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The evolving design of reputation

The evolving design of reputation
I'm not going to pretend that I like the process of gaining reputation in World of Warcraft, because I don't, and I never have. I remember grinding Brood of Nozdormu reputation back in vanilla for a ring that I still have in the bank. I remember gathering Scourgestones so that I could get to exalted Argent Dawn (I also still have my Seal of the Dawn), and murdering bears in Winterspring to get enchants off of other bears. As an insanely old bearded madman it is fair to say that I have dragged my ancient, grumbling carcass from expansion to expansion, finding various ways to get various groups to like me (often via the application of murdering pixels or collecting pixels off of murdered pixels) and I have always come to loathe the groups I've gained rep with along the way.

In fact, I'd go so far to call it an axiom. The more a certain group comes to like me, the more I'd willingly feed them all to a wood chipper if only that were an option. (Yes, Klaxxi, I'm looking right at you here.) That being said, it would be unfair and untrue to pretend that faction-based reputation hasn't undergone several design permutations over the years.

During Burning Crusade, for instance, there were specific dungeons that rewarded reputation with specific factions. I ran Shadow Labyrinth for Lower City reputation until my eyes quit in protest and moved to Paraguay. One of the ways that design began to change was with the Isle of Quel'Danas, which itself built upon the foundation laid by the Ogri'la and Sha'tari Skyguard factions.

These were faction grinds that allowed for the progressive unlocking of quests designed to be repeated daily, and these three faction grinds laid the basis for what we have today in Mists of Pandaria. And I'm starting to wonder if the reason I so dislike the Mists approach to reputation, with its copious daily questing, is not because of anything wrong with that system but rather because I'm incredibly spoiled.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

Leet Noobs: An ethnographic view of WoW raiding from researcher Mark Chen

Leet Noobs An ethnographic view of WoW raiding from gamerturnedacademic Mark Chen
It's always a bit bewildering to see World of Warcraft mentioned outside of our tight-knit gaming community. Even reading Lisa's interview with Bonnie Nardi, author of My Life as a Night Elf Priest, gave me a sense of awe and a realization of just how big the game truly was, not only to those of us who play it but to those who don't even know what an orc is.

As such, when Mark Chen, a self-professed gaming researcher with a Ph.D. in educational technology and learning sciences, contacted me about his new dissertation-turned-book Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft, I couldn't turn down an opportunity to dive into it.

As the title of the book suggests, Chen chronicles his experience raiding Molten Core with his inter-guild group back in vanilla WoW, examining relationships between the group's members and the different guilds themselves and noting the different ways the raid group operated as a thinking, breathing entity that overcame difficulties, both game-related and socially-induced. Chen relates one of the larger concepts discussed in the book, actor-network theory, to a functioning raid group, detailing how each participant, or actor, assumes a role within the larger group, forming a network of responsibility and interdependence. He even goes so far as incorporating non-human actors such as KTM, the first successful threat meter in WoW, into this network.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Review: SteelSeries Diablo 3 headset shines

Review Steelseries Diablo III headset shines ANY
There is a lot to like about SteelSeries' Diablo III headset, giving players a solidly built peripheral that sit snugly on the ears and provide strong sound. I'm the kind of gamer who never wants to take off his headset because of the activity going on around me -- it's one of the only ways to get any semblance of peace and quiet. In addition, voice chat and Mumble have become hangout tools rather than just gaming features, making a good, durable microphone that much more important.

This isn't the first time I've tried out this particular offering from SteelSeries. When I went to BlizzCon 2011 and stopped by the SteelSeries booth, the representatives wanted me to try it on immediately. Something about ear cups and weight displacement, I don't know. There was a lot going on. To be honest, the biggest factor in choosing a headset for me is whether or not I can wear the thing for, like, eight hours straight. So, that's what I did. For you.

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Filed under: Hardware, Diablo 3

Steelseries Diablo III mouse is built for intense clicking

When I think about Diablo and peripherals, two immediate concerns spring to mind. The first is how well the peripheral stands up to being thrown across the room at high velocity because of an unending string of deaths on Inferno mode in said Diablo game. The second concern is how well the peripheral withstands the immense amount of mouse clicking and movement required of me by the genre. While the first concern is not something that I'm willing to test (mostly because it would come out of my own dime), the second concern has an almost poetic answer.

The Steelseries Diablo III mouse is simple joy. Not only does it feel light and glide smoothly across my gaming mat, but the simple design doesn't overwhelm me with button choices that pull me out of my element. Make no mistake, the Diablo III mouse is not an MMO mouse. You are not getting Naga-level button matrices here, but you are getting a solid, simple, and almost infinitely clickable mouse for rough gameplay.

