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by Published on 2014-09-17 05:04 PM

Update: A new beta build is on the way!

Engineer’s Workshop: Engine Evolution in Warlords of Draenor
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

Welcome to the first in an ongoing series of programming- and engineering-focused articles that, over time, will cover some of the technical nuts and bolts that go into creating and running World of Warcraft.

Before we kick this first one off, a quick warning: What follows is a fairly technical explanation for a graphical-setting change related to anti-aliasing. Most of you probably won’t notice any difference at all—this is primarily for those who tend to tinker with their hardware and graphical settings.

In short, we’re taking strides to improve the performance of World of Warcraft, while also ensuring there’s plenty of potential to further increase graphical fidelity and enhance our support of high-end CPUs and graphics hardware.

For Warlords of Draenor, we made a decision to remove Multisample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) and instead include a new anti-aliasing technology called Conservative Morphological Anti-Aliasing (CMAA). This change is going to allow us to bring some overdue technological advancements to World of Warcraft over the course of the next few years—we’re thinking long-term with this change.

One reason MSAA remained viable for WoW over the past decade was that the GPU had the time and resources to handle it. WoW has been a CPU-bound game for much of its lifetime, but during the Warlords development cycle, we endeavored to change that. A lot of that work involved analyzing the flow of data through our code and making sure we work on only what we need to for any given frame. One example is we now variably reduce the number of bones that need to be animated based on proximity and view (sometimes called level of detail, or LOD), a primary consumer of CPU time. We’ve also added a job system that the engine uses to task out animation and scene management in ways we had prototyped in Patch 5.4, but are expanding in Warlords.

The outcome of all of this is that more than ever before, World of Warcraft relies heavily on a GPU that previously was largely free to handle things like MSAA. We explored a number of options to reconcile this increased GPU demand with the game’s anti-aliasing needs, and ultimately decided to embrace CMAA as our anti-aliasing technology for Warlords of Draenor. As with anything that can potentially change the look of the game, we vetted removing MSAA through our engineering and art teams before coming to the conclusion to swap it for CMAA. CMAA provides solid anti-aliasing at a fraction of the cost in memory and performance. It also integrates well with technologies we have planned for the future, and helps us bring those to the game sooner. We also support FXAA (Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing), an even lighter-weight solution, as an option for our players using DirectX 9.

CMAA fulfills our goals of providing high-quality anti-aliasing at reduced performance cost, while giving us the extra headroom we need to further improve the graphical fidelity of the game. We don’t have to make any architectural concessions within the engine for CMAA to work, and for Warlords of Draenor we’ve already been able to implement new graphical features like target outlining, soft particles, a new shadowing technique, and refraction—and more graphical features are on the horizon for future patches and expansions.

For the launch of Warlords of Draenor, CMAA is the top-tier graphical setting available, but after release we’ll be exploring more options for players with high-performance graphics cards—and if they provide quality while still fitting into our future technology plans, we’ll take a serious look at adding them to the game.

The graphical future of World of Warcraft is a bright one, and the changes we’ve made during the development of Warlords of Draenor have laid the groundwork for us to continue making the game look better and better far into the future.

Thanks for reading!
by Published on 2014-09-17 12:50 AM

Legendary Cloak Questline Ending, Black Prince Buff, Heirloom Vendor Vacation

Blizzcon 2014 Murloc Pet
As you may have guessed from the icon, this year's Blizzcon pet appears to be Grommloc.



Warlords of Draenor Facial Customization: Ready for Your Close-Up
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)

With the availability of the updated character models and animations that are being added with Warlords of Draenor, we’ve seen a question pop up among the community: “Will I be able to customize my face?” The simple answer is “yes.”

