Azeroth Metblogs Call for Writers

Have you been sitting on the sidelines, reading and enjoying the Azeroth Metblogs but wishing you could make your own voice heard? Maybe you’re an avid World of Warcraft player and you’re looking to speak your mind about the game, your favorite class, your RP antics, or the WoW community in general, but you don’t really want to start your own blog?

Well, the Azeroth Metblogs could always use more dedicated writers who are willing to talk about any and all things WoW-related! Your personal experiences, your guild, your opinions, you name it!

To apply, either leave a comment here or drop me a line at phoenix [at] novawerks [dot] net and let me know what you think you can bring to the site, whether it’s a really cool column idea, or just some readers in the form of your WoW-playing buddies and friends. The only thing we ask is that you have some solid proficiency in English, play World of Warcraft enough that you can speak to it confidently, and be committed enough to at least 1-3 posts per week.

So, interested? Drop us a line! Sadly I have to admit that I’ll need to take my attention away from the Azeroth Metblogs here very soon, so it would be great to put the blog in the hands of someone who’ll appreciate it, take care of it, and keep the site updated. Here’s hoping that’s you!

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Notes from the Blizzard Developer Q&A, No. 6

The sixth round of the Ask the Devs Q&A chats have finally been posted over at the official blog, and the answers are pretty interesting. If you didn’t know already, this round focuses around the topic of guild advancement. As always, I’ll highlight some questions I think are particularly interesting from the roundup – not everything. For the full transcript, head over to the blog and check it out!

Without any further ado:

Q: The guild perks system makes it unnaturally hard to start a new guild, since a guild without all perks is at an obvious disadvantage in recruitment. In addition, it rewards just recruiting random people (who might only care about the perks) to get guild XP. What are your thoughts on this? Will it be addressed? – Lolisa [Europe, English], Mith [North America]

A: We knew when we decided to add guild features for Cataclysm that this was one of the risks. If the guild perks and rewards aren’t interesting, then there is no motivation to join a guild or work to improve your guild. On the other hand if they are too powerful, then you feel shackled to your old guild, even if it’s not a healthy relationship for you. We were careful to only choose perks that didn’t contribute to player power, and we let you keep any rewards you earn if you ever have to leave your guild. The perks are nice, no doubt, but you’re going to have less fun in an established guild of jerks than you would starting your own guild with fewer perks.

We don’t think recruiting random people is healthy for a guild. Rewards are never going to be a substitute for strong social ties. We really encourage as many people as possible to seek out guilds (and we hope the new Guild Finder will help with that), but joining a guild at random will likely end in tears.

On the other hand, there may be some benefit to having less churn on starting guilds. Before Cataclysm, some guilds would get started halfheartedly and then crumble again after a few weeks or months. Maintaining an active guild asks a lot of the guild master and leading officers. If you join an established guild in Cataclysm, hopefully it will continue to be around for awhile. But because of reputation, even brand new guilds may seem like a more serious option than they were before Cataclysm, since the founders of the guild know that anyone interested is likely looking for a long-term home and are not just hopping from guild to guild.

This is a good one, and something that’s been on my mind for a while now – makes sense it’s the first question. Honestly, the questioner does have a good point – some people just won’t join a guild without the perks, but I have to agree with the devs that in most cases, people won’t stick to a cruddy guild because they have the perks, and people won’t skip over a great guild without perks for a bad guild that has them. Still, I could see this being tweaked a bit over time.

Q: Are you planning to address the issue of Guild Leaders mass kicking members, once the guild reaches level 25? – Bloodbliss [North America], Юхани [Europe, Russian]

A: We don’t really have any interest in controlling who a guild leader chooses to kick, or when. Guilds are fairly transparent and simple player-run groups, and we have to be extremely careful about what systems we implement that impact how people can operate their guilds. We could absolutely make it more difficult for guild leaders to kick their members, and that might help very slightly with these situations, but the result would actually be that guild leaders would just be much less likely to invite new members. We want people to be in guilds, as opposed to making guild masters afraid that if they invite someone they may never be able to kick them if they don’t work out.

