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Podcast Episode 22

This week’s podcast is now up! This week in Warcraft Challenge modes, Garissons art and the ideal raid instance! Also, LJ manages to go into many different areas not warcraft related!

Challenge Mode removal indeed not in patch 5.4.7

Community Manager Rygarius took to the forums today and had the following to say about the challenge mode season ending:

Quote from: Rygarius
Challenge Modes are not going away in 5.4.7. The End of Season Early Warning blog was meant to provide advance notice it will go away in a patch after 5.4.7 but prior to the Warlords of Draenor expansion.

So it’s still not known which patch will end the season, but at least you can stop stressing if you thought it was going to be in a week or two with patch 5.4.7!

Targeted Heroic Garrosh 10man nerfs imminent

Blizzard just announced that in patch 5.4.7 Garrosh Hellscream on heroic 10man difficulty will be nerfed in certain aspects to bring it in line with the difficulty of 25man heroic. Check out the announcement below:

Quote from: Blizzard
Re-using this thread for an additional update.In the upcoming patch 5.4.7, we will be making a few small adjustments to the 10-player Heroic Garrosh encounter. There a few factors that contribute to a disparity between the difficulty of the encounter in 10-player mode versus 25-player mode, and these changes are intended to help correct for those differences.

We are slightly reducing Garrosh’s health in all phases (by roughly 5%).

The fight as a whole is a series of hard DPS checks, where failing to meet certain benchmarks makes things tremendously harder if not impossible, but extra DPS above and beyond that threshold doesn’t necessarily help all that much. We’re seeing some kills (a minority, but some groups nonetheless) feeling the need to single-heal the fight even at this point, and that has a number of negative gameplay and social issues. We can’t really prevent single-healing (other than by increasing the outgoing damage, which isn’t an option at this point), but this change should at least make it so that no one feels they need to single-heal in order to meet the various checks, without lessening the coordination requirements of the rest of the fight.

We are reducing the health of Minions of Y’Shaarj (by roughly 10%).

Most 25-player groups are able to kite and otherwise control the Minions thanks to the additional available manpower, while 10-player groups generally have to kill them. This change should improve parity between modes by reducing the difficulty of this particular mechanic for 10-player groups.

We are increasing the clump size required to trigger an Iron Star in the final Heroic-only phase of the fight from 3 to 4.

Iron Star detection previously required 3 players on 10, and 8 on 25 (a standard ratio), but this causes a discrepancy when it comes to the overlap between Bombardment and Malice. Malice requires 2 soakers on 10H and 5 on 25H (again, a standard ratio), but this means that the total clump sizes required to handle Malice are actually 3 and 6 respectively, such that a 25-player group could cover soaking Malice #4 (which fully overlaps with Bombardment) without triggering Iron Stars, whereas a 10-player group generally could not. This change should, like the rest, increase parity when it comes to this mechanic.

“Why did you wait this long to make these changes?”

We’re very conservative when it comes to reducing the difficulty of a Heroic final boss, since the entire point of such encounters is to represent the pinnacle of raiding challenge. For most of the initial months of the patch, the sample size of players killing Garrosh on each difficulty was too small to draw meaningful conclusions about the relative difficulty on 10 vs. 25, but now we’ve reached a point where it’s clear that there’s a problem, so we’re taking the above actions.

“Thanks Blizz, way to nerf the only hard fight left in the game…”

Sorry, we do wish we’d gotten the tuning right in the first place. 10-Heroic Garrosh will still be plenty hard — this is just bringing the encounter in line with its 25-player counterpart.

Still need to do Challenge Modes? Now is the time to do so!

Blizzard put up a new blog post today and announced that if you still want to get the rewards from challenge modes now is the time to do so! Sadly no time frame was given. Check the full announcement below:

Quote from: Blizzard
Countless adventurers continue to brave the most trying versions of Mists of Pandaria dungeons, but the clock is ticking. This “season” of Challenge Modes will be coming to an end with the upcoming release of a patch prior to the expansion’s release.

Challenge Modes are designed to offer as close to a “normalized” difficulty as possible, and they’re tuned to be tough to master. With Warlords of Draenor’s class changes, itemization changes (e.g. the removal of Hit and Expertise), and—of course—increased level cap on the horizon, the difficulty of Mists of Pandaria’s dungeons will no longer be tuned the same as they were. In the spirit of fair play, when the aforementioned patch is released a little while before the new expansion launches, the current slate of Challenge Mode dungeons will no longer be available, and the achievements they award will be converted to Feats of Strength. The reward items will still be available for purchase by those who qualified prior to the end of the season, but it will not be possible for new players to earn those rewards going forward.