We’re pleased to announce that the in-game Barber Shop will be able to provide additional facial-customization options for your character once these art updates are made available. For just a little gold, your character will be ready for any occasion and look their very best for any screenshot.
by Published on 2014-09-16 05:06 PM

Legendary Cloak Quest Last Chance - Black Prince Buff Extended
It looks like you won't need the cloak for Ordos anymore either!
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
As your journey takes you from Pandaria to Draenor, we wanted to extend one last opportunity to obtain your Legendary Cloak—and share some important updates related to this iconic item.

Legendary Cloak Changes: Once More unto the Breach
As a part of the transition from Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor, we’ll be making some changes to the Legendary Cloak quest line and ultimately closing it out as players head into the new expansion. Once the quest is fully closed, the item will no longer be attainable, and the cloak will become a symbol of the great deeds you’ve accomplished in Mists of Pandaria.

With the release of the pre-expansion patch (6.0.2), players who are not already on the journey through this quest line will no longer be able to begin it. We will also be removing the Test of Valor step with patch 6.0.2 as a part of our transition from using Valor as a currency.

Once Warlords of Draenor launches on November 13, the Legendary Cloak quest line will be gone entirely—the quests and the cloak will no longer be obtainable, and any related in-progress quests will be cleared from your log.

But when one door closes, another door opens. In Warlords of Draenor, players will have the opportunity to earn a new Legendary item available exclusively in the new expansion: Khadgar’s Band of the Archmage.

The Gaze of the Black Prince: One Last Look
If you haven’t yet earned your Legendary Cloak, you still have one final opportunity to make accelerated progress on your quest. Rather than end the Gaze of the Black Prince buff on Tuesday, September 16 (as previously announced), the buff will remain active until the release of the Warlords of Draenor pre-patch (6.0.2). This buff increases the reputation gained with the Black Prince by 100%. It also increases the chance of obtaining items from his foes needed as a part of the Legendary Cloak quest line, including Secrets of the Empire, Sigil of Wisdom, Sigil of Power, and Titan Runestones.

Good luck on your quest, but remember that your voyage doesn’t end here. Soon, you’ll be setting your sights on the new Legendary item, Khadgar’s Band of the Archmage, in Warlords of Draenor.

Heirloom Vendor Change in Patch 6.0.2
Heirlooms in the Warlords of Draenor beta currently have some gold prices associated with them, but the prices may not be final. You will still be able to get the shields and offhands from the Darkmoon Faire.
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
With the upcoming release of Patch 6.0.2, we’ll be sending the vendors who sell Heirlooms for Justice Points on a nice vacation.

As you might already be aware, both Justice and Valor Points are being removed as currencies from the game in 6.0.2. As we started to work on new ways to buy Heirlooms, we found that we were setting their value up for a rollercoaster ride. That's because we’re also working on a larger Heirloom system for a future patch, and we don’t want to introduce an interim pricing scheme that could temporarily devalue Heirlooms or limit how we’d be able to give them out in the future. Rather than make players face buyer’s remorse and hand-wringing decisions about when to buy, we’re going to give the Justice Heirloom vendors some time off while we work on improving the system as a whole.

One thing to note is that this change only affects vendors that sell Heirlooms for Justice. PvE Heirlooms will still remain available at the Darkmoon Faire and the Trial of the Crusader, and PvP Heirlooms will continue to be available for Honor.
by Published on 2014-09-15 05:03 PM

Patch 6.0 Reminders, Warlords of Draenor Healing, Blue Tweets, DLC #457

Release the Names! Character Name Reclamation Coming
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
With the upcoming Warlords of Draenor pre-patch (6.0.2), we will be releasing sidelined characters’ names back into the wild.

Any characters that have not logged into the game since November 13, 2008 will have their names freed up, making them available to anyone creating a new character or using the paid Character Name Change service.

How Do I Preserve My Names?
You will need to log in to World of Warcraft and enter the game using each character whose name you wish to retain before patch 6.0.2 goes live. While it is possible no one will claim your recently released name and you might be able to snag it again, it is probably not worth the risk if you want to keep your names intact long-term.

