MMO-Champion - World of Warcraft News and Raiding Strategies

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by Published on 2012-03-06 02:17 AM

Update - We just received the following message from Blizzard - "Soon we fly together again…"



Cataclysm Post Mortem - Dungeons and Raids with Scott “Daelo” Mercer
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
As a part of our post mortem series on Cataclysm, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Encounter Designer Scott “Daelo” Mercer to hear his thoughts on Cataclysm dungeons and raids.

Q. What were your main goals going into Cataclysm?
We really wanted to make sure we were creating new challenges, strong mechanics, and cool creatures while staying true to the expansion and the themes we wanted to carry out. The three raid dungeons came out well and we had a lot of fun bringing the story of Nefarian and the Twilight’s Hammer to life. We were also able to add some dynamic mechanics in Throne of the Four Winds, which featured players moving across multiple platforms.


Q. How did this evolve over the various content patches?
Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman were entertaining raids with diverse mechanics, and they translated well when we converted them into Heroic dungeons for patch 4.1. Interesting mechanics and features that once were restricted to raids are now finding their way into our five-player dungeons.

Adding the Dungeon Journal in patch 4.2 was also a major step forward. We wanted to be able to share more information in the game so that players wouldn’t feel the need to go look everything up on external websites. While those sites are great at what they do, we felt like we needed to try to alleviate the need to go out of the game to find the information players wanted to see.

The addition of Raid Finder in patch 4.3 also opened up more opportunities for players to be able to experience our raid content. The feature has proven to be extremely popular, and not just with people who had given up on raiding. Many players use Raid Finder to gear up their secondary characters, gain Valor for the week, or just because it’s fun.

Q. What do you think worked best?
We’ve been reasonably successful with our tuning across all four raid difficulty modes. There were a few warts here and there, but we delivered on the idea that 10-player and 25-player raids could exist at a similar difficulty. We also had some memorable dungeons and cinematic moments in Cataclysm. I’m particularly fond of the interactive bombing run in Grim Batol involving the red drakes. Players really got a sense of the epic scale of Grim Batol, and how well they performed in the event could make clearing the rest of the dungeon much easier.


With our improved tools and the experience we’ve gained over the years, we’ve become better at finding ways to explain the mechanics of our encounters. Our bosses do a better job of warning players of incoming threats. In Dragon Soul we also began to better inform players of mechanics that caused them to die. Providing a better understanding of the encounters to players is an important goal. We feel that losing to a boss and not understanding why is frustrating, just as beating a boss and not understanding why you won is not as satisfying.

Q. What didn’t work out as planned or expected?
Initially, we started off the Heroic dungeons at too high of a difficulty. The difficulty level rather abruptly changed when compared to the Heroics players experienced at the end of Wrath of the Lich King. This major change caught many players off guard, and frustrated some of them. The difficulty also increased the effective amount of time required to complete a dungeon to a longer experience than we wanted. With the release of patch 4.3 we’re now in a much better place. We’ve always talked about being able to complete a dungeon over lunch, and the Hour of Twilight dungeons get us back to that goal. End Time, Well of Eternity, and Hour of Twilight all provide epic play experiences to our players, but at the real sweet spot of difficulty, complexity, and time commitment.

Q. Was there anything that surprised you about how players reacted to a particular encounter?

Not particularly. Something we’ve learned over the years is to expect the unexpected. The community is very creative and intelligent. The most important thing for us is that players are having fun. They often find interesting ways of approaching things that maybe we didn’t expect, but as long the creative solution is still fun for everyone, we usually don’t have a problem with it.

Q. What have you learned from Cataclysm and what are some of your top goals for Mists of Pandaria?
We learned we could create a crazy encounter like the Spine of Deathwing. It took a lot of hard work from the whole team and it was a difficult design challenge to tackle. How do you orchestrate a fight on the back of a gigantic flying dragon without inducing nausea? How do we make sure you feel like you’re on Deathwing? Delivering that experience was really important and everyone wanted the opportunity to work on it. What was really great was that we launched the story of Cataclysm with the cinematic that showed Deathwing having his elementium plates being put on, then we end the expansion with those very same plates being torn off. It gives some real closure to storyline.


For Mists of Pandaria, we will continue to provide new dungeons and raids while also presenting interesting new types of content in the form of challenge modes and scenarios. Players will also be introduced to new enemies in the Sha, Mogu, and Mantids. Making those creatures come to life will be a lot of fun.

Q. Do you have a favorite dungeon or encounter from Cataclysm?
There are so many. The Conclave of Wind was a great one. Working out interesting mechanics that allowed players to go from platform to platform was a lot of fun and the environment felt really epic. A fight like that was a goal of the encounter team for a very long time.

