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.

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!

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

Heathsteed Mount Now Available

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Durotan – Lore, Warcraft & You!

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Welcome to the continued lore instalment here on WoW Stratics, previously these articles have featured lore figures which are prominent members of the storyline of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, set to release later this year. This time we look at Durotan, a confirmed quest and NPC figurehead throughout the Horde storyline in the Warlords of Draenor expansion.

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Durotan is the Son of Garad and Geyah. Durotan’s father, the former chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, a powerful diplomatic leader killed by the Ogres and Gronn of Draenor before his voice could be heard in protest of the decision for the Orcs to go to war with the Draenei. And Geyah; the kind hearted current day Greatmother and leader of the Mag’har in Garadar, Nagrand. Both Durotan’s parents have lived through uneasy times for the Orc race, fuelled by a world ever on the brink of war and tension, comprised of organised groups of individually lead Clans, with each a leader outspoken in their rightful leadership of their own. Durotan grew up in Nagrand with his parents, prior to the First war. In his youth he spend much of his time hunting and practicing his combat skills with fellow clan members, generally learning the ways of his people.

During a festival, held bi-annually within Nagrand called the ‘Kosh’harg Celebration’, a time when Orcs from all clans would be invited to talk and share stories and Honor the diversity of their race, Durotan met a Blackrock Clan Orc by the name of Ogrim Doomhammer. They became friends and ultimately this respect is the first step in the foundation of the Horde we know in-game today.

At the time of Durotan’s father’s death at the hands of the Gronn and Ogres, Durotan immediately became the new chieftain by his birth right. His sorrow and rage weighed heavily on his mind, but the leadership of his people had to be his foremost concern. Whilst the clan still mourned the loss of their former chieftain, a message came from Ner’zhul; the chieftain of the Shadowmoon Clan, and shaman of the nearby Oshu’gun Mountain in Nagrand. It said that Ner’zhul had been visited by the ancestors, who proclaimed the right to all Draenor should be Orc alone and that the Draenei were enemies of their people. The truth of the matter is fairly different however, as at this time Ner’zhul had inadvertently made first hand contact with the Burning Legion and the Eredar lord Kil’jaeden. Kil’jaeden was in charge of tracking down and eliminating the Eredar, or now as they called themselves Draenei (Broken Ones) as they fled their own home world Argus many thousands of years previously, escaping the Burning Legion whom completely took over the planet for themselves. Many Draenei joined the legion, but Prophet Velen, a powerful Draenei leader and priest had led what remained of his people away aboard their spaceships and crashed into Azeroth and Draenor.

Ner'zhulDurotan was ordered by Ner’zhul to meet with a Draenei hunting party led by Velen himself. The prophet revealed to him that it was infact a dying Naaru named K’ure who attracted the spirits of the dead to Oshu’gun, the very same Naaru it seems that helped the Draenei escape Argus not 25,000 years previously. This denounced the Orc beliefs and was met with somewhat hostile reactions from many Orcs. Many couldn’t believe that this alien had within one simple sentence tried to convince them that their ancestor’s spirits did not appear by choice, and that this ‘Naaru’ being was their only tie to Oshu’gun. Despite this hostility, and the general Orc consensus that Velen be brought before Ner’zhul as a blasphemer, he released them stating that there is no Honor to taking a willing prisoner, regardless of his claims. This is a particularly important point within the blood line that eventually passes down to Thrall, the diplomatic attention to detail and throughput into reasoning is very unlike other Orc’s of the time, allowing Durotan to become a great leader. Nevertheless, the Orcs Went to War.

During a battle weeks later with Draenei forces the shaman of the Frostwolf suddenly realised their ability to convene and channel the gifts bestowed to them by the spirits of their ancestors no long remained within their power. They had become separated with the spirits of Oshu’gun entirely, a prospect that haunted Durotan and his mate Draka immensely. The truth of the matter was that the spirits did not support the war on the Draenei, and that they tried to convey that by refusing their powers to be used in bloodshed, even though their voices could not be heard thanks to Kil’jaeden’s lies.

