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.
Looking for a friendlier sort of advice for your Hunter? Make sure you're in range of Aspect of the Hare. Pike (aka Pikestaff, aka Tawyn of Silver Hand-US) not only fires off solid advice for Hunters (Heigan dancing lessons for your pet, anyone?) but also scattershots the kind of musings that remind you there are witty, interesting, adventurous, real people behind the 'toons your character plays with.
We caught up with a somewhat bashful Pike to chat about her WoW game and find out what makes Aspect of the Hare so welcoming to readers and fellow players.
Wowhead is displaying a very large full page Warhammer ad right now. You can check out the picture above or head over to their site.
We've received numerous tips about this, and I'm sure the folks over there would be touched to know that you all care so much. It's likely that the ad came down through their parent company zam.com - so don't read too much into it.
But it is rather funny seeing a large Warhammer ad on a WoW site. These ads have also been known to exist on WoWWiki. They too likely have their ads chosen by their parent company Wikia, just like AOL does for WoW Insider.
So enjoy the Warhammer ads on Wowhead for the time being. You can learn more about Warhammer over at our sister site Massively.
Roma Victor over at Gameriot had an eye-opening entry recently that gives some hard numbers to a phenomenon that I'm sure a lot of players have known for a while... fewer people are playing Arenas lately. A lot fewer. About 65% fewer. He perused the Season 5 ArenaJunkies title calculator which allows players to see the cutoff for titles according to Battlegroup and compared the numbers to Season 4 -- a season already notable for having low participation due to its proximity to Wrath of the Lich King and steeper ratings requirements on gear.
The numbers were, as Roma Victor put it, "not pretty". Actually, the numbers were downright ugly. Take, for example, the cutoffs for the Bloodlust Battlegroup, the notorious BG9 where Arena participation has historically been intense. Last season, the top 235 teams in 2v2, top 92 in 3v3, and top 27 in 5v5 brackets were eligible to earn the Gladiator title. This season, those numbers dropped to 93, 36, and 8 respectively. That's a whopping decline in participation across the board in the most active Battlegroup in the US! ArenaJunkies also has numbers from Europe, Korea, and Taiwan and all of them show the same thing -- there are fewer players participating in Arenas than probably ever.
The devs have stated repeatedly in the past that PvP is one of the hardest parts of the game to test and receive feedback on before a patch/expansion goes live. Not many people do Battlegrounds or queue for the Arena on the test realms. This looks like an attempt to get as much testing as possible in a somewhat-controlled environment, where normally they wouldn't get much useful data at all due to simple lack of participation.
Neutral Auction houses (and putting them in Northrend) - Tue, 24 Mar 2009 17:00:00 EST You've probably heard, by now, the reason why there are no auction houses (or class trainers) in Dalaran or Shattrath. Blizzard doesn't want the old world towns (like Ironforge and Orgrimmar) to become ghost towns. Ghost towns like, for example, Shattrath -- have you been there lately? But as Gnomeaggedon pointed out last week, there's another option: neutral Auction houses.
We haven't talked about the Neutral Auction houses in the game for a long time -- they exist only in Winterspring and Tanaris, and pretty much have only served the purpose of trading items back and forth between the two factions (or scamming between them). But Gnomeaggedon has a new idea: why not reintroduce them to the newer cities, and create another option for people rather than having to go all the way back to the old world (and waste a hearthstone cooldown)? Not only would you bring people back to the Neutral Auction houses (they really are empty right now), but you'd bring the auction house back to the people, at a slightly higher cost.
I like it, and so does Mend Pet, though she sees a few issues: even with the higher cost, you might still get people forgetting about the normal Auction houses and then you've just switched where the problem is (not to mention that people leveling wouldn't see anyone in the big cities when they went). And Dalaran is laggy and crowded as it is -- creating another mess of characters won't help. And finally, this is a solution without a real problem: we're getting the Hearthstone cooldown lowered anyway, so it's not that big deal to go back home occasionally (or just use a bank alt). Still, the Neutral houses are just sort of sitting there. Giving us more access to them might be worth it.
Every weekend (ish), Addon Spotlight takes a look at the little bits of Lua and XML that make our interfaces special. From bar mods to unit frames and beyond, if it goes in your Addons folder, we'll cover it here.
The addon world is currently abuzz with reactions to Blizzard's new addon policy (briefly: you can't charge for addons or solicit donations for them in-game). I'm not going to go there in this column, since it's been pretty well covered around the blogosphere and in any case I don't want to ignite a flame war.