Blackwing Descent was another favorite and working out the mechanics for the Atramedes fight gave us a lot to think about. How do you create an encounter with a blind dragon that fights? So we gave him sonar and showed the interaction with a sound meter on the player’s UI.


In Bastion of Twilight, we really got to sell the corruption angle on Cho’gall which made for another really interesting fight.

Q. Is there a certain mechanic that you always wanted to do but couldn’t do prior to Cataclysm?
Not really. There are so many cool ideas to work with that I never feel held back. It’s easy to be creatively inspired by the people around you and their energy. It’s never a problem of coming up with ideas. It’s usually deciding which ones we want to go with next, but the possibilities are endless.

Q. Do you have a “dream” dungeon or encounter that you’d like to create if you had the opportunity?
I’ve never felt that I haven’t been able to do the things I want to do. Everyone on the team is completely dedicated to giving us unlimited opportunities to make epic and awesome experiences. But, if I have to mention something, it would be huge giant death robots. We had Mimiron in Ulduar, but you just can’t have too many death robots.

Thank you for your time, Scott.
You’re welcome.

Discuss the latest Cataclysm Post Mortem here.

Darkmoon Faire Issues
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker)
February’s Darkmoon Faire achievement progress status was cleared prior to the launch of March's faire. Any achievements that were started but not completed have had their criteria reset. Completed achievements are unaffected. We previously announced that this was resolved for this month and going forward, unfortunately, that did not happen and this is still being investigated for a resolution.

The following achievements are most likely impacted:

Darkmoon Defender
Darkmoon Dungeoneer
Darkmoon Despoiler

Regrettably, we are not able to restore any progress you may have made during February's faire. We understand the impact this may have had and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Curse March Gaming Bracket Challenge - Round 2!
The March Gaming Bracket Challenge presented by Curse and Alienware is a tournament that pits video game characters against one another for multiple rounds of voting!

Each week in March we will be matching up characters from all ends of the gaming universe; from Skyrim to Starcraft, WoW to Minecraft. Selection of the characters that make it through to the next round is up to you since your votes decide who rises up and who falls in this arena! You can see the full bracket here.

Each week we are giving away one Alienware X51 (US residents only), so don't forget to enter to win and vote for your favorite characters.



MMO-Report
The MMO Report has a special episode about RIFT this week!

by Published on 2012-03-04 11:19 PM

Diablo 3 - Diablo 3 - Release Date Rumor

Reminder - Mists of Pandaria Press Tour Next Week
We are getting closer to the March 13-15 Mists of Pandaria Press Tour which will bring even more new Mists of Pandaria information! The NDA on the info revealed during the tour lifts on March 19 and will hopefully followed by the Alpha/Beta test shortly after. You can still discuss the new expansion in our Mists of Pandaria General Discussions Forum and check out the Mists of Pandaria Blizzcon 2011 Summary for a recap of what we already know.

In any case, it's only 2 weeks before things get interesting again, stay tuned!


Statistics: Thori'dal, the Stars' Fury
Today we take a look at the rate at which people are acquiring Thori'dal, the Stars' Fury! The sample size was ~5.8 million level 85 characters with a total of ~8,400 that have the achievement. You can find an alternative form of the graph in the comments, broken down by class.

It's very interesting to see that even if you can't transmogrify legendary items, the announcement of Transmogrification at the end of August considerably increased the amount of people farming old raid instances such as Sunwell for gear.

Don't see a chart? Enable javascript!

War College - Isle of Conquest
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
The battlefields of World of Warcraft are littered with the bones of those who have become casualties in the ongoing conflict between the Horde and the Alliance. You do not need to become one of them. One of the keys to victory is knowledge, and that is where the World of Warcraft War College enters the picture. In these discussions between players, you can learn and share strategies with other players to improve your tactics and improve your odds of emerging victorious from the field of battle.

Are you a veteran Gladiator with countless victories tallied? Are you new to World of Warcraft and striving to improve your PvP skills? In this weekly feature, we invite players of all skill levels to ask questions, share tips and tactics, and join a conversation dedicated to surviving and thriving in World of Warcraft PvP.

This week, the topic of discussion is:
Isle of Conquest - Which strategies are most effective in Isle of Conquest for your faction? Which locations are most important? What tips, tricks and tactics have you discovered? What common mistakes have you witnessed?

Join the War College forum thread here.

The Daily Blink - World of Warcraft is Saving the World!
The Daily Blink explains why the recent subscriber losses are for the greater good.

by Published on 2012-03-03 03:50 AM

Diablo 3 - Possible Big Announcement Soon, Magic Find Change, the "Right" Choice, Blue posts, wallpaper

WoW Ironman Challenge Completed
You may remember that a community run challenge became popular a while back which involves leveling to 85 with no deaths, as well as other restrictions. Kripparrian of Turalyon recently completed the Challenge with his Hunter, and Nik had the chance to ask him a few questions about it.


