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Blizzplanet Review – Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls

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The Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls is a digital-only eBook — a rare format Blizzard Entertainment is currently pushing for the first time since year 2000. The first ever eBook from Blizzard was Diablo: Demonsbane by Robert B. Marks (Garwulf’s Corner). It was a time when the eBook format had just been born recently, and there wasn’t a big audience as nowadays with the boom of Kindle devices, iPad, Marvel Digital, and Comixology.

It reminds me a lot to how Chris Metzen and Flint Dille introduced Transformers: Autocracy to the fans of that universe. I was swayed into the 12-issue digital-only comic book not only because it was written by Chris who I am a loyal fanboy of, but through him I was able to re-experience one of my favorite childhood characters and sci-fi universes of the 80s when I was a teen.

A year after Transformers: Autocracy went live in the digital waves, IDW announced the Transformers: Autocracy (Hardcover).

It’s unknown if Blizzard Entertainment will go that route a year from now with Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls.

In the meantime, even if you don’t own a Kindle device you can still read this digital book straight from your internet browser via the Kindle Cloud. All you need is the Adobe Acrobat plug-in installed. Chances are you already have it installed. However, it’s a good idea to update it.

After you order the digital book, go to this URL: https://read.amazon.com to read it from your Firefox or Internet Explorer browser. You will see the eBook there. Or follow this instructions (view images).

The Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls contains fives stories previously seen in the official Diablo III website under the Game Guide page:

  • Hatred and Discipline (by Micky Neilson – Blizzard Publishing Lead)
  • Wayfarer (Cameron Dayton – Transmedia Consultant, Story Developer & Writer)
  • Unyielding (by Matt Burns – Blizzard Associate Publishing Developer)
  • Doubtwalker (by Matt Burns – Blizzard Associate Publishing Developer)
  • Firefly (by Michael Chu – Diablo III Quest Designer)

In the digital book, there are Black & White illustrations by John Polidora (Senior Illustrator/Concept Artist/Visual Development Artist at Blizzard Entertainment) placed at the first page of each story. The class sigil illustration is placed at the end of each story, too.

You will ask yourself: “Well, why would I pay $7.99 for something I can read straight from the Diablo III Website?”

You can set the Kindle Cloud to download what you purchased and to set an offline mode. In addition, there are two stories in this digital book never seen before, which expand the Diablo universe.

These two stories are:

  • Theatre Macabre: The Dark Exile
  • The Hunger

Theatre Macabre: The Dark Exile

Theatre Macabre: The Dark Exile is written by James Waugh (New York Times Best Selling Co-Author of World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen). The story hasn’t been read before in the official Diablo III website.

After reading this story, I was amazed at the lengthy dialogues between the characters. So much dialogue.

At first, I couldn’t wrap my mind around a theater theme and playwrights within the World of Sanctuary. Reminded me of Shakespeare and Dante’s Inferno for a sec. I was skeptic. Mea Culpa.

That didn’t last long though. The more I read, the more I wanted to keep going forward.

Behind all the theater stuff lies a story of the Dark Exile from a perspective we haven’t seen before. It was a mechanism to tell a grand story which reveals things not completely answered in Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.

Duriel and Andariel’s reasons to be in Sanctuary for example.

The story might also reveal who the Priests of Zakarum served, and what led to their corruption. Should be a must-read.

The Hunger

The Hunger is written by Erik Sabol (2009 Blizzard Global Writing Contest runner-up). It’s a new story we haven’t read in the official Diablo III website.

I have a mix of thoughts after reading this story. It’s about a woman who pays a wagon rider pretty well to take her cargo through the desert of Aranoch. I have to criticize we don’t know who the woman is nor her background or affiliation.

Each dialogue is short, and focuses more on fast-paced action. The story intrigued me. Out of the blue, the story ends – and I was left with this hunger to read more and figure out what really really happened in the story or what the point or goal was.

It’s a scary story, and definitely Rated M with gore and creepiness. For some reason, I was left with the feeling that we might see more about Rigley in the Diablo III expansion or elsewhere. Felt like a cliffhanger. Time will tell.

Final Thoughts

I’m game for more Diablo III themed stories. I got into reading Blizzard stories outside their video games after my very first IRC Chat interview with Richard A. Knaak back in 2003. It was a funny interview because I was asking him questions about Warcraft: Day of the Dragon (2001) without having read the book. Shortly after the interview I read the book. I couldn’t but start collecting all the books based on each Blizzard video game available at the time, and to religiously purchase every new publication from the pen of Blizzard Creative Team writers or the mainstream freelance writers whether they were books, manga, comic books or digital versions. Be it Warcraft, StarCraft or Diablo themed.

Reading the stories expands so much your knowledge of the video game, and gives a special depth to your gameplay experience. Ever since the Burning Crusade expansion, Blizzard Entertainment added another edge to storytelling with the help of Christie Golden.

Blizzard synchronizes these books and the in-game quests in ways that compliment and enhance your overall experience. In World of Warcraft: Rise of the Horde you would read about the Ata’mai Crystals, Velen and the Draenei, Oshu’gun in Nagrand — and you’d play the video game and go like — “Wow, I’m playing a quest about what I read in Christie’s novel!” — “Holy! I know this place, or that character!”

Every single novel and game expansion have been woven to tie-in, thereafter. I love that.

Now we have the first digital book ever since Diablo: Demonsbane, in an era where digital books are so mainstream. The question is … will Blizzard Creative Team be bold enough to bring these story elements into Diablo III or its upcoming expansion?

How do you translate these short anthology stories into in-game content? Especially, when Diablo III has been around a long time now.

I think Blizzard should consider adding new quests to Diablo III via patches. The venue is there. Every time I roam the lands of Sanctuary is a different experience. You’ll find random optional quests. For example, The Matriarch’s Bones or the Jar of Souls Event. These are random.

New Journals dropping from monsters or libraries hinting at events happened in Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls. Something reminiscent of the Ashbringer stories found throughout the world long before there was an actual Ashbringer in-game, serving as a hint of things to come in the Diablo III expansion.

That’s what I’d like to see in this new wave of digital book tie-ins.

Blizzplanet Review – SteelSeries World of Warcraft MMO Wireless Gaming Mouse

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SteelSeries has launched a new World of Warcraft-themed mouse based on World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. The SteelSeries World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse has addressed two problems faced by many wireless mice out there: Latency and battery life.

This new mouse features a 2.4GHz wireless technology to increase performance. Plug the micro-USB into one of your ports to recharge your wireless mouse. No need to wait for a recharge anymore before using the wireless mouse, allowing for continuous and uninterrupted gameplay.

The software informs the user how much battery life is available, allows the change of CPI settings, polling rate and macros.

The performance is solid, the integration with WoW is the best you’re going to find, the quality of the mouse is superb and I’ve had great luck with SteelSeries mice. It’s also the best damn wireless mouse I have ever used.

  • Extended battery life, with wired option for emergency charging while gaming
  • 16 Hour Battery Life
  • Charging dock that showcases the mouse
  • Onboard memory for pre-pairing mouse & receiver
  • Illuminated laser etched logo
  • Pro grade 8200 CPI Laser Sensor, 150 IPS, 30 G acceleration

The World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse by SteelSeries and Blizzard Entertainment features advanced 2.4GHz wireless technology, a beautifully crafted charging stand and the ability to go both wired or wireless for endless adventures. With a comfortable, ergonomic design, and unmatched software functionality, this mouse is a must-have weapon for all MMO players.

Built for players of all types–be they casual fan or dedicated raider, rookie or guild leader–the World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse is designed to enhance your game play. Sophisticated software functionality lets you easily customize the mouse to suit your individual play style.

An Epic Pedestal for a Superior Weapon

The charging station is an epic pedestal that illuminates with the same brilliant blue that is features on the mouse. Emblazoned with illuminated runes, the charging base is also the wireless receiver and the home for your mouse when not in use to proudly display your mouse.

Wireless or Wired–Your Choice

Whether you prefer wired mice or simply ran low on battery life at a crucial moment, the mouse is capable of being connected via USB cable to continue gaming while simultaneously charging.

11 Programmable Buttons

Tested by World of Warcraft gamers and co-designed with Blizzard Entertainment, the new Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse has 11 programmable buttons, ergonomically positioned for comfortable gameplay.

The intuitive drag-and-drop interface of the SteelSeries software empowers users to program all 11 buttons with more than 130 preset game commands, and create custom macros and/or use the in-game macro scripting language.

Charge Your Battery While You Play

The SteelSeries World of Warcraft Wireless Mouse achieves an incredible 16 hours of intensive gameplay and even more during casual gaming. What’s more is that even if you should game beyond the life of the battery, simply plug the USB cable into the mouse and keep playing in wired mode while you charge the mouse.

Configure Your Settings in the Game

Plug in your mouse. Start your game. Configure all of your mouse settings from illumination to macros to button assignments directly from the World of Warcraft interface.

Illumination and Pulse

The World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse offers illumination on both the mouse and charging stand featuring 4 levels of pulsation including Low, Medium, High and Off. So there’s sure to be a combination to suit every mood and occasion.

Whats in the Box?

Steelseries World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse, charging station pedestal, and USB cable.

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Blizzplanet Review – StarCraft II: Flashpoint

During my visit to the New York Comic Con 2012, Simon & Schuster representatives hooked me up with a copy of StarCraft II: Flashpoint by New York Times Best Selling author Christie Golden.

I finished reading the book, and it’s very hard to contain myself, and not spoil things. I’ll do my best not to reveal the entirety of the plot, but at least enlighten you with an attempt to spark in you the interest to read this book.

StarCraft II: Flashpoint literally bridges the gap between StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm.

I’m almost convinced the expansion will start off with Sarah Kerrigan leaving the Umojan Protectorate to start her search for the Zerg.

The Umojan Protectorate is a non-Terran Dominion territory that many fans have probably wanted Blizzard to put into the spotlight in-game as it has in the Tokyopop StarCraft: Frontline manga. One can only hope.

Chapter One

The first chapter introduces readers quickly into the exact moment two seconds after Jim Raynor shot his handgun at Tychus Findlay.

The novel gets to portray what the game nor the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty final cinematic could.

What was going on through Jim Raynor’s thoughts right after shooting his best friend. His reaction to seeing Sarah’s face as he carried her body outside the cave, as he looked into the horizon of Char’s surface.

Chapter Two

Valerian Mengsk meditates aboard the Bucephalus battlecruiser, orbiting planet Char. Ignorant of what’s happening down there. Whether Jim survived, whether the Xel’Naga artifact worked, or if Sarah had been reverted into human form or not, or if she survived the transformation.

I was glad to read Valerian remembering R.M Dahl and Professor Jacob Jefferson Ramsey (main characters of StarCraft: The Dark Templar trilogy).

I was surprised to read the idea the Xel’Naga artifact could change the Queen of Blades back to human form was actually an idea proposed behind-the-scenes by Jacob Ramsey. This piece of information was never mentioned in-game in Wings of Liberty.

