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Cory Stockton breaks down the process of making an instance

Blizzard has done a lot of press regarding the fifth anniversary of the game (and there's probably more to come), but Curse has done one of the more interesting pieces so far. Instead of just chatting with Cory Stockton about his experiences, they had him sit down and explain just how Blizzard puts an instance together. They specifically talked about Ulduar, but the process Stockton reveals works for all of the instances Blizzard has created for the game.

A few interesting things -- they "block out" the instances first, create lower-res versions of them to play around in and create the mechanics for the fights. They also do some boss testing outside of the environments -- Razorscale, specifically, says Stockton, was actually tested down in the Stranglethorn Arena. Finally, once the encounter team works out the basics of the encounters, the art and item teams move in, and create art and loot, sometimes with the two of them collaborating (the art team will make a cool item for a boss, and then the item team, with the help of Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street, will give the item stats and balance). Interesting just how collaborative the whole process is -- even the Ironbound Proto-drake mount came from the team seeing Razorscale and wanting to put him in mount form. It's nice and all hearing Blizzard remember the Fry's launch, but it's nicer getting an inside look at their process.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, How-tos, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Instances, Raiding

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

Kisirani on the world post-Icecrown


Obviously, if you've been paying attention to what players are saying about Garrosh Hellscream, confidence isn't high in the guy. Especially if, as rumored, he's going to be getting a promotion very soon. But lest your fears about the guy are overtaking your Horde pride, just wait -- Kisirani says that we haven't learned all there is to know about the son of Grom. He may yet show a more palatable side, as we're told that we "haven't seen the entirety of who Garrosh is."

And what better place to do that, she continues, than in the run up to Cataclysm. We already know there's going to be a world event, but Kisirani hints yet again that it's going to be quite sizable -- considering that she mentions it between Icecrown and the expansion release itself, we could just be talking about a whole content patch on its own. However it all plays out, it's quite clear that Icecrown is definitely not the end of this round of content, and the world we'll be playing in when Cataclysm actually releases will be very different than the one we know today.

Filed under: Horde, Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, NPCs

We have a Tabard: To 25-mans, and beyond!

Looking for a guild? Well, you can join ours! We have a tabard and everything! Check back every Friday for Amanda Dean talking about guilds and guild leadership in We Have a Tabard.

Founding and nurturing an up-and-coming raid guild can be quite a daunting task. We see it every day in trade chat <New Guild Name> is now recruiting players of all levels. "We're a fun, friendly guild that regularly raids 10-mans and is looking to build our 25-man team. We have a tabard, bank tabs, and Ventrilo. PST if you're interested." The bark is always the same, the only difference is the number of spelling errors. How do you gracefully move from 10 to 25-man content?

If that's your guild, first of all, congratulations on some early success in progress in getting to 10-man raids. When you're not quite there, you have a few options are a few options, all of which have their upsides and their downsides. You can pug into 25-man content, you can run guild raids and take pugs along, you can work with another guild, or you can be content with 10-man content. Let's take a moment to explore each of the options.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Guilds, Features, Raiding, (Guild Leadership) We Have a Tabard

How often should we do repeatable content?

Blessing of Kings asks an excellent question: how often should we be running repeatable content? Certainly Blizzard has considered this issue before -- they've gone with daily quests in the first expansion, and recently they've been rethinking just how often we'll be rerunning dungeons, too. But both of those time periods are fairly arbitrary to us: is it possible that we should start running things twice a week (once during and once on the weekend), or maybe do weekly quests instead of daily?

BoK says: possibly. Rohan suggests a weekly quest that rewarded 70g instead of the daily 10g reward we usually get (not including the XP bonus which kicks it up to 13g). Players who don't have time to run every day, but do have the weekly availability (like me -- I play mostly on the weekends), would be able to still pick up the reward. I'll go one step further, in fact: what if we had an option? What if we could choose to run a quest daily (and get a bigger reward overall), or run it once per week, using up all of our daily chances for that week, and getting a smaller total reward? That seems to be the best way -- those who could log in every day would get a larger reward, while those who couldn't could still get more than just the single daily.

Rohan also says that Heroic and BG quests should remain daily, and on that we agree: those quests are perfect for creating variety every day, and getting people to run those instances. In fact, those would be fun to see expanded -- maybe Blizzard could create weekly series of daily quests that followed a small storyline across dungeons or BGs. Blizzard has done a pretty good job balancing out repeatable content periods, but it's always nicer to have more options.

