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Warcraft as the anything-goes fantasy

I was playing Diablo III last night after playing WoW, because I hate it when days happen and I see the sun, when it occurred to me that the two settings are very different in a variety of ways, and one of the big ones is this - you could (and have) basically fit the entire thematic kit of the Diablo setting inside WoW, but you couldn't do the same in reverse. There's not enough room, for lack of a better word, for all of Warcraft inside Sanctuary. What do I mean by that? Well, Diablo as a setting has specific themes - the war between Heaven and Hell, Sanctuary created by dissidents from both sides, the creation of humanity by said defectors, and Diablo's plans to enlist or subvert humans to fight in said war between these polar opposites.

Warcraft has a host of demons that seek to destroy all reality that can easily stand-in for the hosts of Hell from Diablo, and the risen dead we see in places like Tristram is if anything small potatoes compared to the plague of undeath we see in the Plaguelands. But WoW contains multitudes that have little to nothing to do with them - the Old Gods are a completely different kind of menace and one that there's no place for in Diablo. Similarly, the many races of the Warcraft setting have no place in the cosmology of the Diablo setting.

Part of the reason for this is the origin of each game - while both have Dungeons and Dragons in their DNA, Diablo has always been a more straightforward dungeon crawl while Warcraft was originally an RTS with deep roots in the orc vs. human gameplay element. As an RTS, and one with two competing factions, new units helped create diversity and gameplay, and as a result having these new units be of different races gave flavor to the setting. Diablo has always been about you, alone in a vast dunegon complex or infested region, destroying waves of foes by yourself or with a small group - the variety came in terms of different kinds of foes to destroy and the ways you did so.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard

Warlords of Draenor and the draenei

Okay, let's just put our cards on the table. The only thing I want to do with orcs in Warlords of Draenor is kill them. Bring on the Iron Horde for me to stomp on. I will eventually level my Horde characters, sure. But I'm not particularly interested in the Frostwolves and how the Horde is going to relate to them and the Horde's search for an identity somewhere between murderous lunatics and Thrall's happy fun-time frolic friends - it's certainly not a bad hook for a Horde storyline. But I don't care about it. We've had a lot of the Horde and their civil war and their struggle to stay united under Hellscream. It was often very interesting stuff - I very much liked the Dominance Offensive quests - and I'm glad we got to see it. Mists of Pandaria ended up being a very dark expansion in a lot of ways, with themes of personal responsibility and how good intentions can go bad, missed opportunities and the fog of war, and I thought that the Siege of Orgrimmar made a lot of sense.

I wasn't one of the Alliance players who was upset about the Horde rebels having a role in SoO. I don't feel like it diminished the Alliance story any to show us working alongside them, I wasn't bothered by seeing Varian's actions at the end of the raid. I thought it was all good and proper.

But frankly, I'm done with the Horde's problems. I play Alliance. I want to see Alliance stories. Horde players should have their stories, too, I'm not saying they shouldn't -- more power to y'all solving that whole issue of inheriting a legacy of murderous psychopathic lunacy from the Old Horde, that's gotta be rough for you -- but I am done. Because Warlords of Draenor has promised me the one thing I've wanted to see since Burning Crusade itself failed to deliver it, and that's draenei. Draenei cities, as they appeared at their height. Draenei culture, not the ruined remnants of it. The draenei we saw in BC were the ragged remnants cast adrift on Azeroth, survivors of a near total extermination. They were the embattled refugees desperately seeking a place to rebuild. I fell in love with them in no small part due to their tenacity and willingness to keep going, but I've always wondered what they were really like before the horrors Ner'zhul and later Gul'dan unleashed upon them at Kil'jaeden's behest. And at last, I'm going to get to find out.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, Lore, BlizzCon, Mists of Pandaria

Pandaren lore and what we know so far

The pandaren are a nation unto themselves. Their history has played out for 10,000 years behind a shroud of impenetrable mist, one that has allowed them to develop their own culture free from interference from outsiders. Now, after 100 centuries, the mists have receded and Pandaria stands revealed.