However, it makes sense. Single-player lore fans no doubt wondered at some point how Valerian knew so much about the Xel’Naga artifact and what it could do to Kerrigan.

This is the perfect reasoning. Jacob Ramsey is not only the best archeologist in terms of ancient Protoss and Xel’Naga ruins and objects, but as read in StarCraft: The Dark Templar trilogy, his brain hosted the mind of a Protoss Preserver named Zamara; and learned her knowledge and that of countless Protoss’ memories throughout history.

Personally, I would have liked to see Jacob in-game in Wings of Liberty to provide the background and purpose of the Xel’Naga artifact. Nevertheless, StarCraft: Flashpoint does a great job filling readers in on what transpired behind-the-scenes in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty’s plot.

As Brian Kindreagan recently said: “We will always struggle with the fact that we get only a few lines of dialogue in this fast-paced, dynamic game to explain concepts that could fill 50 pages in a novel (such as the Overmind’s backstory, or the earlier discussion of free will). We’ll never be able to explain things in as much detail as I’d like, and will instead have to rely on the player to consider what we’ve shown and to interpret it. Narrative games are not films, and they are not novels.”

Not all stories mesh well in-game as it can in a novel. The novels have more room to flesh out things. Nobody wants to sit tight listening or watching cutscenes for 5 minutes. Gameplay comes first and foremost.

Chapter Three

Raynor’s dropship lands within the Bucephalus battlecruiser, Valerian’s flagship, to offer medical treatment to Sarah Kerrigan. Things get a little jumpy as Raynor doesn’t trust Valerian, and Valerian very well knows what Raynor is capable of for her safety.

However, what readers will find in chapter three is pure gold. You have never seen Prince Valerian Mengsk like this before. His true intentions throughout previous novels and throughout StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is revealed. Is he as treacherous as his father? Or is he a different person?

General Thoughts

I was hoping to see a sliver of the Queen of Blades somewhere in Sarah, but the author is blunt and straight to the liver. This is no longer the Queen of Blades. We truly face Sarah Kerrigan’s humanity — mind and soul.

I realize not everyone who plays StarCraft II, plays World of Warcraft or have read Christie Golden’s novels based on Warcraft. Many do. I have read all the Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo novels. Call me a lore buff.

I can tell you upfront. I love the twists, humor and the plot creativity of Christie Golden in StarCraft: Flashpoint. It feels much different than her work in the Warcraft universe, but she brings with her several years of experience writing Star Trek novels, and she got a deep and mature knowledge of the StarCraft universe, its characters, lingo and the locations throughout the Koprulu Sector.

I really hate to read novels that look more like poetry in motion than a novel — you know, describing something simple in so many fancy and sweetened words that it takes three pages to say it. That style doesn’t mesh well with sci-fi. Christie is fluid, and constantly pumping action from page to page. The story moves forward at a good pace.

Christie Golden added several continuity nods throughout StarCraft: Flashpoint. Some of these nods come in the shape of adult language or lingo often seen around Keith R.A. DeCandido stories such as StarCraft: Ghost–Nova, StarCraft: Ghost–Academy and StarCraft: Ghost–Spectres.

There are several flashbacks in this novel from the point of view of Jim Raynor — visiting the memories of the moment Sarah requested an evac, but Mengsk belayed the order and abandoned her to the Zerg. Lots of these flashbacks are based on factual continuity as sort of behind-the-scene stories players never got to see in the original StarCraft single-player missions.

Sarah at some point recalls when she first met Jim Raynor and Michael Liberty in Antiga Prime. The dialogue from the original StarCraft game is used word by word, which is a very nice touch. That scene where Jim and Sarah meet for the first time is very iconic when he realizes she is a telepath after she calls him a pig.

There are other flashbacks to year 2500, where the reader gets really close to Jim Raynor’s mind and heart witnessing the little things that made him truly love this woman.

I also liked to see some of the Hyperion characters found in-game make more than just cameos: Dr. Egon Stetmann and Chief Engineer Rory Swann.

The in-game cutscene showing the Cantina fight between Jim and Tychus is referenced. Some in-game funny moments such as Matt Horner’s embarrassment with his Deadman’s Port wife — this is the pirate space junkyard planet players are acquainted with.

The novel displays the accurate dialogues between Raynor and Valerian as seen in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty through flashback.

In another scene, Valerian is at the Hyperion cantina and he’s wondering about the jukebox wrapped above on the ceiling, and smirks at listening to the song “Suspicious Minds”.

I really love to read consistency, continuity, and nods to previous games and StarCraft novels. Christie Golden doesn’t ignore those small details. That’s something fans of the game will truly appreciate.

We even get to have a name for the engineering assistant folks standing around at the Cantina in-game including Bartender Cooper. The bartender’s name is mentioned in-game by one of the guys sitting by the tables in the Cantina when players click on him several times: “Man, old Cooper sure makes a mean Mai Tai.”

StarCraft: Flashpoint also reveals the first time Raynor met Matt Horner before Mengsk’s betrayal on Sarah.

There is also a nod to Chris Metzen’s story (Homecoming) in StarCraft: Frontline. Jim Raynor’s son and former wife are mentioned a few times.

There is one Raynor’s Raiders traitor who might not return as part of the Hyperion’s crew in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, but I got a feeling we might see him at some point.

Christie Golden’s writing is non-stop action, with spiraling emotions, plenty of humor, and readers will find the many unpredictable turns very exquisite and satisfying.

Cherry on top — we learn more about Narud and the Moebius Foundation.

Get your hands on StarCraft II: Flashpoint to find out. It’s worthwhile.

I recommend reading it on a Saturday morning. Once you start reading, you will hardly have a chance to play or do domestic chores. You won’t be able to stop reading till the end with all the action and suspense.

I can hardly wait to play through the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm single-player.

StarCraft II: Flashpoint goes on sale on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. If you haven’t yet, pre-order StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. However, make sure to order it separately so both items ship individually.

Characters

Jim Raynor
Sarah Kerrigan
Tychus Findlay
Cam Fraser – Raynor’s Raiders marine
Matt Horner – captain of the Hyperion battlecruiser
Lisle – stayed behind to protect the Xel’Naga artifact.
Haynes – stayed behind to protect the Xel’Naga artifact.
Lily Preston – medic
Pilot Wil Merrick – Dropship Fanfare pilot
Rolfsen
Prince Valerian Mengsk
Everett Vaughn – captain of the Bucephalus battlecruiser
Emil Narud – scientist / leader of the Moebius Foundation
Emperor Arcturus Mengsk
Marcus Cade – Hyperion navigator
Dr. Frederick – Bucephalus doctor
Egon Stetmann – Hyperion lab scientist
Rory Swann – Hyperion Chief Engineer
Annabelle Thatcher – Hyperion engineering assistant
Earl – Hyperion engineering assistant
Milo Kachinsky
Bartender Cooper – Hyperion Cantina
Mira Han – Matt Horner’s wife at Deadman’s Port
Captain Roger Merriman – Herakles battleship
Scutter O’Banon – former leader of Deadman’ Rock
Ethan Stewart (mentioned) – former leader of Deadman’s Port, later Kerrigan’s zerg-infested consort in StarCraft: The Dark Templar trilogy
Phillip Randall (mentioned) – Scutter O’Bannon’s butler and assassin
Lieutenant Travis Rawlins – Bucephalus battlecruiser’s navigator
Scarlip – Deadman’s port thug
Yeats – Deadman’s Port doctor
Becker – Deadman’s Port doctor

Captain Sharyn Moore (flashback) – Captain of the Cormorant (old merchantman vessel) that transported Jim and Sarah to Orna III. Matt Horner’s former captain and ship.

Boots (mentioned) – Sarah’s pet for three weeks.

Dr. Orville Harris – chief scientist at the science facility of Orna III
Gary Crane – one of Mira Han subordinates at Deadman’s Port.
Liddy (flashback) – Jim Raynor’s former wife. Died of cancer. (StarCraft: Frontline Vol. 4 — Homecoming by Chris Metzen).

Dr. Phan – Ornan III
Dr. Elizabeth Martin – Ornan III
Dr. Chantal de Vries – one of the many doctors in the Space Station Prometheus who toured Dr. Stetmann.
Nancy Wyndham – doctor at the Space Station Prometheus
Joseph Reynolds – doctor at the Space Station Prometheus
Adrian Scott – doctor at the Space Station Prometheus
Elias Thompson – chief engineer of the Bucephalus.
Vrain, Osgood, Warren, Tseng and Mitchell – Narud security guards at Space Station Prometheus
Varley – White Star navigator
Maddie Wilson

Locations

Planet Char
Hyperion battlecruiser
Fanfare dropship
Bucephalus gorgon-class battlecruiser
Moebius Foundation
White Star – Emperor Arcturus Mengsk’s flagship battlecruiser
Deadman’s Port

G-2275 (mentioned) – gas giant, technological hub of the Confederacy. Raynor and Sarah were at its moon after the victory at Antiga Prime. They retrieved the plans to create upgraded Goliaths.

Orna III – science facility doing covert experiments on their citizens such as gene-splicing, brain modification, telepathic experimentation, disease testing.

Paradise – Deadman’s Rock town
Shilo (mentioned) – Jim Raynor’s homeworld
Kirkegaard Belt (known as Kick-You-Good Belt)
Space Station Prometheus – Moebius Foundation secret lab located within the Kirkegaard Belt
Umojan Protectorate

Valerian brought 25 battlecruisers to planet Char. Only fourteen survived the Zerg. Some of the battlecruiser names: Aenas, Amphitrite, Metis, Eos, Patroclus, and Meleager, Antigone, and Herakles.

Battlecruiser type mentioned: Minotaur-class and Behemoth-class.

References

Blizzplanet Interview – World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen Trade Paperback

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Blizzplanet interviews today both New York Times bestselling co-authors of World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen … Micky Neilson (Blizzard Publishing Lead) and James Waugh (Blizzard Senior Story Developer).

World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen has gone to printing again as a trade paperback to reach the hands of fans who enjoy the lore of Warcraft. I personally read the Comixology version of the original 5-part issues back on 2010-2011. Now that this story has been reprinted as a trade paperback, I wanted to reach both co-authors to give fans (who haven’t yet read this story) a better scope of what to find within the trade paperback, and why you shouldn’t miss reading it.

Curse of the Worgen captures some of the key moments that players experienced in the Cataclysm expansion’s Worgen starting location. How was the process of matching together your story in this comic book with the in-game quests — considering the expansion’s iteration process? — For example, The Jade Forest had a complete overhaul mid-beta. Things might change overnight.

James: The beauty of developing this sort of content with in-house writers (Micky and I) is that we can be agile and are closer to the source when those changes happen. For Curse of the Worgen, the World of Warcraft team was building out the Worgen starting zone while Micky and I were writing and developing the story. This synergy was invaluable to both parties. The team was building out the zones and creating much of Gilneas—remember, no zones were ever built, the history was limited to manuals and a few books and cameos from Greymane—so in many ways they were building Gilneas for the first time.

