Warlords Home for the Holidays

Warlord Holiday

It’s the holidays. People are rushing about getting shopping done, decorating homes for the season, scrambling to get the best of the best before it disappears – but not in Azeroth. World of Warcraft players are exploring the Warlords of Draenor expansion – finding all sorts of mounts, gifts, toys, pets and followers while expanding their collective immersion experience with Garrisons. That’s right, a quasi-housing situation has been introduced to this popular game that so many didn’t think could be done! With requests going back as far as 2006 and possibly further, players of Blizzard’s flagship game have been champing at the bit for something to call their own! Somehow, the devs have done it. Think somewhere between between the customizable ownership of Ultima Online (UO) and the collaborative ownership in Guild Wars (GW).

 

The Custom Home

Warlord Holiday Ultima Online Custom HomeIn UO, an individual player is able to collect enough wealth, purchase a house plan, then plant it wherever there is space. Buildings range from the smallest 7-tile-square customs situated in the remotest areas all the way to gargantuan pre-fab castle layouts nestled tightly betwixt neighbors. If there is a clearing, a player will plop their home down. During the height of the housing rush in 2007 (when Trammel was ‘discovered’) – the land grabbing got vicious! Longtime friend actual rez-killed one another to procure prime real estate! Not to mention the uniqueness of the houses are limited only by player imagination: from square, black boxes to fountain-houses of waterfall walls (yes, we know some players just adore the damp). Take a quick jaunt across more populated shards today and you’ll be hard pressed to see two homes decorated alike.

 

Communal Living

Warlord HolidayIn GW, guilds and factions work together to earn their property – and it belongs to them all with the leaders managing resources and “diplomacy”. Of course, the group could lose their holdings to competitors, its happens time and time again from what I’ve witnessed. Each group takes the holding from another group – some banners and flags change, but essentially its all static. The conquering group gets private, added access to specialty features, but that’s really it when it comes to “housing” in that game.

 

The Holy Grail of Virtual Housing

Game developers are looking for the perfect balance of allowing players to have a sort of uniqueness, yet not overload servers and staff with the creation, maintenance and updating of everything involved. As special as UO is, the involvement necessary in updating the graphics, positioning, x,y,z axis, the effect of lighting, viewing position and ambient coloration of items looks to be a nightmare! Not to mention collision with a custom home plopped where it probably shouldn’t be (see any trees poking through walls?) and other abnormalities that have become famous (the 7×7 on the roof of a large tower is my favorite). Is it any wonder the venerable game is still using an isometric view? Imagine all that in 3D? Wait, someone is! Portalarium is getting close (of course, their core dev team are the same people that created UO in the first place) with pre-fab houses that can be decorated in Shroud of the Avatar (SotA) – including player-owned, static towns customized by players (if you have the money).

 

Blizzard’s ‘Dream Home’

I believe Blizzard has found a nice, happy medium to the problem of utilizing a customized living situation in a fully-dimensional virtual space without bogging the servers, or players. Garrisons in WoD are unique. The individual player is “awarded” the responsibility of developing a fort in historic Draenor, before the Dark Portal was created! Yeah, that threw me for a moment, too. I mean, if we (collectively) succeed in defeating the Warlords who created the Dark Portal, what will that do with present-time Azeroth? Will the Alliance and Horde be eternally united? Will I have to share my holy bread with an Orc?!? 0.o

But I digress, this is about the Garrison!

Warlord Holiday FollowersAs you progress through levels, quests, and continuously harder tasks, you can develop and grow your Garrison from a few measly tents to a robust castle complex, including all those ammenities normally reserved for the king! You can pick and choose which buildings go into your Garrison, reap the benefits of developing those buildings, and when you are ready for something else, rip it down and build a new one. You get NPC “helpers” which I’m finding to be really nice touch. You basically tell the NPCs what to do, when to do what, and you can even have them accompany you around Draenor as your bodyguards. And you’ll need them – the upper level mobs are not anything to scoff at.

In the coming weeks, Stratics will be presenting “WoD Garrison Guides” for our readers. These guides will help you learn about the buildings, what benefits you may (or may not) want to reap, and how the Garrison itself is an integral part of the world in WoD. Check back and don’t forget to jump into our forums to share your thoughts! What is good for this Proto-Pali might not work for you Warrior-Orcs, and definitely vice-a-versa.

Warlord Holiday Level 3 Garrison

If you are interested in contributing your World of Warcraft experiences, drop us a line! Stratics is always looking for a few good pens! Visit our Forums and send a PM to Ron Bron or Kirthag.

 

Discipline Priest – WoD

Discipline Priests

A lot has been changed about Discipline Priests from the last season on Mists of Pandaria moving towards the first season of Warlords of Draenor. The Discipline Priest has always been a specialization that heavily relied on its absorbs. This is still true with the release of WoD as several of Disc’s spells have been changed or removed. Blizzard wanted to have healers make decisions as to what spell they are going to use rather than pressing one or two keys to top off the tank every few minutes. With Draenor, they are purposefully forcing players stay below 100% health. Blizzard has deliberately made heals less potent than the damage of the monsters. Direct from the Blizzard website, “We want healers to care about who they’re targeting and which heals they’re using…” Blizzard is looking to make healing more interactive than the previous expansions by making healing more of a challenge while still allowing players to have the time to make decisions.

Here you can watch as I heal through the bosses of The Everbloom Heroic Dungeon as a Discipline Priest. There is not much but spamming Flash of Light when it comes to healing as a Discipline Priest since the release of WoD.

