Archive for January, 2010

What’s Your Warcrack?


This crossed my mind when I heard someone say something to the effect of “there’s something fundamentally wrong with people who do nothing but PVP.” I thought it over, and remembered that I PVP occassionally, and while it’s not the highlight of the game for me, it’s definitely part of the experience. I’ve been on an Arena team, and I hit up the battlegrounds when I’m bored or have nothing else to do (that doesn’t happen so much now that there’s the Dungeon Finder though!) and I know a lot of people who play the game entirely for PVP, and while they definitely have their own likes and dislikes, they’re only slightly different than people who obsess over raiding and experiencing endgame content.

Are obsessive PVP’ers really that different than people who are so obsessed over PVE that they run guilds like military formations? Probably not – they’re just inspired by different aspects of the game. For hardcore PVPers, their “warcrack” is the thrill of stabbing another player in the back, or outwitting a competent opponent, or exploting someone else’s mistake. For PVEers, it’s about the loot you want to drop and killing a boss in record time, getting an achievement or executing a strategy flawlessly. For RP’ers it’s about building a character’s story and personality, interacting with others. For quest-lovers and story-lovers like me, it’s about earning reputation, identifying with factions, collecting tabards and titles.

That’s right – the thing I just can’t get enough of? Tabards and titles. I need them. Some of them come with raiding, and since I tend to lean towards PvE anyway, it all works out. I understand the thrill of the raid, the adrenaline of a good PVP duel or closely won battleground, and they all appeal to me, but man do I have a bank full of tabards, and holiday events just don’t have the same appeal to me if there isn’t a title available at the end.

Some people are like this about pets, and I understand that too. What about you? What is it about the game that you live for, that you just can’t get enough of? What’s your Warcrack?

Hunter Power Auras Tips from


My main is a hunter, so I can appreciate tips like this – the post is written for and tailored to hunters, but the flexibility of Power Auras is all but legendary. You could tie this same arrangement and set of alerts to just about any class and series of abilities! If you do play a hunter, or your main is a hunter, you’ll probably get a lot more out of this amazing post on Power Auras tips over at

It’s a little old, but it’s a more than definitive guide to getting power auras set up for a leveling or a raiding hunter (although raiding hunters will reap the most benefit – if you’re leveling and want to train yourself for raiding, you’ll get a lot of good use from this too) or just making yourself familiar with the add-on so you can tweak it and add your own customizations later on.

I went with some of the default scripts that Garwulf has in the post, and I already can tell a difference – I’m much quicker on the draw than I used to be, and I like that a lot.

Armory Gets Updates: New Looks, 3D Models, Animations, and More!


The Armory got a couple of upgrades this week, most notable of which the ability to zoom in and out on your character, see what their gear looks like on their body, and even play animations all from within your browser. The layout of the character window changed significantly as well, and shows a player’s recent activity as well as their achievements, spec, off-spec, and other stats in the same window.

Here’s what the Armory Upgrade Page has to say about the changes:

Every character profile now has a 3D model viewer that displays the character in his or her currently equipped gear, and accurately displays the character’s physical features, hairstyle, and helm/cloak display as they appear in-game. Mousing over the character model window brings up a control panel with the following controls (try it now with the character to the right!):

  • Camera controls: To rotate the camera around a character, click and hold the left mouse button while moving the mouse left and right, or click the arrow buttons in the top left of the window. To zoom in and out, use the mouse wheel while hovering over the character window, or click the zoom buttons in the top left of the window. To move the character within the frame, right-click and drag the character in the window (or on the small square in the bottom left corner of the window).
  • Animations: Each character has a selection of animations that they can perform. Use the arrows next to the animation’s name to cycle through them. The available animations are determined by the character’s class and currently equipped weapons.
  • Capture pose: If you are logged in, you can set the default pose of any character on your account. Use the camera and animation controls to create a pose, then click the save icon to set it as the default. All visitors to the character’s profile will then see the character in that pose.
  • Play controls: The rewind, pause, and fast forward buttons allow you to fine-tune a pose for a character.
    Fullscreen mode: You can view the character in a fullscreen display against a selection of backgrounds. All controls will continue to function in fullscreen mode.
  • Embed: You can embed a standalone, interactive version of the character’s model viewer in a compatible website, such as a social networking site, guild website, or forum.
    Options: Extra options include selecting a background in fullscreen mode and toggling the display of a character’s helm, cloak, or tabard.

