Mists of Pandaria information – Monk class, Pandaren, Dungeon Challenge, Pet Battle… UPDATED FOR BLIZZCON 2011

Breaking News – Yes, the fourth WoW expansion is indeed Mists of Pandaria. We’re told that the expansion will focus on the battle between Alliance and Horde “in a place that has been lost in time to close to ten thousands years. It is a land of balance, harmony, and hope — that is, until we arrived.”

New features in Mists of Pandaria

  • Pandaren race for both Alliance AND Horde.
  • New Monk class
  • Level cap raised to 90
  • Dungeon Challenge system with normalised iLevels and time challenges.
  • “Scenario” instances for small numbers of people, replacing group quests.
  • Entire new Asian-inspired continent with 5 areas, each larger than Twilight Highlands (allegedly).
  • Pandaren start on the back of a giant turtle. Really.
  • Pet battle system – it’s Pokemon in WOW!
  • 5 new zones – to quote the official site, “Explore the lush Jade Forest, treacherous Kun-Lai Summit, and other exotic areas of Pandaria designed for high-level characters, and uncover the mystery of the Wandering Isle.”
  • Completely redesigned talent system – one talent every 15 levels, choice of three per “tier”.
  • 9 dungeons and 3 raids on launch, including Heroic Scholomance and Heroic Scarlet Monastery (split into two dungeons).

Smaller features

  • Ranged slots have been removed. Hunters now use ranged weapons as their main weapon. Casters use wands.
  • 4 new PvP battlegrounds with a variety of new formats.
  • Passive buff totems for Shamans have been removed.
  • Stats will be normalised to reverse the “stat inflation” of previous expansions.
  • No flying in the new zones until you reach level cap.
  • Many Achievements will now be account-wide.
  • The graphics engine of WoW is getting some significant tweaks.
  • Resilience is now becoming a base stat, which will increase as you level.
  • Druids now have 4 specs: Bear is being separated out into “Guardian”.
  • Spells now automatically learned. Trainers are just for changing talent spec.

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Trailers

Main Expansion Trailer:

“B-roll” zone trailer:

More soon!

Original article follows:

The discovery of a patent filed by Blizzard for something called Mists Of Pandaria has caused a virtual mexican wave of excited speculation around the blogosphere. But just how much Mists of Pandaria information is there out there? Some, but not that much. Much of what we think we know is speculation.

The most popular theory, of course, is that Mists Of Pandaria will be the name of the next World Of Warcraft Expansion, but at this stage it remains just that: a theory.

What we know

Nothing.

Blizzard have indeed filed a trademark, as you can see from the original post on MMO Champion which kicked off the fuss. Many people are saying that Blizzard could be doing this for all sorts of reasons, including just to put people off the trail. That seems unlikely – an international trademark costs several thousand dollars including legal fees, and even Blizzard doesn’t throw thousands of dollars around on a whim. However, that doesn’t mean it is the name of the next expansion. Trademarks are registered for all sorts of reasons, and sometimes don’t end up being used for anything.

Similar trademarks were filed for previous World Of Warcraft expansions, so if Mists Of Pandaria were to be the next expansion, this trademark application would certainly fit. Either way, if Blizzard follows the pattern they’ve established for previous expansions, we won’t hear anything concrete until Blizzcon in October, at the very earliest. If this leaked Blizzard product slate is anything to go by, the next WoW expansion will be released in Q2 of 2012.

Of course, that’s not going to stop the community from speculating wildly. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular theories (as well as some of the most preposterous).

Playable pandas – the Pandaren race

It’s a safe bet that an expansion called Mists Of Pandaria will feature the Pandaren in some way. These cuddly, ale-loving, ninja pandas have been a part of Warcraft lore for years, but have never featured heavily in World Of Warcraft. Whether the Pandaren become a new playable race, as some commentators are hoping (others dreading), or whether the Pandaren are merely an important faction to the new expansion’s storyline, this would be a major deal.

It’d be an extrordinary journey for the Pandaren – a race which was originally born as an April Fool’s joke! Players responded so positively to the idea of a race of ninja pandas that they became incorporated into the game lore.

Azshara and the Naga

Early rumors and speculation for the Cataclysm expansion hinted that a major player would be the Naga Queen, Azshara. That never really came to pass (although Cataclysm does expand significantly on the Naga, particularly through some of the questlines in Vashj’ir) but it may be that the Queen Azshara content was merely deferred. An expansion set in the southern Pandaran islands would be the perfect setting for a final confrontation with Azshara, and the idea of the Naga queen as an end-of-expansion boss has got a lot of people excited.

Kvaldir in the mists

The ‘Pandaria’ aspect of the thing-that-might-just-possibly-be-an-expansion is firing the most gossip, of course, but the ‘Mists’ aspect is potentially interesting, too. Mist is very closely associated with the race of giants known as the Vrykul, particularly the seafaring Vrykul known as the Kvaldir.

