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New World of Warcraft Novel, “Yrel: Heart of Draenor” to be Written by Tara Gilesbie

Update: April Fools’ Day – April 1, 2014
However, a real Yrel short-story may be in the works

I’ve been waiting quite a while for the NDA to wear off on this. I am proud to announce, in a BlizzPlanet Exclusive, the next World of Warcraft novel, World of Warcraft: Yrel: Heart of Draenor! Just as World of Warcraft: Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde had a writer new to the Warcraft franchise behind it, so will Heart of Dreanor: the famous Tara Gilesbie!

Aprils-fOOLS

In the press details I was given by Micky Neilson, Lead Story Developer for Blizzard Entertainment, he explained this novel will bridge the gap between Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor by giving readers a look into one of the expansion’s lead characters, Yrel. The story will chronicle Yrel’s journey from a simple priestess at Karabor, to her witnessing the formation of the Iron Horde, ultimately leading to her first encounter with the player character (done similarly in Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War).

“We are incredibly excited to be working with Ms. Gilesbie,” Micky said in regards to the upcoming novel. He also mentioned we may be seeing a forbidden romance in Yrel’s adventures which will heavily affect her role in Warlords of Draenor.

He also clarified that, following another of Shadow of the Horde‘s traditions, Heart of Draenor will be a darker and more mature fare than most Warcraft novels. Due to this, I’ve had to censor the excerpt provided later on in the article slightly for the BlizzPlanet readership.

“We’ve seen how massively popular the pairing of Jaina and Kalecgos was in Tides of War, and Thrall and Aggra presented in-game is still considered one of our best works here at Blizzard. So it was natural to have another unique and well written romance. I wont’ say who catches Yrel’s eye, but I’ll give you a hint: his dad’s the leader of the Iron Horde.”

Just imagine the conflict that’s going to come from that! It looks like Yrel won’t just be Warcraft’s Joan of Arc, but perhaps their Romeo and Julliet as well?

As for our newest Warcraft author, Tara Gilesbie is a world renowned writer who, like many in today’s age, got her start on the internet. She is best known for her novella My Immortal, a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead-style take on the popular Harry Potter series of books; which chronicles Harry’s adventures through the eyes of a mentally challenged vampire student attending Hogwarts. Originally published for free, the full work can be read here if you want to get a taste of Gilesbie’s unique writing style before Heart of Draenor is out.

While I could not reach Tara herself, I was given this quote from her: “I m sooooo eksited to work on dis story! Fangz (geddit becuz Im Goffik) Blizzurd for givin me the change to work with u guys1″

I was also given a very short excerpt from Yrel: Heart of Draenor, detailing a scene between Yrel and her forbidden lover. As this is a spoiler, I’ll leave it under the read-more.

HORDE BIAS! A Red Shirt Guy Editorial on the “Faction Bias” Arguments

Orgrimmar

Hi readers and welcome to my first editorial type article. With the release of Patch 5.4′s trailer (see it here if you haven’t already), the debate on whether or not Blizzard is biased towards the Horde in content development has risen again. Its a subject that really came to a head with the release of Cataclysm, enough so that Blizzard actually had Dave Kosak make a blog post, “Dev Watercooler: Faction Favoritism“. It was very negatively received, and in fact was seen by many as further proof there was faction bias favoring the Horde enough to be detrimental to the Alliance among Blizzard’s developers. So, does this faction favoritism really exist? Is Blizzard ignoring half their playerbase because they can’t muster the effort to to create content for a faction they don’t like? Or is this all overblown outcry from WoW’s notoriously unpleaseable fanbase?

Cataclysm: Flexible Raid Lock System in 4.0.1

Blizzard has announced a new update to the Cataclysm raid dungeon lockout system which allows flexibility to guilds and PUGs. You can do a 25-man Marrowgar up to Saurfang attempt, and later a 10-man Blood Queen attempt and you will get the same loot in both type of raids. The way players are individually saved has changed too and you can check it out in your raid info tab.

Bashiok posted a very extensive explanation of how this dungeon lockout system works. More details after the break.

