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by Published on 2022-01-18 10:19 PM

Microsoft To Buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 Billion

Blizzard on Tier Set Design for Patch 9.2
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Hey! These are all really good questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them in a way that’s hopefully transparent enough to provide some insight and not so vague as to be frustrating. A few disclaimers & some context before I start to set the stage: I was only personally responsible for a fraction of the set bonus / acquisition initiative (Rogue/DK/Part of Warlock w/ Frozzo), so I’m going to try to center on my experiences to open the door for my other teammates to engage with their own perspectives on this.

’What does the team feel the ultimate goal of a tier set is?'

Approaching Tier Sets or Class Sets was interesting because there’s so much history associated with them that caused a lot of perception & expectation for us to manage heading into the project - namely, how do we make good on those implicit promises without players feeling let down by their return without creating unrealistic design goals for ourselves to stack up against. This whole post is gonna get real philosophical btw, so sorry/you’re welcome lmao.

Tier Sets have always been powerful upgrades to your character, but the idea that they’ve significantly changed your gameplay or enhanced your fantasy is more of a modern idea as far as WoW’s lifetime is concerned. Even going back to the Wrath & Cataclysm eras, the design of some Tier Sets were clearly adhering to a different expectation than players have today. It’s absolutely true that some instances of raw stats additions like resource regeneration functionally changed the rotations for some classes (you got to use certain spells at different frequencies), but for the most part they were just flat upgrades that didn’t interact with your character, and in many cases they weren’t even unique (I want to say even as far back as Mists/WoD it was common for some classes or role types to share a functionally similar 2-piece or 4-piece bonus).

Even among those expansions though, it was common for a few Set Bonuses to rise to the top of the conversation. As a Frost DK ‘main’ I can say Nighthold (big surprise) made the biggest impact on me, but every class/spec has a few defining memories of a design that were so cool they made their entire patch better as a result - some even ended up as baseline, talents, or riffed on/referenced in Legendaries, Conduits, etc down the line. Our goal with 9.2 was to try and make Sets that evoked those responses as much as possible. So, that said, a broad summary of our goals were that for 9.2, Set Bonuses had to do any (or if possible all) of the following:

a. meaningfully change your spec’s rotation
b. enhance your spec’s core fantasy, or give other elements of that fantasy the space to shine
c. enhance a spec’s mechanical identity (or ‘niche’)
d. (secret bonus goal - as these sets do not exist in a vacuum, introduce bonuses that work well with the metagame systems present so they feel intuitive and synergistic rather than disruptive and obtuse. This one’s obviously hard to get perfect but it’s still a goal.)

I’m not quoting an exact document here, and not everyone’s going to agree on what these mean exactly, so I’ll dive a little deeper on these further below. However, the ultimate goal is that by adhering to these guidelines, we have a greater chance now (and in future tier sets) to make more of those lasting gameplay memories that people tell stories about tiers and expansions later. And, as a little treat to us, we get to experiment and learn more about what players like and don’t in ways that don’t necessitate a full-scale class rework or update that players might sometimes expect alongside larger or more significant updates.

How are Tier Set bonuses chosen?

Lots and lots of iteration, with those above goals as our sort of guiding star. For us, we chose/assigned classes based on comfort & generally speaking who was most passionate about which ideas. From there, we’d each just show off our ideas, give and take feedback on the designs, and tweak them until we liked them enough to show off in one big blast, like we did back in November PTR (I think? time is fake). I think for 36 bonuses our team had a pretty good reception generally speaking, which made me happy to see knowing how much work was put into the whole package.

For Frost DK I personally wanted to see Glacial Advance, a talent that’s never really seen significant play due to the opportunity cost of its talent row, tapped into via a different activator. The Assassination bonus envisions a slightly repackaged version of their Exsanguination talent, that similarly doesn’t see a lot of use, but is powerful in certain circumstances. There’s a number of these types of bonuses that try to capitalize or expand the sort of design space for certain specs, riffing off of talents or old effects that didn’t work for various reasons, but have a new shot at life in a Tier Set.

