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Filed under: Wrath of the Lich King

Never enough time

One of the absurdities of playing an MMO for any length of time, much less for ten years, is that you see certain cycles repeat again and again. For instance, I've seen players make the same assumptions about personal experiences in the game being universal so many times that I could republish that post every two weeks and it would be relevant. Another way I've seen the same cycle repeat multiple times since the end of Burning Crusade is this - people always complain (myself included) that the expansion is taking too long to get here and we're sick of the old content, and then, as soon as the new expansion is announced, we start panicking (myself included) to get certain things finished that we could have done long, long before the expansion ever got close to done.

I mean, I have six characters on various stages of the legendary cloak quest, that I just never bothered to finish up on because reasons. I don't think I can argue I haven't had enough time. It's September. Nine months seems more than adequate to have gotten that done, and yet, nope. Just never bothered to do it. In a way I feel like the extreme length of the content drought lulled me into a false complacency. A year in SoO seemed so monumentally long that it never really sank in that yes, it is long - but it still had an end date.

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

Voice acting in Warlords of Draenor

There was a moment in the Warlords of Draenor beta when I realized that I was getting a quest from Frank Welker. Aka Megatron. Aka Nibbler from Futurama. Aka a million other voices. The man has 728 credits as an actor on IMDB, and here he is, doing a voice in the Warlords beta. Specifically, Reshad the storekeeper. See, they recently added a ton of voice acting to the beta - pretty much every character you interact with has significant voice work put into it, and for the most part it's frankly stunning. I'm not trying to exaggerate here, but the difference between this expansion and, as an example, Lady Sindragosa's Betraaaaaaaaays you dialogue is night and day.

Heck, just pop over to Frostfire Ridge at level 90, or run through the Tanaan Jungle opening, and you'll hear a variety of voice actors, more so than World of Warcraft has ever boasted.

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

The incredible aging demographic

Let me put it on the line - LFR and Flexible raid sizes are the most important raiding experiences currently available in World of Warcraft, and the upcoming Mythic 20 person raid difficulty is an atavism, barely even an appendix, that only a vanishing few players will experience when it is current. It exists for a sense of achievement and prestige that only a few players really have the time for anymore, and every year, that group of players gets smaller.

The reason for this is simple - as Tom Chilton put it, the demographic is getting older over time. People like me who played for the raid game back in classic are older. They have jobs, kids, schedules that don't permit the kind of time investment hard modes currently demand, the kind Mythic will demand. And it's not that you can't do cutting edge raiding in, say, six hours a week. I'm not arguing that you will have to put in 20 hours a week to do Mythic. I'm arguing that even scheduling one or two nights a week and being there reliably is actually really hard when you have other commitments that can often demand your time on a moment's notice - in essence. being able to go when you want/need to raid instead of when the group is scheduled to go is a huge boon to that aging demographic. For all the elitism, all the sneering, and all the slurs directed at the LFR player base, the feature allows people who love raiding but who can no longer commit to scheduled WoW play a place to do it.

You can ask if this is healthy for the game as a whole - whether or not your answer is yes or no, though, there is no escaping this simple fact. WoW is a decade old. Many of us playing it have been here for years now. Even players who started in Wrath or Cataclysm have now been playing for years. This is an aging game with aging players, this is the reality of the situation. And this means that more adaptive raiding solutions are going to keep presenting themselves.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Wrath of the Lich King, 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

Is BlizzCon bad for World of Warcraft?

Okay, I'm sure with a headline like "Is BlizzCon bad for World of Warcraft?" you're already thinking this is it. Rossi has finally snapped. But hear me out for a second. We've had BlizzCons since 2005, before The Burning Crusade was even released. While they haven't happened every year (there was no BlizzCon 2006 and no BlizzCon 2012) it's been fairly regular since its introduction. Last year, Warlords of Draenor was previewed at BlizzCon 2013 - for many of us it's the source of pretty much every opinion we have on the expansion.