Filed under: Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Economy, Instances, Quests

It takes two to duo content

Spinksville has a great post up about the great benefits and joy of duoing in MMOs, or playing alongside one other person as you level your way up. I haven't been able to duo in a while, but I have done one character with a good friend -- he played a Priest and I tanked on my Warrior, and we shot up through to max level (even before the leveling changes) just because not only did our characters compliment each other, but we knew each others' play styles and were able to take on lots of big mobs and quests without a problem. I agree with Spinks: playing the game alongside someone you know well is the perfect mix of a singleplayer and MMO game.

There are certainly issues -- if one of you plays more than the other and pulls ahead or falls behind, it's not quite as fun for either of you. But especially if you're both playing alts and you've got good, regular amounts of time to play together, it can be really fun. In fact, it's kind of surprising that Blizzard and other MMO companies haven't gone in for more of the very-small group play -- singleplayer instances got a pass, but then again, phasing has changed things since then, and the LFG system has improved, so maybe it's time for Blizzard to put some two-player content in the mix.

It would definitely be great to see some official support for two-player content -- not everyone has a partner to play with all the time, but I think you'll find way more two-player groups in the game than you will find full raids of 25 people, and that group certainly gets their share of things to do. Spinks makes some great suggestions about duo content, and it's definitely a realm of gameplay that a lot of MMOs haven't yet officially explored.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Instances, Quests, Raiding, Bosses

China's Ministry of Culture approves WoW content

Blizzard has been having all kinds of issues trying to bring World of Warcraft back online in China, but here's one piece of good news for them: China's Ministry of Culture has gone through the game and approved all of the content in it. They apparently were concerned about some violent content (we know they've already made changes in the past to the Undead models), but that's now been cleared, and the only thing left is final approval by the General Administration of Press and Publication. There's no date on when that might happen, but it seems that will be soon (not soon(tm), just soon).

Blizzard should be extremely happy to see these content checks cleared, as it means that they're not only that much closer to bringing the servers back online, but that they can also finally bring out Wrath of the Lich King there. The whole issue with Netease and The9 backed things up, and then these content checks were a problem, but hopefully most of the obstacles have been cleared by now, and Chinese players can soon start making their way back into the game and up to the snowy shores of Northrend.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Expansions, Raiding, Wrath of the Lich King

The opposite of Heroics

Reader Malos on Nagrand sent me an interesting idea that I thought was worth some discussion. For a long time now, I've been a big fan of the idea of turning the old instances into Heroic versions -- I think it would be really fun to play Deadmines as a level 80, or roll through Scarlet Monastery for badges. But obviously the problem there is that Blizzard already has enough to do -- they're focused on creating new content, not revamping old instances that people have already played.

So Malos has a solution: instead of tweaking the instances to us, how about tweaking us to the instances? He suggests a set of gear, much like the Heirloom gear, that matches your character to whatever instance you happen to step into -- if you enter Deadmines, it powers down your level 80 character to an appropriate power and level for the instance. That way, all Blizzard has to do is make one set of gear per class (that could even scale upwards, so they never have to make it again), and boom, every instance could be played at the standard difficulty by any character any time.

Will it happen? Probably not. But I really like the idea of tweaking the players, not the instances, and I think there's a lot of possibility there for Blizzard. They've had such a tough time trying to balance out content for all kinds of players (including all of the hard modes and extra gameplay in Ulduar), that it might be interesting to try and measure the difficulty by going the other way -- balancing players out for all kinds of content.

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, News items, Instances

Breakfast Topic: Is Blizzard wasting their time?

Hometownkid confronts the QQ over on the forums, and wants to know why people think Blizzard is "wasting their time" when they do things like upgrade the Druid art and creating things like the Ulduar bosstiary when they could be making more quests or new PvP areas. Personally, you've never heard that argument from me -- like Hometownkid, I'm pretty sure there are different teams working on different things within the game, and it's hard to believe that one new piece of art would otherwise be a new form of quest. While Blizzard does take their sweet time, I still trust they're making new content as fast as they can.

But there is an argument there -- if Blizzard were a different company and didn't do things like make Failocalypse, would we all be level 100 by now? They've always said that they would update the graphics incrementally, but certainly other companies have revamped the whole game all at one time before. I guess the question here is: would you trade Blizzard's well-worn ways for the promise of more content?

I don't think Blizzard has been completely out of line, but sure, you could argue that because of the way they do things, they're slower on releases than other companies might be. But would you?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Breakfast Topics

Breakfast Topic: The ardent Argent

Just in case you hadn't realized already, the news we got last week about patch 3.2 made it clear that the Argent Tournament is going to play a sizable role in our future Wrath of the Lich King activities, so if you, like me, have been lazy about completing all of the various tasks the tournament offers, now might be the time to change that outlook and get to work over there. By the time 3.2 rolls around, there will be even more rewards to be attained by champions of the various cities, so if having a squire of your own hasn't been temptation enough, maybe the promise of future content has helped.

