World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor Release Date!

Wait, what? Long break of posting and then two articles in the same day?! I’m just like a bus…

Anyway, we finally have our release date for the next expansion! I have to admit, from BlizzCon last year and Blizzard stating that they’re a lot further along with the expansion than we thought, many people were hoping for alpha or beta soon after BlizzCon 2013, and a release as early as April or June. With Blizzard being so quiet for so long, many fans became disgruntled and suspicious, and we eventually saw Blizz announce alpha in April, and we only got the beta in June. So much for those initial release thoughts…

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I’ll have to admit, I thought even once the beta came out that testing was a little too focused and taking a long time, which spelled even darker thoughts about a quick release date. First Frostfire Ridge only being open, then only Shadowmoon Valley… But Blizzard soon picked up the pace and released both Gorgrond and Talador, and before I even got the chance to finish Gorgrond, let alone Talador, we saw the rest of the leveling zones released of the Spires of Arak and Nagrand. I haven’t had the chance to explore those two final zones yet, as Blizzard decided to wipe people’s toons, and I didn’t really want to burn myself out by playing the starting zones over and over again before the game even comes out. Especially when the zones were fairly solid to begin with and had little to no bugs to report in any case.

With the final of the heroic mode bosses tested and fleshed out earlier this week, all we have to do now is test any new mechanics that arrive in mythic, and then work through the number crunch stages for LFR and normal modes! Not to mention the first numbers pass to classes will be coming along soon, too. It strikes me as a little odd that suddenly many things are being presented to us all at once at the end – does the ground work really take that long?

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Blizzard must have underestimated how long Warlords would take them post-5.4, especially with their patch release cycle being so quick at the start of Mists. While I’m not going to dig for the actual quotes, I do believe I remember reading somewhere the pace patches came out in Mists were the pace that Blizzard were planning on releasing content to us… And then here we are with our biggest content drought the game has ever seen. Assuming the theory that dev teams work on every other expansion, I think they could have spaced out the launches of each patch by at least a month extra so that this dry spell wasn’t so painfully long. Unless Blizzard wanted the Mists team to be finished ASAP so they can work on 7.0 to be released shortly after the final patch of Warlords. Only time will tell.

With regards to the cinematic though, Blizzard have really outdone themselves again with this trailer. I really don’t know why they went with the option of making the Warcraft movie live-action with lots of CGI, when their own cinematic team makes these truly epic scenes and clips. Admittedly a few minutes is a lot easier to make than two and a half ours of this stuff, and with the tools to create these being improved all the time, that it won’t look up to date when the movie did come out, but even then Blizzard are still lightyears ahead of the game when it comes to these! Don’t forget to check out Lords of War too if you enjoyed the Burdens of Shaohao miniseries. Admittedly the start between Varian and Maraad was a little bit bad, but finding about the history of Kargath was so beautifully done.

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All aboard the hype train! Warlords is going to be available to play from November 13th! I hope we’ll get Garrosh heroic down by then…

UPDATE: Added video links to the cinematic trailer itself as well as to the Lords of War mini series, episode one.

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Thunderforged, Warforged, Ironforged, Oh My!

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Before I start, I just want to make the disclaimer that the iLvl boosted gear in Warlords isn’t Ironforged. Nothing’s been datamined as to what it’ll be called, so don’t call me out on calling it differently. I just thought Ironforged would fit better than Savageforged.

I was catching up with my podcast listening this week, and on Episode 49 interviewing Preach, they started talking about Warforged gear and the need of it in Warlords. Preach and Bay talked about how warforged gear (and tertiary stats in general) should not be on mythic gear, but is ok on normal and heroic. The idea behind warforged gear is to give those raiders that little bit of edge to beat an encounter they’re stuck on, and to give raiders an incentive to continue raiding the same place even when they’ve completed their BiS lists.

Blizzard are trying to remove this notion that people will get full BiS lists by including a chance for bonus perks to appear on gear, such as:

  • Bonus iLvl (such as Thunderforged, Warforged),
  • An extra gem socket,
  • Avoidance (reduced AoE damage taken),
  • Indestructible (immune to durability loss),
  • Leech (gains healing from damage or healing dealt),
  • Speed (increases movement speed, additively).

Gear will have a chance to have up to three of these properties, though the last four in the list are mutually exclusive, so you’ll never have a piece of gear drop with both Leech and Speed on it, for example.

