronted one another was entirely realized through in-game dialogue), scenarios like A Little Patience and Dagger in the Dark, and even more complex combinations of all of them. The Dominance Offensive/Operation Shieldwall story in particular was unveiled through all of these techniques, using every arrow in the quiver to drive the story points home.

I'm bringing this up because of the recent revelation that not all secondary objectives in Warlords of Draenor will have quest text. The discussion led to a series of tweets from Dave Kosak that I think definitely are worth discussing. How do we get story in an MMO? Can the world we encounter be the story itself? As we move through it, how can it be best presented to us?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Lore, Warlords of Draenor

Muffinus serves up Garrison details

Senior Game Designer Jeremy Feasel (he has an NPC named after him, the ultimate honor) has been answering questions on twitter about garrisons. Quite a few, in fact. Under his twitter handle of @Muffinus he dished out some pretty interesting details on what the current design for the feature is.
  • Garrisons are going to give you perks outside of them (we already knew about the faster mount speed perk, but others are being worked on).
  • Some perks, like a free resurrection, will not carry over into raids so as to keep them from becoming mandatory perks everyone has to get for their garrison. They want to keep customization as a draw and let players pick the perks they want.
  • You aren't hard gated by the initial quest that establishes the garrison - you can pursue the benefits and perks of the feature even if you decide to bypass it when leveling.
  • You will not have to stop doing something to run back and defend your garrison if/when it comes under attack. It's not a time-limited mechanic.
I'm pretty excited about garrisons, as they combine elements of player housing, RTS elements from the old Warcraft games, and new kinds of minigames. Should be interesting to get to see them in action.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor Screenshot of the Day gallery

Yes, it was a Cataclysm feature that continued in Mists of Pandaria's development process, and now it's back again for the ramp up to Warlords of Draenor -- the official Screenshot of the Day. We're actually up to five of them so far but the above scene from the steps of the Temple of Karabor is my favorite. Still, this picture from Frostfire Ridge (I presume) definitely interests me as well. Looking forward to combing over the pictures obsessively for the next few months.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Warlords of Draenor

The Unlearning game

World of Warcraft constantly changes. It changes in patches in small ways (buffs change, spell power changes making a formerly useless ability stronger, or a strong ability weaker) and it changes between expansions in much larger ways. If I still played a fury warrior today the way I would have played one back in Wrath I'd be using Whirlwind as part of my rotation.

Between player action (players roll alts, switch mains and change roles) and the game's inexorable forward progress, there are always new things to learn, which require us to unlearn what we did before. Factor in returning players who take weeks, months, even years off - I've seen a lot of Hey, I left the game in X expansion, what's different now emails in my time at WoW Insider - and you have a continuous problem for World of Warcraft in people who have, in essence, a different game in mind when they play. This issue affects gameplay in numerous ways, both for those players (and eventually, we're all those players) and for the game itself.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard

"A more elegant collection game" - Watcher on transmog

Today we posted a rundown on PAX East information. and one of the pieces of information was that Diablo III's transmog system is not coming to World of Warcraft. This made me sad, of course. Today, Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas tweeted the following update on that.
Now, this doesn't tell us how they plan to make transmog more elegant. It doesn't even tell us for sure that there won't be a Diablo III style approach to it - it just tells us that it won't be in Patch 6.0, whatever it ends up being. Still, it's nice to know that it's still being worked on. The extra void storage tab is a nice feature. Until we know what it is going to be I'll just be over here staring wistfully at my complete lack of bag space.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Transmogrification, Warlords of Draenor

Play Warlords of Draenor at PAX East, get beta access

If you're at PAX East this weekend, you may want to find the Blizzard booth post haste. Why, you may ask? I'll tell you why.

Because that's why - if you play Warlords of Draenor while you're at PAX East, you get a beta key for use when Warlords of Draenor enters later testing. So if you're there or planning on attending, you should get on that.

It's interesting they have this for conventions like PAX East but they didn't for BlizzCon - I'm not sure why that is. But have it now they do. Community Manager Lore has tweeted that there will be other opportunities to gain beta access, so perhaps keep an eye out for other convention appearances by Blizzard.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Warlords of Draenor

Blizzard registers "Overwatch" trademark?

We've heard from various recent news sources that Blizzard has registered a new trademark. Of course, we recognize the scepticism, following last years incidents with The Dark Below and the associated silliness, but let's take a cautious look at this one.

The trademark is "Overwatch", a term usually used to denote small, supporting military units. Blizzard hired Left 4 Dead developer Michael Booth last year, and it seems like he is directing a small project, with a similar team size to Hearthstone, that isn't Titan. There have been various job listings for positions with this new project, some of which talk about multiplayer experiences and maps. Now this might all be nonsense, but perhaps it points to a new military-styled game coming out of Irvine.

