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Farewell and thank you, WoW.com

I've told this story a few times before: I actually started out on WoW.com as a comment troll. A few years back, Jennie Lees was the lead blogger here, and she posted something silly about a wallpaper or a plush doll, I don't remember. I was also reading the forums at the time, and Blizzard had just dropped new priest patch notes. "Why are you posting this junk," I commented angrily, "when the priest notes just dropped?" She was nice about it -- she actually emailed me and said that the priest updates post was coming soon. And I felt so bad about it, I never activated the comment. But a little while after that, when WoW Insider posted that they were looking for some new writers, I applied, and said that I was sorry for that comment, but that I was working on becoming a writer and could help out with posting on the site when needed.

When I started writing for WoW Insider (now WoW.com, obviously), I was working retail in Chicago, writing part-time in the evenings. The site itself got only a few thousand hits a month, with one or two weekly features and maybe ten comments per post. Now, over three years later, I'm a fulltime freelance writer, I've been to three BlizzCons, I've written over 1.7 million words in over 3,300 posts here about everything in Azeroth, and the site itself rivals some of the best blogs on the Internet, routinely garnering millions of hits a month. I helped build this site with my own two hands, and while I definitely can't claim all the credit (there was and is a huge team of people who keep this thing running), it's with a fair amount of sorrow that I'm here to tell you today will be my last day on WoW.com.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, WoW Insider Business, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard

Finally an answer on Gnomes in the cinematics

We've very closely covered the lack of Gnomes in any of Blizzard's major cinematic pieces so far. We had hoped to see them in the Wrath cinematic, but of course Blizzard went a completely new direction with that one (retelling the story of Arthas rather than showing players fighting), and so they weren't there either. In fact, the problem has gotten so bad that at least one person has remade the Burning Crusade cinematic, filling it with Gnomes just to see what it would be like. And while we've gotten some snide comments from the Blues before ("they're there, they're just too short to fit in frame"), Bornakk has finally given us an honest answer as to why the Gnomes haven't been show in cinematic form: they're just not awesome enough?

Wait, that's not what he really said? Well that's what we heard -- he says that the cinematic folks go for what seems most awesome, and Gnomes have just never been a part of that combination. He says Trolls have gotten nearly the same treatment, and while that's true, you can see a Troll for a split second in the Burning Crusade cinematic -- they haven't had the complete shutout that the shorter denizens of Azeroth have had so far.

In fact, Murlocs have gotten more screen time than Gnomes have. But the good news is that the more Blizzard leaves Gnomes out, the more awesome it'll be when they finally appear. The cinematic team can't leave them out of the game forever, right?

Filed under: Gnomes, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, NPCs

Ghostcrawler respondes to balance questions

Our buddy Ghostcrawler has appeared on the forums answering (or re-answering, as he says) a few concerns about the balance of the game. Most of his answer is about PvP: he says that Death Knights and Holy Pallies are overpowered, but that while Blizzard does believe there are more imbalances, debate is still raging about exactly where they are. And he does say that while burst damage is still a concern, he feels that Blizzard did a lot to combat that when they started Season 5, and that the bigger concern now is getting mana pools under control. Too many fights now have healers just going and going, and while they don't want fights to end super fast, they can't all drag out, either.

He also talks more in-depth about the balance between gear you can get from PvP and PvE and how it needs to be fixed: he straight out says that 25-man Naxx is too easy to PuG, and agrees that Ulduar and future PvP weapons "should ideally require the same amount of investment." Likewise, when Blizzard tried to reset the resilience stacking at the start of Season 5, they had players facing very powerful weapons from the PvE raids like Kel'thuzad, which lead to, as he says, "a perfect storm for fast Arena deaths." Which is probably why so many players left the Arenas.

The plan for the future? Ulduar's hard modes will be way tougher than Heroic Naxx, so players won't be able to PuG PvE and then go kill in PvP right away. Of course Death Knights are still cruising for a nerfing, if patch 3.1 doesn't bring them down off their high Deathcharger. And GC suggests that in the future, starter PvP gear may beef up resilience at the cost of offensive stats, so that players don't begin with gear that has great defense and offense right away.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, PvP, Raiding, Classes, Forums, Arena

Raid Rx: Sports can help you heal better

Raid Rx has returned from retirement! Every week, Raid Rx will help you quarterback your healers to victory! Your host is Matt Low, the grand poobah of World of Matticus and a founder of No Stock UI, a new WoW blog for all things UI, macro, and addon related. This week we look at how sports can help you improve your game!