Allowing players to keep some level of guild reputation is an option we can look into to help with this situation, though.

Wow – I suppose it’s just an indicator of how little time I’ve had to really get arms deep into the game lately, but I didn’t even know this was an issue. That’s a pretty cruddy thing for a Guild Leader to do, honestly. I see why Blizzard doesn’t want to get involved, but I can see how it would be a problem. Don’t expect Blizz to do too much until it gets to fever pitch, though.

Q: Are we going to see guild houses someday so we could finally get a special gather place for the guild, to meet and interact easily? – Ellidryl[Europe, French], Греланд[Europe, Russian], Ledieri [Europe, Spanish], Bodywreckér [North America]

A: Guild housing is something we have discussed many times. It would be neat to have a place for people to hang out, but every time it has come up as a possibility we don’t think that is worth the amount of time and resources it would take to implement (and do it right). This is one of those features where if we ever decided to do it, the benefit would have to outweigh other content we could be working on. Also, we don’t feel that we need any new ways for players to hide themselves away. If possible we at least like people to be hanging around in the cities, if not out in the world. We know that many guilds, despite lack of official guild housing, have designated meeting locations throughout the world, which we think is really cool. If you don’t have one yet it might be something to explore.

Ah, the old guild housing question. And, of course, the answer that Blizzard has given us many many times: they like the idea, they really really do like the idea, but they just don’t think it’s high enough on the priority list at this point to take development time away from other tasks. Interesting. I wonder if it’ll ever be high enough on the priority list – it’s been something people have wanted since Vanilla.

Q: Are there any plans to allow for easier alt access to the same guild rewards as someone’s main character? Perhaps some kind of +rep item that is BoA and can only be bought by an exalted character? – Serule [North America], Xheevas [Europe, French]

A: This is one of the main reasons 4.1 has new guild tabards with 50/100% bonus to rep. We made sure to place these at friendly and honored so they would be easy to obtain by alts. We are considering adding an even larger bonus to an exalted, BOA version as well. Great minds think alike!

Hah! Awesome – I was wondering when this was going to happen, and sure enough, we have it already. Well done!

And that does it for another round – we skipped a lot of questions this time, but they’re all pretty interesting. Make sure to read the full thread for the whole scoop!

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Today’s the Day: Patch 4.1 is Available!

Well, today’s it folks – if you’ve been waiting for Patch 4.1 and all of the goodness inside, the realms are slowly coming back online and you’re about to get what you’ve been waiting for. Whether it’s a newly redesigned and revamped Zul’Gurub or Zul’Aman, or you’re just looking forward to the Guild Finder, it’s all landing today.

Above is the beautiful trailer that sets the stage for the events in 4.1 – including a little insight into what we’ve been waiting for for a long time: the trolls are antsy and eager to regain their place at the top of the food chain, instead of be forced to be scattered and disorganized as a people.

That said though, you can find the patch notes – and trust me, there are a LOT of changes, over at the Official Blog.

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Guild Finder Coming in Patch 4.1

In patch 4.1, Blizzard is planning to unveil the Guild Finder – a new tool that will allow players to find a guild that works for them. Seriously, just check off your primary interests, the class roles that you’re willing to fill, and a little information about yourself, and you can browse guilds that match those interests. Here’s the scoop from the official blog:

In patch 4.1 we’ll be introducing the Guild Finder, a new system designed to enable easier and faster guild recruitment. Guild leaders and players who are looking for a guild to call home will use the Guild Finder to meet one another and begin communications that can lead to a prosperous membership.

The Guild Finder is intended to act as an in-game bulletin board for guilds that are actively recruiting. Previously in World of Warcraft, your options were limited. You would have to publicly post on your realm forum message board, or speak to other players directly via private messages or the chat channels. That can be a time consuming process. Guild Finder will allow your “looking for new members” message to work 24 hours a day, accessible to all of the characters in your faction, from anywhere in the game.