Those are some pretty cool upgrades! If you haven’t looked at your character on the Armory since the changes, you should definitely head over and look; it’s a world different, and in a very good way.

Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: Looking Back at The Beginning of Wrath


Remember that? (Seriously Blizzard, we’re still waiting for those new dances, what the hell – you promised them in the trailer!)

That trailer was our first glimpse of Northrend, our first taste of some of the sights and sounds we would see in Wrath of the Lich King before it was released. We were all level 70 running about Outlands when that teaser was released, and we were wondering what exactly was in store for us.

Looking back it’s clear that the teaser was created long before a lot of the content of what we now consider Northrend was completed – we really only see Howling Fjord in there – maybe a little Dragonblight, and maybe some Borean Tundra, but we certainly don’t see Storm Peaks, or Icecrown, or Grizzly Hills, or even Zul’Drak. Looking at the teaser now is actually specifically interesting considering the debate now over what Arthas’ eventual fate may be.

Considering at the beginning of the trailer we hear Arthas’ voice in almost a normal, human tone, and over the course of the trailer his voice becomes more echoed and disjointed, finally ending in something of the dual-voice deep, rumbling echo that we’re accustomed to now (even though even that voice was eventually replaced with the final Arthas) showing his progress to become who he is now from the person he once was. It’s almost a human-sounding Arthas, reminiscing over his personal history. It also makes me wonder whether we’re giving Blizzard’s story-writers the short end when we wonder if they have this all planned out or they’re taking it as it comes: there’s always been this notion that eventually all of your work against Arthas serves to put yourself in his shoes. Even that makes me wonder about the inevitable climax, Shadowmourne, and the whole notion that someone has to be the Lich King, lest the undead go mad and ravage Azeroth unchecked.

Lore and rumors aside though, Wrath has come a long long way since the beta and since the launch. We’ve seen zones unlocked one at a time, we’ve seen instances opened up, we’ve seen several content patches, we’ve seen classes evolve, be tweaked, buffed, nerfed, and more. We’ve seen the fall of arena-based PVP to the point where even Blizzard says they were a mistake; that they messed up with the way they implimented it, and the rise of battleground, massive PvP with the introduction of battleground after battleground after battleground in patches over the course of the year.

We’ve seen the rise of the Argent Crusade and the Kirin Tor as the major factions to stand against Arthas, and the bitter conflict between the Aldor and the Scryers half-heartedly replicated with the cold-war between the Sunreavers and the Silver Covenant. We saw the fall and the subsequent rise again of resilience as a worthwhile stat, we’ve seen itemization change significantly with the introduction of armor penetration and a heavy emphasis on haste rating. We’ve even seen the basic graphics of the game change. So much has changed since The Burning Crusade.

I’ve just listed a number of things that have changed, but some of the things that have most affected me personally have been the significant talent changes most of the classes have felt at some point or another during the course of Wrath. I’m still recovering in some ways from the Great Hunter Nerf of 08, when Beast Mastery saw its monstrous DPS slashed and the bulk of raiding hunters moves to other specs like Survival and Marksmanship. I’m loving the rise of the Retribution Paladin as a top-notch DPS spec even in a hybrid class, and I’m loving the way Mages have had their talents reworked so that all of their specs are at least somewhat viable.

What about you though? When you look back on Wrath of the Lich King, what do you think has changed the most? What’s mattered the most to you over the course of Wrath? The evolving story and lore? The class changes? PvP? Dungeons and instances? Shout it out in the comments!

Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: Warcraft 2009 Year in Review


2009 was quite a year for the World of Warcraft – the launch of Wrath of the Lich King was late 2008, and most of us spent the holidays and wee months of 2009 exploring Northrend, the announcement of the next expansion, Cataclysm, a host of incredible changes to the game, from the Dungeon Finder most recently to the ability to change your character’s race to the announcement of a Warcraft movie (and it’s director).