Originally Posted by MMO-Champion
So go ahead, why don't you introduce yourself.
My name is Octavian, I enjoy LCD tanning at my computer desk, newly vegan, and live in Toronto Canada. When I'm not working or cycling, I play online games as Kripp (Kripparrian). I primarily play WoW PvE with Exodus. Before playing WoW, under other alias', I played Dark Age of Camelot for about 7 years, and Diablo 2 HCCL (Hardcore Classic Ladder) on and off.

What inspired you to attempt the Ironman challenge?
I heard about the challenge 3 weeks ago, once it had already become a fairly well known movement. It was clearly created as a non-competitive activity, but the way I see it; if you have a ladder for something -- its competitive. As such, the challenge really appealed to my taste of activity within a game. I thought that if anyone was to complete it, it would be someone like me (as I'm sure many people feel).

Why did you chose Hunter to completed the challenge?
Well, I have played a Hunter for nearly all my time playing WoW. The only other class I know how to play reasonably well is a DK, and they are against the general rules of the challenge. My mains armory can be found here and hunter that I used to complete the challenge here.

How long did it take you and what was the majority of your time spent doing?
My first try was on Feb 12th, and I died at level 23 on the Mor'shan Caravan Delivery quest. I have not done the new Cata quests before this challenge and my inexperience followed by my death caused me to take a more cautious approach until level 60. I made the final character on the 13th and have played as much as I could until yesterday when I hit 85 at 4 days 17 hours 40 minutes played. All my in game time was spent on questing, I did not spend any time with the AH or trades as I felt it would be considered outside help -- although allowed by the rules of the challenge.

Do you think it's even possible to be able to complete it using another class?
I think any class can make it to 85. However, most classes will have to stick it out in WotLK zones and level to 85 with dailies as Cata mobs are brutal. Using the safe daily approach takes a lot more in-game time, leaving your character more prone to mistakes and disconnects. I think the chance of success with this method is about the same for those reasons.

Was there any planning involved regarding it all?
Of course! I really played this challenge to be the first to 85 -- and with others having a several week head start, my strategy was to make it near the top as soon as possible, then begin applying pressure. Last Wednesday (I get Wednesdays off work) I managed to play 14 hours straight;. During this time I leveled from 70 to 79 in one sitting and managed to pass all of the 3-4 of the challengers ahead of me. I was hoping to put a scare on the others near the top, and make them think they're behind, forcing them to play outside of their comfort range. Did it work? I don't know for sure, but when I was at work the next day, everybody else over 70 managed to die off. With this newly acquired 10 level lead, I changed my game plan to being more cautious. When I hit 81 after a couple days, I developed a game plan that I felt was safe enough, while still securing my lead in the challenge, you can check it out here. I had to change my game plan and go to Deepholm in the middle of Vashjir questing because the quest "Looking Forward" bugged, and I was not able to continue the main quest chain.

Any tips for those following in your footsteps and attempt the Ironman Challenge?
Have patience with this, but don't waste your in-game time. You may still see it as a race, as I did, but every action should prioritize security. If you have to use the bathroom, look up a quest, or check on something, log out! Utilize your in-game time only towards leveling, as being logged in just about anywhere has its potential risks -- falling through the world, kill exploits, etc.

Any shoutouts that you'd like to give?
I want to thank all the people participating in the Ironman Challenge for making it such a unique and special experience. Those who have supported it at wowironman.com and the many individuals on The Official Ironman Challenge Thread. I am also grateful for the people that have given me their support and encouragement; the many on the forums, my YouTube subscribers, Taeyeon and Ennuo from Exodus, and my online friend of 10 years Krippie.

Thanks for your time Kripparrian. If you'd like more from him or his guild you can check his Youtube channel or guild website. Kripparrian has also uploaded a video where he talks more in detail about the challenge.



Blue Posts
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
Dev Watercooler - Question about stats
I think this sentence of the blog is important to note: First of all, please note that we actually aren’t making many stat changes compared to the ones we made in Cataclysm.

That doesn't mean nothing is changing with the other stats. But if said changes aren't laid out in Greg's latest blog, chances are the changes aren't as broad in scope.

We'll start digging into the meat of the other stats and how we plan for them to play out in Mists of Pandaria class design soon enough. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Naxx Achievement Drakes
In some cases, we like to keep the mounts for those that managed to complete the content when it was at its peak. I think of it as a nod to the effort that went into achieving the task. Isn't it a good thing that, as Kazera said, some things can stay rare? (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

WoW Training Grounds
The WoW training grounds is a max-level training ground with scripted training for each class and each of their specs.
We've discussed a similar idea in the past, and it might be possible to use the technology we're using to build out the Scenarios coming in Mists to make something like this happen at some point in the future. Maybe!