Wow. Talk about a great way to find guilds if you’re a player looking for a suitable – or more suitable – home for your main or your alts. Guild leaders have control over how their guild is listed, and they can see players who have applied to join their guilds as well.

Naturally, a lot of people have asked the question of whether or not this will eliminate the traditional guild application process – where most players have to go to a guild’s Web site, review the rules, and submit an application that way – but I don’t think it will. Guild leaders won’t have the flexibility to contact players who have applied and then put them in a hold list pending an application or anything, but they will get to see who’s submitted a request through the tool. From there, they can reach out directly, accept their application right out of the gate, deny it, or enter a comment. Still, it might be helpful to have a more robust utility.

There’s also the question of whether or not only guild leaders will have access to the tool or whether guild officers will as well: many guilds have a GM, but another person responsible for recruitment and bringing on new members. It’ll be a while before we get answers to all of that, and a better look at exactly what the tool will look like, but Blizzard has a screenshots of what the tool will eventually look like.

What do you think? Will you use the guild finder when it’s available, or are you happy with the way players find guilds now? Let us know what you think!

Video :: Stacy’s Mom

How have I never seen this before? I can’t tell you if we’ve covered it here before, but I stumbled on it again this week and had to share it. At this point I think everyone’s familiar with the Fountains of Wayne song Stacy’s Mom even if they’re not familiar with the band – and you should be, they’re pretty good.

The whole video is pretty much hilarious, and a really tolerable way to listen to the song if you’ve been worn out on it. Enjoy!

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Video :: How to Win at Achievements

The venerable WoWCrendor is at it again, this time with a video that’s pretty timely considering just last week the Blizzard developers answered all of your questions about achievements. Predictably, it’s called How to Win at Achievements, and it’s hilarious. …not to mention accurate.

I mean seriously, it can be pretty crazy sometimes.

That said, I love them.

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Warlocks Getting Male and Female Demons

A lot of warlock players have been waiting a long time for this one – soon any warlock will be able to choose to summon a male or female version of their demon, regardless of what summonable demon it is.

That’s right ladies, it means you’ll eventually get to summon an incubus instead of a succubus. Here’s what Zarhym had to say on the official forums:

I’m happy to share we actually do have plans for offering players a choice between male and female versions of all warlock demons. This is a task already in our system, though I don’t have a time frame for you at the moment. Other art tasks could always take precedence, but we’re committed to making this happen. :)

Now I have no idea how they’ll make imps and infernals and doomguards female, but we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?

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Notes from the Blizzard Developer Q&A, No. 5

And we’re back to another Blizzard Developer Q&A – this time the questions and answers focused around achievements! As usual, you can find the full thread here, and we’ll take a look at some of the questions and answers that I found most interesting. Ready? Let’s go.

Q: Will we ever be able to spend our achievement points on something? Or will there be a feature where it will be required to have x amount of points? – Nordicberry (Europe [English]), Hogosha & Wulkuhr (Europe [German]), Neroth (Europe [French]), Kularia (Northa America/ANZ), Trafalgarlaw (Latin America)

A: We want Achievements to remain as an optional thing you can do as bragging rights, or to challenge yourself. As soon as we add any kind of player power, or use them to gate anything, then they feel mandatory for a lot of players. In fact, we think one of the reason achievements are fun is that the drive to complete them is totally up to you, which keeps them (hopefully!) from feeling like a chore. If you want to go after some achievements that’s a choice, and choosing not to care about achievements doesn’t mean you’re making your character less powerful.

We do offer pets, mounts and titles for specific achievements, and we’re unlikely to ever do anything much more “mandatory” than those.

So essentially, this translates to “Don’t hold your breath.” Which I don’t entirely mind, honestly. I think that there are enough must do things in the game without making achievements one of them – enough point systems and enough things that you do to earn other things to spend on more things. Achievements? I’m fine with achievement hunting being something you do to get titles, or something you do a lot of and get a special award. Sure that means achievement points aren’t terribly useful right now aside from being a status symbol, but you know – I’m okay with that.

