BlizzCon 2011! Day 1

Or… I’m in the Mists of Panderia beta; are you?

More on that in a bit, and as always please head over to either the official Blizzard site for official information or to MMO Champ for more information.

Warning: Long post is long! I’ve tried to highlight keywords, so skim if you like.

The kittens are not helping by sitting on my notes, but these are the WoW highlights that stuck with me:

WoW Annual Pass

The big announcement from the morning ceremony (other than the whole, “oh yeah, the new WoW expansion will be Mists of Panderia”) is the introduction of the WoW Annual Pass. You basically sign up and say that you will continue your WoW sub for a year. You will still be charged monthly, but your sub cannot be cancelled. Any time you currently have in your sub bank counts towards the year.

This feature gives you the following:

  • Guaranteed access to the next beta.
  • An in-game mount for WoW, Tyrael’s Charger. (Click that link. If you only click one link in this post, make it that one. /drool)
  • Get the full digital, download of Diablo 3 for free.

Yes, I signed up immediately. Free game, free mount, beta key? For something I was going to do any way? Yes, please!

Oh, and if you get the collector’s edition of D3, you’re supposed to get 4 months of WoW when you attach it to your battlenet account.

This should, for at least the next year, squelch any talk of WoW going to a free-to-play model.

Blizzard DOTA

Coming soon-ish.

I’m not big into the whole DOTA scene, but the clips they showed were pretty impressive with some memorable characters from all over the Blizzard universes coming together to kick some ass. I am intrigued.

Mists of Panderia

As mostly guessed, and equally hoped for and against, the previously uncovered copyright application for MoP is for the next WoW expansion.

Yes, Panderians are the new race. Available to both factions. (You choose your path at level 10.) The starting zone is on the back of a giant, freaking turtle. They can be: hunters, mages, monks (duh), priests, rogues, shaman, and warriors. They cannot be: death knights, druids (a bear that turns into a bear, wut?), paladins, or warlocks.

Tangent: Previously Blizzard had a fairly firm stance on not sharing races between the factions, largely due to recognizable silhouettes. If you come across someone of the opposite faction, even with fairly crappy graphics and with name plates turned off, it’s always been relatively easy to identify friend and foe by the shape of a character. If this is not important anymore, does this open the door (I don’t want to say slippery slope…) to allowing us to faction transfer without a race change?

Racials will include a food stat buff, bonus to cooking skills, rested XP lasting twice as long, take 50% less fall damage, and a 3-second sleep attack called Quaking Palm.

Yes, Monk is the new class. Not a heroic class. (You start at level 1 with the rest of the schmucks.) All races except goblins and worgen can be monks. Slightly odd choices, but now I have to figure out which hair color my blood elf monk will sport. No clue on what the class color will be for monk… maybe some sort of teal, or peach… the color-impaired community is already having a hard time with some classes (sometimes Tir yells at the mages when it was a hunter that pulled aggro) so I’m curious to see where on the color wheel the monk lands.

So what can monks do? What CAN’T they do? Ranged DPS. But they can tank (brewmaster), heal (mistweaver, looking to expand on the damage-to-healing conversion started with smite priests, but with more of a melee twist), and melee DPS (windwalker). Equipment will largely be staves and fist weapons sprinkled with 1-handed axes/maces/swords. Healers will use an off-hand but not a shield. You’ll be looking for leather with agi or int. Expect melee attacks to be bare-handed (or bear-handed) and whip out that staff for a slick finisher.

How do monks do what they do? Two resources: Chi (basically an energy-type resource that builds over time) fuels your basic jab and roll. Oh, monks don’t have an auto-attack. Say hello to button mashing, because your jab will generate both light and dark forces that get used for all your other abilities.

Level cap of 90. No flying in the new leveling zones until max cap. (There is a theory that there will be no flying at all until max cap, but I think that’s bogus and I’m pretty sure it was cleared up in one of the interviews. Seriously, can you imagine leveling through Outland without flying? You literally cannot reach some places until you can fly.)

5 zones to level up in and a return to the unified leveling area a la Outland or Northrend. Cataclysm leveling felt very divided with all the zones being spread out, so this will pull them back together as well as put Horde and Alliance back on the same zone for leveling – opposite sides, but we’ll meet in the middle. Questing is expected to be less linear, with more choices in how to progress through a zone.

The big, bad villain of the expansion is… WAR. That’s right, we’re focusing on the conflict between the Horde and the Alliance – made all the more apparent when we basically invade MoP and start tearing their shit up.

