MMO-Champion - Cory Stockton Interview, Challenge Mode Gear, Cross-Realm Zones, Midnight Launch
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Mists of Pandaria Interview With Cory Stockton
We recently had the chance to speak with Cory Stockton (lead content designer) about upcoming content in Mists of Pandaria. A very short summary is below, but you should read or watch the entire thing!

  • There will be alternating patches that bring daily quests, scenarios, and other smaller items and then patches that bring raids.
  • There may be some faction specific scenarios coming in the future, but faction specific raid bosses are unlikely.
  • There may be an event that sets up the raid on Orgrimmar in a future patch.
  • Fishing and Cooking are much easier to level on alts now.
  • The new character creation preview armor is not in game yet, but if there is demand and somewhere good to add it, expect to see it in the future!
  • Transmogrification restrictions will be relaxed some more to offer more customization.
  • Other sources for transmogrification gear are coming in the future that deliver gear in a meaningful way.
  • It is unlikely we will see old raids with gear and level scaling in LFR anytime soon, but maybe some smaller revamped content in a manner similar to the Scholomance update.


Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
Q: Mists of Pandaria is releasing in a few days, how do you feel about the expansion and what are you the most excited about?
A: We are super stoked! All of us have a vibe that this is going to be super awesome. I think for a lot of us it brings back a vibe of what Northrend felt like. There is a lot of anticipation and a ton of content in the game that people didn't get to see in beta. There are so many little things that I think people are going to be hyped about, so we have a really good vibe about it. It feels great to have a continent again. One continent that we can talk about, something we were missing in Cataclysm and it feels great to have it back.

Q: It was mentioned a couple of times that the objective was to release patches faster for this expansion, does it mean smaller patches and a better organization of content to keep players busy? What can we expect from Patch 5.1 and 5.2 for example?
A: We want to deliver patches as quickly as possible, but every patch can't be a gigantic 4.3 type patch. We still want to be able to deliver something to players as quickly as possible.

We are looking at a method where we can deliver a patch that might have a set of daily quests, scenarios, and some new content very quickly while at the same time the entire team is working on a raid patch. A little bit of time after that the raid patch would come out, and we would continue with another patch that had some scenarios, daily quests, a battleground and then that would be followed in that same space of time by another raid patch.

The idea being that we are always updating the content for players and we would create spaces in between patches that allow for players to consume the amount of content coming in the raid patches. Releasing a raid and then releasing another patch two months later doesn't make a lot of sense. It doesn't give people enough time to actually be able to experience everything there is in a raid. There is a minimum time frame that you need but we are already working like crazy on Patch 5.1 and 5.2. Those patches are already far along in progress.

As far as what you will be seeing, Patch 5.1 will continue the Alliance and Horde conflict, which we are really going to push home. Alliance and Horde are going to land on the shores of Pandaria and transform the area they land in. There will be a number of daily quests and scenarios to go with it. That is what we are planning, obviously it is still in progress, but we want to get that out to players very quickly.

Q: With the war between the Horde and Alliance as the main focus of the expansion, will it affect upcoming PvE content in any way? Is it possible to see faction specific bosses for dungeons and even possibly raids?
A: Faction specific bosses is something we have talked about a bunch. The main issue about that is that it means that everyone gets less. If we make four faction specific bosses, everyone only will see two. So that is what we are trying to fight against.

What we are looking at doing in the patch is adding faction specific scenarios. Each faction would get their own scenario and possibly some shared objectives. They wouldn't be the exact same, but they would be similar, using different characters and things like that. So that is one thing we are looking to do on that end. For raiding, we probably are not going see that because of the amount of time we spend on a raid boss means we want everyone to see it.