Writing a non-game story you end up asking very different questions in order to further develop it. The questions that would help Micky and I create Curse of the Worgen came to answers that ended up informing choices the design team made and vice versa, design decisions they’d make would lead to ideas we’d never think of normally. Funny enough, at the same time, I was writing the Genn Greymane short story for the Leaders of Azeroth fiction project we did. I was going to explore Genn’s history, which of course, as the leader of his people, was Gilneas’s history. This ended up being a perfect storm, as an idea would come into fruition in the short story, get approved by Metzen, and then inform the game, and comic series. It was a pretty unique holistic experience that I don’t think could have been done if the writers of the comic were not part of the team building the fiction for the IP and a building away from the design team.

Looking back a year later, given the iteration process you mention above, we really pulled off something unique, giving you three distinct chapters of Genn Greymane’s story that paint a larger portrait.

Micky: It was an amazing experience, and a great example of cross-media storytelling. When it works, it’s beautiful. There are so many things that can go wrong. Communication is paramount. You have to be talking to the right people on the game side, and the game devs have to be willing to work with the authors and take the time to read and provide feedback. It’s a relationship. Without that close collaboration, the reader can tell, even if they’re not lore experts, that something is wrong. There will be inconsistencies and people will respond to that, and readers will lose trust in the product.

We strive to ensure that the experience of reading the comics, books, short stories, etc. is congruent with the story, tone, and environment of the game. As James mentions, the dev team was great to work with—very motivated, and dedicated to making it all sync up.

 

Who is Halford Ramsey?

James: Halford is really the creation of the one and only Micky “Superfly” Neilson. We talked about a way into this story at length. We knew we wanted to convey all the lore about the creation of the worgen and we knew we wanted to tell a story about the events of Gilneas, but we really needed a way to tether these ideas together. The Gilnean aesthetic theme is very Victorian England; and as a kid I watched a lot of Sherlock Holmes (the Jeremy Brett version)—great stuff if you haven’t seen it. I don’t know if it was Micky or I who first suggested the idea of a detective, but because of my Holmesian affinity and the tone of the Gilnean civilization, it became the key to figuring this story out. We decided that we’d move forward with a Holmes-like character; a logician. What was important to me, as to any writer crafting a linear story about a character, was figuring out what his character arc would be and letting that dictate his story. We both thought it had something to do with his rigid, analytical nature needing to change. Micky seemed to have an instinct on this and went off and wrote up a document about Halford, creating his sister, and what cut him off emotionally.

I don’t think we had the whole picture of what we created until it came together in the outline, but if the worgen experience was about finding balance, a man stuck in logic that needs to connect with his human/animal side ended up really resonating with the night elf story, the game, and the larger themes we were chasing with the worgen. But, the name, the details of the character backstory, that’s all Micky’s.

Micky: Halford was a lot of fun to write. I wanted him to be a bit of an anti-hero that would grow on people. He’s candid, he’s condescending, he’s unapproachable in many ways, especially emotionally, but he’s also a deductive genius and the further you dig into his character the more you understand where he’s coming from.

The journey of Halford finding the humanity in not only himself but in others as well was one that felt compelling to James and I, and we believed that if we could make that emotional connection with the character, readers would connect with him as well. Sherlock Holmes was certainly a big influence. I would love to explore Halford’s character more in the future.

Oh, and a fun bit of trivia: his first name is taken from the last name of the lead singer of Judas Priest, Rob Halford.

 

What will fans learn in this comic book about the Scythe of Elune?

James: Very important things! You must read it. I can’t tell you. Maybe Micky will. Maybe not. But things so important you must pick this book up! Do it. Do it NOW! It’ll change your life. . . . Or tell you the history of the scythe, one or the other.

Micky: The Scythe of Elune was one of those in-game items that was just begging for more background. The origins of the scythe are fully explored in Curse of the Worgen. Interestingly, we were also developing the story for the Alliance graphic novel World of Warcraft: Dark Riders at the same time. Dark Riders has been in development for a while; the colors are looking absolutely amazing and it’s going to be one fantastic book. For anyone who’s interested in the scythe, Curse of the Worgen is a great place to start.

 

How was the coordination between the two of you to write this story? Did you have to split topics and ideas, and mesh them together?

James: We did several meetings with Chris Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi to talk about the origin of the worgen. Alex was using a link to druidism as the root cause and had a ton built out game-wise. We liked the idea that maybe worgen were a corrupted version of a banned form. Malfurion had years as a druid to experiment that we hadn’t touched on fictionally, who knows what he tried during them? There may be a duck-billed playtypus form you just haven’t seen yet because it was banned. I digress.

After that, Micky and I did a lot of talking. There may have been beers involved. There may have not been. I don’t remember, so probably the former. We began to really talk about the themes we were seeing in our new lore and in the game and the story went from there. Halford appeared somehow. We did an outline, iterated with the dev team, and then came the task of writing. We decided we’d split up the timelines on our first pass and trade to the other person to rewrite their scenes. So, I’d write my timeline’s scenes, send to Micky, Micky would do the same. I’d edit him, he’d edit me. We’d put it together and do a pass in tandem. Then we’d send to Chris Metzen and get his notes and revise from there. It worked out pretty well. Though I believe there was an issue where this process led to us needing an extra page and for the life of us we couldn’t trim the story down to get it – we were already trying to be as economical as possible with dense material. Wildstorm was kind enough to give us an extra page for the book. Thanks DC! Won’t happen again.

Micky: James has a great story sense and he shares my philosophy regarding the importance of characters. We found a rhythm early on. Once we had the concepts nailed down, the writing process went pretty smoothly. The biggest decision we had to make at the outline stage was where to end the story. The Gilneas events in the game proceed beyond what we explored in the book.

Ultimately, we looked at the themes and the character arcs, as well as the amount of ‘page space’ we had to tell the story, and felt that we could still tell a complete story even if we ended it a little early. At the point where Genn, Halford, and the others are preparing to storm back into Gilneas, the main character arcs had reached their conclusions and the overall themes had been greatly explored. With the outline figured out, the rest fell into place. James had a clear idea of what the back story with Arvell, Belysra, and Ralaar would be and I had a direction for the Starlight Slasher storyline and Halford’s character, so splitting up the A and B storylines worked really well. And yes, alcohol consumption was part of the process!

 

What were your goals with “Curse of the Worgen”?

James: To try to get a taste of Micky Neilson’s New York Times Bestselling thunder! Actually, my goal with any story is to make you feel something. For linear narrative, I want a character change due to story circumstances beyond what they think they can handle –ultimately become better people (or worgen) from the experience of overcoming. I think we’re all trying to do that in the real world day in and day out and fiction allows us to see that it’s possible and inspires us to try harder. Sure that sounds a bit lofty; this is a comic book with purple, long eared people, after all, but it’s the only reason to tell a story in traditional mediums like this when we already have a game.

We wanted to do what the game couldn’t, and that’s really dig out character. As for the transmedia goals: We wanted to tell the origin of the Worgen, we wanted to set up franchise characters like Genn, and we wanted to tell the story of the Scythe of Elune. All of that stuff really fleshes out the world and is entertaining content. But I’m hoping that it’s accessible and lingers because of the heart.

Micky: As James mentions above, character and theme are always the top goals of our fiction. Beyond that, we really had an opportunity to explore the origins of the worgen and the Scythe of Elune at a level of detail that wouldn’t be possible in the game. There were also many unanswered questions relating to Gilneas. It was this incredible new territory—“new” simply because it had been walled off for so long. It was undiscovered country, and for a writer that’s like catnip.

On top of all that, James and I had been wanting to work on a project together, so with all those factors aligned we were in a great position to accomplish several goals with the project.

 

There seems to be a recurring complaint among readers of Curse of the Worgen who wish this cleared out. There is a conflicting name between the comic book and the in-game NPC: Belrysa Starsong and Belysra Starsong? Are both the same persona, or was this a typo? Any chance the NPC name could be corrected by the developers?

Micky: That was an error that I am happy to say will be fixed. They are indeed the same person.

 

Are there any plans for Halford Ramsey in future stories: novels, comic book sequels, online novella, or in-game?

James: I’m looking at you, quest designers! I think we’d all love to see Halford Ramsey quests. As for other content, none at the moment, though he’s a character I’m sure Micky and I would love to go back to one day. Maybe we’ll do a detective series with Halford Ramsey! . . . maybe not.

Micky: Halford’s a lot of fun. I think it’s really just a matter of finding the right story, the right fit. I have a few ideas of where Halford could go from here. With a detective character like that, there are almost limitless opportunities.

 

The Ashbringer hardcover and the Sunwell Trilogy hardcover had bonus material. In the case of the Sunwell Trilogy it retold the founding of Quel’Thalas with Dath’Remar Sunstrider. Is the Curse of the Worgen paperback including bonus material, too?

James: Not that I know of. We did a bonus/coda story for the hardcover that should help hardcore players understand quest lines relating to the Scythe.

Micky: The bonus material was the Velinde story in the back of the hardcover, which will be included in the softcover. It was a loose end that we were able to tie up, which was extremely gratifying!

 

Do you think the storyline carried over well into the game?

James: The dev team did a kick-ass job. Gilneas was a blast and I was really proud to see Belysra in game along with specific story points we talked out. Even cooler was seeing the moments in game that wrapped around the events in the comic. It seems to all fit together in a way that you really can only cross your fingers and hope for when you do this type of stuff.

Micky: The biggest benefit early in the process was really just answering the question of where the worgen came from. There were a lot of ideas, but the more we talked about it, the more the druid angle made sense. Then we were able to make connections to Goldrinn, who we had explored in the WoW monthly comic, as well as Malfurion and even the Emerald Dream. Where the worgen came from and how they came about were big questions that the designers needed to have answered so they could move forward, so the process of creating the comic certainly did inform the design of the game content. And yes, I believe it worked out really well!

 

Do you both have plans to publish more novels, and graphic novels in 2013? (Share titles or topics of upcoming untitled stories to keep an eye for)

Micky: Things to keep an eye out for: If you haven’t read World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War yet, check it out to get details regarding the fall of Theramore. Also, World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria is out right now and provides backstory and cultural flavor for WoW’s newest playable race, the Pandaren. Also, you’ll soon be hearing more about an anthology of short stories which will include, for the first time ever, Blood of the Highborne (a story I wrote many moons ago detailing the origins of the Blood Knights). Beyond that, we’ll be making a few exciting announcements at a panel at this year’s New York Comic Con, so stay tuned!

 

Have you thought of the possibility of increasing the amount of stories published per year to expand the universes? Is this feasible?

James: We’ve really upped the ante over the last few years, putting out a lot of content. It’s something Blizzard does for our players and I think it makes our worlds and characters richer and gives people more to experience. I’m not as actively involved in the publishing development these days; I’m working on the games, but I think we’re doing a good amount. These things are not so easy to pull off as we really try to make sure everything fits and that takes a lot of coordination and time.

Micky: The main thing is maintaining quality. We put a lot of time and effort into each story, so there’s also the issue of bandwidth. The plan for 2013 is to focus on telling absolutely the best stories we can tell, and to continue expanding these worlds, within the games and beyond. That being said, we do have a lot of content that we’re working on, and it’s all exciting stuff. 2013 is going to be our best year yet!

