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by Published on 2011-09-06 04:14 AM

Stats: Character Leveling Speed in Cataclysm
There were no blue posts today because of the Labor Day holiday, Blizzard posters will probably be back tomorrow with more news!

It has been too long since we posted some stats and this time we took a look at how many characters reached Level 85 each day since Cataclysm was released. This only includes data from the US Realms to keep the dates simpler. This does not include all of the level 85 characters in the US, only a sample of 1.1 million. Interested in seeing some other statistics? Let us know in the comments!

  • You can see that a very large number of people reached Level 85 in the first week after release, thousands even the first day.
  • It seems that people enjoy leveling during the weekend with a spike on Saturday and an even larger spike on Sunday.
  • You can see where Patch 4.1 and Patch 4.2 came out, decreasing the amount of leveling briefly.

Don't see a chart? Enable javascript!

Poll: How many characters have you leveled to 85?
While we were working on these stats, we figured it was a good time to ask how many characters you have leveled to 85. Let us know in the poll below!

Dark Legacy Comics #303 and Teh Gladiators #268 + #269 are available!

by Published on 2011-09-05 02:44 AM

Patch 4.3 Previews Recap
Patch 4.2.2 is finally on live servers and there has been a lot of information posted recently about Patch 4.3, more is likely coming and we can finally hope for a Patch 4.3 PTR "soon". Time for a recap!

Patch 4.3 - Misc / Class Changes

Patch 4.3 - New Features

Patch 4.3 - Developers Interviews

Addon Review: GTFO
GTFO is an addon that will be useful to anyone who does PvE, especially those of you that play with Spell Detail level turned down. It will warn you when you are standing in something that you shouldn't be, even in content from Vanilla to Firelands. The alert is just audio currently, but it does expand functionality when used with a few other addons. If you play with sounds off, it can unmute sounds to give you the alert as well.

The warnings come in four different categories, including High/Low for damage amounts, Failure for when you stood in the fire for too long, and Friendly Fire for when you need to get away from someone in the raid who is doing damage to you.

It has the option to turn off the alert for easy content and integrates with Recount/Skada to save statistics and see who is failing the most. The damage amounts will not be fully accurate in all cases, but the counters should be.

It also works with Power Auras Classic to provide a visual indicator when you are standing in something! Adding this alert just takes a few steps that are clearly outlined on the download page. Doing "/gtfo test", "/gtfo test2", "/gtfo test3", "/gtfo test4" will let you trigger a test of the damage alerts to ensure the volume and graphic are working as you intended.

Be sure that you don't use LUI with it, as there are some incompatibility issues in the current version. If you are already using it you need to remove the Recount data from your WTF folder for each character. "/gtfo options" will get you right into the options screen. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

What better way to start off your week than with another episode of The MMO Report!

The Daily Blink - In This Strip, Baine Switches to Decaf
The Daily Blink doesn't disappoint!

by Published on 2011-09-03 04:16 AM

Update - Clarified a few misquotes apparently, thankfully everything can be blamed on chaud.

Interviews: Warcraft After Cataclysm
Tom Chilton and Greg Street have been making the rounds again with interviews on IGN and Gamasutra.

Patch 4.3
  • If you add up all of the Deathwing encounter stages, it will be the longest fight in the game.
  • Each stage of the fight will take place in a different location and offer some loot.
  • The encounter starts at Wyrmrest Temple, progressing toward the players being on Deathwing's back while he is flying toward The Maelstrom.
  • The new five man encounters will build up to the Deathwing fight, similar to how the Icecrown five man instances built up to the Lich King.
  • To combat the complaints of armor always looking the same, there is a sub-lead who is in charge of guiding the art team to produce new styles not found in the game yet.

After Cataclysm
  • More armor customization could be coming in the future; Transmogrification was a solution that could be finished in time for Patch 4.3.
  • After Patch 4.3, and the world event, the team is going to focus on keeping players entertained and enjoying the game as well as new and potentially returning players.
  • On Mists of Pandaria: "Most of the time when we do anything panda-related it's going to be a comic book or a figurine or something like that."
  • There are more people that played World of Warcraft but no longer play World of Warcraft than currently play World of Warcraft
  • They believe that each spec plays like a separate class, making the game feel as if there are 30 classes.
  • Player created content is still in the back of their minds because of how well it worked in Starcraft II. Developing tools for players would take a lot of work, but the reward would be great as well.

Blue Posts
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
Worgen Mounts
These mounts are mainly being added to even up the number of mounts Alliance players can get, compared to Horde players. Mount collectors and those of you interested in going for the mount achievement have been asking for this for a while, and the additional horses will address that issue.

