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Posts with tag graphics

Why updated graphics matter

What you see above is the result of time marching on - in my draenei's right hand is Sulfuras, the Extinguished Hand, a drop from Firelands. In the left hand, Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros, the legendary drop from the original Molten Core. (Yes, I know technically it doesn't drop, the Eye drops, you craft a Sulfuron Hammer and then use the Eye on it, I've had the thing since MC I know how I got it.) What I'm showing you is essentially the orderly progression of time via graphic upgrades - you can essentially see the history of the game unfolding via the difference between these two weapons.

Everything from the spikes to the grip to the shape of the head, it's all more detailed and crisp on the newer model. The older model is a collection of polygonal shapes that bear only a vague resemblance to a hammer compared to the newer model, which is itself still not as good as models we have in the game now, never mind some of the Warlords drops we're about to see. The gap between these two hammers is the gap between 2004 and 2011, and here we are, three years later than that - and they show us how much a ten year old game can in fact change.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Transmogrification, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Nights may get darker

Night time comparison
Once upon a time, nightfall in Azeroth meant that things got truly dark--sometimes spookily so. For whatever reason, at some point Blizzard scaled back on the in-game lack of night lights, and brightened our nocturnal adventuring. Plenty of players have been clamoring for a good long while for a return to the dark and eerie Azerothian nights, and it seems as though their wishes may soon be coming true. In the following tweet, Lead Game Designer Cory Stockton indicates that some kind of darker night-time atmosphere is on its way potentially as soon as patch 6.0.
My personal hope is for some sort of toggle or slider in the graphics options, so individual players can choose how dark and foreboding they want their in-game landscapes to be. This has been a solution proposed by many, and I truly hope that's what's coming our way. Nonetheless, I'm eager to see whatever solution Blizzard has come up with.

Filed under: News items, Warlords of Draenor

World of Warcraft's evolving engine

World of Warcraft's evolving engine
Some people say that World of Warcraft's visuals are outdated. The game's graphics haven't been updated since launch, they say. In terms of some older art assets, I would agree, but the overall picture is a different story. The system requirements when WoW launched were a meager 800MHz CPU with 256MB RAM and a 32MB graphics card. Today, the bare minimum requirements are a dual core CPU with 2GB of RAM and a 256MB graphics card.

Mists of Pandaria requires an expensive computer to run smoothly at the highest possible graphic settings, and yet it will still run on hardware from 8 years ago. Do you know of many other games with a spread like that?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

Breakfast Topic: Bringing back the night

Stormwind at night
Have you ever thought it odd that when night falls in Azeroth, the stars appear, the sky darkens, but the landscape itself remains as bright as it was in broad daylight? Once upon a time, the nights in WoW looked something like the above screenshot. I can't pinpoint the source since it was so many years ago, but the original reasoning was it changed so people who could only play during the night wouldn't have to always play in the dark. The current official line is that it was purely an art decision.

There have been innumerable threads on the official forums pleading for the return of dark nights. Blizzard has been listening and in patch 5.4 they added a "test case" for darker nights, but only in Stormwind, Orgrimmar, and Vale of Eternal Blossoms. The difference is there, but you need to compare before and after screenshots to really notice it. It still doesn't scream "night has fallen."

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Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Breakfast Topic: What the biggest graphical eyesore in today's WoW?

Breakfast Topic What the biggest graphical eyesore in today's World of Warcraft
If you'd ever care to observe a WoW player heat up to a slow boil and finally explode in a spectacular, spittle-flecked rage over a minor technical issue, find someone whose favorite character model suffers clipping issues. Most long-term players have a character who can't wear or wield a much-loved item because it does something annoying -– clips through their back, chops off their hair, or disappears into the ground. This is a shoulder-shrugger of an issue to me, but for players who want their favorites to look their best, graphics clipping is utterly incensing.

After eight years, we've had ample time to grow weary of the ugliest graphical glitches that persist in the game. The old character models get cited for a variety of abuses. Night elf hands/mittens, anyone? Creepy. Sometimes, it's their expressions -– the terrifying rictus on a female night elf when she's "smiling." Just look at that screenshot up there. Definitely zombie material. And I know this isn't a superficial issue, because I swim. Ever looked up the skirt of a robe-wearing class while they're swimming? You can see their brains.

Blizzard's deft art direction and over-the-top, cartoon-ish fantasy aesthetic smooths over a multitude of aging and sins, but at some point, rough edges simply refuse to stay hidden. What do you find to be the most appalling graphical eyesore in today's WoW? Is it part of the older character models or landscapes and dungeon textures? Is there some aspect of WoW's graphics that shouts "old and tired" every time you see it?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

How we see the World of Warcraft

How we see the World of Warcraft
One of the things I'm leeriest of is the idea of a complete overhaul of World of Warcraft's aesthetic. I've talked about it in terms of character aesthetics, and in terms of the visual set that defines the warrior class and what it all boils down to for me is that when I log into the game, I want it to feel like it's the same game, the same world. This is not to say that the game hasn't seen plenty of upgrades to its visuals over the years, far from it. As Takralus pointed out recently in a forum thread asking if WoW will ever see a major graphical upgrade, the game has seen upgrades, at least one every time an expansion has come out in fact.

