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Potentials and pitfalls of Warlords of Draenor's proposed gearing system

Pally tank bracers
Not long ago Blizzard posted a long and detailed post about the gearing system that they are planning on implementing in Warlords of Draenor. Many aspects of it represent significant departures from what we're currently familiar with, particularly the ability of primary stats to morph with class and spec, the removal of spirit from all but non-armor pieces, and the addition of the randomized tertiary stat system (along with chances for sockets and a higher ilevel). As a result, there has been a lot of discussion, speculation, and debate about how the new system will work, and ways in which it may or may not be an improvement over the status quo.

I personally am excited for the new gearing system, and I'm eager to see how it will work out. I think there's a great deal of potential in it. While we can probably envision endless possibilities as to how the new system will affect gameplay, two major aspects of the change jump out at me in particular:
  • It's extremely friendly to hybrids
  • It's extremely unfriendly to min-max optimization
The latter refers to the fact that whether the gear has a socket, a tertiary stat, or a higher ilevel is determined by chance and there is no guarantee that a given piece of gear will have any of those things. I think there are both good and bad sides to be had here, so let's look at them in a bit more depth.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Warlords of Draenor

Yes, we need no new classes

classes
In The Queue the other day, an intrepid reader asked about opinions on a new type of mail-wearing class. I can see the appeal of certain types of new classes, for sure -- one to wear mail armor, as suggested, or another one to wear intellect plate -- but to be perfectly honest, I really, truly hope that we are forever done with seeing new classes added to WoW.

I've talked about this with a few other people, and as expected, opinions are mixed. Some people are horrified at the idea of never having a new class again in WoW, and other people, like myself, are relieved. I really, truly do believe that adding more classes to WoW would only create headaches for everyone, developers and players alike. I'd much rather see the required resources in design, development, and maintenance go to other aspects of the game such as dungeons, raids, scenarios, quests, and events, than to creating and continuously balancing still more classes. So, without further ado, I present three arguments as to why there should be no more new classes in WoW.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Do we need another Wintergrasp or Tol Barad?

Do we need another Wintergrasp or Tol Barad
Mists of Pandaria is like playing in a field of daffodils while drinking from a mug of stout. Very little to complain about, if you don't mind the eternal dailies. But even with the household chore of doing your dailies, there's one element I still miss from previous expansions: Wintergrasp. (Or Tol Barad, if you prefer).

While Wintergrasp and Tol Barad both had their design challenges, always revolving around that unpredictable critter called human behavior, these World PvP Zones provided dynamics to the game you can't reproduce with queued BGs.

It was a place to play with your server mates, matching your own PvP skills against other folks from your server. While you might run across a familiar face in the regular BGs, Wintergrasp and Tol Barad were the best places to get your home server action happening. These days, Alliance vs. Horde guild rivalries feel a little silly. You don't see each other to have a real feud, unless you're on a PvP server.

The fight timing of the zones lent itself to "WoW breaks." Busy cleaning the house, studying for a test, and otherwise being a productive member of society? Well, trotting off to Wintergrasp or TB when it was up provided a nice, occasional timed break. That probably seems like a minor thing, since you could just do the same as with a BG, but the game's enforced timing gave that work-break-work habit a more natural feel. And the Pomodoro Technique of productivity is effective for a reason. This was the Wintergrasp Technique.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

"Crash Bandicoot" creator comments on Cataclysm's problems and the evolution of WoW

'Crash Bandicoot' creator comments on Cataclysm's problems and the evolution of WoW
I didn't see this until recently, but I'm really glad I did. Andy Gavin, the co-creator of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, ran a series between the end of November and mid-January examining WoW, its four expansions, and how each of them succeeded or failed through both personal and professional eyes. His particular focus is the endgame in each and how it worked to attract and retain players -- or, in some cases, didn't.

While there's certainly been no shortage of player commentary on how WoW's developed, Gavin's experience as a game developer who's not involved with Blizzard is a pretty unique perspective. I found his article on Cataclysm to be particularly adept at putting into words a lot of things I felt but had difficulty articulating. Most of the expansion's developmental time had to go into a revamped leveling process that few people saw unless they wanted to level a new alt. The content at 85 that greeted more casual players got bottlenecked in a series of difficult heroics that frustrated players dropped constantly.

