The Props team at BlizzCon showed a video on what they do, and also displayed a lot of the characterization and mood setting of the new Goblin and Worgen starting areas. The Lost Isles for the Goblins are just beautiful and quirky and funny, abounding in tropical drinks, a breakfast machine, and a "rocket-catapult-turtle-powered-machine" (and did they actually build a railroad out of bamboo?), although I have to say that the Dickensian/Victorian feel of Gilneas is just...words fail me. It's lovely. This is perhaps the loveliest, most haunting, spooky and creepy zone Blizzard's ever done, and...it's going to be an almighty lagfest when Cataclysm hits. Oh well. Truthfully, I had no idea just how much of what we think of as the "landscape" is in fact the Props team at work.
As an FYI for readers who have observed this on previous video, yes, there are gold-sellers' ads popping up on Viddler, and no, we're not happy about it, and we certainly didn't put them there.
Looking at talent trees for all classes, the Systems team felt that players were spending too many points on things like flat damage or healing boosts; talents like Cruelty or Fire and Brimstone are uninteresting but necessary for players due to the bonuses they provide. On top of that, talent trees are bloated with all kinds of talents that are trying to do three things at once, which makes for confusion among players who might not be at the top of the min-maxing game.
What the Systems team wanted to do was make it possible for players to only use their points on "fun" talents -- ones like Body and Soul, Lightning Overload, or Juggernaut -- and make the passive bonuses that used to be in talents your reward for investing points into a tree.
Examples were given for Rogues. A Combat Rogue might see his Mastery bonuses include passive increases to melee damage, hit chance, and armor penetration as he moves down the tree, whereas a Subtlety Rogue might see increases to melee damage, melee haste, and energy regen.
But how does the new Mastery stat tie into this? Ghostcrawler says that the Mastery stat on gear will increase the bonuses you receive from the tree into which you've invested the most talent points. It'll also have other passive bonuses depending on your class and spec -- for example, Mastery will lower the cooldowns on Ret paladin abilities.
This seems like a fantastic change for everyone, and it makes me incredibly excited to think about the fun and interesting talents that'll replace my myriad of spell damage boosting talents. Can't wait for the beta!
The second class discussion panel of the weekend is starting up in just a few minutes. We're live on the floor of BlizzCon 2009, ready to bring you all the news we can type while the devs are talking. Get ready to learn what's happening with your class when the Cataclysm hits.
The live blog starts right after you hit the "Read more" link below. Newest updates are at the top.
For my money, one of the most interesting Cataclysm features they've alluded to is Path of the Titans, another character advancement system at max level. Before the Systems panel today, we didn't have a lot of solid information on it. There are still questions to be answered, but here's how it appears to work so far:
At maximum level, you choose to align yourself with a given Titan cult - i.e., you choose a specific path.
The paths are not class- or role-specific. Players will have to figure out for themselves what path they want to take.
Turning in artifacts found with Archeology (the new secondary profession) will cause you to progress along your chosen path.
The main rewards are Ancient Glyphs (not part of the Inscription profession). At each rank in your Path you have two to three choices of Glyphs.
Some examples of Ancient Glyphs are:
Increased damage following a crit
More Glyphs will probably come after launch.
Everyone is going to eventually be able to get all the glyphs for their path, and it will not be grindy (i.e. not like Sons of Hodir).
I'm looking forward to learning more about this as Cataclysm comes towards beta and release. I'm especially excited that they're focusing on making it not feel grindy, because that's a definite risk for a system like this.
In what will certainly be the be-all end-all solution to "additional instances cannot be launched", Blizzard announced cross-server instances and LFG at the Dungeons and Raids panel at BlizzCon 2009.
By taking advantage of brand-new hardware separate from your realm's instance servers, not only will you be able to find groups from pools of players in your entire battlegroup, your realm's specific instance servers will be free of the stress of mass heroic-running.
On top of the convenience factor, Blizzard says that rewards will be in place for players who lead groups through instances successfully. The nature of the rewards is currently unknown but Blizzard promises more information soon.