Q: Currently, the achievement rewards are more focused to common tasks, such as raids, events, PvP. Have you considered creating achievements with rewards that ask to do crazy things around the world, like for example, soloing bosses or mobs, or more achievements like the “Jenkins” one, that are meant to do crazy things. – Thodyr (Europe [Spanish]), Khaelthas (Europe [French]), Assmira (Europe [German])

A: We like for achievements to be fun, but we don’t want for players working on achievements to have a huge negative impact on other players. At first glance, soloing a boss mob might sound like a decent achievement. But consider that if the achievement is very easy to do then hitting all those dungeons may just feel like a chore. On the other hand, if it’s challenging to do then we suddenly have to go back and worry about class balance in a way we never had to before. Blood DKs for example excel at soloing older bosses because of their self-healing mechanic, but the same isn’t true of most other classes and specs. We try not to have achievements that require you to ask your group to do something really bizarre or not fun. “Run a dungeon without picking up any loot,” would just be frustrating every time you had to debate with your group whether you were going for the achievement or not. “Jenkins” is fun for a silly achievement, considering its history, but too much of that sort of thing would get tedious pretty quickly.

Wow – that’s actually a really interesting answer to a question that a lot of players have had. It’s difficult to walk the line between giving people really fun and interesting achievements based on fun and interesting things to do, and then giving someone something to do that winds up being a bore or a pain in the neck for other people you may be playing with.

I think there’s more of a dividing line though – Blizzard could very easily make some solo achievements that reward really amazing feats – like many of the ones that already exist – without upsetting gameplay for other players, so there’s room to maneuver. I like to think they’ll take it, but we’ll see.

Q: There are still no Achievements beyond “Collect 75 unique companion pets”. Can I expect a reward for 100 companion pets in the future? – Whitewnd (Korea)

A: Patch 4.1 has achievements for 100 and 125 companions. Those particular achievements don’t reward pets, but we’ll probably do another reward at some tier in the future, perhaps 150 or 200 pets.

Oh crap. I know some pet collectors that are going to freak right out with this news.

Well then – that does it for this round! There were tons of great questions this time, although many of them seemed to expound on one another and essentially come down to limitations of how the game was designed. We’ll see how Blizzard adapts or changes those features in the future.

What about you? Any questions about achievements you would have asked the devs that weren’t included? Let me hear them in the comments!

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Blizzcon Tickets Go On Sale May 21st and 25th

Ready to head out to Blizzcon this year? Well get your credit cards ready, tickets for Blizzard’s all-things-Azeroth/Diablo/Starcraft/etc conference will go on sale May 21st at 10am PST and May 25th at 7pm PST, for — get this — $175.

Yup, that’s a $25 increase over last year. The price increase hasn’t stopped the WoW community from going nuts over the announcement though, with more than a few people I’ve seen over at Twitter (follow me @halophoenix!) bemoaning the price hike but clearly saying it won’t stop them from attending.

There’ll also be a special series of $500 tickets on sale on May 28th for those lucky folks with more cash to drop and who want to attend a special pre-con dinner to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Orange Country.

As usual, if you can’t make it at all, you can snag the virtual tickets for $39.99, which gives you access to live streams of the panels and all of the events.

And remember – the convention itself will be October 22nd and 23rd of this year, so even if you think you might want to attend, you should probably snag a ticket if you can!

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Player Dings 85 Without Killing Anything, Only Gathering

This story was difficult to believe, but it comes around every so often. With each passing expansion, the feat becomes more and more difficult to do, but it’s happened once again: someone’s managed to get their character all the way to level 85 — the level cap — without killing a single mob. They managed to get experience from exploration and gathering only, specifically herbalism and mining. Here’s the scoop from PC Gamer:

Playing on the US RP server Feathermoon, this player achieved what most thought impossible (while still maintaining one’s sanity): grinding through 85 grueling levels via gathering Professions alone. Think it’s all a hoax? The proof is in the profile pudding—Everbloom’s character profile plainly shows that he/she/it has reached the level cap without killing a single enemy. But what’s this? One completed quest?! Not exactly—this was an unfortunate misstep, where a quest was completed simply by opening a letter from an NPC (which Blizzard couldn’t redact). Nonetheless, this is an imposing achievement, especially considering that the character was created around last November.

