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Mists of Pandara: Challenge Mode Dungeons
More from MMO-Champion as a review of the preview of Mists of Pandaria information. This time: Challenge Mode Dungeons.

Challenge Mode Dungeons
  • Heroic mode dungeons will not be as difficult as they were in Cataclysm, instead they will be similar to the Wrath of the Lich King level difficulty.
  • Challenge Mode dungeons will require you to complete a dungeon in a certain amount of time to win a medal and other rewards, similar to the Zul'Aman timed run for the bear mount.
  • There are Bronze, Silver, Gold medals that will be earned based on the amount of time taken to complete the dungeon.
  • You gear levels are normalized by reducing your overall item level to a set level so that everyone is on equal gear footing.
  • There will be no way to get better gear and just overpower the challenge.
  • Completing the Challenge on gold will incur a stacking debuff on future attempts: it’ll start with a 5% debuff, but if you manage to finish with a gold medal time on that run you’ll receive a 10% debuff on your next run, and so on.
  • The challenges will reward unique gear for transmogrification and valor points.
  • Other possible rewards include pets, mounts, titles, and achievements depending on your score.
  • A new challenge dungeons UI will be added, allowing you to check your medals, ranking, show what rewards you can unlock, and more.
  • There will be realm wide leaderboards that allow you to compete with your friends, guild, or everyone!
  • Challenge Mode will work only on Pandaria dungeons at the beginning.
  • Challenge Mode dungeons will use the Dungeon Finder tool.
  • It is possible that the system could be expanded to raids in the future.

PTR Patch 4.3.2 Notes
Here's a quick update to the 4.3.2 PTR Patch Notes:
Quote from: MMO-Champion
Player vs. Player
Rated Battleground
  • Hero of the Alliance: Ruthless: New achievement, rewards Hero of the Alliance title.
  • Hero of the Horde: Ruthless: New achievement, rewards Hero of the Horde title.
Encounter
10 Man
  • Sludge Spew: Inflicts 29250 43875 to 30750 46125 Shadow damage to an enemy.
25 Man
  • Sludge Spew: Inflicts 43875 82875 to 46125 87125 Shadow damage to an enemy.
Items
  • [wowhead=item=77979,4,]Vial of Shadows[/wowhead]: Your melee and ranged attacks have a chance to trigger an additional attack for 3568 10706 to 5353 16059 physical damage.
  • [wowhead=item=77207,4,]Vial of Shadows[/wowhead]: Your melee and ranged attacks have a chance to trigger an additional attack for 4028 12084 to 6042 18127 physical damage.
  • [wowhead=item=77999,4,]Vial of Shadows[/wowhead]: Your melee and ranged attacks have a chance to trigger an additional attack for 4546 13640 to 6819 20461 physical damage.

WoW 64-bit Client Update
Some new information about the 64-bit client came out from Blizzard:
Quote from: Blizzard (Source)
A 64-bit client is now available for use with the 4.3.2 PTR. You can download it at the link below, unzip it into your PTR directory, and then run the executable to test it.
  • The 64-bit client is being distributed separately from the PTR as it is not yet supported for use with World of Warcraft.
  • This can only be used with the 4.3.2 PTR, it is not to be used with the live version of the game.
  • The game’s built in voice chat does not currently work in the 64-bit client.
  • [Mac] The 64-bit Mac client does not currently support the in-game movie recording functionality.
  • [Mac] The 64-bit Mac client does not currently support the customized LCD display for the Logitech G15 series of keyboards.
  • [Mac] The 64-bit Mac client is currently not supported on 10.5 systems. You will need 10.6.8 or later for this version.
Build 15201 - PC link, Mac link

If you encounter any issues while using the 64-bit version, please report your findings in the PTR bug report forum (http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/2359401/), and return to using the 32-bit executable.

Blue Posts
Quote from: Blizzard
Other MMORPGs
Unfortunately Blizzard decided that endgame was king when they made the leveling process take no time at all.
That wasn't arbitrary decision, nor did we arrive at it lightly. There are more than a few factors which played into it, but I'll cover one of the really big ones:

People often play MMOs to play alongside their friends and share adventures. That social experience is important, and it can feel a bit lonely when your friends and most of the rest of the playing population is cavorting around at the level cap while you're just starting out.

It's true that some players will create new characters to level up alongside their pals (or invite a new player using the Recruit A Friend service), but all too often a new player will end up on a realm and be expected to level up with relatively little assistance before they can join their friends on their 'end game' adventures. There are now also three expansions worth of new leveling content to experience in addition to the classic quest line which takes players from 1-60. We wanted to make it easier for players to come into the game and enjoy the leveling process, but also join their friends who are already playing on a more reasonable time frame. Another reason that questing seems faster is that we've learned a lot of lessons about quest and zone design flow since the old days - you might notice this when transitioning from Azeroth to Outland now, for example.

