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Mists of Pandaria Beta: Watch the Alliance intro to Pandaria

You've seen Garrosh get mad at a goblin and toss him around the throne room. Now, watch as Varian Wrynn shouts about the missing White Pawn. Join the elite SI:7 team on a mission to rescue priority target White Pawn. Lost in uncharted waters, you and SI:7 take to the skies on the important mission.

The Alliance introduction is metered and well played out. I like the focus back on the Horde and Alliance conflict -- it feels like an old friend you haven't seen in a long time but can quickly pick up the conversation with again. Suffice to say, I'm liking this brand of cinematic storytelling over the Uldum type any day.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

Filed under: Mists of Pandaria

Know Your Lore: The hour of the king

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.

The King of Stormwind wears the crown on a troubled brow. He inherited the mantle as a child, not through a peaceful succession but through bloody violence and the destruction of his home. He wore it in exile and only came home with the death of the man who saved him and carried him away from the sight of his entire world burned to the ground. His entire life has been shaped by violent loss, by tragedy and death -- his mother dead before he even knew her, his father murdered and butchered in front of him, his replacement fathers cut down, his wife taken from him in a moment's passing by an errant rock thrown from a mob.

His early rule was most notable by his lack of desire to actually do much rulership, busying himself by riding the land in search of his father's killer or drifting though a haze of loss after his wife's death, a haze seized upon and manipulated by someone who was supposed to be a close advisor. The circumstances of his disappearance from the throne and his return have been discussed in detail. For now, all we need to do is accept that they did little to encourage him to view the throne as anything but a responsibility to be maintained in the face of constant peril.

Following the Northrend campaign and its heavy cost both to King Varian and the kingdom as a whole (Bolvar's death, as well as the many deaths at the Wrathgate; the invasion of Undercity and the destruction of Putress; Horde troops ambushing Alliance forces engaged with the Scourge; the astonishing cost in lives and resources), it would have been difficult for either the King or the kingdom to quickly recover. The eruption of Deathwing and the Cataclysm he caused did not allow the luxury of time. Reeling from one blow, they suffered another and another.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Worgen, Mists of Pandaria

Know Your Lore: Top 10 lore developments of 2011, 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.

The development of lore in WoW has ramped up over the years. While vanilla saw a few lore developments, players could still wander the lands of Azeroth with nary a clue as to why they were there, skipping quest text altogether in favor of simply getting the job done. The Burning Crusade saw more of these lore-related quests introduced, and Wrath pushed the concept even further. But Cataclysm's taken lore and gameplay to a new level of interactivity.

Last week, in segments #10 through #8, we talked about a few of those innovations in lore development, include the emphasis on focused, directed storytelling over the aimless wandering days of vanilla WoW and the trend of releasing free-to-read short stories on the official website. Both of these have their ups and downs, but the short stories weren't the only focus of Blizzard's writing department.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Top 10 lore developments of 2011, part 1

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.

Since Rossi is taking a look at the top lore reveals of Cataclysm, I decided to jump in hand-in-hand with that. A little over a year and a half ago, I addressed some of the storytelling methods of Wrath -- what worked, what didn't work. It wasn't a look at specific lore moments as much as a look at how Blizzard was handling lore as a whole. Compared to the early days of WoW, Wrath made some giant strides forward in how we as players interacted and mingled with the various storylines of the expansion.

Much like Wrath, Cataclysm observed all that had come before, took a good look at all of it, and promptly made some giant strides of its own. What we've gotten in the past year has been nothing short of astonishing in terms of creating a meld of gameplay and lore that draws the player in and keeps them there ... to a point. After all, nothing's perfect in this world, and there are always things that could be tweaked and improved upon. Let's take a look at the top 10 lore developments of 2011 -- not the story we've seen in the foreground, but all those wonderful mechanics behind it.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Anduin Llane Wrynn, Prince of Stormwind

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.

He is quiet, kind, and likely more keenly aware of the troubles of the world than most. He is drawn to the Light in a profound way, much as his father would like to dismiss it. Unlike his father, he isn't interested in the rigors of war and the brutal realities of fighting. He's already been a leader, though his reign was as a figurehead. He's suffered far more in his young life than most. His mother died when he was merely a baby, and his father disappeared and returned a man who was utterly changed by circumstances beyond his control.

He is the heir to Stormwind's throne, to a kingdom that is tattered at the edges and trying desperately to hold itself together. While the rest of the world seems to revel in the chaos brought about by Deathwing's return, eager for the battle between Alliance and Horde to rear its head, he quietly follows the path of peace, looking to the future. It's a future that Prince Anduin Llane Wrynn may very well have to put back together again, perhaps sooner rather than later.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Aiding the Alliance: The idle Varian Wrynn

I'll admit up front, I'm one of those players who has cried Horde favoritism! from time to time when it comes to the World of Warcraft. I discuss the topic with both the WoW Insider staffers and the WoW community at large frequently. Everybody's thoughts on the subject are a little different, but it always seems to come back to faction leaders and the point of contention isn't always Thrall's rise to greatness.

