Um, wow. You were right about this being epic. I mean, I don't know if the content is epic, since MMOs are literally Greek to me, but the length certainly is.
The State of Azeroth: Rawr
Well there has certainly been a lot of news this month regarding the upcoming patch 3.3.3 as well as what’s coming to us in Cataclysm. Not too surprising since the new expansion is set to drop later this year. However I will try to fit in some other news items, like new figures and a prediction that Farmville is threatening WoW.
All kinds of news has been filtering out with the upcoming release of Patch 3.3.3 (the background downloaded has been enabled!) and there are some interesting things coming in the next patch. As always MMO Champion has dug up some interesting things from the test realms. And of course you can find the latest test realm patch notes here.
I’ll start off with some of the more fun and frivolous additions with new mounts and pets that will be coming in the next patch. The more flashy of the new mounts is the Celestial Steed, a flying and land mount that looks like a constellation. There’s a video of the steed in action here, and I have to say seeing it in action makes it a lot cooler than just seeing the screenshot. Sadly I haven’t seen where players can get this mount from, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be tied to an achievement, maybe for raiding? In any case it’d make a great addition to anyone who loves collecting mounts. To also go along with the celestial steed is a Celestial Dragon pet. There is also a new two-seat rocket mount that was discovered that there isn’t any info on where or how we’ll be able to get it. Hopefully we’ll get some details soon! There also may be a new pet to buy from the Blizzard store. MMO Champion found the model for Lil XT and based on the similar name with Lil KT they speculate, and I’d agree, that this may be a new pet that players can purchase from the store. We’ll just have to wait and see on more info! And last but not least are two more mounts, the Blazing Hippogryph and the Woolly White Rhino, which were supposed to be TCG rewards, but due to the recent split from UpperDeck, this could change.
There are also going to be some changes coming to battlegrounds in the next patch. First off, marks are going to be cut from the game completely. One of the more exciting things for me because of this is not having to continue to grind for the marks for the mounts. They will now be available for 50,000 honor points per mount. And not to worry about any marks you have! You’ll be able to exchange them for a Commendation of Service, which will grant you 185 honor. The Call to Arms quests will also be no more, and will be replaced with a new interface that will list which battleground is the current Call to Arms. Along with this, the first random battleground that you do will give you the same rewards as the Call to Arms, and each subsequent BG will net you about 15 Honorable Kills worth of points. You can choose to either do the Call to Arms or a random battleground to get the higher amount of points, but once you’ve done one of these the amount will be lowered. (Check out the nice screencap from MMOChampion) Personally I like this change and I think that it’ll bring some more people into doing the randoms at least. It’s been a hit for the dungeons, so I’m sure it’ll go fine for PvPers.
One last kind of small patch 3.3.3 update that I’m looking forward to is the change to the frost orbs that drop at the end of random heroics. I’m sure there have been some of you who have experienced everyone rolling greed (as what seems to be the expected norm) only to have the last person roll need and run off with a free orb. Frustrating yes? Well Blizzard seems to share the frustration as they’ve decided that frost orbs will now have an automatic greed roll for all! Seems fair enough to me though I’m sure there may be some complaints.
Yes I have an item for 3.3.5, and no I’m not sure what’s happening in 3.3.4 (DEHTA protests?). Zarhym announced the Ruby Sanctum back near the end of February and him saying that it “could quite possibly be the very beginning of Deathwing’s plan to dismantle the Wyrmrest Accord from within.” makes it seem pretty dire:
A powerful war party of the Black Dragonflight, led by the fearsome Twilight dragon, Halion, have launched an assault upon the Ruby Sanctum beneath Wyrmrest Temple. By destroying the sanctum, the Black Dragonflight look to crush those that would stand in the way of their master’s reemergence into Azeroth and to ultimately shatter the Wyrmrest Accord – the sacred bond that unites the dragonflights.
The battle that is to come will surely deal a crippling blow to the Red Dragonflight, however, it is up to you to stop this unprecedented offensive and defend the Ruby Sanctum. First you must face the assault of Halion’s servants, Saviana Ragefire, Baltharus the Warborn, and General Zarithrian, before squaring off against Halion the Twilight Destroyer, a new and deadly force in this realm.
The Ruby Sanctum will feature 10- and 25-player content, Heroic difficulties and all-new rewards! Stay tuned for more information as we get closer to its release.