Once you hit level 100 the real test begins. To do heroic dungeons you are now required to have at least a silver ranking in the role you are queuing for. So if you are healing you have to enter the proving grounds and pass both Bronze and Silver rankings. When I went into Heroic dungeons fresh from hitting level 100 my first heroic dungeon was more stressful than being locked in a room with my mother for three days. Healing as a Discipline Priest has taken a new turn, and the difficulty in some of the dungeons is very real. I had not read about how Blizzard wanted players to sit below 100 percent health, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I couldn’t keep anyone topped off (it really didn’t help that our hunter was pulling extra mobs and standing in the fire). Healing had really become more of a challenge, and even today when I have a substantial amount of gear healing is still difficult and I really have to think about what I’m going to cast before I cast it. I personally had become so used to Pandaria healing where you could stand in fire and not worry about a thing. Now in Draenor dungeons, the mechanics really need to be followed or your group will be in for a world of hurt.

In my opinion playing discipline priest is a lot more challenging, but also feels empty. With a lot of removed and changed spells I think the Discipline-spec is now missing a lot of the spells that once made it more fun. Renew used to be a big spell when playing the Discipline Priest. You would throw a Power Word Shield, and an Renew on the Tank. Next, you would do the same for all the other players in the dungeon. Lastly, you topped off the tank with a Penance. Halo, Cascade, or Divine Star could be used when they were off cool down in order to get out your area of effect heals without slowing down the use of absorbs and Flash of Lights. The fast pace of Prayer of Mending (PoMs) could be used every chance you got. Now healing has definitely slowed down in pace. Healers watch the health of the Tank and DPS; while quickly glancing down at Penance to see how long you have left on cool down and filling the time with Flash of Lights. Mana is your greatest enemy in dungeons as you have to watch it carefully so you can make it through the fight. I do love the new challenge that comes with healing, but I miss the other spells that made this spec my favorite when I played my priest.

Spell Changes

Removed Changed:
Renew Cascade has a 1.5 second cast time
Inner Will Halo has a 1.5 second cast time
Inner Focus Prayer of Mending has a 1.5 second cast time
Void Shift Divine Star has a 1.5 second cast time
Hyme of Hope Renew is now only for Holy Priests
Heal Greater heal has been renamed Heal
Silence has been added to the Discipline Spec
Focused will is triggered by any damage taken

 

Some other changes to Discipline Priests are:

  • Dominate Mind now shares diminishing returns (DR) with other mesmerize effects.
  • Psychic Scream is now a level 60 talent and replaces Psyfiend, and has a 45 second cool down up from 30.
  • Void Tendrils now will break after the target receives sufficient damage.
  • Holy Nova is now learned at level 20 and the mana cost has been lowered while the healing has been buffed.
  • Evangelism no longer affects the damage or mana cost of spells.
  • Spirit Shell is now a level 75 talent replacing Divine Insight for discipline priests.

*New* Level 100 Talents

Clarity of Will: Shields the target with a protective ward, absorbing 23,608 damage within 20sec.

40yd range   5,040 mana   2.32 sec cast

Words of Mending: Your healing and shielding spell casts grant you a stack of Word of Mending. When you gain 10 stacks of Word of Mending, your next targeted healing or shielding spell also casts a prayer of mending at them.

Passive

Saving Grace: Heals a friendly target for 23,275. Reduces your absorbs and healing done by 10% for 8 sec, stacking up to 10 times.

40 yd range   4,800 mana 1.39 sec cast

To Game or not to Game: A parent’s guide to WoW introduction

Age Requirement

“Mommy! I want to see the spider pet!” My seven year old asks this often. I don’t know if it’s because it’s blue, sparkly, or multi-legged. Whatever the reason I oblige and pull it up on my Night Elf Hunter. She laughs hysterically and tries to take control. Eventually, I know she’s going to be playing all on her own just like the sixteen-year-old who is sighing at the desk across the room. She’s fresh in Outlands and decided she wanted to take on a Fel Reaver. Maniacally, I grin at her. I know a lot of parents who let their kids play at an early age. That didn’t happen in this house. I waited until last year. And before you ask why she’s only just now in Outlands when she started last year, she wasn’t sure at first if she liked it. She got bitten with the gaming bug again two weeks ago and has now been inseparable from it since. So then, why did I introduce it last year and not when she was thirteen? Well, I wouldn’t call thirteen age appropriate honestly. In my opinion there are factors to consider before you put your child in a Multi-player Universe, let them create a character, and say have it. And that’s after they establish an interest.

For starters, there is the basic control of the components. In today’s age our kids know how to work a keyboard and a mouse by two. Wonderful, now teach them how to control both at the same time. If you can manage that, we can move on to the second requirement. I toss how well they read both words and mapping in to this too, since you have to pay attention to the quests and the maps. Toss in math skills for the auction house here as well.

Do they understand the difference between a game and reality? I wish I could just unequivocally say across board, SURE! But I know adults who seem to not be able to tell master this. That really has nothing to do with the game as much as it does the person playing it. And this feeds directly into my third requirement.

Can they exercise self-control? Let’s face it, people in these games range from wonderfully friendly to outright cruel. So when your child comes across a stranger in chat who is ranting about how their DPS rate sucks, are they going to get all butt-hurt and escalate the fight? Are they going to get off the computer and throw things? If the answer is yes, an MMO is maybe not the smartest way to go yet. I can see some parent now on the other side of this screen going, “Well I just let him log in and mine for me.” You would be totally right, if nodes and herbs weren’t constantly under attack from other gatherers. If you have herbing or mining, at some point you’re going to have your chosen target snatched away without any warning, and on any shard. It doesn’t just happen in a PvP environment.

And finally, are you the parent going to keep an eye on your child? This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Letting your kid or teen, have freedom in game is fine. But be responsible about it. Inform them that they cannot give out any personal information. Make them check in with you before they add someone to their friends list. Be there for help with quests and questions. Put them in your guild or a guild you trust. Check the language settings for guild chat. Make use of in game filters. Do not just accept that they are fine because they are playing something on computer. On the other side of the screen from them are actual people with completely different agendas, just like any other online system.

