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Trinkets: Hard to get, and Blizzard likes it that way


Any caster worth their salt can remember the frustration involved in trying to nab the elusive Illustration of the Dragon Soul trinket from Sartharion in the Obsidian Sanctum. We tried everything we could to get it, from creating our own melee-heavy raid groups, to participating only in "3D zerg" runs hoping that participants would be too over-geared to want it, to participating in Less Is More achievement runs just so there would be less competition for it.

Towards the end of the Patch 3.2 days, people would run OS25 once a week just to try and get that one trinket. Most weeks, it wouldn't even drop. When it did, you'd have to beat a good twelve or thirteen people in a roll for it.

The Illustration was so valuable (1) because it was a darn good trinket with gobs of spell power, and (2) it seemed impossible get it -- or any good trinket, for that matter. You can still head to Dalaran and buy trinkets with emblems, like the Talisman of Resurgence, but their use is painfully specialized and their value is often less than trinkets you can find in lower level heroics.

It turns out that good trinkets are hard to find for a reason: Blizzard like it that way. Bornakk at the official World of Warcraft forums wrote today:
"Trinkets are really the one item (weapons are to a lesser extent) that we use to try and capture that old slot machine feel from the classic Molten Core days. Yes, completely random loot with huge loot tables can be frustrating but we are pretty far from being completely random these days. Trinkets however are still somewhat random, they can be hard to acquire, and there is often a lot of competition for them."

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Filed under: News items

Time to get that Authenticator

Well, they started giving away pets for having an authenticator, so I guess it's about time I went ahead and put one on my account. I've had the app on my iPhone for a while, actually, but I never really saw the point in attaching it to my account, especially since it seemed like just more hassle, and who knows what kinds of errors could pop up. And honestly, I haven't worried much about hackers -- I use a secure browser, I don't click on unknown links. But I know, I know, it's safer, and with the cute Corehound Pup out, I might as well go ahead and attach it.

And you might as well, too. Blizzard's Store was flooded with people looking for authenticators yesterday, but things have slowed down a bit, and they've even got a brand new design with the Corehound Pup right on there. The price, as usual, is $6.50 with free shipping. If you've got an iPhone or an iPod touch, you can get the app free from iTunes, and we're told that it's coming to other platforms at some point in the future (guess when: "soon"). Even if you don't want to apply the Authenticator for whatever reason, just think of it as an almost-half-price pet.

Filed under: Items, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Account Security

Let loose The Swag Dogs of war

If the quest for bigger and better loot leaves you craving still more, maybe you need a guild that takes things to the next level: a shot at WoW loot you can wear in real life, too. Enter The Swag Dogs, a brand new guild created by our friends at SwagDog. The Blizzard-approved apparel specialists have created a family-friendly guild where players can make new friends, get in on raiding groups on the ground floor -- oh, and get a shot at free WoW swag and BlizzCon tickets.

You'll recognize SwagDog as the folks behind those sweet guild tabard-style T-shirts you've seen on recent posts here at WoW.com, including our recent WoW 5th anniversary T-shirt giveaway. The SwagDog crew are pretty good people. They sponsor our WoW.com Guild of the Month contest, giving out a $100 SwagDog gift certificate to the winning guild every month.

When we heard SwagDog was forming an in-game guild, we smelled a marketing rat -- but as it turns out, there's no pressure to buy. Instead, The Swag Dogs have created the guild as a conduit between players and the SwagDog design team, to encourage players to bring their ideas for new products and designs directly to the source. Those who participate actively will gain a shot at special giveaways ... And of course, the pleasure of getting into a friendly, casual guild from the get-go.

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Filed under: Realm News, Fan stuff, Features

Creators of Epic Advice working on Epic Plan encounter planner

Now this is interesting. Our old friend Jesta, who made the EpicAdvice.com site not so long ago, is working on a new project at EpicPlan.com, and while it's still hidden away in pre-alpha, you can see what they're up to in this thread on EA. It's a slideshow/diagramming web app, basically -- you can take maps of the game's instances, lay out icons and symbols on them as you wish, and then animate and caption boss fights and encounters. The end result is a very clear way to show off different raid strategies, and we're told the slideshows are embeddable on other sites as well (you may even see some here eventually on WoW.com).