 

Thanks Micky Neilson and James Waugh for discussing details of this story. Hope to read many more. Many thanks to Lyndsi for making this interview possible.

Fans can order the World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen (Trade Paperback). It’s already on sale and shipping.

World of Warcraft: Dark Riders — mentioned by Micky Neilson above is a DC Comics graphic novel (Hardcover) by writer Mike Costa and artist Neil Googe. Release date: April 23, 2013. Pre-order now.

Don’t forget to check out the Blizzard Publishing Panel held at the New York Comic Con. Blizzplanet was there and shares video of the panel where Micky Neilson, Dave Kosak and Michael Stackpole revealed the new novel product line up for 2013.

Artists and fans should check out the UDON panel video about the upcoming World of Warcraft Tribute Art Book.

Filmmakers/Machinima fans should learn more about Mega Bloks upcoming plans for an ongoing animated webisode and the contest here.

Thanks to Bluesnews and N4G.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Interviews

Here is a collection of all the recent Mists of Pandaria interviews held a week before the launch of the expansion.

Best Buy – Developers Chat on Mists of Pandaria Transcript

wow-mists-of-pandaria-logo

Several Blizzard Entertainment developers and community managers answered questions to fans during the Best Buy developer chat held

Zarhym: Hello, all, and welcome to the World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Developer Chat, presented by Best Buy! Blizzard community manager Crithto and I will be helping facilitate the discussion today and filter as many of your questions as possible for our developers to answer.

Crithto:: That’s right! Thank you, Zarhym, and welcome everyone. On the panel to answer your questions today we have World of Warcraft lead designers Greg Street, Cory Stockton, Dave Kosak, and Ion Hazzikostas. Questions are pouring in and our developers are preparing their initial responses, so let’s get started!

Is the second son of Deathwing going to be the Second Prince? The achievement two Princes says that Wrathion and another ‘Prince’ will settle something important, is that true?

DaveKosak:: “Two Princes” is a placeholder name that may or may not reflect the final achievements in later patches. Suffice it to say, Wrathion’s story will continue!

What was the idea with Monk healing? what mix of elements inspired it and defined it?

GregStreet:: Mostly we wanted it to feel different from existing healers, so there is an emphasis on a channeled spell as the main heal. We also wanted to emphasize movement and damage-dealing to heal, because those were core to the monk class.

Do you feel the way of nerfing Dragon Soul, by nerfing the bosses. Was more successful than the Icecrown Citadel version, by buffing the players health and damage?

IonHazzikostas: Yes, one of the awkward things about the Icecrown Citadel buff was that, over time, it caused players to feel weaker when they were doing anything other than raiding Icecrown. It also had some potentially distorting effects, benefiting some specs and roles more than others. Weakening the enemies instead, as we’ve done in Dragon Soul, is more in keeping with how we’ve traditionally handled our tuning adjustments, going all the way back to Vanilla raids.

Where is N’Zoth? He was mentioned at Blizzcon, then was talked about in Dragon Soul. What is going on with him?!

DaveKosak:: N’zoth is still lurking. The Titans couldn’t defeat it… maybe someday we’ll get our chance? Don’t expect to hear anything about him in Pandaria, though!

drwuky: Hello. If someone from a CRZ hits Level 90 as first player on my realm, will he get the Realm First! Level 90 achievement for my realm or for his realm?

IonHazzikostas: His realm

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parrjj01: It seems like PVP never gets much attention from the developers during these type of events. As a hardcore lover of PVP and the many people that are in my guild, we have really gotten frustrated, bored, etc with how PVP is handled. Will you guys ever be implanting anything like how LFR system works. Were there will be healers on each side, for a better chance of your team succeeding? I don’t know about anyone else but I really hate being on my side with 0 healers and the horde have 4 in E…

GregStreet:: Our BG queueing system was built a long time ago. Since that time we’ve engineered the much more powerful system that we use for Dungeon Finder and Raid Finder. We’d now like to reengineer that system to work for BG queues as well, which would give us the ability to better balance healers, item levels, and perhaps even pre-made vs. PUG. No promises, but it’s something we’re working on.

The Theramore event was a little… Underwhelming. Developers have previously stated they spent more time on the content in Pandaria than the Theramore event. Will we see more diversity and excitement in the scenarios in Pandaria?

DaveKosak:: There’s a LOT of diversity in the scenarios. For example. there’s a monkey pirate island where you’re running around fetching up brew and fighting randomized bosses, and other insanity. We really tried to experiment with some different mechanics, and we got bolder as development continued.

Gehn: Any chance we will ever see attunements or rep based dungeons again or is that strictly a in-the-past type thing?

IonHazzikostas: There’s something a bit like a traditional attunement in the 5.0 raids: Players must defeat Grand Empress Shek’zeer in the Heart of Fear raid before they may begin the Terrace of Endless Spring raid. It’s definitely something we’re open to exploring further in the future.

Hi. I’ve had a lot of concerns regarding hit / expertise with tanks. Currently in MoP it seems tanks would reforge most their defensive stats into hit / expertise. It’s extremely annoying design

GregStreet:: We felt like previously tanks could just ignore even hitting targets because threat was easy to maintain and survivability was based entirely around cooldowns. Now you’ll need to hit the target, but you’ll gain resources for doing so, so we hope the experience is more engaging to tanks. More *fighting* less standing there.

Will the ability to obtain legendary mats on LFR mode make it required for raiders, at least until they complete the quest?

IonHazzikostas: “Required” is one of those tricky words. We understand that for many players anything that gives even an incremental power gain is seen as mandatory. Progress on one portion of the early steps of the legendary questline may be made in LFR mode, so players who want to obtain their gem from Wrathion as quickly as possible will likely benefit from doing LFR alongside their Normal or Heroic raiding. LFR wings will unlock incrementally, after Normal mode, so when someone in a top progression guild is defeating up to 16 bosses when Heart of Fear and Terrace open, doing LFR will only add 6 to that total (from Mogu’shan Vaults LFR). While in the long run, we’d like to minimize players’ obligation to run LFR if they are part of progression raiding guilds, that’s challenging at the start of an expansion when everyone is using the same dungeon blues. We hope it’ll be different for future tiers. Finally, the true power of Wrathion’s gem lies in the combined effect of the weapon and the gem itself; an LFR player’s Sha-touched weapon will be significantly less powerful than a Heroic raider’s.

As the Cataclysm Expansion is now over. As a team what were your take aways both good and bad?

DaveKosak:: From a quest perspective, we thought that the storytelling in Cataclysm was very strong, but that the zones were very linear. For Pandaria, we wanted to swing the pendulum the other way and open up the game more, rewarding exploration. I think we found a much better balance. Kun-lai Summit, for example, is pretty open-ended, even though it’s got some great stories in there. That’s just one example – we’re always learning from expansions. The other big takeaway was that we wanted more things for players to do, depending on what sort of challenges they want. Challenge Modes, Pet battles, and the new Daily Quest structure all appeal to different people, hopefully with the goal of giving everyone more content no matter what your playstyle!

How much game time do you think will we get in exploration of the continent of pandaria?

CoryStockton:: We really packed in the content with Mists, that being said the amount of time it takes you is really going to depend on your playstyle. We have so many different things for players to do. Quests, reputations, dailies, scenarios, pet battles…. The idea is to let players make progress doing whatever kind of activity they like best.

Amd11394: Prior to patch 5.0.4, When we still had the cataclysm ‘revised’ talent trees, Elemental shamans gained an addition to one of their talents entailing that when flame shock was dispelled we gained a temporary buff entitled ‘Lave Flows’ This most recent patch, with the new Mists ‘revised’ Talent trees highlighted the removal of the cataclysm talent system, and with it went Lava Flows, what is your reasoning for removing this valuable ability?

IonHazzikostas: Defensive dispels are significantly more limited in 5.0 than they were previously. Passives like Lava Flows were designed as an answer to an environment in which defensive dispel magic was spammed constantly, and it was nearly impossible to get a buffed Lava Burst off against an attentive dispeller who could remove your Flame Shock while you were casting the spell. With an 8-second cooldown on dispels now, a healer who dispels a Flame Shock may find that they are unable to dispel the Fear or Polymorph that targets another teammate immediately thereafter. We’ll keep an eye on the evolving PvP metagame in light of the new dispel changes, and consider re-adding something like Lava Flows if it proves necessary.

drwuky: Will the storyline of the Sha continue with Patch 5.1 or later patches?

DaveKosak:: For the most part, the Sha issues will be tackled by players in 5.0. BUT… not everyone wants to let sleeping Sha lie. Someone might start stirring up trouble beginning with the patches…

samich: Can we expect mailboxes on the wandering isle on release? was the removal of the one that was there for quest testing purposes?

DaveKosak:: Pandaren Neutrality caused a lot of design issues we had to solve. Mail ended up being a headache. What was easiest — for us AND for our users — was to remove mail entirely until you choose a faction. That’s nice and clean and prevents a lot of issues people saw on the beta. So, no mailboxes on the Wandering Isle – sorry!

I know you guys recently changed the LFR loot (weapons) from the last boss in a LFR instance, are you guys going to do any other changes to LFR to make heroic raiders not feel as they have to raid 2 formats a week to be competitive?

IonHazzikostas: As I mentioned in reply to an earlier question, it’s a goal of ours but it’s a tough one to realize in a world where everyone is starting out in dungeon blues and looking to get their hands on any and all epics. It’s our expectation that by the time Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring LFR unlock, most heroic raiders will have replaced their dungeon gear and have less to gain from also running LFR mode. In future raid tiers, people who are already in Heroic gear from the prior raid zone should not find the next tier’s LFR gear to be an improvement over what they have.

Will there be an appearance of the Burning Legion in the end of MoP?

DaveKosak:: The threat of the Burning Legion is still out there, and it’s very much a threat to Azeroth. The mortal races are mostly focused on the current war, but not everyone has forgotten about what’s out there and the challenges to come… Wrathion, in particular, is already trying to look ahead.

Would say that the new challenge mode dungeon gold times are going to be the “Gladiator” equivalent of PVE?

IonHazzikostas: That would be our hope. Seeing someone sporting a set of challenge mode armor in town should be akin to seeing someone on a Gladiator mount — you know they did something extremely skillful to earn it, and it’s not the sort of reward you can outgear and obtain later on.

CoryStockton:: That’s probably a pretty close comparison. Beyond gold times we will have server and guild leaderboards too. That’s probably where the highest level of competition will be.

Christie Golden mentioned in an interview that she worked closely with the quest team when she wrote Tides of War to make sure everything was very close. However, there are some notable differences between the book and the scenario during the Alliance side of it. Did the storyline of the scenario change late into the book’s writing?