At the time of the shaman loosing their connection to the ancestral powers, Ner’zhul and his apprentice Gul’dan delved into darker magic’s, understanding the need for power many Orcish shaman followed the same routes and became the first Warlocks of Draenor. Durotan allowed this, for once not wanting to oppose a change too openly, when their people lacked any defensive skills in a time of war and when his own father had been killed for less. Things escalated quickly over time, and through direct interference by Kil’jaeden’s will, The Orcs became united in what they called themselves the ‘First Horde’, a group led by the elected warmonger and bloodthirsty leader of the Blackrock clan; Warchief Blackhand. Under Blackhand’s orders the Frostwolf clan and Durotan were ordered to assault Telmor, a Draenei city nearby to the Frostwolf Clan grounds.

Durotan possessed the ability of Recall, a spell that allowed him to relive memories in visions, a trait that would be most useful now. As a child Durotan had seen a guard of the city use a hidden crystal in the surrounding forest, which when used unveiled the city, usually shrouded and invisible to the naked eye. Ogrim had heard this story from Durotan when they played together as children, and relayed that information to Blackhand. Ultimately this is what made Durotan the leader for the attack on Telmor, and using his ability reluctantly, he brought down the Draenei shroud. The Orcs stormed the settlement and killed everyone in sight. This was a day of absolute victory for the First Horde, but a day of overwhelming ambivalence for Durotan.

Shattrath City

Shattrath City

The Orcish Horde went on to conquer and destroy many other Draenei settlements including the grand city of Shattrath. At this time, Gul’dan, who had been the figurehead of much of the puppeteering and channelling of Kil’jaeden’s will, summoned the Clans to a mountain to the far north; which he dubbed ‘The Throne of Kil’jaden’. It was here he offered the gift of the mighty demon lord Kil’jaeden; the blood of Mannoroth. Previously to the summons, Ner’zhul who at one point was the master of the apprentice and now separated from the possessed and chosen Gul’dan, had warned Durotan about the dangers that Gul’dan would unleash if the Orcs were to partake in Kil’jaeden’s gift, and so he and his friend Ogrim declined drinking the blood of Mannoroth. This infuriated Gul’dan and shortly thereafter he was told by his dark master to be rid of those who would not share in their power, calling them traitors and a danger to the plans of the True Horde.

Gul’dan schemed ways to eliminate Durotan carefully, and so settled for turning his own people against him. He released a Draenei prisoner and slave of Warchief Blackhand, blaming Durotan for the action of defiance to his rule. Blackhand was enraged by this act of treason and openly duelled Durotan. Durotan had actually had a part in all this, as he found the freed slave in the wilderness and had given her shelter so that she may survive. The fight itself took place nearby where Durotan was sheltering the slave, it came to naught when both of the powerful Orcs locked in battle suddenly realised, the Draenei had escaped both of their attentions and fled. Their duel ended, and so did much of the energy that made the battle worthwhile. Durotan left and returned to the camp of the Frostwolf clan, and Blackhand returned to his keep, angered but aware that in his absence his people were without a leader.

Medivh3During the nights that followed, Gul’dan was visited by a vision of a far away sorcerer, calling himself Medivh the human, a possessed life form of the Dark Titan and leader of the Burning Legion; Sargeras. Medivh told unto Gul’dan the next orders for the advancement of their plans for the Horde, and so instructed him to build a demonic gateway, that they could together open between Draenor and the planet that could be seen in the sky at night; Azeroth. The following day, Gul’dan began preparations for the Dark Portal’s construction. Durotan, who was now open in his opposition to Gul’dan’s twisted ideas and that of the bloodstained leadership of the short sighted Warchief Blackhand, continued his protests against the leadership of the Horde, but all was too little and far too late. The Orcs were as possessed as their leaders, under the influence of the Burning Legion and the Corrupted Blood of Mannoroth. When the portal was completed, and Gul’dan ordered the Orc forces through the portal to conquer this new world, Durotan and his clan was exiled to Azeroth, stripping them of any connection to the Horde that now reigned as a powerful hand of Sargeras, and an extension of the mighty Burning Legion.

