The Great Debate – Capital City Changes!

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For those of you who haven’t been following, this has been quite the media storm, which I suppose shouldn’t come as a surprise… Welcome to the WoW community after all. But today, I will take some time to lay out the full argument for both sides and explain my opinion in detail for those looking for it.

In order to follow the series of events, have a look at these links:

News Breaks:
http://www.mmo-champion.com/threads/1542025-Karabor-and-Bladespire-are-no-longer-our-Capital-hubs

Corey Stockton Responds:

Official Alpha/Beta Thread and Discussion breaks out:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/13273197249

Community Manager Lore Responds with official statement:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/13273197249?page=3#57

 

OK, so if you have seen all that, you are now caught up. Let’s get right into both sides of the argument and dissect why, as usual, the community is making a much bigger deal over this then they should.

PRO Karabor/Bladespire as Home Cities:

We will start with this, as its important to understand why people are upset before you try to make sense of a counter argument.

I’ll begin by listing the most prolific statements PRO I have seen today, and address them in no particular order.

Blizzard made a promise, and they did not keep it. They got us excited, and now take that away from us.
This is a strong opinion, but it doesn’t help the case for me. People saying this are not understanding the more important underlying issues here. Unfortunately, this is a game in development. A stronger argument would NOT consist of conjecture along the lines of “you lied.” They did not. It was just what they planned to do at the time, and now the plan is different. This does not mean you shouldn’t be upset though.

The Temple of Karabor and Bladespire Fortress are epic and iconic. The new locations are generic. 
This is a weighty point and one I can partially agree with. To couple it with the previous statement, when we were told about this, everyone was sold because of being able to call these areas a home they deserve. A HUGE part of the expansion is our presence in a previous timeline, and for the first time in 10 years our characters are actually recognized as vital pieces of the puzzle by important lore characters.
Even worse is the fact that Horde and Alliance have no business setting up shop in this world. It really makes no sense, as its simply back in time. If you were to do this in a real world scenario (that allows for time travel) you are creating a recognizable demarcation and adding further conflict to a world that will be confused by our issues. As far as I am aware, we are both here to stop Garrosh. Why are we fighting each other and not assimilating with the story?

The footholds in Ashran, and Ashran in general, make no sense lore-wise. Why would they be there, other than to act as a place for players to experience Ashran content.
As alluded to in the last portion, I agree with this as well. It doesn’t make sense that the cities would be being built on an island in a previous timeline just to have war on each other. We could have done that back in our timeline! But, the same thing could have been said about the Shrines in Pandaria. At the time, there was no reason for those to be there, but they wrote something in to the story. Hopefully, the same happens here.

Karabor and Bladespire are too well made and too important to never be visited after the starting area.
Once again, I agree. It makes no sense to have put this much effort into making the starting areas epic, and then announce a change after all that work is done. However, I severely disagree with the people saying they will be abandoned. This is your own fault, if you feel this strongly. Its not the companies issue that you don’t go to cities you like. If you like them as much as you claim you do then whats stopping you? This point will be further discussed in the counter argument.

I have seen the new cities, and they are pitiful. We went from amazing Bladespire, to this copy/paste horde settlement.
Well no, you haven’t actually seen them. You may have seen a version that is present in public Alpha build #2, and if you did you would also have seen the doors being so small you can barely enter, the stairs that have no collision texture, and the paths that aren’t tiled yet. This is in NO way indicative of what the city will actually look like, but doesn’t change that Bladespire and Karabor are currently amazing. They have a LOT of work to do if they want to make these bases worth looking at.

Counter Argument – Supporting Decision

It wouldn’t be much of a debate if the counter argument was easy to reach for everyone, but I hope those with a working brain will understand the world is not actually ending after reading these points on why this might actually be even better.

First of all, Karabor and Bladespire aren’t going anywhere. They just don’t have Banks and Portals.
This is actually REALLY important to the counter, and it seems a LOT of people have over looked it. First of all, the portals being one place makes it important, there is no refuting this. But what else is important about a city? Trade Chats and the like are the other biggest issue, which can’t be over looked. But otherwise, everything the “hubs” have that Bladespire doesn’t can be made up by your character. Guild and regular banks can now be accessed on the go. So can transmog and repair. There is no reforging, so no need to worry about this. World travel is so easy now with cloaks and CM portals, so this really isn’t such a huge sticking point either.
In fact, I might spend even more time at Bladespire then I have at any other non-major city, because its so close to my Garrison! The next statement ties this together with why this is not a big deal at all.

There will be a quick-access travel option from your garrison to Ashran and the subsequent bases.
Once again, extremely important! If this is true, then you can simply spend all your time in Bladespire, take a taxi to your Garrison (or perhaps use one of the inevitable portals we will eventually receive) and then portal to Ashran every time you need to use the main city’s functionality. Oh, but you will be missing trade chat…

Trade Chat was previously used exclusively for finding groups. This has changed dramatically.
Now, there is an in game group finder that can be used ANYWHERE in the world. It will also have a text field and chat functions. This is essentially Trade Chat on the move, and will allow you to actually find groups without having to constantly spam chat with your needs. Everyone will have it, but even if this magically doesn’t work, there will always be Openraid and OQ. I imagine this feature will trivialize those sites though, unfortunately for them.
So knowing this, whats left that makes the “home base” so important, that you can’t spend all your time out in the world elsewhere, and still get things done? I actually love the idea, and it will help me feel more like I am playing the game, and not just AFK all day in the city.

