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Posts with tag blizzard-history

WoW Archivist: The evolution of Alterac Valley

This edition of WoW Archivist was originally published July 13, 2012. Given the Alterac Valley terrain changes introduced in patch 5.4.2, we felt this piece of Warcraft history is worth another look.

WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

The battle was nearly won. Back and forth, a 16-hour war between the Frostwolf Clan and the Stormpike Expedition had ravaged this once-remote valley. Towers and strongholds had been put to the torch. Countless heroes on both sides had fallen to blade and blast. A rampaging troll king had been defeated. Air strikes had rained fire from the sky. Elementals had been summoned and vanquished.

At last, but not without heavy losses, the Frostwolf orcs and their allies had fought their way across the narrow bridge to assault the final bastion of the dwarves. All had sworn to see Vanndar Stormpike dead that day and the valley seized. They would kill him or die in the attempt.

The AV "zone"

The original version of Alterac Valley went live with patch 1.5. Along with Warsong Gulch, these two Battlegrounds were the very first ever added to WoW. Warsong Gulch was designed to be a more traditional PvP experience that anyone who had played Unreal Tournament or Halo could recognize. Some matches could last for a while, but the experience was meant to be a short-term PvP engagement.

Alterac Valley, in its first incarnation, was absolutely nothing like that. AV was not, in any modern sense of the word, a Battleground. AV was a zone.

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WoW Archivist: What has never changed?

Party fights a dragon
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

With WoW's tenth anniversary fast approaching, one thing is clear: virtually everything in this game has been changed, updated, or replaced at one time or another. The UI, the stats, character creation, raid systems, class abilities, questing -- all have undergone necessary overhauls to keep the game relevant and modern. A question for the Queue last month asked a very interesting question: What in WoW has never, ever changed?

You might think so, but no

Many aspects of the game seem like they have never changed, but they have.

The act of gathering: Sure, Blizzard added bonuses to the professions in Wrath such as the crit bonus for skinning or the HoT from herbalism. And as of Cataclysm, you can now earn XP by gathering. Gathering no longer requires tools. Yet the fundamental mechanics have always been the same: you right click stuff, get the stuff, and skill up so you can click on better stuff. Right?

Back in classic, gathering actually had a chance to fail. Orange difficulty nodes would not cough up their resources to anyone who wandered past with the minimum required skill. Failing three or four times on a node before a successful gathering attempt was not unheard of.

This led to some interesting "PvP" gathering scenarios, even on PvE realms. If two players converged on the node, the first to click it didn't necessarily get the goods. This situation sometimes led to a hilarious "duel" in which both players failed at gathering over and over again. It became a matter of luck, persistence, and rapid clicking. Mining was especially bad, because it used to take multiple strikes to clear out a node. Two players could spend minutes trying to outmine each other on a single rock.

Racial bonuses, enchantments, and items that boosted gathering skills all mattered much more, not just to save time from the failed attempts, but to beat other players to the punch.

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WoW Archivist: WoW in China, an uncensored history -- part 2

Joyland statues
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

In China, few Western games have been more embraced than World of Warcraft. But few games have endured more scrutiny from the government and more interruptions. As WoW Archivist covered two weeks ago, Chinese players have put up with censorship, endless waits for expansions, and intense bureaucratic meddling that shut the servers down for months. But their enthusiasm for the game remains.

Today, we will look at the more recent years of WoW in China, the raiding scene there, and the game's impact on popular culture, including a certain infamous theme park...

Too soon, Executus

After sorting out issues with the Ministry of Culture and GAPP (General Administration of Press and Publications), WoW operator NetEase was on a roll. Though Cataclysm also faced delays, it launched in China on July 12, 2011 -- just half a year after the Western release. By the standards of prior expansions in China, this release was practically instantaneous.

In a bitter irony, however, the expansion actually arrived too soon.

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WoW Archivist: WoW in China, an uncensored history

Official Chinese WoW site
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

A few weeks ago, we learned that ten men had been sentenced to two years' imprisonment in China for hacking WoW accounts and selling the stolen gold. It was not the first time that hackers have been punished by the state in China.

The relationship between WoW and China has often been contentious, going back to the early years of the game. While most players there have simply tried to enjoy the game they love, censorship, politics, and illicit activities have all had an impact on their experience.

As we wrap up the Mists of Pandaria expansion, let's not forget that so much of the culture, history, and geography of the expansion was inspired by the real legends and landscapes of China. Today, let's look at the history of WoW in China -- a history as rife with conflict as Pandaria's own.

Pop stars and cola fuel WoW's launch

From the earliest stages, Blizzard had little reason to doubt that WoW would be a hit in China. When the beta signups became available in April 2005, approximately 100,000 people signed up in the first hour. The beta achieved 500,000 concurrent players.