At present, the peoples of Pandaria, from the mogu to the mantid, the virmen and the hozen, are mostly unknown to us. Of these races, the pandaren are most familiar, and even then this is purely due to the actions of one pandaren who came to Kalimdor and walked alongside Rexxar and his allies, Chen Stormstout. But what do we know about the pandaren and their ancient homeland of Pandaria?

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Lord of His Pack live at Blizzard's community site

Do you like worgen? Sure, we all do! Well, I do, anyway. And if you liked the Gilneas starting zone and wanted to get to know more about the origins of the place and its independent-minded king, Genn Greymane, Blizzard has you covered. James Waugh's Lord of His Pack is all about the king himself, his relationships with allies and adversaries like Darius Crowley, and how they made the trip across the ocean to Darnassus following their flight from their homeland. The past and the present are both explored, and a fuller picture of the Gilneas that was and the Greymane that is come to light. Go check it out now.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Lore, Cataclysm

Spiritual Guidance: BlizzCon players tell about their first priests


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Dawn Moore covers healing for disc and holy priests. This week, Dawn and her shadow priest rival, Fox Van Allen, faced off at the WoW Insider reader meetup in a battle of quips, and it would seem that Dawn came away victorious.

Originally this weekend, I had planned on writing a direct address to Blizzard concerning holy priest healing and mana in beta raids. The topic has been a large area of concern for priests on the forums lately, and I thought I should give the discussion a little boost by addressing it in my column. However, I am currently at BlizzCon 2010, and I happened to get the opportunity to talk to Ghostcrawler (lead systems design) in person for a few minutes. During that time, I relayed the general message of our problem (HPS is jank, mana needs work) and figured I'd give the Blizzard developers a week to attend to it before assailing them with complaints. Until then, I ask that my fellow priests not panic for a little while longer. In the words of Toby, who is pictured above, "Keep the faith!"

By the way, I'm starting a donation fund for BlizzCon 2011 to buy Ghostcrawler a fedora. Ghostcrawler would look awesome in a fedora.

Anyway, to tide you guys over until then, I figured this week I would attempt to entertain you all. At first, I thought I might try to be humorous, and then I remembered I'm not funny. (A priest walks into a bar and ... yeah, I got nothing.) So instead, I've decided to go with priest story time. Hit the jump to see what I mean.

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Raid Rx: A history of organizational healing

Every week, Raid Rx will help you quarterback your healers to victory! Your host is Matt Low, the grand poobah of World of Matticus and a founder of No Stock UI, a WoW blog for all things UI, macro, and addon related.

Organizing healing continues to be one of the many intriguing challenges that raiding groups face today. In some cases, there are pre-set players assigned to do specific things. Sometimes they are even worked out in advance on a forum or a white board. In looser groups or pickup groups, there isn't the luxury of planning healing in advance and the organizers have to go with their gut feeling and "stereotype" classes in order to figure out assignments. Examples, any holy paladins are told to heal a tank. Restoration shamans are told to heal a specific group and holy priests are told to heal another group.

It wasn't always entirely like that. This week, I want to take you back in time to the era of vanilla raid healing, through the Burning Crusade and to now. I'm also going to include my thoughts as to what Cataclysm might be like.

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Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Priest, Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Raid Rx (Raid Healing)

The early days of the World of Warcraft

It's been five years since this game launched, and it's changed so much that you might have forgotten what life was like back then. But thanks to the magic of the Internet, those times are saved in clear HTML. Let's dig up some memories of the early game.

It's interesting to think what Blizzard was like before World of Warcraft. Today, the two are almost synonymous -- while they have two other major franchises (and one secret IP hiding in the works), it's almost impossible for anyone to think of Blizzard without thinking of WoW, and vice versa. The company has become almost solely defined by what they've done with this game. But of course, before the release, that wasn't the case.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Guilds, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Leveling

The Queue: A trip down memory lane

Welcome back to The Queue, WoW.com's daily Q&A column where the WoW.com team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Adam Holisky be your host today.

