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WoW: The Ultimate Visual Guide now available

ultimate visual guide
We wrote a little while back about the preorders for World of Warcraft: The Ultimate Visual Guide. If you preordered, you should probably have your copy of the book by now, and if you didn't, it is now available for purchase. As far as Blizzard memorabilia goes, this is definitely one of the nicer ones. Coming from DK Publishing, it's a large, hardcover book with dozens of pages of full-color artwork, much of it previously unreleased. There's tons of lore for the story enthusiasts, including -- wait for it -- an official timeline of events, something many of us have been clamoring for for quite a while now. If you're a big WoW geek (like most of the staff here at WoW Insider) it wouldn't be surprising for this book to earn a place of pride on your bookshelves.

You can find World of Warcraft: The Ultimate Visual Guide at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Filed under: News items, Lore

World of Warcraft: Ultimate Visual Guide available for preorder

Yogg Saron in the Ultimate Visual Guide
Today Blizzard announced a new book release in partnership with DK Publishing--the World of Warcraft: Ultimate Visual Guide. The guide features many pages of new and unreleased artwork, in-depth character profiles for famous WoW heroes and villains, location information, famous battles of Azeroth's history, lore references, and even a guide to the different types of magic found in the Azerothian universe. Oh, and there's a glimpse into the creative development process behind WoW, as well, something I don't think has ever before really been explored in a Blizzard publication. The pre-order pages on Amazon and Barnes & Noble cite the release date as September 30th, so mark your calenders. This guide is sure to interest any WoW lore fan or art enthusiast. A full preview is available on the official DK landing page.

Filed under: News items, Lore

Books you should read to better understand WoW

No, this isn't a list of WoW novels. The thing is, World of Warcraft is built on the backs of a lot of fantasy literature, mythology, sword and sorcery epics, and so on. And while attempting to put together a reading list to truly explore all of these subjects would be meaningless, making some recommendations to help you get into the WoW spirit could be fun. If nothing else, you'll get to potentially read some new, interesting books.

Now, there's no way I can get every classic of every genre that's influenced World of Warcraft into a list that would fit on this site. There are hundreds of potential books out there. So I'm just going to hit some highlights and let y'all go wild in the comments filling in the blanks.

J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - Tolkien is the 10,000 lb gorilla in modern fantasy. If you're not influenced by him, you're a reaction to him. The reason there are multiple kinds of elves and dwarves running around Azeroth fighting orcs is because of Tolkien's impact on fantasy. If you want to get the tropes, you should probably read this.

Robert E. Howard's Conan and other stories - Howard is the other huge gorilla influencing modern fantasy. I mention Conan as his most famous creation, but there's just as much good stuff to be read by Howard that has nothing to do with the Cimmerian. His Solomon Kane, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, and his forays into horror and historical fiction all blazed from an imagination so incandescent that it burned the man himself out in a short amount of time. Be warned - most of this stuff was written for the pulps, and it has all the virtues and all the flaws of pulp fiction written in the 20's and 30's. It's often racist, sexist, and ranges wildly in quality.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore

Encrypted Text: Swirly Ball and a bag of coins

glyph of disguise
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Encrypted Text for assassination, combat and subtlety rogues. Chase Christian will be your guide to the world of shadows every Wednesday. Feel free to email me with any questions or article suggestions you'd like to see covered here.

When Blizzard reintroduced Detection via the Glyph of Detection, I was ecstatic. Trap detection had been baked into the class when Detect Traps was originally removed, but that didn't stop rogues from waxing nostalgic about Swirly Ball. Warlocks wanted their green fire, warriors were trying to use Titan's Grip with polearms, and rogues begged for Swirly Ball back. The Glyph of Detection is the perfect minor glyph because it's fun and it's purely cosmetic. Or is it?

Balarak, who is unfortunately a hunter, discovered a secret rogue event while infiltrating Ravenholdt Manor. Nobody expected what he found there. Ghosts and spirits, a hidden tribute to the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, a rogue-only item with amazing capabilities, and the implication that maybe, even in this age of data mining, we haven't found everything WoW has to offer.

