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

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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

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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.

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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.

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‘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

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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?

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‘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

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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?

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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.

Middle

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!

Rose Tinted Dreams & Fantastic Memories.

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When you recall the best memories you’ve ever had in World of Warcraft, what do you think about? Personally I remember The Burning Crusade expansion like it was yesterday, logging in each and every day to do heroic 5 man dungeons to get my badges of justice, saving up for the next piece of vendor gear. Each week preparing for the Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday raids and generally managing the guild I led for Karazhan and Zul’Aman raiding. My experience in raiding with my own guild was one of absolute enjoyment and a fundamentally less serious atmosphere than what I would look for in a guild in current day WoW. Our Hunter; a dear friend of mine who has since quit the game would always be the butt of jokes in our raids. Much of the time for accidentally pulling trash or bosses, the fact he would literally walk into a pack of trash mobs or accidently put his pet on aggressive and yet NOT mean it, clarified by the expression “Oh Shiit” on our Ventrilo Server, was the funniest thing I can remember. As much as many people would be aggressive in this situation, at the time we found it particularly entertaining and to be honest he wasn’t the only one to do something that would be considered griefing today. The differences between then and now are basically my own, where I feel that the game has been out for so long that I literally forget that there could even be new people playing for the first time.

Picture8-1 (1)Our guild; ‘Heavens Will’ on Frostwhisper EU was filled with the friendliest group of people you could ever meet. We all had our problems, and personally I had only just started to play the game that same year and found everything as funny as the others. Our progression was average for a guild in our situation, but it was enough for me. It was always cool to achieve downing a new boss for the first time, but we never saw that as the main objective in raiding. Raids where a time when our guild would centralise in one group and enjoy themselves 3 times a week together. Granted we achieved quite a deal for what we were, clearing Karazhan and Zul’Aman, but not much further was possible with the general skill level of our team. That was fine however, as some of us were known throughout the community with the other guilds. This is the side of the game I miss the most; doing dungeons with your own realm and not through a cross realm looking for group tool certainly had its advantages.

I gained the respect of many guilds on my server, one of which; Elysium; a wonderfully skilled group of people who progressed on Black Temple and then Sunwell when it came available. Many of the times they would need to occasional DPS or a Healer to fill their groups as they would for some reason miss 1 or two people each week. I saw this as an opportunity to see more of the game, and my own guild didn’t mind since we still did our own raids together and they knew that they had neither the time in week nor the commitment to do other raids.

DDI levelled my Holy Paladin to level 70 shortly after I knew this would be a regular event, where members of that and other guilds on the server would group together to ‘PuG’ older raids such as Tempest Keep or Serpent Shrine Cavern. It wasn’t long before my paladin became much more geared than my Warlock; simply more opportunities arose for my healer than would ever for my DPS. I really started to enjoy healing, the rewards were great, the feeling of being a needed part of the raid group excelled much further than it ever did as a dps. My Warlock still remained my ‘Main’ as that’s what I raided with in my own guild, but when the time arose and a healer missed our own raid one evening I would log onto the Paladin and heal away. This flexibility helped actually progress our raid much further, and it was at this point I realised how integral it would be to keep both characters geared.

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Wrath of the Lich King came out the following year, filling my guild with both new recruits and new interest to get more acquainted with progression, and much less about the ‘fun’ aspects of casual raiding. As much as this was perhaps the most progressed I have ever been in my own Guild, clearing content as it came out and competing with others on the server, it certainly wasn’t my favourite. The border between causal raiding and progression is a fine one honestly, as much as the two have different interests they are basically the same, only more serious during attempts and still enjoyable between bosses. The changes we put onto the guild with progression as our focus actually crumbled the foundations of who would be able to both raid with us and who would stick around for a more serious atmosphere on the tougher fights.

WoWScrnShot_071810_211548-1I like to see this point of my experience in the game where I essentially ‘grew up’ and decided that the goals I needed to achieve were greater than they used to be. Sacrifices were made, but for the better of everyone’s gameplay and enjoyment of the new content that we could now for once get to see, as appose to raiding content years old whilst new raids were other guilds progression targets. I remember The Burning Crusade so fondly because of both the people I raided and met on my server, but also the start I had in this game, without which I would of never had enjoyed the progression to who I am today, both in game and in real life. I have to say that my interest in YouTube and to some extent where I am now writing on Stratics is down to the ability to learn that both sides of progression in any game rely on an open mind. It saddens me to go onto the WoW Forums and see people talking about how good the ‘Good ol’ Days’ were in World of Warcraft or hating on other MMO RPG’s out there based purely on fear for competition. The truth of the matter is that your experiences in any game are your own, and if you feel that a certain period was much better than any other, much of the enjoyment you found at time you spent during those glory days would very likely be down to WHO you raided or played with, rather than the actual content you did or the part of the game you played most.

The World of Warcraft we know and play today is NOT the same game we all played 1, 2, or even 9 years ago, and we should be happy about that. Without evolution of a product, what interest can there possibly be. It’s currently hard enough to enjoy the lull in activity between content releases as it is, with many of us that are waiting for Warlords of Draenor playing other games such as Diablo 3. I’ve had this game since its release, yet it’s only now that I’m playing it to the point of the same time I would usually spend on WoW. The new content is just around the corner and I have to say that progression feeling is coming back to me, and I think a lot of people will get the same reinvigorating feeling the closer we get to WoD Beta testing.

WoWScrnShot_031214_174319Mists of Pandaria was by far the most constructive and developed product so far in WoW; much of the content in the game now offers opportunities that simply were not physically possible 8 or 9 years ago. Phasing and individual scenario instancing has allowed for compelling solo player gameplay, new character models and designs are altering the visual aesthetics of the game to be more appealing to the eye. New PvP systems are being tested and used to enhance the accessibility to general PvP and push the bar at the top of skilled players even father up with new leaderboard technology. There isn’t a single piece of the game that has been put into MoP that isn’t an addition or a positive / necessary change to the basic principles of the games enjoyment. I challenge anybody to say the game is worse for any game breaking reason today than it ever used to be, because it simply isn’t true. The experiences we all had when we started playing the game are ours and we should keep those close, but not use them as excuses to enforce illogical points onto why the current game is bad. Opinions are great things, but if they are enforced with nothing but rose tinted dreams then whats the point in expressing them.

If you enjoyed my article discussion here, please feel free to go over to our forums to talk about your favourite time in WoW and your opinions on where WoW is going. For everything World of Warcraft, look to Stratics. HERE

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