Their storyline opened up as part of Wrath Of The Lich King, but we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg so far. Everything we know about the Vrykul has only led to more questions. Were they created directly by the Titans? Are they the progenitors of the human race on Azeroth? What exactly is the relationship between the Kvaldir and the Naga?

What do you think? Do you have more hard information? Let us know below!

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Easy mounts to get in WoW

Where would Gandalf be without Shadowfax? Where would Don Quixote be without Rocinante? Where would Shrek be without Donkey? Whatever type of hero you want to play, one thing’s for sure: you’ll need a suitably heroic steed. To help you along, here’s our list of easy mounts to get in WoW.

Once your World of Warcraft character hits level 20, you’ll be able to learn the Apprentice Riding skill, which sounds rather unpleasant for the poor apprentice, but is actually just the skill you need to be able to ride at all. Once you’ve trained that skill, you’ll be able to obtain and ride a mount. As well as making you travel faster, mounts come in a wide variety of types, colors and sizes. Some of the more exotic mounts require you to be either very lucky, very persistant, or – most often – both in order to aquire them, but there are some basic mounts which are easy to get hold of.

Racial mounts

By far the easiest mounts to get hold of are those provided by your own race. For Horde characters, these will be Wolves for Orcs, Kodos for Tauren, Raptors for Trolls, Skeletal Horses for Undead, Hawkstriders for Blood Elves, and Trikes for Goblins. For Alliance characters, the choices are Elekk for Draenei, Rams for Dwarves, Mechanostriders for Gnomes, Horses for Humans, and Sabers for Night Elves. Worgen have no racial mount – instead they just get down on all fours and run!

You’ll automatically be able to buy the mounts for your own race, but you can obtain the mounts for other races of your faction once you hit Exalted reputation with that race. The exception to this is the Worgen Running Wild ability, which only Worgen characters can learn.

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Class mounts

Depending on your class, you may have another easy way to get a mount: your class mount. Not every class has a mount, but those that do usually learn the ability automatically and for free at level 20. Warlocks will learn to summon a Felsteed. Paladins will also automatically gain a mount – the exact nature of which will depend on the paladin’s race.

If you’re playing a druid or a shaman, you won’t have access to any class specific mounts, but you will be able to transform yourself into a form with faster movement – a cat for a druid, and a ghost wolf for a shaman.

Easy quest mounts

While the aquisition of most mounts will require some effort, there are a few which are easier than others. If you’re looking for an ususual mount that won’t require too much work to obtain, try one of these:

Venomhide Ravasaur

Available to Horde characters only, this rideable raptor is a reward from a series of daily quests given out by Mor’vek in Un’Goro crater. You’ll need to be of a high enough level to wander around Un’Goro crater without being instantly eaten, but the quests are easy. It’ll take you 20 days in total to get your mount.

Brown Riding Camel and Tan Riding Camel

Once you’re Exalted with the Ramkahen faction in Uldum, you’ll be able to buy these mounts from Blacksmith Abasi.

Armored Brown Bear

There are several mounts which can be bought for cold, hard cash, but this is among the cheapest. At 800g, it’ll still leave your pockets lighter, but if you want to ride an armored bear into battle like Lyra Belacqua, visit Mei Francis in Dalaran.

Talbuks

Getting to Exalted reputation with the Kurenai or Mag’har in Outland can be a bit of a grind, but you’ll get access to eight different talbuk mounts if you do so, which makes it worth considering.

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Cata rep rewards – our guide to the essential cata reputation rewards

You’re likely to build up reputation with the various Cataclysm factions as you level from 80 to 85. Just as with previous expansions, each new level of reputation will unlock new purchasable ‘rewards’ from that faction’s vendor. The various Cata rep rewards usually take the form of equipment and armor, which can really give you an initial boost when gearing up your newly-minted level 85 toon.

There are even reputation rewards which will be of use to end-game raiders. The Avengers of Hyjal, the new faction for the Patch 4.2 Firelands daily quests, provide epic items at i-Level 378 and above.

The best rewards will depend on your class and role, but will inevitably be spread among several faction vendors. Here’s our breakdown guide.

Reputation rewards for tanks

Head enchant – you’ll want the Arcanum of the Earthen Ring. See our complete guide to enchanting your helm.

FeetBoots of Sullen Rock requires Exalted reputation with the Dragonmaw Clan. The Alliance equivalent are the Gryphon Rider’s Boots, required Exalted reputation with the Wildhammer Clan.

Back – Exalted reputation with the Guardians of Hyjal gives access to the Wrap of the Great Turtle. Once you’re Friendly with the Avengers of Hyjal, you can replace that with a Durable Flamewrath Greatcloak.

WristSandguard Bracers, available when Exalted with Ramkahen.

Shoulder enchant – The Greater Inscription of Unbreakable Quartz. Take a glance at our guide to shoulder enchants in Cata.

