Archive for October, 2009

Patch 3.0.2: One Year Later

WoW_Acihevements

A great topic came up over at the World of Warcraft LiveJournal Community: today is the corresponding maintenance day that gives us a year after patch 3.0.2, after Wrath, and after a number of new changes that we now take for granted were introduced into the game.

Achievements and achievement points, the currency tab for badges and other things that were cluttering up our bags, Barber Shops and the ability to change your in-game appearance for gold, Dalaran vanishing and leaving behind a crater, Stormwind Harbor and new Zepplin flight paths, mounts and pets being “learnable” and not taking up bag space, the in-game calendar, all of them came with 3.0.2, and it was a pretty monumental patch.

So without changing this into a “How’s that 3.0.2 working out for you” kind of post, I think it’s safe to admit that WoW has come a long way even in the past year. What are some of your favorite changes we’ve seen in the past year?

The Dragonflights Stein Has Landed!

Tankards_WarcraftSteins

Listen. I’m a huge fan of drinking, and I’m a huge fan of WoW. If I can combine the two in any possible way, I’m all about it. (please drink responsibly, if you drink at all!) That’s why I was thrilled when the Brewfest Tankard O’ Terror arrived at Warcraft Steins (shown above in the center – a replica of the actual Tankard O’ Terror item from the game, but also why I’m even more excited to hear that the new Charge of the Great Dragonflights stein has also landed:

ChargeoftheGreatDragonflights_Stein

The stein has a wrap-around panoramic image of all five of the dragonflights, beautifully created by artist James Zhang. The stein made an appearance at Blizzcon to rave reviews, and should be shipping in mid-October.

In addition to the Charge of the Great Dragonflights stein, you can also pick up the Tankard O’ Terror (shown above) for $39.99, a Horde or Alliance stein for $89.99, a Rise of the Lich King stein for $89.99, or go epic with the Legenday Collection version of the Rise of the Lich King stein for $174.99.

The Charge of the Great Dragonflights stein however, can be yours for $89.99 plus shipping, although at those prices you may be a bit wary about drinking from them and instead wind up putting it in a collector’s case!

Why the Resistance to Authenticators?

Blizzard_authenticator

Over at the World of Warcraft Livejournal Community, frequent poster zhiva_the_mage brings up a very interesting point by claiming that authenticators and migrating to Battle.net won’t necessarily add much more security to your account, mostly due to the nature of how they work: your World of Warcraft account allows you to keep both authentication factors secret (your username and password are both things that you create), whereas your Battle.net account uses your e-mail address (public) as well as a password (private). Standing on its own, that would imply that a Battle.net account is less secure than a WoW account because one of your authentication factors is now public.

Add the authenticator and now you have a third authentication factor, one that’s now private, essentially returning you to the previous model, and its security.

This is true if you were staring at it from straight ahead, but it discounts to some degree the level of security that an authenticator adds to your account as opposed to a private username. They pale in comparison when you look at levels of security. Whereas a private username relies on security through obscurity, an authenticator adds an authentication factor that is not only a numeric code with RSA encryption behind it, but it changes regularly. They’re simply orders of magnitude difference in levels of security, and the presence of an authenticator makes the privacy of a username pale in comparison.

Don’t get me wrong, ideally all three authentication factors would be private and you would be able to log in with a private username, a private password, and an RSA encrypted authenticator code, but given Blizzard’s plans for Battle.net (a la a Steam-like service where you can connect with friends and likely make game purchases) an e-mail address is another way to create unique users.

update – another LJ user, strangetwn-god, points out that I failed to mention a very important concept at this stage of the article: why a “private” username isn’t really private, and why it keeping it secret, as in the ever-present “security through obscurity” model is inherently flawed. He points out:

A dictionary, a phone book, and a perl script can discover a few million usernames over the course of an afternoon. Discovering a specific username if you have personal information likewise can be done in a minimal quantity of time. The sad thing is, a dictionary and a phonebook will also grab at least 50% of the passwords even with all the abundant warnings to not do that.