Durotan and the Frostwolf clan marched for many miles until they settled in the Mountainous Valleys of Alterac, a remote part of the human Kingdom, covered in snow and protected by the harsh conditions many Humans avoided. Drek’thar, a powerful shaman within the Frostwolf clan, one whom had declined the path of the Warlock regained the shamanistic powers that were lost so long ago to their people, and taught others to embrace these old powers, with which they were able to survive the harsh winters of the remote mountains.

Draka; faithful mate of Durotan eventually became pregnant with a child, one whom would one day be heir to chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan. An Azerothian born child, they named Goel. The reluctant abandonment of his resolve had caused Durotan to grow old and settle into a world that was being sieged and destroyed by his now evil, corrupted kin. This realisation empowered Durotan to take one last stand against Gul’dan and so joined with nearby, also exiled brethren, Ogrim Doomhammer. At this time, Ogrim had assassinated Blackhand and became the new Warchief of the Horde, separated from Gul’dan’s own loyal forces. In fact many of the Orcish Clans separated from one force and once again regarded the conquering of Azeroth, like Draenor and the continued war against its inhabitants their primary goal.

After the meeting between Durotan, Draka and Orgim, many of the councilmen listening to the propaganda Durotan provided against Gul’dan, turned out to be spies of Gul’dan himself. Fearing that their open opposition would get them killed, Orgim Doomhammer instructed them to go into hiding with a promise they would together present Gul’dan with his crimes and see justice. The safe heaven Orgim had given them whilst he arranged proceedings to oppose Gul’dan turned out to be far from the truth of the matter, and the spies descended upon the unsuspecting family, butchering Draka before Durotan, and then cleaving off his arms so that he could never again hold his child in his arms. He bled to death there, with the only thought in his head that he would die before he would see his son, now left abandoned by the spies  in the middle of the forest ripped apart by the wolves and creatures of the mountains.

Durotan In WoD

Durotan In WoD

And so, another chapter in the lore section is completed, and opens up many questions for Durotan’s presence in the Warlords of Draenor expansion later this year. Set within a time on Draenor before all of the corruption, it’s likely, and confirmed that Durotan will take centre stage in the Horde story, with even a meeting of his son; Thrall/ Goel, as they take on the united horde of Garrosh Hellscream and the other Warlords of Draenor. Be sure to continue this discussion with any thoughts, opinions and speculation of what we could see next in Durotan’s lengthy storyline, and weather actually meeting his father will change Thrall and make him understand his lineage further. Thank you for reading; I look forward to sharing more with you, in the next Lore, Warcraft & You!

Level 50’s Take on Level 60 Raids!

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Cloaked in a black shroud and heirloom mail shoulders, the mighty ‘Fightpasta’; Legend amongst her own Night Elven kin, makes her way down the fiery chains of Blackrock Mountain, unprepared for the adventures that await. Following closely behind her, the mighty Tiger she had raised from a cub; ‘David B.o.E’ and the sound of many other players, their chain and plate mail clinking at every footstep, similar in appearance and style. This then was the first community event on European cross realm servers for level 50 twink characters, an ambitious idea supported by significant restrictions.

The idea was simple, get as many people to create level 50 characters and equip them with the best items they can find at that level. With that came profession choices, specialisations, talents, buff selection, pet choice, etc. To try and do as much level 60+ content as possible with characters not suited to that bracket. Continuing on our journey, my character, the mighty huntress was chosen by the team to support the raid with particular bonuses that came from pet choice, and it would soon become apparent that David B.o.E (The Tiger) would not be useful within the Molten Core, and so I waved goodbye and brought out my trusty, yet less well named Boar; ‘Rammy’.

Now you may be aware that Molten Core has some particularly painful trash between and prior to nearly every boss within the instance, so it was decided that a level 90 would clear the majority of the annoying trash and then leave the instance. A short leisurely, yet fiery trip further down the ramp brings us to the tunnel before boss number one; the formidable Lucifron.