If you can look at this list and say, “I will be watching my child regularly. They are mature for their age. They won’t throw a tantrum when insulted by a stranger across the screen. They are in a guild I trust. They can handle the controls.” Then sure, by all means let your child play at thirteen. If you have to answer no to any of the above, then wait a year and re-examine where your child is at. Doing so will save you a lot of hassle from your second-generation gamer and a lot of bad feedback from the people who come into contact with your child.

While it boils down to each parents personal choices on what is best for their child, remember that in an MMO your choices affect others too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Persistant, Living, Breathing World – WoD

livingworld

tim

Whilst exploring the Alpha testing of Warlords of Draenor, I found myself amazed by many things. What I found on my initial play-through of the new Garrison feature, was a living, almost breathing world.

To clarify, the preliminary questing structure of the Horde and Alliance zones; Shadowmoon Valley and Frostfire Ridge, task you with the creation of a forward base of operations for your faction, hence ‘Garrisons’.

What I didn’t expect to find was the process to create such a structure to be so unique and ultimately groundbreaking for the genre. The world around me is covered in snow, with thick blasts of icy air flowing across the ice plain in front of my character, signified by a new visual effect representing an accurate depiction of snow-drift we find in real life in the Arctic Circle. In the distance, large obsidian-like mountains stretch up to the heavens. Closer to my character, the area where I stood, was surrounded by the same black spikes of rock, affirming its hostile, raw nature.

The plan was simple, each quest tasked me with a laundry list of potential hazards and menial operations. These would need to be completed to ensure safety for the lore figures that had given me these orders, and those of the Horde army, of which I was now actually in charge of as ‘commander’ of the Horde.

nastiesFirstly the area was covered in various nasties that could pose a threat to any building operations, and since we had our experience with dealing with beasts of all types by now in the game, we were to cut them down. Until now, this is your basic list of quests, kill this thing, kill this big named thing and so on. Expecting the obligatory ‘collection’ quest as I approached the next yellow exclamation mark, and I right clicked on the lore figure. Yes, it was in fact another collection quest, but not exactly what I had envisioned but I wont spoil it for the purpose of this article. It seems that now, with the new title of “commander”, it was up to me to place markers on various trees in the surrounding area of the camp. The trees would then be cut down by peons, peons that were effectively under my control. The idea that Blizzard had realized I had slain the mightiest of foes, lords of pure death, old gods, and so on and had finally come to the conclusion, I should perhaps not be in charge of collecting the lumber myself made me actually smile, stand up and salute in awe.

Is  this the reason that I’m writing this article? No. You see the process in which the peon cuts down the trees, now that’s the reason for an article.

shittyquestAround the area of the ‘camp’ stand around 60 trees, give or take. Around 30 of these have icons next to them, signifying I can place a flag next to the tree and watch as a peon walks up to it, cuts it into lumber he can handle, then carries it back to the camp and the quest givers. Then it hit me, each one of these trees didn’t need to be cut, and I needed only 8 to be marked, with each one that I didn’t cut down having a chance to survive. I thought to myself how cool it would be if these trees stayed cut down, and how more immersive the experience could be, that was until after handing in my quests, and realising that, despite my own doubts, the trees I had cut remained stumps and those I left alone still stood proud. Not cut down in some awkward cut scene, but still there, standing proud like a massive middle finger to my doubts of the technology of what is a game aging over 10 years since its release!

amazetrteesIt is safe to say, the following gasp of air and explicative’s made me rush straight onto Adobe to make a video on what id seen. To share this feeling with the world, in the very much the same way as I would of if I had managed to get a shiny Pokémon card in a booster pack when I was five with my neighborhood. The feeling of elation seeing the changes so far in the Warlords of Draenor Alpha, and now Beta testing phases have re-invigorated my belief that Blizzard still reign supreme in innovation and perfection when it comes to the worlds they create.

Sure another game my create better looking worlds, or the finest graphical overhaul that requires £800 graphics cards to enjoy. But at the end of the day, Blizzard can create a more enjoyable, immersive world, with minor tweaks and adjustments, and STILL have their content playable on 5 year old equipment. What video game company can still say that?

It’s truly phenomenal, and the attention to detail and undoubted love they have for the World of Warcraft is shown triple over in all the media they involve themselves within. The books are fantastic, written by amazingly detailed and passionate authors such as Christie Golden, or beautiful models and toys crafted with the same interest and passion as the games they are based upon. All of this is paramount in the success of a franchise, despite the enormous budget they have to play around with for all aspects of the company; Blizzard cannot be confronted with the frankly boring and disturbing lack of consumer service and belief in their own worlds over just monetary concerns. If there ever needed to be a restorer of faith in the Warcraft universe, Warlords of Draenor is sure to be that exact reason you need. Just watch any of our videos or read any of these articles on WoW Stratics, if you don’t feel impressed after then, Im not sure you can call yourself a gamer anymore!

 

Here’s a video of my first encounters with Frostfire ridge, Shadowmoon Valley and a little overview of Garrison controls and the development of this player housing type structure. We upload many videos on Warlords of Draenor over at Acegamestv, drop by and say hello! Enjoy!

‘Snow-Rathi’ Basin

evgegeg

The strangest thing whilst exploring the files within the Warlords of Draenor alpha patch files was by no means the topic that presents itself today, yet is equally more interesting in the possible connotations it provides for the future or World of Warcraft.

events

Fundamentally, immersion is a key aspect of what makes WoW different from other MMORPG’s out there, with it’s rich lore and plots for each expansion rivalling even the best fantasy novels out there, but the limitations of the games set pieces, painted the same colours since 2005, are obviously an issue for full immersion. Seasonal events come throughout the year within the game, and the reflection of real life festivities carries through to the game world wonderfully. The addition of winter themed events for ‘Winters Veil’ for example wouldn’t be the same without the achievements that make you go into Alterac Valley; a place filled with snow, where you would ultimately engage in light hearted festive events and PvP. Places that players frequent in the game are instanced dungeons, home towns and ultimately PvP Arenas and Battlegrounds. It makes perfect sense then, that if you wanted to increase the feeling of that season, those events would be altered in some way to reflect the world outside. We’ve seen it before with ‘Ahune’ the frost lord in coilfang reservoir, and more recently with the Eggs changing to Easter eggs on the ‘Ji-Kun’ encounter within Throne of Thunder whilst Easter / ‘Noblegarden’ takes place. Within the many files of Warlords of Draenor’s expansive Alpha Patches, of which you can access via a download from the official Battle.net site, lies a re-textured map.