Of course, dictionary attacks are no longer really needed given browser vulnerabilities and social engineering hacks that can return hundreds of username/password combinations anyway.

He hit the important points, but it’s also worth mentioning that with username/password combinations much more security is inherently given, both by the system and by the user, to the password. Frankly, you’ll never hear anyone ever put up a MoTD when you log in to WoW that says “a Blizzard employee will never ask for your username.” Username dialogs are never starred out to avoid shoulder surfers picking up on them, and users don’t immediately rush to change their usernames when they get the feeling someone else knows it or they hear of a security threat.

It’s not an excuse for not making it as obscure as possible, but it’s definitely a legitimate point. Your username is not secret, most users don’t treat it like it’s a secret the same way they treat their passwords, and while it may not be a direct rationale for moving to a blatantly public authentication favor like an e-mail address, you’re certainly not losing any real security by going in that direction.

Livejournal user Arwenoid makes a very interesting response to the notion that Blizzard has horrible security because of the need for authenticators and the number of people who have had their accounts hacked that I think is worth re-posting:

People seem to think that blizzard has terrible security. They don’t, THEY’VE never been hacked (well, that we know of.)

This is YOUR account, and therefore, your responsibility. This isn’t victim blaming, this is about personal responsibility. The only way people are going to get your password is through your actions anyway — and don’t get me wrong, there are some damn clever ways that people use to get your passwords — but they’re not getting them from Blizzard, they’re getting them from *you*.

Seriously, authenticators are $6. They even ship to Canada now — I picked up a couple when my partner’s account got hacked. No big deal, some minor inconvenience, one missed raid, and he got everything back. It’s just a warcraft account.

What surprises me is that more banks don’t require authenticators for their logins. You know, something that’s actually important.

She’s absolutely, completely, and positively right. The end-user will always-always be the weakest link in any information security system, simply by nature of the fact that there are always more users than operators.

To that end, let’s look at the security around the authenticator and why the direct comparison doesn’t really add up, although the original poster does have a point also:

Authenticators are essentially branded RSA keyfobs, which almost every organization that’s serious about remote access uses to secure everything from VPN and remote access accounts to internal systems that protect personally identifiable data (I work in an organization like this – I can’t tell you what we use them for, but suffice to say it’s important and personal data) – the problem is that forcing people to get RSA keyfobs for access to external services presents a significant logistical challenge to most companies that have large user-bases for their web services, and requires an infrastructure upgrade to suppport RSA-authenticated login at all times.

However, all of those things are do-able, and because of the nature of RSA encryption and the fact that your keyfob is essentially changing your password every 30 seconds or so, makes it a very very attractive option for banks and credit unions and such, companies who probably already use them internally for their own employees to protect data security on the inside.

There are a number of companies who are actually closely watching Blizzard’s use of of RSA keyfobs with their playerbase to see if it’s feasible for them and their users. The other mindset with a number of these services is that the cost of the added security simply doesn’t outweigh the support and logistical requirements on the organization, or alternatively they — directly to your point — would rather spend their information assurance budgets to make sure they don’t screw up internally than worry about their users screwing up and getting themselves hacked, thus exposing a lot of data to the individual, but nothing of consequence to the organization.

It’s an order of magnitude issue: does the company spend security dollars making sure all of their users, each with access to a small amount of data but collectively make up a lot of data, are each as secure as they can be (which may not be much), or do they spend the money on their own internal employees and processes? Which is the bigger bang for their buck? Blizzard – and most companies – agree it’s the latter.

Should We Kill Arthas?

undead_arthas

If you’ve been reading closely, you’ll notice that there’s something special about that Icecrown Citadel preview that Blizzard posted: that at the end, even in the 5-man, players will ascend to the Frozen Throne and stand toe-to-toe with Arthas himself.

