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Patch 4.0.3a: The Shattering is Upon Us

22 November 2010 | 20 Comments » | Amatera

Tomorrow marks, to the day, the sixth anniversary of World of Warcraft, and Blizzard is going to celebrate Azeroth’s birthday by completely destroying it. The moment we’ve all been waiting for — the Shattering, the moment at which Deathwing is figuratively reborn into the world by making a literal hole in it — is nigh. I recommend looping the following for effect as we briefly discuss which changes you can expect in 4.0.3a (sorry internet parodies, the original is still the best):

The Shattering — Patch 4.0.3a

Even with the normally well-informed folks on the PTR, I noticed this week that many were baffled about what they could and could not access. I suppose that’s what happens when you’re juggling live, test, and beta versions of content at the same time, causing anyone who isn’t following the proceedings that closely to become easily confused.

To clarify, here are the new features you can expect when 4.0.3a goes live:

  • Major Zone Changes — All changes to existing zones will be available to everybody. This includes the revamped Troll and Gnome starting areas, but not any other brand new zones/subzones.
  • New Class/Race Combinations — Feel free to start up that new alt, as long as it isn’t a Worgen or a Goblin! Holy Cows (Tauren Paladins), Dwarven Shamans, and Troll Druids will no doubt be amongst the most popular choices. Expect starting areas to be crowded all over again.
  • Universal Cataclysm Content — This is media essential to the game whether or not you plan on purchasing the expansion (though, why wouldn’t you?). It encompasses things like the new log-in screen and cinematic, as well as updated music for some existing zones.
  • City Changes — Despite the bleedingly obvious ones (a complete, but badass revision of Orgrimmar, for instance), there are a few smaller tweaks you should be aware of. Portal Masters in Shattrath City and Dalaran have been removed and replaced with Class Trainers.  There are also City Quartermasters who you can purchase new Tabards from if/when you have the appropriate level of Reputation.
  • Dungeon Changes — At BlizzCon, it was revealed that some old-world dungeons would be significantly streamlined, so you should be able to experience the new versions of any instances you could access previously.
  • Class BalanceMost of the class balance changes were added in 4.0.3, but there are still a few more to be added, which you’ll find in the patch notes after the break. In addition, Hunters will have access to new tamable pets, and the following classes will have their Talent Points reset: Druid, Paladin, Priest, and Shaman.
  • Leveling Experience – It was recently announced that getting through Northrend would be a lot easier. Treat yourself to a 20% reduction in required XP from Levels 71-80.
  • Bug Fixes — Self-explanatory.

Cataclysm — The Purchased Expansion

Of course, Blizzard ain’t just giving away everything for free. The following content will require a retail purchase of the expansion, which arrives in two weeks (Dec. 7), so don’t expect any of it with tomorrow’s patch:

  • New Races — Cataclysm gives you access to the new Goblin and Worgen races, as well as areas specific to them. That means — if you’re a Horde player, for instance — that the Lost Isles are off limits in 4.0.3a, but you can level up in Azshara, which has been greatly transformed by the presence of Goblins.
  • New Zones/Dungeons/Raids — Speaking of zones, here are the ones you will not able to get to without the expansion (so don’t bother people in General/Trade by asking about it): Kezan, Gilneas, Lost Isles, Mount Hyjal, Vashj’ir, Uldum, Maelstrom/Deepholm, Twilight Highlands. Likewise, the dungeons and raids associated with them will be locked out.
  • New Profession: Archaeology — Can’t touch it unless you buy the expansion. You won’t see any artifacts in the wild, either, since being able to do so requires that you’ve learned the profession.
  • Level Cap: 85 — You’ll be stuck at 80 until you get Cataclysm.
  • Illustrious Grand Master — Likewise, since you can’t level up any further, you won’t have access to professions past 450 until the expansion.
  • Guild Leveling/Achievements — While The Shattering will get people excited and bring lapsed guildies back to the game, don’t expect things to get truly exciting until after Dec. 7th, when Guild Leveling and Achievements are available.

