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Filed under: Odds and ends

Arthas takes on the Sith in new image from Blizzard

Not to be shown up by the Sith (i.e. the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Arthas is back in a new imaged released on Warcraft's Twitter page showing him with an upgraded version of Frostmourne (now with an even more excessive crossguard), and ready to take on anyone who wants to put up a fight for the title of ultimate villain. In the battle of Arthas vs. Sith, I think I'd put my money on Arthas.

Or is this supposed to be an audition? If so, I think he may be a little too late. Kind of like at Stratholme.

Oh, too soon?

Filed under: Odds and ends

Does this flaming skull nebula bear a striking resemblence to Zarhym?

Blizzard's influence reaches a galactic level
When reader Kristen sent in this link, we thought it would be some silly fun. But after examining the photographic evidence for ourselves, we have to say this astronomical phenomenon bears a striking resemblance to our favorite flying skull, Zarhym. This nebula is estimated to be 45,000 years old, which means this galactic vacation must have required a lot of advanced planning. (Zarhym, we'd love the name of your travel agent.) If you want to know what makes this particular flaming skull appear in the sky, astronomer Phil Plait covers the science, and if you just want a cool background wallpaper, the full resolution photo taken by T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage) and H. Schweiker (WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF) can be found at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

And Zarhym? We appreciate that everybody needs the occasional vacation, but we hope to see you back on earth one day.

Filed under: Odds and ends

This full-back Illidan Stormrage tattoo is true WoW dedication

Someone clearly was prepared... to get this incredible Illidan tattoo. Found on Reddit, we don't know who the owner of this particular work of art is, but we do know it takes some dedication to the game to adorn yourself with such a serious World of Warcraft tattoo. Of course, this is hardly the only WoW-themed tattoo we've come across -- not even the only Illidan-themed tattoo.

If you know who owns this particular tattoo, why not let us -- or Reddit -- know? Or if you have WoW ink of your own that you'd like to show off, why not drop us a line? We might feature it!

Filed under: Odds and ends, Arts and Crafts

These alpha screenshots aren't quite the World of Warcraft you used to know

Alpha screens
Just how long have you been playing World of Warcraft? Whatever the answer, there's a very good chance you weren't playing when these screenshots were taken, back in the game's alpha phase. The above screenshot, taken off the coast of Stranglethorn Vale in the game's earliest of days, was posted to Reddit along with many others, all carefully annotated.

While it's not quite a comprehensive directory of Azeroth as it was, it's a more complete record than any we've seen and a great nostalgia trip for players who have been there as well as players who haven't. Some of the scenery will be familiar to anyone who played before Cataclysm, though a great deal of it is subtly off from the WoW you may remember. And then there are oddball shots like the one above.

Head to Reddit or Imgur to browse the whole gallery for yourself or read on to see a selection of our favorites.

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Filed under: Odds and ends, Blizzard

Seeing Azeroth from a bird's eye view

wow fisheye shots
We've seen plenty of cool WoW screenshots in our day, but these bird's eye view images of Dalaran, Kun-Lai Summit (above), Lordaeron, Stormwind and most recently Orgrimmar still caught our eye. To capture these stellar views, Masserah of Arthas takes anywhere from 65 to 95 screenshots (at 1366 x 768 resolution on ultra settings), which he stitches together using the free app Hugin. This is the time-consuming part of the process, as Hugin can take two or three hours to piece a large scene together. Once Hugin has done its thing, Masserah manipulates the scene to give the fisheye effect and then goes into Photoshop to smooth out imperfections and correct colors.

These aren't the first WoW panoramas Masserah has made -- he has a gallery of panoramas, tilt-shifts, and other cool shots dating back to 2006. "I tend to come and go, and do these in waves," Masserah says. "I'm always on the lookout for the next scene, but I rarely get off my butt to do so."

So why take WoW screenshots in the first place? "I'm from Ireland, and more often than not the weather didn't cooperate with my photography," Masserah tells us. "I realized one day that I spent hour upon hour staring at a virtual world through a camera, and just started snapping scenes from around Azeroth. The small mercy is that a screenshot is about one-eighteenth the size of a professional photograph, and loads and processes much faster."

And, while we aren't professional photographers ourselves, we definitely approve of these results.

