expansion

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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First impressions of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, part 3: Narrative

All right. Strap yourselves in, folks, because this is when we have to start talking about narratives and story and intended emotional reactions. In short, this is where World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth becomes a seriously messy piece of work, because this is an expansion in which the game posits that maybe colonialism is super great and native peoples are evil villains in league with dark powers.

Yes, that’s a thing that happens. No, we’re not going to leave it there, but I’m trying to minimize spoilers before the cut.

I’ve said on Twitter before today that the game feels like a $500 million movie with $50 spent on the script, and that still rings true. A ton of effort has been put into the presentation of this expansion, and there’s nothing to do but praise all of that; there’s honestly very little to fault in any part of the presentation of the story. The faults all arrive once you start examining the actual text of that story. And boy-howdy, that’s a mess.

Fair warning, people, there will be spoilers below.

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Hearthstone’s new puzzle labs is coming next week as its production director departs

Just because Hearthstone’s Boomsday Project expansion is out and about doesn’t mean that the dev team is done with its crazy experiments.

In fact, next week will see the rollout of the new Puzzle Lab solo adventures. These will, as the name implies, revolve around puzzles (with four types in all). Players can progress through the labs in any order as they try to solve the puzzles from easy to difficult. Each puzzle game gives players a tricky objective to play through in a solo setting.

While the Puzzle Labs are coming, one Hearthstone developer is going. Production Director Yong Woo decided to follow after former Hearthstone lead Ben Brode and join Brode’s new Second Dinner studio. Blizzard Watch reports that this now makes a total of five ex-Hearthstone devs that now work at this indie game company. Guess Brode has that kind of charismatic pull?

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EverQuest II is merging one of its progression servers into a regular server

The residents of two of EverQuest II’s servers are about to get really chummy with each other.

Daybreak announced this week that on September 4th, it is going to merge the population of Stormhold with Antonia Bayle. This means that Antonia Bayle is going to see an influx of refugees while Stormhold will be shut down for good. This will be slightly tricky due to the fact that Stormhold was a time-locked expansion server, but that will come to an end as Antonia Bayle is a normal server ruleset.

There’s a lot of details that Daybreak covers concerning potential name conflicts and the transfer of mail and housing, so read up on the FAQ if this server merge affects you.

Source: EverQuest II

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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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First impressions of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, part 2: Content

The first part of this first impressions series yesterday was all about the mechanical changes made for this expansion. This time, I don’t want to talk about the mechanics of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth; I want to talk about the actual content. Not the narrative text, but just the actual moment-to-moment stuff you’re doing in the game. Which, I think, is what this expansion is going to be judged on at this stage by a lot of people.

Put simply, the game could have the best combat it has ever had with the best gear enhancement system conceivable, but if the actual things you had to fight were a boring slog, no one would like it anyway. Solid content covers a multitude of sins.

There are several people who would likely argue that Legion had some of the best content we’ve ever seen in WoW, and while there’s room to debate that, I think it’s definitely worth considering. So BfA started off on something of the back foot, and that was exacerbated by the fact that it has not one but two continents to fill out almost entirely separate.

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First impressions of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, part 1: Mechanics

Hey, there’s a new World of Warcraft expansion, right? When did that happen?

There’s a bit of snark there, but perhaps less than you might think. The weird thing is that Battle for Azeroth kind of does feel as if it just dropped without warning; it was outside of the usual release schedule for expansions, with a long lead-in, as if the final product just showed up on our collective doorsteps one day. Assuming you were already logged on and had your pre-orders set, you could just jump right in and start the expansion, which hearkened back to the days of midnight releases after a fashion.

Needless to say, there’s a lot to talk about with the expansion so far. Now that it’s actually live we can see the mechanics and the story with all the polish that’s intended, with nothing left behind a curtain (other than Warfronts, anyhow). Coming off the well-received Legion, this expansion has some pretty big foot gear to fill, and it’s fair to wonder if any expansion wouldn’t feel like a bit of a downturn… but let’s not start there. Let’s just start in on one aspect of the game and go from there.

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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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The Daily Grind: How do you handle MMO alts when new content releases?

For those of you who only play one and just one character in any given MMO, today’s discussion is probably not for you. But for the rest of us who nurture and engage with a flock of alts, it can be a challenge when new content — whether it be a story scenario, update, or expansion — lands on the server.

How do you handle this? I used to focus solely on a single character until I finished up most of the new content and then would move on to other alts, although lately I’ve changed to more of a rotational model to give each character equal time spread out over multiple nights.

Do you go a step further with this and use spreadsheets and tracking charts, even? Let’s strategize together today!

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World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth tackles launch issues, sees first level 120, and activates companion app

All things considered, yesterday saw a fairly smooth global rollout for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.

But while many realms were up and players enjoying the seventh expansion for the MMO, some servers saw chronic issues that kept them offline for most of the night. As of this morning, seven game realms are down as Blizzard attempts to fix whatever ails them. There were also some smaller issues that players have reported, such as not being able to see the Heart of Azeroth in their inventory, although it is hard to tell how widespread this problem is.

One thing we do know for sure: The race to level 120 is already over. In fact, it was over four hours and 17 minutes after the expansion launch. Method’s Gingi accomplished the task with his Boomkin and a meticulously planned leveling strategy.

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The Daily Grind: Did you go back to World of Warcraft for Battle for Azeroth?

Did they getcha? Did they suck you in again for another go-round?

I have a flurry of guildies in World of Warcraft right now thanks to Battle for Azeroth, and yet I haven’t been enticed to go back. In fact, Legion was the first expansion I didn’t buy or go back during, and now we’re at the next one and I’m still in exactly the same shruggy place. I’m not saying I’m over it forever. I’m not saying I’ll never go back. The game just isn’t doing it for me personally right now. There are things they could do that would make me whip out my wallet: new classes (bards!), real housing, a meaningful economy – maybe something that replicates the exploration amusement of vanilla, the dungeon joy of Wrath, or the questing and farm fun of Pandaria. Probably plenty of cool things I haven’t even thought of could get me in there; the truth is, I am a sucker for the idea of playing The Big One, secure in the knowledge that it’s a sure bet for longevity.

But this expansion isn’t grabbing me, and that’s OK. Not everything has to be for me. And I’m glad it’s grabbing some of you – who doesn’t love all the buzz and hoopla? So did you go back to World of Warcraft for Battle for Azeroth?

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World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth is live – are you prepared?

Just one hour to go before you too can play World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth! Just kidding, the only thing you’re going to be playing tonight is Queue Wars. And it’s almost here!

Blizzard’s posted a handy chart for the global simultaneous release so you don’t miss it. Although seasoned MMORPG veterans will probably be playing something else tonight and letting the rush subside, right? Nobody took off work this week believing play will happen, right? Right guys? Guys?

While you wait: VG247 has an interview today with Blizzard’s Gary Platner and Terran Gregory loaded with fun quotes. Here’s one that’s gripping and somehow chilling at the same time:

“Afrasiabi designed this expansion like it would be the last – don’t hold back, go for the mega, seize the day on design. Everyone on this team is absolutely committed to seeing that this thing is as powerful and relevant as long as we can. […] We’ll ride this thing until we’re old and grey – if time permits, of course.”

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