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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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

The Queue: Alphas, garrisons, pre-orders, and more

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

How about that alpha news, eh?

DespicableBrad asked:

With Blizzard changing the data format from MPQ to the new CASC format, will things like WoW Model Viewer still work, or will those programs need a funamental update in order to read the new data files? Given the amount of data mining happening, I'm guessing the formats are interchangeable...? If not, I'm curious: how are the data miners viewing the files and extracting graphics from it?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Queue

Sunday Morning Funnies: LF scriber

Teh Gladiators
Sunday Morning Funnies is your weekly list of WoW-related web comics.

This week in comics: Someone is really lazy (and pays for it). A deal, and a neck, are struck. A kraken plays with his food, and it's adorable. What else? Oh, yeah! The end is nigh!

Also on the list this week, Away From Reality has a comparison of some of Blizzard's plans and attitudes "then" and "now". And if you're a fan of Richard's antics, you won't want to skip this week's Looking for Group, either. Everyone's favorite undead gnome is giving an interview. Finally, there's one leftover April Fools prank on the list. Can you spot it?

In comic news, The Trolling of Azeroth is back, and so is Kibble & Bit! However, Contested Territory is on a brief hiatus due to scheduling conflicts. It is set to resume updating on April 18, which means it will reappear on SMF by April 27.

If you missed us last week, you might want to check out Gnomeregan Forever. There was an April Fools special, featuring a very amusing prank. And me! I made a guest appearance, and got to have some holiday fun. I was a bit vague about it last week because I didn't want to ruin the surprise, but if you skipped it, you should check it out.

Finally, if you're in the market for a gaming PC (or you simply enjoy ogling themed merchandise), there's one available with everyone's favorite cats decorating its side.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Humor, Comics, Sunday Morning Funnies

WRUP: Well, that's just like your opinion

Panda Closeup
This has been a week for opinions. Lots of things happening; new patches, jokes, games on platforms, and a partridge in a pear tree. And while bloggers should have opinions, there's sometimes a wide diaspora about what we even having bother having opinions about!

With that in mind, when we asked our intrepid team what they're playing this weekend, we asked them to also tell us about their favorite opinion right now.

Anne Stickney (@Shadesogrey) This weekend is going to be spent giving those patch notes a closer look, doing a heck of a lot of writing, and watching baseball games with my Dad - woohoo, baseball season is here! That said, uh ... I guess at the moment my opinion on the Rockies is that they seem to have a fairly solid hitting team, but man their closing pitchers could use some work. Some of them are good, some of them are ... not. I'm sort of hoping it was just opening week nerves on their part. Despite that, I'm still hoping they have a better season than last year. ... I can always hope, anyway. Right?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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

Warlords of Draenor: Dodge, Parry, Hit and Expertise and their loss

Well, we finally have a concrete sense of how we're going to function in a world without hit, expertise, dodge or parry on our gear, thanks to the Warlords of Draenor alpha notes. So far, it looks rather interestingly painless.

First up, dodge and parry as stats on gear are gone and the amount of dodge and parry we get for agility and strength, respectively, will be reduced by 25%. Active mitigation is in, avoidance is out. You can still get some small amounts of dodge or parry from class-specific effects (Riposte, for instance, has been reworked to give 100% parry after a critical strike until you parry an attack, and it can stack up to 2 times, meaning you can have two parries in a row before you lose the 100% parry from Riposte) but in general, you won't be able or willing to gear for those stats anymore.

As for hit and expertise, their removal leads to the change in design to balance out how we hit things. Against monsters and such up to three levels higher (including bosses, who as skull level are always three levels higher) you'll have 100% chance to hit, 3% chance to be parried, and 0% chance to be dodged. This means that you'll still want to be standing behind them if at all possible. Tank classes, however, will have an extra 3% parry reduction baked into their tanking specializations, meaning that they will have 100% chance to hit and 0% chance to be parried or dodged. They can stand up front.

Dual-wield classes (rogues, enhancement shamans, frost DK's, fury warriors, potentially windwalker monks) will have an additional 17% chance to miss with no way to improve it in order to balance their DPS out against 2h users.

For the complete list of the removed/changed abilities that once granted hit or expertise or which now reduce chance to be parried, the full list is behind the jump.

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

Warlords of Draenor: Garrison to have its own fishing hole


Cory Stockton has teased us yet again with news on the upcoming Garrisons for Warlords of Draenor. This time, he's working on fishing.

What is becoming ever more clear with each successive tweet (many of which we've covered) is that the Garrison is more expansive and a lot more content than anything like the Farm we've gotten before. Cory confirmed this in a followup tweet, promising some new blogs on the feature and what to expect from it in the near future.