As far as affecting the world, the general concept of why we are going to Pandaria is the Alliance vs Horde fight. Garrosh wants to claim it as his own and paint it red, whereas Varian initially is going to save his son. Once he finds out that Garrosh wants Pandaria, Varian realizes that he can't let him have it, so that conflict erupts. That is what plays out through the entire patch cycle. You are definitely going to see an impact on Pandaria in Patch 5.1 when it changes some of the landscape. We have a lot of story to tell in the launch about what Pandaria is, what its history is, and giving players a chance to absorb all of that. Then we will be continuing with the Alliance vs Horde conflict.

Q: Will we see any changes to the world outside of Pandaria other than Theramore and possibly the Orgrimmar raid? Is the war going to affect the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor too?
A: There is a possibility that in a later patch you could see something that could happen to possibly set up what is going to happen in Orgrimmar. Orgrimmar is in a final raid with Garrosh that we have talked about. Obviously you will see changes to Orgrimmar, but we are talking about possibly doing something before that to set it up, so that when it happens it doesn't feel like something that hit you by surprise. The majority of what you are going to see is focused on Pandaria though. Anything that you see that might reference the existing world will probably come through scenarios, which is a great way for us to use scenarios.

Q: The challenge armor sets introduced new visual procs on armors for all classes, is this something we can expect to see regularly? Is there any plan to update the challenge armor sets or include new rewards after the first set of dungeons and raids?
A: Possibly. It is the first time we have ever done armor sets that don't have stats on them which are made just for transmogrification. The concept behind those is that if someone sees you in a set of challenge mode gear, they know that you are a badass and you are able to do the hardest five man content that we could create. That is before you even get into the leaderboards for servers and guilds. Players are going to be able to get lower times on the leaderboard than you would need just to earn the armor. We are going to have to see how it plays out.

We put a lot of time and effort into those sets. If you aren't giving people item levels, you have to give them something, which is where coming up with the spell effects came from. The effects are linked to animations, so when you play the animation you will see them. It is something new for us, so we will have to see the reaction and see how it plays out. If they are popular and challenge modes end up being something where we do seasons, then you could totally expect to see something similar to what we have done with other stuff where we create a new set of gear for each season. I think it is too early to tell, but it is something we are definitely hoping happens. We are pretty stoked on the whole challenge mode concept.

Q: Regarding tier sets, some classes have only one set of tier gear, while others have multiple sets tailored to each of their specs. Have you ever considered making one set for each class that would have it's stats and set bonuses change based off of the players spec?
A: We talked about that a little bit, but it has mostly come down to who we felt needed that specifically and if it felt like they were at a disadvantage if they didn't get that. In general, we are trying not to change stats dynamically because it creates confusion for players more than anything in the long run. That is something you will see minimized going into the future, but in certain cases we feel like we need it because of where the classes are and the way their specs fit together. In general that is something we want to minimize though.

Q: Have you thought about adding raid quests that do not involve a legendary item? Something like the Champion of Naaru and Hand of A'dal quest chains that could reward a title or transmogrification gear?
A: That idea has totally come up. In Icecrown we did the weekly raid quests, which was a tiptoe into doing questing within raids. That was a little different because it was randomized. Every time you went in there was a different thing for you to do and the rewards were completely different. In general we liked some of the concepts from how that worked, and that is what sparked the conversation, especially with transmogrification. It gives us a whole new set of rewards. That is a really cool idea and something that we can hopefully expand upon. We have a history of trying questing in raiding before, so it is definitely something we could look at again.

Q: Any plans on making secondary professions account wide? Not making primary professions account wide makes sense, but Fishing and Cooking are tedious to level on all characters and don't provide any powerful character specific rewards like primary professions.
A: That is a really awesome idea. I think you probably have seen us doing things going towards that. If you look at Fishing, we moved Nat Pagle out to Pandaria and he is using one of our new friendship reputation systems. If you become friends with him, he will sell you Nat's Fishing Journal, which will teach Fishing skill to your alts. You can buy multiple journals and teach them Fishing all of the way up to 300 or 450, I think it is 450 (The tooltip says 600). If you have one fisherman, you can use that fisherman in Pandaria to buy the book and hand it to other alts to level up.