The Alliance faction leaders are simply ... boring. They don't do anything. They are tight springs of potential that are never given the opportunity to leap forth and act. What I've decided to do today is begin a series wherein I lay out what I as an Alliance player feel is lacking in my faction's heroes. There will be no faction fairness here, only what your average Alliance player sees, perceives and experiences and how I feel that can be improved.

Today we look at Varian Wrynn, King of Stormwind.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore

Know Your Lore: The Shattering, 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.

Garrosh Hellscream is probably one of the most contentious additions to the Cataclysm expansion. Oh sure, he existed all the way back in The Burning Crusade, but he wasn't Warchief at that point in time. Nobody thought for a moment that the depressed Orc in Garadar would one day be leading their characters into battle against the Lich King. And nobody dreamed that Garrosh would one day be sitting on the Horde's throne.

It wasn't so much the surprise of the situation that people took issue with, however. Instead, it had much to do with Garrosh's attitude throughout Wrath of the Lich King. Headstrong, ruthless and downright bloodthirsty, Garrosh's decisions in Wrath didn't ring right or true with the playerbase. Even more jostling to players was the notion that despite the player dislike of the character, the NPCs of the world loved the guy. It may very well be the first time that a large chunk of a faction's players have blatantly disagreed with a fictional NPC faction -- and the NPC faction won out.

The Shattering makes it clear that Garrosh's position is only temporary, but in Cataclysm, he's certainly attacking the job with gusto.

Today's Know Your Lore contains pretty much every possible spoiler that exists for the novel The Shattering by Christie Golden. If you're avoiding spoilers, run away! Run away!

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: The Shattering, 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.

One of the biggest questions people have in regards to the Shattering patch that took place at the end of Wrath of the Lich King is just how much time passed in game during those events. Unfortunately, there aren't any concrete answers to that question, which makes trying to muddle out time lines a little more difficult than usual. The official time line on the original World of Warcraft website was removed when the site underwent its major facelift, and a new time line was never implemented.

However, taking a look at the old time line over on Wowpedia seems to indicate that Blizzard likes patches to last approximately one year in the Warcraft time line. So classic World of Warcraft and all the events we encountered, from Molten Core to the original incarnation of Naxxramas, took place over the span of one year in the time line. The Burning Crusade and all events associated with it also took one year to complete. It stands to reason that Wrath of the Lich King would follow the same trend. But again, without concrete confirmation, we've got no way of really knowing for certain.

That said, the novel The Shattering seems to take place over the course of at least a few months or so, if not more, so there was a bit of a time jump between old-world Azeroth and the Azeroth that was implemented in patch 4.0.3a. And now, let's continue on with what went down in that novel, shall we?

Today's Know Your Lore contains pretty much every possible spoiler that exists for the novel The Shattering by Christie Golden. If you're avoiding spoilers, turn away now!

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: The Shattering, part 1

The Shattering cover
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.

On Nov. 22, 2010, millions of players logged in to World of Warcraft to view the old world one final time. Whether venturing to out-of-the-way spots, running around the park in Stormwind, or saying goodbye to Magni Bronzebeard and Cairne Bloodhoof, every player was well aware that the next day, these locations and people would no longer exist. As for me, my guild leader took those of us who wished to go on a romp around the hidden places in Azeroth that many had never before seen and would never see again.

On Nov. 23, players logged on to find an entirely different, harsher world waiting for them. Orgrimmar was transformed into a bristling fortress of iron and steel. Stormwind's façade was forever marred by the charred claw marks of Deathwing, and the lovely park nestled in the corner of the mighty city had been torched and fallen away into the sea below. In Ironforge, the city was now ruled by a council of three; in Orgrimmar, a new Warchief sat on the throne. In Thunder Bluff, Baine Bloodhoof now stood in the place of honor once reserved for his father Cairne.

For those who read the novel The Shattering by Christie Golden, all these events made perfect sense. For those who hadn't picked up the book, the resounding question asked was a simple "What happened?"

Today's Know Your Lore contains pretty much every possible spoiler that exists for the novel The Shattering by Christie Golden. If you've been putting off picking up the book and giving it a read and would like to remain unspoiled, I would highly suggest turning away now.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Review of Wolfheart, by Richard A. Knaak

Let's face it: The Alliance has kind of gotten the shaft this expansion, from a story perspective. Oh sure, you can talk about the Dwarves of Ironforge and the assorted conflicts in Ashenvale and even the druids up in Hyjal with Nordrassil. But when you simply look at Cataclysm and everything that's come out of it, the Horde has seen more development and story than the Alliance, to the point of having the upper hand in the continual conflict between Alliance and Horde. The Alliance simply hasn't had much given to it in the way of novels, beyond the tales of the Worgen race and the leader short stories on the Warcraft website.

That pretty much ends with Wolfheart, the newest Warcraft novel by Richard A. Knaak. For those who were tired of hearing of Thrall's exploits or the exploits of the Horde in general, Wolfheart is very much the book for you. Though we haven't witnessed any particularly huge conflicts with the Alliance in game -- instead being treated to the somewhat chilly reception of Garrosh Hellscream and his plans for the Horde -- it doesn't mean that there hasn't been any to speak of. In fact, there's far more going on behind the scenes with the Alliance than anyone could have guessed.