Blizzard says that the feature will be used for 5-mans only at this time. It'll be launched with 3.3, not with Cataclysm.
Fantastic news! No more "additional instances" errors, a larger pool of players to choose your groups from, and rewards for good party leaders. Great news for everyone.
In just a few short minutes, the next World of Warcraft panel of BlizzCon 2009 should be starting up. This time around it's the Dungeons & Raids panel, which should be exploring some of the dungeons of Cataclysm and potentially some words on Icecrown and other content.
Please click 'Read More' to find the ongoing liveblog.
What is there to say about the BlizzCon 2009 program? It's glossy. Extraordinarily glossy. We were exceedingly impressed with the levels of gloss contained within. (No, really -- we're not being sarcastic here. It's very pretty.) It contains little that we didn't know before, but does have an impressive (and glossy) spread dedicated to Cataclysm.
The shrewd and tenacious goblins are the Horde's newest playable race with the Cataclysm expansion. Though considered the go-to neutral race in World of Warcraft thus far, the goblins have an active history of working with the Horde -- as well as some shady deaings with many of Azeroth's other sentient races -- in previous Warcraft games. So strong is the goblins' reputation for driving a hard bargain that a dwarvish saying for doing the impossible is "cheating a goblin".
Interestingly, they weren't always the eccentric and self-destructive inventors, tradesmen, and arms dealers we know them to be today. The first reference to goblins in official lore, chronologically, is in the War of the Ancients trilogy of novels, which indicates that the goblins have been around for quite some time. Once a reclusive, barely sentient race native to the isle of Kezan, the race was in thrall to the jungle trolls, employed as miners in the island's tunnels and caves. It was while mining that goblins first discovered the mineral kaja'mite, the key to their meteoric rise in intelligence.
Welcome to another installment of Arcane Brilliance, the weekly Mage column that serves up piping hot Mage content, with a steaming side of inappropriate humor, a light sprinkling of random 80's pop culture references, and just a dash of incompetent attempts at math. Speaking of math, last week was awesome, guys. I was apparently so wrong it took 111 comments for you to decide exactly why and how stupid I am. The effort and the display of raw number-mastery you guys displayed made me proud to be one of you. You guys make me feel like the dumbest kid in class, being forced to do math problems at the chalkboard in front of everybody, and I couldn't be happier about it.
So, like many of you, I've been stuck here at home for the duration of BlizzCon. My day-job (what I like to refer to as my "what I do when I'm not being a Mage") has kept me here in sunny Las Vegas instead of in sunny Anaheim, and so I find myself at my computer, dividing my time between writing this column and furiously hitting the refresh button on my browser, hanging on every word my co-bloggers serve up from the convention floor. I wish I'd been able to make the reader meet-up this year, but that was not meant to be. I wanted to meet all of you, stammer like a dork while trying to say hello to Felica Day, and possibly get jumped by a gang of angry Warlocks while I screamed "Ice Block! Ice Block! Iiiiiice Bllloooccckkk!" at the top of my lungs. I will be there next year, with my level 85 Goblin Mage in tow, even if it kills me.
I'm really having difficulty processing all of the information out there, and the vast, universal, and sweeping impact it will have on everything about this virtual world we play in, and I'm sure I'm not alone. Guild leveling? Mastery system? Southshore... taken by the Horde? My mind is leaking from my ears. I'm not even kidding; it's gross. But the purposes of today's column will be to try and make some preliminary sense of this massive glut of newness, and apply it to the only class I care about: Mages. What will the new (old?) content mean for those of us who wander the current, relatively un-sundered Azeroth, conjuring portals and pastries? Read on for my initial impressions.
The changes are not just to our old favorite instances or to the zones around Azeroth. Implementing terrain phasing is going to change everything we know about leveling and running around our favorite zones. Also, who doesn't love the idea of Gnomes finally get to be Priests and as Ghostcrawler put it, "Be self-sufficient." (Well, they still don't have Hunters but that's okay.)