[BLUE]Almost six months ago we announced that Cataclysm raids were being redesigned to make both raid sizes the same difficulty, drop the same quality of loot, and exist in the same lockout. This evolution in raid philosophy is built on the belief that the size of your raiding group should be a choice based solely on what’s more fun and enjoyable for you, and that you should not have to complete the same raiding content twice in a week to maximize your character’s progression. These systems are the culmination of a great deal of design and player feedback from the last few years. With the release of the 4.0.1 patch, the new Flexible Raid Lock system will debut in Icecrown Citadel and The Ruby Sanctum.

With the Flexible Raid Lock system, instead of being locked to a specific raid size or raid group, each character will have the opportunity to defeat each raid encounter once a week. You could kill Lord Marrowgar and Lady Deathwhisper with a 10-player raid on Wednesday, join a 25-player raid to kill Festergut and Rotface on Thursday, and then lead a completely new 10-player raid to kill The Lich King on Friday. Every raid has a list of encounters associated with the zone. For example, Icecrown Citadel has twelve encounters. After you defeat Lord Marrowgar, you can open up your character’s raid information dialog and see the list of encounters in Icecrown Citadel with Marrowgar marked as defeated. You may no longer fight Lord Marrowgar with any raid size or difficulty until the weekly raid reset for your region occurs.

Another key change is that if you join someone else’s raid in progress, you are no longer locked to that raid after merely zoning in. Your raid status will only change when a boss is defeated, at which point it will be updated to reflect the state of the instance in which you are currently participating. So, let’s say you have killed the first four bosses of Icecrown Citadel, and you then join a raid that has defeated the first four encounters, as well as Festergut and Rotface. The dialog that displays upon entering Icecrown Citadel will show that the raid has defeated 6 of 12 encounters. If you help them defeat Professor Putricide, then you would be marked as having defeated not only Professor Putricide for the week, but also Festergut and Rotface. If instead after joining the raid you then proceeded to wipe ten times to Professor Putricide, you could leave the raid with only the first four bosses marked as completed.

To help communicate to players which bosses are dead in the raid leader’s raid, there is new functionality to link in chat a list of the encounters the raid has defeated. So before you join a raid, you can see what they’ve already defeated. If a raid leader advertises in chat that she needs another healer for an 8/12 Icecrown Citadel run, you can see precisely which bosses are still available to fight. If you were only looking for that one item from Queen Lana’thel that never drops for you and this raid already defeated her, you will know not to join that raid.

Let’s look at another example of the Flexible Raid Lock system. A guild schedules three nights for 25-player Icecrown Citadel raiding on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On Wednesday, the raid defeats Lord Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, Icecrown Gunship Battle, and Saurfang. On Thursday, five people cancel their raid attendance due to real life emergencies. The raid leader knows that if he cancels Thursday raiding, there’s little chance they’ll have enough time on Saturday to defeat the other eight bosses in Icecrown Citadel. So he splits the remaining 20 Thursday raiders into two 10-player raids. Each new raid enters Icecrown Citadel and defeats Rotface, Festergut, Blood Council, and Valithria Dreamwalker. The next Saturday with all 25 players online, they reform as a 25-player raid and enter Icecrown Citadel once more. Only Professor Putricide, Queen Lana’thel, Sindragosa, and The Lich King remain. After a tough fight, the Lich King falls and everybody celebrates. Without the Flexible Raid Lock system the entire raid probably would have missed out on a night of raiding, and likely would not have reached the Lich King.

While players can freely move between raids of different sizes in normal difficulty, there are some additional rules for Heroic difficulty. If a 10- or 25-player raid defeats a boss on Heroic difficulty, then those players may now only raid additional Heroic encounters with that specific raid. If your Heroic 25-player raid defeats the first four bosses of Icecrown Citadel on Heroic, then they may not split up into two 10-player raids and continue to fight in Heroic difficulty. You may also not join someone else’s raid if they have defeated a Heroic encounter.

But let’s say you are a member of a Heroic raid in Icecrown Citadel, and after killing Lord Marrowgar on Heroic you have Internet connection issues that prevent you from raiding for two nights. During those two nights, the rest of the raid kills everything. Without the Flexible Raid Lock system, you would be done with raiding Icecrown Citadel for the week. Ouch. With the Flexible Raid Lock system, you can join someone else’s raid as long as they are doing Normal difficulty. This would at least give you the opportunity to earn your Justice Points for the week. If this raid attempted to switch to Heroic difficulty for Icecrown Gunship Battle with you in the raid, the raid leader would receive an error message stating that she cannot change to Heroic, because someone in the raid (i.e., you) is already locked to a different Heroic instance.

