warlords of draenor

Official Site: Warlords of Draenor
Relevance: The fifth World of Warcraft expansion.
Launch Date: November 13, 2014

See: World of Warcraft

Blizzard appears to be reactivating old WoW accounts – go check yours [Confirmed!]

If you have a dormant World of Warcraft account, best give it a check: Redditors are reporting that their accounts are currently activated without subbing.

While some gamers are expecting it’s a bug that’ll soon be fixed, it’s also possible that Blizzard’s simply reactivating old accounts in conjunction with summer sale hoopla and summer vacation, all in prep for the expansion launch later this season. Given that WoWhead noticed old accounts have apparently been bequeathed Warlords of Draenor too, that might be a more likely scenario.

Chime in if you’ve found your account alive for no reason – mine has been off a few years and isn’t blessed today, apparently.

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WoW Factor: Things that actually worry me about Battle for Azeroth

The Battle for Azeroth beta is here, at long last, and it feels like it might have come a little early in the process. Usually beta testing is mostly for when you have all of the core stuff in place, but this feels like it’s just officially being called a beta when some of the pieces are still being moved into the right direction. That might be more nitpicky than anything, so I’m not going to spend too much time on it; World of Warcraft has had a tricky relationship with “alpha” and “beta” terminology, but it’s still not even in the list of the worst offenders.

I got my beta invite (at the same time the official changeover happened, even), but I haven’t yet gotten a chance to actually play around in it. However, I think now is as good a time as any to talk about the things that I am actually nervous about when it comes to Battle for Azeroth. Yes, I’ve been a pretty big advocate for the expansion and what we’re hearing so far, but there are things about the expansion that still make me nervous now that we’re moving into the beta phase. So let’s talk about that.

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WoW Factor: Speculative classes for the future of WoW

If Allied Races show us anything, it’s that World of Warcraft is really in no danger of running out of new races to throw at us. This particular system is adding nearly twice as many new races in one expansion as we’ve had added during the entirety of the game’s lifespan thus far, there’s another one that looks to be set up for this as well (hello there, Vulpera), and there’s a deep roster of other options that people have asked to have for ages. Yes, it would take some work to retrofit Vrykul and Ogres, but considering the work going into new male orc poses, Zandalari Trolls, and Kul Tiran Humans, it is definitely not insurmountable work.

Of course, as I alluded to a while back, we sort of have a disconnect right now where we’ve got far more race options than class options. And while we’re awash in races, we seem to be in danger of running out of classes that can’t be pretty cleanly modeled by what’s already in the game. That doesn’t mean we can’t get any new classes, of course, but it’s hard to justify the inclusion of a Pirate class when we already have a Rogue spec doing everything such a class would theoretically offer. The inclusion of mechanical Hunter pets alone basically short-circuited talk about “Engineer” as a class.

Not that this means we’re out of options, of course; in fact, there’s still plenty of things left in the bank of known or reasoned class options that we can’t play just yet. So let’s talk about some of those options, and along the way I’m sure we can fit in some fun discussions about the difference between classes and hero classes.

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WoW Factor: Updating data in the wake of Battle for Azeroth’s release announcement

Hooray, we have a release date for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth instead of just a release window! And contrary to what many skeptics (myself included) expected to get, it is actually quite a bit faster than other releases. But as you all have no doubt noticed by now, my love of math means that I’m hardly sore about this. It just means that there’s another data point to consider when we look to the future.

So let’s talk about this new piece of information while using the same information from the column in which I made a reasonable estimate, based on this new information. Again, I think it’s important to note how much faster this expansion is actually releasing compared to prior expansions; it’s significant, even if it means that the people predicting things like June were being wildly wrong about “optimistic” predictions. (After all, pessimistic predictions were equally wrong, just in the other direction; my own estimates were off by 2-3 months.)

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WoW Factor: Allied races and a dearth of class choices

Last week, we got confirmation that Kul Tiran Humans and Mag’har Orcs are coming to the Allied Race roster for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. We don’t know when, but I have a bit of a theory about that as it is; from what we know, it’d make sense to have Dark Iron Dwarves and Mag’har Orcs brought in at the start of the expansion, while the Kul Tiran Humans and Zandalari Trolls are brought in after you’ve finished the leveling story for the respective factions. The former are more solidly members than the latter, after a fashion.

But we don’t know for certain when they’re getting added, just that they will be. And that’s interesting, because it means that both factions have significantly increased their race options within one expansion. And that becomes kind of relevant when you look at how many choices individual players have in terms of having something for all of these different races to do.

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WoW Factor: The Kul Tiran Druid ‘problem’ in World of Warcraft

One of the important things to note about World of Warcraft lore is that it’s never been static. It will retcon itself six ways from Sunday letting you know that the stuff you thought was true was never actually true, and it’s something the franchise has been doing since the second installment of the series was launched. (Remember when Azeroth was the name of the human nation, not the freaking planet?) This is not a game where the lore has been carefully planned out so that you can make reasonable predictions much of the time, this is where the lore repeatedly changes as new installments come out.

This is fine. I really like games where all of the lore is written out and planned well in advance (obviously) but I also have appreciation for the way that WoW’s backstory does change with the tides. It rarely outright invalidates the past, but the past is not static as we learn more about it.

Enter the speculation about Druids in Kul Tiras, speculation that seems to be getting backed up with increasing amounts of evidence. And as I look at all of this, I can’t help but note that even a moment’s consideration reveals that this is an enormous mess for the game’s overall lore.