And speaking of help, in case you need some, we've got you covered as always, from guides to the various dailies to a review of the rewards available. The question today is: have you been convinced yet? A good number of you have probably been rolling in the AT since 3.1 dropped, and probably have a whole stack of Seals already (if not the Hippogryph mount itself). But for those of you who've been lagging behind, has the promise of new AT-related content in 3.2 lit a fire under your Stabled Quel'dorei Steed? Or are you meh on on the idea of grinding out daily quests just to get more PvE content to grind out?

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Breakfast Topics

More teasing from the Blues, this time about phasing

Oh Blizzard why do you torture us so? Last time it was all about Gilneas, and this time, Wyrxian winks at a player suggestion that phasing gets used more in the old world. Take this all as you will -- Blizzard is just pulling our chain on this stuff, and whatever they have in mind, they're not giving away quite yet.

But, let's speculate a little, shall we? We already know that there's one more Lich King mystery content patch: Ulduar is coming first in patch 3.1, and Icecrown will likely be the final raid of the expansion, but there's one more raid that they haven't told us about yet. So we could guess that we'll finally see what's been going on in Gilneas all these years, and that it'll be a phased experience, much like what we saw in the Sunwell patch before the expansion. Plus, the announcement for that patch could be right around now -- with 3.1 set to go live any day now, Blizzard could release that patch and then throw out a preview for the next release right away.

That's all guessing, of course. And we have no idea whether the phasing reference and Gilneas are even in the same patch -- I speculated long ago that the Emerald Dream expansion could be an entirely phased version of old Azeroth, which could completely revamp the 1-60 experience. So who knows? But Blizzard, as they always do, know something, and while they might let on soon, they're not telling right now.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King, Forums

The9 may release WotLK to China on February 19th

Rumor has it that The9, the company that runs World of Warcraft in China, will be releasing the game's latest expansion there a week and a day from today, on February 19th, after holding a press conference a day earlier. We just recently got sent a question here at WoW Insider asking why the US and EU kills were often called "world firsts," and this is why: China usually gets expansion content much later than the other regions of the game do.

But recently, Blizzard mentioned that they were aiming to release the content closer together, and this appears to be a result of that: it's still not simultaneous, obviously, but a few months is better than a year or so. Apparently 17173.com has heard that China will be getting Wrath of the Lich King next week, so if that does happen, we can look for the first Chinese level 80 and the first Chinese clears of Naxx and the other endgame raids soon after that.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, News items, Wrath of the Lich King

Officers' Quarters: Waiting at 80

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

Lately I've gotten a lot of e-mail from readers with a similar theme. People ask me, "Should I stick with my guild even though we aren't raiding yet?" They say, "We just lost five members because we haven't cleared Naxx." They tell me, "I hate PUGs, but I can't even run a Heroic with my guild because only two people are 80."

They ask me to weigh their guild against their desire to run group content. And the fact of the matter is this: I can't answer that question for you. And I'll tell you why.

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Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

Guildwatch: Rolling the endgame


Boy, there's definitely no Naxx bump this time around (unlike the old Karazhan bump) -- guilds are hitting 80 and rolling right into the endgame. Of course, with even casual players moving this fast (surely casual players are 80 by now right, Ghostcrawler?) there may eventually be a problem of having new content to experience... unless you consider all of the rep grinding and Wintergrasp to be new content (and we do). But pretty soon, we'll have to have guilds reporting on achievements instead -- anyone actually beat Sarth with the three drakes yet?

In the meantime, there's plenty of regular downings, crazy drama, and some good guilds recruiting right after the jump, so click the link below to see what's new around the guilds of World of Warcraft.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Guilds, Instances, Humor, Raiding, Guildwatch, Bosses

Elemental Shaman, Priest solo Onyxia


First we had a Druid do it, then a Pally, and then after Wrath Hunters and Death Knights got into the mix, and now it seems anybody with a pulse and a level 80 can solo the old 40-man boss Onyxia. Here's video of an Elemental Shaman taking the dragon down (Skitlash of the guild Unrelenting on Aman'thul), and we've even heard of a Disc Priest doing the deed (I believe that way back, when the Druid first downed Ony solo, a Priest, we thought on the podcast, was the least likely class to do it).

But time has proven us wrong. Does any of this mean anything? Probably not -- while it's certainly an achievement for these guys, the old bosses will only get easier as time goes on (until, of course, Blizzard decides to break out some Heroic versions of these instances), and the once-feared Onyxia will only become more and more of a punching bag. Grats to everyone who's been able to solo the old lady of raiding, but at this point, if a Disc Priest can do it, anyone can.

Filed under: Druid, Hunter, Paladin, Priest, Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Raiding, Bosses, Classes, NPCs, Death Knight, Wrath of the Lich King

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