All of the new Cataclysm raids will feature the Flexible Raid Lock and Dynamic Difficulty systems, and when the Cataclysm occurs the other Wrath of the Lich King raids will also have these features. It’s important to note that this system doesn’t affect Heroic dungeons, they will work as they always have. We look forward to feedback for this new system after 4.0.1 is released. As a reminder, Icecrown Citadel and The Ruby Sanctum are the only two raids that support the Flexible Raid Lock until the Cataclysm occurs.[/BLUE]

Blizzard Mike Morhaime interview at L.A. Times

The L.A. Times interviewed Mike Morhaime, Blizzard Entertainment co-founder and president to talk about the success of his game studios. I am a fan of everything Blizzard, and that doesn’t extend to only their products. I love to get to know and learn the story, background and passion of the people behind these products.

I had the fortune to meet Mike Morhaime, Frank Pearce and Bob Colayco (Public Relations) at Best Buy (Times Square) at the New York City midnight launch of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. No one knows, but I mistakenly clicked the voice recorder button wrong, and missed most of the interview that never got published, obviously. Yet, it was an honor just to sit there with Mike Morhaime and listen to him answer my questions. Shook his hand again in Paris, France — and even if he didn’t recognize one peon out of 11.5 million — I was glad to see him again, and to be able to say Thanks for making these video games, and for inviting me to Paris for the official announcement of Diablo III during the Blizzard Worldwide Invitationals. I had an aweful toothache around that time, but for me it was a blast of an experience to be there. Later met him briefly at Blizzcon.

Whether you are an employee at a McDonalds, Chicken in the Box, Best Buy, a gas station clerk, maintenance, unemployed or else, you can find inspiration in people who love to do what you do: To play and develop excellent video games. You might be the next building a successful company or joining the Blizzard Entertainment crew. You never know, till you try and give your best effort.

Feel free to learn a bit more about Mike Morhaime’s beginnings as a child, a student, and as the co-founder of a three desk office known as Silicon & Synapses, later renamed into Blizzard Entertainment.

Blizzard to Reveal Diablo III Feature at GamesCom 2010

PCGames.De reports that Diablo 3 Game Director Jay Wilson will hold a 30-minutes press conference and Q&A at the end of GamesCom 2010 — in Cologne, Germany — to reveal invited journalists a new secret feature of Diablo III.

The Diablo III demo will be available at the game floor throughout the GamesCom event.

Bashiok seems to confirm this report by the german site.

Activision Blizzard to Release 2010 Q2 Results on August 5, 2010

Activision Blizzard LogoActivision Blizzard will announce the Second Quarter 2010 results on Thursday, August 5, 2010. As past experiences have demonstrated, this is the platform where Blizzard’s president Mike Morhaime makes important announcements about upcoming and current Blizzard games and services.

It was at the 2009 Fourth Quarter Report where Mike Morhaime announced the estimated date for StarCraft II Beta, and plans for BlizzCon. This new report might likely reveal the release date for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. While this is mere speculation, expectations are high when Morhaime stands before the microphone to report the latest Blizzard’s plans.

Blizzard Quote:
SANTA MONICA, Calif., July 19, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX News Network/ — Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) intends to release its second quarter 2010 results after the close of the market on Thursday, August 5, 2010. In conjunction with this release, Activision Blizzard will host a conference call that will be broadcast over the Internet.

Thursday, August 5, 2010
1:30 pm Pacific Time (4:30 pm Eastern Time)

To listen to the call, please log onto:
http://investor.activision.com/events.cfm

StarCraft II: GIantBomb interviews Dustin Browder

GiantBomb interviewed Dustin Browder at the studios recently to discuss race balance, whether there are units that will be removed or not. The developers are seeing several game situations, things they didn’t foresee players coming up with like a Queen rush on Protoss players who aren’t effective that early at blocking chokepoints and protecting the base. The Queen’s speed will be nerfed to prevent Queen rush.

Dustin also talks about the single player’s Challenge mode.

Diablo II Ladder Reset 3/23

Hey, folks. Bashiok announced today that the Diablo II: Lord of Destruction ladder will be reset on March 23, marking the release of Diablo II patch 1.13 into the live realms.