Waist – You’ll need to be Honored with the Avengers of Hyjal to purchase a Girdle of the Indomitable Flame.

Trinket – Revered rep with the Avengers of Hyjal gives you Stay of Execution.

Finger – The Adamantine Signet of the Avengers is very nice indeed. Unfortunately it requires Exalted reputation with the Avengers of Hyjal to purchase, so don’t expect to be seeing it without a monstrous grind.

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Reputation rewards for healers and casters

Head enchant – The Arcanum of Hyjal is the obvious choice. For a more detailed discussion of head enchants, see our guide.

Neck – Exalted reputation with the Dragonmaw or Wildhammer clans gives the Yellow Smoke Pendant/Lightning Flash Pendant.

Waist – Clothies will need Exalted rep with the Guardians of Hyjal to get the Cord of the Raven Queen. For leather wearers, it’s Dragonmaw/Wildhammer once again. The Horde item is called Withered Dream Belt, whereas the Alliance equivalent is Belt of the Untamed. Once you hit Honored with the Avengers of Hyjal, you can upgrade to the Embereye Belt or the Firescar Sash.

Feet – The Desert Walker Sandals from Ramhaken.

Hands – Exalted reputation with the Earthen Ring will provide Flamebloom Gloves.

Shoulder enchant – use the Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone. See our complete guide.

Back – You’ll need to be Friendly with the Avengers of Hyjal to get either the Flowing Flamewrath Cape or the Rippling Flamewrath Drape.

TrinketFiery Quintessence and the Rune of Zeth are both available from the Avengers of Hyjal upon hitting Honored reputation.

Finger – Your reward for hitting Exalted rep with the Avengers of Hyjal is an awesome ring – either the Infernal Signet of the Avengers or the Quicksilver Signet of the Avengers.

Reputation rewards for DPS classes

Head enchant – Depending on whether you favor Strength or Agility, you’ll want the Arcanum of the Dragonmaw/Arcanum of the Wildhammer or the Arcanum of the Ramkahen. Check out our complete guide to helm enchants if you’re not sure which to choose.

Hands – Exalted rep with the Dragonmaw/Wildhammer clans will give you access to Liar’s Handwraps, or the Alliance equivalent Stormbolt Gloves. Alternatively, try the World Keeper’s Gauntlets from the Earthen Ring quartermaster.

Waist – If you’re a plate DPS class, work on your Guardians of Hyjal reputation to get access to the excellent Belt of The Ferocious Wold. For Paladins, choose the Sun King’s Girdle from Ramkahen instead. That will probably last you until you reach Honored with the Avengers of Hyjal, at which point you’ll upgrade to either the Firearrow Belt, Firemend Cinch, Flamebinding Girdle, Girdle of the Indomitable Flame, Girdle of the Indomitable Flame, Belt of the Seven Seals or Cinch of the Flaming Ember.

Feet – Mail-wearers will want either the Treads of Malorne from the Guardians of Hyjal or the Earthmender’s Boots from the Earthen Ring.

Neck – For Strength-based classes, the Gift of Nadun from Ramkahen is a good upgrade.

Finger – With Exalted reputation with the Earthen Ring, you’ll be able to purchase the Signet of the Elder Council.

Shoulder enchant – Read our complete guide to shoulder enchants to find the best enchant for your shoulders. You’ll want either the Greater Inscription of Jagged Stone or the Greater Inscription of Shattered Crystal.

Back – After a few Molten Front dailies, you’ll be Friendly with the Avengers of Hyjal and be able to buy either the Bladed Flamewrath Cover or the Sleek Flamewrath Cloak.

Trinket – You’ll need to become Revered with the Avengers of Hyjal, at which point you’ll have either an Ancient Petrified Seed or an Essence of the Eternal Flame.

Finger – The DPS rewards for Exalted reputation with the Avengers of Hyjal are either the Obsidian Signet of the Avengers or the Viridian Signet of the Avengers.

The Secret Camels of Ramkahen

Grinding your reputation with Ramkahen all the way to Exalted has another, hidden bonus. You’ll be able to purchase your very own ridable camel. Strangely, whilst most reputation rewards can be seen in the vendor’s inventory but can’t be purchased until the correct reputation has been achieved, the Ramkahen camel mounts do not appear in Blacksmith Abasi‘s inventory until you’re Exalted with Ramkahen. Once you hit Exalted, though, they’ll be there and ready for purchase. There are two camels available – the Brown Riding Camel and the Tan Riding Camel.

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How to get to Mount Hyjal in WoW – if you’re lost, we’ll show you the way

Mount Hyjal was the first Cataclysm zone that most players encountered while leveling from 80 to 85. For those players who skipped the zone, though, it may not be immediately clear how to get to Hyjal in Cata. With the addition of the Molten Front daily quests in patch 4.2, Hyjal is once again a vital waypoint in most players’ day-to-day lives, so here’s a simple guide to getting there.