Filed under: Fan stuff, Odds and ends

Tuesday Morning Post: Lift up the gates edition

So here we are. It's been a while since Patch 3.3 started, and we've had a suspiciously early downtime announcement to boot. The holidays are winding down, and most of us, including, one would assume, the Blizzard devs, have finished our eggnog and put our noses back to the grindstone. As of this writing, there's no official word either way, but I'm feeling pretty optimistic about waking up to news of a new section of ICC being opened, or at least a nice mini-patch full of some bug fixes -- say, to certain borked class cooldowns. We can't say for sure, though. All we can say for sure is that the realms are down, and will be for a while, until at least 11 AM pacific time.

With that in mind, it's a good time to catch up on the news. As usual, we have a roundup of some of the best articles from the past 7 days or so. We're shaking off the holiday drowsiness and getting into full gear to help you get through the next phase of ICC, find out when we'll see more Cataclysm news, and more. Join us in the server downtime vigil and read on.

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Filed under: Patches, Odds and ends, News items

Elemental Shaman Tier 10 bug causes 7-day lockout

A nasty bug with the 2-piece Tier 10 bonus for Elemental Shamans reared its ugly head recently when a player attempted to use Elemental Mastery. The bonus, which is supposed to reduce the cooldown on Elemental Mastery by 2 seconds each time Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning is used, instead puts the 31-point Elemental talent on a whopping seven day cooldown. This is akin to the bug found with the Hunter ability Call Stabled Pet, which puts the ability on an even more staggering 25-day cooldown.

Ghostcrawler immediately responded to the concern as raised on the official forums, stating that the problem happens only in cross-server instances and that raiding shouldn't be affected. Elemental Shamans sporting two pieces from the Frost Witch's Regalia would probably do well not to activate Elemental Mastery while in a dungeon using the Dungeon Finder until a fix is found. Ghostcrawler stated that Blizzard is working on the issue.

Filed under: Shaman, Bugs, Odds and ends

Breakfast Topic: The hangover

Weekend's done, it's back to work. How was everybody's New Year's celebration? I hope everyone's sober and up and running to start your Monday. It's the start of the week, after all, hopefully you're all not still hungover from the very long weekend. Then again, it's not always a bad thing to be a little out of sorts, especially when playing World of Warcraft. Some of my most memorable raids have actually happened when one or (regrettably) more raid members have been, how do we say, ah, rambunctious with the help of a little liquid courage. We didn't necessarily have smooth runs, but they sure were a riot, especially over vent.

Did you guys use the long break to play the game? Or did you use it to actually catch up on real life? If you guys played, did you do it with a little more eggnog than necessary? Or maybe you loaded up on sweets like candy canes and played with a little sugar rush? Did you go through the break wearing real life Beer Goggles? With the long vacation over and the new year ushering us all back to work, school, or anything that isn't inactivity, let's use this sobering breakfast topic to talk about what we did over the long holidays. Heck, regale us with tales of inebriated raiding or playing. Since I'm something of a teetotaler myself, reading those stories should be a vicarious treat.

Filed under: Odds and ends, Breakfast Topics

You wouldn't like me when I'm hungry

When writing this Breakfast Topic I noticed in the comments a certain disconnect between how I approach running heroics and how other people seem to. So I thought I'd try and encapsulate the differences and try and help explain why sometimes tanks seem a little touchy or off in runs. It's not just the blows to the head, guys.

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Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Warrior, Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Instances, Bosses, Death Knight, Wrath of the Lich King

Holiday Dessert Contest winners revealed

Behold the miracle of confection. Made by Christina Drylie of Apple Valley, California it's one of the 10 winning entries in this year's Blizzard Holiday Desert contest. Warning: may erupt from Deepholm and unleash elemental devastation. In addition to the Aspect of Earth, we have Moonkin, Murlocs, Lord Marrowgar and Icecrown Citadel in edible form. Hasten yourselves to go forth and consume their images. Unfortunately you won't be able to actually eat any of the deserts, but it's the web, we haven't worked out how to make hypertext work for creating cake.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard, News items, Contests, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm

Best of December 2009

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne

December brought us patch 3.3, Icecrown Citadel's new raid and 5-mans, "Rocket bare!", and the endless joy of the new Dungeon Finder. I think we can all agree that 2009's going out on a high note, and that this is one of the best patches Blizzard's ever released.

Arcane Brilliance: How to be a good PUG mage
: "It was like some kind of idiot convention, and I was the keynote speaker."

Totem Talk: On unique gearing and gear consolidation
: Rossi has mixed feelings on the benefits of gear consolidation, particularly because +spellpower mail is far better itemized for Restoration, and Enhancement shares gear with hunters, who don't want the same stats.