Speaking of Frost, let’s also expand that point about mechanical identity or niches - Death Knight’s DPS specs in particular often don’t feel different enough from one another, leading to even a slight edge in one being stronger in a current patch leading to a massive shift of spec swapping because they’re pretty similar in output. One goal for 9.2’s DK sets was to push these niches even further, with Frost having more consistent AoE/Cleave presence, where Unholy having even more strength when it came to heavy movement + execute, something that’s made it generally a safer Raiding spec this expansion thus far.

Players might look at some of the problems I just mentioned with DK’s and say ‘why not just rework them’ or some of the talents mentioned, but it’s here that I personally see how important Tier Sets can be with regards to the experimentation I brought up earlier: Frost as a cooldown-based burst cleave spec vs Unholy as a single target execute spec is only one example of how these classes could be tuned or developed further in the future, and aren’t too far from how they’re being used right now, so a Tier Set that pushes that dichotomy further has real value. For instance, the original version of the Unholy bonus veered far too heavily into pure Execute, which players quickly pushed back against - but a mixed version that’s more integrated into their ‘Undead Commander’ fantasy seems to have gone over better.

Bonuses like these not only let us test the waters to see what you like and don’t like, but also open the floor to give sets texture against one another as we move forward - a bonus that was heavily interacting with X or Y might focus on a completely different part of the spec in the future, which really taps into the depth of our combat and classes over time.

I could probably be here for hours talking about how cool I personally find the sets or how they achieve their goals, but I’ll probably cut this part of the post short. My last comment is that it’s also important to have a diversity of bonuses too. That naturally comes with having different designers playing off each other with their own styles, but it’s important to note that something that may not work for you personally (a crunchy numbers-focused bonus that gives you a clear mechanical output, or higher-fantasy stuff like some of Warlock’s creating new/additional demons) absolutely may work for others, so we’re really aiming to create solid legwork for future set bonuses and designers to give a great variety of experiences over time - which multiplied again by the raw amount of bonuses and classes, is certainly no easy task.

As for your other questions, let me try and answer those in a more condensed way (I did warn you)

How strong should a tier set be?

This one’s generally pretty hard to answer, which I get isn’t super satisfying - but the short answer would be that they should feel similar to Legendaries in terms of power budget. There’s naturally going to be outliers tier by tier, but also there isn’t a ‘magic number’ to reach that is a one-size-fits-all response. I don’t want to create the expectation that it’s like ‘surprise, it’s always X%!’ because we want to retain room to try different things in the future that also take into account other environmental factors to the game’s current systems, but yeah. a TLDR would be ‘it depends’ or ‘they should be in relative balance with one another’, but we’re always aiming for a result that feels more flexible and allows for our colleagues across other teams to tune stuff appropriately around it.

How is acquisition determined?

Another one that’s hard to say definitely - many of us weren’t at blizzard or working on WoW when the old Tier Sets were around, and the game’s changed since then as well, which is why we invested in making Tier Sets this time feel really integrated to the overall endgame experience - that is to say, obtainable the Great Vault (which also didn’t exist then) and from non-raiding activities. This one’s gonna come off as vague, but that’s because honestly we’re trying a lot of new things that weren’t true of previous Tier Sets, so to say definitively one way or the other might end up being a broken promise. That said, it feels right to us that something that’s been kind of iconic for WoW’s endgame is achievable by anyone who plays, even players who join late or swap classes mid-tier, which is the big goal around the Creation Catalyst.

There’ll be more information on that specifically Soon, so I won’t go too deeply into it here, but we recognized that if players heard Tier Sets were back, and rushed to play 9.2 and found it was impossible to get them because they couldn’t find a raiding guild or something, that might lead to a negative experience even if that’s similar to how they worked before. So, TLDR - trying stuff out, looking forward to continuing to try stuff out in the future.

Are active effect Tier Sets ever considered?

Lastly - not really? Actives have their place in WoW (like on some trinkets or special weapons), but often come with trade-offs for us design-wise that don’t currently feel right for Tier Sets. For example, they tend to be harder to use for the average player, but incredibly potent as skill level increases due to compressing/overlapping their effects with certain other buff windows for multiplicative effect. On the other hand, a lot of our ‘passives’ tend to be ‘active’ in the sense that you’ll need to perform specific gameplay actions to get the benefit (like pressing Pistol Shot more, or consuming a proc that you build up over time), which tend to work out better with the flow of WoW’s combat and be generally easier to tune.