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Filed under: Rogue, (Rogue) Encrypted Text

Behind the bookshelves and keyboards of WI's published authors

Behind the bookshelves and keyboards of WI's published authors
If anything's got the power to pull a dyed-in-the-wool WoW player away from Azeroth for an extended period of time, it's a good read. Is there anything more tantalizing than cocooning with a good book you've just discovered? I've recently discovered GoodReads, my daughter's into the lowbie version at EpicReads, and we've made our city library and local Half-Price Books our home away from home. And when we're not reading, we're writing. When the sixth-graders had to turn in their first big compositions for the year, my little bookworm's study mate managed two pages on a funny time her foot got stuck in her shoe; my daughter demonstrated her speculative bent by cranking out 2,000 words on "The End of Humankind." Reading and writing, we just can't quit you.

Like a good meal and a bottle of wine, good books are best when shared, so I thought you all might like to meet two published authors from WoW Insider's own staff of bloggers. Matt Rossi's collections are the kind of anthologies you find yourself still flipping through at 2 a.m. -- "Ooh, what's this one about? Just one more essay before I turn out the light..." Scott Andrews' guide to leading an MMO guild offers the same straight talk and smart strategies as his Officers' Quarters column here at WI.

We peeked beyond the pages of WoW Insider to discover the speculative worlds crafted by Scott and Matt. They told us how they got published, what they're writing now -- and an extra bonus, what's feeding their imaginations in their personal reading piles.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Steamy Romance Novel makes a return with double the fun in Mists

Steamy Romance Novel makes a return with double the fun in Mists
Although I've been impressed and delighted with each update of stuff to come with Mists of Pandaria -- the armor, the weapons, the reputation rewards, the mounts, and of course all those wonderful pets -- I still couldn't help but feel that something terribly important was missing. This thing, of course, was the Steamy Romance Novel edition for the next expansion, which we discussed way back in March. I mean sure, you can give me five new levels, a new race, and a ton of stuff to do, but it just doesn't feel complete until I can read about Sir Marcus' further, uh, exploits, as it were.

Ladies and gentlemen, the issue has been addressed. And we have not one, but two resources waiting for us (although one of them doesn't appear to be legible). A Steamy Romance Novel: Hot and Misty follows Marcus to the Tavern of the Mists, where we learn that Kama the stable master is largely unimpressed with Marcus' exploits, Madam Goya appears to offer more rare items than expected, and you should be careful heading upstairs in the neutral tavern, because you might just find a pair of blood elves waiting for you. Unless you're into that thing, of course. You can read the whole tawdry mess over on Wowhead.

And if you're interested in more, well, you're kind of out of luck for now, it seems. While A Steamy Romance Novel: I'm In Love With A Robot exists, it's too smudged with oil to read. Oddly enough, it appears to be an engineering item, since it fits in any of the engineering bags available. Apparently the book came with a schematic -- who knew? Regardless, with all the new new new of Mists, it's nice to see some things never change.

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: Humor, Mists of Pandaria

Leet Noobs: An ethnographic view of WoW raiding from researcher Mark Chen

Leet Noobs An ethnographic view of WoW raiding from gamerturnedacademic Mark Chen
It's always a bit bewildering to see World of Warcraft mentioned outside of our tight-knit gaming community. Even reading Lisa's interview with Bonnie Nardi, author of My Life as a Night Elf Priest, gave me a sense of awe and a realization of just how big the game truly was, not only to those of us who play it but to those who don't even know what an orc is.

As such, when Mark Chen, a self-professed gaming researcher with a Ph.D. in educational technology and learning sciences, contacted me about his new dissertation-turned-book Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft, I couldn't turn down an opportunity to dive into it.

As the title of the book suggests, Chen chronicles his experience raiding Molten Core with his inter-guild group back in vanilla WoW, examining relationships between the group's members and the different guilds themselves and noting the different ways the raid group operated as a thinking, breathing entity that overcame difficulties, both game-related and socially-induced. Chen relates one of the larger concepts discussed in the book, actor-network theory, to a functioning raid group, detailing how each participant, or actor, assumes a role within the larger group, forming a network of responsibility and interdependence. He even goes so far as incorporating non-human actors such as KTM, the first successful threat meter in WoW, into this network.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Wherefore art thou, Steamy Romance Novel?