This has sparked a pretty big discussion that I’ve heard on a couple of sites and perhaps most notably on the WoW.com podcast, the WoW Insider Show, about whether or not Arthas should die when we face him. Do we smite him down like we did with Illidan, or do we redeem him somehow? Does he flee to return later somehow? What should happen when we face him?

There are a lot of mixed feelings about this, actually – some people feel very strongly that there isn’t anything left in Arthas to redeem, and that he should pay for his immeasurable crimes against Azeroth. They also point out, rightly, that Arthas has voluntarily allowed himself to be partially posessed by Ner’zhul, who was inside of Frostmourne before Arthas took posession of it, and that Ner’zhul the Lich also needs to pay for his crimes.

Finally, the other evidence that Arthas may not be able to be redeemed is the Icecrown quest line where the player finds Arthas’ human heart deep, deep, deep under Icecrown Citadel where Arthas discarded it long ago – and the fact that at the end of the quest chain Arthas’ heart is destroyed even though the player and Tirion Fordring had initially planned to use it to redeem him in the first place.

However, all of those events may not mean the end of Arthas, and it may not mean that players who face him won’t be able to redeem him somehow. The going theory is that in the 5-man, Arthas will battle the players and then retreat somewhere else that can only be accessed via the 25-man heroic version, and that’s where we’ll really see some action. He’s done it in a number of cases; he did it at the Wrathgate, where it was clear he was at least injured by the new plague that Putress and his ilk launched against everyone assembled to do battle there. We may even see more from the Forsaken faction that betrayed Sylvanas in the end, we just don’t know.

In any event, there are just as many arguments on the other side – that if Arthas can be redeemed that it could put an end to the scourge right then and there, and that a redeemed Arthas could be a valuable ally in the future, lore figure going forward, and even a major player in Cataclysm.

What do you guys think? Should we kill Arthas where he stands when we enter Icecrown Citadel, or should we find some way to return his humanity to him? Shout it out in the comments!

Emblems of Triumph are the New Black

Emblem_of_Triumph

So the word is out that in patch 3.3, Emblems of Triumph will be the new emblem to have, and that everything that drops Emblems of Conquest now will drop Emblems of Triumph instead. You can still trade down if you want to pick up items from previous tiers, but you won’t be able to get Emblems of Conquest going forward.

The goal here is clearly accessibility, and Blizzard is solidifying its stance that they would rather more people be able to get access to more of the endgame gear and content than they would stratify it and only allow the highest-tier players have access to the badges that get the best gear in the game. What do you think? Is this trend towards making the endgame content and high-tier gear accessible even for casual players the right direction and a boost towards making the game more enjoyable for all players, or is this just another example of Blizzard dumbing down the game and diluting the achievements of its most hardcore players and devotees?

Azeroth United’s First Annual Hearts, Hands, and Voices for Child’s Play Charity Event!

HHV_voicetag

If you haven’t heard about Azeroth United, you should head over there and read up! Azeroth United is a World of Warcraft fan site hub, complete with bloggers, podcasters, guilds, video bloggers, webcomics, machinima creators – anyone who loves World of Warcraft and shares their fandom with the world can join and take part. Together the community will work to raise awareness for charity and collaborate on other events!

So if you couldn’t tell, the Azeroth Metblogs is happy to be a blog united with Azeroth United, and the first charity event launches on November 1 – the Hearts, Hands, and Voices for Child’s Play charity event! Stay tuned for more information, or head over to Azeroth United for more details and how you can help get the word out using your own site, guild, blog, podcast, whatever!

I’m On A Mount (I’m On A Boat Parody)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzcirEwN2Sg[/youtube]

This has got to be one of the best WoW-videos I’ve ever seen ever, ever, ever.

Warning – it’s a Parody of “I’m On A Boat,” so the language is downright filthy – not at all safe for work.

