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Mists of Pandaria news coming in March with press sneak peek

Blizzard has announced that some information is coming about the highly anticipated Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's fourth expansion -- well, information with regards to when there will be information about Mists of Pandaria. In the middle of March, Blizzard will hold a special press event for members of the media to see what kind of progress has been made, in showable form, since BlizzCon 2011's impressively far-along demo.

As Nethaera posted, information is coming, and we now have a date. This feels like Blizzard's taking a page from the Apple book. Pressers and hype events like these work incredibly well for a company like Blizzard that is very much an Apple of its industry. By calling its own press conferences, conventions, and press trips rather than announcing information amongst the rest of the gaming industry at conventions like PAX, the message is much more focused and clear -- the cacophony is removed. I'm excited to know when new information will be available. Of course, I'd rather have the information, but a day to hope for is better than nothing. It's gonna get busy in March.

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Filed under: Blizzard, Monk, Mists of Pandaria

A new blogger survey, this time for DPS

Last weekend we spotlighted the big healer survey that went around the blogosphere a little while back -- it was chock full of information straight from healers about their classes and abilities and what they thought of them. Now, Death Goddess is aiming to do the same thing for DPS classes. She's only got a few blogs who've answered so far, but they run a good range, from hunter to warlock to mage, and maybe getting the word out like this will encourage a few more DPS-style bloggers to put their answers in the pot.

As long as we're going to keep encouraging this meme (or non-meme, as they may be saying), I'd love to see some of this stuff quantified a little bit more. It'd be interesting to put into numbers which kinds of classes like their roles best, or which situations each role likes to play more (do healers prefer raiding over 5-mans, or do DPS prefer to play solo rather than PvP?). The healer survey was a treasure trove of raw anecdotal information, but it'd be good to see this put into a spreadsheet or graph, and maybe give us a more quantified look at what people think of their class. We'll keep an eye on the DPS data and maybe try hashing it out once the list of those surveyed becomes pretty substantial.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Raiding, Classes

The ins and outs of chatlinks

I know -- most of you will hear the word "chatlinks" and think of horrible times in Trade channel where people are spamming the names of abilities and items in different ways, from nonsense to offensive. But chatlinking is a skill that isn't talked about much, and there definitely are place where it's useful (telling guild members about an item that might help them, or linking an enchant to show what mats it needs). So, encouraged by this thread over on Epic Advice, let's run through a few of the ways you can put links to items in the chat channel.

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Filed under: Enchanting, Items, Tips, Tricks, How-tos, Fan stuff, Blizzard, Guides

Nvidia offering up a chance to go to BlizzCon

The chances to head off to BlizzCon are coming fast nowadays -- Nvidia is the latest company in on the race, as they're offering up an all expenses paid trip to Anaheim in August for the winner and a guest to experience Blizzard's big show. To enter, they say you have to buy a qualifying Nvidia card, and then use the promo code inside the package to enter. Which might make you think, as we did, that it's a pretty lousy deal -- you have to buy a new graphics card just for a chance to win? But their official rules say "no purchase necessary," So we did the work for you: if you want to enter without buying a card, you have to send a letter or postcard to "NVIDIA "BlizzCon 2009" Sweepstakes – Entries by Mail (USA & Canada), NVIDIA Corporation, 2701 San Tomas Expressway, Santa Clara, CA 95050, U.S.A," and include your full name, your email address, mailing addresses, your telephone number, and "a short paragraph (100 to 250 words), written or typed in English, stating why you like or have an interest in the 'World of Warcraft' game or Nvidia or its products."

Not exactly a lot of fun, but then again, it's cheaper than buying a new graphics card, and their rules say that mail-in entries have the same chance at winning that the coupon codes do. We're behind you, readers -- we hope you win.

And if you do make it to BlizzCon, keep an eye out for WoW.com -- we're gonna have a nice big shindig on Thursday night (location still TBA, but soon!), and we'd love for you to be there.

Filed under: Tips, Contests, BlizzCon

Exporting guild calendars from the Armory

Reader Bob sent us a neat little tool a while back that will help you get your guild's calendar off of The Armory and on to another calendar program, like Google Calendar or iCal. This little script he built (which unfortunately will probably get beat up as soon as this post goes live, so give it a break if it's down) will give you a link for your guild's calendar, which you can then take over to Google Calendar (in the Other Calendars box, click Add, and then "Add by URL") or any other calendar service that accepts ICS data by URL, and put all of your guild's raids and events right into the calendar app that you actually use every day.