Spring is well underway in Azeroth! Although in my area, it ends up taking a little longer than most. This is a great time time for you to get back outside and start participating in a variety of sports (literally, of course). Most of you that are familiar with me know that I love playing street hockey and volleyball! I've started participating in those activities again and it reminded me of several aspects that are transferable to us healers.

Winning teams share a certain amount of traits. Likewise, winning healing teams are no different. Hockey teams employ different strategies. The New Jersey Devils played heavy defense during their cup winning years while Detroit plays a strong puck possession style with emphasis on controlling the play. Your healing team could have different combinations of healers. Perhaps your guild has 4 Resto Shamans. Maybe your guild doesn't have any at all. Here are a few common themes that I've noticed.

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Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Priest, Shaman, Raid Rx (Raid Healing)

Blizzard's CG team talks about making those epic cinematics

Blizzplanet's got the tip on a great interview over at CG Channel with the Blizzard CGI team, responsible for, among many other great cinematics, putting together the Wrath intro trailer. We heard from this team back at BlizzCon, and here they give a little more insight into the thinking behind their process, rather than the process itself.

One of the first questions that comes up is one that everyone would like to ask: Why haven't we seen a longer feature from these guys? But they say that, as always, their first priority is making great games, not great features, and as much as people would want to see a 60 or 90 minute cinematic from this team, they work for a game company. They also talk about something they've been working more on lately: in-game cinematics. I saw this at work in Starcraft II back at BlizzCon -- while most of Blizzard's cinematics so far have been completely separate from the in-game art, Starcraft II introduces models that are high-quality enough to be rendered cinematically, so much of the actual cutscenes are in-game rather than in separately rendered CGI. But as the team points out, their goal is to make them no less awesome.

Finally, they do get into the nitty-gritty of designing their cinematics, and 3D animators will enjoy the ins and outs of how Blizzard made Arthas summon that Frostwyrm. We're just in awe of how much great work this team does -- hopefully we'll be seeing lots more of it in the future.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Machinima, Odds and ends, Blizzard, NPCs, Wrath of the Lich King

Breakfast topic: Bunk in my trunk

I'm sure we've all had someone dash ahead of us when we're out gathering to take our mining node, our herb, or even our skin. It's frustrating when it's a member of the opposite faction who does this. On a PvP server, you might kill them, on a PvE server, your only recourse is a /rude. It's more annoying when it's a member of your own faction and you can't even kill them. Ultimately the same is also true of Daily Quests and some quest mobs. Whenever recourse's are scarce, bad blood settles in.

I have never seen a quest that brings out the worst in players than "Junk in My Trunk" in Utgarde Pinnacle. For this quest you must gather items laying around the instance. There are not enough for a full group on the quest to pick therm up on the same run, so many people jockey to be the first to get their junk. The first time I ran that instance I was amazed at how greedy people would be. The tank would pull but the healer was off picking up a silver bar or a bauble. You guessed it, wipefest.


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Filed under: Items, Virtual selves, Breakfast Topics, Instances, Quests

Officers' Quarters: Riding the pine


Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes
Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

Raids are in many ways like a sports team. Some players are your proven starters. Some are your backups who fill in for the starters. Some are still learning the game and trying to get the right equipment -- they are your practice squad or your AAA team. With enough hard work and dedication, a player can improve his game and become a starter. It's true in sports and it should be for your raid team as well. Otherwise, what's the motivation to work hard?

The opposite can happen as well: a player who doesn't perform consistently can be replaced with someone who's playing at a higher level. But what would you do if you were told you're being benched -- permanently -- just because you joined more recently than someone else? This week's e-mail comes from a tank who went from a starter to a benchwarmer overnight, and it illustrates exactly what not to do as a guild leader.

Heya Scott,

First off, wanted to say I love your article and read it every time I see it. I have a problem with my guild, and am sending you this as possible commentary for your next article.