Our goal with this great name liberation is to make sure new and returning players have a large and varied pool of names available to choose from—so log in now if you wish preserve your unused characters’ names for your journey intro Draenor.
by Published on 2014-09-14 11:22 PM

The Waypoint, Developer Comments on Major Issues, Uber Diablo and Maghda Bug, INVIS Versus GR 50

This Week in Hearthstone: News, Popular Decks, Videos; Versus Series, Community Spotlight: Deathknight Card Backs

Skin Spotlight: Master Tychus

Warlords of Draenor - Patch 6.0 Reminders
With a little over a month to go before Patch 6.0, it is time to take a look at the things you may want to do before it is too late. Our friends over at OpenRaid have lots of groups to help you cross things off of your list.

Challenge Modes
All of the challenge mode achievements are becoming Legacy and Feat of Strength achievements, with all of the rewards other than the armor sets and teleport spells becoming account wide.

  • Bronze - The Undaunted title will be unobtainable and account-wide.
  • Silver - The mounts will be unobtainable and account-wide. If you have at least one of the mounts, all four of the mounts will be unlocked.
  • Gold - The transmog armor sets and teleport spells will be unobtainable and remain character specific. The Gold guild achievement that rewards a pet will be unobtainable.



Siege of Orgrimmar
Along with the difficulty changes coming in Patch 6.0, some rewards are also going away.

  • The Ahead of the Curve 10 and 25 achievements for killing Normal Garrosh will no longer be obtainable. These reward the Kor'kron War Wolf mount.
  • The Cutting Edge 10 and 25 achievements for killing Heroic Garrosh will also no longer be obtainable. These achievement have no reward.
  • The Kor'kron Juggernaut mount that drops from Heroic Garrosh isn't going away, but after Warlords is live it will be a rare drop instead of guaranteed.
  • If you are still trying for some Siege of Orgrimmar loot, the Warforged Seal will no longer have a weekly cap.



Heirlooms
Heirloom items will cost gold instead of Justice Points once Patch 6.0 is live. The prices are currently 500 to 1500 and another 500 to 1000 to upgrade them. Also keep in mind that the Heirlooms collection tab was delayed.



Achievements


Misc


Warlords of Draenor Healing
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Our target for both healing and dungeon tuning is something of a middle ground between Mists and Cataclysm. It's important to note that healer balance is not yet final, and damage output in our dungeons (especially pure melee damage on tanks, in light of recent mitigation changes) is still being adjusted. So in terms of the raw numbers, we're not quite there yet. The most helpful thing testers can provide is actionable feedback with regard to specific encounters (also specifying difficulty and which spec you were playing). We're listening and making changes on a daily basis.

That said, I'd like to help clarify our goals with respect to both healer gameplay and dungeon tuning. Healing in Mists, especially in raids and especially later in the expansion, suffered from three major problems: 1) the power of healing relative to player health pools meant that injured players could be topped off almost instantly; 2) mana became increasingly irrelevant as a constraint, with many healers actively reforging out of Spirit; and 3) "smart heals" accounted for a very large portion of healing done, meaning that for some healers their targeting decisions were almost meaningless.

Now, some might be thinking, "so you're saying healers were really strong - that sounds great to me!" The problem is that when healing was in that state, the only way we could kill someone in a raid or dungeon was with massive damage, fatal if the healer didn't react instantly; it led to sudden spike deaths, punished latency, and made healing more like whack-a-mole and less like a series of tactical decisions. And in raids, as soon as maximizing throughput becomes all that matters, healing risks turning into a rotation performed irrespective of the encounter or the incoming damage.

Our goal is not to make healing more difficult. Note that nowhere in the above did I say that a problem with Mists healing is that it was too "easy." We want to slow down the pace a bit, and for the challenge in healing to lie more in making decisions about spell usage and targeting, and less in twitch-reaction and sustaining a DPS-style rotation. This also means that the cost of a mistake is not a dead player, but rather a more injured one, giving you a chance to fix your error.

