Tank Talk is WoW Insider's new raid-tanking column, promising you an exciting and educational look at the world of getting the stuffing thrashed out of you in a 10- or 25-man raid. The column will be rotated amongst Matthew Rossi (Warrior/Paladin), Adam Holisky (Warrior), Michael Gray (Paladin), and Allison Robert (Druid). Our aim is to use this column to debate and discuss class differences, raid-tanking strategies, tips, tricks, and news concerning all things meatshieldish.
The nature of tanking is to be a component in an overall strategy. In classic WoW, levels 1 to 60, it often seemed like the center of attention, as boss encounters were often 'tank and spank' variations that involved having one tank hold a boss on him or her while the healers kept the tank upright through the boss' attacks and the DPS players burned it down. There were a few fights that broke this mold... fights where a player would become a bomb and have to run away, fights with giant eyestalks and sweeping beams that had to be avoided that were as much choreography as encounter... but as time has progressed encounter design, especially for raid encounters (although even five man fights have been diversified) has taken this mechanic and stretched it into whole new shapes. While there are still bosses who need to be primarily tanked by one person (Naj'entus, Azgalor to name just two) even these fights tend to incorporate new mechanics that challenge the raid and break the monotony of a 'tank him here, the raid stands here" fight. Other fights require several tanks to hold different aspects of the encounter, whether it be Azgalor's infernals or the multiple tanks (my guild uses three, some only use two) needed to ensure smooth mitigation of the Hurtful Strikes on Supremus.
If you're not much of a computer programming person, this one might make your eyes glaze over a bit, but if you have any interest how the AI of videogame characters, including those in WoW, is programmed, this article about designing AI pathfinding is a terrific read. "Pathfinding" is a method of determining how NPCs move within a game world like Azeroth -- you and I can clearly see where the walls and bad guys are, and so we just have to press buttons to avoid either ingame, but NPCs (including pets and mobs) aren't quite that easy -- they need to be told clearly by programmers where they can go and how to get there. And when the rules they're given don't quite work, you get the funny seen above.
Many games use a "waypoint" system -- NPCs are given a series of paths around the space they can move in, and use those paths to determine where they can and can't go. The article argues for a "navigation mesh," a much looser definition of available space, which NPCs can then draw their own path across. It's a little technical, but it's cool to see the inner workings (and weaknesses) of Azeroth's code.
Of course, it's extremely unlikely that we'll ever really see the NPC pathfinding engine updated in WoW anyway -- Blizzard will update their system in certain places to fix things like exploits (and the occasional annoying escort quest, i.e. all of them), but there's no real need to update the whole system completely when there's so much content to be done. Hopefully videos like this will bring the problem to light, and in future games we'll see some better pathfinding. Someday, that NPC will know that it's easier to go around the pillar rather than trying to walk right through it.
Death Knights have it pretty good. Old school players will remember the pain of collecting our dungeon sets, such as the Shaman'sThe Elements or the Paladin'sLightforge Armor. These weren't class-specific armor sets, but for a long time they certainly represented the best of how some classes looked. Completing these armor sets were a real pain, with key pieces dropping off the end bosses of what were then the hardest dungeons in the game. Head pieces dropped off Darkmaster Gandling in Scholomance, leg armor dropped from Baron Rivendare in Stratholme, and the chestpiece from General Drakkisath in Upper Blackrock Spire.
In Wrath of the Lich King, Death Knights won't be hoping for drops from bosses. They won't need to. If Wrath breaks as planned, Death Knights will be getting upgrades in every slot before they even reach Level 60 -- through quests. This includes a full complement of absolutely badass armor that isn't really an Item Set but a visually matched assortment of blue (literally and item level-wise) gear. I think I'll dub it the Deathplate Armor. Check out the gallery for a look at all the quest swag Death Knights get through questing.
My favorite blue poster in the Customer Service Forums has to be Belfaire. He's always got something smart and funny to say, usually in response to annoying forum trolls and others trying hard to be upset about a game. Besides his witty and crazy remarks, he also likes to drop all of us little bits of information here and there. Such is the case in a post today.
Belfy confirmed that the next round of Beta invites will be sent out "around" Friday, August 1st "and on." This is another chance for more people to get into the beta. With some luck you might be able to run around and explore the wonders of Northrend. All previous waves of invites have included both BlizzCon, WWI, and Opt-In people.
Check your email on the 1st! And check it often! You might just get one. And if you haven't yet, be sure to sign up for the Beta Opt-In.
