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Filed under: News items

US Connected Realms update for July 18

The list of US realms slated for the Realm Connection service has been updated with new dates and new planned connections. If you are on a realm that is scheduled to be connected, be aware that Realm Connections take place on Thursdays rather than during Tuesday maintenance. Scheduled realms are brought down at approximately 5am PDT, and back up at approximately 1pm PDT. And just in case you're wondering what exactly this Realm Connection process will do for you, the player, Blizzard has a handy blog on the subject that explains things in detail.

The following US realms are scheduled for connection on Thursday, July 24.
  • Deathwing and Executus, Kalecgos, and Shattered Halls
  • Gilneas and Elune

Read more →

Filed under: Realm Status, Blizzard, News items

Warlords of Draenor: Mysterious portal appears in Stormwind

The latest beta build for Warlords of Draenor brought with it an odd anomaly with no explanation as of yet. A mysterious portal has appeared behind the mage tower in Stormwind City, one that bears a striking resemblance to every Emerald Dream portal we've ever seen present in game. At this time, there are no NPCs or anything present to indicate exactly what's up with the portal, however there is no Orgrimmar counterpart -- this is unique to Stormwind.

There's a few possibilities here. The most obvious is that this is somehow related to the Stormwind repairs mentioned last month on Twitter by Cory Stockton. After all, if you're going to fix a park, druid intervention sounds like a good plan, right? The other option is that this is somehow related to Draenor -- and those wild vines have the look of some of the savage greenery found on Draenor, while the tents have the same purple color as used by some of the orc clans. This seems sort of unlikely at this point, largely because there is no Orgrimmar counterpart.

While we don't know what exactly the portal is for, it's still cool to see additions and changes being made to Azeroth right alongside all the gorgeous new vistas and scenery we're checking out on Draenor. We'll have to wait and see what kind of NPC's pop up around the portal, or how exactly it's implemented as more beta builds are released. But for now, those hoping that this might be some sign of a future full-out Emerald Dream expansion -- I wouldn't hold your breath.


Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: New arakkoa models

Last night's beta build included new models for Draenor's arakkoa. I, for one, was rather surprised by their new look. The arakkoa we know from Outland were broad, hunch-backed creatures incapable of flight. Draenor's arakkoa maintain their form from before an apparent fall from grace -- they're tall, thin, and maintain their wings. While their Outland counterpart looked like creepy little warlocks, the Draenor arakkoa resemble harpies that have slid a few notches further down the bestial spectrum.

Interestingly, the new arakkoa models include both male and female versions. The female version can be seen in the video above, and many variants of the male model can be seen on MMO-Champion. Blizzard rarely models both genders for NPC races, unless that race is distinctly humanesque -- the vrykul, for example.

While I miss the creepy little arakkoa from Outland, their Draenor forms are pretty cool, too.

Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Ashran preview

The zone preview train keeps chugging along. First we had Talador, Gorgrond followed, and now we're given a look at Ashran.

Built upon the remnants of an ogre civilization, Ashran looks deceptively like a nice enough island just off the coast of Tanaan Jungle. And it probably would be a lovely place to visit if not for the never-ending tug-of-war between the Horde and Alliance taking place in the central region of the zone. Then again, this might just be just your kind of excursion.

In Ashran, the Horde and the Alliance continue their long tradition of ruining everything they touch. Though home to the new faction hubs, Ashran is primarily a PVP zone with "world PVP" in mind -- though it maintains the essential elements of a battleground. Objectives are based around a tug-of-war, though it involves pushing rather than pulling. Each faction pushes down a lane toward the opposing faction's base, capturing points along the way. A powerful Ogre King awaits players at the central hub, aiding whichever faction can prove their might. A faction with dwindling resources will spawn NPC captains to aid them, some of which are named for known PVP personalities in the community.

Beyond the battleground elements, Ashran also has several other points of interest that will aid their faction's efforts and provide currently unspecified rewards. The zone preview also explains there are numerous personal goals littered throughout the island, encouraging players to venture out and find them -- luring more players into potential PVP conflict.

