Season 15 Announced But What Does That Mean For Warlords of Draenor?

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The WoW community received some interesting news yesterday, although not the Warlords of Draenor info they had hoped and prayed for but close enough. Holinka the PvP Designer for World of Warcraft announced that there would be another PvP season (Season 15) before Warlords of Draenor is launched.

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This is great news for the PvP players of WoW as waiting for the prolonged season at the end of an Expansion can feel painful and cause interest to fall. This now means that the players will have something to keep them occupied while the Expansion comes to an end, well not all the players…  The announcement sparks a lot of questions and speculation, does this mean WoD won’t be as soon as we had hoped? Will it turn out similar to Dragon Soul, where casual and PvE players had little to do during the next expansion wait? Or do the devs also have something planned even though they previously stated in the Warlords of Draenor Developer Panel at Blizzcon

“Another MoP patch would delay WoD, so Patch 5.5 isn’t going to happen. The entire team is working on WoD right now, so any more MoP content would slow down development.”

The majority of the WoW community expected WoD to drop in Q2 of 2014 meaning we would have played patch 5.4 for around 8 months. This seemed to be a comfortable wait, a little longer than most would like but acceptable without seeing a patch 5.5. But now with the next season announced things aren’t looking too promising for WoD within Q2 so that leaves two options, will we see a 5.5 patch with new PvE content although that would mean they are taking people from WoD development to do another MoP patch or do they plan on having 5.4 for 9+ months and just hope that the players will stick around or return for WoD.

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Now after playing Blizzard games and following its potential rivals over the years, I’ve come to learn they don’t like to give their competition a chance if they have the opportunity to. The reason I bring this up is this year will see two new MMOs that have gained a decent amount of interest and for Blizzard to delay WoD without giving its player base an alternative wouldn’t seem like something they would do especially as they tend to learn well from their mistakes and wouldn’t give us another Dragon Soul repeat if it can be helped.

Personally I feel they have something planned in terms of WoD beta, instead of releasing a new patch for the current expansion why not make the next expansion be the thing that keeps people entertained? By this I think they will make WoD beta a lot more open than it has been before, doing large amounts of invites around the times the new MMO’s will launch. This seems the more tactical plan as it will build next Expansion hype, keep the current player based interested in the game and less likely to switch over to the competition without causing them to have to create content for an expansion that is due to end.

How would you feel about getting WoD beta access over a new patch, do you want a new patch instead and do you like the idea of an extra PvP season before the expansion ends? Let us know your thoughts on it all in the comments below!

Lore, Warcraft & You! -Introduction

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Welcome to Meoni’s lore column, each week we’ll be talking about events or opinions on general Lore elements and how they are told within the World of Warcraft videogame franchise! This week in Lore, Warcraft & You! I take a look at what lore actually is, and why it’s important to the games we play, ensuring a continued value for money experience in a growing world of ‘competition’.

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As a child, books were never things I would actively seek out, nor did I find much interest in written media at all until much later in life, but the one thing that stays in my mind are stories such as the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, or any of the Terry Pratchett works. Like most children, I had stories read aloud to me by either my parents before bed or at school, and honestly I preferred it that way, and have continued to be this way to this day, with many audio books adorning my media player library in preference to the books on my shelves. I feel this relaxing, almost meditation like state allowed my mind to race away with conjured up images of what a Hobbit even looked like, or what I believed Smaug the dragon would sound like in his bellowing narrative.

Such grand, epic stories, so colourful and rich, written so beautifully the narrative medium they were delivered upon was always clear and painted the scene perfectly. That in my opinion is then the definition of a good story, one that can be told without too much guidance to the reader, and one that doesn’t require time to understand what is happening on the pages during action sequences or heavy interactions between multiple characters. Translation between media allows for a much purer experience, but only if delivered properly, which is why making content based on pre-designed lore, such as a film or game, is the most important thing there is.

Now if you look at the Warcraft franchise, it’s clear to see that development in all aspects of the medium has resulted in more and more time to focus on enriching story elements to the point of equality, or in some cases even better than what could possibly be explained in pages in a book.