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This leads to it being very difficult to get that BiS list, and that top-end raiders will have the thought process that anything less than the best is trash. Preach was saying that he farmed BT for months before he got a pair of boots, and mentioned that if the system for warforged was implemented back then, he would have quit the game if they weren’t warforged or whatever. And I get that it’s a little disconcerting at times when you farm for an item so long that it seems a bit meh to not get the upgrade after however many weeks of farming – though in my case I was just happy that the Immerseus trinket finally dropped on my Druid.

On the other hand however, I knew what my BiS list was at the start of Siege, and I can remember thinking when other leather intellect items that dropped I just thought they were garbage and just disregarded if they were an upgrade or not… I nearly lost a mediocre upgrade just because it wasn’t the “final product” I was looking for, even though I had no competition for the gear – we didn’t even have any real points system in place, so it wasn’t like I was losing the potential opportunity later on in the instance for trinkets or whatever where I would have had competition. As it would have it, I still have that inferior piece of gear, so if I was stubborn I’d still be rocking around in Throne of Thunder gear, and it’d be even worse if that were the case in Warlords if I knew all I wanted was gear with bonus iLvl, a gem socket AND speed, let alone a specific pair of bracers which have mastery and crit on them, instead of another pair that only has haste and multistrike, or whatever.

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It’s a good argument to say that you’ve killed the boss on its hardest difficulty, so let the best gear drop all the time – WITHOUT having those bonus perks being allowed on that mythic gear. I know that there were fights like Lich King heroic where, once downed, many people never wanted to attempt him ever again. Imagine that week 1 you downed him, and your weapon dropped on just plain heroic. Now on week 2, the weapon drops again, this time it’s Lichforged! Oh well, you got the weapon last week, so that other guy gets dibs on it. However, the longevity of the tier diminishes when you know that you’ll be getting the best gear when it drops. How would you put an incentive on top end raiders to continue raiding once they’ve defeated the big bad, other than simply getting full BiS (also being the main point that Blizzard wants to get away from in Warlords).

One thing I do agree with in their discussion is the world first race. It would be a bit unfair if Method managed to get all Ironforged weapons and trinkets next tier, while Blood Legion languish behind with just indestructible pieces. I don’t know how difficult it would be to program, but I would probably restrict bonus gear from dropping until the end boss of that difficulty has been killed. That way the world first race is still affected by what gear itself drops, but not whether or not 6 casters get Warforged Purified Bindings of Immerseus in the first couple of resets, whereas the competition has not even had a single drop. If that’s not possible, then just restrict those kind of drops in the first two or three weeks of a wing opening – at least on Mythic where the competitive raiding is.

I do personally like the method of not having a BiS list so you always have something to strive for, and to keep the raids relevant, so I would be sad if Watcher listened to what Bay, Ana and Preach had to say and took out the gear perks from mythic raiding. Admittedly we are seeing much less gear check bosses and much more mechanically challenging bosses these days, where it’s down to players’ skills to execute tactics correctly instead of killing a boss before it gets really angry, so theoretically we shouldn’t need those different perks in the first place to kill the bosses, but what I think players such as those in the podcast fail to see is that people who are progressing at the moment aren’t going to be the people who are consistently performing at the same level of play as them, putting out as much throughput as possible while executing mechanics. Sometimes that little % extra is all it takes across the board of 20 people to get over that small lump in the encounter they’re struggling with.

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I’ve never gotten a full BiS. I’ve aspired to it and gotten closest to it in Dragon Soul, but even still, I always will enjoy getting upgrades and watch my little orange bar creep its way up the meters. I’m not entirely convinced that tertiary stats and random gear perks are the best way to go, but I don’t really know the way to extend a raid’s lifespan with today’s raiding community being as good as it is. The main barriers to progression in the past were buggy bosses or resistance checks – both of which we don’t really see in today’s raiding. Mechanically the fights are far more complex than they’ve ever been, but once those mechanics are overcome it’s just a dance after that. Could we have more random encounters, like Halfus? Paragons were at first shaping up to be like that, but appeared to be pulled late into the development cycle for them. Perhaps making the raids a little more alt-friendly, so that people can encounter them and progress in a new light? It worked well in Dragon Soul, and I’d probably say the biggest setback for that idea in Mists was how powerful the legendary cloak was, and how much people hated to do the chain once already gone through once.