However, I do want to talk about an issue related to the developments surrounding the new addon policy. The author of Outfitter (and GroupCalendar) has chosen to cease publishing those addons (in protest, asapparently). I rely on Outfitter on all of my characters, and I'll be sad to see it go. But if it isn't going to be updated any more, it's time to start looking for replacements.
Possible addon business models - Tue, 24 Mar 2009 15:30:00 EST Ever since that new addon policy came to light, some addon devs are furious, and threatening to stop publishing their addons completely. But others are being a little more optimistic -- instead of shutting down their addons, they're trying to figure out new ways around Blizzard's rules in order to get compensated for their work. selenite on WoW LJ has one such idea: he suggests a method of "ransomware," where the creators of a mod ask for donations (on their sites, not in-game, as that's against the new policy) and set a goal before they release a new version. BRK had a good point on last week's podcast as well -- he suggested that, like the popular WoW Web Stats, some addons (Recount was one suggestion that came up) can offer information out of game rather than in-game, thus making them able to charge for it, or show advertising on it.
Now, some may say that even these types of models will still go against Blizzard's rules (in fact, the rule that says addons may not charge for distribution also hints that they may not charge for "services related", either), but at this point, we don't really know what these rules mean, since, as far as we know, Blizzard hasn't actually shut down any addons. Blizzard may be trying to say that any attempt to make money off of an addon will get it shut down in the game (a strong statement, since you'd think anyone putting time and work into an addon should get something back for it). And if they really do have issues with people who help players play the game making money off of it, what about sites like Wowhead? What about us here at WoW Insider?
At any rate, the ideas are out there. If developers really want to get something back for their work, and they have an addon or an idea that's worth paying for (keep in mind that competition is always there -- if an addon like Recount does charge to go visit another site and get DPS meters, they'll have to make sure it's worth paying that amount rather than just using a free addon), there will probably be a way for them to get compensated.
Welcome back to The Queue, WoW Insider's daily Q&A column where the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.
Hey, everyone. I just wanted to take a moment to remind all of you that Adam and I are not the same entity, even if we both have A names and contribute to the same column. There's been a lot of confusion over the last year, so let me repeat: Adam Holisky and Alex Ziebart are two different people. Adam is not Alex, Alex is not Adam. And when you throw Allison into the mix, Allison is neither Adam nor Alex and they are not she. Are we on the same page here? Great. Herumor asked...
"As things are now without the Maelstrom, is there any point to adding the upcoming water mounts without a large water based area? I don't really see a use for them other than showing off, and even that's kind of difficult to do."
Servers are up - Tue, 24 Mar 2009 14:12:00 EST With the exception of a few servers that will require additional maintenance until 4:00 p.m. EDT / 1:00 p.m. PDT, all of the servers are up and ready for action.
Last night Sacco talked about how he saw a gigantic dragon skeleton on his screen. I heard from him briefly this morning and he was rather incoherent, mumbling something about "trolls" and "lawlwut." So I have to believe the skeleton actually got him and is slowly devouring his brain.
In other news, the realms are up! ...in case you missed that part.
Trading Markets reports from the Xinhua News Agency that The9, the company that handles World of Warcraft in China, is likely to lose their license as agents of the game. Blizzard and The9 have not yet reached an agreement regarding the extension of their contract, although The9 representatives have repeatedly tried to quell these fears. President Xiaowei Chen has confidently stated that the contract would be renewed in June.
An insider source, however, noted otherwise. Blizzard is said to have been unhappy with The9's performance over the past four years, and posed higher requirements in their renegotiation with the Chinese company. Recent troubles with the Chinese government in securing approval for Wrath of the Lich King hasn't helped matters, and The9 is facing bankruptcy should Wrath fail to get past China's censorship laws and negotiations fall apart. The online game operator gets 90 percent of their profits from managing World of Warcraft in China. The9 has refused to comment, only saying that negotiations have not been finalized.
The name Lissanna is well-known to many Druids. She has been posting quality feedback and guides on the Official Forums Druid class section for years. Now she has started her own blog, Restokin, to post her guides, analysis and opinions on the many different Druid specs. Here's a sampling of what she already has up:
She also has many articles about the recent PTR changes and links to the community response on the Official Forums. Stop by and leave a comment.
EDIT: As you can imagine, her site is getting a lot of traffic at the moment, so if you can't get through, try again in a little while. Alternative links to the Druid Leveling Guide and Resto Healing Guide are added above.
Submit a guide, post, podcast or resource for inclusion in TDQ, by using our tip line and we'll consider it for a future TDQ post.
Pixelborn Studios looks to be a relatively fresh machinima effort. It's a group of seven friends who are working to create and publish more and more complex machinima and animation films. The first piece by Pixelborn has been released on WarcraftMovies.com with the author Petter Thowsen. The title of this machinima is Rise of The Forsaken - Chapter I: Myth or Legend?
