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Know Your Lore: Gnomes, the inheritors of the future

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 gnomes are one of two people of modern Azeroth who can lay claim to being the most intelligent, most adept with technology, most innovative of the mortal races. Unlike their goblin rivals, however, the gnomes are not materialists in the sense of always seeking a means to profit - their mindset is far more exploratory. A goblin looks at a situation and bends her mind to determine how best to exploit it, while a gnome seeks to learn how it works. And in a way, the gnome is far more dangerous, because they're never satisfied.

Consider this - the gnomes invented a weapon so destructive it rendered their own city unlivable for years. Even today, Gnomeregan isn't fully recovered. This radiation bomb (the work of Sicco Thermaplugg, the ambitious madman who once ruled Gnomeregan in its fallen state after Gelbin Mekkatorque led those gnomes he could out of the city) is proof positive of just how terrifying gnomish ingenuity can really be. Unlike the mana bomb Garrosh Hellscream used on Theramore, the radiation bomb doesn't destroy building - it kills without ruining structures. Furthermore, the mana bomb was a discovery, created by blood elves serving Kael'thas Sunstrider who had the chance to study naaru technology in Tempest Keep, but the radiation bomb was entirely a gnomish invention. From their origins as a titan created construct race, the gnomes have persevered through to the modern day as a clever, resourceful, inventive people. But Sicco Thermaplugg also shows that gnomes can be treacherous, deceitful, arrogant and even contemptuous of others.

Now, following the Siege of Orgrimmar, is there any limit to what the gnomes can achieve?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore, 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

What's going wrong with tanking in five player content?

Tanking is not always easy, mind you. But tanking can be an incredible amount of fun, and I hope that it'll make a real comeback in terms of popularity when Warlords of Draenor goes live. Right now, I feel like a few problems really keep tanking from being as universally popular as it could be.
  • Difficult to get starting gear - For most people, it's hard to get started as a tank. Gearing is an issue, because some tanks (DKs, warriors and paladins) need specific tanking gear, while even the leather tanks still generally use different stats to some degree, different enchants, different weapons for tanking than DPS or (especially) healing. This is a problem the gearing changes in Warlords should really help with.
  • Where can you learn it? - Tanking requires a different skill set from DPS or healing. While proving grounds exist, they don't really teach the most important part of being a tank - reacting to other players. It can be hard as a new tank to walk into a dungeon having never done it before. That leads into the third difficulty of picking up tanking.
  • Dungeons don't provide any sort of experience right now - With the wildly disparate gear levels on people running random dungeons, you can have a tank in 450 gear trying to hold aggro off of players in 580 gear. While it can be nice to be the tank in 580 gear, even you might have trouble when groups don't cooperate, run ahead of you, pull mobs half way across the zone, and generally simply refuse to act like any kind of groups at all. This is something I'm hoping the gear squish and ten levels will do away with - we'll all basically be on the same page when Warlords dungeons are being run.
While there are still a lot of places where tanking is both fun and rewarding - raiding (especially in a guild group, be it heroic, normal or flex), challenge modes, even in LFD or LFR if you get lucky - I do think it can be a lot to ask a new tank (whether or not she or he is a new player or just new to the role) to grow a thick skin fast enough to deal with the toxicity possible in the current random queue environment. Which is a real shame, because tanking is fun - it can be stressful, and oftentimes groups have an expectation of a tank doing the work of knowing how every fight works for them, but that's not always a negative.

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Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, Death Knight, Monk, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

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

War Crimes novel release date details

So if you're wondering when War Crimes (the upcoming Christie Golden novel about post-Siege of Orgrimmar Garrosh Hellscream and his trial) will be released, we have the details straight from author Christie Golden's Twitter account.
So not only do you know that the book will be released on May 6th, but if you just can't wait that long, you can go to Denver to the StarFest convention and snag a copy there three days early. I'm not saying you have to do this, nor am I saying to get me a copy while you're there, but I wouldn't mind it, either.

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

Patch 5.4.7 hotfixes for April 14

A new round of hotfixes for patch 5.4.7 have been released and posted on the official blog. Most of the hotfixes from today involve old raid encounters and achievements -- including one fix that should please those just crazy enough to attempt the Insane in the Membrane achievement.

Rygarius
April 14

Raids, Dungeons, and Scenarios
  • Siege of Orgrimmar: Blackfuse Bombling should no longer be incorrectly awarded from the Spoils of Pandaria encounter.
  • Ice Crown Citadel: Resolved an issue that could prevent players from being able to loot The Lich King if NPCs dealt fatal damage to him.
  • The Eye: Additional safeguards have been added to the Kael'thas Sunstrider encounter that could cause him to sometimes not grant loot if he's defeated too quickly.
Achievements
  • Insane in the Membrane: Resolved an issue where Exalted status with the various Steamwheedle Cartel factions, as well as Honored status with the Bloodsail Buccaneers faction, were not properly being credited if those reputations subsequently decreased. Players should now be able to earn this achievement if they have ever brought those five reputations to the required levels.