Lore in itself is not the story, but the context of that story, and a slight error can mean the difference between a fluid experience and one of pure misery when trying to piece a world together, especially as vast and intricate as Azeroth. A good example of this was during the Cataclysm expansions premiere at Blizzcon 2010. A fellow gamer and now well known lore enthusiast Ian Bates, better known as ‘Red Shirt Guy’ by both the panel and the wow community, asked a question based on one of these discrepancies he had discovered.

The question referred to a recent book in the Warcraft universe, The shattering, which told of the events leading up to the Cataclysm expansions present timeline. He pointed out that a character that Blizzard had forgotten about, ‘Falstad Wildhammer’, presumed dead by the lore panel team, was actually in fact actively playing a role within the vanilla WoW game all the way up to the end of the ‘Wrath Of The Lich king’ expansion, yet completely missing from the ‘Council of Three Hammers’, an organised group of leaders within the Dwarf race.

Chris Metzen and the lore panel then checked this and declared the ‘red shirt’ guy correct, changed the game to include the missing character in the next expansion in his rightful place, and even included the gentleman asking the question as the ‘Lore Checker’ NPC in the game, stood next to the ‘Council Of Three Hammers’ themselves.

Mistakes are easily made, and the previous example shows the dedication and following behind the Warcraft games and the respected lore behind each and every storyline. As a result of this community interaction, the game has enforced standards to be both met and addressed with each and every game design decision, which in turn has helped create World of Warcraft into the rich, story driven game it is today.

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It can be said that the game has never been as story driven as it has been in recent Expansions, with many new methods of telling those stories introduced into Mists of Pandaria. Lorewalker Cho for example, voiced by the fantastically enthusiastic Jim Cummings, a veteran in lending his vocal talents to the video game world is key to this discussion.

The Thunder King official trailer that Blizzard released prior to the raids release to the public, featured rhyming couplets and a poetic projection of the events involving the resurrection and history behind the end boss of that raid.

This by far has to be one of the most impressive works of art the Blizzard team has put together in my opinion, with an extremely high quality presentation level and frankly spine tingling delivery.

As Cummings’ character tells the story of the Pandaren people, raised as slaves under the ancient Mogu empire, ruled by the powerful Thunder King, you get a sense this is more than just the amalgamation of ideas on paper, but a whole intricate thought out part of why the Pandaren even accept the outsiders eventually and try to trust the player throughout their adventures in Pandaria.

To get such a talented vocal inspiration working on a project like this is no easy feat. Consider the distance the game has had to travel before not just the money, but the renowned respect the company was there for this to be possible. For it’s progression in dedication to both customer service and delivery of a worthwhile, value for money product for consumption, is obviously the key concern of the whole development team. This is just one of many other reasons we could talk about in a future post of why WoW still reigns as the number one subscription based MMORPG around.

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The community behind a project like this, is what makes World Of Warcraft what it is, without our ‘Red Shirt Guy’s’, and our passionate interaction with the entire franchise, a game would just not be as rich, or even half as interesting to play, regardless of end game playable content, which I feel is where the games ‘competitors’ go wrong.

A player is given the chance to experience the in-game content at their pace, which is expected of a premium pay to play model in today’s society, with anything less than that a sure-fire way of not making even a dent in competition.

Thank you for reading this article, if you would like to continue the discussion, please do. What are your most favoured Warcraft moments? What would you like to see added to the game to further enrich the experience? Let us know, Cheers!

 

LOTRO Interview with Kate Paiz and Adam Mersky

Thanks to the folks over at CStM for pointing out a recent interview on the Ten Ton Hammer Live podcast with Executive Producer and Director of Communication for LOTRO.

There is some normal marketing fluff to the interview on the transition and how they’re doing, but they certainly do point towards a big 2011 for LOTRO.  A good portion of the initial discussion on on the transition and the stigma of F2P as the LOTRO community really has rallied around the game to help combat those perceptions.

I pulled a few things from this interview, first up will be the health and growth of LOTRO.  The monthly revenue for LOTRO has TRIPLED since the F2P launch, which is a huge boost.  We’ve started to see this returned to the players as they’ve boosted their community team by 40% and I think we’ll see a number of things roll out to the community as the year progresses.

