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Around Azeroth, Beta Edition: The birds and the bees

Beta tester Zeebu might look fierce on the outside, but like all hunters, he's just a big cuddly pet lover/obsessive animal hoarder underneath it all. When he found Pepe hanging around his garrison while on a break from questing, he couldn't have been happier. Pepe may only be your friend for an hour, but the memories will last a lifetime.

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Filed under: Around Azeroth

Breakfast Topic: Losing track

So I spent several hours farming Battle for Mount Hyjal and Black Temple for the above transmog. You're thinking so you succeeded, well done but no - I didn't get the pieces I wanted. It just so happens that the character I was on (one of my many warriors) already had all of those pieces. That's because I completely forgot what this character had on him (or indeed, any of my characters at this point) - partially exacerbated by the fact that one of my characters has so much transmog gear that he has maybe two bag slots open.

It really doesn't help that even when I'm not playing a warrior, I'm on a death knight nowadays, and he has a lot of these same pieces of gear. Worse, I can't figure out what quests which character has or hasn't done, what reputations they have. I was surprised while farming because I hit exalted with the Ashtongue Deathsworn - a clue that I probably should have remembered I'd been there at least a few times already on this particular character.

So, if you play a lot of alts, how do you keep it all straight?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Hearthstone hits 20 million registered players

Hearthstone header
Blizzard hit a milestone recently with the free-to-play digital card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft breaking 20 million registered players. For scale, that's double the number of players WoW had at its peak during Wrath of the Lich King in 2010. The most amazing thing about that is Hearthstone has yet to release on all intended platforms: Android tablet, Android phone, and iOS phone versions are still forthcoming.

All in all, the registration numbers indicate that there is very widespread interest in Hearthstone indeed, and for good reason. It's a ton of fun to play!

Filed under: News items, Hearthstone Insider

BlizzCon and the expansion after Warlords

The Queue has received a number of questions about expansion timing, and while we have no answers, it is a situation we find interesting. Warlords of Draenor launches the week after BlizzCon 2014. In recent months, Blizzard has been reiterating their goal of releasing the next expansion more quickly. More specifically, Tom Chilton has mentioned in recent interviews that Warlords of Draenor may have only two total raid tiers, with the next expansion landing a year or a year-and-a-half after Warlords. For the sake of discussion, let's assume Blizzard will actually accomplish their timeline goals in this development cycle.

If Warlords does have two raid tiers that last six months each, the next expansion releasing one year after Warlords, could we be in for a surprise at this year's BlizzCon? Announcing the expansion to follow Warlords before it has even launched doesn't make much sense -- marketing wouldn't want to undercut themselves. It simply wouldn't make sense to hype the next-next big thing before the next big thing has even hit the shelves. If BlizzCon 2014 did not announce an expansion on this timeline, however, when would it be announced?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, BlizzCon

Warlords of Draenor: Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas on healing in dungeons

Dungeons can be tricky to balance. Too easy, and everything turns into a 'go go go' zergdown. Too hard, and no one wants to run them. This is of course subject to change as gear and skill and familiarity all increase, of course. But it's a topic that Ion Hazzikostas recently took up on the forums. One of the things people have been concerned about is the change to how healing works, and Ion discussed it and why they made the changes. Basically, it came down to the idea that with mana regen effectively not a factor in Mists, the only way to kill players in raids was with massive spikes of damage that required immediate reaction from healers to survive.
Our goal is not to make healing more difficult. Note that nowhere in the above did I say that a problem with Mists healing is that it was too "easy." We want to slow down the pace a bit, and for the challenge in healing to lie more in making decisions about spell usage and targeting, and less in twitch-reaction and sustaining a DPS-style rotation. This also means that the cost of a mistake is not a dead player, but rather a more injured one, giving you a chance to fix your error.
So what does this have to do with dungeon tuning? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Dungeons are being tested on the beta now (I've recently gotten to run Auchindoun and Shadowmoon Burial Grounds) and when they're tested, your level is adjusted to the bare minimum necessary to run said dungeons. This of course means that players are testing the content at its lowest possible threshold, because it has to function for players in the minimum gear to get into the door. And this leads to issues with healing, because the dungeons aren't final yet. It's an interesting job, beta testing. Often, stuff doesn't work - that's why you test it.