Here are the specs:
  • 7 programmable buttons
  • Drag-and-drop software to map buttons with unique Diablo III interface
  • 10 million clicks per switch -- this mouse is built for clicking
  • USB, Mac or PC
  • Ambidextrous design for lefties or righties
  • Licensed Diablo III product with Diablo III lighting and graphics

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Hardware

Reviewing the SteelSeries WoW MMO Legendary edition gaming mouse

SteelSeries makes some cool WoW-inspired gaming peripherals, and the World of Warcraft MMO gaming mouse is no exception. The newest iteration in the lineup is the Legendary Edition, a brand new design that takes what worked from the previous versions of the MMO gaming mouse and iterates on core concepts, resulting in an overall sturdier build and better product. The new mouse fits more comfortably in my hand than the old MMO gaming mouse did as well as provides two new thumb buttons that I didn't anticipate liking as much as I did.

As usual, I tested out each peripheral for review for no less than a week of actual WoW gameplay and learning, trying out the gear on my main as well as new alts created for the express purpose of learning with a new peripheral from scratch. Here's my week with the SteelSeries WoW MMO Legendary edition gaming mouse.

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Filed under: Hardware

Ask Mr. Robot mobile app released

I wrote about Ask Mr. Robot several months ago and recommended it as a tool for newer players to get a better idea and understanding of how to rearrange their augments like gems, enchants and reforges. Even for the veteran players who disagreed or wanted additional control over the stat weights, the values and weights are able to be customized.

With the release of their new mobile app, you can now take Mr. Robot anywhere you want. The app is available for $1.99 on the iTunes store and the Android Marketplace.

Read on for a quick overview and my thoughts on the app.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Reviewing the Razer Anansi MMO keyboard: A tricky little spider

Razer has very graciously sent me one of its Anansi MMO keyboards to review for you fine people. My previous experience with Razer products has been positive, mostly because its MMO-centric wares fit well into my own MMO-centric lifestyle. I face this simple fact every day -- I play a lot of games. In fact, I play a lot of World of Warcraft. When you play a game this much, you get the tools made for it.

How about some features in convenient bullet point form?

The Razer Anansi MMO-Gaming Keyboard:
  • 7 thumb modifier keys
  • 100+ programmable keys
  • One-button profile switching (awesome for backlighting your Alliance characters blue and Horde characters red ...)
  • Five additional macro buttons
  • Media keys
  • Gaming mode option

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Hardware

WoW.com reviews Richard A. Knaak's Stormrage


Before we begin, in the interest of full disclosure, we will make it clear that Simon and Schuster did forward us free copies of Stormrage for this review. They did not, however, dictate any of the opinions held in this review. In addition, our network has a policy against keeping 'giveaways' sent to us, so our copies of the novel will be given away on our site sometime in the future. With that out of the way, let's get to the review.

The last book we reviewed here on WoW.com was Arthas: Rise of the Lich King. It was written by Christie Golden and was a little over three hundred pages of Prince Arthas Menethil's personal history, from his childhood to his fall to the Scourge. If that's what you're expecting out of Richard A. Knaak's Stormrage, drop those expectations. All of that can be found in the War of the Ancients trilogy. Despite the similar naming scheme, Stormrage is a novel that takes place at the same time as the events going on in Wrath of the Lich King. It's specifically stated that the Wrath Gate incident has already happened by the time the events in this novel begin. This isn't backstory, this is buildup to Cataclysm.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore

TurpsterVision: This drink's on me!

We can't believe it either – Turpster has been let loose on WoW.com to bring you videos from in and around the World of Warcraft! You've heard him on the WoW Insider Show, and now see him on TurpsterVision right here on WoW.com.

It's been far too long. I've been playing loads of games in-between knuckling down with some university work, I've constructed a website for a Bristol based landscape gardener, and I've been on a couple of different podcasts. Yet with all this I've missed out on gracing the net with WoW.com's number 1 Video Podcast! In the immortal words of Tychus J. Findlay, 'Hell, it's about time!'

But I wouldn't just return to your screens empty handed, oh no, I come bearing gifts! A mighty tankard overflowing with ale -- at least it could be if you are lucky enough to win it and fill it with some booze or other beverage of your choosing.

The stein itself is a beautiful piece of art and construction. To really enjoy the details, check out the gallery below the break.

It's good to be back.