Counter Argument – State of Cities

They are not currently finished. Anything can be added or changed.
Very important, as it is true. What you have seen now should not influence your decision on this matter. The way I am looking at the whole ordeal is that we just haven’t seen the Ashran bases yet. I really regret even making that video, because it allowed thousands of people to have a biased opinion. It was clearly not meant for testing yet, and I broke that code of honor for the sake of fan service. Oddly enough, I may have actually influenced a decision, if something major changes because of this uproar. Feels strange…

They will help players find a feature that they may not otherwise have had interest in.
Honestly, this is enough for me. Lore says this had nothing to do with the decision, but they have done enough lying already to know this is not the truth. The best features in MoP included Challenge Modes, Proving Grounds, and Timeless isle type zones. It was really difficult to get people to actually want to explore and play this content without mandating it.
The same can be said about Ashran, but this time you will be there often enough to eventually want to try it. Its a brilliant play, and will likely do FAR more good then harm. When enough people check out Ashran, they will not care about the city change at all. They will be happy they are close to the massive world PVP meats PVE they have wanted since old AV days.

 

Metro’s Final Conclusion (TL;DR)

Long story short, I both love and hate this decision. I really loved the concept of the main city being this huge sprawling castle that we spent a lot of effort building up. I also really love the concept of having instant transmission to Ashran, a feature that is likely to be my favorite addition next to Mythic in the expansion.

Its obvious the previous cities were beautiful, and I will be spending a lot of time there, as I can get there quickly from my garrison, or even use the CM portals to shrine and access Org etc. There are a ton of options, so I don’t feel forced into cities I don’t want to be in. However, I am confident by the VERY early things I have seen from Ashran that this area will be spectacular. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when its actually time to test it. I will wait until then to cast whether the new cities are good enough aesthetically to call home.

Finally, I stand by my statement that being plunged into one of the biggest features the expansion has is very healthy for the game and its players. People are upset now, but provided the new cities are horrible, there are a LOT of things to be excited about, especially since they are tethered to the garrison. Now, everyone will try Ashran, and this will do far more good than harm. Eventually, you won’t even remember this argument. And those that do, should be satisfied enough with the new homes, as well as all the amazing content Ashran has to offer.

Very Early Horde Preview

Very Early Horde Preview

 

Even Earlier Alliance View

Even Earlier Alliance View

Full Ashran Preview + How to Access.

Ashran

Check out the full Ashran Preview here first!

For those that are likely wondering how to access this, it first came to my attention during the second stage of quests in Tanaan. For some reason, it is across the ocean from the back of Tanaan, but in order to actually access it you need to be aware of a few things.
First of all, in the Alpha, there is technology implemented for Tanaan that prevents you from moving any stages ahead. I am not sure why, or if this will be like that as well in Live, but it makes sense because of how heavily phased everything is.
Therefore, if you try to go across the ocean immediately, you will be stopped and ported back to whichever stage you are on.

To make it there without this issue, you need to have completed the quest where Khadgar destroys the bridge. This is what originally turned my attention, as I wanted to see what fail safe there was for if you managed to fall off the destroyed bridge. Feel free to do so, and then search your mount list for the Water Strider from the Angler’s Rep and mount up and follow the only water outlet to the sea. After a short ride, you will begin to see it take shape.

Once you are close enough, the text Ashran will pop up, and the skybox will alter.

I’m not sure its intended to be there, but its pretty obvious that neither it, or its borders are fixed as of the current build, noticeable by the untextured cliff faces and oddly shaped beaches.
Regardless, you can see a sizable portion of this zone, and can recognize most of its tiling is fully finished.

My opinions are largely encompassed by the views and layout of the area, but since this is one of my most anticipated features, I will wait until its actually meant to be tested before writing full thoughts. This was just to provide a sneak peak as well as replication help.

If you have any questions, feel free to let me know. I appreciate your support, and hope to see you all in the Alpha!

Human Male Model – Champion of Stormwind?

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Finally, the long awaited Human Male model is revealed! Take a look at some of the images provided by Blizzard, so we can discuss what we think about the most iconic model of the lot.

Click to Enlarge!

Click to Enlarge!

 

First of all, this is not in any way what a Human Male looks like in World of Warcraft. I’m not sure where they even got this screenshot, or if its even from this version of the video game, but I feel pretty cheated by this comparison. For reference, here is what an actual Human Male face looks like.

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That puts a bad taste in my mouth, especially considering the updated model is clearly in the highest resolution possible, and the one its compared to is in very low quality. Regardless of Blizzards tactics, let’s move on and examine what makes this new model and set of animations amazing. And why…

Click to Enlarge.

Click to Enlarge!

After looking at this image, it makes me completely forget the previous slight we had to endure. This is such a brilliant example of why this expansion is going to be amazing, and why the most identifiable model in the video game will be at its forefront.

The one strange piece I notice is the ridiculously over sized hair brackets in the top left of the four faces. What is this? Is this actually a hair style now? I’ve never seen something that looks like that in game, but I suppose I don’t play the Alliance often. Regardless, I will say that this looks quite strange considering the size of the Human, and I feel that it doesn’t make much sense.

Past that, the point should be clear, that they are fully invested in making the animations spectacular. Look at the quizzical face on the bottom right, as well as the stern and angry faces featured. These are absolutely amazing, and as we saw in the Tauren model, will really add a lot to an already impressive visual.

I can’t impress enough about how this IS the feature, my friends. So many people complain about every old thing, and seem to over look just how huge this will be.