For the players who think they’ve seen and done it all in Azeroth, this seems like the ultimate challenge and test of will, akin to old Diablo II challenges of pacifist Hell completions. Everbloom highly recommends the experience, saying:

“Being on the ground and sneaking around mining and herbing and eventually archaeology, going everywhere to get every single point of discovery xp that you can, really gives you a chance to see an amazing world up close and personal. I spent hours swimming around reefs and flying to the farthest reaches of the maps… I have been playing since day 1 on other characters and I even have an original Loremaster (you know, back when it was hard) and I saw so MANY new things with Everbloom that it really made it worthwhile for me to continue on with this character, and each level was a major achievement!”

Everbloom’s character sheet is here, and one look at the detail page proves the point. It’s a really impressive feat, and she’s been talking about it on the forums, where I would urge people to go and congratulate her on an incredible job well done.

Congratulations, Everbloom!

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Blizzard Wieghs in on WoW’s Difficulty

A lot of people have a bone to pick when it comes to the overall difficulty of World of Warcraft – many of them go right out and say that they think the game has become easier over time, that Wrath of the Lich King was probably a low-point in the simplicity of the game and the changes made during that period made the game so simple that you could play without paying attention. Those same people are generally grateful that Cataclysm has seen the pendulum swing back in favor of a more difficult game overall.

At the same time, there are plenty of people who think that the game was fine early on in Vanilla WoW, and hit a pretty broken and difficult period in The Burning Crusade. They’ll say that the balance and difficulty were adjusted in Wrath of the Lich King, and the game found its sweet spot during that expansion, and that the changes in Cataclysm to make the game more challenging were unwarranted and the game now has just too steep a learning curve to really be accessible to anyone but people who play all of the time.

I’m curious what you think, but before we get to that point, Bashiok – one of the blue posters at the official forums – had a few things to say on the matter, and they’re worth reading:

I understand and respect gaming masochism. But, I think that changing mechanics to be more reasonable and less punishing is an improvement, not a detriment, to games in general. Many of us Original Gamers pine for the days of D&D-based yore when games were seemingly intended to break us down into sobbing masses created by an uncaring necromancer of pain and suffering, or at least didn’t try to avoid it. Overcoming all of the obstacles (I CHOOSE NOT TO SHOOT HER WITH THE SILVER ARROW… NOOOOO) was a big part of what gaming (I HAVE 1 LIFE!?), and especially PC gaming (HOW DO I LOAD MOUSE DRIVERS?), were about. But, I feel we’re lucky to now be in an age where those ideals (intended or not) are giving way to actual fun, actual challenge, and not fabricating it through high-reach requirements (I NEED A FAIRY MONK WITH A MAGIC LOCKPICK?).

What we’ve always been trying to do, what WoW has always been about (and to which much of its success is due) is to make an accessible MMO. Anyone that looks back at the game at launch and wishes it was as challenging now as it was then is not aware of the painstaking effort put into making this game accessible as compared to its predecessors. Since release we’ve refined that intent, eventually evolving the very few masochistic designs WoW actually ever started with, but ideally still offering those same prestige goals that give that feeling of achieving something great if you’re able to pull it off. We’ve made a lot of progress toward striking that balance and continuing to evolve the game, but it’s not something we’re ever likely to perfect, and we’ll be constantly working to hit that elusive goal. Hopefully it’s to the benefit of everyone playing and enjoying the game, and they’ll continue to enjoy the journey that a living, breathing, persistent universe will take us on.

I have to hand it to Bashiok partially for slamming so many old school gaming references into such a tiny addition to the thread, but he has some good points too: there’s a sense of nostalgia among people who have been playing video games – especially PC games – for a long time and remember the days when games were still fun and exciting, but far more punishing and difficult. But he does pose the question: does difficulty and punishment for making the wrong decisions make a bad game? Does a strict game with rigid gameplay styles automatically equate a GOOD game, or does it just make it a game that some of the most dedicated and determined gamers will love but no one else will ever play?