Let's get meta here folks. Zetathran asked a question about the history of this site, and it got me into a conversation with our Editor-in-Chief Liz Harper about the activities of old. WoW.com has a changed a lot in the past few years, and while the long dialog we had about past policies and editorial standards is probably of no interest but ourselves, the basic story of the site probably is, so we'll start off with that.

Zetathran asked...

"How did WoW Insider start? Who were the original bloggers?"

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Filed under: WoW Insider Business, The Queue

A WoW player's guide to microtransactions

Well Blizzard has finally done it. After charging only for out-of-game services like faction changes and character customization, with the release of in-game pets on the Blizzard store, they've finally moved on to selling virtual items for real money. And there's a word, dirty in the mouths of some, that's floating around that some of you may not have heard or understood before: microtransactions. We wouldn't blame you -- some of our own staff didn't even know what they were just a little while ago. But with the decision to sell in-game items for straight cash, Blizzard has entered the fascinating and treacherous world of microtransactions. And if you're going to follow them off into this world, you might as well at least know what they're all about.

And so, we're here to help. Whether you've never heard of microtransactions before, you're convinced that they're the devil and that Blizzard has grown too greedy for their own good, or you can't wait to open up your wallet and get a Pandaren Monk to follow you around, let's take a second and look at the history of the microtransaction model, what it means that Blizzard made this decision, and what might happen to the game in the future.

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Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Economy, Making money

The making of the World of Warcraft

Eurogamer has a nice long look at the early days of World of Warcraft, way before Northrend and Outland and even Molten Core, back when the question wasn't just how big the game would get, but whether Blizzard, a company known for their polish rather than their size, could pull off an entry in this new MMO genre. They've interviewed some of Blizzard's luminaries, and the piece offers a really good look at what it was like at Blizzard even before WoW's release, when they were hashing out some of the ideas and mechanics that have now set the bar with World of Warcraft: the stylistic Warcraft look, and questing as storytelling (originally, they thought they'd only do quests through the starting levels, and then have the game move to a grinding, monster-killing stage towards the end, but players said the game was boring without quests).

There are all kinds of great little tidbits in here: originally, Warcraft III was planned with the over-the-shoulder look that WoW now has, and that's one of the reasons they wanted to create a more straightforward RPG game. Tom Chilton showed up on the team about a year before WoW's release, and to his surprise, the game was almost completely unfinished -- the level cap was only 15, the talent system wasn't implemented, the AH or mail systems weren't in, PvP wasn't in at all (of course, even at release it was pretty barebones), and endgame raiding was nonexistent. Most of the things we think of as intrinsic to the World of Warcraft -- even things like the Horde and Alliance not speaking to each other -- were debated and almost not in at all as they moved towards release.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Instances, Raiding, Interviews

Secrets of the Tuskarr: The Cheena Vala


I have to say, I still have a pretty soft spot for the Tuskarr. They're sort of minor players in Northrend, overall. You help them kidnap some kids and fight off some vikings, grab a penguin pet and a fishing pole, and you're done, and on to bigger and better things in other zones. They don't even merit art for their females. Still, they're always pretty jovial, they look like big fat and happy dudes, and they got turtle boats. It's difficult not to like them.

One of the things they did is spur me to finally get a character maxed out fishing. I was always sort of planning to, one of these days, seriously, but it took the Tuskarr to push me over the edge, just because they made it so chill and awesome. Ok, so the epic fishing pole probably had something to do with it too, but still.

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Filed under: Fishing, Virtual selves, Lore, Factions, Wrath of the Lich King

"My Life as a Night Elf Priest"

A University of California Irvine anthropologist named Bonnie Nardi has been studying one of the strangest cultures known to man lately, and she's going to be presenting her findings in a book called "My life as a Night Elf Priest" -- that's right, she's been taking notes on the weird sociological experiment known as Azeroth. It sounds pretty interesting -- she's been examining the way Chinese and American players play the game (and of course the differences between them), and she's also looking into how games like WoW can bring us closer together rather than isolating us socially.

