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Filed under: Blizzard

Ask a CDev Round IV answers revealed

It's been quite some time since we've had a new round of Ask a CDev, addressing and answering lore questions from players. But the answers for round IV of the popular feature have been released, including quite a few questions with interesting implications. This time around, the questions were drawn directly from Twitter, and they address a variety of topics. Some highlights include:
  • Oshu'gun? That's what the orcs call the mountain in Nagrand. But the draenei that remember the mountain for the vessel it was still use its original name -- the Genedar.
  • Tyrande and Malfurion officially co-lead the night elves. Tyrande is no longer the sole leader.
  • Sadly, the Shatterspear tribe is no more, although some may have escaped and found shelter within the Horde or other organizations.
  • Just who the heck is Trade Prince Donais? Well ... he isn't Horde, exactly...
  • There is a distinct difference between the vrykul and Kvaldir, and it involves the Curse of Flesh.
Take a look at the thread in its entirety for all of the lore questions and answers. And if you have a lore question that has you stumped, head over to Twitter and shoot it to Senior Historian Sean Copeland at his Twitter account, @Loreology.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Lore

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

Connection problems for both North American and European players

Website down
Blizzard Customer Service is in the process of dealing with connection issues facing players on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. For the North American players, login errors have been plaguing both the Account Management website, and several games--World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and Hearthstone.
For players in Europe, Blizzard noted yesterday on their EU support blog that the high latency and connection issues are, in fact, the result of a series of DDoS attacks that have been levied at Blizzard servers for the past few days. Blizzard is monitoring the situation and asks that players follow their European customer service Twitter account for updates and further information.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Account Security

Connected Realms update for March 28

The list of US realms slated for the Realm Connection service has now been updated with new information regarding upcoming dates for the service. Players on Borean Tundra, Shadowsong, Dreden, and Arathor may want to note that the scheduled dates for connection of these realms have changed.

The following realms have been scheduled for connection on Thursday, April 3.
  • Borean Tundra and Shadowsong
  • Dath'Remar and Khaz'goroth
Read on for the rest of the connections and dates.

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Filed under: Realm Status, Blizzard, News items

Flying in Draenor must be destroyed

Recently, Alex Afrasiabi did an interview wherein he talked about the status of flight on Draenor when Warlords of Draenor launches. Specifically, that the idea of the players not being able to fly even at max level when the expansion comes out is a test of how players react to a flightless expansion, and if it seems successful, it's possible they may not introduce it at all. That from the moment we arrive on Draenor at level 90 to the time we finally leave it to take our adventures elsewhere, we will not fly anywhere on the new continent.

I think this is a marvelous idea.

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

How much transparency do you want?

It's come up time and again, and it's always an issue that's fascinated me -- how much information on how World of Warcraft is designed do we actually want? Some of us would be bored to tears by a technical discussion of the whys and wherefores of a design decision, while others would be absolutely fascinated by it. I'm sure no one's forgotten about the era of the 'Ghostcrawler experiment' and the sharp rise of communication from the game's developers. Today we have quite a bit of communication from people like Brian Holinka, Chadd Nervig, Ion Hazzikostas, Owen Landgren and others. I've always felt that it was a very good thing overall for the game to have that channel, with the devs taking time to explain design changes and what they mean. The question becomes, how useful is it to you, and how effective is it in getting players to understand the why behind changes?

Frankly, I think we all know that for every player who reads and absorbs dev interaction in the spirit in which it is meant, there's another who uses it simply as an excuse to blame said person for ruining the game. This goes back to before the time when devs were the ones delivering the news, mind you. I remember the days of Tseric, and the way the forums made him the villain in their self-generated narrative.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

The best Diablo III article you will read all week

Seriously, there's a lot of press out there about Diablo III. We've even done some here. But no one is going to top this piece over at Games.on.net, I promise you that. It simply cannot be done. How amazing is this piece, ostensibly about Reaper of Souls, that brought together interviewer Tim Colwill, senior character designer Paul Warzecha, and some pencils and paper to absolutely rethink some classic Diablo characters (and also a clown)? It's this amazing.