We got confirmation from Chilton that it in fact Goblins and Worgens will be added to the game in Cataclysm. We also learned that Goblins and Worgens will both get to play Hunters. But they're not the only new races added to the Hunter ranks. We also got confirmation that Humans and Undead will both be able to play Hunters. So all in all we got some really good additions to the Hunter community.
What about those awesome changes to the Hunter class? Well, how about the removal of Armor Penetration for one? We aren't going to have to worry how Armor Penetration works or when should stack for it...
Yesterday's Class Discussion Panel at BlizzCon 2009 didn't go over all the classes like previous years, but instead focused on major changes to two classes. One of those classes is the Warlock, which finally gets its long promised Soul Shard mechanic overhaul. The change, as Ghostcrawler had mentioned before, is extremely cool and wasn't something that could be implemented with a minor patch. The revamp is huge -- it overhauls the entire Soul Shard system in two significant ways:
Soul Shards are no longer items in the inventory (at last!) but are part of the Warlock UI
Soul Shards are not consumed by any Warlock spell other than the empowering ability, Soul Burn
I'll let all you Warlocks have a moment to digest that. When I first saw the changes, I was completely blown away and completely stoked -- the Warlock class will play completely differently from Mages, and indeed from any other class. Soul Shards will become a new resource mechanic akin to Death Knight runes except that they aren't used for spells but for "power moves". It makes a visual impact to playing the class, with the UI showing the Soul Shard resource.
WoW Magazine site now live, hints at Doomhammer - Sat, 22 Aug 2009 11:20:00 EST Coming from left field, much to the surprise of everyone here at Team WoW.com, was the announcement of World of Warcraft: The Magazine which will be published by Future later this year. As promised, the website for the subscription-only quarterly went live in the wee small hours of this morning (GMT).
You're probably scratching your heads and wondering why we're mentioning this when there's all the BlizzCon fun and games to talk about. Well, amonght other things, there's a really nice piece of artwork of the Lich King by Wei Wang, who we believe is going to be named the Eighth Son of the Storm at BlizzCon.
On top of that are the first hints at what the first issue will contain: a piece on the game's fifth anniversary (which suggests we may well see it around November time), articles focusing on new content (which I'm assuming is either code for Cataclysm or a peek at patch 3.3), and the lore behind the legendary weapon Doomhammer.
This is probably the entry which is going to have theorists asking intriguing questions. The Doomhammer is currently held by Thrall, and it's one of those uber weapons which most players want to get their hands on but can't get (because it's not actually implemented). It turns out this weapon will be the next 'Frostmourne', a replica weapon that if you have the cash you will be able to purchase and hang on your wall to confirm your hardcoreness.
Either way, check out the website and hit the link to subscribe if you like what you see. Alternatively, if you're at BlizzCon this weekend, you can visit the Future booth and do it there.
One of the more underrated panels during every BlizzCon is the World of Warcraft art panel, which discusses the little things that players usually gloss over when playing the game. Environmental Art Lead Gary Platner and his team spoke about how the art in the game evolved through time, particularly with the advances in the game's technology. Since its launch in 2004, World of Warcraft has evolved in many visual, if not always noticeable, ways. For instance, players can now see up to twice as far into the distance compared to when the game first came out. Projected texture effects are overlaid on some terrain, creating a more "realistic" environment, and vertex shading for richer, better lighting.
The new Cataclysm expansion will continue to improve on the look of the game, utilizing new technologies such as texture blending - which allows distinct objects to be blended together visually. The team also previewed new water, which was just marvelous to look at. They also discussed the creation of new dungeons, which start from brainstorming, picking up lore, and getting real world inspiration.
No, I'm not at all bitter about having to work in the sweltering Southern heat while everyone else parties it up at BlizzCon, meeting Felicia Day and doing tequila shots off the small of a mermaid's back or whatever. Why would you ask? (Thanks to Rimmii of Wyrmrest Accord for this shot of a beached and deceased Murloc -- I can only hope it's former BlizzCon mascot Murky -- in Darkshore.)
