Archive for the ‘Instances’ Category

Blizzard Releases Details on 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 Completes Upgrades: Additional Instances Can Now Be Launched


The beauty of my post, Additional Instances Cannot Be Launched: A Technical Perspective, is that it appeared to come right on the heels of Blizzard completing its datacenter upgrade to add capacity and rid themselves and their players of the dreaded “Additional Instances Cannot Be Launched” error forever.

In a blue post on the official forums, Crygil announces that you all shouldn’t see this error ever again and that the upgrades should all be complete. Seeing is believing of course, but so far so good in my experience, and I haven’t heard people complaining about it recently, which means there must have been an impact. Blizzard’s done good by their customers on this one, especially if the errors really are gone – people have been complaining about this for a good long time, half of them demanding Blizzard keep them updated daily on the status of the changes and requesting way more vision into the back end of World of Warcraft than I think any company gives its users, but we should see that furor die down now that the upgrades are complete – assuming the upgrades have managed to rid us of the error.

Personally, I’m curious if the strategy I laid out in my article turned out to be true, but more importantly, I’m just glad I don’t have to sit outside an instance for a half-hour waiting to get in. What about you? Have you been able to get into all of your instances now that the server upgrades are finished?

Additional Instances Cannot Be Launched: A Technical Perspective


Fair warning: I’m about to go full geek on you guys here. I don’t work for Blizzard, otherwise I don’t think I’d be able to make a post like this. Not that I’m giving away anything here; this is all highly speculative, but I can happily say that when I’m not writing, I work in the management team of an IT department at a multi-million dollar company. We’re not huge, but because of the nature of what we do, we make an incredible investment in technology – both new, bleeding edge tech that really hasn’t been vetted out (and yes, we pay for it sometimes in man hours and product failures) and in finding out that a lot of technology available simply isn’t up to the task of the work that we do. Our datacenter easily has over a petabyte of data at rest, and servers with four quad-core processors and 128GB of RAM in them are a normal buy for us…and we buy them so often because our production jobs on those boxes still take days to complete.

Now we’re heavy on processing data, crunching information, re-arranging bits and bytes. We’re no Blizzard, with its round-the-clock uptime requirements (although we don’t get a weekly all-day maintenance window like they do) and 11 million customers banging away at our applications and hardware every day. But I do know a little something about capacity planning, and I do know a little something about resource management, and I think I can throw Blizzard a bone here on the whole “Additional Instances Cannot Be Launched” issue as well as help players understand why Blizzard is being so hush-hush on the nature of the problem.

The “Additional Instances” problem has resurfaced to a large extent recently, with the new patch, new content that presses players to go back and experience older instances and content, and across a number of different WoW-related blogs and podcasts I’ve heard all but consistent grumbling about it. Over on the WoW Insider Show (the podcast of, I heard Michael Sacco (who used to work for Blizzard and is under NDA) explain that Blizzard is taking it seriously and doing some cool stuff to try and fix it. That got me thinking: “What kind of cool stuff is my company doing to optimize our datacenter? Maybe we’re similar to Blizzard?” Over on RawrCast, I’ve heard Stompalina and Haf complain about it several times.

That’s not to say there isn’t something to complain about. It’s downright frustrating not being able to play the content you pay to play. At its heart, I think it’s a hardware problem, and here’s what I can infer: (I leave open the possibility that I’m completely wrong, by the way.)


Onyxia’s Back, With a Vengeance


The brood queen herself is back, so sayeth the Blizzard!

To celebrate World of Warcraft’s 5th anniversary, Blizzard has completely updated and re-worked the Onyxia dungeon and encounter for 10 and 25-man groups, complete with the same gear just updated for level 80 raiders, and tweaked to present a challenge to endgamers now! The announcement was made last night by Zarhym on the official WoW forums:

She has lurked in her lair and done battle with the many brave adventurers who travelled to that familiar location over the years. Now, in honor of the World of Warcraft 5-year anniversary, the dreaded brood mother Onyxia is being revamped to make a return to the forefront of Azeroth, as part of our big plans for the upcoming 3.2.2 content patch.

This permanent update to Onyxia will convert the dungeon into 10- and 25-player modes. We will be adding new items to Onyxia’s loot table that have the same model as some of the classic loot from this dungeon, like Tier 2 helms, with stats updated to match the current level of content. There will be a special new item too: a normal drake-sized 310% speed flying mount modeled after Onyxia herself called Brood of Onyxia. We will also be updating the encounter mechanics to be more fitting for modern raiding, but we can guarantee players will get to experience the frightening horror of deep breaths once again.