The Worgen's unique racial mount equivalent is the Running Wild skill. That's not going anywhere. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Transmogrification: Incomplete tier sets
This is going to be half the fun for a lot of people looking forward to Transmogrification; finding matching sets and combinations that look awesome together

While it's too early to say for sure, it's possible that after this feature launches, there will be a number of items that people request become available to Transmogrify. We're going to monitor this feedback and hopefully be able to build on the feature based on that, however, that's not to say every item people ask for will suddenly appear in the game. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Three Talent Specs
Indeed, as Xarthat said, we're still really keen for players to put a lot of thought and decision into their character's chosen talent specs.

Sure, it would be handy to have more specs lined up to swap in or out when faced with a different situation, but right now we feel that your talent spec(s) should be something you choose, maybe refine over time, and hopefully pwn with. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Diablo III Beta Opt In
It is almost time for Diablo III Beta, Blizzard posted another beta opt in reminder on the official blog and DiabloFans has some additional leaked gameplay to go with the screenshots below.
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker)
Interested in signing up for an advance look at Diablo’s coming invasion of Sanctuary? To be eligible to participate in the Diablo III beta test, you need an active account with any Blizzard game title attached to it. If you don’t already have an account, it’s easy to create one. Once you’ve set up a account, or if you’ve already got one, you can access it by visiting and clicking the Account button on the upper right. Then, to opt into the beta, just click the Games & Codes section of your Account Management page, and then select the Beta Profile Settings option from the drop-down menu. You’ll be prompted to download the System Check beta opt-in application; running it will opt you in to the Diablo III beta. If your system specifications change, you can run the System Check application again to update your information.

While running the System Check application doesn’t guarantee you a place in the Diablo III beta, we wish you luck and hope to see you in Sanctuary.

How are beta test participants selected from the opt-in pool?
Beta testers are chosen according to their system specifications and other factors, including an element of luck. Our goal is to have a good variety of system types to best test compatibility.

Will there be any other ways to get into the beta besides the opt-in?
We’ll very likely be providing beta entry giveaways through various promotions on our sites, as well as through our official fansites. We’ll have information available on these promotions as they approach.

How many players do you plan to invite to the beta test?
The number of players we invite will be based on our testing needs. If during the course of testing we determine we need more players to participate, we’ll invite more.

What game content will be available in the beta?
You’ll be able to try out all five character classes and experience the early stages of Diablo III from the start of the game through the Skeleton King encounter. You’ll be able to interact with new and returning characters in New Tristram and fight the reawakened evils emanating from the cursed Tristram Cathedral.

Will the PvP arenas be available in the beta?
We don’t plan to include the PvP arenas in the beta test.

How long will the beta test last?
We have not determined an exact date for the end of the beta test. We will notify participants when the beta test is nearing completion.

Will the Diablo III Auction House be available in the beta?
We currently plan to test the functionality of the Diablo III gold-based auction house sometime after the initial beta launch.

Will Mac users be able to participate in the beta?
Yes, Mac users will be able to participate in the beta at the same time as Windows users.

Burning Crusade Art Gallery Updated
The Burning Crusade game art gallery has been updated with four new pieces.

by Published on 2011-09-01 04:18 PM

Update - Added a blue post clarifying the reasoning behind the blog post.

Worgen Racial Mounts Clarification
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
The intention with the new mounts was just to honor player concerns about achievements and even up the mount totals between the alliance and the horde. It’s something people had been requesting since the release of Cataclysm, so we’re evening up the numbers by giving the Alliance some additional mounts to add to their totals.

The Worgen racial mount is Running Wild. These are just some extra horses, for your horse needs. Perhaps the blog should have been titled 'New Gilnean Faction Mount'? Or maybe just 'Wyld Stallyns'? We may actually edit the blog to clarify why these mounts were added. To be clear, it’s not because we think worgen look their awesomest riding horses.

The intention wasn't really to hype this up, so much as to simply inform and reduce confusion. Our thought was, rather than let these be introduced without any context via data-mining, that it seemed like a better idea to introduce them ourselves with a bit of context.

[...] There was some miscommunication regarding the initial reason why these mounts were added. After talking with the devs again these mounts are actually being added because they already happened to be available and we thought it’d be nice to make them able to be purchased and ridden. Which is unfortunately quite a bit different than how we understood and framed the blog.

Their existence also allows us to give players that faction change to Worgen something in exchange for their old racial mount. Right now if you faction change to Worgen you lose your previous home-faction mounts, and so we’re also trying to correct that with this change.