Filed under: Hotfixes, Mists of Pandaria

How to get a legendary cloak on your boosted 90

I just finished getting my legendary cloak on a second level 90 this week. It wasn't really necessary -- after all, I've got the cloak on my main character and I don't really need it on a second -- but I wanted to complete the chain again. The first time I went through this extraordinary, expansion-long chain was as the expansion itself played out, waiting between patches for the next leg of the chain to be introduced.

This time around, there was no waiting in between stages. I could simply barrel through the chain as quickly as possible, a fresh level 90 against whatever Wrathion chose to throw at me. And let's face it -- the chain has changed in parts along the way. It still takes some time to complete, so you're not going to have your cloak tomorrow if you start today. But the rewards are well worth the effort, and it's quite a bit easier than it used to be. So if you have a recently boosted level 90 and you're interested in getting a legendary of your own, here's how to get that cloak with minimal stress.

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Filed under: Raid Guides, Mists of Pandaria

Warlords of Draenor: Tanking and the future

One of the things I'm thinking about lately is how tanking is changing in Warlords of Draenor. In at least one major way, it's not changing - Active Mitigation established itself in Mists, based in part on DK tanking in Cataclysm, and it's going to be front and center in Warlords of Draenor. But right now, AM tanking heavily relies on four stats (depending on the tank class) and all four of those stats will be gone come Warlords, meaning that we're looking at a pretty significant change depending on the class. The remaining stat, mastery, is probably going up in value, and in addition, we'll have crit, haste, readiness and multistrike to consider. But stats aren't the whole of the game, and they're not the whole of the changes, either.

In addition to new stats, there are the abilities each tank will see affected by readiness to consider. There are also Draenor Perks for each tank spec, granted randomly as we level from 90 to 100. There are changes in what abilities exist, in what specs get them. Vengeance is gone, replaced with Resolve, buffing our self heals and absorbs. In short, while the basic idea remains the same - generate resources via attacks to spend on damage reduction in one fashion or another - how we go about it, how it interacts with us has so many changes that it's worth discussing in length. There's so much change coming in that I don't pretend I'll catch all of it, which is why we have comments, after all.

So what do I expect to see out of tanking coming 6.0? It should be noted, this discussion is based on the Warlords alpha patch notes and such datamining as I've looked over, and I freely admit I only tank on one class, so while these are general observations I may be missing key class specific factors.

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Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Death Knight, Monk, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

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

Patch 5.4.7 hotfixes for April 7

A new round of hotfixes for patch 5.4.7 have been released and posted on the official blog. While the list is pretty small, it includes a few important changes for players, including the fact that world bosses in Mists of Pandaria are no longer tap-to-faction -- something that was revealed last week. There's also one particularly nice change for players that like to farm old content.
  • Players frustrated with the five instances per hour limit on World of Warcraft accounts should be pleased to note that that number has now been increased to 10.
  • Shaman, an issue that caused the visual effect for Healing Rain to persist indefinitely has been fixed.
  • All world bosses in Mists of Pandaria are no longer tap-to-faction -- players from both factions can engage the boss at the same time and receive loot.
Read on for the full list of hotfixes.

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Filed under: Hotfixes, Mists of Pandaria

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

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

World Bosses no longer tap to faction

Lead Encounter Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has posted on Twitter confirming what some players thought was a bug. Several players have noticed that, when an opposing faction group is attacking a world boss, like the Celestials, they are able to hit it and still get loot and credit. Watcher confirmed via Twitter that this was not a bug, and actually a hotfix that went in recently. That hotfix, he also notes, caused the boss health scaling with larger groups to break. This, in turn, has been fixed.

He also later added that this was not just applicable to Timeless Isle bosses, but to all of them. So presumably, that's every boss from Galleon and the Sha of Anger, through Nalak and Oondasta, right to the Celestials, and Ordos.

What this means is just as explained above -- if the opposite faction pulls a boss, you can punch it and still get credit and loot. You'd have to be a little brave or foolhardy to do so alone on a PvP server, unless you're a stealth class, but the opportunity remains. It'll be interesting to see whether this change has an impact on the use of the Raid Finder and oQueue for Celestials groups, or not. Given the convenience of those methods for finding a composed group, I suspect they'll prevail.

Filed under: News items, Raiding, Mists of Pandaria

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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