It would be cool. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

PvP Balance
We are sorry to hear that you feel that we perform sweeping game changes in expansions and that it makes the game more difficult for us to balance; each expansion has come with changes that presented their own unique challenges and we would like to feel that we overcame these with varying degrees of success, but success none-the-less. We are our own harshest critic mind you, and we are not afraid to say that some things did not work out as planned though.

In regards to this particular comment: I think that if blizz instead stopped adding that many spells and instead focused on fixing what we have, not creating something new, then the game would be better.

You have to remember that World of Warcraft is an incredibly complex machine and while we can make small changes and tweaks as we go along, things that affect multiple systems aren’t so simply changed in that way. We do the best that we can to make the minor adjustments wherever possible, but expansions afford us the opportunity to make those larger changes that will help improve and balance the game, and apply the resources we need to do them.

These changes we are making to things such as abilities, talents and other systems are designed to try and create compelling choices and engaging content, for the betterment of both PvP and PvE. We just want to be sure that you know that none of the changes made through an expansion are done on a whim, they are incredibly thought out and made to ensure that the game will be as balanced and enjoyable as possible for everyone come its release.

We have a lot of information that will be coming out over the following weeks regarding Mists of Pandaria, covering both the changes in store for PvP and PvE. We hope that you look forward to reading it as much as we are excited to be bringing it to you! (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

PvP Ignored?
I'm not going to go point by point right now, but I do want to reassure you that we're not ignoring PvP. We're definitely aware of the concerns that players have and like much of the current development, are working on many things for the future of World of Warcraft (as a whole) and Mists of Pandaria. With the press tour coming up in March, we can hopefully be able to get you a better look at what we have planned and how we're planning to address things such as the PvP concerns that people have and have been expressing. I'm not going to promise that we'll "fix" everything that everyone has concerns about because that's not something we can ever guarantee, but we will be keeping a close eye on all of the (constructive) feedback that we expect you will have. We also look forward to when we'll be able to get community members into the beta test (when it occurs) to give it a first-hand look as well.

For those who are falling back to "Next expansion pack will fix it" as a complaint-- The most I can say is that this is the cycle of MMO development. As you also know, we've generally made changes that affect the game as a whole available to anyone regardless of whether they have purchased the new expansion pack or not as well as add content that is available via the expansion. That said though, I'm not making any guarantees of anything at this point in time, but I want the door left open for the possibilities. We'll be doing our best to explain all of this in the near future as I've mentioned.

Will you please confirm that those of us on PvE servers who do not want or care for world PvP will not find themselves forced into PvP...
I can't address these concerns for you right now, but we're aware of them and as I've mentioned in prior posts, we want to make sure what we're doing allows for PvP without infringing on those who are not as interested in taking part. The devil (as always) is in the details, however and we'll make sure to share those details with you all when we can so we can get your feedback. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

New Race and Class Combinations
Well, we're adding the pandaren and monk in Mists of Pandaria and the monk class will be available to all races save for goblin and worgen, so you could say that, "yes, we're still adding new race/class combos." That said, we want to make sure that when we add things like this that they make sense for the longevity of the game so we can't make any guarantees as to what or how often these will be added into the game. Balancing new classes into the game is a bit more difficult than adding a new race, but there are obviously complexities to both.

Will races will get other classes. Remember how Cata got Human Hunters, Night Elf Mages, Tauren Paladins, etc...?
That too is always a possibility if the developers feel it makes sense, but it would still incur some amount of additional development to make it all fit within the world both in terms of the story and in terms of items/gear. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Fan Art Update
The World of Warcraft Fan Art Section has been updated with five new pieces of fan artwork.




Curse Weekly Roundup
Pico is back to catch us up with the news in Minecraft, LoL, Guild Wars 2, Realm of the Mad God, Aion and Borderlands 2.

by Published on 2012-03-02 02:10 AM

Diablo 3 - EU Beta Wave, Diablo 3 Weekly Maintenance, Blue Posts, Sword of Justice Cover Art, Fan Art

Dev Watercooler – Mists of Pandaria Stat Changes
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Our recent talent calculator changes led to some players asking questions about how character and item stats were changing, because some spell and talent tooltips suggest that changes are coming. We compiled this list to attempt to explain more of what’s coming in Mists of Pandaria. First of all, please note that we actually aren’t making many stat changes compared to the ones we made in Cataclysm (“armor penetration -- gone!”). Second, the stuff below can get a little technical. If you’re not into the subtle nuance of gear itemization, then don’t worry about it -- you don’t need to be to enjoy the expansion -- but we know there are plenty of you who enjoy some nuts and bolts talk, so here we go.