It sounds interesting and another way that Blizz seems to be ushering in the Cataclysm. MMO Champion has also dug up sound clips and screen shots of the new instance.
There has been some big news items for Cataclysm in the past month, some of which could still be considered part of the rumor mill as they haven’t been confirmed (or denied) by Blizzard. In the latest issue of PC Gamer UK, there is a large article about “50 reasons to play Cataclysm” which is a lot of stuff that we’ve at least read on various sites even before Blizzcon ’09. So two things, the first of which I’m quoting from MMOChampion: “Note #1 Important – The guys from PC Gamer were kind enough to give me a few more information on that. The article is NOT officially endorsed by Blizzard and is mostly the result of their own work, that means that a small part of speculation is involved.” And second, this part will be spoiler heavy so scroll down a bit until I give the “all clear.”
As we’ve heard Thrall will be leaving his position as warchief of the horde to be a guardian of Tirisfal, however this isn’t as permanent sounding as it first sounded. According to this list, Thrall will just be leaving Garrosh “in charge” which does not make him warchief, but will still allow him to declare war on the Alliance and anything else he sees fit. He will be throwing out the Forsaken and Blood Elves from Orgrimmar for his own reasons. And Garrosh will also declare Cairne Bloodhoof a traitor and will execute him. Not too happy about this as I do like Cairne, but according to MMOChampion who got a hold of this issue, they say that the “seeming demise” may be linked to the revitalization of Desolace. So maybe Cairne is able to escape the fate that Garrosh would want for him and live in exile? I guess we’ll just find out when the expansion hits. There is also some talk about Deepholme and how there will likely be a battle between the Alliance and Horde in there that will involve large ships like we’ve already seen in Icecrown. On a final fun note, with the Archaeology profession, we will be seeing Harrison Jones in game, who will have a link to this profession.
In other big news we received details about the mastery system and stat changes that will be released in the expansion. We’ve known about the stat changes since Blizzcon, but Eyonix made a nicely detailed post (linked above) that goes deeper in explaining their reasons for making the change and what will be affected. I think that the stat changes are a good thing since I also felt that the system was a bit too clunky, and I think that the changes will help newcomers to the game understand what they need more easily. To go along with the stat changes, I also like the proposed mastery system which will be refreshing the talent tree system. Eyonix was a busy dragon and gave us a good preview of this as well:
Here’s how the system works: As you spend points in a given talent tree, you’ll receive three different passive bonuses specific to that tree. The first bonus will increase your damage, healing, or survivability, depending on the intended role of the tree. The second bonus will be related to a stat commonly found on gear desirable to you, such as Haste or Crit. The third bonus will be the most interesting, as it will provide an effect completely unique to that tree — meaning there will be 30 different bonuses of this nature in the game. This third bonus is the one that will benefit from the Mastery rating found on high-level (level 80 to 85) gear.
One of our primary goals with Mastery is to give players more flexibility to choose fun or utility-oriented talents rather than make them feel obligated to pick up “mandatory” but uninteresting talents, such as passive damage or healing. (For examples of the kinds of powerful but boring talents we’re talking about, take a look at the talent tier just above the 51-point talent in many of the existing trees.) In a sense, Mastery makes it so every talent in (just for example) a rogue tree essentially has an invisible additional bullet point that says “…and increases your damage by X%.” This way, if you choose a talent like Master of Deception (which reduces your chance to be detected while stealthed) or Fleet Footed (which affects movement), you won’t feel like you’re giving up damage in exchange for utility.
Again this change makes sense to me, though I am a bit interested to see how some aspects are handled with different talent trees and what players find becomes a good spec for raiding or PvP. I know as a hunter I’ll be interested to see what they do to all three of the trees and to see what may wind up being the spec (or specs?) du jour. At least there’s dual specs so I can try out a couple of different ones. Eyonix later made some clarifications to the system where he discusses a bit about hybrids and how the points spent in each tree will determine what spec you are. He also says that they plan on making Death Knights less dependent on GCD and rune cool-downs, which has piqued my interests as I love playing my DK but the cool-downs and runic system can get a bit annoying. Unfortunately not much else was said on that front and it looks like we’ll have to wait to hear more info.
But all of this news coming out makes me hopeful that maybe we’ll be hearing about a beta soon! If not the beta maybe more info on the in-game events that Blizz has planned leading up to Cataclysm. Pretty sure it’s going to be massive, and I’m pretty excited for it!