We have a very similar thing with cooking with catchup mechanisms. If you have one character that has high level Pandaria cooking, you can buy recipe books to hand down to lower level characters to raise their skill quickly. You are seeing what you are talking about already. We haven't paid a lot of attention to First Aid; there isn't a ton of gameplay in First Aid to expand upon, but that general core philosophy is something that you can see in some of the things that we are already doing.

Q: The character selection screen now features different sets of armor on each class. Most of them look like high-resolution version of old gear. Does it mean Blizzard is planning to go back to improve older sets of armor now that transmogrification is in game?
A: They are definitely based on what we felt were player's favorite original sets. It's actually interesting, a lot of what we based the sets on is what characters are wearing in the original WoW cinematic. The hunter set is based on what the dwarf was wearing when he shoots the gun and sends his bear out in front of Ironforge. The idea is when you see that, you get the iconic look of this is what my class will be. From that, we tasked all new art. To the eye it might look like they are higher res versions, but they are definitely all brand new art. They aren't a texture that is higher res; we had them made completely new.

As far as bringing back other sets, it depends on if things are popular. If it something that players want and we have a cool way to give it out as a reward, we are definitely going to do it. A question we have seen often is, "Am I going to be able to get those sets that are in the previews". Currently the sets aren't available in game, but when we made them we designed them to be actual armor, so it is just a matter of us finding a cool spot to give those out and we certainly could.

Q: Are there any plans to let players use other unused and no longer available color variations of gear through transmogrification? When will there be any updates to the transmogrification system?
A: Transmogrification is it's whole entire thing, it's awesome. We held out so long on doing a feature like this and we actually didn't know what the reaction would be. We had a lot of reservations about it, but we loved the concept behind it. That is why you see transmogrification limited; we don't want certain parts of WoW to look ridiculous. We don't want you to turn your sword into a 17 Pound Catfish and run around with it. There are limitations on that kind of thing, but we are seeing how popular transmogrification is and how some of our limitations are getting in the way of things that would offer more customization. Maybe changing colors or things like that to let players feel more unique is something we are totally open to.

Now that we have wrapped up our work on the Mists of Pandaria launch we can start to look at some of our existing features and look for ways that we can offer that customization. In general the answer is yes, we want to do more of that, but we still want to be careful to make sure that WoW doesn't come off looking ridiculous through things that we have allowed people to do through transmogrification. We are super stoked about how popular the feature is and have been blown away by the popularity. It is the reward structure for Challenge Modes, so clearly it has become something big.

Q: Is there any plan to add other sources of transmogrification gear in Raids, PvP, or even daily quests?
A: Yes, for sure. I don't think we can share those right now, but we definitely want to give out more transmogrification gear in other ways. It can't be a floodgate though. We want to do it in ways that makes it feel awesome to get the gear. Challenge modes are a great example of how we can get that gear out and let people use it in a way that means something.

Another example would be not leaving old PvP gear in when we added the transmogrification system. We didn't want people to have easy access to the gear from the original PvP honor system, because we felt like that gear looks great and is meaningful, so we want to find another way for players to get it. It is definitely something we want to do and something you will probably see us doing throughout the patches.

Q: Have you given any thought to making old raids available with normalized gear and stats, similar to Challenge Modes? This would make old content more fun and relevant again. Maybe even with LFR to make it easier to find groups.
A: That has come up a number of times, but it always comes up against the battle of "Do we want to spend time turning Blackwing Lair into a LFR and offering gear, or do we want to create six new raid bosses for the next patch?". That is always what it comes down to; everything comes at a cost of content. We can't just take Blackwing Lair and throw it in the LFR system. We would have to redo the majority of the fights. Going back and changing something is sometimes much more difficult than starting from scratch.

