Welcome back to our weekly recap, featuring the TradeChat's Panser. We look back at the hottest news from the past week and whatever other kickin' rad things may have come our way. This week's topics include:
You may have spotted Monday's post on how to design a raid, which was the first half of the Gamescom 2012 Raids and Dungeons round table with Ion Hazzikostas and John Lagrave. The second half of the Round Table was a Q&A session in which many interesting questions were asked, shedding light on some hot issues as well as simply providing a little more insight into the Blizzard Encounter Design Team's creative processes.
Again, these aren't verbatim quotations from Ion and John, as I simply can't write that fast, but the overall statements are accurate representations of their responses.
Are there any encounters Blizzard have had to alter or leave out due to technical constraints?
There was a boss leading up to the Lich King who you had to heal (Valithria Dreamwalker), and that was a huge challenge for their existing technology. If you think about it, Ion explained, up to that point, every healing spell in the game was designed to be cast on a friendly target, that is to say, a player. So the devs were faced with the task of reworking every healing spell in the game. They didn't want players to only be able to use certain spells on her, as that would have been bad, so they redid every healing spell. The technical team changed the game's design so that the boss basically became a raid team member. Ion and John explained that it's all about working out creative ways to implement the designers' ideas.
Tides of War is releasing on Aug. 28, the same day that we'll see the release of patch 5.0.4 on live realms. If you'd like to know more about the book, we have a spoiler-free review of the novel available for those still wondering if they should pick it up. In anticipation of the novel's release, we also had an opportunity to interview the author behind the novel, Christie Golden.
Tides is Christie's seventh novel in the Warcraft series, focusing on Jaina Proudmoore and the events surrounding Theramore's ultimate fate, as well as the lead-in for the next expansion, Mists of Pandaria. Like her novels The Shattering and Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects, Tides ties in with what we'll see in game -- but it's got a unique twist the likes of which we simply haven't seen before.
Christie was kind enough to fill us in on that unique twist, as well as Garrosh, Theramore, and what it's like penning the tales of Jaina Proudmoore.
Blizzard continues its trend of books that tie into World of Warcraft with its latest novel, Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War. This book takes place after the events in Cataclysm and after the last cinematic of the Dragon Soul raid. Deathwing is well and truly dead, and the world is a better place for it -- but for how long? Given the explosive nature of the Alliance/Horde conflict in Cataclysm, it's readily apparent that we're not about to go striding into the sunset, holding hands and singing songs of peace and harmony.
Tides of War revolves around Jaina Proudmoore and the events at Theramore Isle, which we'll see in game when patch 5.0.4 hits live servers. Jaina's been noticeably absent during Cataclysm; while we see Theramore forces out and about in the world, Jaina herself remains firmly ensconced in her tower abode on Theramore Isle. But there's a change on the winds, one that's been hinted at ever since the novel The Shattering was released. In The Shattering, Jaina was told that eventually, some day, she was going to have to choose a side. In Tides of War, she makes that choice in a spectacularly dramatic fashion.
But there's far more to this novel than just Jaina Proudmoore.
The above video is a bit lengthy, but it's well worth the watch simply because it does raise a few valid points along the line. And lest you think this is yet another player whining about the endless hardcore vs. casual debate, it's not -- this is simply a player who is incredibly passionate about the game we all play. In that passion, he's decided to talk about the direction that raiding in WoW has taken and how it has gone downhill, in his opinion.
On the one hand, he has a point. There is a stark difference between the feel of raiding back in the days of vanilla, The Burning Crusade, and now. There's a stark difference in numbers, which any graph can illustrate. More and more people can complete raids now from one degree or another, which leaves people barreling through content at light speed and doesn't really give that same feeling that raiding had in years past.
On the other, is changing the difficulty in WoW really the way to accomplish that goal? I don't think so.
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.
Long, long before the rise of human and orc, the world of Azeroth was far different than it appears today. Instead of the multitude of continents we know of, there was simply one: Kalimdor. It was essentially Azeroth's version of Pangaea -- a supercontinent that covered the world. Places that we travel to today, Northrend, the Eastern Kingdoms, even the islands off the coasts of the world were all part of the massive continent. This was Azeroth, back in the day -- one world, one continent, and a lot of Old Gods.