By far the easiest way to reach Mount Hyjal is to use the convenient portal located in Orgrimmar or Stormwind. The portal is free to use, and offers instant teleportation to Nordrassil Inn in Hyjal. There’s a slight gotcha, though: if you haven’t yet completed the initial few quests which start the Hyjal questlines, the portal won’t be available to you. So, work your way through the opening of the Mount Hyjal zone if you haven’t already – the lead-in quest is ‘Warchief’s Command: Mount Hyjal!’ from Warchief’s Command Board in Orgrimmar or ‘Hero’s Call: Mount Hyjal!’ from the Hero’s Call Board in Stormwind. It’s worth doing – for one thing, you’ll need to have completed virtually the entire Hyjal questline in order to get access to the Molten Front dailies, so it won’t be time wasted even at level 85.

Once you’ve completed enough of the Hyjal questline to activate the portal, you’ll find it with the rest of the Cataclysm zone portals: on the hill just north of the Valley Of Wisdom in Orgrimmar, or on Eastern Earthshrine island (northwest of Stormwind Keep) in Stormwind.

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Other ways of getting there

While the Orgrimmar/Stormwind portal will usually be the quickest way of getting to Hyjal, you can make your own way there instead if you want . For Horde players, Orgrimmar is still the closest major Horde town from which to fly. Alliance characters will probably find it easiest to get a boat to Rachet and fly from there.

If you are crazy or stubborn enough to fly to Mount Hyjal, be aware that – as the name suggests – it’s a really big mountain. Once you hit the edge of the zone, all you’ll see is a bleak gray cliff-face. You’ll have to fly vertically upwards for quite some time before you find a point at which you can enter the zone.

Getting back

Prior to patch 4.2, the return journey from Mount Hyjal was bit of a pain, especially for Alliance players. If your hearthstone was on cooldown it was quite a trek. Luckily, return portals to Orgrimmar and Stormwind have now been placed just outside the Nordrassil Inn, so the return trip to your capital city is a piece of cake.

Return portals to Stormwind and Orgrimmar outside the Nordrassil Inn

Return portals to Stormwind and Orgrimmar outside the Nordrassil Inn

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Guild experience – Cataclysm: how to earn it and how to level your guild fast in Cata

MMO players have long been used to the idea of earning experience to advance their own characters, but with the addition of Guild experience, Cataclysm has given us a whole new way of advancing. If you’re in a small guild struggling to boost your levels, or if you’re a guildmaster looking to optimize the efforts of your guildies, this short guide will help you get the most of WoW’s new guild experience mechanic.

Your guild, rather like your character, now has a level. A new guild starts at level 1, and the maximum level attainable is currently level 25. The higher the level, the more perks your guild members will have access to. These perks range from the purely cosmetic, such as new vanity pets and mounts, to the pragmatically useful – for example, guilds which hit a certain level gain the ability to mass resurrect entire raids, or have their repair bills automatically slashed or their hearthstone cooldown times reduced. There are plenty of reasons to try to level your guild, and even the lower levels give immediately useful benefits.

Your character even has a reputation with your guild, just as she has a reputation with the many factions in-game. The best guild rewards are only available to players whose guild reputation is Exalted. Earning guild experience will automatically raise your personal guild reputation, as well as contributing towards the earned experience of your guild as a whole (and bringing you all a bit closer to the next guild level).

As one might expect, leveling a guild is a cooperative task which will require all your guildies to work together. Each guild member earns guild experience, and there’s a cap of 6,246k xp on the amount of guild experience a guild can gain in one day.

How to gain experience for your guild

Many of the day-to-day tasks which you’re probably already performing in WoW will award guild experience as well as any other rewards.

  • Completing quests will reward guild experience (in additional to any standard experience which would be awarded). If your character is level 85 and therefore no longer earns standard experience from questing, completing quests will still reward guild experience. The amount of guild experience awarded is 25% of the amount of standard XP awarded.
  • Completing daily quests also awards guild experience. At maximum level, this is one of the best ways to earn guild experience. Again, the guild XP awarded is based on the standard XP.
  • Successfully killing a boss in a dungeon will reward guild experience, but only if the majority of the party is from the same guild – pugging a random dungeon or raid on your own gets you nowhere. Killing a boss in a 5-man group will grant 18600 guild XP (per player) if two other party members are from your guild. With three fellow guildies, the amount increases to 37200 XP per player, and if all five members of the party are from the same guild the amount earned per boss kill is 46500.
  • Killing a raid boss awards 78700 guild XP per person, if sufficient guild members are present. For a 10-man raid, you’ll need at least 8 guildies. For a 25-man raid, at least 20 raiders need to be guilded.
  • A winning arena team will earn experience for their guild, but only if all members of the team are from the same guild. The amount of XP earned in this case is 138,800 XP per player.
  • A rated Battleground win will also award guild experience. Each Honor Point gained will also award 10 guild experience. In addition, a rated battleground win will also award guild experience, but only if at least 8 members of the team are from the same guild. There’s still some debate as to exactly how much XP is awarded in this case.