The plot of "Rise of the Forsaken" centers around a group of undead who are on a search for an elixir on behalf of Sylvanas. There are some humans doing stuff, but I wasn't as clear how they'd relate to the ultimate plot. Sylvanas is about as kick-butt as you'd want her to be, though I was a little disappointed that she was voiced by a male. Still, she's tough, right? So maybe a bit of husk in the voice isn't out of the question. The author has already said they're looking to get a female to play the role in Chapter II, though, so I wouldn't lose sleep worrying about that.
The story of Rise is obviously going to be fairly epic. Most of the footage seems to come directly from gameplay, and is pretty good use of graphics in that sense. There's not a lot of BLIND-stylized action, but I think that's just as well in this case. The movie is focused on the story instead of the animation. The voice acting is pretty good for a first-out effort, even if all the female voices are clearly guys-in-falsetto. (Paging Axel Rose, paging Axel Rose, white courtesy phone please.)
All in all, I was pretty satisfied with Rise. I'd like to see Chapter II go to the next level, but Pixelborn obviously seems to be thinking along those line. Some refinement in voice cast, maybe a few cleanups on graphics. Check it out and let us know what you think.
If you have any suggestions for WoW Moviewatch, you can mail them to us at machinima AT wowinsider DOT com. Previously on Moviewatch ..
Vista sidebar widget available for WoW players - Tue, 24 Mar 2009 11:00:00 EST If you're a Vista user, that odd sidebar has suddenly become relevant to your WoW lifestyle. Available for free from the Wndows Live site, WoW Explorer has a host of neat little plugins. The simplest of these features include the ability to put your realm on the Explorer skin -- you'll instantly be able to see if your realm is up or down, or what its population is like right now. You can also select your Explorer's theme, size, and toggle its docking behavior.
The Explorer's neatest feature, however, is the search functionality. The plugin lives on your Vista sidebar, which gives you instant search from your desktop. You can choose which popular site is the Explorer's default (such as your intrepid WoW Insider or maybe Wowhead), and the results instantly return in a flyout window. I ran several different searches, such as looking for Dual Specs or some different fat loot, and found the widget to be incredibly fast and responsive.
You can't beat the price at "free." Since I'm one of the masses who had previously stared at the sidebar wondering if the dang thing would have any use, it's nice to see something WoW-related live over my local weather widget.
After four years of being killed hundreds of times a day, pickpocketed of everything he owns, and mind-controlled by irritated Hordies looking to punt their same-faction enemies around town, Gamon has finally snapped. One can only imagine the kind of devastation he would have wrought upon Kalimdor if only he hadn't attacked unsuspecting bear druid Blizzy of <Event Horizon> on Ysera-EU while Blizzy still had Thorns up. Four punches later and Gamon's dead on the floor again, killed by his own hubris. Better luck next reincarnation.
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 email@example.com 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, double-mounts, or pictures of the Ninja Turtles in Dalaran.
Behind the scenes of WoW's bandwidth - Tue, 24 Mar 2009 09:00:00 EST We heard a little while back that it was AT&T who provide data center hosting to Blizzard and this gigantic game (and actually, we've had outage problems before due to maintenance on AT&T's end), but our friend Tamara Chuang of the Orange County Register went straight to the source, and spoke with the big bandwidth provider on just what it takes to keep the servers up. There's some good information in there, especially if you're interested in all of the motherboards and wires that run the World of Warcraft. MMOs are apparently AT&T's biggest gaming customers, and they run the wires for companies like Blizzard as well as Konami and Turbine. They originally helped run Battle.net, and when Blizzard wanted to expand with World of Warcraft, AT&T's gaming division expanded with them.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of secrets here -- given that they're selling a service, AT&T doesn't speak too frankly about how much downtime they're really responsible for, and of course as a trade secret they can't give any numbers on how much bandwidth is passing through and where it's all going. But they will say that they've got latency levels down to milliseconds (in their testing, I'm sure -- lots of players would probably suggest it's a little worse, depending on which ISP you use), and that they offer services like Synaptic Hosting. During times of hard usage, Blizzard can ask (for a price, of course) to open the floodgates up and make sure there's enough bandwidth to go around.
Patch 3.1 is a hefty content patch that will introduce a massive new raid zone, the Argent Tournament, as well as ArenaSeason 6. Of course, along with all those are new Achievements and consequently, titles. Some of the titles have been around since the Beta, where the realm's first Level 80 of a particular race was awarded an 'of the <major city>' title. This was widely criticized and Blizzard pulled the titles long before Wrath went live, but are now set to return with the Argent Tournament. Soon, dedicated players can append an affiliation with their favorite racial cities for all to see.
