WoW Radio at BlizzCon 2008 - Wed, 08 Oct 2008 19:00:00 EST WoW Insider is heading off to BlizzCon tomorrow (I've got to catch a flight out of O'Hare first thing tomorrow morning), but we're obviously not going to be the only ones covering the event. Our good friends at WoW Radio also have big plans to keep you informed throughout the two days in Anaheim -- Totalbiscuit and the gang over there will be hosting live audio streams of all of the panels, both as they happen and after they happen, and they'll have shows, interviews, and commentary throughout the weekend (including our special live recording of the WoW Insider Show there on Friday night). We'll have liveblogs and updates here, of course, but you can drink right from the firehose of an audio stream there as well, all weekend long.
TB has posted a special podcast outlining their plans for the weekend, so if you plan to do some listening to what's going on in Anaheim, check it out. Additionally, they'll also be chatting throughout the weekend in IRC, so feel free to join either #blizzcon08 on irc.quakenet.org or #wowradio on irc.mmoirc.com for up-to-the-minute chats and updates on what's going down near Disneyland.
Sure, you could pay for the DirecTV feed and get just the video, or you could stay tuned to our sites for free, and pick up even more news and views about the big event. If you couldn't grab a ticket or didn't have the time or money to make the trip, don't worry one bit -- we're going to make sure you've got the best seat in the house.
Here's an interesting idea that's cropped up on the official forums: PvE arenas. In short, the idea is as follows:
Round up four of your friends and form a party.
Talk to the PvE arena master and get dropped into a cage match with a random dungeon boss from classic or BC, tuned up to level 80.
If you win (that is, the boss dies before the last member of your party), your PvE arena rating increases. If you lose, it decreases. Bosses have their own rating, which develops week-by-week similar to players', so beating the harder bosses will do better for your score, and they'll try to match your team up against bosses that are an appropriate level of difficulty for you.
PvE arena points are earned just like PvP arena points, and can be spent on rewards in a similar fashion. An alternate suggestion (also by the OP) is to reward badges based on PvE arena rating, which I think is a better idea, as well as being easier to implement, because it ties into the existing badge system.
Even Tigole thought it was a "cool idea," so there is the ghost of a chance that we will see it in a Wrath content patch. I would definitely enjoy the chance to make a quick pass at a boss or two with four of my friends, and get some extra badges for it at the end of the week. It would also be really fun to get to face some old bosses again, especially given Blizzard's steadfast refusal to implement heroic Deadmines.
Banned for no reason at all - Wed, 08 Oct 2008 16:30:00 EST GuamPDN.com ("Guam's complete source!") has an article up by Duane George, who tells his story of woe: he got banned from the game for suspected Arena win trading, and had to deal with 72 hours without the game. Blizzard, obviously, doesn't provide any information on how many players get banned from the game, and it would be even harder to determine the number of false positives out there like Duane: people who didn't do anything wrong but end up getting banned anyway. We've heard stories here of course, but this is a tough area to investigate by its very nature.
Fortunately, this wasn't a permanent ban, and while he did apparently lose some Arena rating and the gear that came with it, his character wasn't too much the worse for wear. A 72-hour ban isn't too big a deal, so Blizzard probably hands those out with much less consideration than a permanent ban anyway. But we're sure Duane isn't the only case out there -- as small as the number may be, there's almost definitely other players like him, banned for doing nothing wrong at all.
As you probably know by now, buffs and debuffs are changing significantly in patch 3.0.2, which is expected to hit next Tuesday, October 14. Most buffs that are only provided by one class are going to be provided by several, mana return from Shadow Priests is getting nerfed and spread out, you won't be able to stack Heroism/Bloodlust the same way, and so on. In general Blizz's goal was to make raid formation less about stacking the right classes, and more about bringing friends and good players.
However, all the new buffs and debuffs can make a raid leader's head spin, in case they do decide they want to organize a raid so as to optimize buff coverage (and surely some raid leaders will want to do that). Fortunately, MMO-Champion has made an outstanding web tool to help you figure out your raid composition. Just drag-and-drop specs into the raid groups, and check the right-hand column to see what buffs and debuffs you'll get.
It will also tell you whether you have the best buff in a given category; in my sample raid comp (my last Karazhan run), for instance, we only have Battle Shout, which is not as good of an AP buff as Blessing of Might. If you're missing a buff and want to see how you could get it, just mouse-over the buff, and it'll tell you what classes bring it. The one thing I really wish this tool had that it doesn't is a corresponding ability for specs: mouse over the spec and it'll tell you what buffs they bring. Overall though, this is really useful; I'm not a min-maxing raid leader (or a raid leader at all, actually), but I'm probably going to make use of it just to check what my raids and groups be getting. And because it's really cool.
