Flying, Garrisons & WoD News. 13 March 2014.

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Today marks the release of more information via social media, that Warlords of Draenor will NOT be using flight throughout the world of Draenor at launch, and has not been confirmed to be used at level 100, despite the likelihood obviously that it would be. Alex Afrasiabi, lead world designer for World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment go’s on to say that perhaps players would perhaps learn to enjoy the world without flying, and that they are waiting to see how players react to this limitation.

Personally I would say that I’d have to agree with the idea that the world we play in each expansion would benefit more from players having to explore more, allowing for much of the hard work that go’s unseen in the world more noticeable. If you look at fellow writer; Samkos recent post about Easter eggs in World of Warcraft, it could be argued that many of those aspects of the game would be more seen if flying did not exist in Azeroth. That being said, I would have to then counter that by saying flying is purely a convenience tool, and allows for players who have their daily routines in game to do that content easier and less laborious than it would be without. Either way, it’s interesting to see the approach to flying they are taking with Warlords of Draenor, and I share the curiosity of Mr Afrasiabi on how people will react.

Other information today, also through social media was that the starting event leading up to Warlords of Draenor’s release will be set in and around the Dark Portal in Blasted Lands. It has been said that the initial quests and events will take 40-45 minutes and will feature the player defending the world from invading Iron Horde through the Dark Portal. The event will see players attempt to shut down the portal itself, presumably leading to the events where Garrosh steps through the portal. Alex Afrasiabi is keen to emphasise the realisation of how bad the Iron Horde are, and mentions that we will see how important it is for us to address the problem immediately, or encounter a full invasion comparable to the first war.

Yesterday saw the launch of Hearthstone, and indeed the Hearthsteed mount (which you can read the article further to learn how to get your own). Speculation on what came to the original red version of the same mount was answered by Blizzard Employee; Corey Stockton, who confirmed that the model will infact be used in the future and that they have plans for it’s implementation. This comes as players wondered if the original designs were faction specific colour variants, only now it seems that this could be a future reward for WoW from Hearthstone. The release of Hearthstone itself did not avoid the usual issues with a new launch release, and some players reported difficulty redeeming their mounts in game. Blizzard addressed this by asking players to log out of their accounts and back in, which seems to be a fix for the issue.

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Finally we got more information, or rather confirmation on the possible scale of Garrisons; the player housing / instanced area in Warlords of Draenor from Jeremy Feasel, an employee of Blizzard who works on Garrisons, pet battles, the Timeless Isle and more features of the game. Upon joining he shared this screenshot, which features the Alliance player buildings present in the Garrison feature. The screenshot itself supplies the realisation on both scale and progressive features unlocked through achievements and progress in the game. The fountain in the centre for example, that would be built over time and presumably from a reward, achievement, or time related unlock process. What can be said is that personally I think the whole thing looks fantastic. The implementation of this feature alone to World of Warcraft will bring more addictive and enjoyable elements for players to be involved with outside of raiding or pvp. The original scale of the buildings I saw at an early stage of last years Blizzcon were tiny in comparison to what can only be a more progressed and advanced Garrison. This is fundamentally one of the most anticipated implementation for WoW, and with many other games doing it arguably less well planned than they could of, it will be interesting to see how this affects daily WoW life.

With WoD just around the corner now, and Beta invites expected very shortly, be sure to bookmark WoW.Stratics today, the only place you need to be for everything

Heathsteed Mount Now Available

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As of today, the ‘Hearthsteed’ mount is available for use in World of Warcraft; the long awaited mount is awarded to players who have successfully beaten 3 real opponents in either play or ranked modes within the Hearthstone game. If you didn’t realise sooner, Hearthstone recently went into open beta, and as of yesterday had its official release, hence the reward.

Hearthstone_Screenshot_3.12.2014.17.37.45To get your very own ‘Hearthsteed’ simply log into Hearthstone (Which is Free to play AND to Download from Battle.net), and join either the ‘casual’ play mode or the ‘ranked’ play mode, both of which allow eligibility for the subsequent reward. When you have beaten three real opponents in either of those two modes, the game gives you the ‘Hearthsteed’ reward in Hearthstone in the form of a pop-up window. Simply log into World of Warcraft after this point to get the ‘HearthStoned’ achievement, and with it mail from mount collector Mei Francis, where you will find enclosed the ‘Hearthsteed’ mount. The mount itself functions as both a flying and ground based mount, meaning players of all levels can make use of it wherever they happen to be. Usual mount training restrictions apply, and the speed of the mount will reflect that of the level of speed skill you purchase from the mount trainer in your local factions city.

