Though there's always a lot of excitement when a new Blizzard game goes into alpha or beta testing stages -- both Heroes of the Storm and Warlords of Draenor are currently in an early alpha stage -- actually playing games at this point is sometimes less than fun. Alpha and beta games are meant for testing, which means they're full of bugs and prone to changes. But the worst of it, for me, is the fact that none of my character progress is kept -- anything I do in an alpha or beta version I'll have to do again later when the final game goes live.
It's completely understandable that Blizzard -- and other game developers -- need to wipe progress made while the game was still being tested, but for me it kills a lot of the fun because on launch day the starting content is already becoming a repetitive grind. The end result is that while I enjoy reading early news about betas, I don't tend to play them for fun. But what about you, readers? Are you already looking forward jumping into the Heroes or Warlords betas -- or would you rather wait for the finished product?
One of the changes the Warlords of Draenor alpha patch notes mentions is a pretty large change to how our primary stats work and interact with critical strike and attack or spell power (depending on which you care about). It can be broken down as follows - first, agility and intellect no longer increase physical and spell critical strike chances respectively. In addition, there no longer is any such thing as spell critical strike chance, ranged chance, or melee chance, merely critical strike chance that applies to all three. Since this is no longer affected by primary stats, it's set at a base 5% chance before gear. (Among other things this removes the last tiny vestiges of any use for agility for strength classes.)
Next, agility based class gain a new passive ability called Critical Strikes which increases base critical strike chance by 10%, likely to compensate for all the crit they lose from agility. Those of us who never got crit from our primary stat (strength DPS) are left wondering where our free 10% crit is.
Next, how primary stats react with attack or spell power has also been changed. Attack power from Agility or Strength has been halved - each point of Agi or Str only gives 1 AP, down from the 2 it gains currently. In addition, weapon damage has been reduced by 20% across the board. This is because Attack Power now contributes more significantly to weapon damage - 1 DPS per 3.5 AP, which is a pretty significant increase from the current 1 DPS per 14 AP. Finally, weapon damage and attack and/or spell power now contributes to the entire throughput of player spells - if you're a healer, your weapon damage and spell power will much more directly contribute to the strength of your heals, and casters will see a similar benefit from their weapons. Weapons have just become far more important for many players, if not all.
To read this section of the patch notes in their entirety, just click on through to the other side.
As you might have heard, Heroes of the Storm has landed in technical alpha. So go over to your Battle.net account page and make sure you're flagged for the Heroes beta if you're interested -- once you've signed in, click on Beta Profile Settings on the summary page -- because this definitely means we'll be seeing more of Heroes sooner rather than later. Once you've done that, come back here and we'll talk.
Okay, set for getting into the beta when it arrives? Good. Now let's talk about the Warcraft heroes that grace Heroes of the Storm. Warcraft has an entire world's worth of characters begging to be added -- which begs the question of which ones ought to find their way into Heroes.
So tell us, readers: which Warcraft heroes do you most want to see in HotS? And which characters will you play when you jump into the game?
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.
Every Wednesday, Fox Van Allen climbs atop the Shandor Building to summon Vinz Clortho, the keymaster, and Zuul, the gatekeeper. Once gathered, all three sit down at a computer keyboard and take control of Spiritual Guidance. Subcreatures! Fox the Van Allen, Van Allen the destructor, Foxus Van Allenarian, the traveler has come. Choose and perish.
My not-so-gentle Spiritual Guidance readers, I have a confession to make. I'm filled with hate.
I hate cats. I hate Hummel figurines. I hate trifling gnome Wilfred Fizzlebang. I hate the taste of whatever brand ketchup they use at McDonalds. Lots and lots of hate. Oh, if only there were a way to channel this magnificent ... shadowy hatepower.