Honestly, I'm starting to get the sense that I need to pay a lot more attention to the Garrison and that it's going to be a big new part of how we play WoW in this expansion. We've seen that they'll have portals to major cities, be a place where you can display achievements, work on professions, there's a follower style minigame planned, pets and mounts displayed via stables, and I find myself wondering just how big the Garrison is intended to be. Very interested in those promised blogs.

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

Warlords of Draenor: Draenor Perks added to 91-99 leveling

Leveling has always been a major focus for any expansion and Warlords of Draenor is no exception. But this time it's a bit different, thanks to the introduction of Draenor Perks. What are those?

Draenor Perks is a new feature that adds rewards for leveling. Over levels 91 to 99, you will earn these 9 new Draenor Perk in a random order. Each class and specialization has a different set of 9 Draenor Perks.

Draenor Perks have been added for all classes, earned from levels 91 to 99.

These perks will serve to help distinguish various specs from each other within a class as well as making them more distinct from other classes. How this will work in actual practice has yet to be seen, but it's definitely an interesting new wrinkle on leveling that we haven't seen before in WoW.

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

Expansions, redesign, and the balance of WoW

Between Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, the warlock class saw a near-total redesign that, at this distant remove, we'd have to admit was a runaway success. Class redesigns are always a risky proposition - the dilemma is always between those who find the class reinvigorated and those that liked the class as it was, who now find it unfamiliar and undesirable to play.

The reason I bring this up is because lately, while playing Reaper of Souls, I keep thinking about that warlock redesign and the fact that in RoS Blizzard managed to take a game people generally felt was an unsuccessful sequel and change it in a variety of ways, and in the process so utterly remake people's opinions of it that we get reviews like this in Forbes. This has me thinking about whether or not World of Warcraft is going to see this kind of radical redesign in Warlords of Draenor or not. On the face of it, we're aware of a lot of changes coming - the removal of reforging, stats like hit and expertise, the deflation of stats on gear, health and healing changes - but there's still a lot we don't know about how thorough the redesign of the game is going to be.

Now, to be fair, RoS didn't make any significant mechanical changes - certainly nothing as dramatic as the warlock redesign was. And the warlock redesign came at a time when talents were completely overhauled as well. Clearly, there are various kinds of redesign in any expansion, but how does Warlords of Draenor compare? While we don't have a complete answer, we can compare it to previous expansions.

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

Know Your Lore: Warriors of Azeroth and beyond Part 1

The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.

Okay, this week, I'm going to do something massively nerdy and more than a little ridiculous. I'm going to rank the best warriors from across the World of Warcraft, according to my own subjective criteria for what 'best' means. It's not just who would win in a fight (that's in there, but it's not all of it) and unfortunately, some races are going to get shafted here just because they don't have as much representation. I'm trying to keep the list somewhat representative, but there are some races that just dominate it - orcs and humans get big representation, while other races like draenei just don't have an established lore warrior as of the time of this writing. I'm sure there are draenei warriors (I play one, even) but we tend to see paladins from the boys in blue. It's a sad lack.

Some of these are kind of iffy because Blizzard does weird things sometimes - some of these characters have abilities you'll never see a warrior use in game - but none of them will be specifically mentioned members of another class. No demon hunters, paladins or rogues on this list. Sorry, Garona fans.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, Lore, Know your Lore, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Should there be another kind of five player dungeon?

The first dungeon I ran in World of Warcraft was the Deadmines. Not the Deadmines we have today, of course, although the layout is largely unchanged, but the original, Edwin VanCleef helmed Defias operation. From there, it's been a lot of years and a lot of dungeon crawls (not just in WoW, either - I've been crawling around in dungeons ever since the Caves of Chaos were build adjacent to a Keep on some Borderlands) and so I've come to have some opinions on dungeon design and variety that I think are worth nattering on about.

In general, some of the dungeon complexes released with the launch of World of Warcraft took labyrinthine to new extremes. As much as I love it, Blackrock Depths is a positive pain to navigate for a new party - it was terrible before the dungeon finder existed, it's not any better now. Modern dungeons tend to have moved as far away from the 'sprawling mega complex' design as possible. Current dungeons tend to be what I call 'bite sized' in comparison - smaller, self contained wings or experiences that contain between three and four bosses, to be consumed in a 20 to 30 minute chunk of time with four strangers via LFD. It's understandable and even unavoidable that this had happened, but I think there's some wisdom in considering how to have a happy medium between these extremes.

Dungeons like Dire Maul, for instance, saw minimal change in Cataclysm because it was already perfect for the new system. Three wings, mostly self contained (one could previously get from north to west via a tunnel into the library, which was removed) with a reasonable assortment of bosses, tied together by theme yet distinct in terms of what you faced in each. Maraudon, on the other hand, is still a sprawling, difficult to navigate dungeon made worse by the addition of incredibly arbitrary starting locations that the dungeon finder only exacerbates.