Unfortunately, they're only taking signups for the beta of the service right now, and while you can watch a show in action on the technology demo, you can't make your own quite yet. But it seems like a very impressive tool for raidleaders, both to share plans with the public and players seeking help, as well as your own raid members. It'll be great to be able to make a quick and easy visual display of where to stand and what to do during boss fights and instance encounters.

Filed under: Instances, Raiding, Wrath of the Lich King

Breakfast Topic: Feats of Strength

Allison's great post about all of the Feats of Strength still available in the game got me thinking: just what kind of value do players place on these "kinda" achievements? Personally, I never gave them much weight -- I have a few of them (I picked up the Vampiric Batling a while ago, and I've got the Competitor's Tabard, among a few other old-school and commemorative achievements), but the ones I've got I didn't really do anything to earn, and the Feats still available don't really mean that much to me. Unlike "real" achievements, Feats don't even give you meaningless points, and they can't be used to get you into any raids or runs that you couldn't do otherwise. They're boring to me.

I'm not that way about all achievements -- there have been a few that I've worked to get done, and there are even non-achievement items that I've pushed for in the past (I worked like crazy to finally get my Netherwing drake, and the only achievement I got for that was the Netherwing reputation). But Feats of Strength in particular seem passive to me, by Blizzard's design: if they happen, great, but there's not enough reward there for me to go out of my way to get them. What do you think?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, Blizzard, Breakfast Topics, Quests, Lore, Bosses, Mounts, Achievements

Telling a story without quest text


Tyllendel's friend had an interesting reaction to the game when he first played it: he felt that all of the quest text was unbearable, and that he wanted to play the game rather than reading what NPCs told him. We've talked a little bit about this before -- obviously, when Blizzard kicked off WoW nearly five years ago, quest text was just the way quests were done, and while Blizzard has expanded the concept a bit since, it's still mostly the way MMOs work: you go to a character, talk to them, and they tell you where to go and what to do.

But I can see Tyl's friend's point: games are much less about telling these days and more about showing. You might understand how, if you've never played an MMO before, reading the quest text can take you right out of the game, rather than running off with an NPC or having the game show you rather than just tell you what to do. And Blizzard is getting there: later in the thread Slorkuz points out the recent Afrasiabi interview, and talks about how Alex mentions new ways of doing quests. For example, the quest team is trying to do a quest with no text, or direct players' attention without actually telling them, "look here." Text is the easiest and most basic way to help players accomplish goals, but as the game moves on, even the developers realize it's not the most elegant or immersive way to do it.

Filed under: Odds and ends, Quests, Lore, NPCs

Blizzard to focus on battlegrounds more

Ghostcrawler has posted a little paragraph on the forums, reaffirming something we've already heard from Blizzard: that in the past, they've spent more time on Arenas to the detriment of battlegrounds, and that battlegrounds are going to be gaining a little more focus in the future. They've already started, actually, with the Isle of Conquest in 3.2, but GC says there's even more on the table, and that future plans will be revealed at BlizzCon.

He also brings up another good point, however: in terms of class balance, Arenas are a much more striking example of imbalances than battlegrounds are. Battlegrounds have all sorts of things going on, and so you don't get as good a picture of just how the different classes work with and against each other as you do in Arenas. And so, if you're a dev trying to figure out class balances, of course you'll spend more time looking at the Arena gameplay than the BGs. GC also says that the majority of issues in BGs tend to be map-based rather than class imbalances, which is really a whole other science. Not that BGs aren't relevant to how the classes work, just that there are many more variables in there than the relative vacuum chamber of Arenas.

All good points. I'm a fan of battlegrounds much more than Arenas, but I don't particularly feel that Blizzard has ignored them necessarily. The real problem, to my mind, with BGs is simply how faction imbalanced they are: it seems like on every realm in every given BG, one side always seems to have the upper hand, for whatever reason. Sometimes it's a population problem, sometimes it's a map issue. But GC is right: those problems are more pressing than class balance in the BGs.

Filed under: Horde, Alliance, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard, PvP, Classes, Battlegrounds, Arena

Is WoW being run by its B-team? Is that bad?


