wrath of the lich king

Official Site: Wrath of the Lich King
Relevance: The second World of Warcraft expansion.
Launch Date: November 13, 2008

See: World of Warcraft

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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Crowfall’s 5.5 pre-alpha is live with female centaurs, player vendors, and a new map

Crowfall is ready to push its pre-alpha testing phase to the limit. A new dev video from ArtCraft this week shows off some of the new content in its 5.5 version, focusing on its new map, Wrath. Wrath includes new adventure zones, which are basically high-stakes PvE areas. I spy lots and lots of spiders! There’s also a new high-elf companion, the female Centaur variant, badges, updated visuals for specific spells and weapons, and the new health and recovery system. Crafters and merchants are in for a treat too, as player vendors are totally in. It’s starting to look pretty slick.

And that all means it’s time to break the servers! “The Pre-Alpha 1 through Beta 3 test groups are encouraged to log onto the LIVE servers and keep an eye on the in-game Global chat channel for announcements about concentrating on single servers and specific areas,” ArtCraft says. “You’ll often be playing with and against members of the Crowfall dev team as we gather data related to scalability. This is very important to ensure fun, speed and stability for players, so we need as many Crows as we can get piling onto the servers.”

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Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 5

And here we arrive at last in our multi-week countdown to the final seven. It has been a fun and delightful journey through World of Warcraft’s soundtrack, and I have eagerly anticipated getting to the end so that I could share my absolute favorite tracks with you.

As we wrap up this look at WoW’s score — at least, until the next expansion arrives! — I would love to hear from you about this soundtrack. What pieces are special to you? What have the most nostalgic value and why? Let me know in the comments!

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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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The Game Archaeologist: World of Warcraft’s Corrupted Blood pandemic

It began with an exploitable glitch. It exploded into an uncontained nightmare of death. It established a meme as strong as Leeroy Jenkins. It even saved lives.

One of the most notorious events in World of Warcraft’s history didn’t emerge from the design of Blizzard’s controlling developers, but rather from players looking to grief the community. In a prank that briefly grew out of control, a pandemic was set loose upon the game’s world that decimated the population and changed the landscape overnight.

This was the Corrupted Plague incident, and it would go on to leave a mark upon World of Warcraft that remains to this day.

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Crowfall might put your head on a stick

Haven’t lived up to your potential? Suffered the wrath of your enemies and paid the price for your folly? You could very well end up with your character’s head on a stick in Crowfall. That’s just the risk that you take in waging an eternal battle.

Heads on sticks is but part of the developer discussion over the new Pre-Alpha 5 patch. The team also discussed bandages, durability penalties, eternal kingdom building placement, ethereal dust gathering, and various fixes that went into place with this patch. Testers should be pleased to note that every character now gets up to three ring slots and two amulet slots to help with gear loadouts.

Check out the video after the break, even if you’re not testing! You can always imagine you are and then, we don’t know, go slam some action figures together to pretend you’re fighting in this game.

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Perfect Ten: A dozen MOBAs that didn’t make it

With the insane success — both in terms of popularity and finances — that Dota and League of Legends spawned, you can easily understand why game studios latched onto the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) as a relatively quick cash grab. After all, with players providing the ongoing content (through PvP matches), developers were freed up to focus on balance tweaks and churning out new skins and characters to sell.

In a relatively short span of time, the market became flooded with many imitators that sought to grab that slice of the profitable pie. And while some, such as Hi-Rez’s SMITE, have endured, many games discovered the one key danger with this approach: If you could not generate and sustain a large, active playerbase, you were as good as dead. A critical mass was needed, and when it was not achieved, games started folding up left and right.

In today’s Perfect Ten, we’re going to look at a dozen MOBAs that tried and failed to make it. Perhaps they serve as cautionary lessons to other studios seeking to mimic League of Legends’ format, but we somehow doubt that the era of the MOBA is over just yet.

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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: 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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WoW Factor: Guessing at Battle for Azeroth’s release date using math

The “when will Battle for Azeroth” speculation train is rolling once again because it looks like patch 7.3.5 is just around the corner. We haven’t actually been told when that’s landing yet, of course, but the World of Warcraft community continues to push forward with the sort of boundless optimism that it’s so well known for. “This time is going to be different!”

Here’s a spoiler for the future: It’s not. This time is going to be exactly the same, just like how previous times have been exactly the same, just like each time we’ve talked about this have been exactly the same. Betting on anything before October is optimistic, betting before September is wildly unrealistic. Similarly, betting on 2019 is pessimistic, and later than January is wildly unrealistic just as surely.

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WoW Factor: Do World of Warcraft’s allied race requirements make sense?

We still do not know exactly when World of Warcraft will make allied races playable. What we do know is that it sure as heck looks like it’s going to happen before the next expansion is out; that’s not announced, no, but there is an awful lot of material about them already on the test server. Everything points to them being a pre-launch thing, most likely along the lines of Demon Hunters with Legion. All well and good. And we also know the preliminary requirements for these various races, which is… more contentious.

There’s a lot of stuff we don’t know yet, of course; while achievement tracking is account-wide, it’s not yet clear if you need to have the reputation and achievements on multiple characters or just on one. (It’s plausible, for example, that you might need to have the reputation on the character but can get the achievements on another.) But there’s already some debate about whether or not these requirements are too steep, and I think it’s an interesting thing to discuss and analyze, even while I’m of the mind that it seems pretty reasonable thus far.

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WoW Factor: Why are we going back to factional squabbles after the end of Antorus?

Antorus is out now, and if you want to see the cinematic that ends the very long-running story about the Burning Legion and Sargeras, well, that’s easy to do. It’s kind of spoiler-filled, though, so I’m not going to be talking about it here in any detail beyond mentioning that Azeroth does not exactly end things without a major impact. And needless to say, people have already started asking “why is it that World of Warcraft’s next expansion is going back to factional squabbles when this just happened?”

It’s a question with lots of good answers. So I want to dive into exactly those. In fact, you can neatly divide the answers up into three categories: The anthropic principle, real-life parallels, and the change of flavors. And it’s not that one or the other is the “real” answer or the “right” one; it’s that all three of them combine perfectly to make factional squabbles a perfectly reasonable next destination after the cosmic invasion of the last expansion.

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