"To enter, I hear you have to go to our contest post, and put a comment there (one per person, must be in the USA or Canada, full rules available here). Please note: you must comment on that post, as putting a comment on this post will get you nothing but on my naughty list -- although that means that you might get some of Smokeywood Pastures' new line of coal products. They'll warm your fire so well, you'll feel just like me on Winter's Veil Eve.
"Wait, what? That makes no sense. Anyway, folks, your Great-father Winter is getting pretty tired here -- unlike the usual Winter's Veil festival, I don't have players bringing me cookies and milk all the time during the summer, so I get a little parched. But do make sure to run back to that post and comment, and have a happy -- what is this? July. From your friends at Smokeywood Pastures. I give up. Where's the Schnapps?"
As WoW's main page notes, World of Warcraft: The Adventure Game has been released by Fantasy Flight games. They're also the makers of the Warcraft board game, but apparently they decided there was more of the experience to translate into boardgame form. This boardgame has you controlling just one character, not a full army, and navigating through the Eastern Continent, hacking and slashing (against both enemies and other players -- PvP was given a focus in this one) and leveling up all the way. There are currently four classes that come with the game: Warrior, Hunter, Mage and Warlock (no healers?), and we'd expect that more will be on the way in future expansions.
Early reviews at BoardGameGeek (am I showing my nerdiness by saying that I frequent BoardGameGeek to read about some of myfavoriteboardgames?) have it at about 7/10, which isn't bad. But just like all of these licensed boardgames, just because you're a fan of WoW doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to jump right in and have just as much fun with rolling dice and playing cards.
If you've been paying close attention to the Wrath of the Lich KingBeta -- and let's be honest, how could you not? We've been covering it like crazy over here are WoW Insider -- then you might have noticed that Blizzard will be implementing a nifty little feature called Achievements. Of course, the first thing that jumped out at me (and probably you, too, since you're reading this column) were the PvP Achievements.
I didn't plan to pursue Achievements actively. Not before I heard about the PvP Achievements, anyway. Now, it's one of the things I can't stop thinking about... more accurately, I can't stop thinking of how to complete them. There are quite a bunch of PvP Achievements to pursue, and most of them will only be tracked once the expansion goes live. But there are also some achievements that you can start working on right now because they'll be tracked retroactively (as far as I can tell). Let's take a look at those Achievements so you can get them out of the way before Wrath.
One word of caution: all these Achievements are in beta and can change at any time before (and possibly after) the Wrath launch. So proceed at your own risk.
MMO Champion has dug up more amazing stuff from the Wrath of the Lich King Beta in the form of new mounts! A full gallery of the mount models are up on their site, and they look very interesting. If you don't manage to get your own Amani War Bear before the expansion hits the shelves, it looks like you'll get another shot at an ursine transport in Northrend. Model previews show several versions of a polar bear mount, from what look like ordinary bears (60% speed increase) to armored bears (100% speed increase) to... double passenger armored bears! Don't ask about the goggles, though.
Are passenger-ready mounts usable anywhere? Or will they be zone-exclusive, similar to the bug mounts in Ahn'Qiraj? There's no way to tell just yet, but MMO Champion also has pictures of a three-passenger Alliance Wooly Mammoth. This means a Horde version is available, too, and likely to be part of a PvP scenario where the two factions have different mount skins. Speaking of PvP scenarios, there are also pictures of new siege vehicles as well as the previously seen Skeletal Gryphon Mount and an odd Blizzcon-tagged bear.
A change went in with the last Wrath Beta patch that's deceptively simple, but may have far reaching ramifications for many of the classes in game: Both energy and mana regenerate on a per second basis, rather than the previous ticks. Instead of a chunk of mana or energy every few seconds, you'll now see a steady trickle reappearing constantly at your bar (outside of the 5 second rule for casters, of course). As a friend put it, "Woah. It feels like I am playing Diablo II now."
You can see an example of the change in action in the video above from Youtube user koblec.
The energy change should be especially helpful for Rogues and Feral Druids in that they won't have to obsessively time their attacks to the rhythm of the energy tick system, and should be able to use extra energy from talents in an easier and more fluid manner. Likewise, mana and energy users alike won't be waiting for that one last tick to cast a crucial spell or ability, but can cast as soon as they have the mana.
Plus, it's honestly sort of empowering to see the mana bar running up like it does. Technically, I'm not regenerating mana any faster, but watching that blue bar go up so quickly makes it feel like I am, and makes it much easier to tell when I'm stuck in the 5 second rule, besides.
Of course, as with all changes, this is Beta, so things can change, and Koraa is asking for focused feedback and bug reports on the concept, but it's something I'm certainly hoping makes it live.