Head over to Battle.net for the full details.


Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Gorgrond preview

Fresh on the heels of today's Talador preview, we get a look at Gorgrond, forbidding home of the Iron Horde's industrial machine. Gorgrond is the next step for fighting back Iron Horde aggression -- after you've fought them off in Shadowmoon Valley or Frostfire Ridge, it's time to take the battle to them, and Gorgrond is exactly where you're going to do just that. Smash them Iron Horde. Smash them good.

But they won't just sit back and take it. In Gorgrond you'll come face to face with some of the most powerful and destructive weapons the savage world of Draenor had to challenge you with.

After withstanding the Iron Horde's initial assault, you'll make your way into Gorgrond with a handful of allies to try to discover the Blackrock orcs' intentions and find a way to thwart any plans the Iron Horde may have. It's a perilous recon mission. Gorgrond is a land of giants embroiled in an epic struggle between creation and destruction. It's the kind of place you avoid unless you have a death wish.

If there's one thing I know about players, it's that they can't resist going someplace conce they've been told not to go there. It's like candy to them. I expect we'll all flood to Gorgrond as soon as we possibly can. I for one welcome our new Iron Horde victims, and everything else in the zone that gets in the way, too.

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

Heroes of the Storm: New battleground revealed

Heroes of the Storm Heroes
The Heroes of the Storm official site has released a new interview with Senior Technical Designer Meng Song all about the game's new battleground map: the Garden of Terror. The Garden is a three-lane map that cycles between daytime and nighttime, with corresponding changes to both lighting and map features. During the day, there are the usual mercenary camps for players to capture, but they disappear when night falls, and instead night horrors will appear in the garden sections of the map. The night sequence ends when all night horrors are killed.

In addition, players can gather seeds by killing certain mobs scattered around the map. Once 100 seeds have been collected, players can summon a Garden Terror in their base. Much like the Dragon Shire map, the player that summons the Garden Terror becomes it, granting you two powerful abilities: Plant Horror Overgrowth, which disables and damages enemy buildings, and Spore Queen's Curse, which turns your enemies into piddling little Plant Zombies.

It's great to see a new map being added to Heroes for some extra variety. I'm really interested to see how the day/night cycle works out in gameplay, particularly because the transition is player-controlled. I'm sure there will be a variety of strategies for when and why to try and shift the map into night, and for how long to leave it there. Mostly, it will just be nice to have another possible option on the battleground roulette wheel.

Filed under: News items, Heroes of the Storm

The BlizzCon Meeting Stone is no more

Last year's BlizzCon introduced a real-world version of the Meeting Stone to provide a central place on the show floor to arrange meetups and find your friends. But while basking in the presence of a giant, Meeting Stone was pretty fantastic, the dark, noisy convention floor wasn't a great place to have conversations. This year, Blizzard is nixing the Meeting Stone idea altogether and encouraging attendees to set up their own meetups when and where they like.

On one hand, you're freed from the tyranny of organized meetups... but on the other hand, this year's BlizzCon won't have any central meeting space to find your friends. You'll still be able to find members of the community team at the Community Booth and you can arrange your own meetups (if you're into that kind of thing) on the BlizzCon Meet-up forum.

But the worst part of this news is that the Meeting Stone itself isn't slated to be on the show floor. How are we ever going to summon everyone without it?

Filed under: News items, BlizzCon

Warlords of Draenor: Jumping puzzles abound

Warlords beta drinking nelf
Our friends at Wowhead have uncovered something I can honestly say I never thought I'd see in WoW: jumping puzzles. Well, I guess you could call those really annoying spots in Blackfathom Deeps and Wailing Caverns "jumping puzzles" but really, they're just jumps. So far three separate jumping puzzles have been spotted in Draenor. You'll find them at the Circle of Blood, the waterfall at Moonwillow Peak in Shadowmoon Valley, and the eastern end of Daggermaw Ravine. According to Wowhead, Circle of Blood is the easiest of the three, and Daggermaw Ravine the most difficult. All have rewards awaiting the intrepid jumping populace, be it a rare spawn with rare loot or a treasure chest of goodies.