Blizzard Quote:
We will be resetting the Diablo II ladder on Tuesday, March 23 with the release of patch 1.13. We anticipate all Diablo II realms to be down for approximately six hours during the reset. More specific information on realm availability on the day of the reset will be posted in the Battle.net Status forum. When the ladder is reset, all existing ladder characters will be converted to non-ladder.

All characters and items being converted to non-ladder will remain intact, but once converted these characters will no longer have access to ladder content such as creating ladder-only rune words. For more information on ladder characters please visit the Arreat Summit Realm Character Types page

DIABLO II 1.13 Q&A

What’s the advantage to creating a Ladder Character?

This is similar to starting out on a brand new realm. Players will be able to experience Diablo II like when the game was first released. When the Ladder Season first begins, players start at Level 1 and do not have powerful items. They also cannot use powerful high-level items or other high-level characters to help them level up faster. Players create a character in a brand new world (Ladder Character world) where everything (economy, levels) starts from the beginning. The main advantage of creating a Ladder Character is being able to join in on a totally new economy where powerful items are very valuable.

What if I don’t play ladder or don’t want to compete on the ladder?

Although they are called Ladder Characters, players do not have to compete on the ladder to play. You can simply play at your own speed and not worry about how you are ranked on the ladder.

Can I convert existing characters to Ladder Characters?

No, you must flag a character as a Ladder character when it is first created.

How long will the ladder season last?

This has yet to be determined.

What happens when the ladder season is over?

All Ladder Characters become either Normal Core or Normal Hardcore Characters depending on what type of Ladder Characters they are. If you want to be a Ladder Character for the next Ladder season you must create a new character and flag it as a Ladder Character.

Do I get to keep my Ladder Only Items when the season is over?

Yes. Any Ladder Only Items will be converted over when your character is converted to a Core character. These items can now be traded with other Core characters. That is the only way for Core characters to get ladder only items, as leftovers after a season is over.

Do I have to beat the game with a Ladder Character to create a Ladder Hardcore Character?

No, you can finish the game with either a Normal character or a Ladder character to unlock Ladder Hardcore Characters.

Can you convert a Ladder Character to a Normal Character?

No. Blizzard does this automatically when the Ladder Season ends.

Does the ladder offer anything beyond a more stable economy?

Yes there are some items that can only be obtained with a ladder character such as some class specific and elite uniques. There are also some ladder-only rune words as well as cube recipes that can only be created by a ladder character. While these items can eventually make their way to non-ladder after a ladder reset, they can only be initially found or created by using a ladder character.

Starcraft II Beta Developer Chat # 1 Transcript

The Starcraft II Beta Developer Twitter Chat # 1 revealed several details about beta testing.

  • Blizzard plans to release a major content patch mid-April to enable some basic achievements and improved voice chat, 3v3 and 4v4 maps, among other unidentified features.

  • A Mac beta client will be available in April, when it’s ready.
  • The Map Editor will be out before late-April.
  • No new races are planned for the three episodes of Starcraft II.
  • The roach, Infestor and reaper are currently in their Watch List.
  • Critters were not priority for beta, and will eventually be added.
  • Plans for Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) and community maps ladder and matchmaking.
  • Dustin said more players will be invited to beta in upcoming weeks, and encourages gamers to enable the beta opt-in option in the Battle.net Account webpage to qualify.
  • Replay hosting and sharing won’t be available at ship date.
  • Streamed replays for Tournament Finals is planned in future Starcraft II expansions.

Below you can read the 4-pages transcript.

Blizzard Quote:
So many people are complaining about this on the forum… is it true that there will be no chat channels? I hope not!

We do have plans for chat channels. Specifically, we want to organize chat channels around users’ interests so you know what types of conversations you are going to get into when you join a channel. This feature is not something that will be in for beta. Currently we plan to do this feature in a patch after the game launches.

Are you guys still working on the Map Editor; and if so, what features are you planning to incorporate into the final piece?

Yes. We’re still working on the Map Editor and currently working on the publishing system. We intend to release an early version of the editor during the beta so the map-making community can get a head start creating their own maps. This is going to be a stretch for us to pull off, but our hope is to get it out before the end of April.

Do you really use beers to balance units? And do you really use that rubber gun to make a decision?

I’m drunk now! Seriously the Jace Hall show was fun to do, but we take our jobs pretty seriously when it comes to the actual work. =)

More after the break.

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