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Brief launcher update

Blizzard updated the launcher again today without warning and hopefully without incident -- unlike Monday, when everything went awry, errors abounded and people were unable to connect.

There is no indication that patch 3.3 is anywhere near downloading or anything other than a small tools patch. There has also been no word from Blizzard yet on exactly what this patch does, but it is required if you want to log into the game. The patch is very small and only takes a handful of seconds to download and apply.

We'll keep an eye on this issue for any problems, but as of this writing, all is well.

Filed under: Patches, Blizzard

Alex Afrasiabi on Cataclysm and the origin of phasing


Gamasutra has a nice interview with someone on Blizzard's team that we haven't heard from very much before -- Alex "Furor" Afrasiabi is currently a lead world designer for Cataclysm, and while we have definitely seen him at BlizzCon a few times, he hasn't done as much press as, say, Tom Chilton or J. Allen Brack. But here he is on Gamasutra, talking about what Blizzard is doing to the World of Warcraft in the next expansion.

And boy are they doing it. As we knew, Desolace and Azshara are getting revamped completely, while Feralas is in for some questing changes and zones like Loch Modan are seeing some "light" modification. Blizzard apparently looked at each zone and determined where it lay on the list of todos: Azshara is becoming the 10-20 Horde zone and so will get reworked extensively, but Silithus, while it may need work, probably won't get more than a few tweaks.

Afrasiabi also talks about the surprising origin of phasing and Blizzard's philosophy. More after the break.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Instances, Cataclysm

The sin of Tab targeting

I'm not a keyboard turner -- my steady diet of FPS games growing up made sure of that. And while I do occasionally point-and-click abilities, for the most part, I do use hotkeys. But, just like Tank Like a Girl, there is one control-scheme sin that I'm definitely guilty of: I am definitely a Tab-targeter. I guess the issue is that sometimes you do have to use Tab to choose your different targets -- sometimes, you can't quite click on the thing you need to target, so instead you hit Tab to flip through all the available targets until you get to the one you need. But that's a no-no. Flipping through the targets takes more time than you should (if you happen to miss your target, you need to flip through all of them yet again), and, as I know from personal experience, Tab targeting often ends you up on the wrong target. Not that CC is so much of an issue anymore, but let me tell you: the first time you happen to pull that one dragon your group has cast sleep on, it'll be embarassing.

So how to get it right? TLaG suggests this post from TankingTips, which hints at using the mouse instead of the keyboard to target (you can choose friendly targets easier that way), but doesn't offer any real suggestions of how to make the switch. Moving the camera back is one, getting your positioning right is probably another. And learning to use focus and macro targets is probably the best tip you can have: anything that's more specific or direct than either Tab or click targeting is probably better. Addons like Promixo will help in the Arenas as well.

No one's perfect, and no one way to do things is perfect either -- depending on your situation, Tab targeting might be better. But it's important to have as many tools as possible, so if you, like me, find yourself depending on the Tab key more often than not, it might be time to mix up your toolbag a bit.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Tips, Tricks, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard, PvP, Raiding, Hardware

Twisted Nether Wiki compiles a nice list of WoW utilities

A few folks over at the Twisted Nether Wiki have done a great thing and compiled a nice full list of all of those little online WoW utilities that we talk about every once in a while. From character improvement tools like Be Imba! to resources like Kaliban's Loot Lists and even humor sites like WoWBash, if it's online, WoW-related, and worth visiting more than once, it's on this list.

And of course it's a wiki, so even if it's not on that list, you can add it. But it is cool to have all of those resources in one place -- we mention them, obviously, when there are updates to share, but if you don't bookmark them when you hear about them, they might have fallen off your radar. There are so many great and well-designed tools out there for players to use that something like this, tracking them all, is great to have.

Filed under: How-tos, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Add-Ons, Raiding

AchievementTracker tracks achievements across the realms

Reader Jeffrey R. was kind enough to send us his achievement tracking site, named (conveniently) AchievementTracker.com. We've seen quite a few sites for tracking achievements on your own character out there already (especially since the Armory opened up the information to the web), but unlike the others, AchievementTracker seems to be focusing on ranking only -- instead of browsing over your own information, all the site really presents is a list of the top players in the world, US, EU, or by the various realms.

There are a few caveats, the first being that they're only tracking characters above level 70, and the second being that they're not tracking everyone -- I had to put my own character into the system (though that won't matter if you're just looking for the top players, since I would never even rank on any lists anyone was watching). And while WoW-Achievements has Beelsebub of EU Darksorrow at number one and Minipuff of EU Stormscale in second place so far, AchievementTracker has them backwards (and their point totals are lower -- maybe Armory lag?).