Spell Resistance
  • Spell resistance is gone. There are no buffs that improve it and there shouldn’t be much, if any, spell resist gear left. We always thought the system was hard to understand and we weren’t getting much gameplay out of it. Now taking a step back, we can imagine how to develop a game where you’d want various forms of resist gear for certain situations and opponents. Resist gear could potentially be interesting, but it isn’t currently in World of Warcraft -- the game has just been moving away from that sort of thing for years.
  • In the absence of spell resistance, there is no need for spell penetration on gear, so we’ll remove it as well.

Hit and Expertise
  • We still think having stats that can be capped is a good game design. Rather than focusing solely on stacking your best stat, you have to decide how valuable it is to hit your target before you go back to stacking your best stat. However, we are making some changes.
  • Hit and spell hit will no longer be separate stats. The hit stat negates melee miss and spell miss.
  • Expertise will negate dodge and spell miss, then parry.
  • Expertise will be listed as a percentage, just like hit, instead of having an intermediary stat.
  • We are normalizing hit with expertise, so that 1% of each stat will require the same amount of rating.
  • We are normalizing melee and spell hit, so that spell hit is equal to miss plus dodge.
    • Against an equal level creature: 6% spell miss, 3% melee miss, 3% dodge, 3% parry (from the front only), 3% block (from the front only).
    • Against a +1 level creature: 9% spell miss, 4.5% melee miss, 4.5% dodge, 4.5% parry (from the front only), 4.5% Block (from the front only).
    • Against a +2 level creature: 12% spell miss, 6% melee miss, 6% dodge, 6% parry (from the front only), 6% Block (from the front only).
    • Against a +3/boss level creature: 15% spell miss, 7.5% melee miss, 7.5% dodge, 7.5% parry (from the front only), 7.5% block (from the front only).
    • Ranged attacks will be able to be dodged. Hunters will benefit from expertise and will have it on their gear, which will also allow hunters and Enhancement shaman to share gear more easily.

Block

  • The chance to block will be handled by a separate combat roll for each attack that is not avoided. In other words, we first determine if an attack misses, or is dodged or parried. If it is not, then the attack has a chance to be blocked.
  • This gives block a consistent value, regardless of avoidance. Currently block becomes more valuable the more you have.
  • Block will also have diminishing returns, much like dodge and parry. This doesn’t mean that the value of block will go down as you get more block. It means that it won’t go up by as much when you get more block.
  • We don’t expect Protection warriors or paladins to get “block capped” other than during temporary effects, such as mastery procs on trinkets. Block tanks will be balanced around this change. Our intent is to make playing block tanks more fun, not to nerf them.
  • Also notice how Shield Block and Shield of the Righteous have changed in Mists.

Criticals

  • All spells and abilities will crit for double damage, baseline. There are a few exceptions where crits can get larger, but the default is x 2.0 for everyone.
  • This means that Enhancement shaman spells and rogue poisons will crit for double damage. Rogue poisons will also use the melee hit chance.

Resilience
  • We are renaming this stat to “Defense (PvP)” or possibly “PvP Defense.” All players will have 30% base Defense, the same way all characters have some base Stamina.
  • PvP gear will have Defense on it, as well as a new stat, “Power (PvP).” Power increases the damage you do to other players as well as the healing you do to other players in PvP situations.
  • If you have a lot of Power, you’ll do more damage to other players, but they likely have Defense as well. If you fight players in lots of PvE gear, they’ll take more damage. Likewise, a player in PvE gear won’t have enough Power to effectively penetrate your Defense.
  • The names PvP Power and PvP Defense may not be final, but we’re leaning towards going with stat names that are obviously PvP-related, rather than “fluffier” names that might not be as easy to grasp. We want it to be clear to players that neither Power nor Defense have any relevance when fighting creatures, such as in dungeons or raids.
  • PvP gear will be lower in item level than PvE gear of an equivalent tier, however the Power and Defense stats will make sure that PvP gear is more powerful in PvP (both offensively and defensively) than PvE gear. In our budgeting system, the PvP stats will be free rather than causing other stats, such as Strength or haste, to be smaller as a result of including Power or Defense.
  • The goal of this change is to make it easier for a PvP player to participate in PvE, or for a PvE player to get started in PvP. Currently, we feel it is too large a barrier to go from one to the other, and the result has been that we see more and more players choosing to focus exclusively on only PvP or PvE. In earlier expansions, it was more feasible to use PvE gear in Arenas or Battlegrounds until you acquired the more useful PvP gear. The same was true of being able to use your PvP gear in a dungeon or raid until you acquired something better. In Cataclysm, stepping into PvP with no PvP gear would result in a player being so ineffective that it was difficult to even make progress towards acquiring PvP gear.
  • For the higher-end of PvP or PvE (say Gladiators or heroic raiders), we believe those players will still gravitate towards the dedicated PvP or PvE gear. It is the players who are working towards those two end games that will benefit more from some cross over.