I don’t want to give the impression that we’d never try actives on a Tier Set though, just that there’s enough added complexity with Actives that you’d expect it to have to be a pretty awesome theme or special situation to be worth the costs or barriers associated. TL;DR - they weren’t in the conversation for 9.2, have things running against them, but could totally be in the conversation for future sets depending on the right environment + reasons!

I know this was a lot! but I really appreciate your questions, and hope this answers them in a way that hopefully yields the insight you were hoping.
by Published on 2022-01-18 01:56 PM

Microsoft To Buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 Billion
In quite the surprise this morning, Microsoft has announced it is set to purchase Activision Blizzard for 68.7 billion dollars. According to Reuters, Bobby Kotick will stay on as CEO. For more information, check out the article below.

UPDATE - While several articles have claimed that Bobby Kotick will remain CEO, the quote from Microsoft is not entirely certain that Blizzard will answer to him once the deal is final.







Originally Posted by MMO-Champion
Welcoming the Incredible Teams and Legendary Franchises of Activision Blizzard to Microsoft Gaming

Creators of Call of Duty, Warcraft, Candy Crush, Tony Hawk, Diablo, Overwatch, Spyro, Hearthstone, Guitar Hero, Crash Bandicoot, StarCraft and more join Team Xbox

As a team, we are on a mission to extend the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet. We all know that gaming is the most vibrant and dynamic form of entertainment worldwide and we’ve experienced the power of social connection and friendship that gaming makes possible.

As we pursue that mission, it is incredibly exciting to announce that Microsoft has agreed to acquire Activision Blizzard.

Over many decades, the studios and teams that make up Activision Blizzard have earned vast wellsprings of joy and respect from billions of people all over the world. We are incredibly excited to have the chance to work with the amazing, talented, dedicated people across Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment, Beenox, Demonware, Digital Legends, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, King, Major League Gaming, Radical Entertainment, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Toys for Bob, Treyarch and every team across Activision Blizzard.

Until this transaction closes, Activision Blizzard and Microsoft Gaming will continue to operate independently. Once the deal is complete, the Activision Blizzard business will report to me as CEO, Microsoft Gaming.

Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog. We also announced today that Game Pass now has more than 25 million subscribers. As always, we look forward to continuing to add more value and more great games to Game Pass.

The fantastic franchises across Activision Blizzard will also accelerate our plans for Cloud Gaming, allowing more people in more places around the world to participate in the Xbox community using phones, tablets, laptops and other devices you already own. Activision Blizzard games are enjoyed on a variety of platforms and we plan to continue to support those communities moving forward.

As a company, Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players. We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We’re looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard.

Around the world, there is no more exciting venue for fun and connection than video games. And there has never been a better time to play than right now. As we extend the joy and community of gaming to everyone, we look forward to welcoming all of our friends at Activision Blizzard to Microsoft Gaming.
by Published on 2022-01-17 04:09 PM

World of Warcraft Community Council Update
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
With the start of the new year, we wanted to provide an update on the WoW Community Council and the progress we are working toward as we continue to review the over ten thousand applications we’ve received. We are working hard to give all applicants fair consideration as we determine the next wave of invites. Updates specific to this will be shared once things are finalized.

The team has hit the ground running in 2022 with the Eternity’s End PTR. The WoW Community Council’s impact can already be seen as they have helped push along some new conversations on the PTR forums by asking how Shards of Domination will change with the patch along with pushing to know more about the tentative raid testing schedule for the Sepulcher of the First Ones. Additional topics are actively being discussed and posts will be made accordingly whenever details are finalized.

The current activity and releases in WoW Classic have led to a few updates there as well:


We are closely watching what the council members are most actively discussing and there will be more updates to come. We thank you for your patience in the meantime.