The whereabouts of Varian Wrynn - Wed, 30 Jul 2008 14:30:00 EST If you've been reading the World of Warcraft comic book written by Walt Simonson, you've gotten to know the fellow over there as Lo'Gosh. An amnesiac washed up on the shores of Durotar, he's moved from mysterious gladiator to escapee from Thunder Bluff to helping cleanse an ancient idol of fel energies and is now revealed to be the one, the only Varian Wrynn himself. Currently, in the comic, he's doing heroic things like bisecting naga, breaking fear to decapitate a blood elf warlock, (it's official, Varian Wrynn is definitely a warrior... how interesting that his arena comp is a warrior, druid and rogue. You don't see many of those) and other suitable acts of badassery.
If you're wondering how it all works out, then continue to read beyond that dread chasm... make the jump, if you will... and you'll find out where Varian Wrynn is now.
My last Encrypted Text post generated a lot of terrific feedback, and when you smoosh it all up and blend it I think you'll find that saying Rogues are a controversial class is a bit of an understatement. No more especially so than on the PvP side of things. In a future column I'll dig deeper into specific PvE instances, both raid and heroic, as well as give you some commentary on the new skills that come with the Wrath expansion. In the column this week we're talking about PvP and how to get the most out of it with your Rogue. I hope to make this a semi-regular topic, updating as we go, focusing on one or two PvP related items each time.
If you could distill the feelings of the majority of non-Rogues out there, at least the most vocal ones, you'd come up with a collective "over-powered" when it comes to PvP. Designed to counter most (but not all) casting classes, especially those *not* geared or spec'd to prevent spell push-back, our goal is to get our target into melee range and keep them there. Keeping this in mind, my first bit of PvP advice for you is avoid fair fights at all costs.
WoW Insider Show Episode 48: We just can't wait for Lich King - Wed, 30 Jul 2008 13:30:00 EST Our latest podcast is now up for your listening enjoyment, but beware: there's an aural bomb hidden inside it -- as we suggested last week, if you listen to the show, you just may hear not only Turpster's famous singing voice, but mine and John Patricelli's as well. Please note: WoW Insider can not be held responsible for any trauma caused by hearing our "Just Can't Wait for Lich King" song. It is scary.
We also chatted about achievements and why I can't wait for them. And I forgot to mention: the best thing about achievements? Blizzard is giving us another ding graphic for them, this time white! I love that graphic!
Turpster told us about his experience playing the Wrath beta so far and what he thinks of Death Knights and the new zones.
And we answered a lot of emails: we talked about /played time and why it shouldn't be completely embarrassing, and why raiding isn't quite yet done before the next expansion.
Oh, and we did give away a beta key, direct from Turpster's goodie bag at WWI. We've selected a winner in our contest already, so if you didn't enter, time is up (that's why we said to listen to the show last week!), and if you did enter, check your email.
And finally, Turpster has not yet posted the mp3 of our song (though I'm not sure why you'd want to listen to it any more than you have to), but dotOrion on the WoW Radio forums has cut it directly out of the podcast recording, so if you really want an MP3 of the tune (for blackmail purposes or anything else you need it for), there you go.
Dalaran, which is more or less the Shattrath of Wrath, has been getting a lot of love in the last couple of beta patches. It seems development on that particular bit of Northrend is going at full steam. It's still far from complete, with a whole legion of NPCs missing, the inside of some buildings still lack textures, and entire parts of the city still walled off. It really is coming together little by little though, and the city is more or less presentable now, not to mention beautiful -- it's like cotton candy for your eyeballs.
We've put together a little gallery of Dalaran for you to sift through if you're interested, and as the beta patches go by we'll probably update it with more of the finished product. Not yet pictured is the Dalaran Sewers, but I hope to fix that soon. What are the Dalaran sewers, you might be wondering? It's a small hidden town beneath Dalaran, within the pipelines that were torn up when the relocation took place. It's full of all sorts of unsavory stuff. Awesome? Yes. Yes it is.
When we sought constructive feedback for WoWBeef, Episode 1, for Mindblade Studios, we weren't sure what reaction to expect. The machinima missed the mark in most ways. However, it looks like he took the criticism and worked on what was lacking.
His latest trailer, for his upcoming series, The Night Watchmen, seems to advertise the movie without giving everything away. While it does follow the typical storyline of spousal murder and revenge, we're hoping that he attempts to keep things interesting within the format. Given that this is an episodic adventure, they're constantly on the lookout for voice actors. If you would like to participate, send an email to jljeremiah AT gmail DOT com!