That’s a lot of information, and it probably sounds more set-in-stone than it really is. We’ll continue to iterate as players poke holes in our ideas, tell us what is working out and what isn’t, and finally get to experience it first hand in beta.

First European Wave of Diablo III Beta Invites Under Way
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Brave heroes, the time has come to arise and answer the summons: the Diablo III beta is upon us here in Europe!

The first wave of invitations to the European Diablo III beta test is now being delivered. The client is available in English, with German and French becoming available at a later date. In addition to selecting players from those who have opted in via their Battle.net accounts, we’ll also be providing keys through beta promotions and giveaways. We welcome those invited to provide feedback on the official forums.

If you have a beta license, you are free to show, share, or talk about any portion of the beta content to which you have access, as this beta test is not confidential.

As always, we’d like to remind those hoping for an invite to be wary of phishing attempts. If you believe you’ve received an invite to the Diablo III beta test, it’s best to refrain from clicking on any links in the email, and instead log in to your Battle.net account to see if a Diablo III beta game account has indeed been granted. Or, if you were sent a key, you should attempt to add it manually by going to the Add or Upgrade a Game section of the Battle.net account management page.

For those who have received an invite to the beta test, we thank you for helping us test out our server stability and hardware. For those of you still hoping for an invite, we wish you the best of luck and hope you’ll keep an eye out for some of the beta-key giveaways and promotions we’ll have right here on the European Diablo III community site.

For more information, please see the beta opt-in announcement and FAQ.
by Published on 2012-02-29 05:35 PM

Update - According to the press release, it looks like Blizzard cut 600 positions in the company.

Message from Mike Morhaime
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker)
Everyone,

We announced today that we’re in the process of cutting a number of active positions, mostly non-development, throughout the company. I'm sure this announcement has sparked some questions from all of you, so I want take this opportunity to address those as best I can. Over the past several years, the company has grown rapidly and evolved to better serve you and the rest of our global community. Thanks to all of your support, we continue to serve by far the biggest subscription-based MMO community, as well as the most passionate eSports and online gaming communities, in the world.

In order to keep making epic game content while serving players effectively, we have to be smart about how we manage our resources. This means we sometimes have to make difficult decisions about how to best maintain the health of the company. We’re in the process of making some of those hard decisions now.

After evaluating our current organizational needs, we determined that while some areas of our business had been operating at the right levels and could benefit from further growth, other areas had become overstaffed. As a result, we need to scale down some of our departments and part with some of our colleagues and friends here at Blizzard. I know that you all understand how difficult this type of situation can be for anyone who might be affected, so I want to assure you that we'll be offering each impacted employee a severance package and other benefits.

I also want to emphasize that we remain committed to shipping multiple games this year, and that our development teams in particular remain largely unaffected by today's announcement. We're continuing to develop, iterate, and polish Blizzard DOTA, Diablo III, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, as well as other, unannounced projects. We'll have exciting news to share in the coming weeks regarding Diablo III's release date, and will soon be holding a private media event to showcase the latest work on Mists of Pandaria. It goes without saying that we're working hard to get all of these games in your hands as soon as possible.

You've all come to expect Blizzard to live up to our mission statement with every game, and deliver the most epic entertainment experiences ever. You can continue to expect that and nothing less from us as we move forward.

-Mike Morhaime

Press release on BusinessWire
IRVINE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. today announced that it has conducted a review of its business based on current organizational needs. Following a completion of the review, the company is conducting a global reduction in workforce of approximately 600 employees. The company anticipates approximately 90% of the affected employees will come from departments not related to game development. The World of Warcraft® development team will not be impacted.

“Constant evaluation of teams and processes is necessary for the long-term health of any business. Over the last several years, we've grown our organization tremendously and made large investments in our infrastructure in order to better serve our global community. However, as Blizzard and the industry have evolved we've also had to make some difficult decisions in order to address the changing needs of our company,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “Knowing that, it still does not make letting go of some of our team members any easier. We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the people impacted by today’s announcement, we’re proud of the contributions they made here at Blizzard, and we wish them well as they move forward.”

Blizzard's current development and publishing schedules will not be impacted. The company will announce specific release plans for Diablo® III in the near future, and it’s continuing to drive aggressively toward beta testing for World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria™, Blizzard DOTA, and StarCraft® II: Heart of the Swarm™. Blizzard also remains committed to maintaining its high standards of quality for customer service delivery. In addition, Blizzard is still recruiting and looking to hire qualified developers for a number of open positions. Further details are available at http://jobs.blizzard.com.

For press inquiries, please contact Lisa Jensen in Blizzard Entertainment public relations at [email protected].

The accounting charges associated with Blizzard's reduction in workforce are not anticipated to be material to Activision Blizzard, Inc. and were included in the 2012 financial outlook that was provided on February 9, 2012.
by Published on 2012-02-28 05:07 PM

Diablo 3 - Beta Contests Over, Patch 13 Class Changes, Curse Weekly Roundup

World of Warcraft Patch 4.3.3
The new 64-bit client is now live. (Windows and Mac)
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Bug Fixes
  • Fixed several client-side bugs.