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Filed under: Lore, Cataclysm

Know Your Lore: Cataclysm's hanging plot threads

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.

With the announcement that the upcoming patch 4.3 would likely be the last major content patch of Cataclysm, players rejoiced at the revelation of the transmogrifier, Void Storage, and even the upcoming Deathwing raid. But there's another side to the story of course, a concerning one that affects how well, in the end, Cataclysm really performed. The launch of the new expansion, Pandaren or no, promises a new bout of stories and quests and zones to play in, and that's a reason to be excited.

But Cataclysm introduced a different kind of game -- one where the lore was far more present and cohesive, intertwined in quests, cutscenes, and phased play. It revamped the entirety of the old world as we knew it, introducing new landscapes, new characters, and new stories that pulled leveling players through zones with effortless ease. With the announcement, one has to wonder whether or not all these new threads left carefully dangling will ever be addressed.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Anduin Wrynn: Then and Now

Blizzard made a lot of changes to World of Warcraft with Cataclysm, and has been exploring some of the bigger changes through its "Then and Now" series. Previously, Blizzard discussed how Garrosh has changed from The Burning Crusade through Cataclysm, as well as how Thrall changed since his debut in Warcraft III. Now, their eyes are on Stormwind and the boy prince, Anduin Wrynn.

Anduin's biggest changes actually happened outside of the game world, most notably in the World of Warcraft comic series and in Christie Golden's companion novel to Cataclysm, The Shattering. In The Shattering, Anduin comes into his own through a series of adventures with Jaina Proudmoore, and by participating in the burgeoning dwarven civil war between the clans at Ironforge. The prince finds his path with the Light, determined to become a priest instead of becoming a warrior like his father. His character has grown considerably since his inception, with Blizzard making a concerted effort to move his story forward against the backdrop of the cataclysm.

I was a fan of Anduin in The Shattering because he was written to be a spiritual opposite of his father. While Anduin retained his father's caution when dealing with the Horde, he seemed more open-minded, forgiving, and willing to compromise on things above and beyond him. There is definitely groundwork being laid for a strong, compassionate leader, something the humans have not truly had since Varian's kidnapping and King Terenas Menethil of Lordaeron.

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Filed under: Lore, Cataclysm

BlizzCon 2010: WoW Insider interviews author Christie Golden


Today, in between the panels and the announcements at BlizzCon 2010, we had the distinct pleasure of meeting Christie Golden, author of the latest World of Warcraft novel The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm. Christie was kind enough to give us a few minutes and talk about her writing, her latest work and some glimpses at the behind-the-scenes work of novel writing.

WoW Insider: Christie, thank you so much for joining us. The WoW Insider readers are big fans of your books, especially The Shattering. Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges about writing within the Warcraft universe?

Christie Golden
: One of the biggest challenges is that it's constantly growing and changing; with every new patch there's something new that comes along -- it's almost a living entity. Books take about a year from start to finish, so we're a little bit more locked in to our schedules. So there's a lot of back and forth. Things will change sometimes from one draft to another, so there'll be something new -- it's like, "Oh by the way, this character blahblahblah, can you update." Unfortunately, a book can't be tinkered with right up to the release date like a game can.

You can't hotfix a book, then?

I'm sure a lot of authors would love that! That's probably the biggest challenge, though. But the creativity and the appreciation I get from working with Blizzard certainly makes up for the inconveniences.

WARNING: This interview does contain some spoilers for The Shattering. Caution is advised!

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Filed under: Interviews, BlizzCon

The Shattering plot summary: Garrosh and Cairne

Christie Golden's The Shattering, followup to The New York Times-bestselling Arthas, is thankfully just as good, if not better, than its predecessor. We've given you a spoiler-free review, and now it's time to dive into the meat and potatoes, the spoilery goodness contained within the crunchy hardcover shell.

We've covered Thrall's exploits in The Shattering; today's summary is for Garrosh Hellscream and Cairne Bloodhoof.

Remember, this summary is full of spoilers, so don't read it if you don't want the book spoiled!

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WoW Insider reviews The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm by Christie Golden

The Warcraft universe has incredibly rich lore supporting it, and it's natural that, like many IPs, it would expand outside of the game world. Warcraft novels have historically been hit or miss, largely due to the strengths and weaknesses of the various commissioned authors who write them. Some novels feature out-of-place characters invented by the author specifically for those particular stories; some struggle with the characterization of beloved characters. But there have been some bright spots: Rise of the Horde was a fantastic look into the birth of the Horde on Draenor, and Arthas: Rise of the Lich King provided insight into the man who would become the Lich King.

These books have something in common besides their IP: Christie Golden wrote them. In Arthas, she gave Blizzard its first The New York Times-bestselling novel. Now, her latest offering is the Warcraft universe's newest novel, a tie-in to the upcoming Cataclysm expansion. We present to you our review of The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm.

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Filed under: Lore, Cataclysm

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