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Filed under: Warlords of Draenor

Artcraft continues with a look at development tools

The excellent Artcraft series continues with a look at the tools used to develop zones, as well as how the Level Design team works with Environment Artists to craft a zone's many areas and make them all seem like natural parts of an area.

Artcraft - Level Design Part 3
The environment artists make the models and textures, and the level designer sculpts and paints the terrain, places the trees, rocks, and bushes-all the while considering gameplay and both the art and design direction. A typical day for our level designers will include decisions about the overall look and feel of a zone, as well as paying finite attention to detail, like how one plant looks when placed next to another plant in the scene.


So far this has been one of my favorite Artcrafts - while it was fun to get to see the various new models for playable races, getting to see the tools that craft the World of Warcraft we experience as players is nothing short of amazing and I'm very much looking forward to part four. Just getting to read about how they vary the shade of green to bring out different elements of the zone has me super excited. Nagrand is beautiful and diverse, and we're getting to see how elements of the game we've already known are referenced and incorporated in its creation.

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

Know Your Lore: Mannoroth

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.

We talk about the great evils of the Warcraft universe - your Kil'jaeden's and Archimonde's, your Sargeras and your Old Gods - and of course there's the mortal monsters like Gul'dan, quite possibly the single most evil mortal being ever to live, or Kel'Thuzad who enslaved himself to evil so profound that his transformation into a lich was probably a palliative influence on his malevolence. But what of evil as a corrupting vector? What of an evil so profound that it is part of your blood, that can seep into the souls of an entire race? Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you - what of Mannoroth, king of the Pit Lords, master of the Annihilan?

We know little of the Annihilan. They are the pit lords, a massive and powerful species of demons recruited to serve the Legion by none other than Kil'jaeden himself. They were already a powerful part of the Legion when the War of the Ancients unfolded - Mannoroth himself was one of the Legion's elite who came through the portal to help make clear the way for Sargeras to stride forth into Azeroth, doing battle with the forces of the Kaldorei who were attempting to preserve their lives. But as to where the pit lords come from, it is as yet a mystery unsolved. What world did they originate on? What happened to it? We do not know.

What we do know is this - few races in all the cosmos can boast so powerful and corrupting an evil nature as the Annihilan. And Mannoroth was for eons first among the pit lords - the acknowledged master of his kind, the most powerful of them all. Not Brutallus, not Magtheridon, not Azgalor, but Mannoroth ruled the Annihilan on behalf of the Legion.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, Lore, Know your Lore, Warlords of Draenor

Artcraft continues with Nagrand and level design

One of my favorite zones to just look at in The Burning Crusade was Nagrand, it was a beautiful zone with just enough strangeness to feel alien and different. Now in the latest installment of Artcraft by senior level designer Michael McInerney, we're getting a look at how Blizzard's level designers created a Nagrand that felt like the natural predecessor to the zone we already know.

Artcraft - Level Design Part 2
Nagrand also had some equity we wanted to explore; players have experienced a shattered version of the zone in Outland, and this was a unique opportunity to provide a contrasting look. Giving places a sense of history is high on the list of zone design philosophies. Some of the more obvious ways to tell a zone's history are with ruins, when they make sense. The Highmaul ogres were once a great power in Nagrand. Now they are on the edge of oblivion. All that's left of their once great civilization is scattered remnants, as evidenced by their crumbling towers and roads you find throughout the zone. It's not a coincidence that the area they occupy in the zone doesn't exist in Outland.


How'd they do? Well, having been there on the beta, I have to say the new Nagrand is magnificent and definitely feels like it could have been the place we know, before the destruction of Draenor. Mister McInernery's point about the various races in the zone telling a story by how they interact with the environment is also spot on - you can tell a lot about the various people you encounter in Nagrand by how they live.

Head on over to the official site for more, it's definitely worth a read.

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

Blizzard disables 'anti-exploit' experience cap mechanic

For a while now people have been complaining about a new system that caused experience gained by repeatedly killing the same mobs as they respawned to be reduced, saying it was too punitive. Now Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has posted explaining that the mechanic, intended to combat exploits common to power leveling, has been disabled.