Some talk regarding the lack of content that has hit LOTRO of late, and while Kate danced around the question a bit she did re-iterate the massive behind the scenes revamp that had to go on to implement the transition as they had to deal with the store, instance scaling, as well as the newbie area revamps.  She did follow that up with the statement that they’re not only focusing on the newbie areas but the entire community as a whole, as evident by the fact that they’re not only leveraging in-game data but pulling metrics from the store to really help guide the game.  I’m all for pulling data from the store as it is a huge additional resource to them, in addition to things like the beta programs, forums, blogs, etc they already pull from.

There was also talk about the future content coming to LOTRO, and I’m going to discuss this in terms of 2011 and not the order they covered them in the interview.  They did drop some nice hints for the first quarter release we knew was coming:

  • Cosmetic system revisions
    • mainly in the character panel and some user interface tweaking
  • Epic line advancement in this update
    • Probably a book or possibly 2
  • New instance cluster plus a raid
  • 1st Age Legendary Items

Part of me was a little worried as I really thought much of this would be spread out over the year, but I’m still very optimistic that we’ll see a couple more interim releases between Q1 and Isengard.  This now becomes a MUCH bigger release then I was expecting as it will not only be a raid cluster, but story, and system changes too.  This would be probably the largest non-expansion release since Book 11 way back in the Shadows of Angmar days that introduced Annuminas.  There’s also other tidbits already released regarding the removal of radiance with this instance cluster.  Now there’s also been talk of a Legendary Item revamp, which I’m not sure if they’ll include with the 1st Age Weapons, or if that will come later.

Looking past that update, they did mention some other items including cosmetic pets and cosmetic items.  They also have all the class feedback to implement improvements like the Loremaster and Runekeeper just received.  There’s a lot of time between Q1 and Isengard, and my guess is they want to get this Q1 update out the door and then see what else they can implement while working on Isengard.  I’m still expecting another story update and system update before Isengard.

And of course, there was some discussion about the Isengard expansion:

  • Content will include
    • Isengard
    • Tower of Orthanc
    • Surrounding Vale
    • Dunland
    • Southern Enedwaith
    • Gap of Rohan
  • Following the story as the rangers travel to join Aragorn in Rohan
  • Growing strength of Saruman’s forces and the Orc factories
  • Level cap increase
  • It will be a paid expansion available to all subscriber levels.

When you look at a map, this area looks quite a bit larger then the small area of Mirkwood we’ve seen.  This amount of landmass really puts it squarely between Moria and Mirkwood with regards to content, which should make folks feel better about the game direction.  And this doesn’t even touch on the PvP revamp coming as well with Isengard.

And of course, they did also tease us with the notion that they’re actively thinking and planning for how to incorporate the Battle of Helm’s Deep into the game, which will come later on with Rohan.  I believe they might have mentioned next year, but that could just be my wishful thinking.  I have no clue how they’re going to pull that off, but I can’t wait!

Overall it was an interesting interview, still lots of un-answered questions but some really surprising  comments pulling together the various fragments we’ve seen previously.

LOTRO Predictions for 2011

I’m just now getting back from vacation and wanted to share a few thoughts about what I think will happen this coming year.  It has been a rough 2010 for Turbine with the massive undertaking that was the F2P transition, but I’m quite excited for this year as I really think Turbine will hit their stride with the switch and get back to the SOA release pace.  I’ll keep these short, so here goes:

  • We will see at least 5 updates to the game this year.  We know of 3 (raid cluster, summer, and Isengard) but I’m thinking there will be two that are either “Month of” patches that bring class tweaks or story updates.
  • Isengard will start off Volume 4 of the epic line, and will hit in October.  OK, this might be a bit of a wish, but I’m thinking earlier then most expect and since November is their normal release I wanted to push it up a bit as that also gives room for a post Isengard update.
  • The new raid cluster will be a huge boost for Turbine and will keep most end-gamers active until Isengard
  • In addition to the LI overhaul, we’ll see the trait system tweaked or some other progression system introduced
  • The PvMP revamp will be great for VIPs but will fall flat for free players and will not include any new classes, freep or creep.
  • Turbine will push the limits of what’s accepted in the store and will cross the line enough that they’ll need to do a mea culpa and give something back to the players.
  • My gimme – there will be new podcasts.  I’m cheating here as I’m starting one, but I’m also predicting there will be at least one more.

