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A fluffy casual’s starting perspective on World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Let me tell you a bit about me and how I play MMORPGs. Between two jobs and a family, my gaming time is relegated to the deep evening hours where peace descends upon our household. If it’s a good night, I can get in two full hours of adventuring through virtual worlds before I grow too tired to continue. Some nights it’s less.

It has been a long time since I was able to sprint alongside the pack when a new expansion or game launches, so you have to picture me as the slowpoke waaaay in the back who keeps getting distracted by small details, stops to read the quest text, and takes screenshots like I’m putting together an art book.

That’s me, the fluffy casual, and while plenty of folks have devoured vast swaths of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth this week (including our own excellent Eliot), I’ve been rotating through my roster of characters and experiencing this engaging expansion at my own tempered pace. Does that mean that I lack a perspective or any observational details? Absolutely not! In fact, here are some things that I’ve been thinking about and looking at this week from the position at the far back of the pack.

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World of Warcraft’s voice actor roundup, R. Lee Ermey tribute, and Horde identity crisis

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth has elicited a lot of praise from the community for its superb voice acting. Blizzard Watch put together a roundup of some of the key characters and their human counterparts, just in case you were wondering who was doing that voice.

And as players explore this new expansion, they’ve been uncovering all sorts of Easter eggs and sly references. Catch that Calvin and Hobbes or Winnie the Pooh nod, did you? Well how about the in-game tribute to the late R. Lee Ermey, who appears as a sergeant in the Alliance’s 7th Legion.

Blizzard recently sat down for an interview that covered the identity crisis that is hitting Horde players really hard right now. “Battle for Azeroth is absolutely an opportunity to look at both sides [honorable and evil] that have made up the Horde storylines throughout the years and pull them together,” said Narrative Producers Steve Danuser. “And maybe give a chance for the Horde to look inward and maybe become something new, something stronger than it ever was before.”

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WRUP: Our 2018 character poll edition

As we near the end of the year, it’s time for us to start figuring out which characters to include in next year’s cast lineup. Obviously, this year we had a wonderful lineup, aside from Too-Much-Drinking Franklin, but we can only include a few of our cast members in next year’s arrangement. So please, peruse this list of characters from the past year:

  • John “The Dwayne” Rockson, former amateur wrestler and current wrestler of people who are not exactly amateurs but still need more experience, you know?
  • Noisy Pete, sometimes called “the guy what makes the shrill sound whenever he touches water and wants to live inside a shower for some reason.”
  • Quiet Patricia, who actually makes the same sound but only does so when she thinks about clams.
  • Burmble
  • Bilbo Baggins, the bravest little hobbit of them all, who is not at all related to the character owned by the Tolkien estate but by complete coincidence had identical adventures.
  • Too-Much-Drinking Franklin, who has a very good contact and thus gets to be listed here.
  • Alternate Universe Lady Abraham Lincoln, who is a rapper in addition to being a female version of legendary president Abraham Lincoln, except she shifted dimensions rather than being shot in a theater.

Please let us know in the comments to this week’s What Are You Playing which of these characters you would like to see next year and which ones you want locked in the Forgetting Closet. Also, let us know what you’re playing. Just for giggles.

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The Daily Grind: When have studios tried to ‘strong arm’ you into changing your MMO playstyle?

The other day when we reported how World of Warcraft had removed the auto-accept functionality from its group finder, Reader Kalech noted, “If people don’t want to be social, they’re not going to be social no matter how much Blizzard tries to strong-arm them.”

That made me pause and reflect, because over the long history of MMOs, studios are forever trying to influence, direct, and sometimes “strong-arm” players into engaging in certain activities or playstyles. It’s not always that overt or constrained, but once in a while you do see a studio try its mightiest to shove players into PvP or to make them socialize more.

So when have MMO studios tried to force you into changing your playstyle — and were they successful?