Weekly Roundup: Betaaaaaaaa!

warlords-of-draenor-1280x800After working the past 13 days with only one day off, I can only apologise for not only missing out on writing posts altogether, but I just didn’t have time for writing a weekly roundup for last week. Turns out that when you work like that your life turns into work, eat, sleep – I did have time for other things but no real headway to make anything worthwhile for a weekly roundup last week. This week however, Blizzard turned a swift alpha into beta, with first invites aimed toward veteran players! Turns out I’m veteran enough for them, and downloaded the beta client and hopped straight on in the evening!

… And it seems that Blizzard thought many players were veteran players. The first few days of the beta was nearly unplayable, not because of bugs or whatever, just because of the sheer amount of people trying to access the same things at the same time – from US, EU and Asia regions as well. Also, with both factions in the same starting area to begin with, I can’t help but think that this experience will echo at the start of Warlords release (unless Blizz are trying to stress test that starting experience to try and make it as smooth as possible).

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The main problem I can foresee happening though is that because we have no new races or classes, pretty much everyone that buys Warlords will be doing that same 45min-1hr starting experience. In TBC we were split between Hellfire Peninsula, Azuremyst Isle and Eversong Forest; in Lich King, we split up between the Scarlet Enclave, Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra; for Cataclysm we had the biggest choice of Gilneas, Kezan, Vashj’ir or Hyjal; and Mists brought us the smallest choice so far Jade Forest and the Wandering Isle… And those who were at launch in MoP, at least on Alliance side, know how great the helicopters were at the start of Jade Forest with players hovering around in a small figure of 8, constantly getting in the way of each other trying to blow up ships, or just constantly circling around the Horde base waiting for the helicopter UI to give you your action buttons. Fun times.

Now in Warlords, the current plan is to not only have no new classes or races to split people off into, but to also bring BOTH Horde and Alliance to Tanaan Jungle for the first hour of the expansion. Admittedly after that first hour we’re then funneled into Shadowmoon Valley and Frostfire Ridge, but even still it’s a lot of strain on the servers especially with the new lag batching function coming in Warlords. When I was testing, it was around midnight local time but on US servers, so I have no idea how that interacts with how busy the servers were while I was on there in comparison to how it’ll be on expansion launch. Overall it wasn’t too bad when I was testing it, and now too much time has gone by to try and test it out again, but the quests were mainly either shared tap or fast enough spawning mobs to keep flow steady. Oh yes, and there was the latest quest of immaturity, where you get to draw a picture with gunpowder and set it on fire.

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The servers, however, were not stable in the slightest up until last night. I got lucky with setting up my garrison, as I believe there was an issue similar to the Wandering Isle setting the scroll on fire, or several instances in Gilneas where only one person can complete a quest at a time. When you have a couple hundred standing in front of you all complaining that they can’t place down a banner on the floor. It only took me three attempts so I was either lucky, or people are far too entitled on the beta.

I’ve only had the opportunity to try out my Moonkin so far on the beta and only in questing content, but the changes aren’t actually taking that much getting used to. In longer fights, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be hitting Starfall out of habit too often, or taking Shooting Stars procs to mean that my Starsurge is instant cast… although one of the 91-99 perks is going to be instant Starsurge regardless of Shooting Stars at the moment, it’s mainly for 6.0 pre-patch it’ll be jarring.

Garrisons seem pretty fun so far, though I do want a sort of Zen Pilgrimage for the garrison, or to be able to send out a carrier pigeon or whatever to be able to send people on missions when I’m out in the world. At the moment, I only have access to half-hour long missions, and it’s kinda annoying to have to trek back every half hour to send people out on more missions. I know I don’t have to and those first missions are kinda terrible outside of purely levelling your followers, but when that popup comes up, I still feel like I should go back and go for more missions. For testing purposes. I swear.

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I’ll try and get other classes and specs tested over the course of the beta, especially when I finish SMV and have gone through a few dungeons on the moonkin, but I know that for my lesser played alts I depend on more my UI on live than I do muscle-memory my keybindings. I also love the fact they’ve given us access to pretty much every mount in the game, to test how flyers work in Draenor I guess (proto drakes have awesome running-jump animations by the way, seeming as if they try to fly, then realise they can’t), so running around on the Spectral Tigers have been dreamlike – I’ve also decided that I will no longer try to farm for Mimi’s Head, as unique and awesome as it looks, I can’t be dealing with the sounds that come from it.