Ask and ye shall receive, my brethren! Not from me, mind you -- from Blizzard. (I mostly just give out shadow priesting knowledge with the occasional nod to pop culture.) This week, Spiritual Guidance is tackling the changes to the shadow priest spec that currently exist within the Cataclysm alpha. If you're adamant on being surprised and don't want anything spoiled, I recommend you stop reading now and instead invest your time in the following YouTube video. I feel it provides a respectable alternative.
But if you want to take your loathing for the formulaic CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men and channel it into a spiritual agent of death, and you just can't wait until later this year to find out how ... follow me past the break.
MMO-Champion has just updated with a host of new Cataclysm information datamined from the alpha client. Needless to say there are numerous spoilers for the Cataclysm expansion contained in these files; readers avoiding spoiler material -- this falls firmly under that category. More details and links under the break.
The wave of Cataclysm class changes being announced this week seems to be a harbinger of things to come -- it appears we'll be skipping the normal semi-public Friends & Family Alpha phase completely and moving right on to open beta! Blizzard PR has sent out several pre-invites to members of the media for the Cataclysm beta. These are confirmed not to be phishing emails -- they're definitely the real deal.
In the pre-invite email, Blizzard says that they're gearing up for the Cataclysm beta, and that a Battle.net account is required to participate. Members of the press with a BNet account who received the email can then sign up for the invite pool.
What we don't know: when it's happening. Press registration for the beta is open until April 15th, but Blizzard specifically states that they have no start date ready to announce. We'll keep you updated with more information, including the beta launch date and any new info that comes out of the beta, as soon as it becomes available.
Right now, if you are not a member of the press and get one of these, it is likely a scam. Practice safe browsing.
In the wake of yesterday's rumor that the Cataclysm Friends and Family alpha will be starting this Tuesday, January 12, we should expect an increase in scammers trying to get your account details by offering phony alpha invites. We saw a lot of these for both Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King as well, and some of them were very well crafted.
At this phase of Cataclysm's development, though, it will be comparatively easy to keep yourself safe. Since this is a friends and family alpha, if you don't have friends or family that work at Blizzard, you will not get an invite. Therefore, anyone offering you one is trying to pull a scam. Basically, everyone who's going to be getting legitimate access to the alpha should know who they are already. Everyone else, sit tight and stay tuned to WoW.com for the latest on WoW's next chapter.
Earlier this afternoon, we received a tip stating the following:
The Cataclysm alpha will be starting Tuesday, January 12th.
The alpha will not be distributed digitally, but burned to disc.
This information has recently appeared on the Twitter account wowleak, along with the image of what appears to be a Cataclysm DVD. We reached out to our sources on the topic, and while they were not able to confirm whether or not the DVD is the real deal, they were able to confirm the alpha phase's tentative starting date. Barring any unexpected hurdles appearing in the next few days, the Friends and Family Alpha Phase will begin on the 12th of January.
Update: Various parties have come forth to confirm the suspicions that the disc in the original image is faked. However, our sources stand by the alpha starting within the next week. It is very possible that whoever faked the disc stumbled upon a convenient coincidence. If we hear any more, we will keep you updated.
In celebration of today ushering in five years of WoW, let's take a step away from traditional Moviewatch material and look at some early alpha and beta footage from Stormwind and Ironforge.
The footage is quite astounding when you watch it. You'll notice that there are entire sections of both cities which have changed dramatically, and indeed Ironforge itself was nearly entirely revamped to remove the "second level" from it. You can see remnants of the second level of Ironforge today in that there are some oddly placed balconies and doors -- it all looks normal to us now, but when you watch the video you can see that it looks much more natural the way it was.
The "internet consensus" is that alpha Ironforge was changed because people were getting themselves lost all the time in it -- something which isn't very good for a starting city. However as far as I can tell that never came out of published comments from a WoW designer, so take it with a grain of salt.
And yes, before some you inevitably ask, Patches of Yesteryear will be returning this week -- although we'll only be running it once every other week due to time constraints.
Interested in the wide world of machinima? We have new movies every weekday here on WoW Moviewatch! Have suggestions for machinima we ought to feature? Toss us an e-mail at machinima AT wow DOT com.