1

‘Arathi Basin’; this popular PvP Battleground has been in the game for many years and is frequented daily by the thousands worldwide who enter it. So what better place to perhaps start the revolutionary step towards more dynamic environments than one of the most visited battlegrounds around. The new textured version of the basin is completely blanketed in snow, from the Stables to the lumber mill; all areas of the once ‘autumnal’ setting are now pure white. It’s not simply a re-paint of the textures, akin to how you would expect, as if someone had imported the Basin into MS Paint and used the fill tool on the green areas with a white bucket of paint, but rather more intricately textured. Many of the trees hold icicles across their branches and the leaves themselves have been powdered by icing sugar, the lakes and rivers around the Basin are frozen solid, allowing then for travel across the once sluggish water areas you would ordinarily swim across. The fact is that this is a very simple art change, with virtually no impact on the battleground itself, other than freezing the lakes and changing the aesthetics of the whole place. The question is do I like it? and without question I think I love it. The fact that this could be a sign of the future excites me to no end, as one thing that remains an issue in World of Warcraft is the ‘samey-ness’ of the same areas you frequent most.

3Already the various fan-site and official Blizzard forums are rife with questions on what exactly this map is, and if they have any plans to do anything with it. The general consensus is that people love the idea of seasonal battlegrounds and that it would liven up the same old areas they are used to. Blizzard are yet to confirm anything to do with its actual integration for future iterations of the game, but I believe that this is a good chance to get early feedback on the idea. They did however say that this would NOT be a feature or inclusion in Warlords of Draenor. Ultimately I think that this was done intentionally as it has nothing to do with Warlords of Draenor in the slightest, but allows for almost instantaneous feedback and hype for an idea that they have obviously been toying with for some time. Knowing that of course people world-wide data-mine their products every single patch, to not test the waters with a ‘leak’ of an idea would be foolish, as if the idea was rejected, Blizzard don’t have to commit to anything people have seen in the unreleased and unannounced parts of the alpha files. What a change like this would actually require however, is time, and likely a lot of it, which poses various issues with past involvement in similar ideas and the age old argument of practicality vs. importance.

4Practicality is something that has to come into question and ultimately lies the biggest question of them all. Previously Blizzard has put down potential decisions to re-visit older areas of the videogame simply because of time management, with the understanding and reasoning given to the playerbase that if they spent more time on older areas, the likelihood is that it would take longer to add new content, and they would rather add to the game than change it repeatedly. This is likely to be a conscious hurdle for the art team then, especially considering the current effort to re-visit and upgrade all of the older race models, however I would argue that areas of the world we spend the most time in should be exempt from the prevention of re-visiting them, especially considering the dated look of some of the areas. I mean, we are not talking about re-designing how Bloodmyst Isle looks, or any other virtually isolated areas devoid of life, but rather where tens of hundreds of players play the actual game with their friends.

In one simple leak of a file within the WoD alpha this discussion has been sparked, with ultimately the most incredible prospect offered for the future of the game. Consider that many other MMORPG’s are bringing more immersive and powerful tools to the table, despite their inability to come close to the actual content and polished delivery of World of Warcraft, its somewhat likely that the game will need to evolve and accommodate similar methods to keep fresh and exciting.

Whether we will see the development of this area incorporated in the future is anyone’s guess, but I would really hope to see more experiments with this, especially with Orgrimmar and Stormwind. Imagine snowfall in Stormwind… On that thought I leave you with the following video; A full exclusive flyover of the ‘Snow-rathi Basin’ map, with some ‘chilling’ music. Enjoy!

Machinimation and the dreaded CASC System

potayta

aced

As some of you may be aware, I make the occasional video over on youtube.com/acegamestv, and on certain occasions I get the urge to express my thoughts and opinions from my time playing and working around the World of Warcraft community. Usually I do this through the means of Machinimation, or my terrible version of that term in any regard.

I have found myself eagerly awaiting the ability to access the new models brought by the Warlords of Draenor expansion, yet I feel daunted by the prospect of recent changes to how the file system will be organised with the new expansion, because before long it will be changed for ever, but what is it changing too? and why?!

The ‘CASC’ system or ‘Content Addressable Storage Container’ is essentially what it says on the tin, a storage system. How it differs from current WoW; which uses the ‘MPQ’ format, is that ‘CASC’ essentially allows for better file organisation and reduced need for future game patches to neither be as large nor take as long to apply as the current system. This all sounds wonderfully exciting I know, yet it has some underlying issues with the current accessibility of manipulating those models in a sandbox-like state; such as ‘WoW Machinima Studio’, or even ‘Model Viewer’.

lolsgayCurrently a budding film-maker / ‘Machinimator’ need only to film the content by layers through a model viewer and then add subsequent layers for other elements additional to the character; such as location, props, etc. This method has been used by ALL the most advanced Machinimation out there and provides a virtually endless amount of creative room. This change of file type then is surely a temporary situation? Well from the sounds of it, the file type and the method of organisation makes it particularly difficult for a program to access the areas it would need for a similar process to be possible.

Currently ‘CASC’ models are being shown on certain fan sites own online ‘model viewers’; such as WoWHead.com’s own, however those models have been converted back to MPQ from CASC using a fairly complex and time consuming process, then hosted on the site as a rendered mesh. This is not something you could access independently for Machinimation and this is mainly why I first feared the news of change.