Theories seem to be mixed on which came first, the Titans or the Old Gods. The latest theory came from the Tribunal of Ages, which implies that the Titans ordered the world and left, then the Old Gods arrived, and then the Titans returned to deal with the problem. After imprisoning the Old Gods, the Titans created safeguards to protect the world, safeguards that would prevent the rise of the Old Gods -- and in the event that the Old Gods returned, safeguards that would go so far as destroying Azeroth itself. Watchers and Aspects were both created and charged with protecting the fragile world.
And, according to various pieces of history, the Titans created the Well of Eternity.
Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition, meaning the following is a look into what has gone before with pure speculation on what is to come as a result. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.
Since Adam took a long look back yesterday, I thought it would be nice to look forward today. The above audio clip is the Sha of Hatred, one of the big threats of Mists of Pandaria. It's interesting to realize how much voice work there is in Mists. The game is definitely moving forward.
After previous expansions launched, how long was it before prior xpacs contents exp requirements were nerfed?
This was already answered, but to confirm it, patch 4.3 was the patch that lowered the XP needed to level through Northrend and improved dungeon quest flow for both Outland and Northrend dungeons. I'm not sure which patch lowered the XP needed to level in Outland, although this forum thread on Wowhead seems to indicate it was in place by November of 2008. That would mean Patch 3.0.3, the major content patch for Wrath of the Lich King, or slightly before that.
What we can take from this is that Blizzard doesn't have a set pattern for nerfing old content's XP requirements. The devs do it when they think it's warranted, no sooner, no later.
While there isn't a blue post yet, we can confirm via the in-game screenshot we took above that the Power of the Aspects buff is now at 25%. It had been at 20% for a little over a month. This follows the roughly every four- to five-week pattern of increasing the debuff's strength.
As always, if you want to turn the buff off, just talk to Lord Afrasastrasz at the beginning of the instance. He'll make it go away -- otherwise, you'll get 25% weaker enemies. Remember that this debuff only applies to the normal and heroic versions of the raid, not to the Raid Finder version.
We'll update this post with a blue post when one comes about.
Edit: Blue post!
Dragon Soul Difficulty Change - 25%
At the completion of scheduled server maintenance during the week of June 5, the "Power of the Aspects" spell will grow more powerful, reducing the health and damage dealt of all enemies in the Dragon Soul raid by 25%. This spell has grown progressively stronger over time to reduce difficulty and make the encounters more accessible. The spell will affect both normal and Heroic difficulties, but it will not affect the Raid Finder difficulty.
If you don't need the help of the Dragon Aspects, the spell can be disabled by talking to Lord Afrasastrasz at the beginning of Dragon Soul.
We hope you continue to enjoy Dragon Soul, and that these changes encourage you to attempt a higher difficulty, or just keep pushing to take down that next boss.
I know what you're thinking: What's the Raid Finder got to do with Warcraft lore, of all things? I hadn't really given it much thought, either. Generally speaking, Warcraft lore is a wholly separate animal from game mechanics. After all, the endless carrying of flags in Warsong Gulch doesn't exactly tell a compelling story, and returning to the same dungeon repeatedly to kill the same bosses over and over doesn't really make sense from a lore perspective, either.
When the Raid Finder was introduced, there were plenty of people curious about how it would turn out and far more who were excited about the possibilities of the feature. Along with cross-realm raiding, the Raid Finder has entirely changed the face of raiding as we know it. Much like the downsize from 40-man to 25-man with the release of The Burning Crusade expansion, the Raid Finder revolutionized raiding and changed it into something that far more easily accessible for players who don't necessarily have the time to dedicate to regular raiding.
This isn't to say that the Raid Finder is a magical solution to everything, however.
Matthew Rossi recently wrote a piece on the spoils of progress, detailing, among other things, his covetous streak and how it translated into a love of raid farming, including heading back to old content, farming out legendaries, and generally stealing stuff from monsters.
He mentioned how he loved it when raids go into farm mode, loved seeing his numbers increase and eternally upgrading his loot. He even loved farming through old content he could solo to get drops the loot gods never blessed him with the first time around, or the second, or the third.
And it hit me that, while Matt and I both enjoy raiding, we enjoy it completely differently. I read his piece, and barely agreed with 20% of the things he said he enjoyed! This is not a criticism of Matt, not at all, it's simply an observation, and testament to the vast variety of playstyles catered to by WoW.
During maintenance next week, the Dragon Soul buff/nerf will climb to 20%. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise for anyone, since we've known all along it'll continue to increase. And personally, I'm looking forward to it. My guild has some new DPSers running with us, and this will be just the boost we need to get heroic Ultraxion down.