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H1Z1 fans are quibbling over whether Jace Hall can really save the game on PC

The 12 million dudes and dudettes playing H1Z1 on PlayStation 4 this summer need to know two things this week. For one, the latest patch doesn’t add much – primarily performance optimizations to textures, animations, and UI drawing, as well as bug fixes (like the one where you parachute wouldn’t open during your drop – ouch). PS4 players can take advantage of the hoopla by logging in this month and playing a match to unlock a free skin that looks like something weird my little kid made in art class. But hey, it’s free.

As for the PC community, things are either super awesome or grumpy, depending on your view. As we’ve previously noted, Monolith’s Jace Hall is taking over at Daybreak as the game’s new PC lead. His Twitter feed is currently pumping up the transition with “nothing iz impozzible” videos.

“UPDATE – THE GOOD: @DaybreakGames meeting was amazing in all the right ways,” he tweeted Wednesday. “The magic IS happening. THE BAD: May not be completely free 2 disclose any epic info during this week as planned…Still doable, but it may be a few days beyond that B4 my chains come off.”

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The Daily Grind: Should being an MMO ‘whale’ absolve a player of toxicity or push him to the front of a queue?

Longtime MOP reader Agemyth recently brought to our attention a couple of bits of commentary that disturb at least my own fundamental sense of fairness. In one recent Waypoint piece, an ex-mod for a trading card MMO discusses how he witnessed staff allowing a toxic player to keep on being toxic because he was a whale, spending tons of money in-game. And in a Giant Bomb chat earlier this summer, a former MMO CS rep admitted to fast-tracking requests from big spenders. “When the email comes in, the first thing we see is how much money they’ve spent on the game,” he says. (Based on later comments from the same person referring to a $100 lockbox released in the middle of the Battlefront mess, the second company appears to be Trion. Incidentally, he also says the most money he ever saw stamped on someone’s account was $130,000. Let that sink in.)

Anyway. “It doesn’t surprise me that these practices exist, but actually hearing some details about it can still bring a grimace to my face,” Agemyth says. Mine too. Does this also gross you out? Should you be able to get away with being a toxic jerk as long as you keep the dollars flowing? Should how much you spend determine whether a company answers your help requests in a timely manner? If you look at it from the perspective of the company, does it change your answer?

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Aion details all of its upcoming gear exchange rates for a big equipment overhaul

The progression of equipment and power level in Aion may be a bit overly ornate at the moment, which is why the game’s next major patch for the NA version is overhauling the whole experience. Of course, the flip side to that task is that it also means a whole lot of changes to gear, and that means there’s a whole list of how your current gear can be exchanged for new gear when the update goes live. It’s large enough that it requires a separate spreadsheet, even.

To assuage one major fear, the game’s community team has reminded players that this is not an automatic replacement but an additional compensation; players will still have their old gear, they’ll just receive new pieces. Of course, the debate is running about the forums over whether or not the exchanges are fair or balanced for the community, which is always going to be a problem with this degree of gear change.

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Rend’s Jeremy Wood on how Frostkeep borrows from Blizzard, Dark Age of Camelot, and PlanetSide

GameDaily has an interview with Rend’s Jeremy Wood this week that covers a bunch of meta topics of interest to MMO players and watchers of this oddball hybrid title. While Rend has no plans to suddenly become a battle royale title, Frostkeep is very much watching what the MMO subgenres and companies are up to in order to “fill the same psychological needs that are being filled by those games in [Rend].” Specifically, Wood says his team learned a lot from Blizzard and the MMO genre.

“Our biggest takeaway from our Blizzard experience is you can make a fantastically unique product without really inventing anything new,” Wood explained. “Blizzard got where they are by taking inspiration from all sorts of different great pieces of games in different genres.”

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Pre-alpha colony sim MMO Seed will grant players the tools to fight toxicity

Seed resurfaced this summer after intensive work by studio Klang Games building out the colony simulation MMO (plus a big influx of investor money), and this month, it’s put together a handy Q&A featuring questions from its community and fresh answers from the devs.