In the past with the current and older models, I record a character model transparent or against a green screen on model viewer and export the video onto a pre-recorded scene within the actual game in my editing suite, then I applied the various scenes and added vocals and a audio bed in post much later, but more recently I was able to gain access to the Warlords of Draenor Alpha Sandbox though means I will not explain.

Within the WoD alpha sandbox, I recorded footage of a freshly created character to create a very basic video with emote animations, which I couldn’t believe how good it looked for what it was, despite the model itself being practically naked and without any items or equipment present, with The quality of the models and animations attached to those meshes fantastic. If you remember back to the recent trailer that Blizzard Entertainment brought out with the Gnome using the new LvL 90 Boost service, you will remember that the new Gnome model and animations were used. The video was almost breathtaking to someone like me. The very idea that those animations could look as realistic and smooth in transition as they did is truly mind-blowing. I really want to be able to make my own videos with this technology as soon as possible, but will ‘CASC’ make that impossible?

awesometaurenmodes

‘CASC’ isn’t just being implemented to make the patching time shorter, but a quantity of other benefits. The first major benefit is that the system will maintain a constant build, and upon detecting a fault or corruption, the automated service will simply re-download those broken parts immediately in the background. This is also a great way of preventing modified files being used in game, such as exploitative injection processes, or botting technology. Exploitative aspects of the gaming industry are ever present and to me it feels like this is an in-direct assault on that front without really understanding the implications to legitimate ventures through the game files.

The process for re-packing WoW files as MPQ’s and essentially reverse-engineering is something that currently has been possible to the extent of emulating private WoD Alpha servers, I of course will not give links to such sites where you can obtain such a program, yet those responsible for that effort used a conversion method to re-host the files in the old methods used for MPQ emulation. The short of it is that there will be programs in the future that will allow for Machinimation to use the next gen models and environments, but for now you will be limited to in-game filming for quite some time whilst programs are literally re-written by developers and then openly hosted for the general public (something that usually is not for free).

The point to address here more than anything is that Blizzard Entertainment award Machinimation in contests each year they host Blizzcon and other events online, so why not create a sandbox model viewer of their own? Surely it would prevent people from so frequently exploring potentially ToS breaking activities and other frowned upon methods to get the shots that are needed for a particular scene. It would both make Machinimation and fan-art more accessible for more people, and ease the minds of those who wish to remain un-banned from the videogame itself that do already make these videos.

The community of World of Warcraft is enormous and the creations of individuals world wide always never fails to impress me, others I know who do not play the game still check fan sites weekly to look at the artwork people have created for the game. If ever there was to be a community that deserved official assistance in this matter, World of Warcraft is certainly the most ideal.

WoW Stratics Podcast #5 – UK WoW Service Price Changes

wowthumbpotato

Recently Blizzard revealed that World of Warcraft would see price changes to services for players living within the United Kingdom. With many of the prices going up by one or two Pounds (GBP), we thought it would be a good time to address this change and what it means for both those affected AND those in other regions. It’s a change that could affect you in the near future and ultimately be a vision of things to come. For a full list of the changes please check it out the following link :

http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/10368429470?page=1

 

Do YOU want to be a guest on the show? Have some questions that you want answered on the Podcast? Drop us a line @ Meoni@stratics.com. We are currently working towards making the podcast a much more focused venture and would like to include the community we do reach in this building process. With your help we can shape the WoW.Stratics podcast into something tailored to what YOU want to listen to, and grow it to new audiences. So don’t hesitate! Ask away.

Is ‘Azeroth Choppers’ a Waste of time?

chopthis

amazing

By now you will have all probably seen Blizzard Entertainment’s recent venture into reality television; Azeroth Choppers. A show with one goal in mind; to create a real-life motorcycle based on in-game themes for both the Horde and the Alliance. The bikes will be voted on, presumably towards the later stages or end of the show, with the bike generating the most votes by viewers getting immortalised within World of Warcraft for the winning faction as in in-game mount.

So, as the title may reveal, im worried if this is in some way a distraction for a much greater issue ahead of us. The estimated time between now and the next expansion / patch will surely prevent the game from being as enjoyable for those who have already cleared progression bosses by this late stage in the expansion. We get information at Blizzcon that Warlords of Draenor will be arriving “a lot sooner than many people expect.” Well, that’s great news, but honestly with a possible October release of the expansion and the testing process not even past internal company Alpha stages at this time, it could be a very long wait and ultimately tedious time to play.

The major lack of content has previously been my one major complaint for World of Warcraft, but then on the other side im trying to be patient. If you remember, or are unaware, the previous attempt to create filler content between expansions resulted in Ruby Sanctum. The Ruby Sanctum was arguably a good raid instance, however provided only one boss for raiders to encounter and definitely felt ‘tacked on’ to an expansion that had previously seen one of the most memorable and enjoyable raid instances; Icecrown Citadel. Where my patience runs out somewhat is when we have a lack of information on the project that matters and instead see a reality television show with questionable intentions brought out of nowhere instead of the information we all want to hear.

Azeroth Choppers is a very high production value piece of media entertainment and that comes across clearly in each episodes editing. The opening scenes are fully animated with bikes roaring through Azeroth to a ‘bad-ass’ rock soundtrack, the camera cuts are akin to those seen on high-end reality television shows and the general idea on paper at least is actually quite a cool concept. The problem then comes with both the length of each episode , the understanding that this is a concept brought to light to fill time AND how the ‘contest’ itself will be received by the actual players of the game.