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Filed under: Features, TurpsterVision

G4 talks to Blizzard about five years of WoW

We are quickly approaching the fifth anniversary of World of Warcraft's release (my calendar has it on the 23rd of November), and G4 has gotten a head start on celebrating -- they sent Morgan Webb over to Blizzard headquarters to talk to the team, including Tom Chilton, Alex Afrasiabi, and Jeff Kaplan, about what things have been like in the last five years since WoW's launch. There's nothing super groundbreaking in here, but there is lots of reminiscing about the game's early thinking -- Chilton talks about how dual specs were never even considered as an idea (until they, you know, were) and what things were like in the early post-launch days. Pretty stressful, sounds like.

Afrasiabi talks about how the quest team puts together and tracks all of the game's quests (he mentions both Metzen and the game's historian as the "lorekeepers" of the game), and the fact that they've put together "millions of words" of story and background lore for the game at large. He specifically talks about Cataclysm and replacing questlines, and says that if something does get removed from the game, they're hoping to replace it with something better, but most "fan favorites" will stay. And finally, Jeff Kaplan looks back on the early game itself, from unfinished zones to broken balance to launch day exhaustion. G4 teases something about the next MMO project, but all he says is that he can't talk about it. Oh well -- if we can't look forward, at least we get a nice look back from the folks at Blizzard who've been there since the beginning. You can see all four of the videos after the break.

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Filed under: Fan stuff, Blizzard, News items, Quests, Lore

Gearing up for WoW: The Razer Naga [Updated]


We don't normally do hardware reviews. That's usually the domain of the guys over at our sister site, Engadget. But when Razer broke out the $79.99 Razer Naga last August 19 at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany (along with a glow-in-the-dark mousepad), and previewed it a BlizzCon a few days later, we knew we just had to get our hands on it and take it out for a spin. This was Razer's first mouse aimed squarely at the MMO market, and at World of Warcraft players specifically. It isn't the first mouse that tried to appeal to the huge MMO player base -- Steelseries unleashed a World of Warcraft mouse last year, although some players found some issues with the mouse and the way it interacted with the game. In hindsight, we probably should've done our own review of that product. So when Razer announced that the Naga "wasn't going be just a great MMO mouse (but) the best MMO mouse," we weren't going to let the opportunity slip away.

[Update: Razer's Heathcliff Hatcher aka Razer|Agent responded to some concerns about the Razer Naga and how its keys currently can't be remapped right out of the box without third party applications. Razer|Agent says, "software driver remapping of keys is a standard function for most of Razer products and we do have suitable solutions that we intend to release in the near future for Naga that will enable this feature out of game." This means that the standard 123 and NUM configurations should be remappable through a future update.]

Mike wrote an excellent hands-on report on the Razer Naga when we were at BlizzCon which should give everyone a fair idea of what we're dealing with. Writing a product review for an MMO gaming mouse wasn't going to be a simple task -- one reason there aren't too many full reviews of the Razer Naga is because it takes a bit of commitment to do it. Unlike first person shooters or even real-time strategy games where about an hour or two of gameplay would be enough to give fair impressions of the mouse, properly assessing an MMO gaming mouse needs to be an immersive experience. It requires mapping keys and adapting one's personal playing style to accommodate the hardware.

As I'd mentioned in my gearing series that talked briefly about gaming mice, the features of most modern gaming mice are far beyond what MMOs generally demand. You won't need 5600dpi, insane APM (Actions-Per-Minute) values, or even fancy technologies like Razer's HyperResponse buttons. If there's any indication that Razer is on the right track with the Naga, it's that they've loaded it with buttons. MMO players tend to press a lot of buttons. They also took the extra step of creating (or adapting) an AddOn that allows the mapping of keybindings from inside the game. When the Razer Naga finally arrived at my doorstep after a torturous tussle with an ineffectual DHL, I finally buckled down -- as Razer would say -- to get imba. Let's take a closer look at the Razer Naga after the jump.

Gallery: Razer Naga

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Guides, Hardware

TurpsterVision: FigurePrints review

Turpster finds love in a 6 Inch Kungen
We can't believe it either – Turpster has been let loose on WoW.com to bring you videos from in and around the World of Warcraft! You've heard him on The WoW Insider Show now see him on TurpsterVision right here on WoW.com

This past week I undertook an epic unveiling of not so epic proportions in opening up my very own FigurePrint. Fortunately for you, the lucky viewer, I've captured this live on video -- a first encounter of the most awesome kind -- which can be found below the break!