Paul: You know what – let's go ahead and... I don't think he needs a shirt. Does he need a shirt?

GON: Whenever I picture a clown, I always take their shirt off.

Paul: Yeah?

GON: We've all been there.

Paul: Well we're going there today, anyway. And I like these pants but I would... he needs some mobility. I would go full-on hammer pants. Remember in the 80's when they used to wear potato-sack pants? Remember those? With the things?

I don't see how I could add anything that would better encapsulate the brilliance of this article. Never before have I laughed quite this much at the notion of screaming decapitated heads being hurled at enemies by an evil clown with a lacrosse net, and I doubt I'll ever laugh that much at it again. This is, simply put, the best press you're going to see for Reaper of Souls or any Blizzard game this year, and I take the hat I don't have (probably made of snakes) off to you, Tim Colwill.

I now desperately want to see this happen for the Warcraft setting. I wonder what the clowns of Azeroth would look like. They'd probably have much bigger shoulders.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Diablo 3

Siege of Orgrimmar and the waiting game

I've played World of Warcraft for the entire history of the game, since about a month after launch (my wife actually played in beta, and she's the one who got me into WoW in the first place) and I've raided for pretty much the entire time - I took a few months off after The Burning Crusade dropped, and had to catch up in BC raids. Since that time, though, I've raided - I was in my server's most progressed guild in Wrath, switched servers but ended up in the same situation in Cataclysm, and have settled down to a still well progressed but less aggressive heroic raid in Mists of Pandaria, cruising at 10/14H and working on Thok. We have one pally, so Thok's a bit of a gigantic cinderblock wall, but we're still plugging away.

Being that I've been raiding so long, I sometimes see patterns. There's one I saw in BC, and repeated in Wrath and Cataclysm - the end of expansion lull. Once we get into the last tier of content, there's a surge of interest and everyone leaps to get in there and work on it... and that lasts a couple of months. After that, however, interest starts to wane. Players get burned out, stop playing, need to be replaced. Each player who needs to be replaced causes tension as the guild slows down due to the losses. Recruitment means bringing in people with less gear, less experience, and even if you manage to get a player with both the gear and the experience, it doesn't always mean they know how you do things. I was once recruited, after my Horde guild had killed all of Heroic Dragon Soul, by an Alliance guild that was on Spine. I took the jump because I wanted to play Alliance again - and even though I was geared as well or better than they were, I still had to relearn the fights based on their strats, and make suggestions based on my own experience that meant delays as they learned these new ideas.

This can lead to a feedback loop - players burn out, leave, this stresses the guild, more players get burned out. It's always present in raiding - churn is inevitable, recruitment must be continuous - but the promise of future content to come creates a counter pressure. You don't just raid to see the current content, you do it to be ready to get into the guts of the new stuff when it drops. But when you get into the last tier of raiding, there is no new content to keep you interested. And so, when that last raid tier takes months and months - sometimes, as in the case of ICC in Wrath, over a year - it becomes very difficult to keep guilds focused on progressing through it. Talking on twitter about all this after reading multiple posts on the issue, I started thinking about how it works out.

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

Catch-Up Systems planned for Warlords of Draenor professions

One of the biggest problems I had leveling my alts this expansion was that with the speed of leveling, I often outleveled my professions. This meant that, before the catch up mechanisms for herbalism and mining were implemented, I had to go back to content as far down as classic WoW zones to get my shaman caught up on his herbalism. That got fixed when a change was implemented allowing us to use Mists of Pandaria plants and mining nodes to level up our gathering professions. Now Blizzard profession designer Hwoome has good news.

But what about crafting professions? Well, we don't know yet, but the plan is apparently to tie in with the gated material generation. This is in my opinion welcome news - especially for people boosting to 90, you'll be able to level your professions in the new content. That's a huge plus.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Warlords of Draenor

New costume galleries highlight Blizzard cosplay

Three new galleries have been added to the official website, this time to feature Blizzard costumes. The galleries highlight recently-featured cosplayers in addition to contest winners and honorable mentions for costume contests from the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo franchises. Although the galleries are a little small for now, more costume photos will apparently be added over time.