For the Chinese version of WoW, Blizzard partnered with Shanghai-based company The9, who could better handle localization, support, and customer service. The9 launched the classic version of the game on June 7, 2005.

Coca-Cola partnered with The9 to promote the game. For their ads, Coke brought in pop stars such as Taiwanese band S.H.E. (already covered by WoW Archivist), Super Voice Girl winner Li Yuchun, and Olympic gold medalist Liu Xiang. Although -- or perhaps because -- the TV ads broke China's rules against showing game content on TV, the cross-promotion was a huge success.

(As a side note, Pepsi later struck back with a partnership with Guild Wars the following year. Reportedly, Guild Wars' closed beta was delayed a week in China after Coca-Cola complained about The9's deal with their biggest competitor.)

Within the first month, The9 reported 1.5 million active WoW players in China. Although many Chinese citizens had already been playing on Western realms, this was still a huge achievement at the time for a Western MMO in China.

Unlike the West, most gamers in China play in Internet cafes, and MMO subscriptions are almost always handled on an hourly basis. At launch, WoW authorization keys cost 30 yuan and gametime cards were 0.45 yuan per hour. That converts to about $4 for game access and 6 cents per hour.

Like their Western counterparts, China's realms had their share of launch problems. Long queues and lag plagued realms in the East, too. By early 2006, players had grown increasingly dissatisfied with The9 and threatened a boycott. The9 claimed that difficulty with communicating with Blizzard was behind poor realm performance.

Soon enough, poor realm performance would be the least of players' concerns.

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WoW Archivist: The curse of Karazhan

Karazhan Tower
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Something has been afoot in Karazhan of late. First, dataminers noticed that Karazhan had been renamed Medivh's Big Birthday Bash on the PTR. In the rechristened raid, objects such as cobwebs and skeletons had disappeared. Then a later build renamed it Karazhan 2: Eclectic Boogaloo. Senior game designer Jonathan Craft tweeted that fellow designer Dave Maldonado was responsible. Maldonado later said that nothing is happening. It turned out to be a test to see if a phased quest could be set there, but sadly it didn't work.

Many players would be excited to return to Karazhan, and it would make sense to do this in Warlords of Draenor. After all, Karazhan is from the same expansion that took us to the shattered remnants of Draenor back in 2007. Hopefully Blizzard will find a way to feature some Karazhan-based content during the next expansion.

Karazhan remains one of Blizzard's most popular raid zones, and for good reason. But did it succeed too well for WoW's own good? Let's look back at what Karazhan offered us in its prime and how it impacted raid design in future expansions.

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WoW Archivist: The crashin' thrashin' history of Winter Veil

Greatfather Winter with goblin helper
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

This month we celebrate the tenth annual Feast of Winter Veil. The holiday is almost as old as WoW itself. Winter Veil was the first ever holiday to be implemented, just after the game launched in November 2004. Blizzard patched in Winter Veil along with the Maraudon dungeon, the option to turn off cloaks and helms, and many other changes in patch 1.2 on December 18.

Since then, Winter Veil has enjoyed a long evolution over the years into today's version. Let's spend a few minutes with the Ghost of Winter Veil Past!

The first Winter Veil

Given how early this holiday was added to the game, it's not surprising that there wasn't much to it compared to today. The holiday came with a few quests, including the original, short Greench questline. The first few days of the holiday saw a swarm of activity in Hillsbrad. The Tarren Mill vs. Southshore battles moved a few leagues north, as players battled friend and foe alike to tag the Greench and get quest credit. Completing the questline awarded you with one of several crafting recipes, such as Gloves of the Greatfather, the Winter's Might enchantment, or the coveted Snowmaster 9000 schematic.

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WoW Archivist: Patch 2.4 -- Fury of the Sunwell

Fury of the Sunwell logo
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

On March 4, 2008, Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons & Dungeons, passed away. A few weeks later, Blizzard dedicated the final and meatiest patch of the Burning Crusade expansion to Gary's memory.

Unlike the raid- and druid-centric patch 2.1, the big nothing of 2.2, or the old world revamp (and another raid) of patch 2.3, Fury of the Sunwell had boatloads of new endgame content for everyone. Blizzard also provided a trailer for the patch that showed the history of the Sunwell and revealed Kael'thas' diabolical plan.

Redefining realm-wide events

Kael'thas had to be stopped. The naaru convinced the Scryers and the Aldor to work together, forming a new faction to retake the Sunwell at the Isle of Que'Danas. The Shattered Sun Offensive represented a massive evolution of the realm-wide event concept after the very popular Gates of Ahn'qiraj event ushered in the idea. Daily quests, introduced in The Burning Crusade, were the key.

The Gates event required players to gather and turn in crafting supplies. Though you certainly felt like a contributor by forking over dozens of stacks of cloth, the gameplay aspect was lacking. Only one guild per realm could participate in the complete quest line.