My guild is a fairly casual one with a very strong group of officers that have been together since the beginning of WoW. Needless to say, they have been through thick and thin. I joined with the guild about 6 months ago, and have since made a name for myself being a solid tank and a steady mind. I helped a lot throughout BC raiding and really feel a part of the guild.

Then WotLK hit.

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Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

Obama's FCC transition co-chair is a WoW player

I've had a political dream for a while now that I think all of us WoW players can agree on: someday, I hope, we will have a President in the White House that plays videogames. We're not quite there yet, but we're closer -- apparently, Obama's FCC transition co-chair is a WoW player, and has played in two different endgame guilds, including Joi Ito's famous We Know guild. This is a guy who knows all about the communities that these MMOs create, and just how awesome it is to run through Karazhan, or grind PvP for a Merciless Gladiator weapon... and he's been selected by the incoming President of the United States to run the FCC. That's beautiful.

Too many government officials (both Democrat and Republican, this isn't partisan at all) suffer from the "series of tubes" mentality -- they are being asked to regulate and coordinate things that they don't understand at all. But getting guys like Kevin Werbach in there, no matter what your political affiliation, is a great step forward for all of us gamers -- we'll have people behind the regulatory wheel who know how important and wonderful virtual worlds like Azeroth can be.

Waltermonkey on Livejournal actually uncovered the guy's Armory profile (and has some great insight), and yes, though I'm sure some of the comments below will be about how you'd never be able to run a transition team AND get to level 80 at the same time, Werbach's been playing recently -- while he's still only level 70, he's actually got the Jenkins title. We've got a Resto Shaman helping run the FCC -- how awesome is that?

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

Forum post of the day: Heals and heels

Decent healing is often a key factor in determining victory and defeat in a battle ground. Resto and Holy specced characters have quite the job set out for them. Druids, Paladins, Priests, and Shamans regularly face a healing quandary. Is it better to spend time and man healing another player or continuing to do as much damage as possible. Zanhart of Medivh believes that any character than can heal in the battlegrounds, should heal. He finds it particularly insulting when a player heals him or herself while comrades die around them.

Some agreed with him that anyone who can heal should, but most people dissented. There were several themes to the responses:

  • Paying a subscription fee allows any player the right to play however they like.
  • DPSers in substandard gear are a waste of heals and mana.
  • Non-healing specs often have such poor healing abilities that the battleground is better off with them continuing to dps.
  • Some people just don't find healing to be fun.

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Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Priest, Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Forums, Battlegrounds, Forum Post of the Day

Racism in arena names

I think there are few things more disturbing in the modern world than ill-conceived notions of racial, religious, and sexual divisions. For some reason parts of humanity continue to believe that just because one group or another looks and/or acts differently, they are bad. One of the reasons I enjoy WoW and just games in general is because it allows us to escape the problems this world gives to us, even if only for a few hours a week.

Unfortunately, some people find it necessary to bring their attitudes in game. We've covered some of this before, from border-line inappropriate arena names to sexism in WoW. However while playing an arena game recently fellow writer Amanda Dean came up against a team named "Rosa Parks Stole My Seat," and this name is possibly the most offensive one I've seen. Rosa Parks (for those of you who need a history lesson) refused to go to the back of a bus because of her skin color and continued to sit in the white only section of the bus, despite being told to do otherwise. She represented a key moment in the history of civil rights.

There are 65 arena teams with this racist name.

When Amanda ran into one of the teams she reported it via a GM ticket.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard, News items, PvP, Arena

LFG Armory uses Armory to match up characters and guilds

LFG Armory is a new site that's aiming to beat the official Armory at its own game. Blizzard's site, as complete as it is, is still occasionally buggy and slow, and LFG Armory is looking to give players an alternative. And it works fairly well -- while the FAQ claims that data may be a little behind (due to caching of Blizzard's information), both the guild and player profile pages look pretty good and load quickly (and if the site can stay up after we link to them here, that'll be a real sign that it's a stable server).

But the real feature that makes LFG Armory something more than Blizzard's official site is that it has a guild and arena team matching system built in. Once you register your name and your characters, you can do a search for guilds and arena teams and try to find one that matches what you want -- percentage of level 70s, class makeup, and number of members. On the guild side, you can set your guild as looking, and then when you hit a match, LFG will match you up.