If you haven’t had some time to check out the WoD footage and features we have covered thus far, you really need to before you make another claim like that. It should be abundantly obvious that the visual upgrades this game is receiving will be without question the most significant feature of any expansion. In my opinion, it literally changes the game into something entirely different looking, in a very good way. If you don’t believe me based on this, I invite you to check out my full dissertation on my thoughts surrounding the topic.

 

Also featured in Chris’s Artcraft post was some news about the model’s introduction to the Alpha. It appears that they will be implementing this model, as well as others that are partially completed, but not yet formally revealed into our testing environment, whenever it decided to come back up. We don’t know if it will be in with the latest build, but this is important for reasons that everyone will be made aware of immediately.

As we saw with the Horde questing in Frostfire Ridge, all the orcs took homage from the newly implemented models, and looked spectacular because of it. It was my main point in the article I wrote on this topic, and I will reiterate it here. Of course, its not likely that there will be an abundance of Humans in Shadowmoon Valley, but you can bet the once that are there will be stunning. It only makes sense that both the Human male and female, as well as the Orc male and female should now be completed, and with these tools in place we can really get a feel for how these zones will feel visually.

Alongside this, its important to remember that all the gear is fitted first to humans and typically displayed as such. This means, from now on, the default looks we get at the new Mythic tier sets, should be on a high definition frame and really display the set’s quality even better.

Whenever the alpha does return, you can expect more and more coverage from us both on Youtube, and in written form. I look forward to seeing you there!

[Discuss This Article!] [WoW-Stratics Forums]

Don’t Worry, Servers Will Be Up Before Christmas?

Helplessly hoping

I have to apologize for the drought in content, and thank a lot of your for your feedback. We received more than a few comments this week about front loading all the coverage, but unfortunately, this is the way of the Alpha. Its important we get everything we can out as soon as possible, as well as anything else we subsequently find after that.

This goes for written content, youtube, twitter, streaming, everything.

Unfortunately, the reason behind this extended drought is Blizzard’s lackluster preparation.

Just went I praised them two sessions ago about being further ahead then they let on, and potentially seeing 100 servers concurrent with leveling, we get handed this horrendous set back.

For those of you who aren’t following, lets recap in timeline fashion.

Wednesday, June 11 – Announcement via Twitter that Horde and Alliance starting zones will swap in upcoming build.

Tuesday, June 17 – Typical patch day, announcements about lag batch changes and level 100 internal test dummies.

Thursday, June 19 – Alpha servers go down, patch is estimated around 9EST for return. Around 10 EST, its cancelled and they claim an issue with stability. Servers remain down.

Friday, June 20 – Patch is deployed around 8 EST, live for around 30 minutes when gamebreaking bugs tear the world and servers apart. Statement issued that build will be scraped and servers will return after the weekend.

Monday, June 23 – Wait all day for alpha, eager for testing and coverage. Once again postponed due to build issue. Claims today will be the day

Tuesday June 24 – Day this article was written, instead of new alpha coverage…

Of course it is early in the day, but regardless, what can ya do? Its really quite comical to me, as I had literally just got down speculating so heavily about the speed of this process and potential. After reviewing this timeline, it seems as I was completely wrong, doesn’t it?

Well maybe not…

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Another wrench in the theory is their strangely timed Tanan Jungle Preview.

The reason it is so beleaguering is because of the Shadow Moon Valley preview last week. Obviously, it was meant to coincide with the alpha build, but perhaps this means that Tanan is being added as well, and they just utterly scraped the content plan they had previously to add more into it?

One can only hope, because Tanan jungle is arguably the most important zone in the expansion. It is the restored “Hellfire Peninsula” pre corruption, but its very much just as brutal. We learn a few very interesting things about the zone as well, that helps place this on an even higher pedestal.

The big reveal is the zone’s central location for boosted level 90s. Early in the week, we discussed the whole process of acclimating these players to a brand new game, as they promised they would. It appears it will take place there, and is likely to yield and an entirely different starting experience.

This is exceptionally exciting for me, because I really love the concept that our characters are actually important this time around. In the past, we have always just been Thralls 25 friends or something like that, but in Warlords of Draenor, we actually get acknowledged by major lore figures as operator of the garrison, and as a recognizable piece of Horde lore.

The trend seems to continue in Tanan, and its very likely that those with fresh boosted characters will receive a different type of welcome, suitable to their character’s new status.

Either way, it is also confirmed that the zone will be the entry to Draenor, via the Dark Portal, just like Hellfire. Where it differs is, this time it appears we attempt to close it immediately after opening it. I would imagine the story to be along the lines of:
Garrosh opens time rift through portal
We go through, but want to stop others from following so we close.
We are engaged by natives and Garrosh supporters and are forced out of the zone before the task is completed.

This seems logical based on what we saw from the early text in Frostfire Ridge. We met the Blind Frostwolf Far Seer Drek’thar, and he seemed to already know Thrall and Kadghar. It was out of sequence then, but after reading this preview it seems obvious to me that our timeline’s heroes accidentally mix with those of this world and we have to take some drastic action to escape after our plan fails, or perhaps succeeds but hits a snafu afterwards.

They wont be Red and on fire, but it still sound scary.

They wont be Red and on fire, but it still sound scary.