Lucifron

Lucifron, one of the many Lieutenants of the mighty Firelord himself, is not particularly anything difficult. He has 3 abilities; One which does shadow damage to nearby enemies every 10 seconds, another aoe that does shadow damage to nearby enemies, and his curse which causes nearby enemies to have a 100% increase in all costs to all spells and abilities for five minutes. Supported by two Flamewalker Protectors, of which do nothing particularly special aside from a mind control on one player for 15 seconds, the whole tactic is as you would guess to destroy the additional enemies prior to doing damage to Lucifron himself.

Tactics aside the communication barrier is broken, as another of my kin, a fellow hunter steps too close to the boss. Suddenly the room is awake with arrows flying through the air and spell effects blocking out the darkness in the dingy tunnel we were fighting within. Surprisingly, the casualties are minimum and shortly after the initial pull the tanks have the boss and his minions under control. The raid went with 23 level 50 characters, 3 of which were now dead on the floor. Just under a minute later Lucifron and his minions are dead, adorning the floor with their serpentine appearances, 20 colourful champions stood above them rolling for loot that none of them can use.

So then, that’s a slice of the experience so far. As we continued the bosses became increasingly more relaxing, and easier. The sheer differences in class dynamics and scaling of statistics on pieces of gear has essentially made many things possible for low level characters that should not be, and to some extent made the experiment somewhat pointless. Personally I expected to have more resistance from the giant elite level 60 bosses of Molten Core; a place that I can only imagine would have been extremely irritating rather than complex.

Being stood there, with 22 others in those underground halls gave me an impression only equal to half of the scale of raids that would have been taken to the instance in its 40 man days. Yet the whole thing felt somewhat underwhelming, like the mechanics of the bosses were basic, and to many extents trivialised by simply using raid markers to direct the raid. We didn’t use a voice communication server, as such that I thought would at least increase the difficulty of the event, but it didn’t. When people regale me of times they had in ‘Vanilla’ WoW, they speak of how epic and grand 40 man raiding was, how they had these fantastic experiences that cannot compare to today’s raiding scene. Bosses fell in minutes, and granted characters could not have done this all those years ago, and in many ways this only demonstrated that twinking at this level offers very little challenge or reward, unlike the 70 and 80 Brackets.

The mechanics we saw on the bosses were simple, and I would argue that fights such as Baron Geddon; Where you must move from the raid with Living bomb and then return, all of these basic mechanical pre-requisites for completing the fight are all present in current time within 5 man heroic dungeons, and to some extent normal mode fights. Perhaps as the game has developed over time, so has the skill of the average player, or rather the requirements for that player to engage in harder content.

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So when I think of the amazing stories I’ve been told about how epic the raiding was back then, all I think of is how 40 people overcame communication boundaries and a poorly implemented series of game mechanics and unbalanced classes, and that in many ways the experiences they had felt good because of their accomplishments within their own community, with their friends. I have the same feelings about The Burning Crusade, many times I remember how our Karazhan runs would be filled with laughter and progression, but the fights themselves weren’t all that great. The people I raided with and the communities I engaged myself with are what made me play World of Warcraft, and continue to make me play the game to this day.

It’s safe to say that 40 man raiding would not work within the WoW we know and love today, because the limitations of what can be done mechanically, is completely dependant on organisation. If you could run 40 people into any of the MoP raids, do you think the various mechanics that made those fights difficult would remain the same? Honestly, the more people you have versus an enemy in a hot-key based MMO, the less likely it is you will follow mechanics and the more likely it is you would zerg it and go all out. Look at the isle of Giant with Oondasta, the great killer of pugs. That dinosaur has 2 mechanics, all of which rely on a tank facing the boss away from the raid to prevent a wipe, yet ‘Frillblast’ was the cause of endless wipes.

Ordos has mechanics on the Timeless isle, yet groups I enter fill with 40 people, with many others also taking part in the fight from without the raid group each week. The mechanics go from being structured points on the dungeon journal to what they are in reality, stand on the boss and move around with him whilst 12 healers put down healing aoe’s completely negating the damage that would otherwise kill you. There is strength in numbers, but very little skill.