Patch 4.3 Preview - Worgen Racial Mounts
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
We're not going to make it very far without transportation, are we? If we just hightail it out of here, the forsaken will catch up to us in no time at all.

Rounding up some horses from the stable grounds southeast of here would normally be a breeze, but there's one snag. That last quake must've spooked Koroth, the ettin, down from the mountains. If we don't get our horses soon, I fear that he will.

In patch 4.3, we’ll be introducing worgen racial mounts to the stables of Azeroth. These sleek horses have been constant companions for the denizens of Gilneas since time immemorial, and your worgen characters will now be able to claim their ancestral mounts.

Click on the images below for a preview of what’s coming:

We hope you’ll visit the new worgen racial mount vendor to pick out a steed to call your own.
by Published on 2011-08-31 06:01 PM

Dev Watercooler -- Bloody Mitigation
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
What Active Mitigation Actually Means, and the Future of the Blood Death Knight

We recently buffed tank threat significantly and suggested that we would fill in any potential lost gameplay with new gameplay. What I meant by that was that if tanks don’t need to hit their buttons to generate threat, they may realize they don’t need to hit most of their buttons at all, and just stand there waiting until the right time to Shield Wall. Going a GCD or two without using a combat ability is fine with us. Standing around much longer than that gets boring quickly.

What we proposed is that tanks should ideally want to hit their buttons because it keeps them alive. I didn’t elaborate on that too much except to say it would feel more like the Blood DK method of tanking, which prompted some players to state that they didn’t like the DK model, or to point out that the DK model is not just active but reactive. Fair enough.

To better explain what we meant by that we need to define active mitigation. We define it as hitting buttons regularly that have a meaningful impact on your future mitigation. You should occasionally alter your rotation depending on what is going on in the fight, but you should still mitigate regularly and not save everything for the really big, predictable hits. DKs have a little of this, but Death Strike is ultimately a heal, which is a response to damage, not damage prevention. I also think the DK model gets a bad rap because of some other mechanical problems, which aren’t really problems with active mitigation per se. So let me go into a bit more hand-waving about what active mitigation could mean for other tanks, and then I’ll share a little DK info.

Some Active Mitigation Models

Here are three different models for why hitting buttons can matter to tanks. It's easy to come up with alternative models, and none of these are perfect, nor are we ready to announce which is the one we’re going to try first. But these ideas can get some discussions going.

Model One: Tank DPS matters

This one really isn't active mitigation per se, but it is a way to make pushing buttons matter. We have berserk timers or other DPS checks on a lot of our encounters. Typically tank DPS isn’t taken seriously on these fights, which is a little puzzling at first glance. Yes, the tank may not be able to match the Enhance shaman for damage done, but also consider that the Enhance shaman would absolutely love it if she could improve her DPS by a paltry 3K. That 3K may be enough to meet that DPS check. Note that I’m not talking about tanks being able to beat out skilled DPS players; I think most of us agree that would be a little bizarre. But that doesn’t mean tank damage has to be a non-factor either. Sure, the Feral tank may be doing 16K DPS to the shaman’s 30K, but 3K is 3K.

I polled all of the class designers who raid Heroic content (which is all of them, I believe) and only one had ever given his tanks a hard time for low DPS. Sometimes it’s just not possible because of the fight dynamics. In other cases it is, but as a community, we tend to not focus on tank DPS. We sometimes ask healers to Shadow Word: Pain, even though the contribution is trivial. Go figure. Maybe we assume tanks already have enough on their plate. Maybe they really are prima donnas and we don’t want them to /ragequit. (I kid.)

One potential downside of this model is that it's just the old threat rotations but with the emphasis on DPS rather than threat per second. Ultimately, we want tanks to feel like their rotations are related to tanking and that they aren't just doing a DPS rotation with the occasional long cooldown. Another is that it makes not only stats like hit and expertise desirable, but also crit and haste, which aren’t typically on plate tanking gear. We want to make tank itemization more interesting than just “stack mastery,” but we don’t want it to be baffling either.