The final confirmation is that, while this is technically the “starting zone” its not the real level 90 quest starting zone, and nor is it the last time we see it. My imagination tells me that we will spend 30 minutes or so in the zone and then be spirited away to our respective areas in Frostfire Ridge or Shadowmoon Valley. From there, we progress like in pandaria, through a world that is seemingly unaltered by our conflict, until we get deeper and deeper. Eventually, we are max level and can find our way back into Tanan Jungle for perhaps a Timeless Isle type questing and exploration area? It seems reasonable to me, as when we saw the zone in the Alpha Sandbox demo, it was horribly unfinished, so much so that the land wasn’t even shaped or textured past the area around the dark portal. This screams to me that the main purpose of this zone will be pure max level content, and not just regular quests.

Hopefully, if they do allow us to test Tanan in this next patch cycle, we will be able to explore it a bit more and get concrete answers to these questions.

Well, hopefully we are able to test anything in any patch cycle.

The servers have been offline now 5 full days, and I have a sneaking suspicion they will be off for even more. Its hard to take sides on Blizzard’s behalf, because as soon as you are sold out for them, they flip you on your back and roll you down a hill. And then later on when you are so certain things are falling apart and they have no answer to the destruction, they completely redeem themselves with magisterial action. And then it cycles over and over and over and over…

Here’s hoping we have something to cover by this time tomorrow. See you there.

Welcome to Heroes of the Storm

heroes article 1Welcome to the Heroes of the Storm page where we talk about our heroes that are in the storm like universe blizzard has created for us. For many of us these characters are so much more than your average MOBA experience. A lot of us have been playing with or against these characters in games for a decade or possibly longer. There is a certain upholding standard set for blizzard to create the characters we know and love and make them fun to play. Most of your MOBA’s characters are ideas ripped from multiple sources or just a collaboration of great minds to create new characters to play.  This idea is where my main drive to play this game comes from. Just the fact that I can play as Diablo, Uther, or the Forsaken Lich King thrills and excites me far more than playing the huntress Nidalee or the famed Darius. Now i have some experience with all these characters and the games they are in and i can’t wait to experience a new game with my favorites in it.

Now of course, I played other MOBA’s for years, starting with HoN and moving onto LoL which consumed a greater amount of my play time, upwards of 2-3 years dedicated alone to LoL, and I must admit failed attempts to become pro or close to it literally took me down the path of quitting MOBA games. The eternal rage that is in some of these communities amongst not just the general player base, but also within the pro players continues to drive me away from these games. Living in a volatile community for a game that I play constantly was just not something I wished to do anymore as it was starting to affect my day to day as well in the fact that I was a becoming little rager myself at times which is no way to solve a raging problem. When we look at Heroes of the Storm with its new MOBA gameplay style that is almost entirely different from other MOBAs’ it brings a promise with it of a community that has to play together to win together, that is a reason to look forward to the day when I wake up to find a beta key in my email, so i can play it all day and still be playing in the blizzard universe that i know and love.

This game brings with it a new style of play with team based experience gain so no one is ahead or behind, a beloved list of characters to play from, and the fact that there are no items to make yourself more powerful also means no one can farm to get ahead and just carry the team to victory with an Infinity Edge or Deathcap all on their lonesome. Here in the storm we must work as a team to conquer all and crush our foes with a swift curb stomp on the innkeeper’s doorstep as we brawl our way through the enemy base. Now I’ve listed a few reasons why I love this game and you can agree or disagree with them as you will but these are some of the major attractions that bring me towards the game, and many other people into it. The promise of a TEAM based MOBA alone brings many people in who were driven away from the MOBA’s we all know and love because of their volatile communities, add in the love of characters they have played with for years and the experience of a MOBA not based on farming and you’ve got yourself a real winner.

Lag Free WoW in 6.0?

lag trolling

Another recently announced featurette to add to the list of things that don’t quite jump off the page but essentially change the game in a massive way for the better is the retooling of actions per millisecond and how the World of Warcraft servers process them.

Let’s break down three situations where this is arguably as big of a change as anything added in any expansion.

1. Late External Cooldowns.
This is number one, without any question, especially if you have ever played a healer class and spec. Blizzard does a good job of explaining a situation in their announcement of this server based change, but I’ll give my own experience to couple with it and solidify why this is so important.

As a Holy Paladin, this can be a HUGE concern for us, and has been for many many years. The culprit is the famed Lay on Hands, which for those of you do not know, is essentially a full health bar for some one, once an encounter. It is currently a ten minute CD, but has seen 15, 20, 30, and 60 minute CDs through out the year. It also used to drain 100 percent of your mana between Classic and TBC, attempting to niche it into a “last stand” type heal. Of course, no one used it this way so that was eventually removed. Anyway, knowing the CD you realize that this is a once in a life time situational ability. The moment that this is used for is so obvious it might as well come with a written invitation. You know it when you see it; some important player, likely the tank, gets hit for an irrevocable amount of damage per second, and there is absolutely no time to cast anything before his death. These situations occur more often than you think, especially because of the random number generator that controls both white swings from bosses and defensive strength from tanks.

So imagine this with me if you will. 10 percent left on Heroic HARDBOSS, after 250 some wipes on it for the last few weeks. This is the one guys, you might finally down it! Oh lord, Maintank Jr. just got hit crazy hard. Two paladins though, here we go boys, time to shine. BOOM look at that lay on… Wait what happened? He’s DEAD!? BUT ITS ON COOLDOWN.

Welcome to 400ms batch processing.

Blizzard openly admitted this, which is honestly unacceptable if you ask me, but at least they are addressing it. If you have never had this happen to you, you are lucky. It happens to us pretty often. I’d say 1/10 times I cast Lay on Hands on a tank. It just goes on cooldown and he dies before the heal reaches him. What a joke. Thank god this will never happen again.