World of Warcraft is a game built out of all of these separate elements combined. It's got excellent sound design, both in music and in sound effects (although I can't watch a TV special on dinosaurs without recognizing a sound from World of Warcraft nowadays), which the graphics build on top of to create the world we experience. As such, I'm simultaneously interested in yet afraid of the long awaited character model redesign Takralus mentions. Yes, it's somewhat ridiculous that human wizards and warlocks, if male, have arms like coiled pythons, but by now I'm so accustomed to it I don't know if I could accept a more slender build for a spellcaster.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Breakfast Topic: Are WoW's graphics too cartoony?

Patrick Wyatt, former Blizzard developer and executive, recently wrote about how and why WoW's graphics look "candy-coated". He said that part of the reason was that many of the artists came from console games, and also that the team was made to work in very bright light.

There is of course more to it than that. In order to keep World of Warcraft's system requirements low from the start, the designers purposely created a simple yet beautiful style. It also really set the game apart from other MMOs at the time. It is a bit cartoony, though, as critics have said over time.

I used to play EverQuest during its cartoony days. I know my gnome looked like every other gnome, but she was my gnome and I loved her. Then The Shadows of Luclin landed and brought with it increased system requirements and a non-cartoony graphics "upgrade." Bye-bye, adorable gnome -- and bye-bye EQ for me.

Personally, I want WoW to keep its iconic look, but I agree with just about everyone else that it's time for an overall upgrade. Don't give me an attempt to look realistic. I want the developers to say, "Here is your beloved character, now with more polygons!" The pandaren still fall in line with WoW's original art style -- but the animations, the details! So wonderful.

Do you like the art style of World of Warcraft, or do you think that it should be less cartoony? Let's assume we all agree that the older races need graphics upgrades. Do you think they should drastically change? Do you want to keep the same look, just prettier? Or do you want a full overhaul with a more realistic slant?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Which matters more, graphics or gameplay?

Graphics have come a long way in the last 20 years. We've gone from simple white squares on a screen to photorealistic cutscenes and gameplay. We used to have monochrome backgrounds, and now we've got lush, textured environments. Most players come upon a game with an expectation of what level of graphical advancement they would like to see.

Likewise, gameplay has evolved in leaps and bounds. We no longer suffer extreme death penalties, and we can find random people to run dungeons and raids with by only clicking a couple of buttons. New gameplay ideas are being presented seemingly with each patch, and to a lot of success -- a simple gameplay hook can keep people coming back and playing a game for months, even years.

But are the two mutually exclusive, and have they become so?

Obviously, in an MMO, no one wants to run around an ugly world populated by trees that look like pipe cleaners, but is it a deal breaker? Would you rather play a fun, fulfilling game that looks a bit dated or play the most gorgeous, graphically stunning MMO that may lack good mechanics or an involving story?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Gearing up for WoW with an NVIDIA video card

Whenever you are building or upgrading a gaming computer, one of the first things you think about is the graphics card that is going to be the driving force behind your sweet new rig. As games push the boundaries of graphics, the need for better, bigger, and faster graphics cards has increased. This is based on the idea that the better your graphics are, the better your performance as a gamer will be. Being able to see your opponents before they see you can mark victory over defeat.

Competitive World of Warcraft players are always looking for an edge, whether it is being able to get the drop on your opponents in battleground and arenas, or being able to see that boss ability or spell effect clearly in order to topple that encounter. With each expansion of WoW, the graphics of the game have gotten more robust, more complex and more stunning. Cataclysm brings a brand new graphic engine from the developers at Blizzard that has the ability to produce some truly amazing visuals. The brand new water and light effect that's adding so much depth to the world and all the new models and spell effects being added into the game make for quite the visual feast. Those views come at a cost, though, and many players have started replacing older graphics cards for newer updated models.

Is it really worth it to make sure you have a good graphics card? Does it really make that much of a difference? That's what we're going to talk about today. NVIDIA has been gracious enough to supply us with not one but four graphics cards to compare for you here today, and we would like to take a moment to thank them. We will be looking at the NVIDIA Geforce GTS 450, the Geforce GTX 460, the Geforce GTX 470, and the Geforce GTX 580. These cards were produced by Gigabyte, MSI, Palit, and PNY.

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Guest Post: What will be Patch 4.0.1's legacy?

This article has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

As the dust begins to settle in the wake of the great patch-aclysm of 2010, it's time to look back with a little perspective and see exactly what we've been left with. The most immediately visible effects revolve around the drastic changes to many of our favorite classes, but frankly, a bit too much hubbub has been made over these already. The WoW community is -- to put it delicately -- a rather passionate bunch, so we tend to react strongly to the need to relearn our classes. Realistically, though, it's just a matter of figuring out which playstyles suit us the most, adapting to them and hoping we don't lose any friends and guildies as casualties of evolution.