Model Two: DPS buttons provide mitigation

This is the model that several players in the community have predicted will be our approach, and the idea has some merit. Under this model, imagine that a warrior wants to hit Shield Slam because it makes his next Shield Block larger. Imagine Revenge procs a short parry buff. Devastate and Thunder Clap already have roles applying debuffs. This model we think could feel pretty intuitive. One downside is that each individual button might feel less impactful and make the experience less visceral. Shield Block feels awesome because when you push it, the damage numbers go way down, and you feel “safe” for the duration. If you replace one slice of that pie with Revenge and Shield Slam, then everything gets watered down. If the rotation is very simple, then it feels like passive mitigation; if not then it’s a stressful juggling act. Another potential downside is that keeping up multiple buffs and debuffs can be tedious. Rather than it feeling like a bonus to get those procs, it can feel like a penalty whenever they’re not up. Even if you are hit and expertise capped, sometimes you have to move away from the boss to avoid a fire ring, or you need to leave to pick up an add. If you can’t bank the mitigation benefit, then the risk is you feel like you don’t really have control over your survivability.

Model Three: DPS buttons build up resources

This model lets you bank the benefits. Imagine you have to build up a resource to use on short-term cooldowns. We couldn't include the Shield Walls and their ilk here, because an "oh snap" button needs to be available immediately and not in the future once you've earned some resources. But weaker cooldowns such as Shield Block and Holy Shield could certainly work this way. Imagine the paladin tank needs Crusader Strike to land to generate Holy Power, and can then decide to spend that Holy Power on Holy Shield Block or Word of Glory. Neither of those would have a cooldown in this design, so more hits landing will always be better -- it's not just a matter of hitting enough to have 100% uptime. (You'd probably also need the ability to save Holy Power more than you can today so that there was less pressure to spend a cooldown as soon as it became available.)

The choice can then become whether to use Holy Shield Block or Word of Glory. Holy Shield Block is probably your first choice, but if you screw it up or the damage is magical, or you need a reactive button instead of an active one, then Word of Glory might be a better choice. Either way, there shouldn’t be any simple answers. (As a counterpoint, deciding to spend that Holy Power on threat instead of mitigation is just never going to be interesting -- smart tanks will always use it to survive, as we saw before Protection had a Word of Glory cooldown.)

As an aside, the Feral druid's mitigation is arguably the most passive right now, and we’d want to change things like Savage Defense to be active buttons under this model. One downside of Model Three is the risk that the rotation could be too formulaic: AAAAB, for example. It could also be asking a lot of tanks -- rather than just hitting buttons to generate threat, tanks would need to pay active attention to managing a resource. No more infinite rage just for getting beat on. We want tanking to be fun, and we think that needs to include a certain degree of risk of failure for not playing well, but that doesn't mean it needs to be frustrating. Challenging and frustrating don't need to go together.

Again, these aren't the kind of changes we will hotfix in. It's going to take a lot of thought and a lot of feedback from players to get things feeling right. As a comparison, we still stand behind the mana adjustments we made for healers for Cataclysm. We think the healer gameplay is more engaging than it was at the end of Lich King, but that's obviously very subjective and took a lot of getting used to, even for seasoned players. We'd like to introduce the tanking changes more smoothly, but we still want to introduce them.

Bloody Death Knights

The risk of talking about one particular spec in a blog is then everyone will wonder when BM hunters or Disc priests are going to get "their" blog. It's not going to work like that, but since I referenced the DK tanking style so much in the previous tanking blog, I feel like it's appropriate to go into a little more detail about what we don't like about DK tanking (and how we’re going to fix it) so that all tanks have a better idea of what the future might hold for their own character.


One of the fundamental tensions in DK tanking is deciding whether to spend a rune on diseases (which offer necessary tanking debuffs) or save the rune for Death Strike. Our hope was that choosing how to spend the resources would be interesting. A rogue for example has to decide on whether to spend resources on Slice and Dice or Eviscerate (or a number of other things). In reality though, we don’t think this decision has been a fun one. You feel cheated if you refresh diseases and then need to Death Strike a moment later, and you feel like a bad tank if you just neglect diseases. For 4.3, we’re going to give Blood DKs a 30 second Outbreak, so they will never have to manually apply diseases to a single target. Yes, that can lead to even more Death Strikes but we think adding a fun alternative to Death Strike is not the kind of thing we can easily change for 4.3.

I feel the need to point out that we’re not just being lazy here. We understand that many players get really worn down by constant class design change, especially mid-expansion, even if they end up improving the experience overall. Deciding when to make serious changes and when to wait is a major challenge of MMO game design. I’ll try and explore this more in a future blog.

Blade Barrier

We originally designed this talent to encourage DKs to not sit on their runes, and it worked fine for that. However, the current model of Death Strike, which we also like, is that the timing of the Death Strike matters a great deal, encouraging you to… you guessed it… sit on your runes. We’re just going to change Blade Barrier to something more passive (and yes, temporarily more boring) for 4.3.