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Firstly lets evaluate the time aspect of the show, since this is the more irritating aspect of the show for me personally. The latest episode reached just over seven minutes, which would ultimately be acceptable were there actual content portrayed within each minute, however it consisted of endless recap of the same question or situation played over and over. It was almost as if every full minute of video there had been some unseen AD break and the show was recapping for those who had just tuned in. As far as I can tell, the show is published only on youtube and embedded as an internet tv show via episodes on the official Blizzard website. The whole ‘series’ if you want to call it that will presumably continue this timeframe for each episode, with the list of all the expected episodes shown on the official website, numbering only 8 episodes. Maths has never been my strong point, and im infact numerically dyslexic yet even I can calculate that would only mean on average, even if every episode was as long as the longest out so far (9 minutes of length) then we are only going to see 72 minutes of actual series. Another aspect which was brought up recently in discussion with people in my WoW guild was that this is already pre-filmed. Clearly in the previous episode you can see snow on the ground in the area of the workshop, however the snow has been vacant from that actual area for over a month. Considering they only had ‘5’ days to build the bikes, that would mean that they have both already been built. So the question is, why string it out into such small episodic content? Why not just put 3-4 episodes up of a decent length. The show itself suffers from over-editing and definitely would benefit from being 15-20 minutes in length, then perhaps we could avoid the speculation on what the ‘good news’ and ‘bad news’ actually is in the same episode, instead of asking that same question for 9 minutes only to find out in the first 2 seconds the following week.

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Imagine If This Happened…

Next lets look at the actual concept of the competition, or contest part of all this. The idea is to create in-game mounts which players will get presumably for free as a result of that particular bike winning enough votes, and the other bike will NOT be included in the game. These two bikes are faction based, so If I play Horde and the Alliance chopper wins the contest I cannot get that bike for my character in game. Here’s the problem with all that; The community in and around World of Warcraft like to be vocal about many aspects of the game, more noticeably than anything else is the endless “Blizzard favours Horde over Alliance” or similar biased statements that usually result in a preverbal ‘Shit-Storm’ on the official game forums and affiliate fan sites. If then you take that into context, and expect the community to react well to the winning bike going to either faction, and not their own, im pretty sure I don’t have to break out the calculator again to tell you what will happen. Now I have talked for hours with fellow guild members and other Stratics members to guage their opinions and predictions and I think its fair to say that everyone predicts significant whinging and a fairly negative atmosphere in response to whoever wins. One such thought is that perhaps the winning bike will be put into the game for the respective winning faction for free, and that the other bike WILL also be put in, BUT will cost people of that faction IRL money to purchase from the in-game store. How better to increase profit from such an expensive and time consuming project than to sell the losing teams bike alongside other designed store mounts.

Finally there is the filler aspect, and the fact that this is taking attention away from the game itself. The Mists of Pandaria expansion is all but over, with no plans to make new raid content between now and Warlords of Draenor’s release, the following months are going to be fairly unproductive for many players, and could cause numbers of subscribers to drop again quite significantly until the next expansion. Personally I feel that no matter how little in size the show is, or however stretched out and terrible it actually is, can actually be seen as nothing more than wasted assets and time that could possibly have been used to expand on something more fitting in-game. Seeing a 7 minute long show each week for 8 weeks doesn’t make me any more interested in logging into WoW, but then im not sure if anything would, short of something fantastic in game that the whole guild could do, like say old scaled raids or something. Either way, I feel that the idea, concept and execution of Azeroth Choppers is not ideally suited to the game we play, nor is it something that I would like to see repeated in the future. Whats next?! ‘Azeroth Zoo Keepers’?! ( A show where Blizzard staff try to breed a new form of animal IRL and add it to the game) or even better, how about ‘Azerothian Cupcakes’ ( A show where Blizzard staff design their own faction related cupcakes, the winning faction gets customized mana food for mages and food buff tables for the tier.)

I decided to create a piece of Machinimation, a parody based on Azeroth Choppers. I think the result is almost as good, if not better than the real thing. Enjoy! :)

If you have enjoyed this article or have YOUR OWN ideas for the next big Blizzard waste of… I mean.. Contest, drop by our forums and drop us a line!

Druids In Warlords of Draenor – Healing Discussion and Overview of 6.0 Changes

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Recently with the patch 6.0 Warlords of Draenor Alpha patch notes, Blizzard gave us a substantial amount of information as to the progression of both talent additions and changes to each class. Add to this the recent data-mined information from both MMOChampion and WoWHead forums; we can begin to piece together the possible state of classes and their functionality within Warlords of Draenor and Patch 6.0.

Druids in particular have seen some interesting decisions and changes which ultimately change the play style and quality of life for each specialisation.

Let’s take a short rundown of each specialisations changes and the talents within, looking primarily how they compare to current in game states and what exactly has changed. This article will however focus primarily on Healing changes and written from the perspective of a restoration druid player, so expect more lengthy details and comparisons in that area in particular.

Firstly let’s look at removals from the class. As a whole, across the board many classes have had many of their abilities cut out or changed so that they better represent their specialisations. Mages for example have seen changes to fire spells being more used and some only accessible to fire mages for example, this is pretty much the same theme across the board for all the classes in the game. This homogenisation actually specialises the player to a specific role and allows for unique benefits for bringing certain specialisations, rather than just the highest dps role in any given situation.

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The Removals.

First on the chopping room floor to go is Innervate; currently in game used as a near endless tap of mana usable every 3 minutes, replenishing mana equal to 50% of the casters spirit every 1 second over 10 seconds. This particular ability was a primary cool down which would be used half way / towards to the latter phases of fights and would allow you to spend much greater amounts of mana than you would without it, knowing that you have the cool down if it was needed. It also allowed for use on other players as a resource for their own mana restoration in various situational fights or if the other player needs a cool down more than you later into fights.

The removal of the spell in my opinion is more of a removal of a utility than anything else, yet the idea is that the mana restoration effects it would provide will now be hard wired into restoration druids instead of a cool down to restore the same amount which would now be static additional regen.

This, however well implemented does alter the play style of a restoration druid, as much of the usability of Innervate was dependant on the gear level of the character. Many of the gear improvements I acquired later into Mists of Pandaria allowed me to use my Innervate on other players in our raids due to my regen reaching the point where additional cooldowns were almost un-needed. However early into the expansion the cool down was used more and more frequently earlier in fights, so it will be interesting to see how Blizzard implements that missing regen early on in a tier when the player is less geared.