I love this time of year -- the leaves are turning colors, there's a cool breeze in the air, and we're getting closer and closer to both Hallow's End and Halloween. And speaking of Halloween, it's time once again for the annual Blizzard pumpkin contest -- Bornakk has the deets on the forums. Just carve up a pumpkin at least as cool as this one featuring Illy D (it was one of last year's winners), take a picture of it lit, and send it to the judges through this form. The pumpkins last year seemed very influenced by Burning Crusade, so this year, we'll probably see plenty of Arthas and Death Knight pumpkins in the entries (I'd like to see a Nerubian pumpkin, myself).
I can't wait to see the winners, though truth be told, I just can't wait for Hallow's End -- the best candy of all are the purple Epics falling like rain off the Headless Horseman.
Daniel Howell contributes BigRedKitty, a column with strategies, tips and tricks for and about the Hunter class, sprinkled with a healthy dose of completely improper, sometimes libelous, personal commentary.
Yes, we've already done a Worm movie, but as we get closer to WotLK release, we're finding it harder and harder not to show you some of the new skins in Northrend. Thus, for your viewing pleasure, we present The Worm, part II, and let Acid Spit shine.
How to play WoW with a joystick - Wed, 08 Oct 2008 14:00:00 EST Reader Aaron Stacey wrote to tell us about a simple new script he's developed that allows him to play WoW more fluidly, despite having little fine dexterity control in his right hand. Since a spinal cord injury, he is only able to grasp and release his hand. Prior to developing this script, Aaron used to play only with his left hand using "an abundance of key binds and keyboard/mouse switching." He was restricted to caster classes because of the difficulty in moving and attacking at the same time.
Inspired by our Wii remote post and our treadmill post, Aaron came up with an ingenious idea that he hopes will help others with similar disabilities. The key is GlovePie, a piece of Windows freeware (donations welcome) originally written for virtual reality gloves, which allows you to play any game using any type of controller you like. GlovePie's website lists controllers like joysticks, gamepads, mice, keyboards, and Wiimotes, among a host of other hardware.
If you ask 75% of the top Rogues worldwide what the premier PvP spec is, they'll tell you Subtlety. If you ask an even greater margin of raiders what Rogue spec pumps out the most DPS, you'll get a solid shout of "Combat, duh!" And if you should ever feel the urge to pick up a pair of daggers, every brother of the shadows will direct you towards Assassination. These three trees have been neatly defined by Blizzard, and it's fairly obvious what each is designed for.
What separates Rogues from every other class is our nearly unilateral use of 41 point talents. A dagger Rogue without Mutilate is gimped while a Sub PvP Rogue without Shadowstep is the laughing stock of the arena. And don't bother stepping into Sunwell without Surprise Attacks, unless getting trashed on the damage meters is your idea of fun. We've gotten so used to the comfort in knowing that dumping 41 points into any of our trees will yield a viable build. Now that 51 pointers are on the way in 3.0.2 and Wrath to follow, I've been asked by many Rogues "Will the bottom of our trees continue to be the anchors of our builds?" Find out after the cut.
Skill Mastery: Survival Instincts - Wed, 08 Oct 2008 13:00:00 EST Survival Instincts is one of the surviving (har!) aspects of the now-defunct 51-point Berserk talent in the feral tree (the other is the new version of Berserk, which we discussed here). It's fairly straightforward; for 11 points in the feral tree and a 5-minute cooldown, you get 30% of your maximum health in bear or cat form for 20 seconds. Essentially it's Last Stand for Druids, albeit a Last Stand with a significantly shorter cooldown.
During 5-mans in the beta while tanking, I saw an HP boost into the 26-27K range from a health pool of 19-20K. That's certainly nothing to sneeze at and it's situationally useful, although it'll probably find better and more consistent application under the same circumstances in which Last Stand's typically popped, i.e. progression raid content and/or "Oh S**T!" moments. The latter is particularly welcome as Druids have often complained about bear form's worrying lack of options in the event of an emergency. As many Warriors will tell you, proper use of the ability involves letting your healers know both when you've popped the ability and when it ends. Mods like OptiTaunt can relay this information automatically, but you can also macro it if need be.
Seen commercials for the ShamWow? Well, today Kilh Machinima brings you its Azerothian equivalent in Hoodoo Teleshopping - The Deadmurloc(tm), his entry for the BlizzCon movie contest. Be warned: you must reconcile yourself with the idea that, although this version of Azeroth has television, it doesn't have a better way to clean your house than with a rehydrated dead murloc. Hoodoo Teleshopping is a Troll-run version of Home Shopping Network which demos the Deadmurloc product (don't forget the trademark) right before your eyes and shows you how the murlocs are harvested in cartoony, gory detail.