DaveKosak:: We worked hard to sync with Golden during development. The Alliance side of the scenario went through LOTS of iterations, including when it happened (before the attack? During the attack? After the attack?) Ultimately we went with the one that gave us the greatest gameplay. We want the events of the book and game to match as closely as possible, but we want the best book possible and the best game possible, so they won’t be word-for-word identical. This can create some fun arguments. “Well, according to this book…” “YEAH, but I WAS THERE, MAN!” We work hard to make sure the discrepancies are minor, but we definitely don’t struggle for perfection.

Will we ever see cross-server mail or non-boa cross faction mailing feasibly within the 5.0 content?–Gorebane of Eonar

CoryStockton:: It’s on our list and something we really want to do. It’s really just a matter of the engineering time it takes us to get it in.

im_a_rockstar: WoW has always been a mostly raid or die game. The changes in MoP to Justice Points, the item level difference on gear obtained outside of raid, are kind of steps backwards away from alternatives, pushing us back to having our only choice to be a raid. Are there any plans to give the non-raiders / people with random availabilities any form of meaningful character progression in terms of player power, besides only raids?

IonHazzikostas: We have a number of gear acquisition routes that do not involve raiding. We’ve broadened the avenues for acquiring Valor Points, which can now be earned by doing dungeons, daily quests, scenarios, and so forth. That gear will be at least item level 489 (compared to 476 from LFR). There’s also crafted gear. And of course future content updates will continue to provide upgrades outside of raiding. All of that said, I’d encourage you to check out the new raids as well — the addition of the LFR system makes them more accessible than ever.

NinjaFox: To Dave Kosak: The reddit AMA gave some teasers that Sylvanas, Vol’jin, and Thrall (specifically in 5.1) would be integral parts to the story. Rexxar and Koltira were also mentioned. On the Alliance side, other than Varian, Anduin and Jaina are there any notable leaders/lore figures we can expect to see active through the Pandaria storyline?

DaveKosak:: Great question! Many of the Alliance leaders will come into play. Tyrande has a couple of moments in 5.1. We also want to do more with the dwarven storyline (we’re still kicking around ideas of how best to do that.) The trick is making sure those characters have meaningful moments. We’ll definitely spend a lot of time with Jaina and King Wrynn.

DeathFish1: With the creation of the farms at Halfhill, the base structure for player and guild housing has subsequently been created as well. Is this the direction you have chosen to go with for player housing or was this even considered as an option. One very good point about this option is that multiple locations for housing can be placed throughout the game world, preventing the issue of removing players from the world.

CoryStockton:: To DeathFish1 It’s certainly a baby step in that direction. We are really excited to see how players react to it in Mists. We already have lots of ideas on how we can expand this kind of content in the future too!

DaveKosak:: (Love the name, Deathfish!) when we think about things like player-housing, we really want to look at how this can contribute to gameplay. The farm is awesome because it ties into a lot of systems, it creates some fun crafting opportunities, it impacts the economy, etc. It’s a great experiment for us because if it’s popular, it gives us a lot of data into how to create this type of content in the future.

Gosu: What is the design philosophy behind PvP balance and how satisfied are you with PvP balance in Mists of Pandaria?

Ghostcrawler: One of the main ones was to allow more cross-over of gear at the lower end but not the upper end of content. (In 4.0 it was more of the opposite.) It’s not fun to die in PvP over and over until you get decent gear.

How come with this expansion you choose to go with Pandas and not something that was already in the game, such as The Emerald Dream, maybe going into the Dragonflights, or even something more with The Demonic legion.

IonHazzikostas: The pandaren are a race we’ve been looking to introduce into the WoW universe for some time now, since their introduction as a neutral hero back in the Warcraft 3 expansion. They were originally a top contender for the Alliance race back in Burning Crusade, but we ended up going with the draenei at the time because they better fit the Outland-focused story we were trying to tell, and because it didn’t feel right forcing a historically neutral race like the pandaren into one specific faction. When we were looking to make an expansion centered around themes of exploration and discovery against a backdrop of Alliance-Horde conflict, the pandaren just seemed like the right fit: Noble and enigmatic race caught in the middle of the war between the Alliance and Horde as it spirals out of control, forced to choose sides as the outside world descends upon their homeland.

The Rogue’s shadow blades visual effect is lacking, and needs more of a pop. Paladins get Ashbringer; could rogues get something equally cool looking?

IonHazzikostas: We agree that some rogue visuals (Shadow Blades, Shadow Walk, etc.) could use some more love. That’s something we’d like to do in a future patch.

bocasha: In Pandaria will we see another 9 month period where we will have no new stuff coming out?

CoryStockton:: We are doing everything within our power to avoid this. We all feel that 9 months without content is pretty much unacceptable to our players. A glimmer of hope: we are already knee deep into both patch 5.1 and 5.2. Our plan is to deliver these much faster than anyone is expecting.

When will we see Sargeras, it’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck around for so long…

DaveKosak:: Sargeras would be one monstrous raid boss! He’s one of the most iconic, key villains of the franchise. Believe me, when he comes to Azeroth, you’re going to feel it LONG before he even gets there.

khalanil: Have you thought about implementing zones or battlegrounds where players are normalized by level, similar to the gear level normalization in the upcoming challenge mode dungeons? This could allow players to quest or PVP with lower-level friends, and it could be fun to see a trio of level 20s take down a level 90.

DaveKosak:: This is a tremendous question, because it’s something we’ve been talking about and exploring. With Challenge Modes, we now have tech to scale your item level, so that we can guarantee the right level of difficulty. Having this tech opens lots of doors for us down the line. We don’t have anything to announce, but it’s a step toward a lot of the features you’re describing.

 

parrjj01: I really love the real ID system, which has helped me communicate with my cousin who lives in Hawaii. The only downfall is, he’s horde. Neither of us want to change fractions but we’d love to run toghther doing something. Will you guys ever consider letting us ‘group’ together and duke it out in battlegrounds, but disabling chat (even in real ID terms) so the no communcation rules still apply?

Ghostcrawler: We don’t have huge design problems with letting you play with friends from other factions. The biggest challenge is the game was never designed with the concept of letting you be allied with the opposing faction, so it would be a tremendous amount of work. I won’t give up hope for it though! (We always joke about a tauren having the Hallow’s End 2D gnome mask when you’re grouped with him.)

Can one stand anywhere in Orgrimmar(including right next to the questgiver that sends you to the gunship) when MoP is activated or do we have to be outside the Garrosh building? Good to know for us who are rushing as fast as we can!

Ghostcrawler: If you are online, you should get the quest pushed to you no matter where you are. We don’t want to over-promise though. This is technically challenging stuff and it might be the case that we need everyone to relog. /crosses fingers

The story of Tides of War is really interesting. I don’t think players can get engaged if they have no idea what’s happening, the bomb dropping is really anticlimactic. I felt a bit disappointed so little got included in the scenario. Was this because of lack of time, of developers or because you rather keep all that info in the novels.

DaveKosak:: I’ve been watching the Theramore feedback closely, and this comment seems pretty universal. We tried to keep everything all in the scenario, to make it really self-contained, but not burden it with lots of story that you have to slog through every time you played the scenario. It’s pretty clear from the feedback that people wanted more story. We should’ve surrounded the scenarios with more quests or explanations to help round out the story for the people who wanted to know what exactly was happening. Lesson learned!

Dude7198: Will there be a Realm First achievement that involves Pet Battles?

CoryStockton:: We did not make any realm first achievements for pet battles. Our intention for the feature is that its more of a casual activity and a realm first just did not feel like a good fit.

Nobody I know is impressed with the promise of an extra piece of loot for normal 25 mans. What we would be impressed with is separate realm first achievements for each raid format. Any chance of seeing something like this?

IonHazzikostas: Possibly. On several servers that have one top 25-player guild that’s far above the rest of the server in progression, that might turn into incentivizing them to split up the week after their 25-player Realm First to snag the 10-player one. Not sure that’s great gameplay for anyone. That said, we recognize that there’s interest in making it a bit easier to distinguish between 10-player and 25-player kills in statistics or achievements.

Were the stained glass windows in Ulduar foreshadowing of the Sha? They look very similar to the Sha.

DaveKosak:: I’d like to say we planned that. [Long pause] But I would be lying. I think it’s just a happy coincidence that fits wonderfully into our lore.

When will transmog rules be loosened up a little. Main hand/one hand weapons, for instance.

Ghostcrawler: If I had to guess, we will loosen them at some point. We would probably wait until some time after the MoP launch when players will appreciate it more. It’s easy for smaller features to get lost when there is so much new content. The designers will discuss it soon ™.

We saw some of the animations on the challenge mode gear, will the druid set animations be visible when the druid is shapeshifted?

CoryStockton:: The custom effects are based on the armor itself so they will only be visible when you are in caster form.

Will content come at a faster rate in MoP? It seems that we might be pushing thought content at a much faster rate.

DaveKosak:: That is definitely our goal! As we speak the quest team is simultaneously working on patches 5.1 and 5.2. Our hope is to keep the story and content rolling forward. It’s definitely a focus for the team – I can’t make any promises, but I guarantee we’re trying and I hope you’ll notice the results!

CoryStockton:: I know we sound like a broken record on this but we are really pushing hard to deliver content to you guys faster than ever with the Mists patch cycle. As Dave mentioned, we are already making awesome progress on the first set of patches.

Zawani: Hey, I had a question regarding arms warrior pve rotation. It feels like there is to much ring involved with the rotation very rarely do I get more than 2 stacks of taste for blood and sometimes I can use overpower 5 or 6 times without a single proc of it, which then will leave me rage starved and without buttons to press, I was wondering if you could lower the damage bonus of the buff or damage of OP while also increasing the proc chance as well.

Ghostcrawler: Think of getting a high stack for Taste for Blood as a random bonus, much like getting enraged from a bunch of crits in a row. You shouldn’t hold your whole rotation waiting for a 4 or 5 stack, because it won’t happen that often. If you’re at risk of rage capping, try to Slam. If you don’t have the GCD to Slam then it’s probably worth just using the Heroic Strike unless you think you’ll be able to Colossus Smash really soon.

Will we ever see Magni Bronzebeard return from being frozen under Ironforge?

DaveKosak:: Magni is like the definition of BLING. :smileyhappy: If we continue his story, we’ll make sure to handle it in-game. I wouldn’t count on seeing him return during the Pandaren story arc, though.

Greg just said on twitter that the 25s versus 10s situation was handled in the AMA a lot, but nothing came from that apart from an understanding that 25s do have it harder now and could use some more compensation, Don’t you have concrete plans for that, more than the tiny bit of extra loot 25s will have? The issue will only get even more pronounced the next weeks during progression.

IonHazzikostas: It’s something we discuss frequently internally. We don’t have anything final to announce just yet, but we love 25-player raiding and intend to do what we can to preserve it.

Windwalkers have been very upset with a couple things in particular with their spec. The first is Fists of Fury, we don’t like being rooted and channeling an attack when our kit is supposed to be mobile. Can we please get this mechanic revisited? As well, we don’t have literally any useful raid utility. Zen meditation is very weak. Will this be addressed at all post-launch?