Elizabeth is off having grand adventures at the airport today, so I'll be filling in for her on Ask a Beta Tester today. You may know me from such WoW Insider features as Know Your Lore, Ask a Lore Nerd, Hybrid Theory, and Bad Pop Culture References. Hm, wait, I think I imagined that last one... Anyway! I'll be fielding your questions today, and I apologize if I didn't get to yours. I had to pick and choose questions I actually knew a thing or two about, so I couldn't really answer class questions about classes I don't play or don't know very well.
If I didn't get to your question today, go ahead and ask it again today, and hopefully one of the other WoW Insider staff in the Wrath Beta will be able to answer it for you. Thanks, everyone!
juicyjuice asked: As I understand it, the Argent Dawn is making a reappearance in WotLK. Will players who spent a lot of time with the Argent Dawn pre-BC have a significant advantage over people who may not have much or any Argent Dawn rep when WotLK hits?
The Argent Dawn and parts of the Silver Hand are now operating as the Argent Crusade. I won't elaborate on that so we can avoid any spoilers on the front page here. So no, high Argent Dawn rep from WoW Classic will not give you any advantage in Wrath of the Lich King. However, it will probably play a role in an achievement or two, though it is a bit too early to say for sure whether that will be the case when Wrath hits retail.
Don't jump, little gnome! You have so much to live for! You're in the beta! You can lord it over the rest of us! You can -- oh, wait, you're a mage. Call us when you hit the ground, you slowfalling so-and-so.
Astrael of <Saga> on Boulderfist is a better man (or gnome) than most of us -- instead of playing the beta 24/7, he let his roommate have a go at Northrend. His roommate repaid him by repeatedly jumping off of Dalaran into Crystalsong Forest. It cost a couple Light Feathers, but it paid off in this beautiful screenshot. Yep, that's the underside of the magical city in the background.
This image came to us straight from the Wrath of the Lich King beta -- and we'd love to have your beta screenshots, too! If you have anything our readers might like, beta or not, sharing it 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. We prefer full screen shots without the UI showing -- use alt-Z to remove it. And, please, no more sunsets! Unless it's a sunset over Arthas's grave.
The beta has been going for awhile now, and I've been absolutely infatuated with it. It's about time I share the wealth, as I've teased about doing on our Twitter feed. The first zone I've put up an image gallery for is the Howling Fjord, my personal favorite zone so far with the Dragonblight coming in at a close second. I really tried to capture some hotspots of the Fjord for this gallery, but I honestly gotta say you can't quite capture the magic in a picture.
Don't worry too much about plot spoilers, I don't think I've included anything earth shattering. All in all, it's really, really good eye candy and a preview of what's to come. We have plenty of galleries coming your way soon, throughout today and the days to come. Enjoy!
While Death Knights start at 55, by the time they get out of the Ebon Hold, which is the instanced newbie zone that delivers the epic story of how a Death Knight becomes a Death Knight, they should be level 57 with a few bubbles in. Level 57 is pretty cool, but it's far from the level 68 or so you'll need to get to Northrend, and it's not even the level 58 that most people consider the minimum for heading to Outland. So, what's a fresh Death Knight to do?
Then again, this is Beta, so they could always just switch things up, add a few more levels gained in Ebon Hold, maybe. Still, it's likely we'll still have a while to go before we can hit all the new stuff, regardless. So if you're rolling a Death Knight, how are you planning to start the level grind?
You'd think that with the expansion coming, people would be taking a break from this game -- you'd think raiding would slow down, drama would subside (since it's a lot easier now then it used to be to get lots of great gear), and that recruiting would slow down. But this week's Guildwatch is a testament to players' dedication everywhere -- the raiding hasn't stopped, a few guilds are still picking up stragglers, and people are as selfish and whiny about their loot as ever. It warms our heart. Kind of.
Drama, downed and recruiting news all after the break. If you've got news for GW, don't hesitate to send it along: firstname.lastname@example.org. On to the good stuff (including a baby momma drama llama).
A lot of us have probably had this problem before: We join a guild, and we like it. It has the right combination of people we like (or can tolerate), interests we share, and or what have you, and we're doing fine. Unfortunately, there is the problem. The tabard sucks. That whole green crying bear on pink background thing is just so tacky, and does not go well with any of our stuff.
Sure, you can replace it with one of the factional tabards, in theory, but not until 70, and not until you grind exalted, and most of those tabards don't look much better anyway. Wouldn't it be nice if you could just go design your own personal tabard at your local town hall instead?
That may be coming. In a thread by Beta tester Talid, Tigole said that the idea of personal tabards was actually pretty cool, and that he'd look into it. Yeah, admittedly, that means personal tabards could be in before Wrath goes live, or it means they could be a year off, or they could still discard the whole thing.