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How quickly can we advance?

The daily experience cap puts an effective limit on the speed at which your guild will be able to advance. Getting from level 1 to level 2 requires just over 16,500k xp. With the daily cap at just over 6000k xp, it’ll take you three days to gain your first guild level even if you earn the maximum amount of experience you possibly can. Don’t despair, though – guild experience is comparatively easy to come by, so even a leisurely-paced guild should find themselves naturally climbing up the rankings.

Take a look at this fantastic series of forum posts by Bregdark, which break down the specific numbers in excruciating detail.

The most efficient way to advance

If you want to hit Guild level 25 as soon as possible, you’re going to want to hit the guild experience cap every day. The most efficient way to do that partially depends on your playstyle and the size of your guild, but in most cases raids and dungeons are the best way to go.

As a rough guideline, if your guild can kill a raid boss in the amount of time it would take to kill two dungeon bosses, raiding will be the most efficient thing to do. If not, split the raid into five groups of 5 (or two groups of 5 for a 10-man raid) and run heroic dungeons instead. Of course, each raid boss can only be killed once per week, so you have to resort to dungeon boss kills eventually anyway. If you can complete Lost City Of The Tolvir in less time that it would take you to down any two raid bosses, you’ll be better off running dungeons. Remember to take raid trash into account when estimating your timing!

Be sure to keep an eye on the guild experience cap. Any activity after you hit the cap is wasted. It’s important to note, though, that the guild experience cap is removed once you hit guild level 20, so once you’ve reached 20 you can happily grind until your fingers fall off.

Guild leveling! Huh! Good God, y’all – what is it good for?

Absolutely everything.

The benefits of guild advancement are numerous. Each additional guild level provides a new “perk”, which will automatically apply to all your guild members. These perks include:

  • An increase to amount of experience or reputation gained from killing monsters and completing quests.
  • Items taking less durability loss when you die (giving all your guildies lower repair bills).
  • An extra bit of cash being automatically deposited in your guild bank every time a guild member loots cash from a mob.
  • Hearthstone cooldowns being reduced for every guild member.
  • Mail sent between guild members arriving instantly.

… and much more besides. Wowwiki has an excellent detailed list of guild perks available at each level.

Additional guild perks

As well as allowing guilds to advance by earning experience, Cataclysm also brought with it the ability for guilds to earn Achievements in just same way as players. These guild achievements usually require the cooperation of several (if not all) guild members. In addition to the benefits gained each time the guild advances a level, there are a variety of other perks and items to which you’ll have access, depending on your personal guild reputation and whether or not you’ve accomplished some of these guild achievements.

The additional rewards available from guild achievements include Heirloom items, vanity pets and mounts. If your guild manages to hit the maximum Guild Level of 25, for example, you’ll be able to purchase the undeniably awesome Reins of the Kor’kron Annihilator if you’re a Horde guild, or the almost-as-awesome-but-not-quite Reins of the Golden King for Alliance guilds.

No matter how you like to play the game, whether you’re a loner quietly grinding quests and professions, or a dedicated raider never far from your guildies’ sides, you’ll be able to earn guild experience whilst carrying on with your favorite guild activities. Since guild experience benefits everyone, there’s no reason not to start building it up right now.

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Azeroth Beautician’s Manual of Feminine Style

My main is a female Orc Death Knight. The other day, I saw another female Orc DK wandering around Orgrimmar. She had the same hairstyle and hair color as me. She’d spent time grinding Mag’har reputation to get a talbuk mount – just like me. She was sporting a Kingslayer title – just like me. I’d never seen her before, but I instantly hated her.

I love the Barbershop. It was one of my favorite new things about Wrath of the Lich King, and I continue to have fun with it.

It’s strange how quickly we identify with our virtual selves, and how quickly we come to regard the particular combination of face, skin and hair that we chose on the character selection screen all those eons ago as something unique to us. Of course there are other players who’ve made the same choice as me – there are a limited number of combinations after all – but I always liked to kid myself that my character was unique. For those of us who’ve chosen unusual or unpopular races (female Dwarves, I’m looking at you), it’s even more true.

So, since my characters’ appearance is so important to me, I’m glad that Kamalia got in touch with the Pot to let us know about the Guide to the Barbershop which she recently assembled. It only covers female styles, but even that is enough to warrant ten lengthy posts, each with plenty of example screenshots. Kamalia says that she intends it to be “a community resource for anyone who wants to browse styles without actually sitting in the Barbershop themselves.”

Kamalia has covered absolutely every combination of color and style, for every race. She’s even covered the racial extras like mohicans and earings, as well as the extra colors only available to Death Knights. It’s a great resource. Anybody up for creating the male version?

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Editorial: Did I Fall Asleep?