The leveling experience is important to us, which is part of the reason we revamped Azeroth for Cataclysm. It can be fun, rich and engaging without taking as much time as it used to. Still, at the end of the day, end game gets so much attention because that's where players spend the majority of their time. We do understand that not everyone enjoys the same types of game play, and we're always looking for ways to expand and improve the end-game experience to make it more engaging for different players.

There is almost no reason what so ever to venture out into the world. That was an error we made with the design of Cataclysm, but getting players invested in the world again is something we're interested in addressing with Mists. (Official Forums)

Rated Battlegrounds VS. The Blues [1/17/12]
We're going to be pushing a new build today so we're going to be postponing this epic battle till next Tuesday. Should hopefully give more of you time to get the build and get set up.

See you then! If you've got a three-day weekend enjoy it! (Official Forums)

Pet Battles
A common type of feedback we get from players about Cataclysm is the observation that after they hit max level, they start to run out of things to do. Of course, this isn't a new problem or an uncommon one in MMOs, but it's definitely something that we think we can improve on. When the game was relatively new to most players, activities like leveling an alt or completing achievements could be all that were needed to entertain and satisfy. But there is a finite amount of entertainment to be gotten from leveling alts. So some players get a lot of joy from running dungeons, or raiding, or participating in organized PvP. Those activities aren't for everyone, but we will continue to add new dungeon/raid/PvP content to the game. We love playing that content ourselves.

Nonetheless, we have big plans to keep introducing completely new things for players to do. Pet battles, Scenarios, and dungeon Challenge Modes are all coming to World of Warcraft. And we want to rekindle the fires of existing features that haven't gotten much love for a while, such as reputation systems, daily quests, world bosses, and yes -- world PvP.

For those who see Pet Battles as a feature that holds little interest, no worries! Like many systems in the game, it's being designed to be optional. Our ultimate goal still remains: When you finish what you do every day or every week, be it raiding or battlegrounds or crafting and playing the auction house, if you want more WoW, there will be a lot of activities for you. (Official Forums)

Linear Questing
There are advantages and disadvantages to linear questlines.

The advantages tend to flow from the effort to build epic stories for players to be a part of. When you put the player into a linear questline, you can more easily incorporate dramatic elements like foreshadowing, plot twists, and a satisfying climax that you know the player is going to be there for.

The disadvantages have been well-covered: If you're isolated into a personal story too much, you lose the sense of being in an open world that is filled with alternative potential adventures. It's more difficult to hop around and partake of the glories of several different zones at the same time, and harder to join up with friends whenever you like. Group quests become less-desirable.

As Dave Kosak and others have said before, we think we may have gone a bit too linear with Cataclysm. That informs one of our big philosophies for Mists of Pandaria: Give players more flexibility to play how they want to. We think that the solution may be to have linear story arcs, but have more of them in each zone, rather than making the whole zone one big story with a beginning, middle, and end. In addition to multiple linear quest lines, there will be smaller (and in some cases, one-off) quest hubs, and some of those hubs may be well off the beaten path.

To make that work, we've got to tweak the orientation of quest achievements. Rather than "vacuum up every single quest in the zone", we're aiming for achievements that reward completing the main story arcs. All in all, players should feel less like their time spent playing in a zone is exactly the same as every other player. (Official Forums)

LFR Issues
The system is not perfect, and we definitely seek to improve it when we can. We are always looking for feedback and ways to improve our features, and feedback from players always helps.

In patch 4.3.2., if multiple identical items drop from the same boss, and a player rolls on all those items, the subsequent rolls from that player will be forfeit if said player wins one of the items. A player will still be able to win the same loot more than once per dungeon though, but only if it drops from two different bosses. (Official Forums)
Fangs of the Father
The Rogue epic daggers have been completed. ????? of Exorsus was the world first to complete these daggers. They are now in possession of both and [wowhead=item=77950,5,]Tiriosh, Nightmare of Ages. Congratulations!

Patch 4.3.2 PTR Notes - Jan 12 Update
Quote from: Blizzard (Source)
Classes: General
Rogue
  • Adrenaline Rush no longer triggers a global cooldown.
Dungeons & Raids
Baradin Hold
  • The roaming Eyes of Occu'thar have been replaced by hateful creatures who serve Alizabal.
Dragon Soul
  • Warmaster Blackhorn
    • The visual warning for Twilight Elites' Blade Rush should be easier to see.
Items
  • Lightning Strike) has been reduced to approximately one-third of previous damage. However, it will now trigger approximately 3 times as often. This is intended to keep overall DPS the same while reducing burst damage, especially in PvP.