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WoW Factor: Examining the composition of the Horde

Last week, we looked at the composition of the Alliance in World of Warcraft. This week, we’re looking at the Horde. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If you missed the prior column, catch up and get back to us here.

One of the things that’s always been true about the Horde in World of Warcraft is that it is, by and large, a more heterogeneous collective of races and nations. This is partly by design, and partly because the Horde just seems to have a different way of handling its membership and its populace. If the Alliance needs a group of skilled trackers in a new landscape, it’ll find its best scouts and train them; the Horde, meanwhile, will just befriend a local group of existing trackers and welcome them into the Horde.

Does that sound a bit off the mark? Well, let’s take a look.

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WoW Factor: Examining the composition of the Alliance

Watching as speculation and mining swirls around the Mag’har as a future allied race, I can’t help but start thinking about the bigger picture in World of Warcraft. Because soon we’ll be able to make another couple of allied races, and we’ll have more on top of that, and it brings up a pretty good question: what, exactly is the Alliance at this point?

You might think that’s a silly question, but both the Alliance and the Horde are kind of nebulous political groupings, and their extant members are a pretty big deal when you’re speculating about who’s going to be next to sign on board. Plus, I think it helps a bit to consider what could be coming in the future, both for future customization options and further development.

So, then, let’s start with the Alliance, because it’s first alphabetically and a bit simpler to put together. What actually comprises the Alliance?

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Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 3

In our third part of this five-part countdown of World of Warcraft’s best music (at least, you know, in my opinion), we’ll be heading into the teens and some of the most iconic music of the MMORPG to date.

I think we’re getting a bit of everything in today’s list, from vintage Vanilla WoW to the Legion era, from silly to serious. One of the more difficult aspects of putting together this countdown is considering the “old” and “new” versions of songs, especially when Blizzard has remade or revisited areas, characters, and themes. I find that some people are heavily biased depending on which era they played the most, and thus that music means more to them than the others.

I’d like to hold myself up above that bias horizon, but alas, none of us can escape it. So I’ll endeavor instead to be as fair-handed as is gnomingly possible.

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WoW Factor: Why can’t Blizzard stop messing with everything?

It’s funny to me that people had such an aggressive reaction to the changes coming to Hunter pets and damage formulas in Battle for Azeroth. The latter in particular should be both invisible and completely immaterial for actual play; the only real change is that they now use weapon damage on abilities which were previously disconnected from weapon damage, but these formulas have always taken into account, say, the difference between two-handers and dual-wielding options. The former is, at its core, an opportunity to make pet families relevant again after most of the pets of Legion were more or less difference in appearance only, which is a far cry from the days when your choice of pet was significant.

To make it clear if it’s remotely ambiguous: Yes, these are changes I support and ones I think are good for the game on a whole.

And yet all of this does prompt a pretty salient question about World of Warcraft because even if these are intelligent choices, the weapon damage issue has existed for ages now. The time for fussing about with Hunter pets was also ages ago. It’s a big change to functionality being tossed into the mix more or less out of the blue with no other prompting, and that raises the question that’s been relevant ever since Cataclysm rolled around: Why is it that Blizzard can’t stop messing with everything?

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WoW Factor: How could multiclassing work in World of Warcraft?

Not so long ago, our editor-in-chief was talking about how World of Warcraft needs some form of multiclassing system. So let’s talk about how the game could do that, yes? That’s something we haven’t talked about.

It’s actually one of those weird things that has, for various reasons, never actually come up at all as a promised feature of any sort, especially as the various specs within a class have become more and more diversified. In the earliest days, an Enhancement Shaman and an Elemental Shaman both had the same tools and had talents to emphasized different ones; these days, they share a minority of abilities and mostly get their own unique kit. You can swap between specs pretty freely, but not between classes.

But that’s not to say we couldn’t get some form of multi-classing. Heck, it felt like the various spec-bending talents for Druids were already halfway toward this sort of support, and Druids themselves sort of lean into the direction of multiple classes under one roof. So with absolutely no indication that such a feature has ever been seriously discussed beyond fan theories, let’s look at how this could work in World of Warcraft.

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Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 2

Probably the most challenging aspect of creating a “top 32” list of the best World of Warcraft music isn’t coming up with a track list. Heck, that’s the easy part, considering how many great tunes Blizzard’s composers have added to this MMO over the years. No, the difficult job is taking those 32 tracks and then ranking them as part of a countdown.

What makes one track better than another? Do I go by perceived popularity or by my own preferences (hint: I went with the latter while remaining influenced by the former). Is it a slight to put tracks further down on the list? What happens when we count down to the number one spot… and still haven’t included a track that a fan considers essential to such a list?

I’ll have to get over these worries and fears. That’s on me. For your part, all you need to do is enjoy the next batch of World of Warcraft’s best tunes as we travel through the 20s!

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WoW Factor: First impressions of allied race leveling in World of Warcraft

Last week, I wrote about the addition of allied races without having actually gotten to play around with them much. You have to understand that at some point in the past I angered an elder deity of some sort, a fact which I myself was not previously aware of, but which remains the only real way to explain World of Warcraft releasing its pre-orders on the same day that my other game of choice released a major update which demanded my attention.

Or it was just bad luck, but “angered the gods” feels like a more all-encompassing explanation of same.

The bright side, though, is that it meant I finally had a chance to experience both big new things at the same time, enjoying the worldwide level scaling at the same time as I was enjoying my new allied race characters. So now that we’ve talked a little bit about the conceptual side of things, let’s talk about the actual leveling experience beyond the first unlocks.

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