2. Late Interrupts.
Number two, mostly because of Heroic Nefarian and just that first tier of Cataclysm in general. It also happens a LOT on Heroic Garrosh transition 1, so lets once again relive the agony.

Once again, prime time bug for Holy Paladins, but just as prevalent for anyone. Essentially, if you don’t interrupt in the first 2/3s of the visual cast bar, you are playing a gamble that you will often lose. Its a combination of this issue, and individual lag that spells disaster on any encounter that has forced interrupts, like Nefarian and Garrosh Heroic. Realistically, this has just been a fact for so long that if you have a stand-up interupt and are using it this late you are asking for trouble any way, but the real issue is for me on the Temple of the Jade Serpent transition within the Garrosh encounter.

Walk through this with me if you can. I am a Blood Elf Holy Paladin, and have been designated to interrupt the first two sets of casts on the trio of sha adds to the front right as I enter. I do so by using Blinding Light, and then Arcane Torrent for the second set. Why there is any issue is more a problem with the joke of a spell this has become, but I suppose PVP has too much import now-a-days. Its like a 12 second cast, or it feels like it when this happens, but I first have to rush over there as quickly as possible, and then begin the cast to stun the three adds at the same time to sync up their cast bars. If I hesitate at all, a hilarious looking moment occurs where the stun goes on CD as the bar is near completion, the stun goes out before it is completed, but the server doesn’t register it with enough window, and the adds shoot sha blasts out of their stunned heads, with their arms down at their sides.

I wish I had some footage of it, because its funny to behold. This essentially happens once an evening of progression, but its more a secondary issue with this 400ms batch processing, and a primary issue with the length of the damn cast. Anyway, good riddance.

3. Player Lag and Responsiveness.
Besides all these technical issues, there is the basic principle that makes this all worth doing. I am still shaking my head and fist at Blizzard for admitting this, but essentially prior to this change every single player, no matter their latency, had a lab cycle of up to 400ms. It wouldn’t happen often, and its likely not very noticeable with great connection, but the people this is a major saving grace for people like myself, with slow connection, or people like Meoni and Syiler, who connect from half way across the world to US servers.

Honestly, before I even knew this change, I was raving about how this game looks and feels like an entirely new game, and not just another expansion to the previous. This change was a huge part of it, especially in dungeons. It felt like my abilities were far more accurate and responsive, and just made the game a lot more enjoyable, especially as a tank.

Typically, something I like to do as a Monk tank is pull from ranged with Crackling Jade Lightning, and then cancel it the second I use it just for grins. Now, on the alpha, I do this and you don’t even see the animation. This is a direct result of the change we have discussed here, and I couldn’t be happier. It really makes each keystroke feel more meaningful and have more impact, if that makes any sense.

Regardless, I for one am really enjoying this slight change, and will do my best to remember it in 2 years time when people are saying Warlords of Draenor was a bad expansion with no features other than taking away flying and spells or whatever the new trend will be.
Can’t wait like Bart Scott.

Level 100 Servers Incoming!

Internal test

As far back as a week ago now, we received strong evidence that they make actually be much further along in the testing period than they originally let on. Suddenly all the world is abuzz with delight over the prospect of a mid or early fall release! But why, you might ask?

I’ll tell you why, relax! Stop asking.

This Alpha, and subsequently Beta as well, will be implemented an entire renovation in how we test content, especially balancing. There was talk early on about an entirely separate server where everything level 100 takes place, and this can be used to enormous impact beyond anything we have seen before.

Non-related imagery.

Non-related imagery.

It’s important to remember just why we are here, after all. Typically, if testing takes 5 months, at least two of the months are testing the leveling process and all the inner workings of that, and then they let you get to 100 and do a few dungeons, but still don’t allow premade 100s. This happened last expansion especially, and it REALLY hurt raid testing, if it wasn’t for the infamous Emperor Tern slaughter power leveling…

Anyway, imagine the power we now hold. Even if it still takes 2 months to test all the leveling, if they can simultaneously implement a level 100 server they can essentially start the second half of the beta early. This will likely mean that there will be two sets of content to test and release each build, and I can see it likely being as simple as one dungeon and 2 levels unlock, and one heroic dungeon unlocks on the instant 100 realm.

The possibilities are endless, but the beginning is obvious, and confirmed by Celestalon.

Relatively soon, we will see not only level 100 servers, but level 100 test dummies of all sorts to test with. This symbolizes a very important victory for not only just the players but also for the developers. This means not only have they found a way to simultaneously test on the same client, but they are getting deep into balancing max level with implementations of these apparently new dummies that can even be used as Healing and Tanking tests.

The effects of this are profound, as many of you may realize, as getting the balancing out of the way now is step 1 into launch. If they are ready to open this can of worms this early, it means they have a lot of the inner workings of classes realized and are now looking for data to support implementation. Especially with healers and tanks, this has the potential to stretch very far and wide, and will help players as well as those pulling the strings.

In the simplest sense, we are indeed dummies as well for this entire build cycle, and will do our duty effortlessly. I will find these creatures, and I will heal the life out of them. I will withstand their blows too, as a bastion of tankness, and may even decide to use damaging abilities to reduce their health near zero. Because doing this transcends just my interests. Giving relevant data this early into the Alpha suggests we may see even more relevant sources of data inputs coming soon. And the more people who contribute the faster they can process and proceed. And when you have beat your knuckles bloody on these limitless creatures, you can take a breath and go back to leveling and testing whichever zones they wish to be looked at as well.

The term “win-win” has never been more true.

