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Filed under: Cataclysm

Know Your Lore: Which Horde is Which?

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.

There will be spoilers for Warlords of Draenor in this post

So you may be confused right now. With the soon to come introduction of the Iron Horde, we've entered a situation where we've got several different Hordes. There's the Old Horde, the original Horde that invaded Azeroth from Draenor. There's the New Horde, or Horde 2 if you prefer, the Horde put together by Thrall after he liberated the orc survivors from the Second War, leading them out of the internment camps and to the shores of Kalimdor. Along the way they picked up the tauren and Darkspear trolls as allies, and eventually the Forsaken, blood elves and Bilgewater goblins joined their ranks. This Horde is the Horde most players are still a part of. Meanwhile, at the same time, there was the Dark Horde, consisting of Blackrock orcs under the command of Rend Blackhand and his ultimate master, Nefarian.

During his reign as Warchief of the Horde (the New Horde, to be specific) Garrosh Hellscream recruited both the Blackrock and Dragonmaw orcs to join the Horde. But at the same time, he grew disenchanted with the other races of the Horde - goblins were too greedy, blood elves too mercurial, undead too loyal to Sylvanas and distasteful to his sensibilities, the Darkspear too loyal to their Vol'jin, and the tauren ultimately too bound to their own code of honor. It didn't help that he'd killed Cairne Bloodhoof and further alienated the tauren clan leader Baine, Cairne's son, with his actions. Soon, Garrosh found himself leading a Horde he didn't much trust or care for.

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

The whole World of Warcraft in 41 minutes

It's no secret that I like the lore of World of Warcraft, so it should be no surprise that I decided that you needed to see this video. Nobble's done lore videos before, but this is quite frankly his masterpiece - a fairly concise (for what it is covering) run-through of all of the background of World of Warcraft and the Warcraft franchise as a whole. It's definitely worth your time.

Soak in it, my friends, the gloriously messy, chaotic, crazy lore of World of Warcraft.

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

Why I love proc items

Proc weapons, proc trinkets, these are some of my favorite items over the existence of World of Warcraft. The end of Dragon Soul weapons from Deathwing were amazing. Were they unbalanced? Yeah. Yeah, they were, let's be honest. They were even more unbalanced than the various proc trinkets from Siege of Orgrimmar, if you want to get right down to it. That's pretty unbalanced. But only a very few cared (most of them PvP players who had every reason to care) because the items were so much fun, y'all. There is literally never going to be anything as satisfying in World of Warcraft again as the sight of four Gurthalak tentacles spawning and mind flaying that rogue to death.

I wasn't kidding about PvP'ers having every reason to hate the proc weapons from Dragon Soul. Taking a fury warrior with twin Gurths into PvP was basically a giant middle finger to everyone who was primarily a PvP'er and didn't raid. And I admit that I flipped that particular middle finger as hard and often as I could, because why wouldn't I? If I were a primarily PvP oriented player, I'd be mad too.

Still, I love proc items. And Celestalon is talking about proc items.
Why do I love proc items so much? Here are a few reasons.

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

The Lore Vacuum Effect

It's no secret that I'm into World of Warcraft for the lore. I play the game for the story, to a great extent. And that's what makes end of expansion lulls the hardest for me - I know that there will be no new story. This time around, Mists of Pandaria has just absolutely ground me into the dust. I simply can't make myself be interested in playing when I know the story this well. I've leveled Horde to get a new look at things, run the Dominance Offensive, done the Isle of Thunder, even run Siege LFR on him. I've seen it. Alliance and Horde, I've seen it.

I know that a great many players, perhaps the majority of the game's players, do not care about this. I accept this as fact. I don't expect you to put lore and narrative ahead of gameplay. I know Blizzard designs the game with gameplay firmly ahead of the lore. But it's still a huge issue for me, and there are other players like me - not only does it affect how they're playing now, but it controls whether or not they'll play it in the future.