Do you have any unusual, beautiful or interesting World of Warcraft images that are just collecting dust in your screenshots folder? We'd love to see them 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. Please include the word "Azeroth" in your post so it does not get swept into the spam bin. We strongly prefer full screen shots without the UI showing -- use alt-Z to remove it. Please, no more battleground scoreboards, gold seller ads with dead gnomes any race at all, or pictures of the Ninja Turtles in Dalaran.
If there's one thing we can't get enough of, it's World of Warcraft fans in elaborate, just-stepped-out-of-your-computer-screen costumes. (And even though this year's winner took her inspiration from Diablo 3, we can't hold it against her.) And BlizzCon certainly has its fair share of cosplay. But we're not going to waste your time with a bunch of words when there are so many pictures to show off -- enjoy our costume contest gallery, the next best thing to being there yourself. And, on the plus side, you didn't have to fight the crowds for a good seat!
While we've been off fighting Arthas and leaving a piece of ourselves in the cold northern wastes, Deathwing the Destroyer has been brooding in Deephome, the elemental plane of earth, for some time now. As he regained his strength and was patched back up by the denizens of the plane, he prepared for his assault on Azeroth. With cataclysmic force, he burst through the ceiling of the elemental plane and brought destruction to Azeroth.
Nearly all areas of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms were affected by the eruption. The Barrens is cleft in twain, with an enormous volcanic fissure splitting it into two different zones. Orgrimmar has been destroyed, prompting Garrosh Hellscream not only to rebguild the city, but to voraciously expand the Horde's territories. The Desolace shoreline was cracked open, allowing water -- and life -- back into the zone. Auberdine has been flooded and destroyed, forcing the Night Elves to move north. Everything and everyone is affected.
With Attack Power on gear gone, and classes more directly gaining AP from stats (which to be fair is pretty much how most tanks do things now) and even more importantly, with Defense gone and all tanks gaining their critical strike removal from talents as Druids do now, we could very well be looking at the end of tanking gear entirely. It's possible, perhaps even likely that in Cataclysm your DK, Warrior or Paladin tank will wear the same gear (perhaps switching in a shield in the case of warriors/paladins) to tank as he or she does to DPS. For an idea of what this might look at, we can consult the current itemization of Druids with the Survival of the Fittest talent.
They taunted, they teased, they insinuated and then, just as the ceremony was about to end, Chris Metzen finally dropped the bombshell and announcedWorld of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Yeah we knew it was coming, we were -- to misquote Illidan -- prepared. Now, in the aftermath, we've had time to ruminate and digest all the information: Deathwing, the raised level cap, the guild leveling, heroic versions of Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines, a new secondary profession in the form of Archeology, two new races and seven new zones, a new (and broken) Azeroth and the ability to fly in the old world. Phew, that's a lot to digest. Even more information seems to be dripping out in panels and post-opening ceremony interviews.
So readers, we want to know what you think of Cataclysm. Are you pleased? Which bit excited you the most? Is it the new races or the promise of facing another insane Dragon Aspect? Are you scared by the drastic and irreversible changes that will befall Azeroth? Were you hoping for the Emerald Dream or a fully Maelstrom-centric expansion and feel like the Lost Isles and Vashj'ir are half measures? Tell us in the usual manner by dropping your thoughts and meditations in the comment box below. BlizzCon 2009 is here! WoW.com has continuing coverage, bringing you the latest in Cataclysm news, live blogs, galleries, and reports right from the convention floor. Check out WoW.com's Guide to BlizzCon for the latest!
Well, folks, the first day of BlizzCon went by in a blur, and we're still bouncing about all the stuff that was announced yesterday. If you don't want to slog through a ton of entries to get the TL:DR version, we've prepped a recap for you that'll take you to the highlights:
This video, which comes straight from this afternoon's BlizzCon Art Panel, shows off some of the environments Blizzard has put together for the Worgen, the brand new playable Alliance race. I love the look -- it's almost like Forsaken architecture, but before things went bad (or maybe with a hidden edge rather than a rotted look). We're not quite sure yet what these areas will be called -- most of it looks like what they're calling Gilneas City in the playable demos here on the floor.