Other removals include; Enrage, Mangle-cat form, Swipe-Bear Form, and Symbiosis. The removal of spec specific mangle and Swipe is understandable and works very much as I previously mentioned with the Mage idea, however some changes actually added to all specs of the class. Shred for example is now available to all Druids. Symbiosis is actually a pleasant surprise, the whole idea that situational events would require certain specs of certain classes to then gain a weakened version of an extra ability such as tranquillity from a Shadow priest for example. This idea, although good on paper actually forced confusion and far too much meta gaming and objectivity within raids, with many of the potential benefits being too weak or simply negated as they were not widely understood due to the complexity of setting up what does what where and how useful it would be in a given situation.

Nourish is also getting removed, a small filler heal for restoration druids that would amplify in its potency if the target being healed had a heal over time on them already such as Rejuvenation, lifebloom, Regrowth or Wild growth. This spell soon became less useful as we progressed through the expansion in favour of only slightly more costing abilities would heal for more and even hit multiple targets, which ultimately makes the spell an extra button that we could do without. One further, yet expected removal is the passive ‘Balance of Power’ for Balance Druids, which if you never knew is the name of the skill that grants hit rating based on the amount of spirit you have from equipped items or status effects, this is ultimately due to hit rating being removed completely from the game within WoD.

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Additional Changes to Existing Abilities / Spells

Many of the removals from the class are fundamentally to make way for the changes to other spells which help accommodate the class and rebalance it. One such change is to Cyclone, our Crowd Control ability, which presently cannot be cancelled by immunity effects such as a paladin bubble. This is changing in 6.0, with Cyclone finally being broken by Divine Shield, Ice Block and other immunity granting abilities. This change is long overdue, as it falls in line with other crowd control abilities within PvP that already break from such effects.

One of the most significant changes to restoration druids is one effecting the cast time of Wild Growth; a key healing ability that applies a heal over time to multiple targets and presently works as an instant cast spell. This is set to change with 6.0, with Wild growth now having a 1.5 second cast time. A change like this does alter the usability of such a spell, especially due to the fact that Wild Growth is currently an extremely viable filler and low cost way of AOE healing. Having to plan the use of this ability more doesn’t make it completely useless; it just means that you could have been healing a single target for more during that time. Many instant cast healing abilities from other classes have had a similar treatment in the patch notes and it’s no surprise that Blizzard want to make healing more defined and forward planned rather than sporadic and wasteful. Remember that Rejuvenation still remains as an instant cast past these notes, and that that along with improved Mushrooms we will still have the effective healing we currently do in my opinion.

Swiftmend remains in the game thankfully and has avoided the chop, however it seems that the glyph that added efflorescence to Wild Mushroom’s Bloom ability was seen as a success to the point that in 6.0 it will be the only way to cause the efflorescence effect and to spawn it at the mushrooms location. This adds more flexibility and positioning for this powerful ground ability, something that definitely makes for a more powerful and effective utility rather than accidently causing the effect on one player at range when all you wanted was to heal them up quickly.

Tranquillity doesn’t avoid the list of changes either, with Blizzard mentioning something about the spell being confusing to players (I would love to meet these confused players), regardless the spell is changing to heal every party and raid member within range every 2 seconds for 8 seconds total. It no longer places a periodic effects on each target either, weakening one of the strongest healing cool downs in the game. The total healing it generates should be the same as it currently is on live in raids, but to be honest I’m not sure how that could be the case, but I’m sure time will tell. The spell was never confusing to begin with, and saying it will be just as strong without its periodic attribute is hard to imagine, even with it now definitely hitting EVERY player nearby.

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Talent changes

The level 90 talents seem to be getting some changes, but more interestingly out of all of them is one of my favourite abilities; ‘Natures Vigil’, essentially a power button you would usually press in dire situations as one of your direct healing cool downs. Natures Vigil currently in game amplifies healing caused by healing spells by 25% and all single target damage spells to heal a friendly target for 25% of the damage dealt. In 6.0 Blizzard are planning to change the healing caused to only 16% but actually buff the damage to healing portion to 35%. This change is somewhat of a nerf to the part of the ability that I liked yet it still seems like one of the most viable of the tier of talents, with the damage to healing buff being useful in some situations, but perhaps not for general use in raiding. Many of the talent choices are options to add hybridity to the specialisation you are playing, something that doesn’t particularly make me too excited. Even though the plan was to add more flexible utilitarian options, I think that they end up just never being used. In my opinion, if I wanted flexibility with these talents they could tailor the way certain abilities heal, not add benefits to damage dealing abilities that I find a fairly wasteful use of mana that could be used to heal directly in encounters.

Changes are one thing, and no matter how you look at it all classes are getting cuts that may or may not make sense at this time, but we also got some information on additions to each class that make things more positive to imagine. The level 100 Talent ability choices were unveiled with some interesting functionality. The way we see talents in WoD will be dependent on specialisation within the class rather than see the same abilities and have to read tooltips on those abilities to see what they do for your spec. So below are the NEW talent options listed with notes dependant on spec.

 

Talents-

Left

Sunfall (Balance) – Entering Solar Eclipse will transform your Starfall spell into Sunfall and reset its cool down.

Lunar Inspiration (Feral) – Moonfire is now usable while in Cat Form, generates 1 combo point, deals damage based on attack power, and costs 30 energy.

Guardian of Elune (Guardian) – Savage Defence now lasts 4 sec, and increases your chance to dodge by 100%.

Moment of Clarity (Restoration) – Omen of Clarity now lasts 5 sec, instead of 1 cast.