It’s a difficult line to walk, I have to admit, and while I have no real complaints about the difficulty level in Cataclysm (while I will be one of the people to say things in Wrath of the Lich King were a little on the easy side, and I thought Burning Crusade was a good place, especially with some of the changes Blizzard made at the tail end) I can see how difficult it is for them to walk it. At the same time, I think it’s clear that Blizzard isn’t fooling themselves: they know they can’t make everyone happy, and they shouldn’t try to – stick to their principles and their guns, and the game will continue to be successful.

What do you think? Is Cataclysm just too damned hard, or are people complaining about nothing? Sound off in the comments!

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Blizzard Unveils Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms

If you needed a reason to queue up and join the dungeon finder, well…now you have one. Alternatively, if you’ve bemoaned the lack of people in queues and the time required to get a decent group, get ready for some relief. In patch 4.1 Blizzard is poised to unveil the Dungeon Finder: A Call to Arms.

Here’s the lowdown from Blizzard:

In patch 4.1 we’ll be introducing Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, a new system intended to lower queue times. Call to Arms will automatically detect which class role is currently the least represented in the queue, and offer them additional rewards for entering the Dungeon Finder queue and completing a random level-85 Heroic dungeon.

Any time the Dungeon Finder queue is longer than a few minutes for level-85 Heroics, the Call to Arms system kicks in and determines which role is the least represented. In the case of tanking being the least represented role, the “Call to Arms: Tanks” icon will display in the Dungeon Finder UI menu where class roles are selected, and will also display on the UI when the queue pops and you are selected to enter a dungeon. Regardless of your role, you’ll always be able to see which role currently has been Called to Arms, if any.

Call to Arms is meant to lower wait times by offering additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you’ll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/elixir (determined by spec), a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount. The pets offered come from a wide variety of sources, and include companions like the Razzashi Hatchling, Cockatiel, and Tiny Sporebat, but the mounts are those specifically only available through dungeons (not raids), like the Reins of the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, Swift White Hawkstrider from Magister’s Terrace, and Deathcharger’s Reins from Stratholme.

Allow me to use this YouTube video to express my reaction:

Moving on:

This system is meant to address the unacceptable queue times currently being experienced by those that queue for the DPS role at max level. The long queue times are, of course, caused by a very simple lack of representation in the Dungeon Finder by tanks, and to some extent healers. We don’t feel the tanking and healing roles have any inherent issues that are causing the representation disparity, except that fulfilling them carries more responsibility. Understandably, players prefer to take on that responsibility in more organized situations than what the Dungeon Finder offers, but perhaps we can bribe them a little. While this system gives tanks and healers something extra, the incentive is being provided so that we can help players in the DPS role get into more dungeons, get better gear, and continue progressing.

While the gold, gems, flasks, and elixirs are OK incentives, we knew we needed something more substantial. We had briefly considered Valor Points and epics, but decided that wouldn’t be working toward the goal of helping DPS players progress, and ultimately wouldn’t keep tanks and healers in the Dungeon Finder system for very long. We settled on pets and dungeon-found mounts as they’re cosmetic/achievement items that players tend to try to get on their own, so why not change that up and offer them a chance to get some of those elusive pets and mounts in a way that also helps other players? Even if they don’t get a pet or mount, or get one they already have, the gold and other goodies still feel rewarding enough that it won’t feel like a waste of effort.

We think it’s a pretty solid incentive to get tanks and healers queuing, give max-level players another way to collect the pets and mounts they so desire, and above all, to improve wait times for DPS players sitting in queues. In the case of lower level dungeons, it’s actually not uncommon for DPS to be the least represented role, and so if this new system works out and we’re pleased with the results, we may consider applying this same mechanic to lower level dungeons as well.

