Aftermath of Blizzcon 2011

Blizzcon 2011 is over and it’s another year where I regret only being able to watch it online and not having the money to go there myself to experience the sights and sounds.. though preferably not the smell.

The announcement of playable Pandaren themselves weren’t really an exciting prospect for me, but seeing their animations during the amazing art panel warmed me right over. I still find the culture centered around brews pretty boring, after all, we just had Brewfest and have a race dedicated to drinking – nothing new, but I can’t wait to do some Tai Chi on my Pandaren.

I also like the idea of the Monk class, specifically the healing designed around the enemy rather than the GUI seems something that will make healing more interactive rather than staring at bars. Having no autoattack seems strange but I can’t wait to try it out since I tend to be a bit of a key masher anyway. And as for tanking, I have been a warrior since Vanilla and have played three out of the four tanking classes at max level during Wrath and Cataclysm, and I enjoy the responsibility of the role. So despite the fact I don’t like levelling much I may end up biting the bullet and take a Pandaren Monk from 1-90 at some point in the next year or two. The fact that I will have access to all three roles and therefore have low queue times and don’t have to quest at all makes this a definite possibility.

As for the lack of a ‘big bad’ and other complaints about Pandaria, bear in mind that we lost Abyssal Maw because it didn’t fit in with the Cataclysm storyline about Deathwing, so sometimes having an antagonist like that limits what developers can bring out. Pandaria is a ‘filler’ expansion, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a stopover on the way to Argus, Emerald Dream, Vashjir and Sargeras himself. But that’s not to say that it is worthless, at the very least it’ll provide a nice Nagrand-style of lush grasslands to explore for a while. And while I don’t really get the hate on Pandaren, I do find this interview on how Samwise got the idea for Pandaren pretty funny.

Other stuff from Blizzcon that’s cool: Pokemon and everything to do with it, helps that I really like collecting pets. More in-depth specializations and talents as that means I will get Silence without needing to sacrifice DPS talent points to take utility. Similarly related, I do like the Shadow Orbs being less RNG and more like a Holy Power secondary resource. PVE Scenarios seem interesting but I’m slightly worried that by diversing the player pool among various ways to earn valor it might lead to longer queue times overall. Challenge mode dungeons will be great – it’s something to do after completing achievements. Speaking of achievements, I hope account-wide achievements will solve problems related to heirlooms not being cross server, among many other things.

Not quite sure about questing giving benefits to running dungeons though. Don’t most people queue for dungeons while questing, instead of afterwards? I hope the lack of a set-in-stone PVP zone means they plan to update Wintergrasp and Tol Barad in some fashion, though that would be a wild possibility. I’m also skeptical about their lack of announcements over new player models. In the end there was a blue post about the fact that they’re working on it, which is all fine and dandy, but they could’ve shown some concept art. Personally I don’t really want Kalecgos type models – even they’re starting to get stale. If they have avoided implementing this for so long, I hope by the time they do add it in, they’re something that competes with Pandarens. An all round new skeleton if possible, not just scaled up textures and a bit more polygons.

Finally, the WoW Annual Pass. It is a desperate way for Blizzard to hang onto subscriber numbers in a year where several big budget MMOs are coming out, and probably won’t be as popular as I initially thought it was because not everyone likes Diablo, and not everyone likes World of Warcraft to subscribe to it for one year. I tend to take breaks from the game a lot, most recently a few months into Cataclysm til just over a month ago. With that said, I may end up taking up the offer because I don’t really intend to buy Diablo 3 Collector’s Edition, and I -really- want to play in the MoP beta to try out the Monk as soon as possible. It’s a decision I’ll surely regret in the long run but for the time being I’m considering taking it.

And that’s that. Another end to Blizzcon, one of the best in years. Next year with Diablo 3 released and the WoW and SC2 expansions imminent, they may end up announcing their MMO, Titan. With four IPs, those two days will be looking a lot more crowded.

Feb 28th 4.1 Update

Another day, another PTR update. The latest one brings about some interesting changes, such as Death Knights getting their battle resurrection whilst Warlocks still rely on the power of Nostradamus (Why did I never name my warlock this?) to use theirs. I don’t really have a problem with Death Knights getting that functionality since anything that breaks Druid’s last powerful monopoly is great, and it piggybacks on an existing skill, so it’s not too far out of the blue.

For priests, shadow in particular, the only notable change is the fact we don’t have to recast Inner Fire/Focus since like Vampiric Embrace it is more like a toggle now. It’s strange that they just didn’t include it with 4.0.6, but at least they are doing it.