On Quel'Danas, everyone could experience the story as it played out. Instead of turning in items, your realm earned credit toward the next phase of the event when players completed dailies. Rather than a one-time event, the phases changed and unlocked different parts of the island to show the Offensive's progress. Eventually the united Scryers and Aldor built a town, complete with a blacksmith for repairs, alchemy lab, portal, and statues to honor the fallen. Each new phase also brought new dailies and new rewards that could be purchased with gold and "badges" (TBC's equivalent of valor points). All of these changes were permanent, so you didn't have to log in on a specific day in order to enjoy them.

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WoW Archivist: The quest for swift flight

Swift Flight Form
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

With all the controversy over flying in Draenor (and lack of it until patch 6.1), flight is a major topic in the WoW community these days. Veteran players remember a time when taking to the skies was merely a dream -- one that The Burning Crusade made real, at least in Outland. Along with flying mounts, Blizzard decided that druids should receive new shapeshifting forms that allowed flight.

The forms came in two speeds: the base Flight Form and the Swift Flight Form. Rather than making the latter a trainable skill, Blizzard instead provided druids with one of the longest and most epic class-specific quest lines of all time: the Swift Flight Form chain. Seventeen quests long, the chain made a versatile shapeshifter out of you whether you wanted to be or not.

Like many others, the SFF chain became a casualty of the Shattering and can no longer be completed. It is well worth revisiting, however, so let's let fly!

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WoW Archivist: Controversies of BlizzCon

The Failocalypse Game

WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

BlizzCon has been no stranger to controversy. As the premier Blizzard event, the stakes are high. Players are heavily invested in both the weekend and the games, and sometimes emotions run hot. We've already got a potential controversy brewing for 2013's event. Players have expressed strong feelings both for and against a possible "Warlords of Draenor" concept for the next expansion, and we know little at this point aside from the name and what it could imply.

In light of Blink 182's presence at the convention, Blizzard also asked attendees to wear clothes. It could be a truly wild BlizzCon this year!

Let's look back at other controversies from the past six BlizzCons.

The first BlizzCon

In October 2005, BlizzCon made its debut to enthusiastic crowds. However, it was hardly the massively anticipated event, with tickets selling out in seconds, that it is today. Tickets were $125, and the total attendance was a mere 8000. To put this in perspective, BlizzCon 2010 had 27,000 fans. Because so few tickets were available and "virtual tickets" did not yet exist, Murky, the pet given out to attendees, is still one of the rarest pets in the game. (Lurky isn't the same.)

The big reveal in 2005 was WoW's first expansion, The Burning Crusade. With that announcement came several big changes to the game. Outland, flying mounts, jewelcrafting, Karazhan, the Caverns of Time, linked auction houses (rather than each city having its own) -- players embraced all of these. Blood elves had their detractors, for both lore and aesthetic reasons, but most were sold on the idea.

Glaringly omitted, however, was any specific word on the new Alliance race.

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Filed under: BlizzCon, WoW Archivist

WoW Archivist: WoW's most terrifying monsters

WoW Archivist WoW's most terrifying monsters FRIDAY
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Hallow's End is once more upon us. Last year, the Archivist uncovered WoW's most terrifying secrets. But much of what's terrifying in WoW is right in your face, trying to eat you, or stomp you, or shatter your mind with madness. Let's take a look at the scariest bad guys from every era.

Mrrglrlrlrmgrrr: Monsters of classic WoW

Murlocs

To some, they're adorable, misunderstood frog people. To others, they are the amphibious stuff of nightmares. In vanilla WoW, it was nearly impossible to fight a lone murloc. Their tight-knit societies and tendency to flee meant fighting one murloc often evolved into fighting two -- or twenty. A good many early players found themselves torn to pieces by slobbering murloc hordes. Some still shudder when they hear that distinctive battle-cry.

Sons of Arugal

I'm not sure how Arugal managed to father so many sons while tucked away in the tower of Shadowfang Keep, but the guy certainly got around. Horde players questing in Silverpine Forest lived in dread of these elite worgen, who always seemed to aggro at the worst possible time.

That damn Lurker in the water leading up to the Wailing Caverns entrance

For me, this one is personal. In vanilla, fighting your way to the Wailing Caverns entrance was like a mini dungeon run all by itself. One of the caves had a small but deceptively deep pool of water. During my first trip there, I decided the water was a safe place to fire from while our tank scooped up the locals. (It was a habit I picked up.) Then something large and unknown rose up from the darkness and bit me. I've never gone for a swim there since.

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WoW Archivist: Spells we've lost

Ghostcrawler zaps a gnome
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Back in June, Ghostcrawler identified "ability bloat" as a major issue that he'd like to address in WoW moving forward. GC later confirmed Blizzard's intention to cull spells, but admitted "there will be many tears." Since the tweet, WoW Insider and many others have speculated about which spells will disappear forever and which will remain.