Watcher
This isn't intended to be an "anti-grind" mechanic. It's intended to be an "anti-exploit" mechanic that programmatically addresses power-leveling abuses, with the aim of letting us reward legitimate players more generously. In the past, we've often had little choice but to drastically reduce the experience awarded by certain respawning bosses or enemies that are locked in combat with other NPCs, because otherwise they'd be abused. That always felt bad to the regular player who was just passing through in the course of questing or exploration and got unexpectedly little or no experience for killing something. The goal was to come up with an approach that would be invisible to most players, but discourage sitting there and repeatedly farming the same mob for long stretches of time in order to gain experience. Alternatives like questing, dungeons, or PvP are all supposed to be more lucrative than that - WoW has never been a game in which mass-killing mobs for experience was the most efficient route.

That said, clearly this implementation is far too strict, and is triggering from a wide variety of normal activity. We're going to disable the functionality entirely and look into a much more narrowly targeted approach if and when we reintroduce it. Apologies for the inconvenience and the lack of response on the issue - we were working on understanding exactly where the algorithm was going awry, and now that we've done so, we'll be taking action in the near future.


So if you happen to enjoy grinding and don't mind it being somewhat less rewarding, while not wanting it to be almost completely so, this change should please you. Still, there probably should be a mechanic for combating power leveling abuses involving tagging mobs and then having a whole party or raid backing you up to kill what you tag, and I hope that when they do come up with an idea for it, it's a little less broadly implemented than this was.

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

Mythic difficulty lockouts explained

For some folks, mythic raiding is causing a bit of a problem. Not that it is hard in any way, but rather that they don't understand the specifics of its lockout system as compared to LFR or Normal/Heroic raiding. This is understandable - with all the changes to raiding, it can be hard to keep track of how everything has changed. Rygarius has taken the time to explain the system, and to anybody who raided before Mists of Pandaria it should look pretty familiar.
Rygarius - Question about Mythic
I've seen some confusion over Mythic raiding lately and wanted to clarify.

Mythic difficulty's lockout works differently than the other raiding difficulties (Raid Finder, Normal, Heroic).

In Mythic difficulty, you are bound to the raid ID. This means if you join a Mythic raid, defeat the first boss (thereby binding you to that Mythic raid ID) and leave; you'll return to the same raid. If the raid continues on to defeat bosses 2, and 3 while you were gone, you will return to the raid with those bosses already defeated.

For that reason, it is important to stick together with the same group of people as much as possible for Mythic difficulty.

When joining a Mythic raid that's already in-progress, read the notification box that pops up carefully. It'll let you know how many bosses have already been defeated and ask for confirmation to be saved to that raid. If something's not adding up, you can refuse to be saved and be teleported out without being saved.


Yes, it's the old raid ID system. It's understandable that it might confuse folks used to the more flexible loot-locked system we have in Normal/Heroic - with those raids, if you leave after three bosses into a raid, you can come back on a fresh clear and kill stuff until you get to a boss you haven't looted yet and start getting loot again. With Mythic, you and everyone in the raid who kills the first boss are bound by the raid ID - the 20 players who killed that boss are basically in the exact same instance of said raid, and if two people step out on boss 6 and are replaced, and the raid continues on to kill all the bosses, that's their raid ID - if they formed a raid and zoned in after the clear, they would arrive in a cleared out instance.

It's clearly all part of the design to keep Mythic as something more akin to the old days of raiding, where server communities formed and fought for realm firsts. I admit, it's not a raid ID system that appeals to me anymore, but it's not complicated - it's the raid ID system that we've always had.

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

Patch 6.0.3 notes for October 28th

So tomorrow we're getting patch 6.0.3, which hotfixes a lot of issues thus far in patch 6.0.2 and brings the game more in line with what's running on the beta servers. So what issues needed fixing, you ask? Well, there's a host of fixes, so why not let them speak for themselves?
  • In the hilarious words of the patch notes, "Thrall received a reminder that he is currently still on Azeroth."
  • The glitch that was making Undead players' jaws vanish in certain helmets has been fixed.
  • Shamans can rejoice that Flame Shock, Chain Lightning, Lightning Bolt, Frost Shock and Lava Burst have received a discount and now cost 50% less mana to cast.
  • You now can't complete the quest for Warforged Seals if you already have the maximum amount (20) of Warforged Seals.
For the complete list of hotfixes, click the link below! And remember, you are currently still on Azeroth.