A slightly controversial change is the reduction in gold for soloing old raid bosses, obviously done to deter people from using up valuable instance space or encouraging them to be more social. I don’t believe inflation to be the primary reason since they already materialise gold as a guild perk and Random LFD rewards much more when we compare time spent.

I am one of those players who doesn’t really play WoW much outside the guild raiding, and I assume Blizzard is wanting more of those people either by forcibly segregating content so you can’t do both 10 and 25 full runs or removing incentives from farming solo raid content. But its beginning to feel a bit like Vanilla in that there isn’t a lot of things to do when you’re not raiding. Archeology might as well be another reputation grind in how meaningless and boring it is. However unlike Vanilla we are starting to get competition from MMOs that actually somewhat decent and reaching on WoW’s level. Rift was a game I felt would be a game I would be playing if I didn’t play WoW already, and the only thing stopping me from doing so is my guild. I’m sure many others have the same feeling.

Will 4.1 be able to keep the attention of those who aren’t in a raiding guild? The hints of a mount grind in ZG/ZA seem like Blizzard are attempting to try and do so. But luckily with the focus of Firelands in progression raiding we might begin to see more raiding PUGs for current dungeons, much like towards the end of Wrath when 25man Trial of the Crusader was still being ran.

Shared Topic: Future Cataclysm content patches

This week’s Blog Azeroth Shared Topic is about future Cataclysm content patches. Here’s the skinny:

Although players are still busy digging through all of the Cataclysm raid and heroic content, some are already starting to wonder what we’ll see added to the game in the 4.1 patch and beyond. While we have some hints, what do you expect to see added over the life of the expansion? How many patches? How many new dungeons? What will happen to your favorite professions? And how will the expansion’s storyline continue to unfold — and which loose ends will be wrapped up by the time the 5.0 patch is released?

Well, the facts currently known is that there will probably be three major content patches, 4.1 due around April/May bringing us Ragnaros and ZG/ZA instances. Who would’ve thought we would be looking forward to raiding old instances for new loot this time last year? Perhaps we should’ve seen it earlier when they retrofitted Naxxramas and Onyxia for the current content tier, but I think if we’re going to bring back old content now isn’t too bad a time to do it, as long as the time saved is spent on improving the quality of future patches and not say, Titan.

From the 4.1 leaks as well as Blizzcon’s 2010 D&R panel, we know there will be an event where mobs from the elemental plane of fire invade Hyjal, leading to a new daily quest hub in Firelands. There will be seven bosses and the whole place takes place in a floating land mass similar to Oculus. As well as Zul’Aman/Gurub, Abyssal Maw will be the third 5man coming in 4.1, taking place in Vashjir. It comes with 4 bosses and it will feel different from TotT due to the whole place taking place outside.

4.2 brings us War of the Ancients, a new Caverns of Time raid. With 4.1 taking over our summer, 4.2 will probably come out around Blizzcon 2011, which is on October 21-22. There I see either Titan or Starcraft 2′s expansion being officially announced, and even possibly WoW’s 4th Expansion. After all, Diablo due next year, and Blizzard don’t have a lot of IPs up their sleeve. If it is the expansion then perhaps it will be the Emerald Dream, and the whole naturey flowerey tone will get us PUMPED!!! for War of the Ancients.

War of the Ancients role in Cataclysm’s story is the Demon Soul, the process which became the pivotal turning point from Neltharion into Deathwing. Perhaps Blizzard’s enhanced maps feature will be released around this time, providing boss detail in dungeon maps. Maybe there will be a bunch of dungeons coming with this patch to supplement the raid, such as another Twilight’s Hammer based dungeon in Deepholme.

The big question by now is will we see changes to how guild EXP will work? Blizzard want people to be casual and flexible with how they raid but current daily GEXP caps are incompatible with weekly lockouts. You risk guilds capping out very fast and wasting GEXP one day and vice versa for the rest of the days you’re not raiding. At this point most larger guilds will be level capped, so will Blizzard fix it for the small guilds?

4.3 will feature Cataclysm’s last foe, Deathwing. Perhaps there will be an Onyxia type of raid before 4.3 to tide us over, maybe something as simple as a new Tol Barad boss, but this content patch will probably come out February or so. Blizzard have never been the type to release things around the holiday season, after all.

Whilst the Twilight’s Hammer seem to be pretty much everywhere in Cataclysm, the base of the black dragons is mostly in Twilight Highlands. It is where the duel between Alexstrasza and Deathwing takes place, and it is said that both were pretty wounded from the ordeal. So perhaps Deathwing will find solace in nearby Grim Batol, and look after the remaining clutches of his Twilight brood. Also within his lair will be more servants of the Old God, hinted in the Grim Batol dungeon. And more probably Twilight’s Hammer cultists. Can’t get enough of those guys!

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