Ghostcrawler: “Mobile” doesn’t mean “never, ever stops moving.” Like many specs, Windwalkers will do more damage when stationary but can still do some damage when moving. Deciding when you should FoF and when you can’t is one of the decision points that separates good monks from great ones. We’re not inclined to change it at this time. As far as raid utility goes, we’re really reluctant to hand more “must have” buffs. We don’t want Windwalkers to be mandatory, especially for smaller, 10-player raid groups. If they are never taken at all, we’ll take some kind of action, but I’d be very surprised if that’s the case.

Are there plans on fixing the broken Engineering Flying Machine that has been broken since patch 4.1?

CoryStockton:: We will look into this and make sure we get it fixed.

Is there a chance we might see class specific factions developed more? Kirin Tor, Ebon Blade, Argent Bros, Ravenholdt…Could we see something similar arise for Warriors, Hunters etc?

DaveKosak:: We’re cooking up some cool Warlock stuff we can hopefully announce soon. In a more general sense, we LOVE class-specific content, but to do it right takes development time (believe me, I have to somehow schedule all this stuff.). When it came down to deciding between more zones of content and more faction content OR class-specific stuff, we opted to create more content for everyone. But, again, we love class-specific content, we’ll try to squeeze in some cool challenges for the various challenges in the patches to come…

Are we going to get more story-telling in scenarios? The Theramore scenario was lackluster compared to the book, key story elements haven’t even been address in-game yet.(Kirin Tor leader)

DaveKosak:: I addressed this earlier, but keep in mind that we want scenarios to be replayable. We definitely didn’t want to burden them with tons of story that you have to wade through every time you play it. As I said for Theramore, people obviously wanted more context, which probably was best served by some one-time quests on either end of the scenario. That’s a lesson we’re pulling forward. :smileyhappy:

Will Wintergrasp ever be added as a max level battleground?

Ghostcrawler: Potentially, if there is enough demand for it. We would introduce it as you suggest as a true Battleground to avoid faction imbalance issues.

Beside the lifting on the mist with the clock strikes midnight on the 25th. We have come to expect events to complement the expansion. They have been fascinating and very fun. Should we expect events over the next 6 days? Or was the Scenario it?

CoryStockton:: The Theramore scenario is intended to be a preview of what players can expect from scenarios in Mists. It is by no means a launch event and thats intentional. We made a call early on to put that time into developing more content for Mists that will last and not be over in a week.

I loved the “Visions of the Past” quest-line in Vashj’ir. Will we see anything similar in upcoming content?

DaveKosak:: This is the “Battle-Maiden” questline, where you got to play as a naga badass for a while. I think these are a great break from the standard gameplay if they’re well-designed, but we would want to use them sparingly. (After all, it’s not WoW if you’re not playing your class and kicking butt!) That said, there’s a couple fun moments in Pandaria that have similar gameplay. In the Valley of Four Winds, you get to play as Chen Stormstout for a little bit. After kicking around a lot of ideas, we ultimately decided to give you a single ‘Chen-Fu’ button that makes him randomly do awesome kung-fu moves. It’s a short sequence, but it’s fun for storytelling and gives you a chance to Chen it up.

Gehn: Any updates on future guild leveling past 25?

CoryStockton:: We are totally open to increasing guild levels and the associated rewards but only when the game feels like it needs more of that content. A large number of guilds are still nowhere near level 25 so Mists did not feel like a good fit to add more guild levels.

Mists of Pandaria features an ambitious number of 18 raid bosses and I’m very excited about that. I’m curious though as to how many bosses we can expect to see in future tiers? Firelands and Dragon Soul felt like small tiers with only 7 or 8 encounters in the tier.

IonHazzikostas: We like big raid tiers too, and will do our best to continue delivering them. We’re planning for the next tier after Heart of Fear/Terrace to be a fair bit larger than Firelands or Dragon Soul were.

Whats would your answer be to the players who feel that by making multiple classes bring similar buffs and abilities, that the classes are losing their ‘uniqueness’? Introducing combo points to ShadowPriests/Ret Paladins for example

IonHazzikostas: Ultimately, there are only so many distinct resource mechanisms, and many of them are not great from a gameplay perspective. We’d rather differentiate our classes and specs on the basis of their overall feel and unique capabilities such as Death Grip for Death Knights or shaman’ totems. I don’t think many people are likely to mistake a shadow priest for a rogue just because they build up a resource and then consume it to deal damage.

Will the gear in Theramore’s Fall 85 version be available in the 90 version?

CoryStockton:: The gear and the rewards for the 85 version are only available now. The 90 version has standard scenario rewards (Valor and a chance at a dungeon blue)

Lansuer: Where do you see races that are neutral leaning like the Blood Elves going within the Horde? They seem rather separate from the Horde story since Cata’s launch.

DaveKosak:: Stick around for patch 5.1 – we pick up the Blood Elves’ story and propel it forward. Finally, a chance to interact with Lor’themar! Most players don’t even know who he is. :smileyhappy:

What are your thoughts on healing classes in MoP? Are you seeing the type of balance you want in the new expansion between all classes/specs? I ask because we are seeing a lot of blending of healers into one unit, instead of variety. All healers can do everything now to state it plainly which is making certain classes stronger choices than others for non-healing reasons. Sure some do slightly better in certain situations, but the classic archetypes are no longer as valid. It removes the need fo…

Ghostcrawler: We strive for harmony with the healer design. If healer niches are too well-defined, then you are encouraged to stack Resto druids for one fight and then Holy paladins for the next fight. We’d rather see a diversity of healers. As far as healer balance is currently, we’re pretty happy with it at 90. We still need to see Disc priests really figure out all of the nuances of Spirit Shell and we want to make sure all of the healers are really strong for Challenge Mode gold runs.

drwuky: Will you guys decrease the experience needed from 88-89 and 89-90 or increase the experience gained in Townlong Steppes and Dread Wastes before release? At the moment you can NOT hit Level 89 if you start with Level 88 and 0% experience in Townlong Steppes (~10% experience missing) and also Level 90 is impossible with Dread Wastes quests only (~5% experience missing). These are datas with the 10% experience guild perk and yes, I’ve got both zone completed achievements.

CoryStockton:: We are still actively tuning the XP. We will look into it.

Velenor1: Question for Dave Kosak. I have always wondered why the Alliance has continuously frowned upon the Scarlet Crusade. Their main purpose was to simply eradicate the undead. With their return in MoP, we are tasked with eliminating them -again- with the aid of Lillian Voss. Why is it that we have turned their organization down for so long when we more or less have the same goals in mind?

DaveKosak:: The complexities really aren’t in the game, but the Scarlet Crusade was very much a rogue organization. Great priests and warriors who would’ve otherwise served the Alliance disappear into the crusade, who serves its own ends. (In Northrend, it was clear their leadership had succumbed to demonic influence. It’s hard to make up for that.) To be honest, the main reason to revisit the Crusade in 5.1 was a gameplay reason and not a story reason – it was a favorite dungeon that we really wanted to revisit with new mechanics. We didn’t think a lot of story was needed.

Question from Munich, Germany. As the Octoberfest here and Brewfest in WoW are coming up, I wondered whether anyone at Blizzard did “field research” for designing Brewfest at the real Octoberfest ? The costumes and music are done really well.

CoryStockton:: We do field research on Brewfest every Friday. :smileyhappy:

DaveKosak:: Sorry – meant to say 5.0 in that last question

Why is the theramore event so boring? Its way too easy and if you didn’t read the book then you have no idea what’s going on, you also wouldn’t know why Jaina isn’t dead and why azeroth isn’t completely destroyed. Do you think it would’ve been smarter to put more lore in the scenario and would’ve made it more fun?

Zarhym: Dave already spoke to the story part of your question (if you missed it Best Buy will be providing a full transcript after the chat). To address your concern of difficulty, we agree it was too easy on release. We pushed a hotfix recently that increased the HP of all enemies in Theramore’s Fall. The fact is that Scenarios in Mists will be more tailored for players in quest gear and dungeon blues. But players at level 85 were steamrolling through it in Dragon Soul gear, and the hotfix was to compensate for this a little.

Do all designers use the same in-house editor? Or do you have different tools for different jobs? How do you handle collisions in your edits?

IonHazzikostas: We all use a massive proprietary tool called WoWEdit, which has been showcased a couple of times at Blizzcons in the past. We all use this tool to create and edit everything from creatures to spells to quests, and our level designers use it to actually shape the terrain of the outdoor world. At the end of the day, there are countless columns and rows in tables that define the properties of the game world and the players and monsters that inhabit it. We’re only able to do the work that we do because of our amazing Tools team, a dedicated group that is constantly refining and updating our editor to enable us to create content more quickly and with fewer bugs.

On the World of Warcraft website, it lists tradeskill patterns, plans, etc. that the player is missing. Some of those items are no longer in game. Are there any plans to reincorporate those missing plans back into the game so the players have an opportunity to try to get all of their missing tradeskill plans?

Ghostcrawler: I’d hate to add back plans with no real game purpose just for sake of completeness. To be honest, I’d rather get rid of more of the older recipes that don’t have a strong purpose.

Compared to designing dungeons, how difficult is it to design scenarios? Does it take more or less resources to make scenarios?

Ghostcrawler: The biggest challenge for us was just figuring out what scenarios should be. How long should they last? Should they be hard? How much variability should they have from run to run? Now that we’ve gone through that process, they should take much less time to design than dungeons. The biggest time expenditure on dungeons is the amazing art that goes into them.

 

Amd11394: Considering Dispels remove ALL magic effects, even if they dispelled Fear the Flame shock would go with it, regardless of if they intended to dispel it or not. Would this not constitute it’s reinstatement?

IonHazzikostas: Guessing this is a follow-up to my earlier reply. I meant that if you dispel Flame Shock off yourself, or off Teammate A, maybe you can’t dispel Teammate B’s Fear or Polymorph a few seconds later, and now they’re stuck in CC for its full duration. In general, we expect that players have to be much more careful about how and when they use their magic dispels.

Rogues are famous for using daggers, and that’s all that we seem to be able to use, but I like to play Combat Spec, and it’s described as being a swashbuckler spec. As such, I’d like to use 1handed swords along with daggers, but there are next to no 1handed rogue compatible swords, will we ever get to use swords as part of a rogue’s arsenal? Afterall, there is no longer a block on what weapons a rogue can use on their abilties.

Ghostcrawler: It’s less of a design concern and more about how many different items we can drop. Things like e.g. Intellect axes don’t have a lot of customers, so we just don’t make them very often. This might be the kind of thing that transmog can eventually help address too.

basketballer259: I assume I ask this question on behalf of thousands of vanilla WoW fans: Do you ever plan on bringing back “Server-wide” Events? An example would be the Opening of AQ, which allowed the entire server to collaborate their efforts. An event of the same theory would be an incredible experience for all players to witness. It was incredibly rewarding when the whole server gathered enough materials for the opening ceremony!