General
  • Modified code and content support for the Scroll of Resurrection system.

Cataclysm Post Mortem -- Quest Design with Dave "Fargo" Kosak
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
To kick-off our World of Warcraft: Cataclysm post mortem series, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Quest Designer Dave “Fargo” Kosak to discuss his thoughts on questing in Cataclysm.

Q: What were your main goals going into Cataclysm?
Certainly from a quest design standpoint our primary goal with Cataclysm was to remake the old world, specifically the 1-60 questing experience. World of Warcraft was released in 2004, and we've learned so much in the years since about what constitutes good MMO gameplay. We wanted to make sure that the game was relevant to new players coming in, and walking up and down the length of the Barrens on foot over and over just didn’t do it for us anymore.

Remaking the entire old world -- 46 zones! -- was ambitious. Actually, it was ludicrous. It was like re-releasing a whole game in the course of an expansion cycle. Then we added a couple new races and their starting zones on top of that. I’m not sure how we convinced ourselves we could make it happen, but somehow we pulled it together.

Q: Are you happy with how the old world re-vamp turned out?
I am. Leveling up a new character to 60 nowadays is a great deal of fun. Every zone has stories to play out, with interesting nooks and crannies and plenty of hidden gems or references for players who remember the pre-Cataclysm world. Zones like Ashenvale now live up to their premise (intense Horde-vs.-Alliance combat), and previously empty zones now have a lot of character (see: Azshara). The content just flows. It's still World of Warcraft, but the quests have a modern feel, with lots of action and storytelling.


Q: But what didn't work out so well?
We really spread ourselves thin and taxed the team. The original plan was to totally re-do a handful of high-priority zones, but to leave a lot of the zones that worked mostly alone. We categorized them into "red," "yellow," and "green" zones. The idea behind the green zones (for example, Loch Modan) was just to tweak the quest flow to be a little smoother, but not to make any major changes.

The reality is that even the green zones really needed a lot of love. Once we got in there, it was all or nothing: we ended up completely re-doing a lot of green zones so that they met our new quest design standards. We came up with a nickname: "watermelon" zones. They were green on the outside, until you got in there and started poking around. . . .

Where that hurt us was when it came time to do the max-level content, the 80-85 zones. The content there turned out well, but the experience is inconsistent across the board -- Uldum feels totally different from Hyjal, which in turn feels different from Vashj'ir. The design decisions and efforts we made didn't always yield the desired results.

Q: Tell us more about the level 80-85 zones -- what worked and didn’t?

We were aiming for a really global feel with Cataclysm, so we set the max-level zones in varied environments all over the world (underwater, across deserts, in the elemental plane of earth, etc). However, as a result, they ended up not feeling as connected as we'd like. You get widely different experiences in zones that aren’t geographically related to one another. That's something important that we're keeping in mind moving forward – World of Warcraft works best when there's a sense of place. A connected world to explore.

We feel the storytelling in Cataclysm was strong. Whether assembling the ancients in Hyjal, rescuing your drowned crew in Vashj'ir, or reassembling the world pillar in Deepholm, there’s a strong sense of plot in every zone. Players participated in stirring stories, like bringing the Dragonmaw into the Horde via a violent coup or reuniting the Wildhammer Dwarves with a crazy wedding. These were memorable moments and shared experiences.

The downside to creating these stories is that the zones on the whole ended up being way too linear. For example, because we wanted to show your character re-growing the burning devastation of Mount Hyjal, there was really only one way to play that zone: you started at point A, and you worked your way through to point Z. Pretty glorious the first time, but frustrating on your second or third character because there's only one way to do it, and no way to skip around. That's a lesson we’re going to carry forward for sure. We want big sweeping stories, but we want to give players the freedom to explore those stories on their own terms.

Q: Places like Hyjal also used a lot of phasing to show the world changing.
We have a massive phase shift halfway through the story that changes the terrain for nearly a third of the zone. It's epic, right? But it can be a real pain for players when so much of the world changes like that. Phasing is like a story sledgehammer: it gets the job done, but at best it splits up players and at worst it totally confuses them.

We're going to be a lot more careful going forward. The Firelands dailies in patch 4.2 gives you a much better idea of our future direction. There were sweeping visual changes to the world as you progressed, but there’s very little actual phasing. For the most part, everyone is playing together on the same map. That’s important to us. Looking ahead, we’re going to be a lot smarter about how we show changes to the world, and we’re going to do everything we can to avoid splitting players up.