Clear? Now that that’s out of the way, click play, full-screen, and enjoy the lens flares. Or head over here at YouTube to watch it in it’s natural habitat. (thanks to WoW.com, without whom I would never have seen this!)

I’m drinkin’ noggenfogger’lix cause it’s CLASSIC.

Tales from the PTR: Abominations Leave Undercity

abomination See that guy right there? If you’re Alliance, you know he’s probably been in your way as you’ve tried to raid Undercity. If you’re Horde, then you rely on him and others like him to keep the Undercity safe from invaders and to stand guard.

But over on the World of Warcraft Livejournal Community, lustyevilgnome has noticed something….different about the Undercity. Something….missing.

So, I’ve just been on the PTR…
Has anybody been to the Undercity?

If you enjoy the abominations, go and tell them “goodbye” while you can, because in 3.3 they’re apparently all going to replaced by orcs from the Kor’kron Guard. And they’re all pissed off about the whole Wrathgate thing.

Uh oh! Looks like the Orcs are still pretty peeved about what happened at the Wrathgate, even though it’s clear that Sylvanas had nothing to do with it and barely escaped with her own un-life. But that’s not enough for the new Garrosh-led Orcs – whether or not Garrosh officially takes the reins in 3.3 or in Cataclysm remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the Orcs don’t trust the forsaken one bit right now.

Combine this with the rumor that in the newly rebuilt post-Cataclysm Orgrimmar that Garrosh has kicked out all of the Horde races aside from the Orcs and the Tauren because they are the only two “strong enough” to represent the true might of the horde, and you have some serious faction in-fighting going on in the Horde.

What does it all mean? Are we seeing the breakup of the Horde, no thanks to its soon to be new Warchief? We’ll have to wait and see.

Blizzard Releases Details on Icecrown Citadel

Icecrown_Citadel

Blizzard hasn’t made the announcement in the United States yet, but up on the EU World of Warcraft site you’ll find tons of details about Icecrown Citadel, part of which is already live on the PTRs, and all of which is scheduled to arrive in the upcoming patch, 3.3 – expected to be the last major content patch in Wrath, setting the stage for a few minor patches to prep us all for the Cataclysm.

Given the speed with which we’re seeing announcements and testing from Blizzard, a couple of things are possible – either Cataclysm is much closer than we thought, there’s another planned content patch before the end of Wrath, Blizzard was listening to the people who look at the Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Champion as somewhat drawn-out content, or some combination of the above. In any event, The EU site has a rundown on what we can expect in Icecrown, and what the 5-man dungeons and 10-25-man raids within will look like:

Icecrown Citadel will feature a massive five-player dungeon sprawling across three wings of the citadel’s foundation. While the Lich King’s attention is focused on the Argent Crusade and the Knights of the Ebon Blade ripping through the front gates, players will be tested as they assist Jaina Proudmoore (Alliance) and Sylvanas Windrunner (Horde) in infiltrating the citadel through an alternate entrance.

An epic quest line will present adventurers with the task of weakening Icecrown Citadel’s forces, requiring that players defeat the challenges in each dungeon wing before venturing into the next one. Normal and Heroic versions of the dungeon will be accessible to players, although each wing will be considered a separate instance; therefore, on Heroic difficulty, each wing will have its own separate lockout timer. All-new rewards — including item level 219 (normal) and level 232 (Heroic) loot — will be offered to those who destroy some of the Lich King’s most formidable allies.

The Forge of Souls
Serving as the first wing in this expansive dungeon, the Forge of Souls will quickly put players to the test of carving through the Scourge stronghold into deeper, more treacherous locations. Jaina will command Alliance forces, and Sylvanas will direct Horde forces. The goal is to ruin the twisted engines known as soul grinders found in this portion of the citadel, and then players can advance — that is, if the Horde and Alliance forces can overcome the foes who confront them.