So for today's Around Azeroth we wanted to do something a little unique. Instead of your typical awesome screenshot, we went with your untypically awesome alpha shot. Back from when WoW was version 0.01 and stuff like that. In the above screenshot you can see some of the early looking models. I don't think they look particularly bad.
Do you have any unusual, beautiful or interesting World of Warcraft images that are just collecting dust in your screenshots folder? We'd love to see them on Around Azeroth! Sharing your screenshot is as simple as e-mailing email@example.com with a copy of your shot and a brief explanation of the scene. You could be featured here next!
Remember to include your player name, server and/or guild if you want it mentioned. Please include the word "Azeroth" in your post so it does not get swept into the spam bin. We strongly prefer full screen shots without the UI showing -- use alt-Z to remove it. Please, no more battleground scoreboards, Val'kyr on mounts, or pictures of the Ninja Turtles in Dalaran. Older screenshots can be found here.
More Cataclysm footage is trickling onto the internet from IgroMir 2009, Russia's huge gaming convention, and there was a beautifully clear (well, compared to what we usually see) video of early Goblin gameplay that merited some attention here. I have to confess; I wasn't initially enthusiastic about Blizzard's choice for a new Horde race, even if Goblins do make sense from a lore perspective. But after trawling through so many videos of their early questing experience in the Lost Isles, I'm sold. Female Goblins still aren't playable yet, but their male counterparts have some awesome casting animations and an incredibly endearing sort of waddly run. They just look so interesting and dynamic doing anything that now I'm torn over which class to roll, although I can't really take their 2H special attack seriously, so it'll probably be a caster-class of some sort. I enjoyed Necrolord_Bob's answer to our poll on which Goblin class to roll: "Priest! Priest of the Holy Temple of BOOM!"
We didn't think that Blizzard would tolerate any Cataclysm footage floating around YouTube for long, but it looks like the earlier Worgen video we posted is still up. That said, don't bank on these (or the related videos) being around for long.
So we wanted to be sure that you all got to see this before Blizzard has YouTube pull it. You probably have about 30 minutes at best. So go at it! The video below the break shows some introductory worgen moves from the recent Russian IgroMir 2009 demonstrations Blizzard had setup. Video is typically against the rules at these things, but a leak is a leak, and this should give players a good view of it.
Of particular note is the animations at the end of the video. The /welcome animation is a worgen pointing, waving, and then getting down on all fours to sniff the air in-front of him; as if to smell the nether regions of the person being greeted as canines are prone to do. There is some discussion if this it worgen idle animation at the wrong time, or if this is part of the overall /welcome animation sequence.
Unforunately we don't know, but we're all having a good laugh over it. And now you can do.
From what we've seen, WoW: Cataclysm is pretty far along in development. Blizzard had a lot to say -- and show -- of the game's third expansion at BlizzCon, and every new bit of info we've been able to wrangle since then tells us that the game is chugging towards the fabled Friends & Family Alpha, full steam ahead. We don't have a solid date, and likely won't until it happens, but it's coming.
Now, when the Alpha starts, Blizzard tends to keep a tight lid on information coming out of it -- even the testing period's very existence -- by judicious use of NDAs and cease-and-desist orders. It's possible that we won't even be able to give you information that comes out of the alpha. But all of that goes away when the closed beta starts and everybody can't talk about it enough.
So, what happens if you happen to come upon an alpha or beta invite? Well, there's a few things you should know. The first -- is that you're a lucky duck. The rest -- we've assembled in this handy guide, readable in its entirety after the jump.
WoW.com has learned through multiple sources close to the situation some details on the next expansion, to be called World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
As we're getting into the season of news and information, all major leaks and spoilers will be happening after the break. If you don't want your surprises ruined for you, don't read this post. If you want to know, click after the break and enjoy. This policy worked well for us during the testing phase of Wrath of the Lich King and we're pleased to continue it now.
After the break, the new playable races of Cataclysm.