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

Loot, points, bonus rolls, and other options

Before The Burning Crusade, there simply wasn't any other way to get gear for your character but for it to drop past a certain point. Sometimes you could buy a BoE piece on the auction house - my first epic was a Brain Hacker my wife bought me on the AH. But in general, if you wanted a piece of gear, you farmed for it. You ran dungeons over and over again, hoping a piece would drop, and hoping you would win the roll - and if neither of those things happened, you just kept running. It was possible to run the same dungeon every day, over and over again, and never get that drop you wanted - one friend of mine never completed his dungeon set, even when he was working on raiding Ahn'Qiraj, because the shoulders simply would not drop.

But during BC the Badges of Justice were devised, and for the first time players had a way to get around the luck of the draw. Over the course of the expansion, new gear was placed on vendors, gear that could be purchased for Badges, and this meant that players kept running as much content that dropped those badges as possible. It's fair to say that the badge system kept Karazhan going as a desired raiding location - people would bring their geared mains, even, just to get the extra badges. When the Isle of Quel'Danas vendor opened, all of my friends and guildmates (who were raiding TK and SSC and moving up into Hyjal and the Black Temple) picked up gear from the IoQD vendor, because it was easily as good if not slightly better as the drops we already had. It filled weak spots (those pants or boots or belt that never dropped) or provided us with weapons absolutely as good as drops we hadn't even seen yet.

The badge system got ever more complex in Wrath, with each new raid tier also seeing the debut of a new type of badge and new gear that badge could be spent on. As a result, the two tiered point system (justice and valor points, honor and conquest points for PvP) was introduced in Cataclysm (technically, during the tail end of Wrath) to simplify everything. It worked, to a point. Now, in Mists of Pandaria, we've seen justice and valor points be superseded by the bonus roll mechanic, one that will be revamped in Warlords of Draenor. One could argue that the bonus roll system puts the emphasis back on whether or not an item drops as opposed to simply collecting points to buy an item - it removes the certainty of reaching enough points to make a purchase, as well.

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

Know Your Lore: The Trolls Ascendant

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.

The Darkspear Trolls are, as of the end of Mists of Pandaria, the most powerful tribe of trolls in all of Azeroth. Their leader, Vol'jin, sits atop the Horde as its new Warchief, the first non-orc ever to hold that title. In their time with the Horde, the Darkspears have weathered many challenges - the initial travails of their escape from the Sea Witch and the death of Sen'jin to the rise of Garrosh Hellscream and the reclamation of the Echo Isles, and most recently the ultimately successful Darkspear Rebellion that deposed Garrosh.

Once, the Darkspear were the smallest and least respected of all the jungle trolls - cast out of Stranglethorn Vale by the more numerous and aggressive Gurubashi, they came to inhabit the islands of the South Seas, where Thrall and his orcs encountered them. It's amazing to think about how these bedraggled, oppressed trolls managed to become so powerful a force. In part, it must be credited to Vol'jin. Following Garrosh Hellscream's attempt to assassinate the Darkspear chieftain, it was Vol'jin who ultimately united and led the Horde against the warchief.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Could WoW have an expansion without raiding?

I have raided in World of Warcraft since the beginning. Raiding has always been a big part of why I play the game. If not the reason I play, certainly a reason. So when I was sitting up last night and it occurred to me that I've never gone an entire expansion without raiding, I didn't initially think anything of it -- to me, raiding is what you do in WoW. But then I started really thinking about it. Because lots of people don't raid. Before the rise of LFR and flex, a lot of players -- the majority of players, really -- never set foot in a raid at all. They had 5-mans, and that was basically it for group content for them outside of PvP.

So I started asking myself if it would be possible to release an expansion with little to no raiding content at all. Would players accept it? It's a cliche (and an overused one among the community) that Blizzard didn't do this or that 'because it would cost us a raid tier' but let's really consider -- what if we could have the expansion next month, but it wouldn't have any raids? Would that be an expansion people would be willing to play?

