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Around Azeroth: A hazy shade of summer

Scourgecandy of Legendary Incompetence on Scilla (US-H) writes, "Arathi has long been one of my favorite zones, but for none of the reasons on display in this shot. The cold, pale dread I see in this picture is in stark contrast to the beauty and the sun and the green that I think of when I think of the Arathi Highlands. I also really like the parallel lines between the staff, and the sun and shadow orb. And the layering; as if the layering of the fore-, mid- and backgrounds wasn't great enough, she's in Shadowform to boot!"

Want to see your own screenshot here? Send it to aroundazeroth@wowinsider.com. We strongly prefer full-sized pictures with no UI or names showing. Please include "Azeroth" in the subject line so your email doesn't get marked as spam, and include your name, guild and server if you want to be credited.

Filed under: Around Azeroth

World of WarCrafts: Darkpippi's Warcraft tunes

World of WarCrafts spotlights art and creativity by WoW players, including fan art, cooking, comics, cosplay, music, fan fiction and more. Sample the whole spectrum on our Arts and Crafts in WoW page.

Some Warcraft-inspired projects just take a little bit of time and a whole lot of patience, while others take a little more know-how. Singing, however, takes a little bit from both and combines it with the need for a voice -- and today, we've got a golden set of pipes. While there's a whole lot of singing machinima out there suitable for Moviewatch, there are still plenty of musicians and singers out there merrily pushing out the tunes without machinima. Today, we've got a mage with a passion for singing and the voice to back it up.

DarkPippi's been quietly putting out songs for well over a year now. While many of his tunes have been heard on The Instance podcast, his YouTube channel doesn't exactly have a ton of traffic -- I only just stumbled across his work last week when working on The Daily Quest. Needless to say, I was stunned with the quality of vocal work and immediately went about contacting Darkpippi for an interview, which he graciously accepted. Follow after the break for more with Darkpippi and plenty more tunes!

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Filed under: World of WarCrafts

Breakfast Topic: Patch frequency and you

How do you like your patch content delivered? Do you like it better when Blizzard holds off on patches and delivers lots of content in one go (the development cycle of Wrath saw several large patches, delivering raids and new quests and class changes in large chunks)? Or would you rather see patches come more often, spreading out the content delivery more? This is the current plan for Cataclysm. We saw the Zandalari dungeons drop in patch 4.1, and 4.2 will bring the Firelands raid and Hyjal daily quest hubs.

As an old fogey, I see the pluses and minuses to both. When Ulduar dropped, I was very happy; it was a good patch with a good raid. But when the following patch basically not only wiped out Ulduar in terms of raid attendance but also delivered a less satisfying experience, the big downside of content bomb patches was exposed. Smaller patches may not always deliver as much content, but at least we're not forced to wait as long for the next thing.

So how about you? Do you eat your content one bar at a time, or do you wedge the whole thing in your mouth and chew?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Breakfast Topics

Enter to win a ticket to BlizzCon 2011 by donating to Child's Play

If you missed your chance to purchase a ticket to BlizzCon 2011 last month, there's still a way to get yourself in the door if you're feeling charitable.

Looking For Group: BlizzCon, a networking site for organizing groups and meetups at BlizzCon 2011, is giving away one ticket to a random member of its website who makes a charitable donation to Child's Play. Child's Play, if you don't recall, is a charity created by the authors of Penny Arcade to give toys and games to kids in children's hospitals.

To enter, all you have to do is join LFG: BlizzCon (it's free) and make a donation to Child's Play by June 30, 2011, at 11:59 p.m. CST. The donation can be for any amount, small or large. To read the complete rules on how to donate for the contest, check out the official contest page.

Filed under: Contests, BlizzCon

Dev Watercooler: Content for the casual 85

The newest Dev Watercooler column gives King Crab a break and instead lets us peek into the mind of Dave "Fargo" Kosak, lead quest designer for World of Warcraft. You might remember Fargo from Flintlocke's Guide to Azeroth and GameSpy days. Fargo's Dev Watercooler is all about experiencing World of Warcraft as a non-raider and what Blizzard's expectations are for level 85s who aren't bashing down Ragnaros' door.

One of the weirdest statements that I have to make to many people who are new to the MMO genre is that "the game begins at 85." While we know that isn't factually correct, since there are 85 levels of content previous to hitting the magic number, it still makes sense from a "never-ending world" point of view. There is no end, so the game begins at the "current" end.

Fargo makes the case that all players are entitled to an epic storyline, engaging content, and a feeling of continual power growth. The new patch 4.2 Firelands daily quest hubs in the Molten Front and the Regrowth are tailor-made to hit these points and provide a personal, continuing experience for players who don't participate in the raid game. With dailies being randomized and your personal tree growing at your own pace, players are rewarded based on their efforts alone.

Personally, I like this direction for solo questing experiences. The Molten Front and the Regrowth seem like better, more advanced, and more evolved versions of the reputation grinds we were previously chugging away at to open up gear and other rewards, but with less of a "watch a bar go up" mentality. Here, we have engaging choices and rotating sets of random tasks that keep us coming back for more, all the while physically changing the world around us. Now we just need to care about the cause. I think Firelands is going to push us a good way forward in that regard.

Check out Fargo's first contribution to the Dev Watercooler series, after the jump.

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Filed under: Blizzard, Cataclysm

Spiritual Guidance: 8 reasons why your shadow priest DPS sucks

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Every Wednesday, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen rains sheer purple destruction down on all who oppose him (such as those who dress cats in outfits).