It doesn't mean that you won't ever see it, but if we ever did something like that it would be along the lines of what you see with out classic heroics. We tiptoed into that by doing Deadmines and Shadowfang; they have been very popular. We had an awesome response to Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery, but we have only done four of them in the five years since we introduced that concept. If we did something like that, it would be in a similar way. You would see a whole new raid which is accompanied by something old and smaller. It is definitely an idea that we like.

Q: Moving from realms to realms is getting cost prohibitive for players now that a lot of them have a lot of alts. Are there any plans to allow a one-time transfer of all characters from one realm to another at a lower price?
A: I wouldn't be the person to answer that question, so I don't really know. When we offer new pricing and new features that involve real world money the designers generally aren't too up to date on that. I see the idea though. When guild transfers happened that was because a lot of us were moving our entire guilds and it seemed that there was an easier way to do it, Within the team we were moving. We have the ability here to move a number of people and that seemed like something players would want, so that is how that turned in to a paid feature. It is probably something that falls along those same lines.

Q: Is there anyone already working on the next expansion at Blizzard?
A: Yes. 100%. We are already working on new stuff. As long as players love the game, are invested, and are going to keep playing, we are going to continue to make expansions.

Warrior and Warlock Challenge Mode Gear Procs
Tonight we take a look at a little bit more flare for the Challenge Mode gear! Each set has a special proc that will go off during combat or other actions. Some of the sets even have multiple procs or slight variations depending on what you are casting.

You can find the Challenge Mode set previews on our Challenge Mode Gear page, found in the menu in the navbar.





Cross-Realm Zones
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
A number of concerns have popped up since cross-realm zones were introduced to live realms, and we want to take a moment to explain how they work. We also want to address some of the anomalies you may be experiencing, including some recent bugs that we’ve hotfixed, or are currently investigating.

Cross-Realm Zones 101
Cross-realm zones are a new technology that allows players in underpopulated areas of the world to meet, group up, and adventure with players from other realms. This technology effectively populates low-level zones and other previously uninhabited areas, resulting in a livelier game world. Cross-realm zones allow players to form a group with other players from within a select pool of realms in order to quest just like they normally would, while still allowing the social structures of their home realms to remain intact. Cross-realm zones populate an area with players from other realms based upon the following criteria:

  • Realm type
  • Time zone
  • Language

Realm Type
When traversing Azeroth, players may encounter players from other realms who share their same realm type. PvE with PvE, PvP with PvP, RP-PvP with RP-PvP, and RP-PvE with RP-PvE.

The exception to this is that players are freely able to invite Real ID and BattleTag friends to join their party, even if their realm types do not match. In this case, players will be randomly placed within a party member’s realm. While it might be a little disconcerting to know that players from non-RP realms are adventuring in RP realms, or that players from PvP realms are exploring PvE realms, this is working as intended. Those players are in the company of friends from the target realm.

Please keep in mind that if you choose to group with Real ID and BattleTag friends, you may be placed on a different realm type depending on the members of your party. As such, we recommend grouping with players who belong to realm types you are comfortable with experiencing (such as PvE or RP).

Time Zone
When we initially looked at the North American time zones, we didn’t think that the time differences would have much of an impact on players participating in cross-realm zones. However, the inclusion of some Oceanic realms was an oversight. Following a recent change, players will no longer be placed on a realm with a time difference greater than three-hours. We’ll watch the results of this change and if three hours still feels too odd, we can continue to iterate.

Language
Currently, realms are coalesced by language, meaning that players on Spanish-speaking realms will be placed in coalesced zones with other players on Spanish-speaking realms, and Brazilian realms will be placed in coalesced zones with other Portuguese-speaking players. This separation by language wasn’t initially in place with the launch of path 5.0.4, but has since changed so that we can provide a better gameplay experience in each region. Players on Oceanic realms, while English-speaking, are also only coalesced with other players on Oceanic realms in order to prevent players from being placed on realms with a local time difference greater than three hours.