In Cataclysm, fresh 85s had very little mana regen, and if they attempted to heal a dungeon the way they'd been accustomed in late Wrath (e.g. lots of Flash Heals), they'd quickly run out of mana. In Warlords, players have significantly higher base regen, and less available Spirit from items, so that you'll start off with a much deeper mana pool than is usually the case as a new max-level healer, while avoiding the problem of mana becoming irrelevant once in endgame epics.

In Cataclysm, nearly your only efficient heal was also your smallest, and it was easy to run yourself out of mana and feel helpless as you watched your group die; in Warlords even if you are running on fumes mana-wise, you can still sustain a steady stream of Greater Heal or Healing Touch or the equivalent. You aren't helpless.

Now, as for dungeon difficulty, one of the challenges in adapting to new dungeons at the start of an expansion has been the contrast between players' habits at the end of the last expansion when they massively outgear every dungeon, and the different approach required when undergeared and running a dungeon for actual loot drops instead of currency. The ability to recklessly pull multiple packs of mobs at once and cleave everything down is something that you earn and grow into as your gear and knowledge of the content increases - that's never been the intended dungeon gameplay when the content was brand new, even for our "easy" dungeons in Wrath or Mists.

Normal dungeons should be pretty easy. Some of them aren't quite there yet. But you should feel confident that you can push the "Dungeon Finder" queue button and land in a random group with a high chance of success. If you don't feel that way about a given Normal dungeon (especially a level-up dungeon), please let us know why not. We have a solid chunk of level 100 Normal dungeon content that everyone should be able to jump into when they hit max level, and Normal dungeon loot will be sufficient to qualify you for Highmaul LFR when that unlocks.

Heroic dungeons will be somewhat more challenging, which is the reason for the Silver Proving Grounds requirement to random-queue for them. We're not looking to recreate Heroic Stonecore or Grim Batol or The Arcatraz, but there's a middle ground where mechanics can still matter.

Finally, it's also worth noting that in beta, we're scaling players down to pretty much the lowest possible level and item level at which you could be running a given dungeon. Nearly all groups in the live game will be better-equipped, but we need to make sure the content is viable at the minimum threshold.

Blue Tweets
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
Classes
theres a reason that you arent seeing wht the players are.Dont dismiss the input of players just bc we arent devs.
Reconciling player results with internal results is something we have to do constantly. 95% of the time, they... (Celestalon)
...line up. The other 5% of the time, they don't, we investigate why, and solve the problem. The beta process. (Celestalon)

Are dps attunements a hard rule for what should be our best stat? Is another secondary stat 'beating' the attunement stat ok?
Soft rule. Not hard rule. (Celestalon)

I agree. If raid CDs were a problem, why not remove from all DPS (stackable) vs. from tanks (static)?
Simple: It's not feasible to remove *all* raid CDs from DPS, just lessen them. Whereas it *is*... (Celestalon)
...feasible to remove almost all raid CDs from tanks (but still not quite all). (Celestalon)
Do you mean it's impossible to remove almost all CDs from DPS vs tanks or do you mean it's harder to?
Well, nothing's truly impossible. But it'd be much much harder. (Celestalon)

but what about the passive talents? Is it bloat to nerf and make them baseline?
Yes, it still would be. Passives can be bloat too. (Celestalon)

Death Knight (Forums / Skills / WoD Talent Calculator)
Do you think there's any chance that in the future Death Knights will start at level 1? It's weird them being the odd ones out.
Not likely, the experience is intended to be special. Might revisit the hero class concept again at some point. (Muffinus)

Hunter (Forums / Skills / WoD Talent Calculator)
tier 17, 4 piece for survival is the buff going to stack or are we going back to explosive shot weaving? thanks for looking
When it procs, you gain 3sec of the buff. Extends existing buff by 3sec if you already have the buff. (Celestalon)