Notably, Klang says that players will be able to password-protect their colonies to invite friends as well as join colonies with open borders; there will be a whole-planet view; and your bank account will move with you if you move colonies (though objects need to move physically). The studio is also working with a Harvard law professor on government structures available to players, with the intent that players “be able to implement laws to fight against toxic behavior.”

“To make this game genuinely scalable, we have to give virtuous players just as many gameplay tools as delinquent players,” the studio explains.

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Tamriel Infinium: Three key takeaways from the Elder Scrolls Online Murkmire teaser

Hopefully, everyone saw the Elder Scrolls Online presentation at Quakecon. If not, I’ll have that whole video just past the break. Game Director Matt Firor and Community Manager Gina Bruno stood on stage to give an overview of what ESO has in store for the rest of the year. Of course, Wolfhunter launched a couple of days ago, but I was definitely more interested in the Murkmire presentation.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I believe that Black Marsh is the area of Tamriel that ESO will ultimately be known for, and that’s because no other game in the Elder Scrolls series has touched that area of Tamriel with any significance. Firor explained what we would discover in Murkmire, but I believe his last line explained it best: “Along the way you’re going to get a really deep dive into Argonian culture, philosophy, and religion — really, what drives them, and what makes them so weird.”

During the presentation, Firor and Bruno gave us our first look at the Murkmire DLC in game. During this one-minute clip, we didn’t see much, but I’ve pulled it apart. And I’m going to hopefully reveal some things that you didn’t notice.

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Rumor: Players are losing their houses in Final Fantasy XIV in error

Housing in Final Fantasy XIV has some issues with limited space, so almost no one who has a home in the game wants to lose it. So if you want to spread chaos in the game’s homeowner community, claiming that people are losing their houses without warning is a good way to do it. There are more reports than usual of players logging in to find their houses gone, while they claim they had been in there and active in time to reset the timer.

Time to panic? Maybe not. That shiny “rumor” tag is there for a reason, chiefly the fact that at this point there’s no real confirmed reports of this happening to people. Reddit users have taken the opportunity to keep tabs on the house watchers on Balmung, and as of yet nothing has surfaced as abnormal there. (Balmung is one of the game’s largest servers and the unofficial RP server, which means housing is closely watched.) If there is a bug, it appears to be highly limited, but it’s still disconcerting to think about.

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In Conan Exiles’ upcoming pet patch, thralls ‘don’t poop, somehow’

Conan Exiles’ parity patch has finally hit the Xbox One servers after a week’s delay. Funcom says it ought to mop up crash problems, although there’s apparently some fresh lag issues to deal with now. PS4 players, however, are still waiting, as apparently Sony rejected the PS4 patch for being too big, so the studio’s “working on reducing” it. There’s a crude joke in there somewhere. This is Conan we’re talking about.

That’s all in this week’s community newsletter, in addition to news about the first phase inbound pet system, which is due to launch on the test server this week. Here’s where the poop comes in.

“When we roll out the pet system we’ll also be rolling out new functionality for your thralls,” Funcom says. Yep, you’re going to have to feed them.

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WoW’s Battle for Azeroth: Secret quests, island rewards, bug fixes, and cinematic tomfoolery

Done everything already in Battle for Azeroth? Oh, you lie, but when you are done, you might want to keep your eye out for a super-secret quest line that Blizzard confirmed exists somewhere in this new World of Warcraft expansion.

The studio also incentivized the new island expedition mode by saying, “There are so many things in the rewards bucket that chances are, you’re gonna get something today, which makes it pretty exciting for your first 300 islands or so.”

Meanwhile as everyone is in the fun trenches of the leveling process, you might want to be aware of a cinematic bug that kept some players from seeing an intro cutscene. Also, Blizzard has been hotfixing some minor issues as the week’s progressed, so hopefully that’s leading to a smoother experience.

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