In the News
In general WoW news, the 5 year anniversary mosaic has been finished! The call for entries for the BattleCry were answered and has given us quite the image to behold. I’ve always been a fan of these photo mosaics, and with 20,000 images combined plus some beautiful artwork it makes for an impressive piece. Along with the release of the mosaic, Blizzard has put up the artwork that was the base for it in various computer wallpaper sizes (even for you dual monitor people) plus mobile devices! It is a shame that the art gets cropped so you loose Sylvanas, Tyrande, Lor’themar Theron and High Tinker Mekkatorque, but my droid still got a new wallpaper.
There is also an interview on G4 with lead producer J. Allen Brack where the discussion of bringing WoW to console systems is discussed. Good points are brought up regarding the memory space needed for the game itself (which right now is around 15GB) to the control schemes being developed for keyboard gaming, so it’s no surprise that Brack said this: “I think it’s unlikely that WoW comes to the consoles. It is something that we talk about on a pretty regular basis, but someone is going to figure out how to make an MMO on a console and they’re going to be wildly successful. I have no doubt about that.” Personally I don’t know if I’d want to play WoW on a console unless I could plug in my keyboard and mouse to my Xbox. A controller based control system could work in the future, but I would still be skeptical.
Massively also put up an interesting article about the threat of Farmville to WoW. Granted there has been a lot of discussion after Activision-Blizzard’s annual 10k report came out about the status of WoW remaining in the forefront of MMO gaming. Now I do think that maybe Blizz needs to look at adapting to the new market, but I don’t necessarily think that casual games like Farmville will spell doom for them. It may just be the inspiration that they need to think up things like maybe a different membership model.
And if you haven’t picked it up yet, the latest WoW novel, Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak is now out! I haven’t had a chance to grab it yet but I’ll have it soon. Stormrage continues the story of the Emerald Dream where the Green Dragonflight is continuing to battle against the Nightmare threatening to take over the dream. Many dragons have been consumed by the Nightmare, emerging from the dream broken in mind and body, and it may be that Malfurion has succumbed to the Nightmare as well. The book sounds pretty intense and I look forward to reading it!
I decided to start a new section for news about the figure series as well as any interesting collectibles that Blizzard announces. And of course I’m first going to discuss the two new plushies! Blizz released a Wind Rider Cub and Gryphon Hatchling who come with bonus in-game vanity pets. Plus when “RIDICULOUSLY CUTE!” is in the product description you just can’t pass that up. Each costs $25 and makes a great gift or addition to your WoW collection. And even though I’m more of an Alliance at heart, the Wind Rider cub is much cuter than the Gryphon.
For the action figure fans, I’ve got some news as well! If you didn’t get the chance to read my coverage of Toy Fair 2010, I mentioned that I was able to check out the upcoming figure series from DC. Series 6, which includes Sylvanas, Magni Bronzebeard and Gibzz Sparklighter, the goblin tinker. It was also recently announced that series 7 is now available for pre-order and will include Judge Malthred, Garona & Garm Whitefang. These figures are set to be released in October. Having seen all of these figures up close I have to say that they look amazing and are very well sculpted and painted. There is also the deluxe figure series, which will have the third released in October that includes Garrosh and Taz’Dingo (a troll hunter). The names are a bit odd, and as I’ve seen some people point out they couldn’t have been more obvious with the naming of the worgen, I still like them for what they are and plan on getting a few of them for my collection. I also was able to see a figure that DC Unlimited plans to release of the Lich King in the deluxe series and I’m pretty excited about that one!
Another new section I decided to institute is some comic relief, as WoW is not always serious business. Below is a list of some fun things I’ve come across lately that were pretty amusing.
- Ctrl+Alt+Del did a fun comic regarding the ever debated topic of Gear Score.
- The fine folks at Master of Warcraft sat down and decoded the binary codes from the punch cards in Gnomeregan. Apparently Blizz loves subliminal messages…
- On the news that the gnomes may be going back to Gnomeregan in the future, there has been a new site that’s popped up that has some amusing graphics, poetry and tidbits all related to gnomes (they actually tipped me off to the binary translations): The Gnomeregan Offensive. I recommend checking it out and hope that they continue with the updates!
Call to readers!
If you have any tips, tricks, news or funnies you would like to send in to be included in the next State of Azeroth please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
This is Steph signing off until next month. Glory to the Alliance and Lok’tar Ogar to my horde brethren!
Thanks to Necrotic Designs for the awesome banner! Rawr!