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Speculation arose during the beta process, as leaked models surfaced of two horse mounts on the internet, one of them Black and Red, one of them Blue and white. It was confirmed that these models were indeed of the ‘Hearthsteed’ mount, however the original Black and red version did not make the cut, with only the Blue version being available to players around the world. Presumably the original intent was for the mounts to be faction specific, Blue for the Alliance players, Red for the Horde. The change to one mount only is a reflection of feedback from WoW players on the WoW forums, many of which arguing against the inclusion of the Red version for various reasons, many of which seem to be based on suiting the feel of the Hearthstone game. I personally like the red version, however I feel that it was indeed perhaps not in keeping with the Hearthstone look, and the blue and white version would be more sought after based on its colour scheme.

Yesterday saw the release of the patch for United States servers, and today the remainder of the regional server groups for Europe and Asia. This release coincides with other recent additions in the Blizzard line up for March; Diablo 3 is set to get the release of its long awaited expansion ‘reaper of Souls’ on the 23rd of this month. With this, the beta being out for their new IP; Heroes of the Storm and the more recent release of digital pre orders of the normal and digital deluxe Warlords of Draenor WoW expansion, Blizzard are set to set the year alight with it’s various IP sales.

With Beta for Warlords of Draenor hopefully on the horizon soon, be sure to check out WoW.Stratics daily for more news as it becomes available, for everything World of Warcraft related, there’s a place for it here on Stratics.

 

 

HearthStone – MMO, Virtual TCG, or Both?

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Even Blizzard staff enjoyed games of MTG in the halls!

Whispers in the great forums of the Battlenet echoed of some little game in closed beta that would satisfy the trading card game geeks in us as well as the battle hardened orcs from Azeroth. The competitiveness is highly evident. You play against other people, not just a computer’s AI. You can craft new cards, customize your decks, earn rewards, even buy some advanced perks! I’m getting ahead of myself though, so let’s step back up a bit before I get too far into Blizzard’s new game offering, HearthStone.

A Black Lotus Card from Magic: The Gathering

A Black Lotus Card from Magic: The Gathering

In the early 1990’s just about every comic convention had several booths set up with one form or another of Trading Card Games (TCGs). From Magic: The Gathering (MTG) to  Pokémon  and even some versions for fantasy sports and super heroes; there wasn’t a place where some teens,  tweeners and thirty-somethings were throwing down a deck, tapping cards, and playing for each others’ special collectible cards. Some of these cards are not cheap! There is a very rare card from Magic: The Gathering called the Black Lotus (pictured at right). It is so rare and desirable, even today you will find it on eBay being auctioned for tens of thousands of dollars! TCGs are so popular, just get your hands on a print sheet for certain titles and you will be able to generate the funds to make a down payment on a decent sized home in Pennsylvania!

The staff at Blizzard, especially some of the old-timers, played Magic: The Gathering during their breaks from coding the games millions have grown to love. They remembered the fun they had flipping cards and soon the very core of Blizzard decided to make a small, robust – and “epic” – game that helps to feed the desire to play cards yet not get sucked in too deep with the competition. Thus HearthStone was born as a digital Collectible Card Game (CCG); there is no trading of the cards between players. As with every digitized game in production, eventually you need to test it with ever larger groups of people. As a World of Warcraft player, I saw the announcement for testers and added my account for the beta. I didn’t actually expect to be invited, particularly to the closed beta. Yet the invite was slipped into my email account one dark, shadowy night. Yes, I was surprised when I saw it, so of course I signed up!

HearthStone Beta Invite

To be quite honest, I never got into the entire MTG culture. Sure, I could play the game, even won some pretty decent cards from friends (sadly,not the Black Lotus). I did manage get my hands on some production sheets for Pokémon cards. Kept two of the best and framed them for my sons when they were little. No idea what they could be worth today, but you never know. I bought cards, built deck, but just didn’t get that much into the entire process. I still have some MTG cards floating around the house now. So it is a bit ironic; here I am getting ready to venture into a virtual version of a card game built up and themed after the Warcraft games. What am I getting myself into?

After verifying my closed beta access in the new Battlenet Desktop Application, I started the download. Knowing the intensity of graphics and elements that Blizzard is (in)famous for, I prepared to go watch some television when I noticed just how fast the download and patch bar was moving! I had read the hype that the developers were creating a small and portable game, but this was awesomely minuscule compared to their normal fare. So a bit piqued, I ignored the nightly news blaring from the living room TV and simply waited the entire 5 minutes it took to download and install! WOW!