Blue Posts
Quote from: Blizzard Entertainment
Other MMORPG Games
"The real game doesn’t start until you’re max level”.
Before I begin, I should clarify that the following post is composed entirely of my own, personal opinions. I think that games in the MMO genre tend to transform at the level cap, mostly because leveling has ended, which heralds a slight change in basic gameplay.

In World of Warcraft, many of the same experiences that are available when leveling up remain available at the level cap (questing, exploring new areas), and you also gain access to new experiences and challenges. The motivations and goals tend to be a bit different and less single minded. Rather than pursuing a new level, and the new abilities and talents that can come with it, instead you might be seeking a powerful item, trying to defeat a more powerful enemy in PvE, or achieving a milestone in the PvP game, among many other goals including completing achievements, finishing collections, capping professions, etc. Gameplay broadens, from the relatively simple road of questing and leveling, into a broad plain of possibilities.

The leveling experience awaits once again with a new character though, and playing a game with a new character class can offer an entirely new gameplay experience, especially if you select a different class role than the one you're already used to. Of course, expansions also offer the opportunity to experience leveling again for end-game characters. Some would say that there's an unfortunate tendency for players to plow through expansions as quickly as possible to pursue end-game again, because they have a pre-conception that "it's the only thing that matters".

Honestly, that is what tabletop gaming is for. Players and their game masters (GMs) spend hours creating characters that are unique to the player. And then the GM creates a story that the players follow. But while a (good) GM might have an overall plan for his/her players the path they take is determined by the players not the GM.
I absolutely adore table top gaming, and it's a popular pass time here at Blizzard.

I believe that a good game master, with the help of a group of players who are willing to invest themselves in the story and their characters, together can create an experience that is truly thrilling, engaging, cathartic and satisfying. Even a not so serious game can be outright hilarious, and I don't think I've ever spent as much time laughing as I have around the gaming table. (Official Forums)

Mists of Pandaria: More of a Patch than an Expansion?
Challenge Modes - A progression of achievements, hardly revolutionary.
It’s quite an awesome feature as I see it; after not too long a dungeon becomes too easy or simple because of out-gearing it or a number of other reasons. These challenge modes will allow you to compete on par with other players who have better gear as everyone will have a fixed Ilvl when inside challenge dungeons.

This means you are all competing for the prestige of being the fastest to complete these dungeons compared to others.

Pet Battles - No comment
This particular mini-game may not be for everyone, and it’s not designed to be. We want to be sure that there is something in the game that each player can enjoy doing, be it PvP, PvE or even pet battles; pet battles are being implemented to create a fun, new type of activity that all players have access to and offering an alternative to increasing the power and strength of your character specifically.

New Zones - I always love a new zone, but think it's all a bit stale now. Same models, same textures, same trees, it's just not exciting anymore
Just as it was in BC, WotLK and Cataclysm, the setting is changing. I don’t think that the look and feel of any expansion to date has been like the previous, they have all had a very unique feel, this is true for Mists of Pandaria as well.

Mists of Pandaria will be on a continent which is largely based around Asian culture, this differs greatly from any previous expansions. BC was a very demonic setting, WotLK was in a cold and frigid Northland, and Cataclysm was set where the world was beginning to literally falling apart as can be seen in the landscapes. So we assure you that it will be different

I think the only thing that will make me buy the expac would be no flying in the new zone. It's the only way to bring back PVP, I purposely rolled on a PVP realm for 1 reason, I want to skirmish WHEREVER and WHENEVER I want, not when I queue for a BG, that's what PVE realms are for.
Well, we are taking several initiatives to try and bolster world PvP and bring it back to everyone! For one, we are not allowing flying in Pandaria until level 90. This means that there will be no people suddenly taking off into the skies when you approach them, unless they have reached the max level. We are re-introducing optional world bosses which players will fight each other for. There are also many more initiatives that are being taken so we hope that world PvP will once again be bustling with activity. (Official Forums)

Rated Battlegrounds VS. The Blues [1/13/12]
Greetings Combatants of the Glorious Alliance and the Merciless Horde! It is my great honor to invite you all to test your skills, steel, and sorcery against Blizzard employees such as myself (watch the face though, I got an image to maintain).

So if a bit of You vs. Blue action sounds like your idea of a good time come on down to the 4.3.2 PTRs this Friday, January 13th. We'll be queuing for Rated Battlegrounds from 3pm-6pm PST, you'll know it's us from our [Blizzard Horde] & [Blizzard Alliance] guild names.

Hope to see you on the fields of battle! (Official Forums)
Pet Battles
The fine folks over at MMO-Champion are doing a retrospective of information that we know is coming in Mists of Pandaria. Today, they have touched on the Pet Battle System!