It's funny -- as a genre and a technology, MMO games are actually in the absolute earliest phases of their history. Socoiologists and psychologists have been studying real humans for thousands of years, and yet it's only in the past few decades that they've gotten access to MMO games, like little petri dishes of condensed human behavior. Nardi may be one of the first to try and scientifically examine how players use (and are affected by) this technology, but she'll definitely be far from the last.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

Blizzard's hate (/love?) relationship with consoles

Rumors are bubbling up from GDC '09 that Blizzard is finally considering consoles again for their future games. Blizzard seems to have a hate/hate relationship with consoles -- despite the fact that they started out with some extremely popular console games (Lost Vikings was one of the best games on the Sega Genesis), they've become very solidly a PC gaming company in the past few years. Sure, they released Starcraft 64 and the Playstation port of Diablo, but since Starcraft: Ghost left a bad taste in their mouths, they've stayed away from the console market (and some might say that's saved the PC market).

The main problem, says Rob Pardo, is one of control: console controllers just don't have the flexibility to do what Blizzard wants to do with their games. "If I were them," he told the press, "I'd be sitting around trying to figure out what's a cool new input device that supports all types of new kinds of games." And he also hinted that he might be trying to do just that -- Blizzard is apparently in talks with Microsoft, not to develop for this generation of consoles, but to help them advance to the next generation. This is a little more than just Diablo III on the Xbox 360 (though that's definitely a possibility) -- it's Blizzard possibly getting the chance to bring what they love about PC gaming to the next console generation.

Heady stuff. Blizzard doesn't need to do anything these days, of course -- if they want to take their next sequel and release it in, say, three separate parts, they can do that and it will likely still be a hit. But if they want to set their sights on innovating in the console space, we'll probably all benefit.

Filed under: Odds and ends, Blizzard, Economy, Hardware

Breakfast topic: The good old days

I've been playing World of Warcraft for nearly three of it's four year run. It's kind of amazing to me to see how things have changed over time. Many of the adjustments have been by player suggestions, and most of them for the good. The folks I've been playing with lately don't have nearly as much time in the game. I find myself reminiscing and thinking about the way things were, and telling them how good they have it now. Some things I remember least fondly are:

  • Single-server battlegrounds, and sometimes waiting hours for a queue.
  • The old battleground ranking system, with one High Warlord per server.
  • 40-man instances, if you think keeping 25 people in line is challenging, give this one a go.
  • Epic ground mounts for 1000 gold in a time when cash did not flow so freely.
  • Horde had no Paladins and Alliance had no Shamans.
  • Before the report feature, I got a whisper message from a gold spammer about every thirty seconds.
  • Many more limitations on where mounts were allowed.

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Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Breakfast Topics, Leveling

WoW Moviewatch: Serenity Now and the funeral


Caution: There is some offensive language in this video.

This weekend was the third anniversary of WoW Insider, and when I was putting together the big list of our top ten stories ever, I noticed there was one missing. Even though it happened in April of 2006 (we started posting in December of 2005), we never really covered the Serenity Now funeral attack. But it is one of the biggest stories in World of Warcraft, whether you think it's atrocious or hilarious or whatever, so during today's Moviewatch, we'll give it its due.

A woman who played WoW passed away in real life, and her guildies decided to hold an ingame funeral for her -- in the contested zone of Wintergrasp Winterspring (of course -- too much Wrath lately, sorry) On a PvP server. And though now, four years into the game, we know exactly what would happen, back then, it came as a surprise -- as you've probably seen in the video (set to some amazing music), the guild Serenity Now crashed the funeral and pretty much decimated everyone who showed up.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Guilds, Blizzard, PvP, WoW Moviewatch

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