Of course, this isn’t the first time we have seen this type of test happen, but I hope you share my sentiment in understanding just how huge of a deal this is, especially when talking about the first two weeks of a public test. Last time, there were massive patchwerks in Shattrath city that acted as raid dummies as well, and for those looking to relive the glory days, find the video below of its prior implementation.

This round proves to be much different, as last time there was only a DPS option, one that submitted to hits as any honorable training dummy would. Never one that hit back! Let alone one that could be healed…

A true man’s man.

Sadly, I admit my wondering of what they will actually look like. The safe bet seems like Patchwerk, but I’m hoping for the healing ones we get something different. I don’t care much to heal a friendly Patchwerk, so my official WoW.stratics prediction goes to Mr. Flaskataur, Esquire. He is a kind heart, with an even kinder disposition for helping others, so I don’t see why we can’t return the favor this time, especially with him getting nearly one shot every few seconds. Luckily he has Sturdy… Ya.

OK, so let’s make a serious prediction as well. This time, the topic of our clairvoyance will be Alpha progress. I will say what every one else is thinking after reading this.

With dual testing happening, each build will contain progressively more. After a week or two of max level balancing, the next build will have max level dungeons that can be queued for. Meanwhile, the leveling server will unlock more zones past the starting area, for both Horde and Alliance. Further past this, as the leveling server continues to implement more and more zones, we will see Ashran and Heroic Dungeons past that. From there, the sky is the limit, and it will likely be bottlenecked by the leveling process. I would speculate that once the level 100 testing is deemed a success and balance has been installed, the leveling portion will be great expedited.

Regardless, I don’t think there is any argument to be made that this isn’t revolutionary. If it would take 6 months to test this entire expansion, getting the level 100 balancing out of the way potentially shaves off three months. Sure, we will be much busier, but so will Blizzard. Its not surprising to know that they have a lot more done than the builds indicate, but regardless, its our job to help them get even more.

First stop, Shattrath to heal up Mr. Flaskataur, Esquire. Next stop, live servers. See you there.

 

Active Mana Regen Trashed – A Return to Classic Healing!

Mana

Hey. This is a rant about mana regen. Now that we both understand this, let’s talk about why this is a rant, and in my opinion, why making regen completely passive is a lazy and silly decision.

It’s important to understand Blizzard’s train of thought with any expansion and its changes, and this one is clear as a bell to me. Essentially, it is a facet of ability pruning that effects core mechanics of not only a class, but the entire holy trinity meta and game itself.

When they decided they were going ahead with ability pruning, they were actively seeking a few goals. The first goal was achieved quite easily, in the removal of spells people VERY rarely used. For paladins, this included Hand of Salvation, while another example is Scare Beast for Hunters. Personally, I love this decision. It kind of sucks losing a few abilities just because they didn’t work that well, and it does feel like “dumbing the game down” but in the end I am happier to have the free key binds, and people learning specs (especially for CM!) will be able to focus more on their core mechanics instead of their estranged utility spells.

The band Mana is also upset. It's not just me.

The band Mana is also upset. It’s not just me.

The next goal was to consolidate a lot of abilities that had two similar uses but were often used together. This was also very easy to attain, as we saw abilities like Avenging Wrath – Divine Favor, Recklessness – Skull Banner, as well as Rune Strike – Death Coil, all merge into a new shell. Once again, I see this is an advancement for a specific reason. Having abilities that differ slightly be combined clears up a LOT more room for other important key binds. This is especially important while tanking, but can also be a great benefit to healers who do a lot more than just heal.

The final goal, or at least the one we stop at, was to make healing and tanking more active and controllable. Those two words are very important: “Active” and “Controllable.”
This was a much taller task for Blizzard, but it appears they hit a home run with Tanking especially. The “control” aspect of tanking is that you now have stats to directly increase your survivability, along with abilities. On top of this, they have removed Vengeance and replaced it with Resolve, which is essentially the exact same thing, only it doesn’t effect your dps at all, just your self preservation.

In order to make it more “active,” we learn that while tanks lose essentially zero active mitigation abilities, while seeing some even get buffs. On top of this, the Resolve change is massive to an individual’s play style. A Brewmaster Monk tank now is the poster child for this system. They take a LOT of damage in 3+ mob packs, but because of the scaling with Resolve, their healing and absorbs are absolutely ludicrous. Keep in mind, this is level 90 – 92 experience, so its extremely likely this will not be as severe at 100, but regardless, it should still be relative.

So in summation, tanks have their golden generation, and seemingly both changes are quite enjoyable. But what about healers? Time to go full rant mode.

 

The “Control” of healers is known as “triage healing” by everyone who has been following the game. This means that heals are very tightly controlled with fixed variables to counteract the tanking damage on equally fixed intervals. The best way to describe this is if you heal some one with your basic healing spell 100 percent of the time, then they will be constantly healed enough to stay alive when taking normal circumstances of damage. However, when taking extraordinary amounts of damage, you may have to supplicate the basic heals with some high-throughput spells. This crosses over into the “Active” category here.

When discussing the “active” side of Triage Healing, you quickly understand exactly what is at stake. For a healer in 5 man content, its extremely likely there will be 5 targets to heal constantly, especially in higher difficulties than the ones I have tested thus far. Knowing this, you now have to make a very active choice. Who get’s what type of heal? Perhaps the mage can handle an instant cast Holy Shock, while the tank needs a quick Flash of Light, but I can spend Holy Power on some AoE healing.

Its all very decision oriented, and I personally see my self LOVING it, especially in raids. Maybe not so much in small group content where you are alone, but my favorite thing about healing is working together as a team.