If you still need to earn your Undaunted title, Ancestral Phoenix, or class-specific Transmogrification sets, now’s the time to get out there and prove your worth. In Warlords of Draenor, an entirely new set of Challenge Modes will be available . . . and with them an array of new rewards for you to earn. Until then, stay sharp!

Garrissons, Talador and the Scroll of Resurrection

It’s a great image isn’t it? Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi shared it on twitter today with the message “A sleepy Talador. Work In Progress.” .

Yesterday 2 noteworthy things were shared by Blizzard on their website. First of all the Garrisons Artcraft blogpost that was promised to us, so take a look below.

Quote from: Blizzard

Greetings, and welcome to another edition of Artcraft! I’m Chris Robinson, senior art director of World of Warcraft, and for this second entry I’ve gathered a group of Warlords of Draenor developers to talk a bit about Garrisons—specifically, how our artists are working closely with the game designers to ensure that the visuals we’re crafting support their design goals.We’re not really going to get into the details of how Garrisons work here, like specific mechanics of their design. Think of this more as a behind-the-scenes glimpse into our art process with two of our groups: our dungeon art team, which is responsible for all the Garrison’s large buildings, walls, gates, and so on; and our prop art team, which is focused on the profession buildings and all of the awesome details you’ll find inside of them.

Gameplay First

Before we get to that, first we’d like to talk about a few aspects of the art team’s relationship with the game designers. We’ve asked Lead Content Designer Cory Stockton to talk a little about how the Garrison works, and how design and art come together to get something as massive as Garrisons into the game. Here’s Cory:

“Hey Everyone! The Garrison feature is going to be a huge part of your core experience in Warlords of Draenor, so it’s really exciting to get a chance to talk about it. As Chris mentioned, it’s a massive feature with a lot of different moving parts, one of the biggest of which is the visuals—and that’s where our art team comes in. We knew we wanted the Garrison to feel like a big new feature, but we also wanted to keep it familiar, like bringing a piece of home to Draenor. There is just something about running into Stormwind or Orgrimmar that evokes that sense of faction pride, and that’s exactly what we wanted out of the Garrison. The art team was able to work with us to deliver brand new art that still evokes those feelings from our faction capitals.

Nailing the look is just one part of the process though. A big part of the feature is being able to increase your Garrison’s power over time, and we wanted to make sure you see that reflected in the art. This means that all of the Garrison buildings have to have multiple, and increasingly epic visual upgrades. The plot system used for Garrisons—which allows you to customize your layout and place buildings anywhere—presented a unique challenge for the art team, since even though a building needs to look more epic at each upgrade, it couldn’t actually change shape at the base. Check out some of the under-development examples below.

—Cory Stockton, Lead Content Designer

TheDungeon Team: Making Old Look New… or Is It New Look Old?

Hi there, I’m Wendy Vetter, lead artist for the World of Warcraft dungeon team, and next I’m going to give you an inside look at how we’re bringing the Garrison buildings into the world.

When working on the Garrison, we decided to start with the Alliance buildings first, and that’s what we’ll be focusing on today. When we first began, we thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool for players to get to have some of the original buildings from back in Elwynn and Redridge in their Garrison? Our resident Concept Wizard (actual title) Jimmy Lo ran with this idea of a “trip down memory lane” by bringing back a lot of those early buildings, and we worked on trying to keep a lot of familiar parts of the buildings intact while updating themwith new textures.

After trying that idea out, we began to notice the buildings were looking too familiar—it wasn’t epic enough, and wasn’t looking like something you’d expect to see in this big new feature. So we updated the recipe to “extra-crispy”—and that meant going far beyond a new coat of paint on an old asset.

We didn’t, however, ignore the past—we built upon it. Keeping the original spirit of the old buildings, we began exploring new designs. We created fresh silhouettes and pushed the individuality of each building, creating visually exciting upgrades as you progressed. This way, when you get that first shack you call a Lumber Mill—an oversized crate with some sticks and a dull saw in it—you’re excited, but you know there’s lots of room for improvement. As you build your army and finally get that third-tier Lumber Mill though, you feel like a badass ready to fight back against the Iron Horde.

I have to say I love, love—did I mention LOVE?—the Mage Tower. The library invites the player to grab their favorite book of spells (mine is Beatrice’s Magical Exploits Into the Wilds of Wildervar), wrap up in a blanket, plop on a nice soft chair with their favorite pet sitting on their lap, and read till the light of the fire dims to crackling embers. When we’re creating the art, we actually use small stories like that as a way to guide the scene. We use lighting, material choices, silhouettes, and carefully crafted details to invite the imagination of the player to look beyond the pixels and textures, and bring their character into the world. I like to think of the buildings as characters themselves, each with a personality, from the little nicks on a doorway, to the warm hearth in the Town Hall.