So, hopefully things are a bit easier to understand now. Don’t forget to read up on the patch notes after the jump!

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Lorecast Episode 28: Belated Pre-Thanksgiving Soft-Handed BlOps/Cataclysm Extravaganza!

22 November 2010 | No Comments » | Amatera

How can something be both belated and timely? When there’s a holiday involved, of course! The latest episode of the Lorecast is coming ‘atcha a little later than normal, but that’s because it’s making up for the lack of one being recorded this week (due to Thanksgiving shenanigans for us Americans, of course).

We discuss, as always, the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion and — more specifically — the impending patch which will flip the switch on The Shattering! Make sure to listen to my impressions of the new Troll starting area! Episode 28 also marks the return of a voice you may have missed since we merged podcasts: Pixiestixy! So please, come join us for some girl time as we sit in rocking chairs around the fire, knitting baby blankets with oversized needles, and crow about the latest news in the world of MMORPGS and whatever baked goods we’ve produced most recently.

So, listen to it now, or (if you’re from the United States) save it for that car/train/airplane trip home later this week! As a bit of extra incentive for doing so, we have some beta keys for Rifts: Planes of Telara, and somewhere in the podcast, we tell you how you can score one! Show notes are after the break.

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WoW Patch 4.0.3 Live Today

16 November 2010 | 4 Comments » | Amatera

Ooohhhhohhhh, we're haaaalfwaaay theeereee....

Don’t go scrambling for your keyboards or feverishly hunting for the game’s icon on your desktop just yet! You’ll still have plenty of time to complete the Elemental Invasion world events, and the Cataclysm, itself, has yet to cometh. Remember that Patch 4.0.3 does not activate all of the changes to the old world (that would be 4.0.3a), but it will contain the data needed to do so when the switch is flipped in a few more weeks.

As this is a preparatory patch, the notes for 4.0.3 are a bit of a light load, featuring mostly bug fixes or additional tweaks to game operations made since 4.0.1 hit:

General

  • Much of the data being downloaded in patch 4.0.3 will pave the way for the shattering of Azeroth shortly before the release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm on December 7.
  • The leader of Wintergrasp raids can no longer kick players from the raid (this change will also apply to Tol Barad in Cataclysm).
  • When in a Looking For Dungeon group, using an instance portal to that instance will now take players to the Looking For Dungeon entrance point instead of the normal destination of that portal. This will make it easier to return to the instance after dying in an LFD group.
  • Honorable Kills are no longer awarded for killing players below level 5.

User Interface

  • Added pets to the new raid unit frames when displayed in party.
  • The default UI Scale has been altered so it will be set at a 1:1 pixel/texel ratio. This will result in a smaller UI appearance for higher resolution monitors.
  • Players may now adjust the local “Lag Tolerance” time for better precision of spell timing. This is an advanced-users-only feature found in the Interface Options (Combat) panel.

Bug Fixes

  • Macros now handle spell variant transitions better. For example, Trap Launcher causes a different version of Frost Trap to be cast. Previously the macro system was not handling this transition properly.
  • Queuing in Looking For Dungeon for a different wing of the instance a player is already in now works properly. For example, a party can now queue for Scarlet Monastery – Library after completing Scarlet Monastery – Graveyard.
  • Killing High Interrogator Gerstahn before killing Emperor Dagran Thaurissan in a Blackrock Depths – Upper City random Looking For Dungeon run will now provide the proper reward. This also applies to Archmage Arugal and the Crown Chemical Company bosses in Shadowfang Keep during the Love is in the Air holiday event.
  • Repeatedly inspecting other players should now function correctly.
  • Area heal-over-time effects should no longer cause players to stand up.
  • Male blood elves have received a crash course in dancing and now know to stop dancing when they run.
  • Drake mounts have gotten bored with gliding and will flap their wings again when flying forward.
  • Druid Flight Form now properly appears in the Spellbook before Expert Riding is learned.
  • Sunfire’s damage-over-time effect now deals damage at the same rate as Moonfire’s damage- over-time effect.
  • GM Ticket messages should now displace buff icons instead of obscuring them.