I found the background music to be too distracting, competing with the already-variable levels on the voice acting, so sometimes it was hard to follow the sales pitch especially from the gravelly-voiced Troll salesman. The visuals are well done, though, and the effect of putting the HSN-style border around the image is slick. Kilh says it only took him 4.5 days to finish the production in order to meet the contest deadline. But hey, you can't argue with getting a Big Flat Rock for FREE. Now what would you pay?
If you have any suggestions for WoW Moviewatch, you can mail them to us at machinima AT wowinsider DOT com.
Who's who at BlizzCon: WoW Insider's guide to the staff of Blizzard - Wed, 08 Oct 2008 11:00:00 EST Everyone going to BlizzCon this year will get to roam around the convention hall with some of the very people who bring you World of Warcraft and other Blizzard games. While many World of Warcraft fans might be familiar with the online pseudonyms such as "Drysc" and "Tigole," very few probably know what they actually look like.
We've searched the internet high and low for pictures of these folks and have compiled them into a nice and handy gallery complete with some biographical information. The pictures are small and mobile enough that they can be saved to an iPhone or other mobile device that can be brought into the convention hall.
If you happen to be going to BlizzCon be sure to stop and say hello to these Blizzard people. And if you aren't going, check out WoW Insider during the convention for the latest and greatest reporting right from the floor.
Undeath seems to be more contagious than the Spanish influenza. (Gasp! Too soon for that joke?) While spending a little quality time in Naxxramas, night elf priestess Fallion of <Rampage> on Turalyon got a taste of undead life, courtesy of Sapphiron. Her Spirit of Redemption is a little prettier than the usual bones/shackles/braaaaaains style of undead, but probably looks worse in tiered armor, considering that it doesn't usually have wing-holes.
Do you have any unusual World of Warcraft images that are just collecting dust in your screenshots folder? We'd love to see it on Around Azeroth! Sharing your screenshot is as simple as e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy of your shot and a brief explanation of the scene. You could be featured here next!
Remember to include your player name, server and/or guild if you want it mentioned. We strongly prefer full screen shots without the UI showing -- use alt-Z to remove it. Please, no more battleground scoreboards.
Whatever happens, make sure you print out your bingo card before you go, and then throughout the weekend, cross off everything that you see on there. If, by the end of the weekend, you've nabbed five across, you win! And while last year, all you won was the satisfaction of seeing something cool, well heck, let's throw something else into the mix -- if you're the first person to personally show me a completed bingo card by the end of the convention, I'll have a prize waiting for you.
And no cheating! Trust us, there'll be plenty of Paladin complaining at the Q&As -- you won't have to go do it yourself.
Recently a bunch of the writers here were talking about all the changes we're seeing to various hybrid DPS specs. Retribution in the beta is known to bring some serious pain, cat DPS has been given some pretty sweet buffs, and Shamans...well, Shamans seem to be in a state of flux, but when is that not true? With tank AoE threat buffed, the need for crowd control may also be a thing of the past, thus eliminating one of the more annoying roadblocks to hybrid desirability in 5-man groups. For 5-mans, at least, hybrid DPS should encounter significantly less difficulty (we hope) getting a slot.
However, it was my contention that, for the purpose of raiding, it doesn't ultimately matter how much these specs get buffed. They could do amazing DPS, bring incredible buffs, have any number of raid-saving abilities, and fart gold on every crit -- but you're still not going to see a lot of hybrid DPS running around Wrath raids for one very simple reason: someone has to tank and heal, and neither job is sufficiently attractive to allowmost hybrid players to come as DPS. When it's a choice between respeccing resto or the raid never getting off the ground, most players will respec resto -- and decisions like that tend to be fairly hard to escape. The next night rolls around and -- um, do you mind coming as resto again?
That's Cooldown of Darkspear, above, basking in the glory of a boss kill. While it seemed like raiding came to a standstill before BC, that's not really the case before Wrath -- while it's certainly slower, there's lots of people out there still killing bad guys.
And Guildwatch reports on as many of them as we hear about -- if you'd like to see your guild here (or have a good time on some wacky forum drama, either on the offficial forums or somewhere else), drop us a line at email@example.com. And click the link below to see this week's drama, downed, and recruiting news from all the guilds around the realms.
We had a little bit of controversy in the first installment, so I'm just going to state this as baldly as possible; if you hated what I wrote last time, there's a good chance you'll walk away from this one thinking I eat babies. Delicious, delicious babies. While I never mean to offend people, I reserve the right to tell them the truth, or at the very least a highly entertaining and plausible lie.
Truth, she be at times an ugly mistress. And she ain't gettin' any prettier as we move from DPS to tanking.