Official patch 3.3 confirmation and patch notes
: Patch 3.3 went live on December 8th to universal acclaim, and the enormous popularity of the Dungeon Finder took everyone by surprise.

The lore of patch 3.3
: A fantastic joint effort between Adam, Alex, and Sacco to bring you the background on how patch 3.3's story came about.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

Breakfast Topic: We're doing what now?

Some instances and raids, you understand why you're there. Icecrown, for instance, makes a lot of sense to me. I get why we're running the five mans (trying to sneak into the Citadel while the Scourge is focused on the front door) and the raid (that didn't work out so hot so brute force it is!) I always enjoyed Scarlet Monastery and had no difficulty with why I was running the place either as Alliance or Horde. Alliance, you were cleaning out a nasty pack of gibbering mouth-breather sociopathic xenophobes who were totally freaking insane, and Horde... same deal, plus they were killing people you actually knew.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Breakfast Topics, Instances, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King

Best of November 2009

November saw the celebration of WoW's fifth anniversary, the introduction of the pet store, and a steady avalanche of news from the patch 3.3 PTR.

Drama Mamas: When a partner wanders astray
: The Drama Mamas answer one of their hardest and most unsettling questions.

Cataclysm: The exhaustive list of old-world changes (so far)
: Sacco goes over all the known information concerning upcoming zone and dungeon changes in Cataclysm with a fine-tooth comb.

Blizzard: Arenas were a mistake
: Blizzard's VP of game design says that arenas as they were implemented were probably not the best idea. Let a thousand comments bloom.

Blizzard launches real-money in-game pet store
: The destination for data-mined pets we'd seen earlier that had never materialized in-game is finally revealed -- Blizzard's selling them. The march to micro-transactions continues apace, and not everyone is happy about it.

Patch 3.3 PTR: Get a pug when you PUG
: The destination for the Perky Pug is also revealed, and players are somewhat happier about that, particularly after finding some of the pug's more interesting animations.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

Know Your Lore: The Alliance

Welcome back to Know Your Lore,'s column about the story behind the game we all play.

This week on KYL, we move away from the Fall of the Lich King (although in the months to come expect more Icecrown related KYL's) and out to the larger world and the major factions that contend across it. I thought we'd start with the Alliance this week for a number of reasons, the first and most important among them being that the Alliance would not exist without the Horde, while the Horde's existence owes itself to forces transcending the Alliance. Because of this, doing the Alliance first will leave open questions that the Horde section next week will help answer.

The Alliance as it stands at this moment in time is a far different entity than the one originally known as the Alliance of Lordaeron. That Alliance was one of seven human nations (Azeroth, Lordaeron, Stromgarde, Kul Tiras, Alterac, Dalaran and Gilneas) with the Dwarves of Ironforge, Gnomes of Gnomeregan and High Elves of Quel'Thalas. This Alliance was born directly out of the statecraft of King Terenas Menethil of Lordaeron and the military leadership of Anduin Lothar, the Lion of Azeroth and last living member of the original Arathi bloodline.

Each member of this alliance had various reasons for being in it and varying degrees of loyalty to it (the High Elves, for example, were only in the Alliance because as the last Arathi, Lothar could compel their loyalty due to ancient pacts and abandoned it as soon as it was possible for them to fulfill said pacts, while Gilneas retreated behind the Greymane Wall not long after the end of the Second War over differences of opinion with Lordaeron) and it certainly lacked in coherence compared to the Horde it was opposed to.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Lore, Factions, Know your Lore

In-game models I would change if I could

In the transition to Cataclysm, an increasing amount of the game looks pretty dated, and we've already see Blizzard take a wrench to a number of models like druid forms and major lore figures. I've been hoping for a while that they'll do the same with the game's earliest and most dated models -- the ones that haven't changed a whit since the classic game hit beta -- and particularly the following. All of them are a jarring difference from the graphical quality of Northrend creations, and only stand to get more so in Cataclysm:

1. The wyvern

The wyvern is the model from which Blizzard cribbed the horrifying older version of Tauren cat form, but it was already awful in its own right. Compared to gryphons, wyverns look...well...terrible. They have a host of much less impressive and realistic animations and just seem like they're a lower-resolution model overall. The run animation on the player mount version makes it obvious that the thing was never meant to run, and the top of its head looks like somebody took an experimental swing at it with a frying pan. I have yet to see a Horde player fly one of these monstrosities longer than they absolutely have to.

Dear God, someone please put this affront to nature out of its misery.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends

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