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

The joke is on women in Blizzard's April Fool's gag

Though Blizzard doesn't always treat female characters with as much respect as I'd like, where big game companies are concerned they usually do okay -- heck, the fact that you can play a female character at all puts them ahead of a lot of the gaming industry. But Blizzard doesn't have a particularly spotless record, with sexist NPCs, more sexist NPCs, sexual dimorphism, the lack of women in game lore, and the fact that Aggra won't be heading to Draenor in Warlords -- not to mention the fact that Chris Metzen described the journey as "more of a boy's trip" at BlizzCon. The fact that Blizzard does all of this and I still think of them as doing okay speaks to the exceedingly low standards women have where it comes to inclusion in video games.

And in today's April Fool's gag, the joke's on us with the new female draenei models. Today's draenei are the most sexually dimorphic of the lot, with male models that are extremely muscled and female models that are slender -- but still heavy on the cleavage (seriously, they must have so many back problems). Releasing this so-called ugly draenei model as a joke -- though it might have been intended to poke fun at the gamers who insist on sexualized game characters -- just says outright that any women who aren't the height of perfect beauty are a joke.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

The Loose Ends of Mists of Pandaria

Since the expansion is now locked in its final patch, with no future storylines to come to change the status quo until Warlords of Draenor, we're free to look over the past year and a half and say Did that actually happen to some of the stranger moments in the story. Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of the story in this expansion, I think it had some really good twists and some nice back and forth between various NPC's (for instance, I love the Jaina/Vereesa team, I think Jaina's interaction with Lor'themar is fantastically catty, and the Baine/Vol'jin bromance is a lot more relatable than previous Horde leaders) but that doesn't mean it doesn't have some head-scratchingly weird moments in it.

These moments often take the form of unexplored consequences or loose ends to the plot. Let's look at a few of them now.

The Mogu Woman conspiracy

This one got really strange because the in-game lore for the presence of mogu women got really convoluted. The way I have it worked out, there used to be mogu women, but at some point after Lei Shen became emperor, something happened. We know there was at least one mogu queen, who died by Lei Shen's hand. It seems that after Lei Shen used the power and knowledge he stole from Ra-Den to 'reverse engineer' the Curse of Flesh, he seemingly eliminated women from his society since his people wouldn't need to reproduce any longer in the conventional sense. The only two women left were in fact the Twin Consorts, and they were literally just constructs carved into the shape of women, possibly as a last dig at Monara. This leaves a whole host of questions about Monara and her relationship to Lei Shen - were they related in some way? Was she his last queen, or perhaps even his mother, or just a rival he killed to cement his power over the mogu?

I found this aspect of mogu culture - their rejection of an entire gender as part and parcel of their rejection of being flesh, being alive at all, to be one of the strangest aspects of their culture. It's got some real world resonance, as well. The mogu end up not being just cruel and callous, they're also really creepy in ways we don't see often.

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

Pushing the limits of the World of Warcraft


I've been thinking a lot lately about the World of Warcraft and in what ways the game can move forward. It's a gigantic ship now, there's so much content and moving pieces in it that any drastic change is unlikely to happen. For instance, WoW isn't likely to just up and throw away leveling in favor of an EVE Online or Elder Scrolls type system.

However that doesn't mean that large change isn't possible. Raiding is one of the favorites to change over time, with new social structures being put in place around the end-game every couple of expansions it seems like. Other major changes are possible in the side games that WoW has, like professions and the recently introduced pet battles. These types of changes are big in their own regard, but at the same time only impact a segment of the game -- one that not everyone takes part in.

So where can the limits of WoW be tested? Where can the next great innovation take place, one that would move the game forward in a way that's unique and attention grabbing? There's three areas that WoW can push into.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Sunday Morning Funnies: Revisionists

Surviving Azeroth
Sunday Morning Funnies is your weekly list of WoW-related web comics.

This week, in comics: Baking with vanilla is never as boring as it might sound. An assault is launched from a garrison. A negotiation devolves to threats. Finally: Afraid to sleep outside in the dark? No living reason you should be!

Well, folks, it's almost April Fool's Day, and this week, we have an extra special Gnomeregan Forever just for the holiday. It even features a guest appearance!

There's also a special edition of Away From Reality up this week, and I wouldn't miss it if I were you. It's excellent.

Fans of Gigz' Kitchen will want to make sure not to skip DLC this week, as well.

In sadder news, Surviving Azeroth Chapter 1 concludes this week! It will go on hiatus and we will be notified when Chapter 2 is afoot. Plus, Shields and Sheep was discontinued, sadly. Zuulzilla (the artist of both): Enjoy your break!

Finally, although there is no WoW-related NPC this week, I thought I would do a shout-out to Mary's Patreon page, in case anyone has missed it. The perks are great for even $1 monthly donors (sketches and behind-the-scenes content) and, you know, cats that play WoW.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Humor, Comics, Sunday Morning Funnies

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