Will Marksmanship be tuned as a stand-still caster or a mobile dps? Curious since right now it is sort of both.
Somewhere in between. (Celestalon)
Will Marksmanship have a higher DPS than SV and BM when standing still? If not, what's the point?
Slightly, yes. (Celestalon)

PvE
What was the design philosophy for Challenge Modes in WoD? What went behind the decision to exclude sets? http://t.co/1NA9I512w4
The audience for Warlords CM golds probably already has their Mists armor sets. Weapons complement, rather than compete with, that. (WatcherDev)

Reputation / Questing
quests that make that involve critical thinking or memory games are good for the game overall IMO
WoW has flirted with puzzles, but it's not really a puzzle game. We are always experimenting with new mechanics, though! (_DonAdams)
It's tough. Some ppl loved the simon game, others just used an addon or chat to trivialize it. (_DonAdams)
Sometimes our experiments fail and the quest isn't what we hoped. Sometimes we really like it and make more (bombing runs!) (_DonAdams)
A big part of quest design is trying new interactions and mechanics without overwhelming the player and interrupting flow. (_DonAdams)
interrupting what flow? the leveling? you have scenarios now that you're incorporating in the leveling.
By interrupting the flow I mean making you do a quest with new mechanics that you hate. Scenarios tend to be basic combat. (_DonAdams)
new mechanics that you hate? people tend to despise something at first because they're not used to it. Take Vehicle quests e.g.
Vehicles are a good example, they can be great or a hassle depending on several factors. They're high risk/reward. (_DonAdams)
If we keep them simple (1-2 buttons) and make it obvious what you're doing, vehicle quests are usually fine. (_DonAdams)
But most of the time we don't want to teach you complex mechanics for a single quest and never use them again. (_DonAdams)
you could make a puzzle scenario that rewards bonus XP but set aside from the leveling flow (if thats what you mean by that)
The Thunder King's treasure room is a good example of this! Opt-in, good rewards, and very unique gameplay. We liked it. (_DonAdams)

World Events
Can you please give us a bit more insight on new holiday stuff in WoD, is it a facelift like the Cata one (would be really nice)
Lots and lots of new things to purchase/obtain this year, but not a total overhaul. Would like to tackle that eventually though. (Muffinus)
Thanks for a fast response! Is the only new Hallow's End thing the Lich King costume or are there more additions?
And I think 5? New wands? And two new pets, and I'm sure some other stuff I'm forgetting. (Muffinus)

Garrisons
Do followers stationed at garrison buildings count as active? He only mentions missions.
Yes (Muffinus)

Not sure why needs 250g to activate. Just don't let it send another NPC past 20. Why does everything have to cost gold?
It's a pretty low cost, all things considered, the cost needs to be nonzero, what feels right for you? (Muffinus)
I thought there would be something else. Is that the idea, for people to be making their gold from the AH?
Most recipes now require cross - profession resources, so I'd imagine AH trading will be more important. (Muffinus)

How long do work orders take, and are extra work orders intended to just be "do 5 dailies on alt and come back in a week"?
Each will eventually resolve in about a day I believe, letting you queue more so you don't need to log in daily. (Muffinus)

Will the tannery tents be free on retail? Theyre so awesome for RP! Please don't give them a gold cost
I love them! They will have some cost, so you can't have unlimited all the time. What feels fair? (Muffinus)

Any thoughts of maybe allowing us to get the other race guards from the town hall instead of barracks? Feels too mandatory
You can swap your guards, then remove the barracks and get something else and they stay swapped. (Muffinus)

Can this lv3 Gladiator's Sanctum perk (reduce 50% damage when below 35% life) effective in Ashran PVP zone?
It should be, though we'll be looking at feedback closely about this too. (Muffinus)

Dark Legacy Comics #457
DLC #457 takes a look at the state of questing.


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