DaveKosak:: From the standpoint of, “Everyone gather at the same place at the same time to see a big event and if you miss it its gone forever assuming you all don’t crash the server,” then no, no more events like that. :smileyhappy: BUT, we love the feeling of server progression, similar to the Isle of Quel’denas. Is there a way to build that progression into the game such that players who come in a couple months later don’t miss out on all the fun? We think there is. And we’re planning something that we’d like to try in the 5.0 patch cycle… so stay tuned! [No guarantees here, but we're actively tinkering with something.]

Shnitzel: With the pet battle system, pets which you can acquire multiples of, have lost the ‘Already Known’ tag. This is pretty annoying when shopping for pets for example, as you constantly have to search through your journal (“Do I have the red tickbird or the white one?”). Will this be changed? perhaps add an ‘Already Known’ tag in a different color?

CoryStockton:: Sorry for the inconvenience on that, we have already redesigned the tooltips to fix this in patch 5.1.0. Tooltips will display if you already own the pet in addition to how many.

Have you thought of introducing titles to reward realm 1st times for the new challenge mode dungeons. Something similar to how the PvP titles work now.

CoryStockton:: We actually have! The idea was that you would only have the title for as long as you held the top time. Main issue we ran into was that the title could be changing hands so fast that you might only have it for a few seconds. It’s an awesome idea though and we want to explore it more.

Can we have a rough timeframe on when we can expect the Trials of the High King questline to be implimented? Are we taking around patch 5.1 or something closer to the Siege of Orgrimmar patch?

DaveKosak:: Varian Wrynn’s first trial will happen in 5.1. But to set expectations, the development of Varian’s character happens across the entire patch cycle and beyond – it doesn’t all happen in one event or one scenario. His trials are many.

Transmog has become a very important part of my gaming fun. Will we be able to farm Dragon Soul LFR recolor gear at level 90, since the LFR tool won’t work for it at that level ? This goes for future expansions and MoP content, of course.

Ghostcrawler: We aren’t going to support Raid Finder for content that is much lower level than your character, but we are going to allow you to enter old raids solo without being in a raid in a future patch (ideally the next major one, but standard no promises). That should facilitiate a lot of transmog farming.

The Reliquary is an interesting faction (at least in my opinion), but it hasn’t been really visible in Cataclysm. Any chance we’ll see them in Pandaria, as a counterpart to Brann ? Or at least some way to get their tabard ?

DaveKosak:: No plan for a tabard, but starting in 5.1 they’re going to start poking around Pandaria for relics…

Were Ogres ever thought of as a playable race, at one time? (Greg marry me /kiss) Irth

Ghostcrawler: Yep. We considered them for Cataclysm instead of goblins. Figuring out the females and the two-headed mages would be (fun!) challenges. Maybe someday.

Zarhym: Way to ignore that marriage proposal follow-up, Ghostcrawler. ;p

Cueball: First: Hi guys, including Zarhym (didn’t know you’d be here). Anyway, is there anything to Jaina’s words that it is “time to bring Dalaran down” to the land and that she is still in support of fighting against the Horde?

DaveKosak:: Jaina’s story will continue starting in patch 5.1. We’ll try to catch players up with where she is at the end of the book, and then move on from there.

With the introduction of Pet Battles, do you think we can see pets dropping in raids again? There hasn’t been a pet drop in a raid since Karazhan IIRC so a prime example in today’s standing could be Ragnaros dropping Mini Ragnaros instead of it being on the store.

CoryStockton:: I don’t see why not! We just need to make sure it’s a good fit with the content.

Is there any plans to allow players to have more then one Death Knight per server?

Ghostcrawler: We agree that it feels like an antiquated rule at this point. We’ll see how hard it is to remove that restriction.

sdk: I am wondering about the incentives to 25 man. This game is a social game so why does it seem that 25 man guilds are dieing off and they are going to 10 mans. Paragon recently posted that they were going to 10 man. Is there any other way to fix it so that people are drawn to do 25 mans because they want to raid with friends and get the good gear?

IonHazzikostas: In Paragon’s specific case, I suspect they’d find no lack of capable people more than willing to raid with them, but maintaining a Finnish-speaking roster is a core part of their guild culture, and they’ve made what was no doubt a very difficult decision to scale down to 10-player raiding rather than compromise that culture. As I noted in the Reddit AMA, ultimately there are heavier logistical burdens, particularly placed on the officers and raid leaders, in sustaining a 25-player roster versus only needing 10 players. We’re actively discussing ways of ensuring that 25-player raiders feel properly incentivized and rewarded without necessarily elevating one raid size over the other. We definitely welcome ongoing community discussion and feedback on that topic.

Alablaster: As Developers, what was your biggest hurdle in building the new features we will see in Mists and how did you overcome them? Also I want to send kudos out to the art team – the beta was visually stunning!

CoryStockton:: Our biggest issue with new features is adding more complexity to the game. It’s somethign we struggle with every expansion. I will pass your kind words on to the art team too!

Wamogri: Will the baby shark pet ever get added back into the game?

CoryStockton:: Yes! That’s what those sweet new water bubbles are for!

Recently in Twitter Ghostcrawler mentioned the possibility of making subraces such as Maghar orcs and Wildhammer dwarfs available with the player character model updates, how high chance is there that this would also allow us to play as Broken or Taunka?

Ghostcrawler: If we ever opened up more races, I suspect we’d be pretty liberal about it, but to be clear, that feature is no more than a twinkle in some designer’s eye at this stage.

artimadours: Are there any plans to allow for heirloom items to be sent cross realm?

CoryStockton:: We want this as bad as you guys do. It’s on the list and we are looking into it.

Nize: You mentioned in a previous Q&A that legendary weapon components would be done in a manner to lessen drama within in a guild. One step was the implementation of components achievable through LFR. My question is how will components from normal and heroic raids be distributed. Will it be distributed similarly to how Deathwing’s essences or new LFR are, or will the raid leaders still choose who to give those components to?

Ghostcrawler: In 5.0 it’s not a competitive issue at all. In Raid Finder, it’s a random drop for some players. In Normal and Heroic there is a chance of a drop, at which point it is multi-lootable and every player on the quest will get it.

There has been some speculation as to whether Turalyon and Alleria might make a triumphant comeback in Mists of Pandaria. Any comments on this, or are they saved for a later expansion pack? The Alliance sure could use something to turn the tide of war.

DaveKosak:: There’s no plan to continue their story in Pandaria … and also, I think the Alliance can take this!

Are we going to have the ability to remove players who dc or log off from scenario groups and add in new players from the queue?

CoryStockton:: Not at launch but we hope to have it in for the 5.1 patch. We understand the concern.

lilm123: Do you guys plan on giving out title for challgenge modes, like how you do for PvP (0.0% – 0.5%: Gladiator 0.5% – 3%: Duelist 3% – 10%: Rival 10% – 35%: Challenger)

IonHazzikostas: If and when we move on to future challenge mode “seasons”, titles to recognize players’ past accomplishments are definitely something we’ll consider.

With all these new changes to get players out into the world (great idea), is it a goal of the development team to possibly bring back World-PvP? Coming from someone who plays on a PvP Realm, I would love to relive the old days of huge scale open world PvP battles. I’m sure many others feel the same way.

Ghostcrawler: We are trying to encourage it. Spots like the Black Market and the shrines (the faction “cities” in the Vale) will probably have a lot of PvP on PvP servers. Remember, guards are much weaker on PvP servers now and there are no sanctuaries in Pandaria.

At the end of the Klaxxi questline, the mantid mentioned that at one point in time, they worshipped Y’shaarj, an old god. However, he was slain by the Titans and was split into “shadows of his former self”. Is he, in some way, in relations with the Sha and will we see Y’shaarj in future content patches?

DaveKosak:: Y’shaarj breathed love and exhaled hate, inhaled peace and breathed violence… Plus, his name was y’SHAarj. It’s pretty safe to connect the dots. :smileyhappy: But Y’shaarj itself is very, very, very dead.

WIll we see a Heroic Version of Ragefire Chasm?

CoryStockton:: Certainly not out of the question. Heroic versions of classic dungeons have been some of our most popular content. We will keep doing them as long as people keem playing em’.

What exaclty (If you can answer without spoiling the story line!) has turned Garrosh Hellscream into the monster we all hate now?

DaveKosak:: Garrosh is not a monster. He has a very clear vision of the Horde, and the future of the orcs, and he gives very little thought to anyone who stands between him and that future. As he gets more powerful, and gets away with more, his vision becomes clearer. This has put him in conflict in the Alliance, and ultimately will cause problems within the Horde.

Ünseen: I love the little mana bomb received from the Theramoore scenario, but the cooldown is making it really hard to have fun with. Any chance this will be reduced to allow a bit more spammability? Maybe like a 30 second cd?

CoryStockton:: Glad you liked the reward! Unfortunately, that kind of mana power takes a long time to recharge!

The new LFR system you have in WoW now seems like a great way for people who dont have alot of time to donate to raiding guild environments a chance to see content that was most of the time closed to them, however im not a big fan of 25man raids. Is there any plans to add a 10man choice to the LFR system?

Ghostcrawler: We think 25 works better for Raid Finder. The ratios of DPS to non DPS more matches the player population and there is less risk of getting an unviable group. In 25s you can afford to have a few deaths and you can even pull if you’re backfilling a few players. Both really make you stop in your tracks on 10s. In 25, it’s easier to fade back into the group if you’re still not 100% confident in what you’re doing. In 10s, it’s harder to be a wallflower.

“Turalyon and Alleria” is it possible in anyway to know if there are any plans to continue their story? I had HUGE hopes to see them in game when BC came out and their SON poped out of nowhere saying they where alive. anything would do!… plz!?

DaveKosak:: Oh, their story will continue!!

How are group compositions gonna work into Challenge Modes? Surely every group would want to have a Bloodlust. And atleast a kings buff.

IonHazzikostas: Realistically, if you’re aiming for Gold, you’re going to want a shaman or a mage or a hunter in your group, though Gold is absolutely possible without using Heroism/Bloodlust or equivalent effects. Realistically that probably saves you 15-20 seconds at best, and we’ve seen groups beat some Gold times by more than that. When constructing a 5-player dungeon group, you’re inevitably going to have some strengths and some weaknesses in your composition, and players may find that the sorts of abilities they find invaluable are not the ones they’re used to viewing in that light. (Pop quiz — Which is likely to help you more in an 18-minute challenge mode run: Bloodlust, or an AoE stun that you can a couple of times a minute?)

Vaengence: Ok, I am going to be the one to ask the dreaded question, mainly because my guild members know that I continue to fight for them and have asked me to still chase this question. 25 mans – GC you have said it would be a good topic for a Watercooler, which is good, and recent tweets say not enough is being done for them.The only change we know about is the loot change and that is onl 1 item different for Normals from the majority of Cata which, excuse the sentiment here, seems a little underwhelmin…

Ghostcrawler: Sadly, we don’t have any details to announce yet, but we have a couple of ideas that should make the 25 players happy. We’ll talk about them when we’re confident that they are good ideas. Remember, the result can’t be that all the 10 players stampede back to 25.