However, there are a few hitches. Because the information you need lies on the Armory, you'll have to enter a Battle.net password into your calendar app to access that (which as Bob says, should be fine, but if you don't trust it, don't do it). Also, Blizzard is apparently not that happy with people accessing this data on the Armory either -- they've removed links to scripts like this off of the forums before. It's probably not a bannable offense (they probably just don't want tons of calendar queries into the Armory's servers), but if you try to connect this stuff together, you'll do it at your own risk.

Still, it's a shame Blizzard isn't more open with this guild data -- it would be extremely useful to easily export guild information out to an .ICS file or even an RSS feed (for bank and join/quit info). We're not sure what all of their concerns are, but given that the info is already updated on the Armory, there has to be a way to more easily get it out of there and into more places where we can use it.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Tips, Guilds, Odds and ends, Blizzard

QuickArmory offers localization, boss tallying

Our friends over at QuickArmory, which is a site with a whole slew of extras for parsing and checking out Armory information, have sent along a list of updates to what they've done lately. The site itself is still pretty barebones (it focuses on getting information together fast rather than flashy graphics or layouts), but they've added new details to what you can see on a character view. In addition to the usual achievements, you can mouse over the title of each instance, and it will tell you how many times the character has killed each boss that's tracked in the game.

And they've also added localization support -- next to the box where you put the character's name in, you can choose to see the site in English, German, French, Spanish, or Russian. Some of the achievements, we're told, aren't fully translated, but that's quite a feature on an "Armory lite" site.

QuickArmory isn't necessarily the most robust Armory site out there, but it's still really good at getting you lots of information on one character quickly. If you do a lot of Armory searching for PuGs or just like learning about the various characters on your server, it's definitely worth a bookmark.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Raiding, Bosses, Wrath of the Lich King, Achievements

3D Armory offers a round of new improvements

We linked to 3D Armory a little while ago, and as Eliah says, it does what it says it'll do: provides a picture of your character as they are in the Armory in 3D. The site's founder recently emailed us about a few improvements, and as you can see over there, there's lots of new additions. All the different regions are now reachable, and while there was an issue with special characters in the realm name, it's been fixed, so you can get any character that's online into the 3D viewer. They've added character customization, so you can make sure that the model in the picture matches your model in game. Screenshots can now be taken, and even uploaded to Facebook through their Facebook app.

And there are some inter-character features as well: you can now comment on character profiles, which might be a good or a bad thing -- you could mark a good player or maybe label a ninja (though we're not sure what kind of moderation there is for that. And finally they've created something called the PuGchecker, which lets you quickly and easily enter character names and see what raid achievements those characters have earned (so if someone says they've been to OS before, you can make sure it's true). And they've even got an ingame macro you can use to run the script from directly in the game.

The rate of development over there is pretty impressive, and the site has definitely grown into much more than just your average Armory substitute. At some point you wonder just how many of the features are necessary (if you ever want to see your character in 3D, you can pretty much just log into the game), but they're definitely getting creative.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Add-Ons, Screenshots, Alts

Computerworld on Blizzard's Warden at work

We've covered the topic of Warden in the past, and you've probably already got an opinion on what it does to your computer system. Blizzard runs the Warden program alongside your WoW client, and while it runs it examines what else is running on your system -- if there are any third party programs (either hacks or cheat programs) interfering with the client, it lets Blizzard know, and shuts down the client. The obvious privacy concern here, of course, is that Warden is basically watching what you do outside of the game. And while Blizzard has maintained that the program is simply meant to check for hacks and cheats (they also say that no personally identifiable information is sent back to them, though IPs and other network information definitely are), there's always a chance that Warden could see you doing something you don't want it to.

Computerworld's Security section has a nice long article on all of the implications of Warden, especially in one of the more sensitive areas of security: the workplace. While most of us probably won't ever play World of Warcraft at work, there are certainly companies where installing and playing the game at certain times is appropriate. And it's probably in those situations where Warden could be its most dangerous. If you trust Blizzard with your information, then you'll have nothing to worry about. But if you don't know what Warden is sending back, there's always a chance that it could be something more sensitive than you'd like.