Lorecast Episode 26 — Cataclysm Got Your Tongue?

11 November 2010 | 3 Comments » | Amatera

Weekend Confirmed! After taking a few weeks off to allow room for the video podcasts that we recorded at BlizzCon 2010, the audio version of the Lorecast has returned with Episode 26! Cavin “Amatera” Smith and Patrick “iTZKooPA” Mulhern, as usual, take up more time talking about junk than they ever planned on using! Black Ops and Castlevania occupy most of the “Whatcha Been Playin?” talk while World of Warcraft dominates both the news and discussion topic. Among other things, the pair also delve into recent (and exclusive) site interviews with Hi-Rez Studios and take a moment to express their curmudgeonly concerns over Microsoft’s Kinect.

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Shows notes follow:

Whatcha Been Playin?

Amatera: Call of Duty: Black Ops, Fallout: New Vegas, Minecraft, Modnation Racers, Alien Breed 2: Assault
iTZKooPA: Black Ops, League of Legends, Global Agenda, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

World of Warcraft Major News

World of Warcraft “Lightning Lore”

Other MMO/Gaming News

Discussion

  • Riding the wave of hype: with less than a month ago, how much are you still anticipating the release of Cataclysm?

Miscellany

Click the player above to listen, download the podcastsubscribe via RSS, or subscribe on iTunes.

Mega-Sized Homage to Video Gaming’s Leading “Man”

10 November 2010 | 4 Comments » | Amatera

I just had to share this, Lore Hounds! You can file Chris Bringhurst’s epic tribute to Mega Man under damn awesome. What originally started out as a project featuring 100 characters from the video gaming panoply has — due to popular demand — now doubled in size. From the Blue Bomber’s 8-bit brethren to the latest current-gen classics, gamers from all walks of life will find something familiar in the picture below, but keep an eye out for a handful of Lore Hound favorites that make an appearance, as well!

Most characters adapt to Mega Man’s style surprisingly well, though a few come off as just a little disturbing in the process (Pac-Man, /shudder). Either way, the selection is ripe for desktop material or cutting up into unique forum avatars. Credit goes to PikiGeek, where you can also find an interview with the image’s creator. For the full, original file (too large to post on the main page), click here.

Lore Hound LivePlay: Watch Amatera Fail At Black Ops

9 November 2010 | No Comments » | Amatera

Call of Duty isn’t an actual MMORPG, but it might as well be one. I mean, the series was always popular, but it wasn’t until the inclusion of experience points and a leveling structure — traditional RPG elements —  that the franchise became the world’s premiere multiplayer experience. And, let’s face it, while there is no persistent world, there is a massive number of people playing the game at once. It fits the bill, even if I’m stretching the terminology just a little bit.

Just about a year ago, Modern Warfare 2 had a terrible, powerful hold on me. I was still playing World of Warcraft, but this was a way for me (and a few of my fellow officers) to blow off some steam after a bad raid night. In fact, I’d be checking my watch feverishly between every wipe or secretly hoping we wouldn’t have enough people on that night to actually do anything. For all of the game’s inherent problems — lack of dedicated servers, bugs, glitches, hacks, and general imbalance — it was a much-needed, twitchy, fast-paced alternative to the overthinking and babysitting required of a 25-man raid. The game eventually wore on me, though, and I switched to Battlefield: Bad Company 2 when that came out, but even that soured over time.

I swore to myself that I wouldn’t fall for the next Call of Duty game. Not only was the series’ second-string developer, Treyarch, having another go at it, but I just didn’t think I could put myself through the torture again. I kept myself in the dark, ignoring the game and its impending hype. Well, until a couple days ago, I read some well-informed impressions, and became hooked on the idea of playing all over again. Much of the multiplayer cheese had been addressed, Treyarch was bringing back their popular Zombie co-op mode from World at War, and to be honest, I kind of dug the Cold War theme.