Dark Legacy Comics #805 - Let Them Eat Cake
DLC #805 has been released!

by Published on 2022-01-16 10:39 PM

Patch 9.2 Campaign "Secrets of the First Ones"

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4

Patch 9.2 PTR - Main Campaign Chapter 4
Today we are taking a look at chapter 4 in the main campaign of Patch 9.2 Be aware that this could change before release. *SPOILERS AHEAD*

Chapter 4 - Forging a New Plan
  • The chapter begins with Bolvar telling Uther that the risk is too great, to which Uther responds by saying there will be no further treachery. When you investigate, you are shown the Sylvanas cinematic that was released last month in which Uther tries to help Sylvanas wrestle with her own mind.
  • Bolvar then wants you to persuade the Elders of Haven to assist in finding a way to follow the Jailer to the Sepulcher.
  • Two of the elders refuse, but Elder Ara says she will help if you help her first. She says a pilgrimage is in order, and tells you to meet her above Provis Esper.
  • She wants you to collect 3 Progenitor Fragments as clues while also sabotaging devourers that have taken up residence here in the process.
  • With the fragments in hand you set out for Pilgrim's Grace, a sacred site for the Enlightened nearby. The elders there should be able to discover answers using the fragments.
  • There, the fragments begin to react and you are told to discover what is causing it. The source is a translocator on a nearby hill, but when you try to use the fragments they just fall to the ground. Ara tells you to seek out Elder Nirav in Pilgrim's Grace for help.
  • You find him preoccupied and so seek out another named Faruu. He recognizes the fragments as part of a translocator key. From what they have surmised, these channel the energy that flows from the Creation Catalyst to the Forge, but he doubts it can function with the Forge in its current state.
  • Next you talk to Drim, who tells you that the one who can best solve this puzzle is Feroz, but he is missing.
  • Ara says that many pilgrims who ventured to the Catalyst Wards have not returned, which includes Feroz. It is where a lot of the First Ones' newest creations roam. She sends a messenger to Haven to tell them what we have learned. In the meantime, she wants you to meet her outside the Catalyst Wards to try and find the missing pilgrims.
  • When you arrive, Ara has already found Feroz, but he says the others are trapped inside. The Cultivator there have gone mad and started slaying the pilgrims. You are told to kill it while rescuing the others.
  • Next, you head up towards the actual Creation Catalyst to find the Venthyr forces engaged with the enraged plants there. General Draven says he cannot get close to the tower as it is overloaded with excess Progenitor energy. You are tasked with discharging it while dealing with the crazy plants.
  • With the tasks complete, Nadjia suggests we craft a strategy, to which Draven says the only strategy is for him to go first. He flies off which initiates a cutscene where the nearby automa activate and shoot him out of the sky, causing you to have to stage a rescue.
  • Feroz suggests fighting fire with fire, and hands you a potion he concocted from creation energy. You drink it and grow in size while sprouting thorns and turning green. You also get the ability to hurl creation energy at your targets. You easily dispatch the angry automa with this newfound power.
  • Draven makes it out of harms way and then ferries you up to the tower to activate it and re-forge the key. To do so you must complete a mini game in which you press the correct symbols that appear above the obelisk.
  • With key in hand you return to the translocator at Pilgrim's Grace to find Bolvar and the others have gathered with Sylvanas. Sylvanas says without the means to resist the Jailer's domination, we have no chance against him. She says Anduin might be the key if we can save him, but Jaina angrily interrupts, frustrated that Sylvanas is speaking of freeing him after all she has done. Uther calms her down by saying that she may not trust Sylvanas, but she can trust him. With the fight averted, we prepare to enter the Sepulcher and save Anduin.

by Published on 2022-01-15 07:03 PM

Patch 9.1.5 Encrypted Items - Mount, Pet, Wearables
Patch 9.1.5 added some new files that may be the next expansion's Deluxe Edition rewards.

Spoilers below

  • The files are all encrypted, but contain a mount, pet, and one or more wearable items.
  • There are one or more transmog items in one set that are encrypted.
  • There are several encrypted references to the in-game shop UI. Shadowlands Deluxe Edition rewards also had several special shop UI elements, much more than just a shop mount or pet.
  • There are copies of 5 textures used in the "9fx_drakemountemerald_buff" spell effect, which may be connected to the encrypted mount. This spell effect was added in Patch 9.2.
  • The mount rewarded by a Deluxe Edition is usually tied in with the expansion theme.
  • One of the encrypted items added in a Patch 9.1.5 build was removed in Patch 9.2 and encrypted with a new key, meaning it may be released separately.
  • One of the models shares 34 animations (emotes, sitting, fishing) with the Vulpera male.
  • Shadowlands Collector's Edition rewards (mount, pet, items) were encrypted with one key and added in Patch 8.2.5, similar to how these are bundled.

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