Remember that if you want to run without the buff, you can always turn it off by talking to Lord Afrasastrasz at the beginning of the raid.
Blizzard's full announcement is as follows:
At the completion of scheduled server maintenance during the week of April 30, the "Power of the Aspects" spell will grow more powerful, reducing the health and damage dealt of all enemies in the Dragon Soul raid by 20%. This spell will grow progressively stronger over time to reduce the difficulty and make the encounters more accessible. The spell will affect both normal and Heroic difficulties, but it will not affect the Raid Finder difficulty.
Don't need the help of the Dragon Aspects? The spell can be disabled by talking to Lord Afrasastrasz at the beginning of Dragon Soul.
We hope you continue to enjoy Dragon Soul, and that these changes encourage you to attempt a higher difficulty, or just keep pushing to down that next boss.
The folks at GuildOx have gone through their database and done some simple filtering that reveals some fascinating things about who is raiding heroic Dragon Soul. GuildOx started with level 85 characters, filtered for characters with ilevel 400 gear, and then filtered out anyone with PvP gear. What you see in the chart above is the result of that work -- a representative sample of who out of the over 13 million level 85 characters in the GuildOx database is raiding heroic Dragon Soul.
Warriors aren't doing much better, really. Most other classes seem fairly healthy, with classes that have healing specs doing fairly well and rogues absolutely ruling heroic raiding despite being one of the least-played classes in the game overall. It gets even more interesting once we get to look at the GuildOx spec-by-spec breakdown.
Wrath of the Lich King ended on kind of a sour note for me, largely because I didn't get to participate in my guild's one and only 25-man heroic Lich King kill before Cataclysm launched. Part of the rankle was for personal reasons, but part of it was also that for me, that kill would have ended the expansion. Never mind that we didn't kill Halion on heroic -- that was filler content, as far as I was concerned. Wrath of the Lich King was all about the Lich King and seeing him die.
But really, it goes back farther than that. In vanilla, I had no idea what an expansion really was; my MMOG experience was limited to WoW, for the most part, with a brief dabble in City of Heroes. So terms like expansions didn't make any sense to me until a friend explained what it meant: a new game was coming, building off the game I was already playing. No, I didn't have to purchase it if I didn't want to, but I wouldn't be able to see any of the new stuff if I didn't. And then my friend showed me just a sampling of all the cool stuff to be seen in The Burning Crusade. A beta invite later, and I was thoroughly hooked.
But there wasn't an end to vanilla for me. One day, I was playing vanilla WoW; the next, I was tromping through the Dark Portal and headed to Outland.
If you have been raiding 10-man Dragon Soul every week, Wrathion should be handing over the Fangs of the Fathers any day now. Even the second rogues in most 25-man groups will be collecting their last Elementium Gem Clusters shortly. For many rogues, these daggers are the first legendary weapons that they've ever acquired. When you receive them from Wrathion, it might feel a bit overwhelming. What do you do with these weapons? What will they do to you?
There is a quote that's been passed down from thief to thief, assassin to assassin, and rogue to rogue for generations: "If your blades are happy, you're happy." You want your weapons to work for you, and not the other way around. You can't starve your blades, trying to forcefully adjust their diet to tolerate Morchok's rocky hide or Hagara's snow cones. If you want to keep your blades happy, you have to feed them what they really want: player blood, and lots of it.
Technically, as I write this, the Dragon Soul isn't actually dead yet, nor do raids really die so much as either become outdated or revamped. (Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman stand as examples of raid content that died to be reused, while Naxxramas was used again as an introductory raid.) But since we're closing in on our fourth month running the raid instance, I thought this was a good time to examine it critically. What were the Dragon Soul's main themes? How did it function both as a raid instance and as a platform to end Deathwing's story arc? And most importantly to me, did I enjoy the ride?
Dragon Soul as an experience was fascinatingly diverse compared to previous raids. It eschewed the static finding of some dark cave or towering fortress to instead create a raid wherein we traveled the world, with different environments for the bosses to suit the locations and set pieces for our transitions. One complaint I've seen is that by reusing the Dragonblight and Wyrmrest Temple, Blizzard's design team was cutting corners -- but frankly, I don't find that criticism very accurate. First off, Wyrmrest is where the dragonflights typically meet, as demonstrated by Malygos' assault during the Nexus War, so it makes perfect sense for it to be where Deathwing sends his full Twilight's Hammer forces to try and crush them.