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Posts with tag wrath-of-the-lich-king

Warlords of Draenor: The Kor'kron are officially out

Denizens of the Undercity can breathe a sigh of relief in Warlords of Draenor, as abominations have once more taken their rightful place as guards of the Forsaken capital. Ever since the disastrous events of the Wrathgate and subsequent Battle for the Undercity in Wrath of the Lich King, the Undercity's halls have been dutifully patrolled by Kor'kron -- the elite personal bodyguards and fighting force of the Horde's Warchief. Yet although the Kor'kron were originally sent to simply keep an eye on the Forsaken -- particularly the Royal Apothecary Society -- as expansions went on, the guard became more and more hostile.

This, of course, led up to the events in Mists of Pandaria, where the Kor'kron crossed the line from loyal bodyguards to full-out fanatics working almost as secret police for Garrosh Hellscream. Led by Malkorok, the Kor'kron's ranks expanded considerably when Garrosh granted the Blackrock Clan amnesty and welcomed them into his new vision of the Horde. In the Siege of Orgrimmar, the Kor'kron fought against both rebel forces led by Vol'jin, and the Alliance army -- and found themselves systematically dismantled from both sides.

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Filed under: Warlords of Draenor

WoW Archivist: More beta surprises

Sylvanas models through the years
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

As the Warlords of Draenor beta rolls onward, Blizzard keeps managing to surprise us. Recently we've learned about a huge overhaul to guild systems, random upgrades for quest rewards, and an extra-awesome core hound mount.

In the last WoW Archivist column, we looked at the surprises from the original beta and the betas of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King expansions. This time, we continue with Wrath and also look at the surprises during the Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria betas.

(As before, I won't go into storyline surprises here. And I won't cover surprises announced at BlizzCon outside of a beta. BlizzCon already has its own feature for controversial surprises.)

Beta of the Lich King (continued)

Goodbye, night elf Sylvanas. Through vanilla and TBC, the Sylvanas model looked like a night elf rather than an undead high elf. With Sylvanas poised to play a big role in Northrend, Blizzard clearly needed to revamp her model. Players worried that they would have to look at the old night elf model through all her lore moments in Wrath.

A build in August 2008 gave her an initial makeover (middle image above) and lore-focused players breathed a sigh of relief. Clearly she still needed some work, but at least she wasn't a night elf anymore.

A later build in September gave her the fantastic model we see today. The same build also updated the models for Varian Wrynn and Alexstraza.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

WoW Archivist: Beta surprises

Death knights bomb the plaguelands
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Last week, we launched into the newest beta in WoW's history -- its sixth! -- for Warlords of Draenor. It's an exciting time for the game. Every beta has its surprises, good and bad. New things that were never announced. Prior announcements that changed unexpectedly. We've already had a number of surprises in the Warlords beta: the faction hub shift to Ashran, cross-faction auctions, and the removal of guild leveling.

Beta is just ramping up. We are sure to encounter more than one surprise over the next few months as we test the Draenor experience and gear up for the expansion's launch. Let's take a look back at the previous five betas and examine some of the twists that greeted testers -- and often shocked the WoW community. Caveat: I'm excluding storyline surprises.

The original beta

In 2003 and early 2004, players didn't really know what to expect from a World of Warcraft MMO. Blizzard, after all, had never made one before. Most of the original beta served up surprise after surprise. Yet, a few stand out.

Tired heroes. Patch 0.6 introduced the first incarnation of the rest system. Today it is simply a bonus for players who don't have time to log in every day. The original version was more like the Chinese government's "anti-obsession measures": it punished you for playing too long. The system looked like this:
  • Well rested gave 200% of the XP from a mob kill
  • Rested gave between 100% and 200% XP
  • Normal gave 100% XP
  • Fatigued gave 50% XP
  • Exhausted gave 25% XP
Your hero needed a good night's rest -- a full eight hours at an inn -- to go from exhausted to normal.

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Filed under: The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, WoW Archivist

WoW Archivist: Expansion gaps

Gap in the bridge on the Timeless Isle
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Expansion gaps are the most reviled of all content gaps. It's not just because they are the longest -- it's because at the other end of the gap lies so much to look forward to. Expansions change WoW from top to bottom. They usher in brand new worlds to explore and bring us new ways to play the game. That's part of why it takes Blizzard so long to release them.

In the meantime, we wait, mired in the old, but excited about the new.

We are experiencing what is likely to be the longest expansion gap so far in WoW's 10-year history. But what about the expansion gaps of the past? How do they stack up? What did Blizzard offer and what were players' reactions to them? Read on to find out!