Damage numbers are also relatively meaningless at this stage in the game. While we're sure to see some frustratingly unviable specs in Cataclysm like we have in the past (*cough* PvE subtlety), for the most part, the developers can tweak code through patches and hotfixes to ensure that we all eventually see appropriately-sized numbers flashing before our eyes.

Since the order of buttons we press to succeed is in a constant state of flux anyway, we'll eventually forget that X skill or Y talent even existed. But some things will stick with us longer. I believe Patch 4.0.1's legacy depends more on permanent game changes that we'll one day take for granted.

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Filed under: Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: A few of your favorite things

This article has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to

Every once in a while, Blizzard truly raises the bar in designing a raid. My personal favorite is Ulduar from patch 3.1. The boss encounters required strategy, while still remaining unique, and the graphics in the zone are some of the coolest things in the game. However, one of the only things that a character can permanently keep from a raid is the loot.The legendary mace Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings and the Starshard Edge off Algalon the Observer are by far some of the coolest item graphics I've seen in this expansion.

Even in Icecrown Citadel, few items can measure up to the epicness of these stellar designs. After all, one can only see so many bone-spiked maces before they begin to get old. While a few items like Bryntroll the Bone Arbiter are pretty exciting and unique, Blizzard didn't even create new item models for the climactic boss in the Lich King: only two of the 28 weapons (excluding heroic versions) that the final boss drops are unique, and one of those is repeated between 10- and 25-man. In my opinion, Blizzard could have taken a few more days to design some really exciting and unique weapon designs before releasing the Lich King. While I'm no hardcore raider, I would really love to sit in Dalaran exhibiting a one-of-a-kind weapon from the hardest boss in the expansion, just as the Ulduar raiders could back in 3.1.

What do you think? Is there an item that sets the bar in graphic design? Do you think Blizzard should spend more time on item graphics so there aren't as many repeats for end-game encounters, or does a simple recoloring make the item cool enough for you?

Have you ever wanted to write for Your chance may be right around the corner. Watch for our next call for submissions for articles via Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to The next byline you see here may be yours!

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: Is it time to update WoW character models yet?

Ok, I'm going to come right out and admit it: I'm thinking of cheating on WoW. No, I don't mean like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, I mean seriously playing another MMO and sticking with it. I'm talking in specific, of Lego Universe, the upcoming title from NetDevil. I've been a Lego Maniac from a pretty young age. One of the best days of my childhood was the day my parents bought a massive bin of Legos from a garage sale. I created my own massive Lego castle village. My birthday and Christmas wish lists invariably consisted of Lego sets. Even to this day I sometimes think I should have pursued a master builder career. So the chance to do this all again in an MMORPG? You know I'll leap at it.

Of course, other MMOs are usually the purvey of our sister blog, Massively, but in this case, something caught our eye in a recent report on the making of Lego Universe by the Denver Westword News: The article claims that the number of 3-dimensional surfaces on a single 16-stud Lego Universe brick is twice as many as found on your average World of Warcraft character.

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Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Potential character model revisions in Cataclysm

WoW's fifth anniversary and the interviews surrounding it have ended up providing us with some previously-unknown tidbits of information -- which is a good thing, especially when it comes to stuff we've been wanting to hear about for a long time.

This particular tidbit comes from the Warcry network interview with J. Allen Brack and Samwise Didier about the game's anniversary, and it's about a subject near and dear to our constantly-complaining hearts: new character models. They might even be coming in Cataclysm.

Says Brack:
"Even though things would be better with new (character) models, we'd probably spark a lot of player outrage. So we've talked about giving players a choice between the classic models or the new ones, but it might not be something we want to take on at the same time as we remake Azeroth."
That's pretty big news.

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Filed under: News items, Expansions, Interviews, Cataclysm

Creators of Epic Advice working on Epic Plan encounter planner

Now this is interesting. Our old friend Jesta, who made the site not so long ago, is working on a new project at, 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

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

Turning off the fog effect

Here's a neat tip from Amiyuy of the WoW Ladies Livejournal group. Personally, I don't mind the "fog" effect that sometimes pops up in game -- I experienced it most recently while doing OS the other day, though it pops up on the haunted Borean Tundra coast and a few other places ingame as well. But a few people don't get along with it too well; like the drunken blur effect, it can be somewhat overwhelming for those with a weak stomach.

Fortunately, there's a way to turn both of those off -- you just have to dive into the file in your World of Warcraft installation's WTF folder (open it up with Notepad on Windows or TextEdit on Mac, though be careful in there, and save a copy before you do it: if you accidentally edit anything else, it could cause problems on your game), add SET ffx "0" to the end of the file, save and close it, and then you shouldn't see that fog effect any more.

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Filed under: Tips, How-tos, Odds and ends, Hardware

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