Of course, there are more titles that are coming with the next content patch, and yesterday it was revealed that the titles for the Ulduar versions of Undying and Immortal were going to be Champion of Ulduar and Conqueror of Ulduar respectively. Is it just me or does Champion/Conqueror of Ulduar not have the same 'oomph' as being Immortal or Undying? First of all, Champion and Conqueror are both existing Horde PvP titles, which lessens the impact. Secondly, the cool factor of 'the Immortal' and 'the Undying' are just off the chain as well as being perfectly appropriate for the Achievement.
There are also the Celestial Defender and Death's Demise titles for realm first Algalon and Yogg-Saron kills in their hardest modes. I think those are much cooler, but are about on par with, uh, Magic Seeker. Sometimes, titles just don't roll of the tongue very nicely. We usually ask for your opinion on these, and we're doing the same today for Patch 3.1's batch of titles. In fact, we're putting up a poll to get your take on all the titles of Patch 3.1. Click on a radio button to kick off your day!
But first, I have something to get off my chest. It's something I have felt needs saying for a long time, and I'm now I'm going to say it, so listen up: Vin Diesel could beat Chuck Norris any day.
I've been saying it for years, seriously. Vin Diesel is so much better than Chuck Norris. Whoever first replaced Chuck Norris with Vin Diesel in all those Barrens Chat jokes, you and I need to have some words, I swear. And now I have even more evidence that Vin Diesel is the true master of badassedness: He actually plays WoW.
But anyway, back on topic. That wasn't the biggest piece of news this week, as weird as it may seen. We just got solid confirmation of a new Battleground, not to mention the new gamer fuel and a bunch of UI and Addon news that everyone's still buzzing about. Since we're all stuck not playing WoW for a bit, why not check all that out now? As always, I have a list of the best and hottest news under the cut.
Holy Divine Plea - now only reduces the amount healed by your Flash of Light, Holy Light, and Holy Shock spells. This properly reflects Blizzard's intention of nerfing Divine Plea for Holy Paladins. The change allows healing from Seal of Light and Judgement of Light to go unimpaired, the latter particularly useful to Protection Paladins and Retribution Paladins. Considering that Protection is now designed to have maintain a 100% uptime on Divine Plea, this is an important distinction.
Aura Mastery - tooltip has been modified to properly reflect its 10 seconds duration. The excellent new ability confused a lot of players who thought it was a permanent, passive ability. Don't freak out, people! It's an activated ability that lasts for 10 seconds and has a two minute cooldown. The tooltip should help dispel the cloud of confusion.
Warrior changes in Patch 3.1 PTR build 9722 - Mon, 23 Mar 2009 23:59:00 EST Well, the changes, they keep being incremental, but they are happening. This latest PTR patch has one change that proves even in these times of nerfing Titan's Grip damage that, some times, just some times, good things happen for fury warriors. Like what, you may ask? I'm glad you did.
I honestly can't gibber at that change enough. It's flatly astonishing. If the change was merely AP to Str and the percentages didn't change it would make the talent twice as good. But by having it increase strength by 15% instead of AP by 10%, it's now nearly three times as good, and will be even better when raid buffed. (Note: without raid buffs, this will be an AP decrease unless you are very lucky with rings to have STR in both slots. Any AP gear you have will detract from the benefit of the talent, making it stronger when grouped/raiding but weaker solo.) I think I had a small squeegasm when I read this change. But wait, there's more! It's not all this good.
The folks at MMO-Champion dug up the goods Let's take a look, shall we?
In what can only be called a grim portent, a disembodied skull haunted the official World of Warcraft forums today. A local farmer noted that the skull had visited the area previously, but "only in times of dour weather, or when death was near for m'cows, or when someone was trolling."
"We were just complaining about Battlegrounds," said a priest who witnessed the visitation of the gruesome geist, "when all of a sudden it appeared, and we knew right then that it was an omen, and one of us was going to die soon, or possibly that it was going to tell us about an upcoming game feature we hadn't heard about yet."
The skull, floating ominously above the gathering crowd, apparated a set of evanescent words, formed likely of the spirit's own ectoplasm, tinged with a blue color known only to come from the world beyond.
Unencumbered by gravity or PR sensibilities, it augured that a new Battleground is in the works. The reaction was one of fear and of somber gratitude for the spirit, and its otherworldly masters, for passing along an omen as important as this. When the prophesied Battleground would appear is still unknown, as the spirits who visit the forums are not wont to reveal such information.
Before it disapparated as quickly as it had come, the skull also noted that you're going to die.