This is the first week of our adventures in level 60 content, where we have cleared all bosses within the Molten Core, and the first boss of AQ 40, where soon after we called the raid due to losing members to time commitments. It’s something I will continue, simply out of curiosity mainly, as I want to find the point where the game changes, and in turn the difficulty of added mechanics make our progression near impossible without the communication and strategy that’s present in modern day raiding.

I hope you have found this article interesting, and if you wish to continue this discussion further please drop over to the WoW Stratics Forums, where you can tell me all about your favourite days in WoW and your own experiences of the changes in raiding.

WoD News, New Press Information

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In light of significant activity from the Blizzard development team these past two weeks, we obtained some further information about certain changes, confirmations to services and much more, so let’s kick it off and talk through each point!

Level 90 price and details confirmed.

It would seem the previous leak of the $60 price tag for the purchasable level 90 character boost service is indeed correct. Confirmed by Ion Hazzikostas from a recent Eurogamer interview, also continues to describe the whole service as a way of preventing customers from having to purchase multiple copies of the expansion to gain extra level 90 boosts, and allow them to spend a reflective amount of money for such a service based on the time and effort you pay to avoid in game. “The price point was decided upon to avoid devaluing the accomplishment of levelling a character to 90.” The likelihood of this price reflecting the price of the full game then is somewhat obvious, which is no surprise considering the previous expansions being of the same price range.

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CC’s are getting nerfed?!

What’s new in the world of Draenor news you may ask? Well, for starters we saw the beginning of some very interesting class based tweets and discussions, including of which plans to possibly remove up to two forms of CC from classes. This point is especially interesting for PvPer’s whom I think would all agree at this point a game of arena is a chain of fears and stuns, reducing the time anybody actually does something interesting in a fight. It would seem that taking out some of these CC abilities would perhaps alleviate some of the stress from a PvP situation, yet the implications of those that do stay in would have to be carefully monitored. For example if Warlock ‘ShadowFury’ was removed or altered in it’s stun duration, the implications for the abilities use in PvE would be affected exponentially, to what is an extremely useful tool as both an interrupt of which the class has very few, and as a Add control technique on fights. It’s obviously a direct game changer and would alter the quality of options for both PvP and PvE.

Nothing of course is set in stone, but we can be sure to see this heavily tested in the upcoming beta. Which funnily enough we got told in a closing statement at one of the press interviews as being “Soon.tm”.

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Garrisons

Ah yes, Garrisons, WoW’s simple answer to player housing, another confirmed addition and feature of the next expansion. Previously Metro put together a wonderful article here on WoW.Stratics talking about the art and implementation process of the feature, but something caught my eye from one of the interview transcripts.

“There is a lot of Garrison content that comes from having followers.”

So my question is, what does it mean by followers? Is this a new in game feature where you can follow someone, akin to how social media sites work? Or is this a broad term for guild mates and friends. Either way the terminology present would suggest some further form of interaction with your friends and your own Garrison, perhaps then it wouldn’t be too far off to presume such a feature to “follow” someone is in the works, especially given that the Garrisons themselves are actually present within the zones of Draenor behind layers of phasing, which ordinarily would prevent players from entering other players Garrisons. Further garrison updates in the same interview confirmed that the Garrison content will be updated throughout the expansion, and not just present in a final form in patch 6.0, which backs up their interest in continuing to make more annual, and more broader reaching content for different play styles, something they discussed at last years Blizzcon. Either way, it’s sure to be an exciting element of the game which will no doubt be a significant time sink with the usual Blizzard charm.

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Dungeons, Raids and Scenarios.