*** Bosses
* Bronjahm, the Godfather of Souls: An instrument of reckoning, Bronjahm watches over the engines in the Forge of Souls. He must be killed if the soul grinders are to be destroyed.
* The Devourer of Souls: As the chief operator of the engines found in this wing, the Devourer stands guard over the souls stolen by the Lich King.

Pit of Saron
Accessible only to those who have laid waste to the Forge of Souls’ unholy operations, the Pit of Saron will bring Horde and Alliance forces deeper into the Lich King’s domain. Players who venture here will immediately be confronted by the lord of this lair, Scourgelord Tyrannus. But defeating him will not be as easy as it seems. Before they can present a threat to Tyrannus, the adventurers, instructed by their leaders, will need to free enslaved allies who have been trapped by the Scourge. Until that happens, Tyrannus will leave all adversaries to his minions, workers of the citadel’s mines. Perhaps the challenges here will lend clues as to the whereabouts of the Lich King’s private chambers outside of the Frozen Throne, deep within the Halls of Reflection.

*** Bosses
* Forgemaster Garfrost: A master of Scourge weaponry, the forgemaster hauls stocks of saronite ore and other precious materials to the cold forges where the mechanisms of death are born. With a host of rime weapons and exotic alloys at his disposal, it could get cold in here.
* Krick and Ick: Zombies serve as mindless muscle in the Pit of Saron’s mines, stockpiling metals for Forgemaster Garfrost, and Krick — a devious leper gnome — supervises the operations from atop Ick, Krick’s ghastly means of transportation.
* Scourgelord Tyrannus: Tyrannus is a terrible force who will no doubt demonstrate his powers to those brave enough to enter the Pit of Saron. The scourgelord must die if players hope to make their way into the third and final wing of this dungeon.

Halls of Reflection
With Jaina and Sylvanas leading the way, adventurers who make it as far as these frigid halls will quickly recognize the weapon that lies ahead: Frostmourne, the corruptive, legendary device of the Lich King himself. The Lich King’s private chambers are within reach, although they may be the death of anyone who ventures there.

*** Bosses
* Falric and Marwyn: Captains for Arthas Menethil in life, Scourge commanders for the Lich King in death, Falric and Marwyn will be summoned to the Halls of Reflection for one purpose: destroying all intruders.
* The Lich King: Sylvanas, thirsty for vengeance against the corrupted prince who sentenced her to an existence as an undead monstrosity, and Jaina, eager to find a flicker of Arthas’s soul locked somewhere within the Lich King, have brought their hand-picked allies to this final confrontation. Arthas’s true power may only now be discovered. Is there any hope in this mission, or does only death await?

Looks like we’re marching quickly to a standoff with Arthas himself. Does he live or die? Do we fnid salvation for him or do we slay him, Ner’zhul (who’s posessing him – voluntarily), and shatter Frostmourne where they all reign?

Also, does Bronjahm get his groove on? Does he remind us all that it’s a man’s world but it don’t mean nothin’ without a woman to love? (Bronjahm, the Godfather of Souls, is clearly homage to the late great James Brown, also known as The Godfather of Soul.)

Keep an eye out for more announcements as 3.3 gets closer!

Blizzard Announces YouTube Channel

blizzardyoutubechannel

A tip of the hat to WoW.com, who broke the news that Blizzard has unveiled its own YouTube channel, already stuffed full of the animations and cinematics that we’ve already seen up to this point. If you’ve been following the trailers for Cataclysm and fondly remember the opening cinematics for Burning Crusade and vanilla WoW, and if you’ve experienced some of the machinima trailers for different in and out of game events, you’ve seen everything posted right now.

Still, the fact that they’re all on a custom YouTube channel implies that Blizzard is planning to release more videos in the future that won’t necessarily live on the World of Warcraft site, and we’ll likely see videos and trailers for other games in Blizzard’s portfolio as well. We’ll just have to wait and see what else they put up.

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