We've reproduced Watcher's post in full after the cut. For the most part, I'm interested to see if Blizzard actually succeeds with their goal of slowing down healing.

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

Old and unused character names being made available


Exciting news for everyone that wants to get their hands on character names that haven't been used in ages. With patch 6.0.2, Blizzard will release all names of characters that haven't logged in since November 13, 2008.

The full announcement is as follows:

Blizzard Entertainment
With the upcoming Warlords of Draenor pre-patch (6.0.2), we will be releasing sidelined characters' names back into the wild. Any characters that have not logged into the game since November 13, 2008 will have their names freed up, making them available to anyone creating a new character or using the paid Character Name Change service.

How Do I Preserve My Names?
You will need to log in to World of Warcraft and enter the game using each character whose name you wish to retain before patch 6.0.2 goes live. While it is possible no one will claim your recently released name and you might be able to snag it again, it is probably not worth the risk if you want to keep your names intact long-term.

Our goal with this great name liberation is to make sure new and returning players have a large and varied pool of names available to choose from-so log in now if you wish preserve your unused characters' names for your journey intro Draenor.


Filed under: News items

The Queue: Soloing, cross-realm raiding, and technology

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

Monday has come again. Let's do this thing.

dsgdchucktown asked:

Will we be able to easily handle the Cata raids and dungeons once we hit lvl 100?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Queue, Warlords of Draenor

Around Azeroth, Beta Edition: Animal attraction

What do wild animals think when they see a druid in feral form? Do they consider it an outsider, or do they welcome it into the fold? Beta tester Skamp of Thunder Cats on Borean Tundra (US-A) seems to have drawn the attention of this weird toucan-like bird, but so far it's holding off on attacking him. Good thing, too, because that sword-beak looks like it can do some serious damage.

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Filed under: Around Azeroth

Breakfast Topic: How many raid tiers?

Thinking about how many raid tiers Warlords may have based on this interview with Tom Chilton, and one of the things that interests me there is the comparison to other expansions. To put it in perspective, Burning Crusade saw four distinct raiding tiers (although there was some muddling with 10 and 25 man raid sizes), Wrath of the Lich King had four as well (the Naxx/Sarth/Maly tier, the Ulduar tier, Trial of the Crusader and ICC/Ruby Sanctum) and Cataclysm saw three (BWD/Bastion, Firelands, Dragon Soul) as did Mists (Mogu'shan/Heart of Fear/Terrace, Throne of Thunder, and Siege). So going with a two raid structure will either mean a shorter expansion this time around, or it will mean more time spent in each raid overall.

In some cases this could be to the good - I still feel that Ulduar didn't get the chance to really breathe as a raid. It's also true that fewer raid tiers doesn't necessarily mean fewer raids as a whole - lately the opening raid tier has two or three raids to start off. If that was continued for the second raid tier, we could have six raids by the end of the expansion, just not over as many tiers. Still, it's an interesting statement. Why would we only have two raid tiers? Is it because of the barber shop allowing faces to be changed?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Archmage Vargoth's Spare Staff

Players who have been around since Burning Crusade have fond memories of a fellow named Vargoth. We've given a rundown of the man's history in an earlier post about his newfound status as a garrison follower in Warlords of Draenor, but where Vargoth is concerned, Warlords keeps giving.

Players clung to Vargoth's staff back in Burning Crusade to retain the ability to summon the mage to their side at any time. In Warlords, an updated version of that staff can be acquired via the rare follower mission Finding Farahlon. Successfully completing Finding Farahlon awards you with the Mysterious Shining Lockbox which contains Archmage Vargoth's Spare Staff. The Warlords version of the staff, which fits into your toy box, appears to use the same spell effects as the Burning Crusade version. Vargoth continues to talk about betrayal at the hands of Kael'thas despite those events being in the distant past by now. Regardless, there's no longer a need to carry a quest item in your bags in perpetuity.

Filed under: Warlords of Draenor