Interestingly in amongst the press interviews they talked a little about plans for Heroic dungeons in WoD. The difficulty of heroic dungeons was seen as far too easy for players at level 90, something which was blamed on the lack of having each Dungeon actually having a heroic mode, which meant the difficulty being altered to accommodate the source of acquiring gear from only these instances. This is not necessarily something I agree on in terms of a valid excuse for making dungeons as easy as they are, I would have preferred a possible admission that the sole reason would have been that they could get more players into raiding content if they made heroics more accessible. Personally I feel that heroics shouldn’t be a chore and they should be as they were before the Timeless Isles introduction to the game, a way of gearing for the entry item level requirements for the basic raids and LFR systems. Ion Hazzikostas confirms then, that in Warlords of Draenor each new dungeon will have a heroic difficulty at level 100, meaning that the difficulty can be increased.

Scenarios are a wonderful addition to the game, content that doesn’t require a tank or a healer and allows instant queue times for anybody, even allowing access to heroic versions if you have 2 friends of the required item level. The news that after the end of levelling in each zone you will be required to do a solo scenario then is great news. If you remember the Isle of Thunder story scenarios for the legendary quest line in MoP, then this will come as no surprise that they decided to continue with that technology. Usually in questing, at least from a story telling / lore perspective, levelling looses some of its charm due to repetition, and a lack of engagement in questing. Since Cataclysm this has changed significantly, with more original and interesting quest design ideas implemented on various npc’s.

The very idea that we get to see one of the most lore rich environments populated with end of area cut scenes and scenario involvement, with possibly further voice acting from key lore figures is incredibly appetising to me. However, you have to consider the capabilities of such quests to remain fun for everybody, especially in a time where people rush to the endgame as fast as possible for gearing towards the next raid tier. Other considerations are that this is an MMORPG, and situations that effectively put you into a single player area are obviously, if poorly implemented going to deter people from questing and levelling effectively in groups. I’m fairly certain that they will be optional; however issues aside, the feature certainly intends to add extra depth and immersion to the experience.

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Challenge Modes

Ah, a favourite here on the WoW.Stratics team, we all agree often that Challenge modes are a wonderful way of both testing your skill as a player, and maximising efficiency of each and every class in a static, even playing field environment. News then that they are about to get even more awesome, should be cause for jubilation. It was mentioned in the previous fan site interviews that Challenge Mode dungeons would indeed return, but now reward gear from the daily Challenge Mode dungeon quest. This gear will rival raid finder loot initially and be a source of early gear even before lfr or the doors are open to the raid content itself!

So, this then adds even more reasons to do CM’s, before they were pretty cool and allowed you to get extremely well designed transmogable gear sets, but now they seem to be integral to those who have the skill and time in gearing for the new endgame content. Of course you don’t need to get ‘Gold’ rank to finish the quest, as such this is going to be the fastest way of getting into raid content, aside from what we are about to discuss in my next segment. I think this is going to please many players who believe that skill should be rewarded in game, and I also think this could improve the quality of players who we see in end game content overall.

 

LFR and Heroic Dungeon requirements

So, currently in game the requirements for entering LFR, Flex mode, and 5 man heroics is purely based off of Item Level. If you don’t have enough of an average of this item level gear you are wearing, you cannot enter the content, simple. In Warlords of Draenor, this is changing significantly. The previous item level restrictions will be there, but additionally will be a completion criteria of something which was introduced in game fairly recently in this expansion, The Proving Grounds.

If you are unfamiliar with this feature, or perhaps simply never knew about it, considering the numerous features that have been added to the game that somewhat drown out the cries for your attention, then put simply, the proving Grounds is exactly that, a Proving Ground. Players enter the Temple of the White Tiger in Kun Lai Summit and enter a series of tasking situations for their particular specialisation. And example would be that as a healer I’m tasked with 3 different achievement rewards, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. To earn these medals, I must enter the ‘scenario’ each time and heal the party until all the enemies attacking this ‘group’ made up of npc’s are dead.

Progressively this gets more difficult, hence the medal system. So this might be all well and good, and perhaps you know of this system, but it came as somewhat of a nod to difficulty changes in WoD with the announcement that if you want to do the 5 player heroic content, and thus subsequently LFR modes, etc you will need to acquire Silver completion in the new proving grounds.