Contains some minor spoilers for recent events.

Let’s get something out of the way before I start here: Orgrimmar is really very pretty indeed right now. I took the flight from Orgrimmar to Thunder Bluff this morning, and it was stunning. I love the new stuff. The Blizzard Art and Design teams have hit it out of the park as far as I’m concerned.

I should also emphasise that I’ve only played for about an hour or so since The Big Patch Of Ultimate Changes, so I’ll acknowledge that there’s plenty of stuff I haven’t seen yet.

Nevertheless, I’m very unhappy. I went to bed last night and woke up to find that the world had been entirely destroyed, burnt to ashes – shattered, in fact – and then totally rebuilt. All of this in the few hours I was asleep.

It’s really thrown me. It’s not that I didn’t know it was going to happen – of course I did – it’s just that I (perhaps foolishly) thought that I might get a chance to see it happen.

Remember when details of the proposed changes for Cataclysm first started to leak out? Remember how exciting it all was? Orgrimmar is going to be destroyed! Thousand Needles will be flooded! The Barrens will be split in two, with a huge volcanic chasm running down the middle! Thrall will get a new outfit! Some people were upset, some people were excited … but everyone agreed: this was going to be awesome. Personally, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. The most tumultuous and (literally and figuratively) world-changing event in Warcraft’s history: I couldn’t wait to experience it.

Unfortunately, I can’t. It’s already happened, and I missed it.

Do you have a favourite TV series? One that you watch faithfully week after week? One that has you literally bouncing on your seat with excitement at every brilliant plot twist? What if your friends were having an all-night marathon during which they planned to watch the whole of Season Three, one episode after another? It sounds great, but the problem is you’ve only just finished watching Season One. You don’t know what happens in Season Two, but you do know that there are major plot changes. It’s set in a different country, a few of the major characters actually die, and the whole feel of the show shifts into something much more epic. Much as you do want to watch Season Three, you’re probably going to turn down the invitation until you’ve caught up on Season Two.

Well, that’s how I feel. I’ve been looking forward to the shattering for months. I wanted to see Deathwing drop from the skies to rain destruction down on my old familiar haunts. I wanted to wander through the smoking ruins of Orgrimmar marveling at the destruction. I wanted to see the world being gradually rebuilt. In short, I wanted to play the game, rather than watch Blizzard play it for me.

I feel like there’s a whole bit of the game that everybody else has played and that I missed out on. I feel like I’ve been away from the game for months, not days. I’m reliably informed that “it all happened in the book”, but that’s not good enough. I don’t mind Blizzard sidelining more and more of their lore into the various spin-off media. This isn’t lore, though: this is a massive upheaval. It’s a change that is absolutely guaranteed to fundamentally affect every single character in the game, player and NPC alike. More to the point, I was looking forward to it as one of the most exciting things ever to happen in the game. I played through the Elemental invasion, and enjoyed it, but only because it felt like an ominous precursor of things to come.

Now, I just feel cheated. We’ve gone straight from “The Cataclysm will happen” to “The Cataclysm has happened”, without passing through “The Cataclysm is happening” on the way. I feel distanced from the game, in a way that I never have before. My suspension of disbelief just isn’t strong enough to allow me to accept that the grunts built New Orgrimmar in just a few short hours. The Barrens have indeed been split in two by a rift of molten destruction, but it’s no problem. It just gave the Alliance a chance to built a big stone keep at the edge and stand around looking smug. It’s all fine now. Crisis over! As usual, the NPCs have sorted everything out, and as usual they didn’t need you. When Deathwing finally does die, I fully expect to be stood in the doorway holding the coats while Hogger has a ten-minute monologue and then deus-ex-machinas the dragon to death.

Don’t even get me started on Cairne and King Magni. This is how you do an off-stage death.

All I can really say is: Blizzard, can I have a turn now?

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Addon recommendations for Death Knight runes

I play a Death Knight on World Of Warcraft, and I have something to confess: I wish death runes didn’t exist. Now, before you throw up your hands in despair and head to the Contact Us page with your proforma death threats, hear me out. Let me explain.

I know death runes are the thing that gives our rune system so much flexibility. I know most DPS builds are focussed on enabling as many death rune procs as possible. I know it means less time spent staring at a global cooldown or an empty rune bar. Nonetheless, I repeat: I wish they didn’t exist. Back in the heady days of pre-4.0.1 raiding, I knew exactly what the rune cost of each of my abilities was, and how the use of each ability would affect my rotation. I got to the stage where I could pretty much store the cooldown states for all six of my runes in my head, which meant I didn’t have to look at my rune meter all the time … except for the damn death runes. They throw everything into disarray. It means I have to put a big rune monitor right in the middle of the screen so I know what’s going on.