There should be more to DO outside of the cities – be on the lookout for the return of world raid bosses. Dungeons will also have a presence in the world. Sort of like you quest in and around the lost city of the Tol’Vir in Uldum, dungeons will be real places in the map with proper scale. (No more portals to interpocket dimensions.)

Do what you want to do to progress your characters. Valor Points will be available for many more activities (presumably at a painfully slow rate, but remember that tier will only be available through raiding anyway).

There are 9 dungeons expected to ship, with 6 of them in Panderia.

Scholomance is getting a heroic upgrade and Scarlet Monastery is getting reworked into 2 distinct wings.

3 raids at launch, with all three of the new levels: Raid Finder, normal, and heroic.

There are 2 new BGs in the works and 1 new arena (basically a copy of Nagrand, just with the columns twisted a bit).

Challenge Mode Dungeons

So you’ve hit max cap. You’re geared to the teeth. You’re bored and you’re tired of all these scrubs with no gear bogging down your queue.

Enter the challenge mode dungeon.

These are time trial versions of dungeons – with normalized gear. (The final word hasn’t come down on whether your gear scales down or mobs will scale up, it’s still being toyed with.) So you may be geared in the most epic of epics, but it won’t matter for shit in this mode that emphasizes skill over purplez.

And the rewards?

Well, you get bronze/silver/gold medals and placed on leaderboards to brag about.

And spiffy, special gear only available through challenge dungeons. Now, this gear won’t have any stats. But it will look AWESOME (so they say) and will be available for transmogrification.

Pet Battle System

Do you know anything about Pokemon? Then you pretty much know all we got from the con.

This will be a dueling system that pits teams of your non-combat pets (guess we’ll just have to call them vanity pets now) against the pets of other players. They will gain experience and level up, unlocking new abilities. Eventually, you may even be able to name them.

And to make this slightly less annoying for collectors like myself, most pets will be available account-wide. You may also be able to trade (and sell!) pets.

Besides the normal pets we’ve already obtained, there will be wild pets that you can find and fight to add to your collection.

The combat will be a turn-based system so this might actually interest me, not being of the PvP-twitchy sort.

Talents 2.0

Because the talent overhaul in Cataclysm didn’t do enough, they are ripping it out completely.

Classes will have class-abilities that everyone of that class will get.

There will be abilities tied specifically to your spec.

(Abilities will be learned automatically, no more heading back to town to learn how to stab someone more effectively.)

Talents… are different.

You’ll get your first talent choice at level 15 and it looks like every 15 levels thereafter.

For each talent tier, you will be presented with 3 similar talents.

They are similar in that they are loosely related to modifying the same aspect of the game. For example, there is a mage talent tier that deals strictly with polymorph. One choice reduces how quickly a polymorph target regens health, the second adds a stun, and the third allows you to polymorph a second target (for half the duration). Other tiers might deal with movement talents, or survivability. Currently, the first hunter talent tier allows you to choose a special type of arrow. Later on, there is a trap tier. Warriors get a tier that changes how their Charge works.

Here’s the thing: when you pick one of those 3 talents, that’s the only talent you can pick for that tier. You can change it later, and they did say that it wouldn’t be more complicated than switching out glyphs, but you can’t choose all three polymorph talents at the same time.

The idea was to put the DPS stuff that everyone took and the important stuff that had to be taken directly in the class. Everything you choose as a talent should be about fun and play style. If you like clicking more buttons, you can choose the active talents. If you want more passive bonuses, you can pick talents that do that. The developers are inviting us to “geek out” over the talents and have some fun with it.

PvE Scenarios

These are short instances for a few players that do not require the normal tank/heal/DPSx3 formula. If successful, these may be the future of the group quest.

They are designed to be staged experiences with a short series of objectives. They can be queued for like a dungeon or special boss and may even scale with level so that you can go back and experience story that you may have missed on the way to max cap. With no role requirements, the queue times are expected to be fast.


Short slide – some achievements will be going account-wide.

Other Random Changes

Resilience – becoming a base stat like Strength or Intellect, will go up as you level. Intended to help bridge the entry gap for new players in PvP.

Ranged Weapons – Hunters rejoice! There will no longer be a minimum range! Hunters lament! Your melee weapons will be gone! (We went from everything being a hunter weapon to nothing being a hunter weapon.)

So how to keep warriors and rogues from stealing all the bows/crossbows/guns from the hunters? Take away their ranged slots! You’ll just chuck your weapon at something when you need to throw something. Relics – gone! Wands will become viable main hand weapons.