Classic WoW to The Burning Crusade

Dates: August 22, 2006 to January 16, 2007
Duration: 4 months, 25 days
Subscriptions: Rising
Mood: Excited

The first expansion gap was also the shortest. It felt like a long time to players back then, since classic WoW offered patches and content at a blistering pace for the first two years of the game. Players were impatient, yes. That never changes. But we knew WoW was a hit and we were thrilled that the success of the game had made an expansion possible. We couldn't wait to roll a blood elf or a draenei, or take to the skies and fly for the first time. Plus, most raiding guilds hadn't conquered every boss (or even close), so they had plenty to keep them busy.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

WoW Archivist: Flight

Sparkle Pony
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Flying is second nature to WoW players. We've been doing it for almost eight years now. Sure, we've adventured in a few flightless places, like the Isle of Thunder, the Isle of Giants, and the Timeless Isle. Even The Burning Crusade, where flying originated, had a no-fly zone on the Isle of Quel'Danas. (What is it with these isles anyway?) But almost always, since 2006, we've flown. And we always expected to, for the vast majority of our in-game time.

Now, because of Blizzard's impassioned arguments against flight on Draenor, flying is suddenly controversial. If you look back, you can see why: flying has changed the game like no other feature before or since. Let's start where it all began, however, with classic WoW's humble flight paths.

They used to be cool

I'm about to express something that you may not believe. Once upon a time, flight paths were cool. Yep, I said it. Before flying mounts, when you couldn't even get a ground mount until level 40 and epic ground mounts were just a dream for most due to the steep cost, in that early version of the game where you spent most of your travel time walking or riding at the pace of a Throne of Thunder gastropod, flight paths were cool.

Not only did they get you around the continent at the fastest possible speed, they gave you a cinematic view of Azeroth from the skies. It was the only time you could get that view from above. The first time most classic WoW players rode a gryphon or wyvern from A to B, we loved it.

No other MMO at the time had anything like it. We felt like masters of the world -- at least, when we could afford to take the trip. Most players were broke in the early days, and using flight paths too liberally often meant forgoing buying a new skill when you leveled. Taking a flight path was an indulgence, a treat, instead of the annoying hassle we see them as today.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

The mistakes of the World of Warcraft

It's been a long time, hasn't it? World of Warcraft has lasted ten years, and in that time things are bound to go wrong. It's inevitable. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, I make references to William Butler Yeats and then talk about video games. No game lasts as long as World of Warcraft without making some bad steps along the way. Like Indiana Jones stepping on the wrong tile, all we can do is clamber back up.

Some of these were completely unforeseen, others in retrospect were pretty obvious, but at the time not so much, and others you have to wonder how they managed to make it live in the first place. We're going to talk about them now.

Vanilla WoW: The PvP ladder

Before the ladder, there was mainly world PvP. Spots like the Crossroads in the Barrens (close to a convenient neutral port so Alliance could get there easily) and Tarren Mill/Southshore were hotly contended for almost no good reason at all besides simple factional hatred and a desire from players to kill players. All of that changed with the introduction of battleground and honor rewards, the best of which required a player to achieve a certain rank to attain. What happened next was simple - some players hit upon a means to achieve that high PvP rank, namely, play in shifts.

The ladder was abused from the moment of its introduction. People formed groups who hit the BGs together, sure, but that wasn't the abuse part. The abuse came in the form of people sharing their account information and playing a specific character in shifts, literally keeping said character in the BGs for days at a time. If you were trying to play your character fairly, you simply couldn't compete with the five people who were playing that one warlock nonstop until it had all the high ranking PvP gear, and then shifting to the next player's warrior or paladin. I knew people who tried to stay awake for two solid days doing nothing but hitting up Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch. It was painful to watch. The ladder ended up being removed before the end of vanilla, and it was the best change they could have made.

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

Warlords of Draenor: Understanding Draenor Perks

What's the point of a Draenor Perk? It's a question that seems to be fairly common among players, ever since the bonuses were mentioned in the patch notes for patch 6.0. As players level from 90 to 100, each level will bring with it a perk. Each class and spec has nine perks, and by the time you hit level 100, you'll have them all. However, the order that you receive these perks is completely random. You can't choose the perk, the perk chooses you.

Wowhead dug up the full list of Draenor Perks for each spec and class, and the perks themselves seem to be pretty much the same -- bonus damage or a boost to specific player abilities. In many cases, it's just a flat percent damage boost. This seems all well and good, but players seem to be confused about the point of the perk system, since it looks a lot like something that was deliberately culled from the game a few years ago.

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Filed under: Warlords of Draenor

WoW Archivist: Talents have come full circle

Circle of Healing
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

The Warlords of Draenor patch 6.0 notes have revealed the latest changes to WoW's ever-evolving talent system. Talents have remained a core system in WoW since its earliest days, the primary method that allows players to make their characters distinct.