It's pretty much a known fact that we shadow priests are looked up to the world over. (Especially by Tyler Caraway, but that's mostly just because he's very short.) The reasons behind the admiration are many, but one seems to be more compelling than the rest: Shadow priests are capable of doing stunningly awesome DPS. Big numbers are sexy. There's no denying it.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that not every shadow priest gets to realize their true potential. Tiny problems and mistakes hold them back. And though some of these problems are easily fixed, the fact that they're damn near impossible to guess at and diagnose on your own leaves a lot of shadow priests frustrated.

Without a doubt, there are an awful lot of potential pitfalls out there. If you follow me after the break, we'll talk about eight of the most common ones. More importantly, though, we'll suggest ways to overcome them and get your priest back on the path to greatness.

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Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

The Daily Quest: Thinking inside the box

WoW Insider's on a Daily Quest to bring you interesting, informative, and entertaining WoW-related links from around the blogosphere.

Oh, strange and delightful Trogg crate. Your boxy antics from beta and the ability to stick around are sorely missed. I have no idea why, but I wish I could run around Orgrimmar with you on my head -- for no real logical, useful reason, but simply for the sheer entertainment factor. Maybe someone at Blizzard will give us a wearable box found by archaeology or something, someday; one can only dream.

Today, we've got a collection of posts from around the blogosphere of people thinking outside the box -- or perhaps inside the box, because as we found out in the Cataclysm beta, being in the box was actually pretty cool.

Is there a story out there we ought to link or a blog we should be following? Just leave us a comment, and you may see it here tomorrow! Be sure to check out our WoW Resources Guide for more WoW-related sites.

Filed under: The Daily Quest

Know Your Lore: The sources of magic, part 3

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.

Last week, we talked about arcane magic (including fel energy and shadow) and the magic of the Holy Light (which also has shadow as a kind of opposite force). If that's not confusing enough, this week, we talk about the magic of shaman and druids, either of which could in its own way be called natural magic.

In part 1 of this series, we talked about the various means by which magical energy can be tapped. One of these magical "fonts" is the Emerald Dream, a kind of palimpsest dimension that lays beneath and mimics Azeroth. It is, essentially, the first draft of creation, the blueprint to which the world would be returned to in the event of reorigination. It's Azeroth before the original Sundering, before intelligent life, as it was the second the Titans considered their creation complete. The reason Ysera of the dream is charged with protecting and safeguarding the Dream is that it is the world's base state.

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Filed under: Druid, Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore, Cataclysm

Nothing Gold Can Stay: Change and the game's development

There was a time when the following were all known truths, enshrined in the game by its developers and its players.
  • Raids all require 40 people to run.
  • To run a 5-man instance, you have to assemble the group via friends or through people on your realm.
  • The only acceptable warrior is a tanking warrior.
  • The only acceptable tank is a warrior tank.
  • Hybrids heal. If they don't heal, they're not hybrid. More importantly, if they don't heal, you don't bring them to your group.
  • In order to understand how to use a weapon, you must learn how from a trainer and then go out and attack things with it hundreds of times.
These are just a few of the sacred cows that WoW inherited from other games and at one time treated as if they were bedrock assumptions, virtually built into the DNA of the MMO genre. And to paraphrase, if you meet the ancient MMO truth on the road, WoW must kill it.

I would argue that in nearly every case that the development team has looked at a truism (even one enshrined in their current design paradigm) and decided to change or remove that sacred cow, it has been for the good of the game. Perhaps this has not always been the case, but certainly very often.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding

Ask the Devs Round 9 mitigates your tanking questions

Ask the Devs is back for Round 9, which deals with the most awesome role in WoW ever -- tanking. Of course, coming from a tank, that might be a bit biased -- but deal with it, healers and DPSers. I've got creatures to keep from punching you in your squishy little faces.

Of note this time around is Blizzard's tough time dealing with tanks wanting threat stats (hit and expertise) and the current struggle with making it work. Currently, in cutting-edge content, threat stats are pretty good for initial aggro, but over time, Vengeance does its job admirably and keeps bosses on tanks with relative ease. I think that design decision is hitting the sweet spot, but it begs the question of why even have the threat stats in the first place?

Blizzard also discussed the mastery bonuses for each tank. The devs feel that death knights and druids are doing pretty well, all things considered, and that paladins and warriors have a similar problem in "capping" mastery, but that paladins are more susceptible to problems. There is still the sentiment in the community that Blizzard needs to add its own visual threat meters or some type of aggro status, but there is a reluctance on Blizzard's part to clutter up its own default UI -- understandable, but this may potentially be a part of Blizzard's forthcoming (but not discussed) "how to tank" solution.

Buried in this discussion, however, was a little tidbit about patch 4.3. Blizzard states that the design for the patch 4.2 legendary, Dragonwrath, has wide appeal to a number of staff-wielding ranged DPS classes. However, it then mentions the "patch 4.3 legendary" and its more narrow appeal. Will we be seeing a tanking legendary in the near future, or potentially another healer item? We do know for sure that it will not be as widespread, class-wise, as Dragonwrath, so we can only sit back and assume. What is interesting, though, is that patch 4.3 also looks to be a raid tier and not a patch 4.1-style dungeon content update. Could patch 4.3 be bringing us the War of the Ancients raid that we have been eagerly anticipating, especially with the return of Nozdormu and his crazy time antics? Only time (heh) will tell.

Also, don't expect a new tanking class any time soon. Hit the jump for the full question and answer session.

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Filed under: Blizzard, Cataclysm