This post by Eric Heimburg on the excellent MMO design blog Elder Game, alleging that WoW is currently run by Blizzard's B-team, has ignited a fair amount of controversy around the blogosphere. The general argument appears to be that the people previously in charge of WoW, like Jeff Kaplan, have moved on to other projects. As a consequence knee-jerk changes are being pushed through very fast, without being sufficiently tested first. "Back in the day," claims the article, "QA held the game to a higher standard."

My reaction to these claims are mixed. Kaplan may not be in charge of WoW anymore, but I don't think that "the steady hand has left the rudder," or if it has, maybe a less straight-ahead course is a good thing. Changes may be getting pushed through very quickly - Ghostcrawler routinely refers to players getting whiplash from the frequency of balance changes - but in many cases, I think this is for the best.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard

WoW Mountain Dew ad was directed by Tarsem Singh

A number of sites have done a post-mortem on the Mountain Dew WoW Game Fuel ad (featuring two ladies battling it out through their WoW characters in a live-action supermarket), and they've uncovered a really interesting fact: the ad was actually directed by Indian director Tarsem Singh, one of my favorites -- he not only did the visually stunning sci-fi/horror flick The Cell a few years ago, but more recently made The Fall, which is an very well-done kind of mirror-life fairy tale. He's directed a number of commercials before, including some for Nike and Levi's, and teamed up with a company called Zoic Studios (they've done a few other spots for video games already) for this WoW commercial.

The original CGI models for the ad did come from Blizzard (I'd guess that they're the original models from the WoW CGI trailer), though they were spruced up quite a bit by Zoic to add facial expressions and dynamic costumes and hair. They were then connected to motion captures from stunt artists (which were probably also tweaked to seem a little more than human, and then composited all together in the supermarket scene.

Very cool stuff. This isn't the first time WoW characters have been used to sell soda, but hopefully we'll see more fun sequences like this come out of the deals between Blizzard and their partners.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, NPCs

Breakfast Topic: What's your item set design preference?


It looks like we've got a sneak peek at what may be the new tier sets when MMO Champion uncovered some gear intended for Paladins, Death Knights, and Warriors. Just in case you didn't notice, that's all plate gear and, well, they all look alike. With Patch 3.2 seeing the return of faction-specific armor, a lot of people were thrilled except that most players (including myself) sort of forgot that faction-specific gear such as the old Level 60 PvP sets had shared models across armor types.

The reason most of us didn't notice was because this wasn't so apparent back then... the Alliance only had one mail-wearing class and the Horde only had one plate-wearing class. With Shamans and Paladins no longer restricted to one faction and with the introduction of Death Knights in Wrath of the Lich King, more classes appear to share the same item models -- there are three plate and two mail classes on both factions now. This has the downside of homogenizing appearance across classes but the upside of having the near-certainty of putting together a visually cohesive set as well as looking different from the enemy faction's counterparts.

So today's question is simple: what design philosophy do you think works best for World of Warcraft? Every path has its obvious benefits, of course. What appears to be the most appealing is something we still haven't seen... faction- and class-specific gear where each class has a completely unique model according to faction. It sounds great on paper but it's more work for the art team and an itemization nightmare -- imagine having to organize those drops in a dungeon! It might be easier to go the Sunwell Plateau route and be done with it! Or heck, do everything Emperor's New Clothes-style, where everyone goes commando! Good idea? No? So, uh, that was just me? Drat.

Which design direction do you prefer?
Faction-specific but sharing models across armor type431 (4.7%)
Class-specific but completely different models for each class3044 (33.0%)
Faction-neutral and sharing models across armor type (ala Sunwell)116 (1.3%)
Faction-specific and class-specific, where each class from either faction has a totally unique model5148 (55.9%)
I want to be able to make my twill set look like Tier 9 and vice versa...478 (5.2%)

Filed under: Items, Blizzard, Breakfast Topics

Using WoW for learning in schools

We've heard about WoW in schools before, but usually it's at schools of higher learning, where they're studying social networks or how society evolves. But a group in North Carolina is planning to put WoW in schools in a different way: by using situations in World of Warcraft to develop literacy, mathematics, and other competencies. WoWinSchools has math lessons and other tests based around WoW terms and knowledge: one example question asks "Which types of heals produce a greater number of recovered hit points during an encounter?" Another wants to know "Which buff (a spell that enhances a character's abilities) is more effective for your character, Blessing of Kings or Blessing of Might?" The idea is to use situations that the kids are familiar with in World of Warcraft (raiding, for example), and apply higher level thinking to those situations.