In the beta for WoW and throughout vanilla, talent trees were a bit of a mess, as Archivist covered. Today, we'll examine how those early trees came to be expanded, refined, and then scrapped for a very different system. We'll also look at how Warlords is bringing back the earliest version of talent trees in a brand new way.

The golden age of hybrids

Talent possibilities exploded during The Burning Crusade. Ten more levels granted players ten more points to assign. Players could now combine abilities in ways that vanilla's trees had never allowed, opening up exciting new gameplay paths.

Players didn't choose a specialization like they do today. Instead, they assigned points to three different "trees." Each tree represented a spec, but each also had talents that helped the other two specs as well. So players could pick and choose just how far down they wanted to go in a given tree, and thus how much to commit their character to one spec. "Hybrid" builds were not ideal from a min/max perspective, but they were popular. And TBC was the golden age of such builds.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

Cory Stockton's first draft of Dalaran

We've seen quite a few of these behind the scenes peeks at Blizzard's design process, from Alex Afrasiabi's pictures of his Benediction design and the Rhok'delar pages, to these pages from Cory Stockton and Jonathan LeCraft including Death Knight and class designs.

Now Cory Stockton's back with this, an early look at how Dalaran's layout was designed.

It's striking in how familiar it is, and yet places like the Dragon Embassy (later relocated to Wyrmrest Temple), the lack of clearly demarcated Horde and Alliance sections, and the presence of the Violet Citadel as a separate instance definitely set it apart from the Dalaran we ended up with. As always, interesting to see the game that might have been.


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

What If: Clash of the Frozen Thrones

I love doing lore columns, and I really enjoy doing Tinfoil Hat Editions of Know Your Lore -- I like the process of finding all the loose threads from expansions past and pulling them together in a way that is just weird enough to feasibly work. Sometimes, however, I come up with ideas that are just a little too far out there for a Tinfoil Hat Edition. Certainly they're interesting enough, but feasible? Not in the slightest.

When it comes to Warlords of Draenor, there are a lot of questions that haven't been answered. This is to be expected. We haven't even seen the beta for the expansion yet. We have absolutely no idea where that story is going to lead, other than commentary at BlizzCon suggesting that it will directly feed into the expansion following. Yet that tiny little comment, along with some thinking about Warlords itself gave me a theory regarding the next expansion. No, not Warlords -- I'm talking about the expansion after that.

It's entirely implausible of course, which is why I'm not sticking it in the Know Your Lore column. But what the heck, let's take a moment and ask ourselves what if -- and consider the possibility of Azeroth's greatest villain reborn.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Warlords of Draenor

Know Your Lore: The problem with story progression in WoW

The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.

I've been working on an alt these past few weeks, leveling through content at my leisure and re-visiting storylines I haven't seen since the early days of Cataclysm. I started out in Azuremyst Isle, hopping over to Darkshore once I reached the appropriate level -- basically, once I'd gotten out of Ammen Vale -- and completed the entirety of Darkshore not because the XP was good, but because I wanted to see the entire thing again.

From there, I hopped to the Eastern Kingdoms, where I did part of Duskwood, most of Northern Stranglethorn Vale, and then up to the Plaguelands -- Western, then Eastern -- before hopping down to the Badlands. After the Badlands, I did a small portion of Searing Gorge, then hopped down to the Swamp of Sorrows and the Blasted Lands, where I hit level 60 and promptly went through the Dark Portal to Outland. Which is when I realized something -- if I were a new player, someone who had never picked up World of Warcraft, I would have absolutely no idea what the heck was going on. At all.

There's something really wrong with that.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

WoW Archivist: WoW in China, an uncensored history

Official Chinese WoW site
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

A few weeks ago, we learned that ten men had been sentenced to two years' imprisonment in China for hacking WoW accounts and selling the stolen gold. It was not the first time that hackers have been punished by the state in China.

The relationship between WoW and China has often been contentious, going back to the early years of the game. While most players there have simply tried to enjoy the game they love, censorship, politics, and illicit activities have all had an impact on their experience.

As we wrap up the Mists of Pandaria expansion, let's not forget that so much of the culture, history, and geography of the expansion was inspired by the real legends and landscapes of China. Today, let's look at the history of WoW in China -- a history as rife with conflict as Pandaria's own.

Pop stars and cola fuel WoW's launch

From the earliest stages, Blizzard had little reason to doubt that WoW would be a hit in China. When the beta signups became available in April 2005, approximately 100,000 people signed up in the first hour. The beta achieved 500,000 concurrent players.

For the Chinese version of WoW, Blizzard partnered with Shanghai-based company The9, who could better handle localization, support, and customer service. The9 launched the classic version of the game on June 7, 2005.