There's nothing quite like curling up with a good book, except perhaps curling up with a good book in game. WoW's got plenty of books to offer and even has achievements surrounding the various books in the world. There's Well Read and the far more difficult Higher Learning, which relies on luck and being in the right place at the right time in Dalaran. You can find all kinds of books lying around Azeroth, waiting to be clicked and read -- everything from historical texts to The Fluffy Bunny, a gripping tale of a bunny named Fluffy and his friend Wuffy.

There are plenty of players who don't bother reading the books you find around the world, and those players are totally missing out. Sure, there's a lot of what could be called dry lore material, but there are also books filled with jokes, fake news, and romance. Yes, romance -- the steamy kind. The authors of Azeroth don't limit themselves to boring historical recounts; a select few write the kind of bodice-ripping romance novels that usually feature Fabio on the cover and enough flowery language to seem at least somewhat respectable.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore

Wolfheart audiobook to include game sounds

Not only will our friend and the king of Stormwind (and my heart) Varian Wrynn be getting his own novel soon, but said novel will also be released as an audiobook. Richard Knaak's Wolfheart will not just be released as a novel, but also as a recording with special effects, in-game sounds and narration. The novel is scheduled to be released Sept. 13, 2011, and the audiobook is expected not long after.

Are you excited? I'm excited! I'm actually looking forward to seeing how King Varian and the Worgen, especially their king Genn Greymane, interact in this book. Thanks to BlizzPlanet for the heads up!

Filed under: Events, Lore

World of Warcraft: "Wolfheart" novel description now available

A preview description for the next book set in the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm universe, Wolfheart, has appeared courtesy of BlizzPlanet. The novel, penned by Stormrage and War of the Ancients trilogy author Richard A. Knaak, follows the exploits of Varian Wyrnn, Genn Greymane, night elf leaders Malfurian Stormrage and Tyrande Whisperwind, and surprise guest Maiev Shadowsong. From the description, it appears the novel will focus on the tensions between Stormwind and Gilneas due to their tenuous new alliance, the Highborne's reintegration into night elven society, and the continued fight in Ashenvale against the surmounting Horde odds.

Christie Golden's Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects, is currently on the shelves, chronicling Thrall's journey post-Cataclysm with the Earthen Ring and his counterpart Aggra, as well as the dragons and their quest to stay alive and allied during Deathwing's brutal return. With Wolfheart, it seems we're getting an Alliance leader's story opposed to that of Thrall, who was once the Horde's warchief.

World of Warcraft: Wolfheart is going to be available on Sept. 13, 2011. Hit the jump for the full description.

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Filed under: Lore, Cataclysm

15 Minutes of Fame: Sci-fi and fantasy copyeditor Deanna Hoak

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

Deanna Hoak and I have bonded over the Viscous Hammer. Yes, I realize that some of you will find it somewhat predictably amusing that WoW Insider's resident copyeditor should be geeking out over interviewing sci-fi/fantasy copyeditor and WoW player Deanna Hoak -- but there's more to this editor than a mere passion for punctuation. Hoak brings a virtually unique set of experience and sensitivities to the fantastical demands of the novels she edits. In the world of science fiction and fantasy, Hoak edits the big dogs: China Miéville, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, Alan Dean Foster, Cherie Priest, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, R.A. Salvatore ... In fact, Hoak's the only copyeditor ever nominated for a World Fantasy Award for her work.

So yeah, someone who appreciates all the wrongness of WoW's awkwardly named Viscous Hammer (and who knows how to spice up an email exchange with some pretty hot photos of China Miéville at a recent con -- but that's another story) ... To top it all off, along with her two children (her husband's the lone holdout of the family), Hoak's an avid WoW player. Join us after the break for a conversation on World of Warcraft from a SF/F insider's point of view, her recommended reading list for fellow WoW players, and more.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Breakfast Topic: What constitutes canon in WoW lore?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW.com.

Can-on
Function: noun
[Middle English, from Late Latin, from Latin, standard] a : an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture b : the authentic works of a writer c : a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works

Lore is an incredibly huge part of the Warcraft universe. It tells us where the world has been and can give us clues about where it will be going. Unfortunately, it can become very muddied as more and more people contribute. When I was in high school, I can remember reading many of the Star Wars novels, which took place in the "expanded universe." The names and places were often the same, but there were often glaring inconsistencies from author to author. When you grow up with a universe, as I did with Star Wars, or when it grows up with you, those inconsistencies can drive you nuts.