Warlocks – To push the warlock kits further away from “wanna-be mages,’ each spec will use a different resource. Affliction will continue to use a revamped Soul Shard system. Demonology gets Demonic Energy, and Destruction will burn Infernal Embers. I hate to say it, but the changes make warlocks sound… interesting. That feeling will most likely pass as soon as I get to revel in how awesome my mage will be with the new talents.

Shaman – Tired of moving totems around? You’re in luck because all your buff-totems are gone! They aren’t sure on the specifics, but you will bring your buffs to the group in a less obnoxious way. More totems will be introduced to bring more utility and make their use more of an active choice than a routine dropping of the same totem set. There are also some talents that really play with how you get to increase totem usefulness.

Druids – Feel like you have 4 specs? Now you do! Feral cat and Guardian bear are split out more definitively. You’ll still retain your flexibility in changing forms; matter of fact, some talents actively encourage it and emphasize the hybrid nature of the class.

The spell book is being cleaned up and rotations on all classes are being improved.

Still no final word on more character slots. With the addition of a new class, it was sort of assumed it would be a no-brainer… Blizzard is listening and I’m sure they see the demand for this feature, but I personally would not be surprised to see it as a paid feature. Which I would actually be fine with.

With 4.3 we may see some of the “can’t complete quest in a raid” limitations removed. Because, seriously, how are the other 9 or 24 people in my raid helping me cut a Jagged Jasper or 3?

Tomorrow brings the open Q&A and the class/item/profession panels.

And the artist formerly known as the Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain, absent from last year’s convention, will be opening for the Foo Fighters!

(Because you know they said, “We could open for the Foo Fighters? Fuck, yeah!”


8 comments on “BlizzCon 2011! Day 1

  1. telanarra says:

    I signed up for the Annual Pass already also. I guess there was a bit of my soul Blizz hadn’t gotten its claws into!


  2. Yeah, I’m probably gonna get the annual pass, too. I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to get D3, but for free? Why the hell not. That mount is freaking gorgeous.

    I have mixed feelings about MoP so far. Monks sound fucking amazing. A rogue that can also heal? Hells yes. I’m indifferent to the pandas themselves. I like Pandaren, but I don’t need to play as one.

    I love the game design philosophy for this expansion. It seems to be the antithesis of Cataclysm’s “raid or GTFO” model. Choice seems to be the slogan. PvE Scenarios sound incredibly fun — I’ve been wanting something like that forever. I’m also glad to hear the Raid Finder is here to stay.

    Pandaria looks beautiful, but I’m real worried about the story (or lack thereof) for this expansion. The lore is the most important part of this game for me, and it seems at best unclear what MoP is even about. I do not want another BC, where the plot is so muddled that even years later people can’t even agree on who the main villain was.

    I haven’t decided whether I like the new talent choices yet or not. I like the concept of it, how it’s much more flexible and customizable (SHADOWSTEP FOR ALL ROGUES!), but only having one choice every 15 levels sounds kind of lame. I don’t want to have to wait 90 levels for the coolest toys. Also, a lot of the choices for a lot of the classes sounded pretty underwhelming (with the exception of the DKs — holy crap), though that will probably improve before release.


    • tirthedk says:

      The new talent choices are similar to the Diablo III talent system. If they go ahead with all the changes, or at least in the same directions for development of talent trees, I think this will actually be Blizzard delivering on their promise of truly unique builds.

      The one choice every 15 levels makes since, because you will still learn new abilities with each few levels you go up. For instance, if you are leveling a paladin and you pick Protection as your spec, you will still learn spec specific abilities as you level. Then, every 15 levels, you can pick a talent that makes you more awesome. The same feel of “Oh I leveled new and shiny” will still be there, with the additional bonus of every 15 levels being able to pick a really cool talent to help you out.


  3. tirthedk says:

    Also, I will be doing a write up on Diablo III changes and telling you guys more about the other half of Arioch. If Arioch is the chick that plays males, then Tirael is the guy who plays females.


  4. SirFWALGMan says:

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WE NEED ANOTHER SLOT! I have 1 of each! I don;t know what to do without another slot :(. HELLLP BLIZZZ! I will picket you!!! LOL.


  5. slice213 says:

    As Tir mentioned the talent trees is a lot like D3’s. Although, one could call it “easier” from a design and business standpoint, why not make thing easier for the majority of its customers. Not everyone raids etc. MoP seems to the expansion for those who are not “hardcore” raiders etc. Lots of QoL for those not so raid inclined.

    But yes another character slot would be nice….

    Pandabowl for horde and Pandaexpress for alliance are reserved for me. MoP needs to get out faster!


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