Lack of Realm Community
We understand that players are concerned about CRZ potentially impacting the sense of community. Cross-realm zones were intended to make lower level zones feel less empty, but may also impact other more populated zones. With more populated areas, we’re aware of concerns over increased competition for resource nodes as well as quest and rare mob spawns. This is something that we’re in the process of evaluating. We’ve already taken some steps to address it by increasing the spawn rates of most rare spawns. If a zone becomes too populated, we’re capable of adjusting how many realms are able to connect to it. Just keep in mind that we do choose spawn times of creatures and profession nodes with a certain zone population in mind -- CRZ affords us the ability to better maintain those populations.

Please note that Pandaria zones will not have CRZ enabled when Mists of Pandaria is released, but players can group up cross-realm in Pandaria with Real ID or BattleTag friends. The Wandering Isle, the pandaren starting area, will also not have CRZ enabled at launch, though we’ll have multiple instances of this zone running as needed for each realm, in an attempt to prevent overcrowding.

Low Population Concerns
Cross-realm zones are the first step toward improving the play experience when leveling on a low-population server. The world will be more populated, opening up the possibility for you to make BattleTag friends who you can then invite on future adventures. World of Warcraft is meant to be a massively multiplayer role-playing game, so we want to give players on lower population realms access to a larger community to play with.

Cross-realm zones won't fix economy-related issues for lower populated realms and it wasn't intended to. Regarding the suggestions for a cross-realm auction house, this is something we can evaluate at a future date. However, great care must be taken and we must carefully evaluate its impact on realm economies if such a change were to occur.

Known Bugs and Resolved Issues
We’re working behind the scenes to look into and address many of the recently shared CRZ concerns. In addition to the hotfixes that have already been applied to help streamline the player experience, we have some additional hotfixes on the way to address some of the known bugs.

Tol Barad and Wintergrasp Concerns
We unfortunately didn’t identify some of the issues with these PvP zones because these areas didn’t see much activity during the beta testing period. An early bug allowed players from multiple realms to participate in Tol Barad and Wintergrasp battles, or quest in these zones in between battles; however, this has been addressed and these zones should never be coalesced. We’ll consider offering full CRZ functionality for these zones in a future patch when we can solve some of the logistical issues coalescing initially brought about.

Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza
In the case of the weekly Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza, we also found that players from other realms were able to jump to a realm in a different time zone to get a head start on fishing, allowing them to win their home realm’s tournament as soon as it began. This isn’t fair for anyone and will require some new tech on our end to ensure the integrity of timed competitions. Unfortunately, this change will require a client-side patch, so we are disabling the fishing tournaments until we can deliver the fix for them in a future patch.

Ignoring or Reporting a Player from Another Realm
We understand that players want to be able to ignore and report players from other realms, and we’re working to identify and correct any issues currently preventing this. We take harassment very seriously, and if another player is harassing you, you can submit a ticket so that we can investigate your report.

Cross-Realm /who Requests
This is something we’d like to do, and we’re looking into it.

Realm “Hopping” by Changing Party Leaders
While it might sound like fun to go exploring in other realms by changing party leaders, this was not intended, and allowed some players to take advantage of bosses such as the Darkmoon Rabbit and challenges such as the Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza. As such, we’ve made a fix that will stop groups from being able to do this.

Chat, Achievement, Skill Spam
We’re aware of chat, achievements, skills, and World Defense announcements being spammed in cross-realm zones and are working on a solution for this. We agree: it’s annoying.

Found Other Bugs?
Every bit of assistance you can offer us in tracking down bugs and squashing them would be invaluable. After reading this, if you’re experiencing any issues with CRZ that pretty clearly seem unintended, please provide us as much detail as possible on the Bug Report forum. If you’re curious as to what entails a “good” bug report, please read this simple, yet effective guide.