Coca-Cola partnered with The9 to promote the game. For their ads, Coke brought in pop stars such as Taiwanese band S.H.E. (already covered by WoW Archivist), Super Voice Girl winner Li Yuchun, and Olympic gold medalist Liu Xiang. Although -- or perhaps because -- the TV ads broke China's rules against showing game content on TV, the cross-promotion was a huge success.

(As a side note, Pepsi later struck back with a partnership with Guild Wars the following year. Reportedly, Guild Wars' closed beta was delayed a week in China after Coca-Cola complained about The9's deal with their biggest competitor.)

Within the first month, The9 reported 1.5 million active WoW players in China. Although many Chinese citizens had already been playing on Western realms, this was still a huge achievement at the time for a Western MMO in China.

Unlike the West, most gamers in China play in Internet cafes, and MMO subscriptions are almost always handled on an hourly basis. At launch, WoW authorization keys cost 30 yuan and gametime cards were 0.45 yuan per hour. That converts to about $4 for game access and 6 cents per hour.

Like their Western counterparts, China's realms had their share of launch problems. Long queues and lag plagued realms in the East, too. By early 2006, players had grown increasingly dissatisfied with The9 and threatened a boycott. The9 claimed that difficulty with communicating with Blizzard was behind poor realm performance.

Soon enough, poor realm performance would be the least of players' concerns.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

Know Your Lore: Vindicator Maraad

The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.

He isn't a faction leader. He isn't an important NPC, he doesn't offer any quests. He doesn't even offer any flavor text if you happen to click on him -- he simply stands aboard the Skybreaker, letting other NPCs do all the grunt work of handing out quests and tasks for players. He didn't make an appearance in Cataclysm, nor was he anywhere to be found in Mists of Pandaria. To those who simply play World of Warcraft, completing quests and moving on, he is a nobody -- a peculiar NPC that happens to have a name, standing silent and without any apparent purpose at all.

Yet despite not actually appearing in the expansion, he was the draenei paladin featured in the cinematic for The Burning Crusade. He has his own impressive, deluxe action figure from the DC Unlimited series. And it was revealed at BlizzCon that he will play a major role in the Warlords expansion -- one of a few draenei mentioned specifically by name. So just who is Vindicator Maraad, and why does he rate all this attention?

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

What is World of Warcraft?

On December 23, 2004, I rolled my first character in World of Warcraft. It seems almost impossible to imagine that this was a little over nine years ago, but I still remember the day clear as a bell. A friend told me where to make a character and what faction to use, and offered me a guild invite the moment I logged in -- an Alliance guild that, to my knowledge, no longer exists. That began a journey that was a long, impossible at times, climb to level 60. Along the way, I made a ton of friends both in the guild and out, and when I hit level 60 it seemed like an incredible accomplishment. But as I shook off the haze of congratulations and cheers, I realized I had little to no idea what came after you hit level 60 -- and frankly, neither did anyone else.

Ironforge was the place to be. If you were Alliance it was the only place with an Auction House. Players spent hours upon hours outside the front gates dueling each other. There was no PvP as we know it today -- Battlegrounds didn't exist, so PvP was relegated to long, drawn out battles between Tarren Mill and Southshore. The options seemed to be as follows: Run Stratholme, Scholomance, and UBRS to collect your blue dungeon set. Go raid either Molten Core or Onyxia's Lair. And ... that was it. Needless to say, my next option was to roll an alt and find a raid guild. What other choice did I have, at the time?

As the game has progressed over the last nine years, those choices have expanded into a flurry of content that dwarfs everything that has come before it. And that makes me wonder -- just what is World of Warcraft, now?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

What we leave behind

I'm really concerned about Dog. Dog is the dog that I rescued from near starvation in the Heartland over in the Valley of the Four Winds. I was so excited to find and rescue this poor little guy that I even wrote a brief article about him at the time. Since then, Dog has been happily living the life of a king on my farm, and despite the fact that I was never able to name him, he seems to be happy enough to just respond to the name Dog, not to mention a few choice emotes. If you haven't already done so, try using /love, /pet, /bark, or /kiss on your puppy, because the result is adorable.

Actually, I kind of love everything on my farm. Shaggy the yak from Farmer Fung, the sheep from Chee Chee, the piggies sent courtesy of Fish Fellreed (who is still my favorite), and of course Luna the cat from Ella. Even the chickens, although they have a disturbing tendency to flop over dead due to phasing. I spent a lot of time building up the farm and making it the nicest little place to hang out, even when I'm not currently farming crops. It's a good farm. I had fun building it.

But I'm super concerned about Dog, because I know I'll be leaving soon.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

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