How many times have you run a heroic 5 man dungeon and thought to yourself, “did these guys get their tanking licence in a cereal box?”. How many times have you looked at the hunter and told him to turn off his pets taunt, getting replied to with the familiar “it’s not on!”, only to then realise he doesn’t understand that ‘Growl’ is a taunt. Well hopefully, this could be some sort of solution, at least a minor solution to some of the gripes that players have with other players who they encounter in pug groups. However, the key word there is ‘PuG Groups’. If you really want to avoid these people, perhaps it would be best to simply join a guild, make friends and run the content with people you can trust and enjoy playing with. At the end of the day, you can choose who you raid / group with, don’t let anoniminity fool you otherwise, something I personally feel has increased in the last few years.

ulduarian

Raid News

Raiding, the real meat and potatoes of World of Warcraft. Finally some news rears it’s head on the horizon, and boy does it sound mouth watering. (The content, not the potato)

The raid known as ‘Highmaul’, got some confirmation as to it’s layout, no maps or visual art as of yet, but they have said that it will be a lot like Ulduar in design, with open areas and wings stretching off a central area in an open environment, much like Ulduar’s own courtyard bosses and Throne of Thunder’s outside Troll bosses.

The second raid, known as ‘Blackrock Foundry’, is compared to the last area before the Lich King in Icecrown Citadel, again freeform in how you tackle each boss and in which order, ultimately leading to access of the final boss in the centre room.

“Less linear structures work better for players and feel better, so that is what will be used going forward.”

Many players including myself love the idea of Ulduar type raid designs, personally I think that Ulduar was probably the most well designed raid Blizzard has ever made, and the reflection of this feeling is purely on the freedom, to some extent at least that you can decide who you fight and when. Regarding who may be the end boss of each raid Ion go’s on to mention that each Warlord will likely not have their own separate raid tier, and that we may even see two or three in the first tier. This then opens up the floodgates for some extremely lore rich and wonderful figures as the first raid bosses, something which will certainly be a benefit to the raiding experience. The knowledge you are fighting ‘Kilrogg Deadeye’ for example, and not a random Orc Peon given wings and a Turban (ok, so possibly that never happened), makes for a much more engaging battle, both in terms of raid mechanics based on the characters lore filled abilities, and engagement.

newworldbosses

World Bosses

Raid bosses may be something which many of you feel worked, simply because they allow for extra chances of loot per week, and also a way to group with others you usually would not, yet the other side of that argument is clear, in that it takes away the purpose of fighting the thing in the first place when you have 40+ people hitting on a boss at any one time, causing extreme server lag and frame issues for everyone within 40 miles from the boss.

Ion confirms that 3 brand new world bosses are in development for patch 6.0 and that one should be initially available to players, dropping loot based on the Highmaul raid instance. Saying that a few weeks later, a second boss would be active, giving more powerful loot based on the Blackrock Foundry raid. “If a world boss gives rewards that are better than anything you could get if you aren’t a high end raider (Ordos), it diminishes the importance of raid zones. If rewards aren’t that good, players will start raiding and the world boss won’t be relevant anymore.”

This catch 22 is a concern, but gating access to these bosses usually works in terms of keeping both outdoor and instanced raids viable options for gear. I feel that Ordos, as much of a loot piñata as he is, is actually extremely useful, and in many ways I don’t see how he could ever impact on those who are already raiding the heroic end game content, and rather helping those who need extra item level for flex for example, without leading them to the temptation of simply just equipping useless PvP item level 522 gear, which many do already anyway. The balancing act is certainly something that all aspects of World of Warcraft needs to have addressed, but with many of the features talked about being so close to home, how will testing time reflect the actual quality of feedback on offer. Time will tell, and I just hope that the promise of ‘Soon.Tm.’ Is not too much longer away. The sooner we can get into the beta and test these things, the better the game will be in the long run.

 

As always keep WoW.Stratics bookmarked! So that you can be the first to know all about new and important changes in World of Warcraft!

Feel free to follow me on twitter @Meoniace, where I will be continuing any discussions and announcements in the future.