Personally, I still consider Cataclysm to have been a necessary expansion -- it did a lot of stuff that Blizzard had to do for the game even if it wasn't as eye-catching as what BC and Wrath did -- but I think Gavin's assessment is accurate and measured. (And many of Blizzard's own observations aren't all that different.) Funnily enough, with lots of people leveling new monks in Mists of Pandaria, more people might be seeing Cataclysm content now than they did during the expansion that was actually dedicated to it.

I've linked Gavin's full series here. While it's long, it's an incredibly interesting and detailed read:

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Once a tank, always a tank

Once a tank, always a tank
It could be called the first rule of the tank club: once you join the tank club, you never leave. You learn a mindset, a way of doing things, a way of looking at things and evaluating the situation that never changes. After you've become a successful tank you never stop thinking about aggro and mob positioning, about pulling strategies and mob group comp, about healer strengths and cooldown timing. It's there engrained in your brain, and there's nothing you can do to get it out.

Yes, I'm waxing poetic about tanking today -- and I'm going to be for a while (strong emphasis of on the wh there, just for your pleasure). My Warlock is dead and regulated to the bane of althood, and my tank I played from Classic through Wrath is back alive and well.

WoW has come full circle for me, and while some may look and see my return to the very first character I rolled back in 2004 as the rejection of the game and an attempt to return to the past's glories, I dismiss that view outright. For me, my return to tanking is nothing less than the return to the beginning, and the start of something great.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Is comparing your game to World of Warcraft really such a good idea?

Look, it should come as no surprise that World of Warcraft is king of the hill, head of the list, cream of the crop, at the top of the heap when it comes to MMOs. Whatever Blizzard did, it did it at exactly the right time with the right team and the right IP; it was a perfect storm of something. And it did other game developers a favor in that it's now possible for an MMO to do respectable business, even if the numbers don't quite approach WoW's 12 million concurrent subscribers.

Naturally, though, there are studios that aren't content with having their own subscribers. They want WoW's, too. And that's a pretty tall order. To that end, they reference WoW in their ad campaigns. But what good does name-dropping the world's most popular MMO in your ad campaign even do? Let's take a look.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Trial account restrictions and the 30 percent problem

A few days ago, we posted on a very interesting statistic: Only 30% of all WoW trial accounts make it past level 10. On some level, it's been assumed that this number explains why Blizzard's taking such care to smooth out the beginning game a bit, to make it easier and more fun to stick with the game past level 10 or so. In a large way, this makes sense. But there may be other reasons beyond game play in play as well.

If you're picking up a trial account, chances are that you heard about it from a friend or a blog or a news report. But chances are, you were shown or described a massively armored warrior engaged in fierce hand to hand combat on the back of a dragon flying through the air, or a finely robed mage flinging a fireball at the face of the lord of all magic, or something similarly epic. With that in mind, it might justifably get discouraging to show up in game to find yourself dressed in rags, wielding a toothpick, and being sent to collect wolf pelts that inexplicably only drop off about half the wolves you kill.

With that in mind, it's easy to see how a trial account user could get bored pretty fast. But for me, there's one other angle that very few people seem to be bringing up: The social angle.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

How Blizzard mishandled the BlizzCon ticket situation

As you may or may not know, we here at WoW Insider are not an official Blizzard fansite. There are a few different reasons for that, but one of them is that within the Fansite Program Code of Conduct, there is a clause that states, "fansites should present content that is supportive of World of Warcraft and Blizzard Entertainment." We don't disagree with that clause -- fansites are run by fans, and they should support Blizzard. But our status as an unofficial site leaves us completely free to talk indepth about situations where Blizzard has messed up big time. And as many players already know, the BlizzCon ticket sales process that took place earlier this week is definitely one of those situations.

Blizzard is, of course, a game company. No one expects them to put on events like WWI and BlizzCon -- they do so to serve the community that's grown up around their games (and, let's be fair, market and advertise their products to the core of their fanbase). And the community loves those events, both hearing about and attending them. Which is why it was a surprise to no one (except maybe Blizzard themselves) that when the ticket sales kicked off Monday morning, it was a nightmare -- the site was hammered by fans trying desperately to buy tickets, the Failoc was a familiar sight, and within a few hours, even Blizzard.com's main site was down.

Everyone could have predicted that there'd be problems like that -- when a fanbase of 11 million tries to buy 12,000 tickets, of course you're going to have technical problems. But Blizzard's mishandling of the situation didn't happen on Monday morning -- anyone can suffer from server outages. It happened over the next two days, days full of frustration, endless page refreshing, and a lack of useful communication from Blizzard about just what was happening.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, WoW Insider Business, Blizzard, News items, Guides, BlizzCon

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