So here I am again, trying to get my bearings and dealing with the launch day lag. As well as getting my ass kicked. I’ve got, oh, six hours to kill before my girlfriend comes home and so, I invite you to watch, chat about or (if you have the game) even join me for another Lore Hound LivePlay. All you have to do is click on the little window embedded below. It’ll be more exciting this time. I promise.

Lore Hound Video Review: Alien Breed 2: Assault

7 November 2010 | 1 Comment » | Amatera

If there was one game that convinced me retro remakes could work, it was Bionic Commando: Rearmed. It looked slick and played great, with some fantastic bonus content and no need to transcend its traditional, side-scrolling content. Riding high off the success of Rearmed, Capcom was pretty well convinced that their impending full three-dimensional continuation of the series would fare just as well, if not better.

It flopped. Hard. So hard that it pretty much took down developer GRIN with it. But if GRIN is a young star that just shined too brightly, then Team 17 is a red dwarf that refuses to go out. They’ve been around since at least 1990 and have continued to, more or less, produce the same two series for that entire time. To be fair, it wasn’t until last year that they chose to resurrect top-down shooter Alien Breed, but therein lies the reason for the parable I mentioned above. When you’re remaking a game, it’s success depends on the perfect balance between preserving what still works and adding just enough of the new to make it feel fresh.

Has Team 17 made the right decisions in bringing the series up to date? Reactions to their first attempt, Alien Breed: Evolution/Impact were decidedly lukewarm. We played through the sequel, Alien Breed 2: Assault, to see if it fared any better. I implore to check out our video review below, but first a few notes:

  1. I believe this is the first time we’ve actually used our new video intro. Appropriately enough for this review, it’s a bit retro, too. Let us know what you think!
  2. I apologize ahead of time for my voice over. Unfortunately, that’s what you get to deal with when I’m all stuffed up.
  3. If the footage of the in-game intro is running a bit long for you, well, feel free to skip ahead a bit. ;)

New World of Warcraft Community Site Preview

6 November 2010 | 1 Comment » | Amatera

Fansites don’t get to have all the fun! The true nexus of all things WoW has just undergone a significant revision of its own: the official World of Warcraft Community Site! The fact that it now falls under the banner of Battle.net is really the least of it.

Many exciting changes are coming to World of Warcraft with the upcoming Cataclysm expansion, both in-game and out. We’re excited to offer you an early look at the new World of Warcraft community site, which will soon become the prime gathering spot and source of information for players on the web. You can read more about the transition from our existing website to the new one in our original announcement: http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/th…87366608&sid=1

As you’re exploring your future home, keep in mind that this is a live preview, and not all of the new features are ready quite yet. We want your feedback about the look and feel of the new site, so while you’re browsing, we encourage you to submit bug reports and make feature requests — let your voice be heard. Go ahead. Check it out!

New World of Warcraft Community Site: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/

Website Bug Reports: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/1025938/

Website Feature Requests: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/1025939/

Based roughly on the StarCraft II Community Site, nearly every element of the page is now in a new location, with the core menus aligned along the top and Armory-fueled activity feed for the character of your choice to the right side. Though it might take a little poking around to find out where they’ve stuck all the old bits and pieces, it’s a pretty slick package overall. Things are simply organized more effficiently, no longer a mess of small type and tabbed menus. Not to mention that it’s nice to  drop that ancient Wrath of the Lich King theme for something a little more timely and appropriate.

Some of the major sub-sections are still under wraps, such as the World of Warcraft Game Guide, which will no doubt undergo similar levels of improvement.

As mentioned in Zarhym’s post above, this is currently just a preview, with the final version of the site going live closer to the release of Cataclysm. For the time being, you can still access the old version through its traditional portal.