We’re definitely keeping tabs on this thread and ones like it, and will continue to roll out hotfixes to address any remaining issues as quickly as we can, so keep an eye out on our list of hotfixes for further details.

The bottom line is that cross-realm zones are meant to improve the leveling experience in lower-level zones while allowing you to quest with your Real ID or BattleTag friends. We’re currently in a strange part of the patch cycle where the level cap is 90, but everyone is still stuck at 85. We believe that most of the concerns about competition are having a larger impact now because everyone is waiting for Mists of Pandaria.

Please provide any additional feedback you have below. We’re continuing to read the concerns and bug reports you’ve been sharing. We’re committed to polishing the cross-realm zone feature so that it provides the best possible gameplay experience for all of our players.

Mists of Pandaria Midnight Activation Details
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
The time is nearly upon us as the mists begin to part and a new age of discovery amidst turmoil begins! For those of you prepared to begin your adventures the moment Mists of Pandaria is launched in your region, we’ve put together some important details that should get your expedition underway.

As soon as we activate the new expansion content on launch, players who already have a Mists of Pandaria license with the data installed will gain instant access. If you’re in the game when the clock strikes midnight, you don’t even have to logout!

So, what happens at midnight for those of us with Mists ready to go?
  • A yellow System Message will appear in your Chat Log telling you to visit Orgrimmar or Stormwind to start your travels.
  • Level-85 characters will receive a new quest, no matter where they are in the world, which will guide them to Varian or Garrosh for further orders. If you’re online at midnight you will receive the quest even if your Quest Log is full -- or you can visit Varian or Garrosh to get started on your journey to Pandaria.
  • Level-85 players will notice their experience bars automatically change so that experience can once again be earned.
  • Players who are at the Character Creation screen at midnight will notice the button to create a pandaren character will be enabled. (Reminder: This also applies to players who don’t have a Mists of Pandaria license, as all races are now included with a base copy of World of Warcraft.)
  • Players who are at the Character Creation screen at midnight will notice the button to create a monk character will be enabled.
We’ve been very hard at work on this new technology with the goal of ensuring that players can enjoy a more stable and seamless transition into the next expansion than ever before. Our staff will be monitoring realm stability and gameplay issues around the clock, as we want to provide you with the best experience possible.

We’ll see you on Pandaria!

So, can i log out at 11:55pm (PDT of course) and sit at the character creation screen for 5 minutes for the Monk icon to "light up" and gets to creating right at 12:00? or will I need to log completely first?
Yes, if you sit at the login screen the buttons will become enabled in real time. You shouldn't need to logout of your account.

What about us with 25 dailies? Did you guys test that yet haha
Yes. You'll have somewhat of a "soft cap" on quests. So if you're Quest Log is full at midnight, visiting Varian or Garrosh will still allow you to embark on the quest to Pandaria (though, before you do I'd suggested turning in all those dailies).

In other words, you won't miss receiving the quest if you have 25. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Mists of Pandaria Warlock Guide
Our friends over at Fatboss made a nice long video guide to the different Warlock talents, spells, and glyphs. Let them know if you liked it and want to see more! You can find the Mage guide here.



Of Orcs and Humans: The Story of Warcraft
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
W just released The Story of Warcraft, a comprehensive collection that will bring you up-to-speed with everything that’s happened in the Warcraft universe since the release of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.

The story of the brave people of Azeroth and beyond has been growing and expanding with each additional release in the Warcraft series of games. It’s a tale of mighty heroes, of powerful foes, a tale of strength, and honor, and of unlimited adventure. Now, you can check out a chronicle of the major events that happened in each Warcraft game, expansion, or major content patch. Each entry includes a short summary, a video trailer, and key art for the chapter. More content such as wallpapers, character cards (so you can keep track of the scores of heroes of the Warcraft universe), and more will be added to this section soon, so stay tuned!

Check out The Story of Warcraft now! And if you have any feedback or suggestions for future updates, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Just post in the comments and let us know what you think.

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