We hope you feel right at home when you step into each of these places.

The Prop Team: Showing a Story

I’m Eric Browning, the lead prop artist on WoW, and my team is responsible for props, FX, and initial set decoration. For the Garrison, we’ve put more emphasis on the “set decoration” aspect than ever before, giving us a much better sense of how well a particular kit is working right from the start. I’ll let the three of the artists working on them explain a bit more.

“One of the most powerful aspects of an artist’s mission is storytelling, and working to fill the space in the Garrison has allowed us to really focus in on that. Decorating a particular set or building provides an opportunity to communicate a lot of information about how the space is used and how it was made, and all the pieces come together to help convey an overarching theme. Little nuances and details in the props can help give the player context into what’s happening in a particular area of the game, and ultimately, really help to tell the story of an entire zone.

We approach each of these tasks on both micro and macro levels—evaluating how each smaller piece comes together as a larger whole. This is where the real challenge lies, since we don’t want to visually overwhelm the player—but at the same time, we’re giving everyone the visually striking, high-quality level of art they’ve come to expect from World of Warcraft.”

—Jordan Powers, Associate 3D Artist

“In Warlords of Draenor, your Garrison is your fortress—a foothold in a savage world, and ultimately a place to call your own. One of our main goals with the Garrison was to really bring some life and sense of purpose to the characters who inhabit the world, and to make them feel like they belong in their environment. What that entails for us as artists is to brainstorm, develop, and refine a scenario that not only gives a narrative to a particular space, but helps make the player feel like the world is cohesive and real. We strive to give each set of props—what we call a ‘kit’—logical treatment and placement so that the NPCs look as if they truly belong there. In doing so, it hopefully allows for a more visually rich and rewarding journey for the player.”

—Eric Braddock, Associate 3D Artist

“For the profession hubs, we wanted the player to be able to experience leveling up their chosen professions not only with skill points, but also visually through their Garrison. As the player progresses, each profession hub will level up, and the associated building will become more visually impressive. We treated each profession hub as an opportunity to describe the NPC who works there—how neat or messy they are, how they might work, and how they’ll grow with you as you level up your Garrison. We also thought it would be fun to throw in small hints of different races that might be associated with certain professions, such as draenei for Jewelcrafting or dwarves for Blacksmithing, to tie in the many races that give the World of Warcraft its depth and history.“

—Jay Hwang, Senior 3D Artist

One More Thing

Hey there—Chris here again, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this closer look at the buildings for your Garrison. While we focused on Alliance Garrison this time around, we’re definitely making a lot of great progress on the Horde counterpart, and look forward to giving you a more in-depth preview in a future episode of Artcraft. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at what you can expect. See you soon!

And then lastly the scroll of resurrection will be discontinued very soon! Check out the announcement below:

Quote from: Blizzard
The time has come to bid adieu to the Scroll of Resurrection. It’s served its divine purpose, but like most scrolls, it only has so many charges before it loses its magic and crumbles into ethereal dust. For those who’d still like a chance to use the scroll, you have until February 18 before players are no longer able to send invitations. For those who have an invitation outstanding, that’s still good for 30 days from the time it was sent, after which point the invitation will expire and the benefits can no longer be claimed.

Podcast Episode 21

Episode 21 of the podcast is up and this week we cover the increased subscriber numbers, the various hints towards a possible beta, the raid system change in 6.0 to Siege of Orgrimmar, Guild/Raid atmosphere and finally what we’d like to see if blizzard would choose to put another class into the game.

More signs of a WoD beta coming soon(tm)?

Often forum threads pop up over the web with fake information for new games or expansions to try and trick people. So take this with a grain of salt although looking at some of the responses and what we posted just a bit earlier about Rygarius’ tweet about patch notes it does look quite compelling. So it’s looking like more of a possibility that the Warlords of Draenor beta might be coming within the next month. What am I talking about? Well a poster on the MMO-Champion forums found the following image on the battle.net servers for the account pages:

Which by itself is a great thing to find, however another poster said the following:

The MoP one was discovered March 7th, the beta started March 22nd.

The original post was not even about this, in fact it was about PvP Lead Developer Holinka’s tweet:

Of course Holinka could be talking about a 6.0 pre expansion internal testing server, or even one just for WoD pvp changes. So take all these signs with a mountain of salt, but these things could indicate a possible beta within the next month. Hope for the best but assume the worst, but it certainly gets this warcraft player’s hopes high! We will of course continue to watch for any solid information concerning the beta in the weeks to come.