But wait, you say? Oh yes, I did miss something, didn’t I. There is another side to the coin than simply pressing heals in WoW. Or at least, there was in previous expansions. Not anymore!

Blizzard has officially confirmed their intent to effectively remove mana bars from the game again, but this time go even further off the deep end. Why I relate it to Classic, is because in 40 man environments with literally no way to regen mana other than not casting for 5 seconds, you just chose your weakest spell and spammed it 100 percent of the time, and never relented unless strange circumstances existed. This was very important at the time, because it assured you did as minimal overhealing as possible, but helped you maximize your mana pool as well.

Now, its the same flavor, just with a few different toppings. Instead of having to be ultra conservative about your spell usage to prevent mana loss, you will do so to maximize mana regeneration. Currently in the Alpha, if you just cast your weakest spell 100 percent of the time, you actually gain mana! And thats at FIVE HUNDRED ITEM LEVEL! Obviously, there is a lot of tweaking to be done there, but why this is so off the chains is that it gives you way too much wiggle room in a model that is supposed to be all about control. Instead, now each spell cast that consumes mana needs to be 100 percent effective, especially in raids, otherwise you wasted your time. In 5 healing Mythic situations, the niche that will most certainly will be carved travels the path of BC healing. You simply have healers select a target and heal them with your most efficient heal every global. When there is more healing needed, you use your best heals, and then regen. In this case, regen means going back to using your most efficient heal every global.

The system they elected against, in case you aren’t aware after reading the Blue Post, was that you regen very little mana natively, but have 1-2 spells that cost an important resource and regen large chunks of mana. So instead of making healing decisions about healing, and giving globals dedicated to regen, they have now combined the two into one watered down system where spell selection is chosen by default based on the encounter’s damage.

Phew, OK sorry. Had to get that off my chest. Its very likely I am being far too critical, but what I fear the most is the end tiers just being a complete disaster. I mean, if we are able to regen our entire bars in a few seconds now, won’t the end tiers just fall prey to the same issue as we had in Wrath? They will have to FORCE us to use our best throughput spells constantly to make up for the difference in spirit. This will lead to tanks getting crushed, and the Triage concept once again completely out the window.

I hope this isn’t the case, I am REALLY looking forward to trying this in a raid environment. I love the concept of keeping many people alive but never really having everyone topped off. But if my mana bar isn’t moving while doing so, then I can’t say it would be nearly as exciting.

To close, I will give a current example of the situation they elected against, and how it has worked for years.

Potion of Concentration and Potion of Mana. This is the pillar of success for this concept and its been in the game for 7 years! The choice is whats important. You have to make a decision whether to use the Potion of Mana, regen a little mana, but continue throughput – OR – use the Potion of Concentration, regen a good amount of mana, but sacrifice all spells for 10 seconds. Every healing guide I make includes discussion of where the two potions fit into the equation, and I was REALLY looking forward to regen sections as well.

Instead, all our choices are just secondary traits of our actual healing spells. In an act of going to far on the side of “control,” we have lost some very important “active” concepts that will very likely come back to haunt us. Mark my words as you read them. This will change. It may not be in the Alpha, it may not be in the Beta, but it will not carry out as it is currently before the final tier (6.4.) Its the oversimplification that many people cry about, and for the most part it makes sense. Here is the one case where it does not.

Now mana can stay in the pool, where it belongs!

Now mana can stay in the pool, where it belongs!

Dramatic Visual Upgrades – Metro’s Opinion!

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Graphics and visual fidelity are a known sticking point for me, but I wont say I predicted or called this. No, there is no reason to be this smug or proud. What I will say, however, is that in the later years of Blizzard’s development, I find myself placing more and more trust in their work and getting more and more rewards. Some may say the point of this article can be summed up in that sentence, and they may indeed be correct. Regardless, follow me on an extended trip, continuing from where we left off in the previous article. I have a feeling you will be just as excited as I am!

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Its times like these I wish I had an even wider monitor! As mentioned last time, I said how important picturesque and panoramic scenery was to me, and they did not fail to deliver early. There is no question that they are a lot more interested in scenery and fidelity than they were in Wrath and below, but now with the zones being so much more expansive, as well as the prospect of no flying through out the expansion, you can see they really went all in. 1

Here we see another breathtaking view of a main Horde Quest hub. As if the gameplay surrounding it wasn’t enough, the titanic fortress is protected on all sides by sheer cliff faces, and has one incredible bridge that leads you to your destination. You will be utterly speechless as you approach, mostly because of the magnitude of the fixture. It is so much larger than the player that being able to fly around it would be so disproportionate. I wasn’t necessarily against flying in WoW prior, but after seeing this map and this location specifically, I hope it never comes back. Seeing these things from the ground is so much more poignant when you realize the scale you are a part of.

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The next thing to examine is one that can NOT be overlooked. Aside from the typical scenery and landscape changes you expect each expansion, this is likely one of the most underrated points of an expansion, topped only by revamped questing with Cataclysm. New character models change everything. This is not an exaggeration. At first, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about playing with a model that potentially may not look like my original character, and although I haven’t been able to test Blood Elf yet, I can say with 99 percent certainty that there is absolutely nothing to fear. The fact that everyone is running around with improved models AND animations is part 1 out of two parts as to why I feel like its an entirely new video game.

I can talk about it all day really, but you will need to see it for yourself before your mind is set. I ask only that you realize there may end up being a few slight changes, and that you don’t get hooked up on minor details. The world is so large now, and the players look so spectacular that I would be satisfied with an entirely different character if it meant this coming to fruition. You can also turn them off, if for some reason you are that concerned!