There has long been speculation that Blizzard's next franchise would be a shooter, but with Titan ostensibly on the shelf for now, could this new small team production be that game? We're understandably cautious in our presentation of this information, but it's certainly interesting.

Filed under: Blizzard

Diablo III - Hardcore Crusaders absolutely should not use Shattering Throw or they will die

This isn't me being all hyperbolic.

This is actually what will happen to you if you use the combination Blessed Shield and Shattering Throw. Your character will die, and for hardcore players, that means your character will be dead forever.
Grimiku - PSA: Avoid Blessed Shield - Shattering Throw
Hello, Crusaders

I wanted to help spread the word that there is currently a very ugly bug with Blessed Shield - Shattering Throw that will result in your Crusader instantly dying if you use this skill.

Hardcore players should avoid using this skill for now!

We're working on a hotfix for this issue and we'll update the Patch 2.0.4 Hotfix thread once that happens. Thank you all for your patience and understanding while we work on fixing this as soon as possible!


As my Crusader has both of these and likely would have blown himself up (a mere annoyance for me, but the end of that character if you play on Hardcore) I thought you all should know.

Filed under: Bugs, Blizzard, Diablo 3

Item upgrading disabled in Patch 6.0

If you have items you haven't upgraded yet, you should know that item upgrading is going away as of patch 6.0 - any items you have already upgraded will remain so, but you won't be able to upgrade any new items once the patch drops. So if you've been lax, like I have lately, it's time to get serious about your valor points and get everything upgraded before that time.

Honestly, I'm not really all that sad about losing valor upgrading - it lately felt like that was all you could do with the points anyway. So I won't miss it that much. It would be nice if they added something to do with valor points once 6.0 drops - I'm always a sucker for cosmetic items, hint hint.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Artcraft reveals new male tauren model

We had a bit of a sneak peek of the tauren model this weekend thanks to Adriacraft, and now we get the official preview with an Artcraft at the official site. Now, I play tauren quite a bit - they're my favorite Horde race, in fact - so I'm happy to see them get an update. The current model looks good enough in plate, but the years haven't been kind to it as new races with upgraded polygon counts and more points of articulation were introduced. Going from a pandaren warrior to a tauren was an exercise in time travel - the older model looked every bit its age.

As for this model, I think it's already an established improvement just by virtue of not having the mane look like straw heaped onto the back. Clearly, great effort has been made to keep the model true to itself while still looking updated, and although I'm a little iffy on the eyes, I'm hopeful that we'll see some variation in that regard. The video is particularly helpful for getting to see it in action. It's a far, far more effective model for conveying emotions via expression - it's hard to imagine seeing a tauren look this expressive, frankly. Seeing the open mouthed belly laugh alone convinces me that this is a far, far improved model in all regards.

In general, I find it much improved - now I just want to see how they do with the female model.

Head on over to the official site and see the process detailed.


Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Warlords of Draenor

Connected Realms update for April 4

The list of US realms slated for the Realm Connection service has now been updated with new information regarding upcoming dates for the service. However, the schedule looks a little different now. Realm merges that were scheduled for Thursday, April 10 are no longer scheduled for connection -- in fact, there are no scheduled realm connections at this point in time.

The realms listed below are on the list of future realm connections, but do not have a date set.
  • Drenden and Arathor
  • Nagrand and Caelestrasz
  • Blackwater Raiders and Shadow Council

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Filed under: Realm Status, Blizzard, News items

Warlords of Draenor: Attack and Spell power changes

One of the changes the Warlords of Draenor alpha patch notes mentions is a pretty large change to how our primary stats work and interact with critical strike and attack or spell power (depending on which you care about). It can be broken down as follows - first, agility and intellect no longer increase physical and spell critical strike chances respectively. In addition, there no longer is any such thing as spell critical strike chance, ranged chance, or melee chance, merely critical strike chance that applies to all three. Since this is no longer affected by primary stats, it's set at a base 5% chance before gear. (Among other things this removes the last tiny vestiges of any use for agility for strength classes.)

Next, agility based class gain a new passive ability called Critical Strikes which increases base critical strike chance by 10%, likely to compensate for all the crit they lose from agility. Those of us who never got crit from our primary stat (strength DPS) are left wondering where our free 10% crit is.

Next, how primary stats react with attack or spell power has also been changed. Attack power from Agility or Strength has been halved - each point of Agi or Str only gives 1 AP, down from the 2 it gains currently. In addition, weapon damage has been reduced by 20% across the board. This is because Attack Power now contributes more significantly to weapon damage - 1 DPS per 3.5 AP, which is a pretty significant increase from the current 1 DPS per 14 AP. Finally, weapon damage and attack and/or spell power now contributes to the entire throughput of player spells - if you're a healer, your weapon damage and spell power will much more directly contribute to the strength of your heals, and casters will see a similar benefit from their weapons. Weapons have just become far more important for many players, if not all.

To read this section of the patch notes in their entirety, just click on through to the other side.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Warlords of Draenor

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