It's an interesting system, but like all social networks, it all depends on participation -- when I looked for a guild for my Hunter on Cenarius (who could use a guild, by the way), nothing came up, because likely no one on the server was looking (for a Hunter at least). But as an alternative to the Armory, LFG is looking pretty good. If they can get people to the site and stay up, they might give Blizzard's official site a run for its money.

[Via World of Raids]

Filed under: Guilds, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Raiding, Classes

WoW Insider arena action tonight!

Grab your sword and fight us Horde!

The WoW Insider Arena Team will be returning to action tonight at 10 p.m. CDT until 12:00 a.m. (Why at this time? As I've been saying in my previous posts, we have to wait until Battlestar Galactica is over!) We'll be on Arena Tournament Server 1 facing off against the best that Azeroth has to offer. We're going to win a couple and lose a couple matches, and the best part of that will be if they're against you!

You can read about our past trials and tribulations, and see how we're all improving our arena game. It has definitely been an interesting time learning to work together and discovering each other's play styles. Even though we haven't had the year or so of time to become comfortable with each other in group play, we're doing okay.

So if you're not up to much tonight, hop on over and queue up for a 3v3 match. You might just get to face off against us!

Filed under: Arena

WoW Insider arena team vs. the Druid trifecta


Yesterday I posted a video of myself, Zach, and Mandy's boyfriend going up against a mage, priest, and druid combination. Today's video of Friday's matches includes the three of us going up against the "Druid Trifecta." That's one druid of each class: a moonkin, a feral, and a resto.

We don't have a very hard time with this one, and we get them down without much trouble. The only real iffy point comes towards the end where I have to dodge away and get some bandages going on for myself, which isn't really a bad thing.

Regarding the clicking that I'm doing, it's there for two reasons. First, to show you more clearly what skills and combinations I'm using. Secondly, I often times click to offset my keyboard use. Think of it this way: I have five or six skills that I'm using my main fingers for, and I have those skills planned out. I can position the mouse over the seventh skill I'll eventually use to make it easy to use when the time comes.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Arena

First impressions of the Arena Tournament Server

Last night Amanda Dean, Amanda Miller, and I got together and fought a few arena battles. We were online and fighting between 10:00 p.m. CST and midnight (timed so I could watch the first showing of Battlestar Galactica, and Amanda D. could watch the second – we write for a computer game website, what do you expect?). The server itself was interesting, and the matches were a blast.

We've been at this before on the Tournament Test Realm server, which was the "beta" version of the Arena Server. There was only one server and everyone could make a character, so it was often crowded and slow. On the Arena Server, you have to register to enter the Arena Tournament, which costs $20. Only then can you get on the Arena Server. This makes things a bit more manageable in terms of population and server stability. There wasn't much lag or other issues.

One thing that I found was the queue times were very fast. We didn't have to wait more than 10 seconds to get in a game. We were playing 3v3 matches, so this might have had something to do with it; as I'm sure the queue times were higher for 5v5 or 2v2.

If you're wondering, and I'm sure you are, our team name is "WoW Insider" on server one, and we're named "insideradam", etc... How many matches did we win?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, PvP

Office management, Azeroth-style

Josh had his leadership role in WoW pop into his mind during a job interview, and he channeled that into an interesting little article about how to convert WoW roles into the roles people play around the office. I think he's really got something here-- stay tuned for how you can buy a ticket to his "Management, Azeroth-style" seminar, which will teach you and your staff how to tackle even the hardest raid bosses projects.

We've heard quite a few times before that WoW can help you on the job, but I don't know that I've ever seen the roles detailed so clearly. Josh says the Main Tank is the outside communications person for the project, and fends off managers and other departments to make sure members can get their jobs done. The Main Healer keeps motivation up rather than hit points, and make sure everyone stays on task and working. And the DPS are the meat of the project, doing the day-to-day damage to accomplish objectives. The idea works pretty darn well, actually-- at least until your project manager starts taunting the CEO and your senior producer stays up late one night and catches aggro. But definitely an interesting read if you've ever been given the task of running a team of people, in or out of game.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Raiding

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