While I agree that bloat is a problem, it's not the first time that Blizzard has looked at reducing our endless action bars to more manageable proportions. Many beloved spells have already vanished, along with many strange and pointless ones, too. Let's look back at some of these spells from bygone days.

Shaman

Most missed: Cleansing Totem
In Wrath, the original Poison Cleansing Totem and Disease Cleansing Totem merged to become Cleansing Totem. It attempted to cleanse a debuff of each type every three seconds. Shamans loved this "fire and forget" method of cleansing, but Blizzard killed the spell because they wanted removing debuffs to require the active attention of a player.

Least missed: Windwall Totem
This totem had a cool name, but the narrowest possible application. It reduced damage from ranged attacks. Only attacks made by bow/gun-type weapons and thrown weapons counted -- not spells. Because wind affects bullets but not fireballs?

Weirdest: Sentry Totem
Long mocked as "Screenshot Totem," Sentry Totem allowed the shaman to switch camera views to it to keep an eye on a distant location. It had some strategic applications in battlegrounds, but given that it took up the air totem slot, few shamans used it. The totem did, in fact, help players to get great screenshots of boss kills, though. Never forget!

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WoW Archivist: A rolled-back history of realms

Hundreds of players in Stormwind
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

If your low-population realm hasn't been linked up to another one yet, it soon will. This is a drastic step for WoW, but one that should solve the long-bemoaned low-population problem on many realms.

When WoW first launched, Blizzard had the exact opposite problem on their hands: realms had far, far too many players. Let's look back to 2004 to the earliest months of the game and remember just what players had to endure -- and what Blizzard had to do to fix it.

Uncharted realms

The servers that run the game's realms have always been shrouded in mystery. Technical details have never been shared. In a 2005 interview, producer Shane Dabiri deflected questions about the realms hardware: "Well, I really can't get into how we structure or build our infrastructure," he said. "Much of the information is proprietary and complex."

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WoW Archivist: Two weeks as a noob in 2004

A tauren in Mulgore
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

When I took on the WoW Archivist mantle last year, I wanted to tell some personal stories as well as provide in-depth looks into the game's past. My first column talked about an early but extraordinary world PvP experience. Today I'd like to tell you about my first weeks of WoW in 2004, in a very different Azeroth than our modern version, with a very different incarnation of the hunter class.

A hunter will rise

In December 2004, a hunter stepped forward in Red Cloud Mesa. He was new to the ways of Azeroth, but eager to learn. What followed would be painful. But when the narrator shut up and the hunter proudly accepted his first quest from the Navajo minotaur guy with giant punctuation over his head, this new hunter set forth. He had nothing but a bow and a hope that his trials would forge him into a hero.

He would become a hero, many months and scars later. His first two weeks, however, were marked with terror, failure, and shame in roughly equal parts.

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WoW Archivist: WoW's first legendary quest line

Thunderfury falls from the sky
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Not every amazing weapon is legendary. WoW has seen plenty of great weapons come and go without a single orange letter in their tooltip. But let's face it: legendaries are the most interesting and coveted items in the game.

In patch 5.4, many players who have never before been able to equip a legendary item will have their first opportunity, thanks to Wrathion's schemes. The quest line for our legendary cloaks has been the longest and most elaborate legendary quest line to date, spanning over multiple tiers of raiding.

But how did it all begin? What was WoW's first legendary quest line? Let's take a look back to remember the legend of Thunderfury.

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WoW Archivist: When Blizzard "hated" the Horde

A night elf visits the Barrens
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Which faction does Blizzard love more?

For several years it's been all the rage to claim that Blizzard loves the Horde and hates the Alliance. Players trot out the "green Jesus" theory. They show how the past two expansions have focused far more on Horde characters and storylines than on Alliance intrigues.

It's true that Blizzard placed Thrall and now Garrosh and Vol'jin in the spotlight over the past few years. Players also look at the shiny new Orgrimmar that the Horde got when the old one burned down, and how Stormwind also took a beating and still hasn't recovered.

You can make the case that Blizzard has somewhat favored the Horde in WoW's recent history. But this is so very, very strange to vanilla players like me. Back then, players were convinced of the exact opposite. Players were so convinced, in fact, that some actually wanted a CM to die. In vanilla, Blizzard "loved" the Alliance and "hated" the Horde.

Don't believe me?

This quote is from a 2005 editorial called "Why the Horde is worse, and how Blizzard could fix it":

In the end, I am just a jealous Horde player... It is up to Blizzard to fix this game; I have done all that I can. Either World of Warcraft can be remembered as a great MMORPG, or it can go down as a horribly imbalanced one, like many before it. That's for Blizzard to decide.

Let's take a trip back to 2005. On a bus, perhaps. A bus made out of elemental electrical energy.

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