There are even creative writing suggestions dedicated to the game, from writing an RP story about a character in Azeroth, to writing a song parody (that one should be taught by Professor Turpster) or designing a quest chain. And lest you think they're just joking around, there's a whole slew of research behind the idea, too, and it definitely makes sense: kids who play World of Warcraft are much more likely to be interested in problems about DPS and Healing rather than Susie and Bobby's apples that we added and subtracted back when we were kids in school.

It seems like the only place this is implemented is in one afterschool program -- while there are lots of good ideas here, it's not necessarily being used in many classrooms yet (and my guess is that not every student in schools would vibe with a World of Warcraft-based curriculum, either). But it is a plan in development, and anything that better helps teachers understand what their students are interested in is probably worthwhile.

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

Happy Father's Day from WoW.com!

This was so cute we had to share -- that future Alliance kid at right is Cara's son Riley, no doubt owning it up on Daddy's Death Knight in the battlegrounds. That's right -- the DK who rolled over you with Howling Blast in Wintergrasp yesterday was actually played by a 9.5 month old baby. How's that burn feel? Cara tells us, and the pic was part of a "WoW you're a great father" theme for Riley's first Father's Day.

From all of us here at WoW.com, here's a shout out to all of the fathers out there, both Dads of players and Dads who are players themselves. Take a break from taking down Ulduar or grinding out those Argent Tournament quests and make sure to give your Dad a call (and/or the usual tie or socks) today. Or just send him an in-game email for those of you who play with your pops.

Happy Father's Day!

Filed under: Events, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

EQ dev: WoW wouldn't exist without EQ

Videogamer.com has an interview up with Ryan Barker, the lead designer for seminal MMORPG EverQuest. When asked if he thought WoW would exist without EQ having been around, he replied that he didn't think so, and that Blizzard designers would likely agree with that statement.

I think he's right, too. The success of EQ allowed for countless imitators and innovators to follow in its footsteps, and WoW is certainly both of those things. What made WoW successful in the first place, beyond brand recognition, was the fact that the developers -- whose team consisted of a number of former EQ devs and prominent community members! -- refined and added on so many features cribbed from EQ. They made the formerly hardcore-only genre accessible to a wide variety of players and age groups, and in doing so broke subscriber and sales records -- thus continuing to make new MMOs financially plausible. And with WoW's improvements to the diku formula, the genre is now filled with WoW imitators as well. History repeats itself.

Sure, it's entirely possible that WoW could have existed without the advent of EQ, but it would have been a very different game if it existed at all. And I doubt it would have been anywhere near as good without having been able to learn from EQ's myriad mistakes or study its successes. We owe a lot to Old Man EQ. Now get off his lawn.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard

What's your best BlizzCon memory?

Did you manage to get your tickets? I'm sure there will be plenty of folks who are returning to BlizzCon. I wasn't able to go but I followed WoW Insider's coverage of the event from the opening ceremonies to the final concert. It was an awesome time for fans to get insight on some of the behind the scenes aspects of WoW, including an art gallery, a sound panel, and an introduction to Ghostcrawler.

I have to admit that even with the massive amount of information on classes and mechanics, my favorite part was the goofy fan stuff. I love how some people really get into their costumes and dances. I think I missed out most by missing the WoW Insider meet up. It's amazing that real people get so into our favorite game franchises.

For those of you who went last year, or even were following along with me, what's the best BlizzCon memory that you carry with you?
BlizzCon 2009 is coming up on August 21st and 22nd! We've got all the latest news and information. At BlizzCon you can play the latest games, meet your guildmates, and ask the developers your questions. Plus, there's some great looking costumes.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, BlizzCon

Ready Check: Is Ulduar too easy?



Ready Check is a weekly column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, Vault of Archavon or Ulduar, everyone can get in on the action and down some bosses. This week, we do some homework.

The long-awaited new instance has been live for almost two weeks now, and a lot of the excitement over first kills is waning. Everything Blizzard has thrown at us so far is dead, and even several of the hard-mode kills, nominally on a level with Sarth-3D, are beaten.

So, this leads us naturally on to the question - is Ulduar hard enough?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Ready Check (Raiding)

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