I did have some issues authenticating into the game itself (and Blizzard people are well aware of this issue). After several attempts I did make it to the start screen – and my fun night began! Most evident is this kind of old-school feel to the graphics that tugged at my deepest gaming memories. I shrugged it off and continued setting up which didn’t take too long as the options are very minimal:

  1. Sound – volume is set to be rather high (watch the credits and you’ll see why), so had to turn that down for both the master and music volumes
  2. Resolution – I got a nice widescreen for my gaming rig, so that I had to tweak
  3. Quality – no idea how much bandwidth it will take, so kept it at medium. Looks good!
  4. Fullscreen – to check or not to check that little check box!

And really, that’s it.

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Can you name these characters and cite a bit of their back history without looking it up? Their classes should be enough to trigger the memories of die-hard Warcraft fans.

I started looking around at the graphics, the details, and I am really impressed. Indeed, the flavor and feel is just right for my senses and degrading vision, but is active and in depth enough to keep even the shortest attention span intrigued. The background music is perfectly suited for a medieval tavern and really is quite relaxing. Oh, and there is chatter. Background chatter like you hear in a busy bar or gaming hall. The din actually cheers and boos sometimes depending on the cards and action on the display screen! How’s that for immersion? There’s a bit of a steampunk vibe in places which I like. It is done with class and taste that doesn’t make you feel as if you’re about to take off in Captain Nemo’s submarine.

Finding your Opponent

A bit of steampunk influence with some hauntingly familiar music. If you’ve been a long time fan of Warcraft, you’ll know these tunes!

A few things I noticed are the easter eggs, and they got me giggling like a little girl most of the time. I almost fell of my chair when I heard the classic, “Job’s done!” from the Warcraft game of yore! Really, I squealed with jubilation and glee! Yes, there is a bit of the old in this new game! If I hear, “Zug, zugg!” I think I’ll die! I still have my very old Warcraft game that I used to play back in the 1990’s. I’m feeling nostalgic now and will most likely load it up. I did stream my first HearthStone experiences, and have some excerpts below along with a promotional video from the Blizzard team.

There really is a lot that makes your first few sessions into this game a bit on the overloaded side. Items to click and poke at with your cursor. Menus to navigate, and cards to filter through. Thankfully, the Blizzard team had the foresight to presort the cards on pages and by class, otherwise the sheer volume (which isn’t that much in the beta actually) would be overwhelming and too much work to deal with. I want to pit my skills against other people, not organize cards all night! Now that I think about it, that is really what turned me off from MTG and similar games of the genre – too much to keep track of and organize – too much like work!

Once you get comfortable with the features, and know what combinations work well against the different characters and other cards, you’ll get hooked by the competition aspect of this game. And the Blizzard team knows you will. They’ve given players the ability to create new cards, buy more powerful cards with gold earned through challenges and quests – or real money. Yes folks, here’s the money making part. The game itself is mostly likely going to be Free-to-Play and wind up on your iPads and Android tablets where you can Pay-to-Win on the fly. I did test this feature and noticed some things I wasn’t too happy with – so posted them on Blizzard’s beta forums. Due to security concerns, I won’t harp about them here; hopefully its just me being paranoid. Otherwise, I’ve not been able to crash the game, barge into features I’m not paying for, or crack anything that I shouldn’t. As a programmer of sorts, I’m a little savvy to some things the average users isn’t – and honestly this game is so simple, I’ve not been able to brak it! It is a very lightweight game on the PC and does make me think this is more intended for tablets and mobile devices. It sure is small enough (in data size) for it!

I expect there to be competitions popping up for this game, even tournaments, leagues and more – both fan based and official. As a matter of fact, Blizzard did make an announcement about some members of the Hearthstone community attending BlizzCon 2013 for an exhibition tournament! This is going on November 8 & 9 (next month). That’s pretty cool!

I actually streamed my beta playing which appeared live on the Stratics Live Streaming section of the forums. I did take out a couple of highlights – don’t want to bore anyone with 3 hours of me giggling when I win and cursing when I lose. The action is rather fast paced; rounds are timed and if a card isn’t played in the time allowed – *buzz!* NEXT! You’re welcome to watch the videos on my Twitch Channel. I’ve also got one of the behind the scenes videos from Blizzard posted below.  The game is expected to be released in Windows, OSX and iOS for the iPad possibly later this year or early next. Check out the official site for more up to date news – and I hope I get to toss cards with some of you soon!

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Blizzard’s Single-Sign-On & Siege of Orgrimmar

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The joy of Single-Sign-On technology spreads to Blizzard Entertainment with their new Battlenet Desktop Application just exiting closed beta. You can download it now and enjoy the features early while dealing with little buggy issues like authentication errors and lagging connections. Or you can wait for the final release which should be bug & lag free. This gamer-chick is brave so she downloaded and installed the BattlenetApp to her Alienware Rig. Read More…