But you'll probably agree that it does look excellent. We'll have another video coming up from the Art Panel soon, looking at the Goblins and what they've got sitting around their starting zones.
It looks like Azeroth is not going to be the only aspect of WoW that's destroyed in Cataclysm. The developers just announced in the Class, Items, and Profession panel that half of WoW's stats are getting tossed out the window. Here's the breakdown:
Attack Power on gear is gone. Instead, some classes will get 2 AP from each point of Agi (Rogues, Hunters, Shamans, Druids), and other classes (presumably Warriors, Paladins, and Death Knights) will get 2 AP per point of Strength. Side effect: no more plate wearers stealing your gear
Spell Power is gone. It comes from Int now.
MP5 is gone. Spirit is the mana regen stat, and all classes that need it will get some form of Meditation. (Hunters, never fear - you don't use mana any more. More on this in a separate post.)
Armor Penetration is gone. That one was just confusing.
Defense is gone. Tanks are now defense-capped from talents, like Druid tanks.
Haste now increases your rate of resource regeneration (mana, energy, rage, runes, focus).
Block Value is gone, but blocks now mitigate a percentage of damage.
Stamina is going to be more equal across different armor types - no more "plate HP envy."
Whew, those are some massive changes. I'm very much in favor of this sort of streamlining; the number of stats in game was getting a bit silly. This back-to-basics approach is refreshing. It's going to take some balancing, sure, but I think it's the right way to go.
The Cataclysm cinematic, as first shown this afternoon at the BlizzCon 2009 opening ceremonies, is pretty darn epic (as all of Blizz's cinematics have been, really). If you haven't gotten a chance to watch it yet, fear not - there are options. You can watch it embedded above in this post, or you can head on over to Blizzard's official site and watch it streaming or download a high-quality version.
And you definitely should watch it if you haven't yet. There's a ton of good information right here on WoW.com, but a video is worth quite a lot of words. There's even a gnome in this one! (A priest, near the end.) Not to mention goblins, which I hear are the new gnomes. I am incredibly excited.
Our own Mike Schramm brings you video of the process Worgen players will undergo when they transform, fresh from the BlizzCon floor. Enjoy your piping hot man to beast-man transformation! I know I'm going to be keeping my Worgen in his bestial form as much as possible, myself, but it's still cool to watch.
Update by Mike Schramm: Since we took this video at the Art Panel, I've played the Worgen on the floor, and this animation is now fully implemented in the demos here. Going into combat as a Worgen does a quicker animation that sends you into Wolf form (yes, you must be in Wolf form during combat, and it's purely cosmetic). But hitting the transformation ability while a human will give you this animation -- it looks great.
The DirecTV stream has been of questionable stability today, but it has brought us an excellent interview with Cory Stockton, WoW's lead world designer. Here's what we learned:
Development on Cataclysm was started before Wrath of the Lich King was done.
Deathwing is the main boss of Cataclysm, as Arthas was for Wrath.
You will not be able to go back to the old world content at all post-Cataclysm.
Faction transfer will let you choose any race that can play your class.
Archaeology is a secondary skill, like cooking, so anyone can get it. It ties in very closely with Path of the Titans, the new advancement system. It's all about traveling through Azeroth finding ancient artifacts, with a mini-game to decipher what the artifact is, and then you get rewards for it. Rewards will include profession recipes, items, and money, and the big reward will be new glyph slots for Path of the Titans (hopefully more on this later).
The Worgen will have their own district in Stormwind.
Odds and ends, sure, but some darn interesting ones.
The BlizzCon Battle.Net + Starcraft II panel revealed some interesting tidbits about how the new Battle.Net will communicate and interact with not only Starcraft II, but other current and future Blizzard games -- including WoW.
By adding someone to your BNet friends list, you can see when they're online in games that you play. This means that. for example, if your friend Alex Ziebart is playing SC2 and you're in WoW, you'll be able to see that he's online -- and even send him a message if you desire, a la Steam's community overlay.