The difference that you find in the much of the licensed material that comes out about the Warcraft universe is that Blizzard has a much stricter control over what can be created. Blizzard works with the authors and artists and will often give them advance knowledge of where the property is going, story-wise, in order to make the work fit with unreleased game content. The first time I noticed a character from a licensed product in game was when I stumbled upon Dar'Khan Drathir in Deatholme while leveling my first blood elf. The first book of the Sunwell Trilogy was published almost two years before The Burning Crusade went live. As we progressed into and through The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, more characters from the books, manga and comic worked their way into the game.

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Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Lore, Guest Posts

WoW.com's gift guide for 2009

It's that time of year again -- if you (like me) haven't gotten gifts for everyone on your list, it's time to start scrambling to find something nice to get under the tree this year. Fortunately, you don't have to worry about finding something good for the World of Warcraft fan in your life: we've got you covered there. In the gallery below, we've got a nice bunch of gift ideas for everything Warcraft, from the cheap to the expensive, from the silly to the practical, from in-game presents you can wrap with shiny paper, to out-of-game classics that you can... also wrap with shiny paper. If you need to give a gift to a WoW player this year, you'll find it below for sure.

And if you happen to be a Warcraft player, faced with the annual awkward question of "What do you want me to give you this year?", just feel free to drop this link surreptitiously as a reply, maybe even with a hint or two towards a specific item. We've included links to everything and kept it easy to understand even for someone who hasn't visited Azeroth before. That's our gift to you. Happy holidays, and good gift hunting!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Guides, Galleries, Fan art

Cataclysm novel slated for August, 2010

While it may or may not hint to the release date of the next expansion, a listing on Amazon has pegged the release of a hardcover novel by award-winning author Christie Golden entitled World of Warcraft: The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm. While that might seem like one colon too many (insert snickering here), the self-explanatory title actually sounds pretty cool. What sounds uncool, however, is that it's a prelude. Meaning before.

If you're reading into this as much as I am (generally not a good idea), that could mean that the Cataclysm expansion will ship after August 31. After all, you'd think that Blizzard's marketing team would want a book that reveals what happens before the Cataclysm to actually launch before the expansion hits, right?

Well, not really. The Arthas book, which focuses on the Lich King, was released long after Wrath broke out. In short, the novels follow a completely different schedule from the game even though they all share the same lore. So I made you fret over absolutely nothing! You didn't fall for it? Ok, so I made myself fret over absolutely nothing. The book is available for pre-order at $26 on Amazon and should be chock-full of lore and hopefully explain a lot of what will change during the expansion.

Considering how a lot of people (well, okay, at least Alex and Daniel) geeked out over Golden's Arthas novel, this book promises to be a good read. At any rate, we can probably expect it to be free of super-powerful, hackneyed, Mary Sue-ish, self-projected characters like time-traveling dudes who shack up with the hottest girl or multi-racial scions who can wield all kinds of magic. I mean, it's a freaking black dragon, man. It's kind of hard to mess up something innately awesome as that.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In WoW.com's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Lore, Cataclysm

World of Warcraft and Philosophy now on sale

Is your raid leader Machiavellian? Is it a categorical imperative to torture that Beryl Sorceror? What would Nietzsche have thought of Leeroy Jenkins?

Good questions! And now we can find out. Following in the footsteps of books dealing with philosophies in other popular game titles like Legend of Zelda, Luke Cuddy and John Nordlinger recently released World of Warcraft and Philosophy. The book deals with topics like ethics, economics, gender identity, metaphysics, and more, written by philosophers and gamers alike from around the globe. Heck, even role-playing and cybering are the subject of discussion, along with the Infected Blood plague and lots of other well-known WoW topics.

The reviews seem to indicate that the book's a brisk, fun read, but who knows what the game's twelve-million-strong audience will actually like or appreciate. After all, to paraphrase Yeats, Azerothians are babes in philosophy and so prefer faction-fighting to the labor of its unfamiliar thought.

Those who do want to stack their Int, though, can pick up the book at Amazon or other bookstores now.

Filed under: Fan stuff, Virtual selves, News items

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