Wow. Color me impressed. That’s really something, and personally I think the lure of loot just may work. After all, it worked during Wrath to get people to actually stay and finish The Oculus, why won’t it work here?

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World of Warcraft Remote Updates, Adds Guild Chat

If you haven’t been using the WoW Remote apps for iOS and Android, you’ve been missing out. Not only do the apps give you full access to The Armory and the Auction House, but they now allow you to send whispers and messages to guild members, provided you and they are both signed up. You can even join officer chat while you’re using your phone, all without having to log in to the game from your computer. Talk about a way to find out who’s online in the game just by looking at your phone.

Here’s the scoop from Blizzard’s announcement:

We recently updated the World of Warcraft Remote page with new screenshots and information about the upcoming mobile guild chat feature, currently in development for iPhone®, iPod touch®, and Android™. This new feature will allow World of Warcraft Remote subscribers to participate in guild chat, send whispers to their guildmates, and more through their phone or mobile device. We’ll have more information on the availability of this fanciful feat of gnomish engineering soon, so keep your goggles glued to the official World of Warcraft website.

The bigger thing to note here, even if you’re not addicted to your guild chat channel and you don’t want a way to keep up with them and talk to them at all times, (ugh – I know some guildies who’ll be in gchat all. of. the. time. thanks to this….) is that this means Blizzard is and has been actively working on the World of Warcraft Remote app for a while now, ever since they introduced the Auction House features. That means there are likely more good things coming soon for the app.

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Notes from the Blizzard Developer Q&A, No. 4

The fourth round of questions and answers with the Blizzard developers on the official forums just wrapped up: this time the theme was centered around topics including weapons, armor, and overall gear and goodies. As with the last three, you can find the full thread here.

Weapons and armor tend to be pretty controversial topics, so the questions this time around are…uniquely interesting, although the devs picked some good ones to answer. Some of the ones I thought were specifically interesting:

Q: Is there any chance we could have caster weapons involved in casting animations? It would look cool to be holding a staff and casting a spell through it, at least as a customization option. – Dromanthis (NA/ANZ)

A: This is something we would dearly love to do. We agree that melee specs get to see their weapons a lot more often in combat while it’s easy for casters to forget about them. It’s definitely on the list, but understand that we have so many races now (and two sexes for all existing races) that the animations take more time to do right/well.

Okay, I know this one was the first question, but it’s one that I absolutely adore. Clearly one of the things that a lot of people love about other MMOs like Guild Wars, Rift, and even one of the things that less notable free-to-play games like to tout is their beautifully animated casting graphics. In some of those other games, you’ll see runes and symbols appear around the caster while they cast a spell, you’ll see their wand actually glow based on the spec they have or the spell they’re casting, you’ll see different looking spells emerge from their weapons – it can be pretty amazing and jealous-making.

Even so, in almost all cases, it’s one of those things that you love seeing but doesn’t really bring you anything new and interesting to the game. Still, it would be nice to have, and clearly the devs have it on their “want to do” list.

Q: Would it be possible for city quartermasters to sell the same equipment that guards wear? Stats wouldn’t matter. – Pokemonmasta (EU|English), Tajit (NA/ANZ)

A: Cool idea. We’ll talk about it.

Methinks someone just wanted a Night Elf wearing sentinel gear. Seriously – the sentinels were all over the marketing for Vanilla WoW, but that three-bladed weapon they’re seen with just doesn’t exist in the game!

Q: Will enchanters be getting back the ability to make wands? – Trustybee (Taiwan)

A: We have been discussing what role in the game wands are supposed to fill. We generally consider it a failure these days if a caster ever wants to wand for dps instead of using their spells. Working the wand into the cast animation (as in the question above) is one idea. In any event, we want to figure out what we want wands to do before we give them any more prominence.

Now THIS is interesting. While they stopped short of just saying that wands were failure, they did point out that it’s a failure if a caster has to resort to using a wand. That implies that there’s a “wrong way to play” a caster class, and that generally involves running out of mana to the point where you’re out of options to regenerate enough to remain effective. Yeah, that sounds like a pretty solid failure, but not necessarily on the dev side.