Can’t wait for the fun this year, and I should have my first podcast episode up soon!

Latest End-game Armor Spreadsheets

So I finally got around to updating these spreadsheets with all the changes in the F2P launch.  The other big addition is love for the Champions such that this spreadsheet covers Wardens, Captains, and Minstrels as well.  Sadly I can’t take screen shots of the other radiance sets for Champions as I’m still not quite high enough, but check out Darzil’s site for some snaps and I do have the new Helegrod set:

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The sets included are:

  • Moria 6-piece Radiance set
  • DN 6-piece Radiance set
  • BG 6-piece Radiance set
  • 2 3-piece Radiance Sets
  • Annuminas 6-piece Radiance set
  • Helegrod 6-piece Radiance set
  • Lorien Crafted Set
  • The 2 good Mirkwood Crafted Sets

For all these sets, I have comparisons of the entire sets (including set bonuses) and individual piece comparisons.  I also have a “Item Rater” sheet that allows you to plug in your own values for the stats and see which pieces are the best for you.  The excel one is color coded, while sadly the Google one just has the equations.

Excel Version

Google Docs Version

Big thanks to Hakon for his spreadsheet on the Champions as I wouldn’t have been able to grab that data without him.  I’ve also created a separate page to keep all this information straight.

LOTRO Server Statistics

I saw this update over on MMorsel.com and really couldn’t believe how much of an uptick LOTRO has seen with the F2P launch.  Now I will also caveat (MMorsel does the same) that we’re not totally sure how they’re coming up with these numbers but they do seem to make sense looking at the last weeks of August.  The site is a German site, but thanks to Google Translate you can find out some information, but still not a complete explanation.  The first thing that jumped out at me was the massive spike in the number of logins as they’re reporting over 200K logins per week per server!  The other aspect that MMorsel focuses on is that the F2P launch has re-shuffled the servers a bit and the previous top 3 are no longer the most populated servers.

I was quite pleased to see Silverlode close the gap on the higher population servers.  It still is a middle of the road server but is no longer 1/3 or 1/2 of the higher population servers.

I know I’m seeing quite an uptick of folks not only out in Enedwaith but quite a bunch in the lower areas as I level up my Champion.  Are the rest of you seeing roughly a 10x population increase?

Codemasters F2P Still Delayed

As this post from Community Liaison Dnote explains, they’re still working out the kinks on getting this launched for the non-US folks.  The expected timeframe is still a “few weeks” out but no official date as of yet.  I’m not sure how that timeline fits within Sapience’s definitions, but we shall see.

I hope this gets resolved soon such that all of you can get to enjoy the stuff I’ve been writing about :)

WarCry Dev Chat – Isengard and Radiance Details

During the downtime there was a Dev Chat hosted by WarCry with the full transcript posted a couple of places but I read it over at Mordor of Bust.  Certainly some good Q&A but a couple things leaped off the page for me:

  • With regard to the Isengard Expansion (Kate Paiz):
    • isengard is tentatively slated for next year, and we’ll be approaching the zone in the timeline in which saruman has already denuded the area, and has created his orc factory.  players will likely have access to some of the underground areas, but obviously with saruman in the big tower, access to the upper regions is likely to be challenging :)
  • With regard to Radiance (Jalessa)
    • We took Radiance outside, tied it up to some railroad tracks, and…well…I think you saw the end of this in Red Dead Redemption. Look for this in the future – we will be removing Radiance from LOTRO.

I really like the timing with Isengard, I was afraid we were going to get there when everything had died down :(  And of course, I’m VERY intrigued with where they’re going to take gear towards and how they’re going to move past Radiance.

Take a look for yourself, I’m sure we’ll all pull bits and pieces from various different items.