But wait, there's more! If you and Alex are real-life friends, and approve each other as as much on BNet, you'll also be able to tell more detailed information at a glance on your WoW friends list, like what server Alex is currently playing on, or whether he's actually playing Diablo 3. A proposed feature is to let you log out of whatever game you're in and jump into whatever game Alex is playing and join him! The friends list will work very similarly in all of the BNet-ready games.
It sounds like a great improvement, and very XBox Live -- which I gather is the point.
The DirecTV stream cut out for me after the opening ceremony, so it's possible there are a few things I'm missing; drop a comment if it looks like I've omitted anything. Anyway, here's what we know about the Goblins (the new Horde race) so far: BACKSTORY
The playable race is a group of Goblins based on the Isle of Kezan, a new zone between the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. While Goblins and the neutral Goblin trade organizations as a whole originate here, the official site and trailer both hint that the playable group has had (or is that, will have?) a recent and deeply unpleasant encounter with the Alliance that makes the Horde a logical choice when the time comes to pick sides. From the trailer, it would appear that much of the Goblins' starting zone is taken up by the eponymous cataclysm, the need to get away from the destruction, and their induction into the Horde, but we don't have too many details on it yet.
The playable Goblins won't be formally associated with any of the neutral Goblin trading organizations we already know and love (figuratively speaking, of course; the Steamwheedle Cartel's been bilking us for years). There's also no mention so far of the other Goblins going anywhere, so I'm assuming that the game's preexisting Goblins will remain in the game in whatever capacity they can post-cataclysm, and the Horde Goblins are a faction unto themselves named the Bilgewater Cartel.
The NDA on this was just dropped on this info, and we wanted to get it out to you ASAP.
Christie Golden, author of the hit novel Arthas, will be writing the Cataclysm novel. There is no additional information on this, other that its existance. One thing can be sure about though, it will no doubt contain a ton of great lore and be very well written.
We'll have our interview with Christie up for you later this evening or early tomorrow.
The upcoming expansion, Cataclysm, will be incorporating greater levels of character customization than ever before. From guild talent trees, a different talent tree system, new races and race/class combinations, to a new profession that will be all about customization. Enter the Path of the Titans, and the new secondary profession, Archaeology.
Pass through the break for all the details, but be warned, spoilers lay ahead!
We've got video from Cataclysm, giving you flythroughs of a number of zones, both new and old, featured in the expansion. The Barrens, Ashenvale, Darkshore, Desolace, Stonetalon Mountains, Gilneas, and the Lost Isles are shown, and for the old Azeroth zones, great transitions between the old and new terrain is featured.
We'll have more videos for you as the day goes on, but for now, enjoy the view, and appreciate the grand scope of this expansion!
The Guild was at our meetup last night (bloggers and Internet stars -- guess who's who above), and now they're about to take the floor at BlizzCon. We're standing by to hear what Felicia and the cast have to say about the new season, the upcoming comic book, and the geeky tour de force that is The Guild.
Liveblogging starts right after the break -- newest at the top. Should be fun!
One of the quiet pleasures for me every BlizzCon is taking a trip through the Art Gallery -- it's not quite as flashy as the panels or the hands-on demos, but it is awesome to see the real core of Blizzard's work, the art that inspires all of these various universes and characters.
Take a look through the gallery below -- there's some cool concepts and art from all three of Blizzard's universes (and some excellent looks at what we'll see in the very newly announced World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. You can also see the noobz figurines on display. Many of those were created by Blizzard artists, and some of them were created by fans as well. The whole gallery really shows off the kind of talent that's putting these games and their concepts together.
Not at BlizzCon yourself? Don't fear -- while all of us are here fighting with massive queues and the door boss (live in person, above), you can enjoy BlizzCon from the safety of your own computer via the live stream and our own live coverage (glance to the right for our BlizzCon live blog schedule). We expect to see many more costumes over the course of the weekends and we will be certain to keep updating this gallery as we get more screenshots photos. Until then, enjoy!
With official word that there will be new race-class combinations in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, Blizzard has posted the official matrix of what races will have what classes available to them. Big surprises so far include Worgen Druid and Goblin Shaman!