Regardless, its not just the players that make the world sing. Essentially every Orc in Draenor has a brand new model as well, including old favorites and main characters like Thrall. I won’t weigh in on if Thrall’s new look suits him quite yet, but its irrelevant. He looks so good in the new landscape alongside the brown skin orcs that there is nothing to discuss. When this is all said and done, it will be such a crazy comparison between even just MoP and WoD, let alone WoD and Classic! Couldn’t be more excited!

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Look carefully, as this one is part two of why I feel like Warlords of Draenor is an entirely different video game. This screenshot is a culmination of everything we have spoken on previously, with one big addition. The selection glow! There are a number of different colors and functions for each, but the point is that this, alongside entirely new models and a gorgeous new landscape really solidifies my love for this expansion early. There is something about the bevy of things we have discussed here that really resonate to me and make me proclaim my stance on this game’s Renaissance.

Even players that have been playing as long as I have seem to agree with my initial impression. The first thing I said when I was finally able to log on to the Alpha was “I seriously feel like I am playing an entirely different game.” This was meant with overwhelming confirmation, even from players I would never expect to be impressed by this sort of thing.

When a few graphical changes make the game feel this different, its pretty obvious where we have been as players in the past. It wasn’t always the most beautiful game, but between MoP and WoD they have easily tripled their fidelity, if not more.

I have never been so impressed with a progression of changes as I have so far, and even though I was excited by MoP’s content features, I think I am even more excited about WoD’s behind the scenes changes that seemingly do even more! It is truly becoming complete now .

I’ll leave you with one last change to cap the whole discussion off and hopefully win over any purists that still don’t agree with me. Watch the short video and you will see grass react as you step in it. Keep in mind, this is only in Jade Forest as well. That should speak volumes of their dedication, when you realize that they have implemented nearly all of these graphical changes across the board, not just for new content. I for one, can not wait to see some thick fields of grass get parted by my characters, and just know that if it looks like it does last expansion, it will be so amazing in content its designed around.

I’m not one to express my giddiness very openly, but that is pretty much the only word for it currently. Its been a privilege and an honor to be able to test this expansion this early, and all I can say is amazing things about it.
Can’t wait to see the raids! Can you imagine!?

Questing Alternatives – “Timewalker” Events?

Timewalker Events

Let’s start with an apology in advance. Before you say anything, yes I realize this will be the fourth article I have made using “timewalker” as a descriptor, and yes I realize that this may not even be the name of these events. I just don’t know what to call them otherwise! At least not yet, as it is so early in the Alpha. I imagine we will all know sooner or later though.

Anyway, now lets actually discuss what we came here to discuss!

In MoP we began seeing alternative things to do while questing, including the “treasures of Pandaria” and random items on the ground that you could loot to gain exp and gold. These made MoP feel like a living, breathing world, with a lot of interactions to be had.

It was pretty basic, but I can say with confidence it was the foundation for what we are examining today. And there is far more than just this!

While questing in WoD, you will find many alternatives to simply killing mobs for a quest or looting items off a ground. There are many rare creatures to be killed, world events to be completed, random chests and boxes to dig into, and apparently these time loop events that place us in a situation between both worlds.

It appears that when we enter, we blur the line between our time and theirs, and for some reason, everything is stopped. It reminds me of Prince of Persia, and you’ll see why if you take a moment to check out the video.

There appear to be various “objectives” to these, that are indeed character specific one time loots.

As you enter, you may see lights that help boost your speed, and may serve as an additional source later in development. Seemingly, the main goal is to loot all the NPCs that are present, and make it to the end for a more substantial reward.

For the initial testing I did on these events, I found the Ogres present to all carry the exact same loot each time I went through it on subsequent characters. There were four total.

The first gave a vendor grey that sold for 4~ gold.
The second, falling from the roof, gave nearly 10 gold straight
The third, tumbling down a rafter, gave a few gold as well as a vendor trash item that sells for 5 gold.
And the final gave a Rare Quality neckpiece that was the same each time it was looted. The item was an intellect piece that had higher item level than quest rewards from basic quests in the zone.

Here are some stills from the video that may pique your interest even further:

Timewalker 1

timewalker2

As an event, I say personally that these are nothing short of spectacular. I love the concept of keeping the world big and giving options to explore and find things you wouldn’t expect. The current zone we are testing is an amazing example of this, and I can’t say anything but good things when discussing it. They have really done a spectacular job with making the starting zone feel huge and expansive.

Looking further into these events though, what do we think?
At first, I thought they were separate groups of ogres trying to fight the one at the top, but this does not appear to be the case. Looking even closer at the second displayed image, we see that even the Ogre at the top is cowering, and there are fireballs reigning down all around him.

What could this mean? If this is truly a bridge between the worlds, perhaps its a peek into the future? Perhaps, when the future unfolds, this is Guldan’s doing, and the fire reigning down is the destruction of Draenor?

Only “time” will tell, both figuratively and literally in this case.

Hopefully Blizzard will officially label these events so we can speculate even further, and hopefully they are indeed meant to be references to futures that come and go, or may not happen at all.
I can’t shake the feeling that we have a LOT more to do here than simply play a role back in time. I imagine, as we find more and more of these events, it will become obvious that we are viewing a world that will escape certain peril, and it may end up to be because of our work!

Stay tuned for more Alpha coverage and feel free to check out the video below. It details the extent of the event!