Of course, there is a hard and fast solution to this: don't play World of Warcraft on computers that have anything you wouldn't want shared with Blizzard or anyone else. As Computerworld concludes, it's a choice-and-consequences kind of thing. Warden is up and running every time you play WoW, for better or worse -- if you don't want it watching what you're doing, the only guaranteed way out is to not play World of Warcraft.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Cheats, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Account Security

Hearthstone also displays your characters on Facebook


Last week, when we reported on the Facebook I Play WoW app reaching a full 100,000 users, a lot of commenters mentioned another app over there, Hearthstone, that's got a good reputation from the people who use it. I checked it out, and indeed, it's an excellent alternative (or addition -- there's nothing keeping you from using both) to let you show your WoW characters off on Facebook.

Just like I Play WoW, Hearthstone pulls your character information directly from the Armory, and displays it in a number of ways around Facebook, including, if you so choose, on your profile pages or on your wall. A few of our commenters said they liked Hearthstone's display better, but I didn't see any major differences there -- they both display your character, class, level, and server, and both will click through to pages where you can see more stats and discuss the character with others. Hearthstone will also let you change your character's image to a custom choice and enter a bio, though I Play WoW has some customization options as well. Hearthstone has an "equipment history," so even if you shard those epics you can still brag about having them. And finally,Hearthstone will let you play with the characters right on Facebook, and you can /salute or /duel the characters of your friends.

Overall, they're both worth checking out if you want to show off some of your World of Warcraft progress on Facebook. Obviously, I Play WoW is bigger, but as our commenters pointed out, Hearthstone has some excellent features as well.

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

Path of a Hero keeps walking forward

Reader Aaron V., creator of the Path of a Hero site that we linked to a while back, sent us an email to say that the site is better than ever. It's jumped up to 3700 users (probably more since he told us that), all the EU realms are now supported, and there are many more social updates built into the interface. Not only can you search the entire database with a new Ubersearch, but users can now comment on journal entries and even send messages to each other. Aaron tells us that stability is better than ever, and he says he's been getting a lot of good feedback, too -- people have been telling him that they wish the site had been around since they were level 1.

Cool to see that it's working so well. The site lets you upload screenshots of your character, and then pulls Armory data (including gems, enchants, and set item bonuses) out into the page as well. We'll have to see, too, if Aaron is able to implement the new Achievement and stat info -- maybe you'll be able to chart your character's gold or achievements over time.

Finally, Aaron says that he is working on support for alts and thinking about setting up "path of a guild"-type features, so you can track not only a character's progress, but a guild's progress as well. Definitely a cool idea to look back at where you were in the game, and see all of the things you've earned and achieved so far.

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Guilds, Odds and ends, Leveling, Alts

The supercomputers behind World of Warcraft

The New York Times has an intriguing story up about supercomputers around the world, and, as we've heard before, some of the most powerful computers ever created are being used... to run World of Warcraft. The9, which is the company that Blizzard has licensed the game to in Asia, runs more than 10 supercomputer systems, hosting at least a million players online at a time. Some of the other tasks listed for these supercomputers include flight simulations and animation rendering -- the same type of computer that designed the wing of the plane you're flying in might have calculated just how much gold you should have after repairs.

I have a personal note to add to this one, too, though I have to be fairly vague.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Expansions

WoW-Achievements.com starts tracking achievements as best they can

You knew this was coming, but I'm impressed with how it's done over on WoW-Achievements.com. With points to track and players to compare, it was inevitable that we'd have a site show up to track achievements, and here it is. While the Armory itself doesn't show individual achievements (yet), they've apparently come up with a way to figure out a number per player, and there's a worldwide player list (or at least a list of the 53, 901 characters they surveyed somehow). You can also post a pic of your achievement info, and they'll update it on the site. There's no way to see your individual stats yet, but if and when Blizzard adds that functionality to the Armory, we'll probably see a couple of sites show up like this, that allow you to do more with achievements and tracking them than the official UI does.