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Insect Swarm (Balance) – Swarm the target enemy with insects which deal XXXX Nature damage every 3 sec for 15 sec. Each time that it deals damage, it also generates 5 Lunar or Solar energy, whichever is more beneficial to you. May only be cast while not in an Eclipse. 2,688 Mana, 40 yd range, 1.5 sec cast

Bloody Thrash (Feral) – Thrash now also applies the Rake bleed effect to all damaged enemies and awards 1 combo point if it strikes your current combo target.

Pulverize (Guardian) – A devastating blow that consumes 3 stacks of Lacerate on the target to deal 500% weapon damage, generate 30 Rage, and reduce damage taken by 20% for 10 sec. Melee Range, Instant, Requires Bear Form

Germination (Restoration) – You can apply two Rejuvenations to the same target.

Right

Savagery (Feral) – Savage Roar is now passive.

Bristling Fur (Guardian) – You bristle your fur, reducing all damage taken by 50% for 3 sec. Instant, 1 min cool down

Rampant Growth (Restoration) – Swiftmend now consumes your own Regrowth or Rejuvenation, but has no cool down.

 

The new talent options from a healing perspective are very interesting and will be extremely exciting to test when we gain access to beta testing later in the process of development. For now when I look at prospective choices, I really like the idea of ‘Germination’ and its application of two Rejuvenation’s on the same target, I remember how in Wrath of The Lich King and to some extent beyond that Druids would ‘roll’ rejuvenation on as many targets as possible and with changes to Wild Growth and other Hot’s it seems like this will likely be a viable and very powerful option once again, especially with Genesis being used in conjunction. The other choices; Rampant Growth and Moment of Clarity are nice, Moment of Clarity seems the weakest link of the three for general purpose encounters, however Rampant Growth offers an interesting and possibly equally powerful way of healing as Germination, with the removal of the cool down being extremely strong.

It remains to see how these talents will change and what will remain throughout the testing processes before us, but I can only comment on what’s written before us on paper, which so far looks fairly promising for the playstyle of a resto druid, yet cannot be hidden that many of the changes feel like they have removed more than they have added to the class in all. As any of these changes alter throughout the Alpha and Beta process, you can be sure to stop by WoW.Stratics to see updates and opinions on all aspects of the changing World of Warcraft we play towards Warlords of Draenor.

WoW News Roundup – 17th March 2014

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Today news comes in the form of news about future events featuring Blizzard Entertainment, with interesting speculation towards a possible Blizzcon 2014.

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The Blizzcon Virtual Ticket page has recently seen changes to its terms of service page and in doing so changed the title to 2014, rather than 2013. This could be an error internally, however it could also be that we could see another Blizzcon this year, allowing for possible reveals for the new ip’s and post release for Warlords of Draenor and Heroes of The Storm. This comes as a suprise to me after the event finally returning after it’s hiatus, however i feel that people will be particularly excited by seeing this, and if it’s true then we are likely to have a very good year for Blizzard News. Such News does mean there would be certain reveals of information to be posponed until the event, as Blizzard does enjoy giving information exclusively on stage at their own event. Early predictions for such an event would be of a possible open beta for Heroes of the Storm or a release date, and possibly information on Diablo 3 and future patches after this months Reaper of Souls release. The event usually sells out instantly when tickets become available, so keep your eyes open and we at Stratics will try and give you the heads up as soon as anything comes from this. Whilst we wait for any noise from Blizzard themselves to either confirm or deny such an event exists for the year, one event that is sure to be taking place is Pax East, a yearly event featuring tournaments in all areas and genres of video and table top gaming, it also features some of the most prominent developers and development teams from around the world, here to showcase their latest and greatest products for early feedback and testing.

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Today’s press release unveiled the presence of Blizzard Entertainment at the convention, where they are allowing visitors from 10AM-6AM on both Friday April 11th and Sunday April 13th to get hands on playtime with the Warlords of Draenor playable demo we have seen earlier last month. Visitors will also be able to visit various Q&A sections of the Blizzard schedule, including Developer talk for Diablo 3 : Ultimate Evil Edition for the Playstation 4, a brand new demo for Heroes of The Storm, with the developers present and on hand for interviews and questions.

Expect information from these Q&A sections and events to be reported on here on Stratics when new information becomes available for discussion, I’m fairly certain the amount of time players will have to access the demo, we will be sure to see more footage and screenshots float around the internet that we will be sure to collate into readable information for you. Heroes of The Storm’s demo will feature heroes never before seen or played outside the event and will be the first stage of hands on feedback before they are included into the technical alpha which is also presently being sent out to press and streamed over on Twitch.tv channels. It could also be a time for Blizzard to send another wave of access out for the technical alpha but don’t hold your breath.

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Not to forget that Pax East also provides certain rewards this year, in the form of Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft exclusive content, presumably in the form of the exclusive card backs we saw leaked earlier in the month, or possibly Pax exclusive cards that we may of not seen, many of the card packs have been confirmed for in-game rewards and achievements, however the card featured to the right has not, and it wouldn’t be suprising if this small cosmetic addition was the reward they are talking about. With the various press events and featured demonstrations of Warlords of Draenor in full swing over the past few weeks, we can be sure for more information on the beta soon, with our previous predictions in out bi-weekly podcast coming to an end and our estimates changing every week, we have to get news on even a closed alpha for the game at some point soon. This year does however look to be a wonderful time for both Blizzard Entertainment and those who play Blizzards games! If Blizzcon 2014 is confirmed at some point it would certainly be the icing on the cake for this year.

You can find more here about Pax East and a full schedule for the event. CLICK HERE

This about wraps up today’s World of Warcraft and Blizzard news, we expect information on future beta / alpha events and unveilings further this week or next, so be sure to become a part of WoW.Stratcis today! Fantastic rewards from the Sites with Benefits feature on the side of the screen, along with monthly giveaways on our forums and a great place to talk about all of the topics we feature. We are always open for guests and your questions on our bi-weekly podcast, so if something makes you opinionated, make a post and Get your voice heard today!