Tanks have significantly more responsibility, both in groups and raids, and they face the competing directives of maximizing mitigation (to keep their healers happy) and maximizing threat production (to keep their DPS happy). I've healed dozens of Death Knight tanks at this point, and while the average pugged DK tank has gotten noticeably better, there are still a few trends you'd want to be aware of as a healer. The problems in beta right now are made worse by Blizzard unintentionally overselling the ease of tanking on a Death Knight in 5-man runs. Many people seem to have interpreted the statement that they should be able to tank well with Blood, Frost, or Unholy specs as being tantamount to saying they can tank well regardless of how their talent points are spent in those trees.
Any experienced tank can tell you right now that this is not true, but people believing that it is is how you wind up with 11K-life Death Knights taking 7-8K enraged hits from Keristasza in the Nexus. If you've never tanked before but you're interested in tanking on a Death Knight -- or pragmatic enough to know you'll probably wind up tanking a certain number of 5-mans on your DPS Death Knight -- I hope this article helps you avoid what I went through in May 2007 when I started tanking and sucked at it.
I came to the beta to slowly lose my mind trying to heal insane tank damage and gulp Extra Strength Tylenol. And I'm all out of Extra Strength Tylenol.
Ghostcrawler just recently posted some good news for both Protection and Holy Paladins. Some of them are simply a matter of convenience, but all of the changes posted were nice little buffs.
First, Righteous Defense now has an 8 second cooldown. It's 15 seconds on live realms, and was 10 seconds previously in the beta. I'm very, very glad this change was made, though it's an example of the 'slippery slope' of homogenizing classes/tanks. Paladins were the only class with a ranged taunt, but now all of the tanks have one. Righteous Defense still taunts multiple mobs, but all of the other tanks had/have AOEtaunts as well. Righteous Defense mostly lost what made it beautiful compared to the other taunts, so it really needed this buff to not look terrible. I'm glad they did it.
When is it fair for classes to share? - Tue, 07 Oct 2008 19:00:00 EST Recently an interesting thing happened in the world of game design. To non-WoW players, it may seem like a minor detail, but it really shows an insight into the way that Blizzard designs their games.
Rogues have, of course, been stealthy for a long time, and when word first dropped that hunters might be getting Camouflage in Wrath of the Lich King, we were pretty excited that some element of stealth might be added to our class too. Blizzard went back and forth on this ability, first putting it in, then taking it out, then putting it in again, and finally taking it out again. In the end they decided that it was just too similar to the rogue ability, and they didn't want to blend the classes together too much. This was about the same time that they gave rogues a new ability, called Tricks of the Trade, which looks a lot like the hunter's ability, Misdirection.
To one player who asked what was up with this unfairness, Ghostcrawler spoke up and explained some of their design philosophy. She started by saying that they have 10 classes now, and they have to add more in every expansion. The "lazy-designer" way to handle this kind of situation is just to find an ability that works for one class and just give it to another. This would end up leaving the classes without enough to distinguish them all individually, and it's something they wanted to avoid.
So why was Misdirection an okay ability to share, while Stealth was not?...
While a lot of debate goes back and forth about how much damage Fury is doing in Wrath, and how fun the tree is, there's one fury talent that is unabashedly awesome in my opinion: Bloodsurge. Bloodsurge is a pure delight to use, and is a perfect example of synergy in action: the Fury tree stacking a boost to critical hit with the new Rampage (which we will also be spotlighting, never fear) which causes your Bloodthirsts to crit, which gives you an instant cast Slam with a high chance to crit as well.
It's quite possibly my favorite Fury ability (yes, even more so than Titan's Grip, which I am currently back in love with - I know you were all pulling for us crazy kids to make it) just for the fun of hearing the swoosh-bang on a BT crit. That sound means hit the slam button for extra damage! It's like getting all cherries on the slot machine, but without having to sit with all those people feeding quarters into the boxes with that desperate, hardened stare. Those folks scare me. I get the sense they'd like an instant cast slam as well, so as to easily steal my quarters.
15 Minutes of Fame is our look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes - from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.
So - achievements. They're a pretty neat concept for casual players as well as ... well, over-achievers. Fans of the upcoming new feature have already begun setting up for various achievements, farming rep, running old-school content and collecting gear and quest completions in preparation for the expansion's launch.
Among the high achievers is <Hells Fury> of Eonar-EU. "Unlike most guilds," writes officer Nerfs in a news tip to 15 Minutes of Fame, "it is not focused on raiding or PvP. We are instead focusing on the achievements that will be released with the pre-expansion patch and the expansion itself." Pretty cool idea for a bunch of folks with mixed-up schedules and piled-on work and school responsibilities! We visited with Nerfs yesterday to see how the guild is pulling it all together - and we have to admit, this sounds like a fun new way to play as a group.