Over at Blog Azeroth, an interesting shared topic came up for this week: to do a common retrospective against the previous year and some of our personal highlights. The questions are really thought provoking, so let’s give them a whirl:

  • What did you do in the World of Warcraft in 2009 that you’d never done before?
    * Leveled a second 80! This may surprise a lot of you, but I’m pretty casual. I love to run dungeons and raid, but I’m not on every night, and I’m not on for hours every time I’m on. The weekends I can find myself playing for hours on end, but I had only had one character at level cap since vanilla. I changed that this year by leveling my ret pally to 80. I still don’t play her as much as my main, but she’s there if I need her.
  • What was your favorite new place that you visited?
    * This is a toughy. I suppose I would have to say it was Howling Fjord – up until then I had pushed all of my characters through Borean Tundra, since that’s the zone I played in beta and I really liked it. Howling Fjord didn’t disappoint, either. A lot of the zones in Wrath are gorgeous and I’m glad I visited them – places like Grizzly Hills (which I really really like even though a lot of people seem to hate it), but Howling Fjord was probably my favorite new place.
  • What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
    * More raiding time! I’ve been so busy lately that even if I had an easy way to raid, I wouldn’t be able to. I don’t mean to imply that I want to join a hardcore raiding guild – I like the casual and laid-back attitude of my current guild and I don’t want to turn WoW into a second job, but I would like to experience a little more of the endgame. I’d also like to level some more classes and alts. Are those contradictory?
  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?
    * Completing the Argent Tournament, repping all cities, and earning not just Champion of the Alliance, but Exalted Champion of the Alliance and Exalted Argent Champion of the Alliance, complete with all of the titles and reps and everything. A close 2nd is my World Explorer title and achievement.
  • What was your biggest failure?
    * I really regret not finishing What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been. Stupid Children’s Week came at the worst possible time and I didn’t finish it. Now that Winter Veil is over, it’s literally the only thing between me and a Violet Proto-Drake.
  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?
    * Cataclysm, easily. In fact, I’m still excited about it. More so than Icecrown Citadel, more so than the Argent Tournament. I’m incredibly eager for it, for the new races, and everything about it sounds amazing and interesting.
  • What do you wish you’d done less of?
    * I wish I’d done less waiting around for things to happen. My guild, as I’ve mentioned previously, is super-casual, so I tended to just sit and wait for things to happen to me, for runs to form or people to take leadership roles. The dungeon finder changed all of that, but I was already on the path of making new friends, leveling more characters in different places, and positioning myself to get more out of the game than I felt I was, all without leaving my beloved friends in my current guild behind.
  • What was your favorite WoW blog or podcast?
    * The Azeroth Metblogs, of course! Okay, okay – when I’m not writing here, I’m usually reading or Aspect of the Hare. When it comes to podcasts, I loathe to miss an episode of the WoW Insider Show (the podcast of or RawrCast – since they’re back to back I tend to catch them live.
  • Tell us a valuable WoW lesson you learned in 2009.
    * I learned that the World of Warcraft is full -literally full- of players of all different types and personalities. There’s absolutely no excuse to stay in a situation you dislike, or play with people you hate, or be lonely in this game. There are guilds galore, all of them recruiting and all of them taking new players, and regardless of how you feel about the game, there’s bound to be a community somewhere, either in-game or out-of-game, that’s likeminded as you. WoW is a social game, so go make the best of the whole Massively Multiplayer part of MMO and meet people! I learned to!

There you have it! The week is winding down, so there are plenty of similar responses from elsewhere in the World of Warcraft blog community! Check out some of them here at Twisted Nether’s Shared Topic: Year in Review!

So what about you? What did you accomplish in 2009 that you’re really proud of? What are you looking forward to in 2010?

The Story Behind Blizzard’s Account Management Policies


So blew open a pretty big story today, namely that Blizzard’s account reps have been instructed to offer players a “care package” of sorts in lieu of doing more lengthy and time consuming account rollbacks when there’s a report that a player’s account has been hacked. Now, clearly that’s not the entire story, but here are the posts over at in time order from earliest to latest, since Blizzard caught wind that broke the news and promptly made a public statement about it:

The last post is the most recent, and contains some information from Blizzard about the “care package” and why they’ve begun offering it at all. While I have to agree with’s perspective on this — namely that it’s firmly against the best interest of players to try and sub in something like this instead of actually doing the restoration, even if it’s just an “option,” — I would say that this is an excellent time to run out and pick up an authenticator for your account.

I can completely see the benefit of giving players an option like the care package, which essentially says to them “wow, sucks you got hacked, here’s some stuff to get you back on your feet, is that okay?” instead of “wow, sucks you got hacked, let’s get you back to where you were,” since the former takes a couple of minutes (maybe hours) and the latter can take days upon days of research to find out what the player’s state was before the hack and when the hack occurred, even if the player knows. Restoring characters is significantly labor and time-intensive for Blizzard, and with the subscription rolls getting larger and larger, it makes sense to have other options in mind for players who would rather take the gold and badges and get back to business instead of wait for possibly weeks to get back to where they were before the whole thing started.