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

Characters of Warcraft updates with Velen, Archmage Khadgar

The Characters of Warcraft page is a useful one to keep abreast of what's coming in the Warlords of Draenor expansion. Recent updates have made it more so, with focus on Velen and Archmage Khadgar. The focus on each character explains their roles in the expansion to come (for example, how Velen has responded to the Iron Horde) and how they're involved in the story of the expansion. I'm excited to see some mention of Khadgar's having been aged by magic, although it's not really reflected in his current model - if anything he looks younger now than he did in the Burning Crusade days.

If you're looking to get a sense of who the people we'll be dealing with when we get to Draenor are, the Characters of Warcraft page and these updates definitely offer some help.

Filed under: Blizzard, Lore, Warlords of Draenor

New Warlords of Draenor TV spots

It's time for some serious orcface, as the Warlords of Draenor hype machine kicks into overdrive with these new TV spots. There's one where Grommash just glares out from the screen, I admit that one makes me kind of uncomfortable. This one, with Garrosh getting a couple of beats, is my personal favorite (I've grown to like Garrosh in that love to hate sort of way - he made a pretty compelling bad guy, at least I thought so).

The weeks have flown by and we're in the home stretch now, with November 13 a few short weeks away. Are you ready for the Iron Horde? These TV spots want to know.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Warlords of Draenor

Latest Artcraft covers exterior level design


One of the things I love about the Artcraft series is how it covers an aspect of World of Warcraft that's critically important and yet often overlooked, namely the look of the game. This week, Blizzard has a new Artcraft for us, covering level design out in the world. As presented by Julian Morris, lead level designer for World of Warcraft's exterior level design team, we get a glimpse into what goes in to giving us the lush visuals of zones like Shadowmoon Valley or Nagrand.
Artcraft - Level Design Part 1
Exterior level design is the process of designing and constructing the zones of World of Warcraft, from Azeroth to Draenor and everything in between. Our team has planned, plotted, and designed the rise and fall of ancient cultures, as well as shaped mountains, forests, seas, lakes, rivers, roads, ruins, and every land feature imaginable. In addition to the land itself, we also design and create cities, towns, and Battlegrounds (with the random exterior dungeon or two in there every now and then, too).


One of the things I remember thinking when I first arrived in Shadowmoon Valley on the beta was how amazing it was that they managed to create a zone that actually felt like a living place, yet you could believe it could become the ruined hellscape of Outland's SMV. Reading about how the level design team works with artists and designers from all over WoW to create these zones is something we've not really gotten much exposure to in the past, so I'm very excited to see how the series continues.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Arts and Crafts, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor cinematics, machinima, and more with Terran Gregory

If you've played World of Warcraft since the beginning, you've doubtless witnessed a slow evolution of story development take place in the form of in game cinematics and increasingly complex and beautiful patch trailers. The majority of these trailers can be chalked up to In-game Cinematic Project Director Terran Gregory, who has been toiling away on bringing us the very best of in game machinima since Burning Crusade. In Warlords of Draenor, those in game cinematics take a giant leap forward, featured in nearly every zone of the new expansion -- and with new models galore, they've never looked better.

As the launch of Warlords marches ever closer, we had the opportunity to finally sit down and have a spoiler-free chat with Terran about the cinematics of Warlords -- as well as his beginnings with Blizzard, and the progress of cinematics from mere machinima trailers to in game marvels of technical prowess.

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Filed under: Machinima, News items, Interviews, Warlords of Draenor

Use your toys more often with these Toy Box addons

I think the toy box feature is glorious. It's something I was pining for even before it was announced at BlizzCon 2013. Having access to toys at any time -- and especially on all my characters -- has been a lot of fun. As of today, I'm up to 90 toys with plenty more in the pipeline.

I suppose the only thing I've struggled with is the tediousness of going into my toy box, searching for the item I want, then using it from there. Yes, I could throw some favorites on action bars but that would get cluttered fast. Pinning favorites helps, but with 90 toys you can imagine I have a lot of favorites.

I did some digging and came up with 3 addons that make using your toys a whole lot easier. If you're a toy collector who wants an easier way to use your favorite toys, then keep reading. The first addon we're looking at isn't aimed specifically at the toy box, but the author has recently added support and it works like a charm.