Q: Talk more about the 4.2 patch. Were the Firelands dailies a hint of what’s to come?
Definitely. With those dailies we were able to engage a lot of players, myself included. (I was the first quest designer on the team to get the mount and all the achievements on the live servers -- suck it up, slackers!) Previously, "doing dailies" meant hitting the same quest givers for the same three quests, usually in a static place. Here we were able to deliver a sense of progression and a story that unfurled over the course of a few weeks, all as you did a constantly changing set of quest objectives in a dynamic environment. We think that worked out well.

Moving forward, we're going to look for more opportunities like this -- ways to keep people engaged and cool things to do solo with your max-level character. We've got ambitious plans.

Q: Patch 4.2 also had the Aggra and Thrall questline, "Elemental Bonds." Did that meet your expectations? How do you feel about Thrall's character development?
That's a tricky one -- we’ve got mixed feelings. The essential story is a good one, and we really wanted to portray all the inner struggles Thrall is going through. Here’s a guy that stepped down as Warchief and had to rediscover himself as a shaman in order to save the world. And he's haunted by his decisions: he’s afraid of what’s to come, paralyzed by doubt, angry at what Garrosh did to Cairne . . . the guy's a mess. We figured out a way to show all that internal tension, and we wrapped it up in a story that demonstrates how his mate, Aggra, will literally go to the ends of the world to pull him through this. It's a powerful love story, and a story about finding one’s inner focus.


But we had to do a lot of things to make it work in the game. We needed to make a quest that 500 people could do simultaneously without getting in each other's way. We wanted a quest that players could do solo, no matter what their skill level. We didn’t know if the player was decked out in raid gear or level 85 greens, so we had to keep it simple. We somehow made all of it work under those restrictions, and we filled the screen with some killer imagery (I love the vision of Thrall immersed in the Abyssal Maw). But ultimately the quests themselves ended up not being as compelling from a gameplay perspective as we would have liked. Many players blew through them once and never looked back.

I really think we can do better. Cataclysm was in many ways Thrall’s story, but it was hard for players to follow his development over the course of the expansion. Going forward we want to convey a clearer narrative, delivered in the context of solid gameplay. We have some ideas on how to do that, and we’re also going to keep experimenting. This is important to us -- we talk about ways to tackle this problem all the time.

Q: The Cataclysm patches also saw the debut of some legendary weapons: Dragonwrath and the Fangs of the Father. Will future legendaries be this, uh, legendary?
Good question. We love class-specific content, but quest lines like those are very resource-intensive. Each sequence involves weeks of development focus that takes content away from dungeons, dailies, or outdoor zones.


The feedback from players (and from our own team) has been overwhelmingly positive. Dragonwrath proved to be extremely popular, and allowed caster classes to get a front-row seat for major lore moments otherwise reserved only for dragons. Meanwhile, Fangs of the Father was pure rogue, from the theme to the mechanics. It was super-targeted and extremely fun -- it proved to us the value of focusing in on a specific class and tailoring the content to their abilities. Given that the audience for these weapons consists of badass raiders, we didn’t hold back on the difficulty either, so these quests were great for people who wanted a real challenge.

The short answer is yes, we'll definitely continue doing these moving forward. Most likely future legendary quest lines will be built similar to the rogue experience: a couple key story moments, a lot of flavor, and some very specific challenges. But I wouldn't expect very many quest lines like these. Like legendary weapons themselves, they're going to be rare and special.

Q: We haven't even talked about goblins and worgen yet. What lessons did you take away from the new racial starting zones?
In both cases, the starting areas really sold the character and tone of the new races. The worgen area is so marvelously gothic, and Kezan is unmistakably unique and gobliny. The art and the quests all work together to establish a racial character. So that’s a big win.

As for the mechanics themselves, I’m glad we were so experimental, but our general feeling now that all is said and done is that we went a little too ‘gimmicky’ with the player’s initial experiences. Everyone can agree that the goblin experience gets pretty wild in places.

That's a big lesson we're carrying away from the expansion as a whole.

Q: Can you elaborate?
Overwhelmingly, players have told us that they want more quests where you have to flap a giant bird around a cave while targeting creatures in a 3D space.

Q: Seriously?

Maybe not . . . But moving forward, we're re-focusing on core gameplay mechanics. World of Warcraft works best when you’ve got your boots on the ground and you get to play your class. To that end, we’re concentrating on giving players lots of fun combat challenges in continually changing environments, wrapped up in a terrific story that’s propelled forward by the quests. Whenever we do special mechanics, we want them to feel special, and they’ll never tear you away from combat for very long. Our goal is to load up the world with lots of interactive spaces, cool encounters, great characters, and neat spaces to explore. That’s part of the reason we’re keeping you grounded (literally) in Pandaria, and why we’re focusing on a single continent. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll talk more about Pandaria soon enough.

Q: Looking forward to it. Thanks for your time!
Not a problem!

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