Each of the galleries show winners all the way back to the first BlizzCon in 2005, so they're well worth the look. It's kind of cool to see how costumes and cosplay in general have progressed over time in terms of materials, construction, and detail. Hopefully we'll see other contestants past added soon as well -- costumes are always one of the coolest parts of BlizzCon, so it's nice to see them finally recognized with galleries of their own.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Arts and Crafts

Diablo 3 offering 100% XP boost this weekend only

This weekend, all bets are off in Diablo III. In anticipation of the launch of Reaper of Souls next week, Blizzard is offering a 100% XP bonus to all players this weekend only. The XP bonus ends at 12:01am Pacific Time Monday, March 24 -- so you might want to cancel your weekend plans and get in those last few Paragon Levels before the new expansion goes live March 25. This buff is already live on all servers, meaning you've got another option for tonight's activities as well.

As with the 50% bonus XP offer, you do not need to have pre-ordered Reaper of Souls to benefit from the experience boost -- all active Diablo III accounts have access to the bonus experience, as well as all new systems introduced in patch 2.0.1. With the new Paragon Leveling system, all characters share and contribute to a single, account-wide Paragon level -- so why not take advantage and get in some extra levels while you can?


Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Diablo 3

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls offering Hearthstone expert card packs

Are you planning on picking up Diablo III: Reaper of Souls on March 25? While you're waiting, you may want to check out Hearthstone, Blizzard's latest game release. Players that have pre-ordered Reaper of Souls will find a treat waiting for them -- Expert Card Packs waiting to be opened and played. Both the Digital and Retail Standard editions will get you one free Expert Card Pack, while Digital Deluxe and Retail Collector's Editions offer three Expert Card Packs.

If you have yet to pre-order Reaper of Souls, the offer will be available to those who purchase the game after its launch as well. The card packs require a Battle.net account to be redeemed, and there is a limit of five Expert Card Packs per Battle.net account. Players who have pre-ordered either the Digital or Digital Deluxe editions of the game should have their cards available immediately -- if you are waiting for the retail version, you'll find codes in the box to redeem in exchange for your cards.

Check out the official post for more information about the offer, the rewards, and how to get started with Hearthstone, if you haven't already tried it out for yourself.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Diablo 3, Hearthstone Insider

The surprising importance of visual improvement

Before the introduction of transmogrification, I had no idea why anyone wanted it.

Back then, I was a pretty involved raider (still am, but probably a step or so less) and almost all of my effort in-game was dedicated towards improving my gear's stats. I didn't give much thought to how it looked. Occasionally I'd make fun of myself for looks like the one above, when I simply couldn't get a hat or shoulders to drop in the first tier of Cataclysm raiding and had to settle for ones from Zul'Gurub or Zul'Aman. I wore them, because they were the best I could get, and every week I cursed the bosses in Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight for not dropping better. But I always thought it was the stats that were important, not the fact that I looked like some demented tauren clown pretending to be a murloc to scare tauren children.

It took me a long time to understand how important a feature that allows you to customize your character's look can be to get you invested in that character. My groaning bank and void storage, filled to bursting with transmog items, can certainly attest that I quickly learned that lesson. But it shouldn't have been so surprising to me, considering I played in vanilla -- and back in vanilla, it was the fact that the tier raiding sets were such stark visual improvements that was half the motivation in pursuing them.

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

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

Blizzard unveils its PAX East plans

Blizzard has revealed their PAX East schedule, and for attendees of the Boston-based convention, it's going to be quite a weekend. There's something for almost every game the company makes, all to be found at booth #848 from 10am to 6pm Friday through Sunday. On offer at the booth will be:
There's also developers standing by to talk to fans, a Heroes of the Storm presentation at the Albatross theatre on Friday, April 11 at 10:30 a.m. EDT, as well as giveaways, prizes and more! We wouldn't be surprised to see some new merchandise debuting, as has previously been the case for PAX conventions. It promises to be an exciting weekend all round!

Filed under: Blizzard

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