That, in fact, is exactly what got me thinking that it's possible that BlizzCon itself is bad for the game, for the game community at large, and for the future of the franchise. BlizzCon, by its very nature, is a hype machine. It's where we learn details about the expansion - its name, its features, its setting and goals - before they are even close to being ready for players. People play demos. Developers give talks about the games. In many ways it's very exciting. I've never been myself, but most of my coworkers and a lot of my in-game friends have. So my argument isn't that BlizzCon itself is bad.

But looking over the past year or so, in terms of Warlords of Draenor and player interaction with it, I start to wonder if having the big reveal at the convention does more harm than good, overall. Expectations are set at the convention - looking at the recent player reaction to the news that Karabor and Bladespire wouldn't be capital cities in Draenor, the issue can in part be traced back to the fact that we were told they would be at BlizzCon. Players (like myself) had months to get excited about the idea of Karabor as a capital city. Then, suddenly, we were told (almost as an afterthought) that no, the capitals were moved to Ashran.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Bugs, Blizzard, The Burning Crusade, BlizzCon, Wrath of the Lich King, Warlords of Draenor

Man at Arms makes Frostmourne

If you haven't started watching Man at Arms, the awesome webseries where weapons from movies and video games are recreated by master blacksmith Tony Swatton, I have to wonder why not. The real draw of the show is that they go out of their way to make functional replicas, even when that's impractical - the weapons Swatton and his team create actually can be used, and usually are used at the end of the episode.

This week, after a round of voting, we finally get to see Swatton's take on Frostmourne, the infamous runeblade of the Lich King. Now, as far as I can tell they haven't mastered the necromancy that made Frostmourne so dangerous, but they did make a sword you can cut stuff up real good. Keep your eyes peeled at the end for a guest appearance by Michele Morrow at the end.

I won't lie, I'm still a little bummed we didn't get a Gorehowl. But this is a heck of an impressive build. I really think Blizzard should commission an Ashkandi from Mr. Swatton. And then give it to me.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Lore, Wrath of the Lich King, Arts and Crafts

WoW Archivist: Beta surprises

Death knights bomb the plaguelands
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Last week, we launched into the newest beta in WoW's history -- its sixth! -- for Warlords of Draenor. It's an exciting time for the game. Every beta has its surprises, good and bad. New things that were never announced. Prior announcements that changed unexpectedly. We've already had a number of surprises in the Warlords beta: the faction hub shift to Ashran, cross-faction auctions, and the removal of guild leveling.

Beta is just ramping up. We are sure to encounter more than one surprise over the next few months as we test the Draenor experience and gear up for the expansion's launch. Let's take a look back at the previous five betas and examine some of the twists that greeted testers -- and often shocked the WoW community. Caveat: I'm excluding storyline surprises.

The original beta

In 2003 and early 2004, players didn't really know what to expect from a World of Warcraft MMO. Blizzard, after all, had never made one before. Most of the original beta served up surprise after surprise. Yet, a few stand out.

Tired heroes. Patch 0.6 introduced the first incarnation of the rest system. Today it is simply a bonus for players who don't have time to log in every day. The original version was more like the Chinese government's "anti-obsession measures": it punished you for playing too long. The system looked like this:
  • Well rested gave 200% of the XP from a mob kill
  • Rested gave between 100% and 200% XP
  • Normal gave 100% XP
  • Fatigued gave 50% XP
  • Exhausted gave 25% XP
Your hero needed a good night's rest -- a full eight hours at an inn -- to go from exhausted to normal.

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Filed under: The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, WoW Archivist

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

Who I want to see in Warlords of Draenor: Gorgonna

I'm aware that Gorgonna would have been a young child on Draenor, if she was even born there at all. (Both Gorgonna and her sister Krenna grew up in the internment camps and could easily have been born during or even after the Second War.) I'm not talking about the alternate version of her - I'm talking about the Gorgonna who killed her own sister for the Horde, the one who took command of Conquest Hold when Nazgrim just stood there looking silly.

I don't have anything against Nazzy, mind you - he died for the Horde and all that - but Gorgonna displayed a knowledge of right and wrong and an ethical sense that the Horde desperately needs going into Warlords and one I'd very much like to see in action. The Horde is going to need seasoned commanders as it goes through the portal to Draenor, and Gorgonna would be a good choice.

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Filed under: Blizzard, Lore, Wrath of the Lich King, 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

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

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