Here are some points to remember about the system:

General
  • Pets will be account wide.
  • The battle system will be accessible to all players from a low level.
  • The battle system works with almost every pet.
  • Rare pets will not give any combat advantage, but may give a cosmetic advantage.
  • Your pet journal will display info on all your pets, including stats, skills, and also drop locations and lore info for the pets you don't have yet. It will also let you manage your teams and battle parts of the system.
  • You will be able to customize your pet with names or visuals for the abilities.
  • Every pet can use 3 abilities in a battle at one time with a total of 6 abilities to swap around between battles.
  • Every time you level you will also increase the stats of your pet.
  • The current pet level cap is 25.
  • You will level multiple pets to build your team, which consists of 3 slots for pets during battle.

Collecting
  • Most pets will become tradable, even after being leveled.
  • There will be Wild Pets that you can find in the world and engage in battle with. After defeating it, you will be able to get that pet and add it to your Pet Journal.
  • Wild Pets have random stats, some of them will be very good at tanking, some will have a CC ability, and so on.
  • Some pets will only be found during a specific season, while it's raining, or during the day or the night. For example, some of them will only spawn in the spring, when it's raining, in Elwynn Forest at night!
  • There will be at least one unique pet per zone.

Battle
  • There will be both PvE battles against Wild Pets and PvP battles against other players.
  • It will be a simple turn based combat system.
  • You can fight with a team of 3 pets.
  • There will be a queuing system so that you will be able to find a fight pretty fast depending on the level of your pets.
  • Winning battles will earn experience and levels for your pets.

Customization
  • You will finally be able to name your pets, and see that name in battle.
  • You can obtain items for your pets.
  • You will have an item slot for your pet and might be able to socket gems in the item.
  • There will be individual builds of abilities for each pet and different teams.
  • There will be Pet Masters in the world who will let you earn Master abilities when you beat them. For example, beating the master of mechanical pets will get you a new ability for your pet.

Blue Posts
Quote from: "Blizzard Entertainment"
Cross Realm Raids and a Lack of Community
Unfortunately, that opinion is very subjective. The continued popularity of the cross-realm LFD tool, and now the LFR, indicates that a great number of players are just fine with using it for quicker access, rather than attempting to group up with people on the same realm.

Also, implying that every group in LFD/LFR is filled with people you'd gladly never group up with again is exaggerating the actual situation. There are many of us who use the tools a lot, and rarely experience this.

Having said all that, the future BattleTag system will go a long way to improving the ability to build and maintain cross-realm friendships, eliminating the need to fill groups with as many 'randoms'.

[...] We're always looking for feedback and ways to improve our features. Player feedback regarding dungeon groups and long wait-times contributed to the development of the dungeon finder tool in the first place. Now, in response to new feedback, BattleTags will address some of the issues players currently face when meeting potential friends on different realms.

No, unfortunately some people don't always enjoy the groups they find themselves in through the Dungeon Finder. But do you believe limiting the pool of players to your own realm, or offering an incentive to manually search for your own group will solve this?

Finishing a dungeon with a great group before the Dungeon Finder tool was available was indeed a fantastic experience, but I personally still get that feeling now when I'm grouped with a nice bunch of people. (Source)

Extra Character Slots
There are on-going discussions about how we want to handle this issue. If I recall correctly, there were some ideas brought up at BlizzCon about what we could potentially do to alleviate the concerns about extra character slots, but I don't have any more information on a specific decision right now. (Source)
If you haven't noticed, our front page has changed slightly. Recently, I ran some metrics and found that the server status module was adding around 0.8 seconds to the page load time, which is a long time in internet rendering terms. As such, I have disabled this module and will re-write it to cache the server's status in a database. This should speed up the load times on the front page.

Also, currently wowprogress.com is down. This was added 10 seconds (!!!) to our front page's load time. As such, I've currently disabled the wowprogress module and will re-enable it when wowprogress.com comes back online. I'm going to try to write a faster check into the module, perhaps caching wowprogress's up/down status into a database, so that we don't end up with 10 second page loads when their site goes down.

If anyone notices any problems in the future or has suggestions on what to add, remove, or change on the site, please contact Allisu.

UPDATE!
Both modules (Realm Status and WoWProgress) have now been updated. Both will work similarly going forward. Each has a background script that runs every 15 minutes to update the data from the remote websites to the local database. The information displayed on the front page will come directly from the local database now, rather than from the remote site. This makes all information being displayed on the front page local data, rather than some remote data. This seems to have cut page load times by 3/4. Instead of a 1.6-ish second load time, they are now around 0.4-0.5 seconds.


UPDATE #2!
The website has been updated to the latest and greatest version of the software that we run. I've done my best to patch everything together as well as I can. The only item that's not working is the guild application. It's been re-directed to a post with a form that the applicants should use. I will look into fixing it over the next few days. Also, the forum software has changed. All posts still exist, however.

If you notice any issues with the new software, please go yell at Allisu!