The first thing that struck me upon opening the package was the weight of it all; the dome is real glass and is a fantastic way to display your character, keeping them free from dust and many other household evils that lurk outside of Azeroth. The reason I would want to go for a FigurePrint would be to immortalize my character, preserving the culmination of four and a half years hard gaming, and this extra layer of protection allows that to happen. It does however present a barrier, much like we have when playing the game, where we can't touch our character (This statement takes on a whole different meaning with some of Night Elf female mailbox dancers out there) but obviously it serves the purpose of protecting the FigurePrint so I guess I can let it slide.

Click on past the break to catch the video and check out the gallery getting up close and personal with FigurePrints!

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Filed under: Features, Humor, Guides, TurpsterVision

Golden's Arthas delivers the lore goodness

A note from Alex Ziebart: When Simon and Schuster sent Daniel and I a pair of free, early review copies of Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, we immediately went about planning how we were going to handle a 2-man review. We've been good friends for years, and one of our favorite past times is debating things like this back and forth. We rarely agree on books, and we can argue our sides until we're blue in the face. We were going to write an Alex vs Daniel knock down, drag out argument about Arthas and it was going to rule. Unfortunately, things didn't go our way.

When we finished reading the book, we got together to talk about it. It was... unsettling. We completely agreed with each other on almost every point that was raised. The high points and the low points, we were completely on the same spectrum. That's just not right. We decided that, rather than write two reviews parroting each other, we would just go with the one. Daniel's review says everything I want to say better than I could have said it, so once you read what he says, just pretend you can hear me say "Ditto" at the end. Take it away, Danny!

As WoW Insider's self-proclaimed junior lieutenant Lore Nerd, when Simon & Schuster so generously offered to send us a couple of free advanced copies of Arthas, the new World of Warcraft book by Christie Golden, I was all over that. As soon as the book showed up on my doorstep, I turned on the answering machine, grabbed a soda, popped some popcorn, curled up in my favorite chair, and pretty much read the whole thing straight through. The only breaks I took were to discuss various scenes and their ramifications for lore with Alex. And by discuss, I mean "fanboy out."

But I am being completely serious when I say, of all the Warcraft manga, comic books, and novels I have read, Arthas has the most solid, balanced writing and best realized characters. It's not a perfect book, but it's a very worthwhile read for anyone who has even the slightest interest in the why and how of that big armored dude up on the Frozen Throne.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Lore, Wrath of the Lich King

SteelSeries WoW mouse dangerous in no uncertain Terms (of Use)

We had an article here not too long ago about the SteelSeries WoW mouse, purportedly das ubermaus, replete with glowing fissures and lookin' all like a Templar helmet. We actually had kind of a hard time finding out just how the mouse performed -- it was advertised months before it came out, and it doesn't appear that many gamers actually got to use the mouse prior to pre-ordering it and did so based on Blizzard's official licensing of the WoW name on the product.

The few that did use it, those that played around with it at BlizzCon, actually reported to us that it felt cheap, flimsy, and about to break. That was a bit disconcerting to read, of course, and it wasn't actually an isolated incident--all of the emails we've received about it thus far have been negative reviews. Folks complained of broken buttons or strange key reassignments with the accompanying software.

Now, our sister site Engadget just released their own impressions on the device and they appear to like it, offering a large size, good weight, and robust software among their list of pros.

The inconsistency in reviews of the product thus far isn't what really bothers me, though. It's the fact that the mouse is a WoW-licensed product that performs functions that are against Blizzard's policies.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Hardware

All the World's a Stage: 2008, year of the living roleplayer

So there I was, celebrating the New Year, when I realized just how long All the World's a Stage has been around. It's grown from an idea in the back of my head, to a pet project, into a full-fledged resource for roleplayers -- and it's still growing! Even after 68 weeks-worth of content, there's still so much to write about! It goes to show, if there's a topic you love, you should really write about it, because doing so makes you love it even more.

Now, looking back on this year of writing, it strikes me that some things have changed, while other things have stayed the same. Some articles seem just important and relevant to today's concerns as they were when they were written, and many feel like they could use a bit of updating.

Just about a year ago, for instance, All the World's a Stage took a look at "The past, present, and future of roleplaying," which addressed the popular conception at that time that "RP is dead." We don't hear that so much anymore, do we? It seems many of the roleplayers have gradually been shifting around since then, grouping up into small communities on their old servers, or else transferring to a very few realms with a good reputation for roleplaying. Recently, I just transferred over to a new server and was thrilled to see how many roleplayers were hanging around the streets of Dalaran. RP isn't dead at all -- it's just got itself together now instead of being scattered all over everywhere. Congealed, as it were.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

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