Of course, the Xbox 360 is the gold standard for achievements at this point -- while other MMOs and WoW have used the mechanic in their own way, Microsoft has built achievements into Xbox 360 profiles available online to anyone, so that's where most of the great web tools are right now. But the one that stands out for me, that I'd love to see replicated in World of Warcraft, is 360voice.com -- it basically creates a blog of what you've been up to on the Xbox that presents your activity in a readable, fun format. With Achievements build into the Armory, something like that could be easily used to power a timeline of your character, and let your friends see from day to day where you've been and what you've done. Lots of very cool ideas to develop here -- hopefully Blizzard will release Achievement info in an API sooner rather than later.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Expansions, Achievements

Blizzard reveals new Battle.net features

DIII.net has a great writeup of everything Blizzard has said so far about the new Battle.net features, and while most of the information applies more to Diablo III and Starcraft II, there's some good tidbits in there for WoW fans as well. Battle.net is Blizzard's oldest online service -- it predates WoW by a few years and was notably used to play Warcraft 3, Diablo 2 and Starcraft online. It's making a return with a revamp for the release of Starcraft II, and in addition to the previously mentioned ability Battle.net will give playes to track achievements across all Blizzard games, the system will have a much more social feel than the previous incarnation of the service.

Player accounts, avatars, icons, and friend lists are all planned, and odds are that services like the Armory and even the WoW sign in may be tied to your Battle.net account in some way. Tournaments and rankings will be included (though it remains to be seen how this might be implemented in World of Warcraft), and Battle.net will even offer players the ability to save and share replays of Starcraft II games, and other e-sport-like features.

That last feature would be a perfect fit for WoW's Arenas, of course, but as much as players would like to be able to spectate Arena matches, odds are that there would have to be a lot of behind-the-scenes coding done on Blizzard's side. Starcraft is being built from the ground up to record matches, of course, but WoW's Arena system doesn't have that ability built in, and putting it in might be more work than Blizzard wants to do on that one area of the game. No word yet on when we might get the new Battle.net (odds are it'll come out right around the Starcraft II release, whenever that is), but from the look of it, Blizzard has big plans to expand the social networks they've built into World of Warcraft towards all of their properties.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Wrath of the Lich King, Account Security

Breakfast topic: Wrath info poll

Most of the news coming up from Blizzard has focused on Wrath of the Lich King. We've been working to cover the most up-to-date information on the expansion while staying on top of current events in the existing game. I am excited for Wrath, but I'm taking my time to enjoy the now until it comes out. There are still plenty of interesting non-Wrath-related things going on.

It can be a tough balance between sharing new mechanics and presenting spoilers. We've added features to the site like Ask a Beta Tester and Lichborne, which can be readily ignored if you're not up for spoilers. We've had some requests to slow down on the Wrath news, but many many more to keep it up. How much information do you want before the xpac is released? Take our little poll and let us know where you stand.

I want to know:
The release date, nothing more3442 (47.6%)
All about the Death Knight class341 (4.7%)
Map out the zones but leave some surprises526 (7.3%)
Absolutely everything, spill it already2431 (33.6%)
Doesn't matter, I'm in the beta226 (3.1%)
Not much, Wrath of the Lich King doesn't thrill me267 (3.7%)

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Breakfast Topics, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King

Warcraft Characters for the iPhone

Finally, we've got a WoW app for the iPhone, but it's not quite what we'd expected. Apparently tired of waiting for Blizzard to release an official app, Rudi has taken things into his own hands and released Characters for the iPhone, a slim little app that lets you pull up your characters (or anyone elses), and browse through their Armory stats.

I installed the app (it's free), and took a look at it -- unfortunately it's not very robust, as there's no way to see gear (unlike Omen of Clarity's iArmory web app), but it does run great and look shiny. Upon running the app, you can just punch in your character's info (or anyone else's -- all you need is a name and realm), and it'll get added to your list. Choosing one sends you to screens where you can see information about professions and talents, ability stats, or combat stats.

And that's pretty much it -- more is planned, including reputation, talents, and items panes. EU and China support should be up in a few days (right now, it only works on US characters, and of course it depends on the Armory being up to update). Very nice for a first try, but we still can't wait until we see something a little more in-depth, or, dare we ask whoever's working in Blizzard's mobile division, even official.

Note: This writeup is current as of version 1.0. Later versions of the app will likely include added functionality.



Update: Good news from OOC: he and Rudi are planning to work together on the Characters app, which means it should soon have all the functionality of the iArmory web application, and then some. Saved characters? Character compare? Guild progression and be.imba integration? Yes please!

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Factions, Classes, Talents, Galleries

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