Then for a limited time, after the 5-year anniversary event officially begins in November, anybody who logs in will receive an Onyxia Brood Whelpling pet.

We’re very excited to bring this classic encounter back to provide a fun new experience for both new and veteran players. Further details will be available in the near future, and we will be setting up the Public Test Realms soon to help test out this fight along with all the new content we have planned for the patch. Keep an eye on the forums for updates!

Happy 5th, World of Warcraft! I can’t think of a more fitting way for Blizzard to celebrate the event with us – I for one look forward to taking Onyxia’s head. Again.

Ten Commandments of DPS

(image courtesy of Komosky)

I stumbled on the Ten Commandments of DPS a little while ago, and immediately started passing it around – the commandments are solid, and while they’re obviously written from a ret pally’s perspective, they’re solid for any DPS class, including ranged DPS like mages and hunters. For example, some of the gems:

VIII. Do not show up to raid unprepared. Read the strategies, bring consumables, and have your items enchanted. Listen to your raid leader and class leader. Bring an offering of gold for repairs and pay it to Murphy willingly.

IX. Know what items and statistics will improve you and in what ratios. Do not stand around a dead Big Nasty and debate if his loot is good for you. This too is a violation of the Eighth commandment.

Those are some of my favorites – nothing irritates me more than people showing up to a raid without bandages, necessary potions, or reagents for their buffs. Alternatively, nothing takes the buzz off downing a boss more than standing around for a half-hour waiting for the mage and the druid to finish discussing the merits of a staff with a ton of spirit on it and whether the other should roll on it.

Some more that I’d like to share with some of my fellow hunters:

III. Do not overtax your healers by taking undue raid damage. In this spirit, do not stand in front of the Big Nasty, nor should you stand in any nastiness the Big Nasty has strewn on the floor.

IV. Focus your Fire by assisting and following the kill order. ALWAYS.

Seriously – follow the kill order; traps before polymorphs unless otherwise specified, assist the tank. Know your raids before you walk in, and no one’s back will wind up hurting halfway through – everyone will be happy.

Old instances are not dead!

And that was a tricky title… the idea of this post is to discuss why are YOU playing WOW!

Is it to gear up and be the best that you can be in game? Is it to enjoy a fun time with friends? Or is it something else?

This past weekend I went to Stratholme Live to farm Righteous Orbs for some Crusader enchants.

Yes, Stratholme is a level 60 instance, with under-par loot compared to Outlands greens and blues; but it is still FUN. We did the whole instance in group of three toons: I was tanking on Dreadmoon (level 70 druid); we have a healer (level 62 priest) and DPS (level 62 mage).

The Learning Process

My main’s guild has recently started AQ40. They’re a very tight, generally disciplined raiding guild, and (from what I’ve seen since hitting 60 and starting to raid with them) very good at moving quite quickly through the process of learning how to take various bosses in new instances. This has proven a bit of a drawback in AQ40, since we’re a bit undergeared in NR for the bosses that we’re taking, and consequently we’ve wiped quite a bit. When you are farming MC, Ony, BWL, you get used to perhaps wiping here and there on occasion, but overall you make money on the night and hopefully get some good drops. New instances, however, are something else entirely…

Battleguard Sartura

Pierre de Coubertin, founder of modern Olympic Games said “The most important thing…is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

Our guild has just moved on to AQ40, and we are trying to develop tactics for the first bosses; last night, we met Battleguard Sartura. We wiped, and wiped, and wiped. And you know what? It was wonderful. There’s a huge difference between instances that a guild has on farm status, and new encounters. I am relatively new to raiding at this level; when I reached level 60 and started raiding, all bosses up to Nef were well-choreographed, and everyone knew what to do. All I had to do is watch, learn, and not make any stupid mistakes. This is different.

Into the Lair …

Our guild raids three nights a week and this week we managed for the first time to clear Molten Core & Onyxia in two days, so that left us all with a free evening … It was time for us to hit BlackWing Lair!

Getting up to speed Part V

In response to Getting up to speed, part I, 5000! wrote:

Every time I read one of these kinds of things it makes me want to stop playing. I’m never going to have the time to play at that level!

I can certainly see where this is coming from. What follows is an exploration of the first couple of weeks of being 60.

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