And of course we don't know for sure if there's someone on the realms that neither of these sites are tracking with more achievement points (it may be worth noting, too, that beyond Armory links, neither site tells us much about the characters -- is there a class or spec that's better for achievement point earning?). It'll probably take a little while until we can get a standard for tracking these, but until then, looks like we'll have a few different lists to watch.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Ranking, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Leveling, Achievements

Quick Armory remixes Armory and achievement data with Greasemonkey


Erorus sent us some cool Armory-related tools he's been working on -- you can find them all at QuickArmory.com. Aside from the usual Armory lookup (with a much faster loading design), he's got an Heirloom item tracker (you put in your level and it will show you what the Heirloom items look like throughout the game), an Arena Points calculator, and perhaps most interesting, an Achievement Tracker. That last one actually does something a little different from most Armory sites -- it uses the Greasemonkey Firefox script to have your browser pull information from the Armory rather than Erorus' servers doing it. The output ends up looking more or less the same, but basically his site tells your browser what information to get, and your browser gets the info rather than his server. Interesting way of getting around the problem of stability, though the tradeoff is that you've got to use Firefox and install the addon to use his site.

None of the tools provide quite as much functionality as some of the other more specialized Armory sites out there, but Erorus does some new and interesting things with the Armory information, on the Achievement tracker especially. If you can't get enough of your character's stats (and in this case, happen to also use Firefox), they're worth checking out.

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Realm Status, Odds and ends, Economy, Wrath of the Lich King, Achievements

WoW Heroes sets you right at endgame

We've covered sites like this before (Be Imba is probably the one best known), but here's another character comparison/improvement tool for you to use online. WoW Heroes is a site that will look up your character's significant info from the Armory, put it in an easy-to-read format, and then help you check out all your stats, enchants, and gear, and help you find improvements to what you're wearing. It's not as judgemental as Be Imba -- you just get the stats and the facts, not yelled at for not having gems in your sockets (though getting yelled at might be just the motivation you need to get better), but it does provide suggestions in a much gentler way, including what kinds of enchants to use and what kinds of instances to run.

And one fun feature that isn't as easy to do on Be Imba is the comparison tool -- you can put in two characters' names and servers and very easily look at both at the same time, comparing item levels and/or seeing where the gear came from. Neat feature, and very easy to get up and running, no login or signup needed.

There is one drawback -- you can't see any characters in the system that are below level 70, so WoW Heroes is only for people trying to find improvements and options in the endgame -- if you're below 70, you'll have to go elsewhere. But as an endgame character improvement tool, it's another good option to use.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, How-tos, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Instances, Classes, Enchants

Roleplay tidbits to be revealed in the next Blizzcast

Here's yet another reason for me and all my roleplaying kin to tune in to the next Blizzcast: They will be discussing roleplaying in WoW, says Vaneras. It won't be a major topic, but there is some discussion about plans to continue development of "things that are for roleplaying."

So, I am certainly excited. I can't help but speculate where this could go. What could they have planned, development-wise? Will we see more reporting tools for RP server violations? Or will we simply see more character customization options to allow us to submerge ourselves more fully into the Worlds of Azeroth and Outland? I think my big problem is going to be holding back my expectations. They're running so wild, that I can't help but that think I'll be disappointed in what's actually said.

That said, Between this information and whatever we learn about the Ashbringer, this Blizzcast should be a great listen for all RP and lore buffs. There doesn't seem to be any word yet about when it will be released, but Vaneras' post makes me think it must be close. Stay tuned here and to the official Blizzcast page.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Lore, RP

Blizzard's internal tools need an upgrade

Susana of Hyjal speculates about something I've thought about a few times before -- just what exactly are Blizzard's internal development tools like? Most games that have mapmakers can churn out new maps pretty rapidly, but we've had the same BG maps for years now, and only one or two per year since then. And even the created maps aren't fixed easily, apparently -- a few map tweaks on WSG would probably fix the turtling problem, but Blizzard instead is tweaking the rules to fix things. Just what is Blizzard using to make their game that they take so long with development?

To be fair, the rules here are a little more complicated than most first-person shooters (since you can do a lot more than just shoot at each other), so obviously the maps would presumably be a little more complicated as well. But in the age when players have access to the Neverwinter Nights toolset and even the Forge on Halo 3, surely it's a little crazy that Blizzard takes months to release one map, when other great games can pump out whole packs of them in the same time.

Now, this is WoW Insider, so it's ok if you're a Blizzard apologist. It's fine for you to say "Blizzard has the biggest game in the world not despite the fact that they're so slow, but because of it," and it's fine for you to be a fanboy/girl and say you'd rather wait three years for a Blizzard-quality Arathi Basin than play a whole "Hidden Fronts" pack. And the truth is that when Blizzard does release content, they don't disappoint. But we're still left wondering just why, after doing this for so long and having so much practice at it, it still takes them so long to do it.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Battlegrounds, Arena

Belfaire on community policing and GM subjectivity

As you may recall, a few days ago, I wrote a little Dear Blizzard letter on the subject of enforcing the RP and Naming Policy. Of course, Once one writes a letter to someone, it is a good idea to deliver it, and thus I delivered it, or at least the issues therein, over on the Customer Service Forum. I was lucky enough to have Belfaire, who you may remember from his post explaining Blizzard's stance on multi-boxing, answer some of my questions and concerns. I also got some pretty well thought out feedback from a couple other people browsing the forums, including some roleplayers who disagreed with some of my points, so I think the threads worth a read in itself, and I'll comment a bit more on what Belfaire said after the break, now that I've had time to digest it a bit.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard, RP

Make your own custom armory signature - Updated


You play MMO's, you chat, you express your invaluable opinion on the forums, and you /dance. Your virtual identity is all about customization, and DKPSystem.com's beta Armory Signature Generator is a quick, easy way to snag yourself a l33t forum signature. After all, you might as well try to save your adoring fans some energy; now they don't even have to look you up before they reply!