The presence of jumping puzzles in the game brings the question of player flying capabilities to the forefront once more. We already know we won't be able to fly in Draenor at release, but it's been speculated that flying will be added into the game after a certain point. However, player flying renders challenges such as jumping puzzles completely obsolete. Why would you bother when you can just drop in from above? Of course, that doesn't mean that Blizzard will never allow flying in Draenor--content isn't designed to be new indefinitely. However, it does make me feel like perhaps our grounding in Draenor is meant to be more permanent than initially expected. Or maybe I'm reading way too much into this. What do you think?

Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

Gorgrond and Talador coming soon to Warlords beta

World of Warcraft Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi confirmed today on Twitter that Gorgrond and Talador are "on deck" with the Spires of Arak and Nagrand close behind. Currently, only the Tanaan Jungle introductory sequence, Frostfire Ridge, and Shadowmoon Valley are available for testing. Whether or not "on deck" means in the next build, we aren't sure, but we do hope it will be soon.

From what we know of these zones, the Blade's Edge Mountains of Outland were formed when Gorgrond and Frostfire Ridge collided in the shattering of Draenor. Early release screenshots, as seen above, also suggest that part of what became Outland's Zangarmarsh is on the outskirts of Gorgrond. Talador is a central zone in Draenor and is known to us as Outland's Terokkar Forest. Talador includes Shattrath and Auchindoun. We suspect we can expect a distinct orcish flavor in Gorgrond and Draenic in Talador.

Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

Gaze of the Black Prince returns

Wrathion
Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday July 15th, at 9:00 am PDT, the Gaze of the Black Prince buff will reappear on live servers. This game-wide buff increases reputation gains with The Black Prince by 100%, and increases your chance to earn Sigils of Wisdom, Sigils of Power, Secrets of the Empire, and Titan Runestones. The buff will last two weeks and end at 9:00 am PDT on July 29th. If you've got a toon working on that legendary cloak questline, you just might be able to push through and finish it up in the next two weeks.

Make sure to check out Anne Stickney's guide to getting that fancy orange piece of gear if you're feeling stuck or overwhelmed, there are some great tips there for using your time as efficiently as possible. For those of you aiming to get your legendary cloak--be it your first or fifth--good luck, and may the Gaze of the Black Prince help you out.

Filed under: News items, Mists of Pandaria

San Diego Comic-Con 2014 programming schedule released

San Diego Comic-Con International has begun to release its program of events for this year's convention. Blizzard Entertainment will once again have a presence at the convention as well as a panel with Chris Metzen himself. The panel, titled Blizzard Entertainment Showcase, takes place Thursday, July 24 from 2:15-3:15pm in Room 6BCF. Attendees looking for expansion information should take note that this is a panel about Blizzard merchandise and licensed products. While it may include some new information on upcoming projects, there likely won't be a lot of talking about game development -- but the panel does include a Q&A.

However, attendees looking for other Blizzard information would do well to hit up Hall H on Saturday, July 26. Legendary Pictures will be presenting a panel featuring their upcoming slate of films in Hall H from 12:25-1:10pm. Last year, Director Duncan Jones made a brief appearance at the convention to show off what he called a "mood piece" for the upcoming Warcraft film. Filming for Warcraft officially wrapped in May of this year, which means that attendees at the panel may very well see more than just a brief glimpse of Warcraft.

Fans looking for Blizzard on the main convention floor can head to booth 115 for Blizzard Entertainment. At the moment, there still isn't an official schedule for any signings that might take place at Comic-Con. Given last year's list of notable names, we should see an official announcement regarding potential signings and other pertinent Comic-Con info soon.


Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Warcraft Movie

Warlords of Draenor: Forget looting the hounds, we can ride them

The latest beta build of Warlords brought with it several new Battle Pets as well as the mount pictured above. Yes, that is a Core Hound, and yes, you will be able to ride it by obtaining the Core Hound Chain. Although it's not directly stated where this mount will be obtained on the mount tab, it's safe to say we'll likely see it dropping in the newly-revamped Upper Blackrock Spire. After all, what's Blackrock Spire without The Beast?

In addition to the Core Hound mount, several Ravager Wasp battle pets were added, along with a Runtish Gronnling, and a pet named Sky-bo that appears to be a miniature version of the Sky Golem mount. At the moment, there's no indication whether Sky-bo is an engineer crafted pet. To check out 3D models of the new Core Hound mount, as well as other new items added to the beta, head over to Wowhead.


Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: New battle pet models

New battle pets from Wowhead
Over the last few days we've all become intimately familiar with the new Molten Corgi pet and its model. Two more datamined battle pet models have joined it: the Grovestrider Hatchling and the Draenei Micro Defender. In addition, there's another new pet currently sans model: the Dwarf Gronnling. I am going to make an educated guess and say that this last pet probably looks like a teeny tiny gronn. If so, that'll be fantastic. I've always wanted one of those.

The Grovestrider Hatchling is a fun, if pretty typical-looking small bird model with blue, green, and sliver feathers and red eyes. Of the two new models, the Draenei Micro Defender definitely steals the show. As one of the Wowhead commenters points out it looks like a little Protoss. It's got two shiny shields and some chic crystalline armor. I'm definitely going to try and get my grubby little paws on that thing as soon as I can.

Images courtesy of Wowhead

Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

Heart of the Valorous active this weekend

Heart of the Valorous returns yet again. The buff will be active starting Friday, July 11 at 9:00 a.m. PDT, through Monday, July 14 at 9:00 a.m. PDT. Heart of the Valorous increases all Valor Point gains by 100%.

We're curious if these buffs will become a weekly occurrence until the release of Warlords of Draenor. While a Valor buff is certainly nice to have, it loses its luster with each repetition. If the intent of the buff is to keep people playing until Warlords, something more compelling will need to come along sooner or later.

Filed under: News items

Mike Morhaime apologizes for lack of diversity in Blizzard games

It's been a bad year or so for women in Blizzard games, for a lot of reasons. At BlizzCon, Warlords of Draenor was described as a "boy's trip" that Aggra wasn't invited to -- which fits with the Warlords marketing material that shows almost exclusively male characters (a few women appear in the trailer and one in the art, but they're unnamed). But Warlords isn't the only concern: the company's April Fool's joke came off as tone-deaf to many, Heroes of the Storm uses female characters as eye candy (which game director Dustin Browder argued didn't send a message), and, recently, Rob Pardo stated in a talk at MIT that diversity wasn't really a value for the company.

Though Warlords has come a long way since BlizzCon and both Browder and Pardo apologized, the fact that any of these things were an issue in the first place is off-putting -- at best -- to female gamers. Even long-term Blizzard fans have started to wonder why they're continuing to play in a gaming world that didn't accept women amongst the cast of heroes. It's from this place of disappointment that Starcunning wrote to Mike Morhaime, explaining why she's walked away from Blizzard's games. The surprise, however, is that Mike Morhaime responded stressing Blizzard's commitment to listening to the playerbase and building games that are fun for everyone.
Mike Morhaime
We are very conscious of the issues you raise and are discussing them more than ever, at every level of the company, in an effort to make sure our games and stories are as epic and inclusive as possible. Blizzard's employees form a broad and diverse group that cares deeply about the experiences we are creating for our players. And we know that actions speak louder than words, so we are challenging ourselves to draw from more diverse voices within and outside of the company and create more diverse heroes and content. We are also actively looking at our story development and other processes to ensure that our values are fully represented. We've always believed that positive, lasting change comes from examination, discussion, and iteration, and this applies as much to story as to gameplay. There is no reason why inclusivity should come at the expense of an amazing game experience.

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Filed under: Blizzard, News items

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