With the changes in 4.0.1, of course, I’m back to being utterly lost, so I’ve once again been investigating the best way to display my rune status. Lucky for me, then, that two of the best Death Knight bloggers on the internets have both been doing the same thing, and have blogged their experiences. The legendary Skeleton Jack (who I’m so pleased is blogging again) recommends DK Monitor in combination with Tell Me When. Hinenuitepo at DK Death Goddess, on the other hand, is sticking with DKI Runes.

Both posts give an excellent detailed discussion of what each author is trying to achieve and what benefits each addon brings. Personally, I’m currently running DKI Runes concurrently with DK Monitor. Multiple redundancy for the win.

Do you have any addon recommendations for Death Knights? At the moment, I’m trying to find a way to display how many buff stacks my ghoul needs before I can hit the Dark Transformation button. Any clever suggestions?

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Running World Of Warcraft under Linux: Installation

Update (September 2012): This article is out-of-date. Take a look at our guide to updating to Mists of Pandaria under Linux.

Some time ago, I promised you a tutorial about installing and running World Of Warcraft on the Linux operating system. Well, here goes.

A few caveats before we get our collective geek on: first of all, this is going to be a long post. Certainly, it’ll be longer than we normally give you here at the Melting Pot. It’ll also have a lot of images within it. Again, this isn’t something we’ve done a lot of, so please comment if it’s all messed up for you and I’ll try to fix (particularly people reading via RSS). Finally, this article is only going to cover installation. I’ll do a follow-up article about tweaks and customisation, and probably another article of problem-solving and collective trouble-shooting.

Right then. Having used up a third of my usual word count already simply by telling you that I’m going to use more words than I usually do, let’s get started.

I’m going to start with a fresh installation of Linux, to make sure we cover everything that needs to be done. I’m going to be installing Wrath Of The Lich King on a system running Ubuntu Linux (10.4 “Lucid Lynx”, 64-bit version), but these instructions (or similar) should work for virtually any desktop Linux system. My hardware is a dual Athlon 64 6000+, running on an ABIT AN52V motherboard with a GeForce 8500 GT graphics card. So, not too great but not disasterously poor

[1].

Let’s get some drivers for our graphics card first of all. A fresh Ubuntu install will give you a “Restricted Drivers Available” popup. Click it, and then choose Install Drivers. Pick the recommended driver if there’s more than one.

Restricted drivers available

The next thing to do is to make sure we’ve got all the appropriate software updates for our system. Just use the Software Update tool[2]. If there are updates available, you can click on the icon in your top bar.

Update Manager

Update Manager

Unless you’ve got a darn good reason not to, grab everything under Important Security Updates (particularly base-files, libfreetype6, linux-headers-generic and linux-image-generic).

This’ll probably take a while to download and install, and you’ll need to restart your computer when it’s done.

Now it’s time to install WINE, which is the magic software that’ll allow us to run the Windows version of WoW without ever leaving the tranquil oceans of Linux. Click Applications and choose Ubuntu Software Centre. Search for “wine”, and install it. Whilst you’re here you might as well grab gnome-exe-thumbnailer as well, which will give your Windows .exe files pretty (and meaningful) icons, rather than an ugly Windows rectangle.

We have to move to the Terminal now. Click Applications » Accessories » Terminal. If you’re new to Linux and haven’t used the Terminal before, I don’t want you to panic. I know it looks intimidating and suspiciously hacker-like, but I’ll talk you through it. The Terminal is a direct line to the inner workings of your Linux installation. You can think of it as the Linux equivalent of the Windows command prompt if you like[3].

The Linux Gnome Terminal

The Linux Gnome Terminal

In the Terminal, type this:

sudo apt-get install mesa-utils

You’ll be prompted for your administrator password[4]. Once the mesa-utils package has been downloaded and installed, type

glxinfo | grep rendering

If the Terminal now prints out a message along the lines of “direct rendering: yes”, then your graphics card and drivers can support the minimum of 3d rendering we’ll need to run WoW. If it doesn’t, you’ve gone wrong somewhere along the line. Comment on this post and I’ll try to sort you out. Don’t close the Terminal yet – we’ll need it again in a moment.

I’m going to give you an incredibly useful tip now. If you didn’t already know about this, you’re going to want to reward me with alcohol. The tip is this: you can install World of Warcraft directly from the Wrath Of The Lich King DVD. You don’t need to install WoW Classic and Burning Crusade first. There you go: I just saved you hours of disc-swapping, patch-downloading irritation.

So. Slap the Wrath DVD in your drive, and let’s get on with it. Unlike the installation discs for Classic and The Burning Crusade, the Wrath DVD is in a special format which means it can be read by both Macs and Windows PCs. Unfortunately, this makes it a bit of a pain in the murloc for us poor Linux folks. Not to worry, though. All it takes a bit of Terminal magic. With the DVD in the drive, type:

sudo umount “/media/Lich King”

The icon for the Wrath DVD will disappear from your desktop. That’s okay. We’ll get it back in a minute.