I love the simplicity of this tool. Although it allows you a fair amount of customization, it allows anyone, regardless of technical expertise, to generate a signature complete with character photo and pertinent information. From choosing which stats will be displayed, to choosing your own background, this is one handy tool that should be in every forum-goer's toolkit.

Read more →

Filed under: Ranking, Virtual selves, Forums

Skip the interceptor with Greasemonkey


Frequent visitors to the official WoW forums will no doubt be familiar with the Forum Interceptor that Blizzard has in place for your "protection." Briefly, any time you click a link in a forum thread that doesn't lead to a Blizzard-owned domain, a bit of JavaScript loads an Interceptor page that tells you to be wary of keyloggers and things, and that the internet is a dangerous place. Possibly useful to people under the age of ten; otherwise, it gets old fast.

Fortunately, there are ways around it. Opening a link in a new tab (middle-click) works in most browsers. But what if you don't want to think about it all the time? Shouldn't links in the forums work just like links everywhere else on the freaking internet? Yes, they should. And that's why we have Greasemonkey.

Greasemonkey is a Firefox plug-in that lets users install userscripts that do things to websites. If that sounds vague, it is; userscripts can perform all sorts of tricks. The script we're interested in, called Shelter from a Blizzard, does precisely one thing: makes links on the WoW forums point directly to their destinations, skipping the interceptor page.

If you're running Firefox, and want this magic in your very own browser, here's what you do:
  1. Install Greasemonkey, if you don't already have it. Once you're done installing, restart your browser.
  2. Go to Shelter from a Blizzard's page, and click the "Install This Script" button at the right.
  3. That's it! From now on all WoW forum pages you load will be de-intercepted.

Filed under: Tips, Forums

Hunter's Mark tells you how to know it all (without knowing it all)

Hunter's Mark has a terrific series up that's a great resource for anyone playing this game, not just Hunters. It's called "Being a Know-it-all Without Knowing it All," and if you've ever wondered where to go, what to do, or how to make your character better, reading through the series will give you access to pretty much every tool available online to figure out what's what.

None of it is really new (it's definitely not news that Wowhead and Thottbot exist), and if you read our little site frequently, you're probably very familiar with what all these resources have to offer (we're pretty thorough like that). But if you know someone who's looking for a little more insight on the game, or want a general overview of everything that's available and what each site can offer you, this is it. From the Loot Lists to Bosskillers, tons of information about everything you need to know in World of Warcraft is online, and the Know-it-all series is a great overview of what's what.

[ via Mania's ]

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Tips, How-tos, Odds and ends

Respec: a talent calculator for the Mac


If I'd had this tool a couple weeks ago, it would have made my last Build Shop much easier. Respec is a desktop talent calculator for the Mac (10.4+, Intel/PPC), and it works great as far as I can tell. In addition to talent-calculation basics, Respec has the following features:
  • Save specs for later tweaking/reference
  • Import from the Armory
  • Export to Blizzard's calculator
You might argue that in this day of a web tool for everything, working on every platform, desktop tools like this are somewhat superfluous -- but that's only until you don't have internet access. Now you can play with talent specs on the plane! It's good to see someone developing WoW tools for the Mac, too. One feature request: export to Wowhead's calculator. Much cooler than Blizz's, in my opinion. By the way, what do you all think of the spec above? I was thinking of taking my warlock out of mothballs to try out that cool-looking Felguard that's always stomping me in PvP.

[thanks, Mike]

Filed under: Fan stuff, Talents

Embed your Armory info

Ever looked at your Armory page and thought "this is nice, but I wish I could put it on another web page"? Well, now you can! MMO Guildsites has created a widget that can be embedded anywhere you like (guild rosters, maybe?), and consists of an iframe linking to a script that runs on their servers (so you don't need any server-side script support on your own site). The output is rather pretty, as you can see at right; in fact, I like it better than the actual Armory in many ways.

It does have a few shortcomings -- you can't see how much +damage you have in various schools, for instance -- but I still like it as a way to put live Armory data anywhere you want it. (It can show PvP data too, by the way, but I turned mine off for the screenshot since my numbers are downright shameful.) If you're interested, click over to their site, put in your server and character name, and it'll generate a preview and HTML for you to paste wherever you want it.

Filed under: Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Guilds

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