That being said, and even though the offer can be “declined,” which is kind of an “opt-out” kind of thing, it still rings kind of hollow to me, and if I were the one who’d been hacked, I would probably want to get back to where I was in the first place, even if it took a while to do so.

It seems like the real problem with the system here isn’t so much how many hours and how much work is required to restore a character or account to pre-hack state, but with exactly how time and labor-intensive it is. This carrot just says to me that Blizzard account reps simply don’t have the tools to quickly track down and recover from a hack, and probably don’t have the tools required to identify a hack in a clear way when they are looking at an account’s play history. The other downside to this is that while it’s a good thing Blizzard’s focus is on getting players up and running again, it also says that Blizzard isn’t really investigating hacks perhaps to their fullest, and are opting instead to just fix them and drop them.

I could be wrong here – there could be a process where hacks are passed along for investigation after the player is taken care of, and I’m sure the most egregious of them indeed are escalated to a development team or higher-tier of analysts, but I’m betting that with the frequency and end-user nature (eg trojans, malware, etc) of most hacks, they probably chalk it up to a bum add-on or a careless user and move on, especially if the symptoms start to all meld together. That’s not a bad thing, by the way – it’s just how technology support works; when you see the same symptoms frequently, you apply the same treatment and get used to just “knowing the root cause.”

At the same time, it does raise the question to whether Blizzard’s development teams know exactly how much of a security problem they have on their hands, and what kind of priority it is for them. I’m sure it’s a high one, but when you work in an environment that’s high pressure and fires on all cylinders all the time like I imagine Blizzard does, everything is a high priority. It makes me wonder whether or not Blizzard’s approach to incident management is drawing the curtains on a recurring problem that also needs to be examined and addressed.

In any event, in the meantime, you can pick up the scoop and decide for yourself what you’d like to do over at’s articles – no need to rewrite them here. What I wanted to do on the other hand was bring up some of the more behind-the-scenes technology points around what might cause Blizzard to make a decision like this. It remins to be seen whether this new option will gain any kind of popularity though, even if it’s designed to make the recovery process technically easier.

Would you take the care package, or would you opt for a full restore? Let me know in the comments.

Blizzard Sweetens the Oculus Pot

Oculus Loading Screen

If you’ve been using the Dungeon Finder lately, you’re more than aware of people just dropping group as soon as an instance they don’t feel like running loads up – and no instance is more susceptible to this than The Oculus. If you see the loading screen and see that you’re headed there, you’re almost guaranteed that at least one member of your group will simply drop as soon as the instance loads without saying anything.

Personally I think it’s terrible behavior – if you want to queue for specific dungeons you should queue for those dungeons only: don’t join the random queue if you’re not okay with random. I’m starting to see more people do this with Halls of Stone as well, but it’s particularly epidemic with Oculus, even though the instance has been so heavily nerfed that you could sleep through it – and apparently Blizzard has noticed. Now, when you finish the instance and open the cache, you’ll find a custom loot bag inside complete with extra emblems, gems, and a chance to pick up a new mount, the Reins of the Blue Drake. Zarhym says:

To encourage players not to shy away from the many invigorating adventures to be had in The Oculus, we have applied a change to enhance the rewards players are provided when selected for this dungeon via the Random Heroic option in the Dungeon Finder. Once Ley-Guardian Eregos is defeated, one loot bag per character will be provided in his chest in addition to the current rewards. Each loot bag will offer players rare gems, two additional Emblems of Triumph, and a chance of being rewarded the Reins of the Blue Drake. These fine treasures could be yours should you honor your fellow party members by besting the challenges contained within The Oculus! Keep in mind, however, that these extra loot bags will only be awarded to each party member if Oculus is selected by the Dungeon Finder when players choose the Random Heroic option.

In light of this change, the Reins of the Azure Drake will now have a chance of dropping in both 10- and 25-player versions of The Eye of Eternity.

Here’s hoping that’ll put a stop to it, at least for a while. I’ve found that the more I run Oculus the more I like it, so I don’t mind sticking through it if it comes up in random – the only thing I hate about it is having to wait for an AFK player who refuses to zone in’s dungeon timer to run out so we can vote-kick him, or having to wait for more people to join the group when half of it leaves just after the loading screen.

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