Death Strike

It sucks when Death Strike misses. "Stack hit and expertise" is an answer to that, but not one that's really viable or even fair given that other tanks will care even less about hit and expertise in the short term. Rather than making Death Strike always hit, we’re going to let it always heal you, and proc Blood Shield, even when it misses. This kind of tweak may very well be an interim solution given that everything I said above was that we want tanks to care about hitting to drive their mitigation. But we don’t think it’s fair to penalize the DK for working the “new way” while everyone else is still working the "old way," and it's too much of a change for 4.3 to apply the "new way" to the other three classes. In the long term, as in the Protadin example above, the rotation can't just be Death Strike, Death Strike, Death Strike... Death Strike.

Bone Shield

This change is something we’re exploring but may not pan out, so no claiming we "promised" this *cough*Abyssal Maw*cough*. So… CAVEAT: this may not come to pass. What we’re considering doing with Bone Shield is have it mitigate damage spikes. DKs are prone to spikes more so than the other tanks, particularly the paladin and warrior who can "block cap" (I assume most of you know what that entails, if not, a helpful explanation if someone asks in the comments would be appreciated). Death Strike can theoretically handle the spikes, but if you miss (less of an issue with the above change) or time your DS poorly, you might take much higher damage than other tanks from a single hit. Our idea is that Bone Shield would expend a charge to dampen those spikes specifically. If a single attack did a huge percent of your total health, then some of that attack would be automatically lessened for the cost of a charge. Smaller hits wouldn’t spend a charge.

Blood Shield

This is an even longer-term change. Death Strike feeling reactive is fun, and one of the things we like about how the DK tanks. Death Striking after a big hit can heal you more than Death Striking before a big hit, so you should ideally pay attention to what the boss is doing instead of just mashing buttons as soon as the runes come up. When you heal a novice DK, you may just notice they take a lot of damage. When you get in sync with a talented DK, you come to know when they are going to Death Strike and recover from big hits. However, sometimes inevitably the tank is going to hit DS too soon and not have it available a second later. Our idea is to somehow turn Blood Shield into more of a pool that you actively try to build and maintain. A system where you’re able to add to a pool of absorption would provide more granularity, which in turn would be more forgiving of errors or streaks of bad luck.

There you have it. When we're ready for the 4.3 PTR, you’ll hopefully see some of these DK changes in place. The blog we wrote that dove into our thought process for the 4.2 patch notes ended up being the most positively received blog that the class team has ever done, so we’ll definitely do one of those again for 4.3. As I mentioned, more active mitigation will probably wait for farther in the future. We might talk about how we decide on when a change is more appropriate for a hotfix, patch, or full expansion in the next developer blog. While it might be short on upcoming class changes, hopefully it will still prove interesting to some of you.

Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft and he probably listens to your podcast.
by Published on 2011-08-30 07:20 PM

Update - Added today's blue posts, not much happening on the WoW side but hopefully things will get better now that september is here and 4.2.2 is live!

Patch 4.2.2 Official Notes
As I mentioned earlier this week, Patch 4.2.2 is now live and Blizzard posted the final version of the patch notes on the official site. This is mostly a hotfix consolidation patch without any game balance changes, see the datamined changes for details.

Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm patch 4.2.2 is now available on all realms! Below you'll find the official patch notes.

Notes for all World of Warcraft patches can be found here.

Dungeons & Raids
  • The visibility of Ragnaros' Dreadflame ability has been increased.
  • The size of Ragnaros' hit box during the final phase of the Heroic encounter has been increased.

User Interface
  • Raid Frames should now remember whether they were shown or hidden upon subsequent logins

  • Players using multiple accounts should now be available to be invited to a Real ID Party.
  • Updating a raid roster while in combat should no longer cause a client crash.
  • Attempts to purchase Arena Season 10 items should no longer sometimes cause a client crash. (Korea Only)

Blue Posts
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
Battleground Win Ratios
I'll bring it up in our next developer meeting, but in all likelihood, since that could potentially dramatically impact queue times for random Battlegrounds, it probably won't fly.

[...] I said that there would be a greater emphasis on creating new Battlegrounds on the future. I should note that we're slowly working toward new technology to make the creation and modification of battlegrounds something we can do more readily too.

I also might have made it sound like the older Battlegrounds will never change again. That's not what I meant to get across. We've redone AV several times throughout the years, and it may see more changes in the future. I just wanted to note that the emphasis is going to be shifted a bit, that's all. (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Trading Card Game Art Gallery Update
The Trading Card game art gallery has been updated with ten new pieces.

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