Even so, it’s almost like they’re saying wands are pretty much stat sticks that you use early in the game when they’re still effective per level and then afterward you’re so busy using your actual spells and abilities that they’re worthless for anything but a stat boost. I agree – that’s not a good place to be. Let’s see what they choose to do though: it looks like they want to rework how wands factor into the game before doing too much else with them.

Q: Do you have plans to make is so that the tabards don’t suddenly cut off whenever we wear long vestments? – Hôwl (Latin America)

A: This is a technical issue that’s fairly nasty to fix and ultimately trimming the tabard ended up looking better, at least as a short-term solution.

Hah! I used to explain to guildies that I was very sure this was technical and not a design decision – a tabard just moves and waves differently than robes and kilts do – if they tried to layer them on top of one another right now, you’d see – depending on the race, gender, and stance of the character, a tabard sticking out from under robes, or a corner of a kilt sticking out over a tabard while you run. It could be pretty nasty.

Q: Can we see gear won via need rolls become soulbound? – Lorinall (NA/ANZ)

A: Yes. We plan on implementing a system where winning an item via Need (when using the Dungeon Finder Need Before Greed loot system) will make a BoE item soulbound. We hope to have this working for the 4.2 patch.

To expand on that idea in case it’s not obvious, we don’t think players should be able to claim certain loot drops based on their class if their only intent is to sell the item. If you want to use the item yourself, awesome, go ahead and roll Need on it and you’ll get preference over players who can’t use that armor type. But if all you want to do is run to the Auction House, then everyone should have equal dibs.

Finally, finally, finally – a fix for people who roll on epic BoE items just to be able to sell them at inflated AH prices. It’s clear that Blizzard has heard the players loud and clear on this one, now let’s see how well its implemented. At the same time, this will put a dent in some of the high-end profits that some AH fans adore (go raiding with friends who are overgeared, pick up all of the BoE epics, auction them all, deposit profits into guild bank) and some lazy raiders (I have more gold than time, let’s see what purples are on the AH) but overall it’ll be a good change.

And there we have it! This one was a long one, and there were a number of other questions addressed in other Q&As or that yielded very “we want to do this someday” kinds of answers, but it’s clear that the Blizzard devs also play the game the same way we do, and want to see the game improve the same way we do. It’s really refreshing to see.

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Patch 4.1.11 Preview Notes

Blizzard posted a note over at the official forums about what changes we’ll see in patch 4.1.11; the one that will contain the Tomb of Immortal Darkness. They don’t normally go to such lengths to tell us what’s going on behind the scenes way before a patch like this, but I’m glad they’re being open and honest with us.

All in all though, the changes look good! They’re finally taking Dance Studio out of the game – no one used that anyway, and adding a Random Guild Finder! Awesome!

Also, to encourage people to get out of capital cities, they’re adding a new debuff:

Players in capital cities will receive a 2-hour debuff “Homebody” that increases damage taken and reduces damage and healing given by 10% for every 10 minutes they’re within city limits. We hope this encourages something.

Oh snap! And look, class improvements too! For example:

Druid forms are now considered vehicles, allowing one player to ride on the druid’s back while in any form, even their humanoid form.

and for Hunters:

Ettin’s Grip (new talent) allows the hunter to equip two ranged weapons simultaneously.

(ooc: that would actually be badass. seriously.)

And a few others worth noting:

* Invisible walls have been added around all harmful ground effects.

* All dungeon & raid bosses now have legs. If they already had legs, they got more legs.

* In order to make the Cataclysm expansion appeal to all players’ sense of nostalgia, shaman, druids and paladins may now only queue as healers when using the Dungeon Finder.

* Tank Stimulus: Successfully completing 25 Dungeon Finder runs as a tank will grant you a $400 Federal tax credit. (Requires Form 8863)

Woot! A tax credit! Time to respec my Paladin! And honestly, who doesn’t appreciate more legs? I know I do. I can’t wait for this patch to land!

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