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Filed under: Add-Ons, Warlords of Draenor

The Importance of Legacy Content

Since patch 6.0.2 came out, I've rediscovered the love I once held for soloing older raids. More than rediscovered it - I've expanded it, because now I can pretty easily solo most Cataclysm raids (I'm working on Spine of Deathwing) and that broadens what I can gather for transmog. But it's more than transmog, and more than the sensation one gets when you push Rhyolith through all his phases so that he dies before he's even done yelling at you in an awesome parody of what it sounds like when I wake up.

In a recent interview with PC Gamer magazine, Ion Hazzikostas pointed out that one of World of Warcraft's biggest strengths is its depth of content. The MMO has been going for ten years. There are old raids and dungeons everywhere. It's not just old content - it's a resource. And it makes WoW a game with incredible potential.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Cataclysm, Transmogrification, Warlords of Draenor

Blizzard offering 7 days of game time to select accounts

If you haven't upgraded your account to Warlords of Draenor, you may want to check your email. In fact, even if you have upgraded your account, you may want to check your email. Blizzard has quietly released a promotion giving players 7 free days of game time for select accounts, randomly offered to both current and returning players. As with any promotion, scams are an inevitability, so if you do see one of these emails pop up in your inbox, don't click any links in the email itself, just to be on the safe side.

Please note that this is a limited availability offer -- the promotion isn't being offered to all players. Community Manager Bashiok clarified the nature of the promotion on the official forums yesterday.

Bashiok
From time to time we run different promotional offers for a subset of players, but they're generally not something offered to everyone. Which is why this may work on the accounts that were offered the promotion, and not others.

However, players are reporting that they have received the promotion without the accompanying email, so you might just have a present waiting for you on your account. To check, log into your Battle.net account, click on your World of Warcraft license, and head to the Referrals & Rewards tab at the bottom of the page. If you have been offered free game time, a link will allow you to activate the game time and apply it to your account. According to the email, the offer expires on November 5 -- so make sure you redeem your game time now, before the offer disappears.


Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

A Behind the Scenes look at Lords of War with Senior Illustrator Laurel Austin

Earlier this month, Blizzard released a behind the scenes look at Lords of War, the latest short series from the team that brought us The Burdens of Shaohao. Although that behind the scenes glimpse was pretty good, it focused mainly on the story of the short films, the ideas behind the process. Yesterday, another Behind the Scenes featurette was added -- this time, featuring Senior Illustrator Laurel Austin, the artist behind all of those gorgeous moving frames. Austin goes through the process of character design for the shorts and the challenges of bringing the various warlords to life.

This is frankly the kind of behind the scenes stuff I really like to see -- don't get me wrong, I love a story as much as the next person, but I like seeing how it's all put together from a technical standpoint. While the exact process of animating the still paintings is only brushed on, it's still incredibly cool to watch Austin work and explain why particular stylistic choices were put into play. I didn't expect a second installment to this series, so I'm almost hoping we might yet see a third installment that goes into the animation process itself and how all those stunning paintings are brought to life. Either way, the video is a fascinating watch for anyone who wants to see how Blizzard puts their art together.

If you somehow missed Lords of War when it originally aired, you can catch the entire series on World of Warcraft's Youtube channel -- they've even put together a helpful playlist of all the episodes in order.

Filed under: Machinima, Blizzard, News items, Lore, Warlords of Draenor

Ion Hazzikostas: "Without a question" WoW will last another ten years

PC Gamer has an interview up with Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas, and it didn't hold back - and neither did he, really. Asked if he thought World of Warcraft could last another ten years, Ion's yes was unequivocal.

I can't tell you exactly what our 20th anniversary celebration event is going to bemaybe new content which hasn't been createdbut I can tell you there's going to be one.

So now that I'm sitting here desperately curious about what that 20th anniversary celebration is going to be, let's look over some other interesting points from the interview.
  • Baking all previous expansion into the Battle Chest is all about removing obstacles to play - they like the depth of having ten years worth of content, but not the feeling that in order to check out the newest content you have to run all the old stuff first.
  • Visual updates being discussed include various forms like moonkin and cosmetic additions to armor, things like quivers for hunters and updated geometry on the armor itself.
  • It's unlikely we'll get another Cataclysm style visual update anytime soon - resources are more likely to be allocated to new content.
So head on over to PC Gamer and read Ion's interview.


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

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