Type

id

to discover your numerical user id. It’s probably 1000, but we need to know for sure because we’re going to use it when we get the DVD back. Type

mkdir ~/wrath

That command will create a new (empty) folder in your home directory, called wrath. We’re going to magically make the contents of the DVD appear in that directory, and we’re going to do so with the following command:

sudo mount -t udf -o ro,unhide,uid=1000 /dev/scd0 ~/wrath

Type the command exactly as it appears here, but substitute your own user id if it’s something other than 1000. You might also need to change the /dev/scd0 bit if your DVD drive is a weird one (if so, comment on the post and I’ll help you).

The DVD is accessible, so it’s time to start the installation process[5]. Still in the Terminal, type:

cd ~/wrath

wine ./Installer.exe

The WoW installer running under Ubuntu

The WoW installer running under Ubuntu

Hooray and hoorah! I’m going to trust that you know what to do from here on in, so go ahead and install WoW. Don’t worry about which directory to install into – just accept the default of c:\Program Files\World of Warcraft. Once the installation has finished, eject your DVD by right-clicking its icon on the desktop and choosing Eject.

Ejecting a DVD

You can now run WoW by clicking Applications » Wine » World of Warcraft » World of Warcraft. The game might crash the very first time you try to log in. Don’t worry about that, just restart it. You might also see an error on the Launcher, similar to this:

Launcher rendering error

Launcher rendering error

Again, you can ignore this. It’s not doing any harm.

We’re done. If everything’s gone according to plan, you now have a fully-patched installation of World Of Warcraft running under Linux. There are a bunch of tweaks we can make to improve the way the game runs and the way it fits in with the rest of your Linux experience, and of course there’s an inevitable list of troubleshooting tasks for common problems. We’ll leave those for the next post in this series.

How did you get on? Was it a painless installation, or did you hit problems?

[1] As it happens, this is the machine I usually raid on. Wow under Linux on this machine can hit anything from 30fps to 70fps on full graphics, depending on which area I’m in. I got my Kingslayer title on this machine, so it can’t be that bad.

[2]Alternatively, run Synaptic and choose Reload.

[3]Although you’d be wrong in more ways than I have the time to list.

[4]Be careful with the sudo command. It means that you’re running instructions as an admin (or “root”) user, instead of as yourself. It’s quite possible to trash your entire operating system with a single destructive root command. Never copy/paste sudo commands if you’re not sure what they do. Yes, like the ones I told you to copy/paste as part of this tutorial. You should never do that … but you trust me, right?

[5]While the WoW installer is running, you’ll see pages and pages of text being printed to the Terminal. There’s nothing wrong – it’s supposed to do that. Yes, even the lines that start “fixme”.

This series: Prologue | Part One

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Bringing back the buzz

A great post which I just caught on Six Inch Heals has got me thinking. Sindei’s response to the recent Blog Azeroth shared topic What WoW Taught Me About Real Life is funny but also thought-provoking.[pullquote]WoW is teaching me how to be a boss. No, not the level 83 Elite kind… the other kind.[/pullquote]

I’m relatively new to end-game raiding – by which I mean that, while I’ve been playing World Of Warcraft on and off for some years, it’s only relatively recently that I’ve started to do any serious raiding at all.

The moment our 10-man group finally managed to defeat Arthas was a moment of genuine, endorphin-pumping achievement. It was a tough fight for us, and the successful attempt came after a run of several embarrassing, face-planting wipes. Somehow, this time, everything came together. We fought as a single cohesive unit with no mistakes and a few moments of inspired brilliance (particularly from our tanks).[pullquote]Doing my real life dailies and weeklies, whether it be Doing the Dishes or Hanging Up Hubby’s Shirts, earns me valuable Spousal Rep which I can leverage into extra WoW time.[/pullquote]

While the achievement spam dinged through into guild chat, we all hearthed to Dalaran, switched on our Kingslayer titles and proceeded in a lap of victory through the city. It felt good. We’d done nothing more than move pixels around a screen and make some imaginary numbers fluctuate in an imaginary world, but it felt as concrete an accomplishment as passing a driving test, hitting a home run, or learning Japanese (I’ve subsequently added it to my resume – that’s how proud I am).[pullquote]I work with a frequently cranky, often unreasonable individual. If I tell you she has a huge aggro radius, and a nasty AOE temper that hits everyone regardless of who taunted her, you can understand my main strategy for dealing with her: I do my best to stay out of range.[/pullquote]

Reading the post on Six Inch Heals (which, incidentally, is one of the finest blog names I’ve ever encountered) brought back the emotions of that moment. It’s one of the great things about cooperative MMOs: they teach you social interaction, team dynamics, strategy, perseverance, commitment and the advantage of expertise over guesswork. That’s all too easy to forget when the game becomes little more than a repetitive daily grind while waiting for new content, so it’s nice to read posts like Sindei’s and be reminded.

All quotes from the original post.

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