One of the reasons I consider this a more controversial question that it would have been at the end of Wrath is because now, raiding is far, far more accessible than it was even then. With the advent of LFR and the recent development of flexible raiding, it's never been easier to raid than it is. While Warlords of Draenor is changing the raid game, those changes will only make mythic raiding in any way more restrictive -- the rest of raiding will remain very accessible.

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

Blizzard on raid design evolution

Lead Game Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has written a very extensive blog on the evolution of raid design, the first installment of which went live this morning. In this first part, Watcher covers the history of raiding, from the launch of the game in 2004 all the way through to the end of Icecrown Citadel in 2010.

For many, these were the glory days of raiding and World of Warcraft alike, well, if you believe the forums at least. Watcher talks about the developers' aims to make raiding more accessible, and to improve the gameplay of groups by reducing them in size -- one healer in a group of fifteen healers can't have as big an impact as one healer in a group of five or two. He also discusses the introduction of varying difficulties in raiding, and looks back over all the patches of some of the game's greatest raids.

Hit the break for the full post.

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Filed under: Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Garrisons and their role in Warlords of Draenor

We're all talking about garrisons these days. Whether it's how they're going to work, where they're going to be, or what we're going to do with them they're the big new feature for Warlords of Draenor and we're all constantly worrying at the bone to try and squeeze more information out of them. It's understandable. Players have wanted something akin to player housing for years, and the garrison goes beyond that - it's effectively your own fortified town. It brings back memories for players of old school pen and paper RPG's like me of hitting the end of the expert levels in D&D and getting a dominion.

We've recently found out that the garrison will be heavily integrated into the leveling experience, requiring it to have a stable location (Frostfire Ridge for Horde, Shadowmoon Valley for Alliance) and that there will be specific racial-themed buildings for the professions section of your garrison. There's even going to be group content for garrisons. Mumper has even assured us that the garrison will not be required to level. Meanwhile, Muffinus has asked players who, out of the entire World of Warcraft, would they want as a follower - I'm personally pulling for Rexxar and Marhsall Windsor. Yes, I know.

What this all means is in flux, of course, as Mumper himself acknowledges - design is iterative, and changes happen. We're still waiting for more details, but what I wanted to talk about now is how the garrison is shaping up to become one of those rare things, a feature that can completely transform your playing experience in fundamental ways, yet not directly.

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

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

Know Your Lore: Warriors of Azeroth and beyond, Part 2

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.

Second verse, same as the first - we're talking warriors of lore and story in the Warcraft universe. What does it take to get on either of these lists?
  1. Don't obviously be a member of another class. I skirted the edge of this one for last week's list, but not this week - these are the warriors. No Bolvars, no Turalyons, no Rexxars or the like. If you cast spells or skulk in the shadows or are a death knight, you're not on this list. Sorry, Highlord Alexandros Mograine, but you were a paladin, and you don't count. Maiev Shadowsong definitely uses stealth, she's out.
  2. You have to be somehow more iconic than the badasses on last week's list. That means, in my opinion, you're more important in terms of lore than Muradin Bronzebeard, Baine Bloodhoof, and Broxigar the Red. That's not an easy bar to jump over.
  3. Those are my criteria. I just think lists with less than three points on them look weird.
Let's get started on the list.

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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

WoW Moviewatch: Back to Cata

With the long wait for new game content, maybe it's time to go back in time with Back to Cata by Slightly Impressive. After all, there's Cataclysm raids to be raided and achievements to be gotten -- not to mention that whole revamped leveling experience to enjoy. And maybe the occasional fiery death, but only occasional. (Probably.)

If this isn't going back quite far enough for you, you can also go Back to Vanilla, Back to BC, Back to Wrath, and Back to Wrath 2. Happy adventuring, time travelers!
Interested in the wide world of machinima? We have new movies every weekday here on WoW Moviewatch! Have suggestions for machinima we ought to feature? Toss us an email at moviewatch@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: WoW Moviewatch, Cataclysm

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

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