DeathFish1: Any chance we will see the option to upgrade out current legendary to be maybe not the equal to the current ilvl but maybe raid finder ilvl or just a little below so that they are not just taking up space in out banks, or bags in the case of dragonwrath.

Ghostcrawler: Not sure we would let you upgrade a legendary, but we could potentially allow you to transmog them. Our reluctance has always been that Thunderfuy feels less special when you see 30 of them running around AV.

If some gamers are thinking about coming back to WoW to exp Mist of Pandaria content, is there any special program “come back” that will launch with the release?

CoryStockton:: Scroll of Resurrection is awesome for returning players!

Bolting: Have you changed your design philosophy of the quest flow in mists of pandaria? In previous expansions, moving to a new zone as soon as you are eligble left enough experience to cause no issues. Do you intend for all zones to be finished from beginning to end in order, and if so why did you feel the need to add breadcrumbs to the next zone prior to being able to go without issues further down the road?

DaveKosak:: To Bolting Pandaria is like a huge novel that you can read in any order. You can skip ahead to other chapters as soon as you’re eligible. It’s worth it to stick through a full zone to wrap up the storylines and maybe get some blue quest rewards, but you’re welcome to play through however you want. We definitely put in the effort to make this expansion much more open and non-linear.

Crithto:: That about wraps things up, everyone. Thank you so much for joining the Best Buy Dev Chat, sending us really great questions, and for your patience. On behalf of Greg, Cory, Ion, Dave, and Zarhym, we truly appreciate your time and passion for World of Warcraft. Have a GREAT rest of the week, and we’ll see you in Pandaria next Tuesday!

DaveKosak:: This was a lot of fun. Thank you everyone! Only days to go… Pandaria awaits! :smileyhappy:

CoryStockton:: Tons of great questions guys, that was a lot of fun! Can’t wait to see everyone in Pandaria in just a few days!

Ghostcrawler: We can’t wait for you guys to see all of the new Mists content. We are really proud of what we’ve been able to deliver with this expansion. It’s going to be good. Hugs, GC.

Dorothy-BBY: Thanks guys!

Zarhym: Thank you, everyone! For those who got here late or weren’t able to follow along for the whole chat, Best Buy will be providing a full transcript here momentarily: http://bbyurl.us/MistsofPandariaChat

Kyle-BBY: Great chat everyone! Thank you everyone for joining us and Blizzard for totally rocking!

 

World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria – Blizzplanet Interviews Micky Neilson & Sean Galloway

world-of-warcraft-pearl-of-pandaria-cover-600x449

Blizzplanet’s Eldorian and Medievaldragon had the opportunity to speak with New York Times best-selling author Micky Neilson and Sean “Cheeks” Galloway to discuss details of DC Comics’ World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria graphic novel. The transcript is available afterwards. Listen to the interview. Subscribe to Blizzplanet Gaming (YouTube).

Hey there, Wacraft fans! I’m Eldorian from Blizzplanet.com

We have a special episode today. We are going to talk about a new graphic novel that’s coming out. It’s called WORLD OF WARCRAFT: PEARL OF PANDARIA.

With me today is my partner in crime to help me ask some questions, Medievaldragon, and today the two of us will be interviewing the masterminds behind the book itself … Micky Neilson and Sean Galloway.

I just want to say guys thanks for taking your time out, today, talking to us about the graphic novel.

Neilson: Absolutely. Thank you.

 

Eldorian: First question for both Micky and Sean. For people who may not know who you are and what you do, Micky, what’s your title at Blizzard Entertainment and your general duties there? And Sean, what are past projects that you have worked on?

Neilson: The title is Publishing Lead, which means I run the Publishing Team. And the Publishing Team is responsible for Novels, Comics, Short Stories, a lot of lore-related Web Content, and some other fun projects that we get to work on.

Galloway: Past projects I have worked on was lead character designer for THE SPECTACULAR SPIDERMAN ANIMATED, the character designer for HELLBOY ANIMATED, I did covers for DC Comics for TEEN TITANS GO for two years, I did some design for HASBRO, MATTEL, and most currently I wrapped up a 3 year stint of leap frog designing a game for them called Leap School.

 

Eldorian: How did you become involved with this book?

Galloway: I became involved with the book, because Blizzard had reached out to me, as well as DC Comics and they asked me if I’d be interested, and I tried to do my take on their universe.

 

Medievaldragon: When in the timeline do the events of PEARL OF PANDARIA take place in relation to World of Warcraft: Cataclysm?

Neilson: The events actually take place before Cataclysm. They are a little bit before the events of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: STORMRAGE — as well as before the Emerald Nightmare stuff.

 

Medievaldragon: We’d like to know more about Table Taffy Studios since its foundation and the role it plays.

Galloway: Table Taffy was founded by me, and I brought in my buddie Ryan Benjamin to be part of that. Basically, Table Taffy is a group of creative artists that I hand-picked that could potentially expand over a larger volume the way I draw, and also to bring in other styles. So basically, the way that we played for the PEARL OF PANDARIA was that because it was such a big project, and we wanted to have an animation type of approach, the group of artists and I basically made sure that were able to capture my style throughout the whole graphic novel.

 

Eldorian: Pearl of Pandaria likely began its early development like a year or two ago. With all the iteration and revisions, why did you decide to keep the core of the story pre-Cataclysm?

Neilson: That’s a very interesting question. We started development on PEARL OF PANDARIA quiet a while ago. I want to say we did the brainstorming around the Burning Crusade era. So at the time that we were brainstorming the book, there were no plans for an expansion that would have Pandaren in it, or Pandaria in it.

At the time the book was really going to be a way to explore Pandaria, Chen Stormstout, and the Pandaren culture, because we didn’t believe that there was going to be an expansion. So the story was created back then, and it was written largely all before the events of Cataclysm, and then as the development of the book progressed, we finally found out that there would in fact be an expansion that would include Pandaria, and so we went back and we made some changes to the script.

Luckily, the majority of the story takes place on Azeroth. The first part and the last part are where you see the turtle, Shen-zin Su, which is separate from the island of Pandaria itself. But still that’s something that was being developed for the game. So we had to make a few changes there.

But it worked out, Sean and his team were really great about making artwork changes as well because as the game evolved, that became necessary at few points also.

 

Eldorian: How were you approached to work on Pearl of Pandaria and what are your early memories talking with Blizzard and DC Comics to draw the initial concept artwork?

Galloway: Basically, I was approached by Jeremy Cranford (Blizzard Art Director). He asked if I’d be interested in hearing about a project and if I liked what I heard if I’d be interested in coming down for a meeting.

Once he told me what the project was, of course I was onboard, wanting to be part of the project. So Blizzard and DC Comics setup a meeting where myself and the editors and the Creative Team at Blizzard sat and we discussed what my role would be for the book.

Of course, I was nervous, but I had an idea of how I’d like to try to approach the project with my art style, but I knew if I did it just the way I normally do it, it would be a little too clean — our art style, so that’s why we came up with the animation type of approach where we could attach the background with a more aggressive type of feel — but before we could go to that point, Blizzard and DC Comics wanted to see what kind of idea I had instead of producing new artwork.

I was already approaching that type of technique with my own personal properties: Bastion’s 7, and Gunshoes 4 Hire. So I sent them this stuff I was doing for my own projects, and it seemed everybody was onboard for that approach.

Once we kinda had an idea of what type of style we’d want to develop the book in, I showed them how I’d like to interpret their characters in my style. For the most part, it was pretty easy to draw them in my style; but there was always the fear: “would they reject it?”, but I had really good support with Blizzard and DC Comics with what I turned in.

 

Medievaldragon: Micky, who is Li Li Stormstout, and what’s her role in the story?

Neilson: Li Li is the window or the lense through which we see not only the Pandaren culture, but Azeroth as well. One of the many interesting things about Li Li is that she is young, and she is unbiased, and she is unprejudiced, and she has this wonderful innocence about her — especially when it comes to venturing out into the big bad dangerous world of Azeroth, and she’s certainly a bit naive as far as that goes, but she’s also experiencing everything to the upmost, and one of her earliest purposes and goals of this book was to serve a little bit of a travel guide to Azeroth .

Especially for folks who maybe haven’t played the game, or they haven’t played it in a long time, to be able to see the world of Azeroth through the eyes of Li Li; and she’s really the physical embodiment of the theme of the book.

There are a couple of themes:

1. Life is an adventure.
2. Acceptance for other cultures, beliefs and religions.

And so, we get to see all that through Li Li.

 

Medievaldragon: I really liked the character. In-game and also in the graphic novel — she has a manner of speaking it’s like slap talk. I’m not sure how to describe it. She’s very smarty.

Neilson: Right … Sassy. Sarcastic. Yea, she’s a lot of fun to write.

 

Medievaldragon: I was clicking her in the game and she starts talking really sarcastic and stuff. It was cool.

Neilson: (Laughs)

 

Medievaldragon: I heard in another interview that Li Li was based on your daughter?

Neilson: A little bit, yea. My daughter is age 9, and Li Li’s character is supposed to be kinda a tween age, but I certainly did model her behavior and some of her dialogue after my nine-year-old daughter.

 

Medievaldragon She’s so sweet.

Neilson: Thank you.

 

Eldorian: This is coming from the Scrolls of Lore — basically the forum that spawned the Red Shirt Guy. So this is going to be an interesting question. Just warning you now. One of the revisions of the concept art found in the back of the graphic novel was the change of the pandaren characters’ eyes from green to gold, and we think it kinda made sense to be jade-like since jade is part of the pandaren culture. We were guessing it was revised because green eyes are also associated with fel corruption and Blood Elves. Why gold eyes instead of the normal black eyes?

Neilson: The theory is very interesting one regarding fel corruption, and in a way, that’s kinda correct. Actually, what we found out in the development of the story was that some cultures, and I believe this is specific to some Asian cultures, believe that green eyes are a sign of demonic corruption — so that’s why when you say fel energy and fel being demonic you are not so far off the mark. So in the interest of being sensitive to other cultures, we went in and we decided to change the eye colors.

The MISTS OF PANDARIA cinematic actually had Chen with green eyes, originally, and they went in and they changed that; and we decided to request the change for PEARL OF PANDARIA — and another interesting little tidbit is that Sean and his team had already completed pretty much the entire book at that point — when we found out about this, and this speaks volumes about Sean and his team that they were dedicated enough to go back in and change just about every panel in the graphic novel and make that conversion from green to gold eyes.

 

Eldorian: *Sarcastically* That’s easy in Photoshop, right? Just find and replace colors?

Neilson: [laughs]. Find and replace.

Galloway: We were fans of working with many layers. Sometimes finding that red layer was very tough, but we are all in it to produce a great book, so it was a no-brainer. So we’d go back and make those changes.

 

Eldorian: At the end of Pearl of Pandaria, fans can visualize some of your early concepts and revisions. Could you share some of the core changes the project suffered throughout the evolution of the project?

Galloway: Everybody knows about the expansion, so we had done the first 10-pages, and then we put a hold on it so that we could have the pages reflect the new expansion, so there was that, and then design-wise for Chen it was just a matter of putting the ponytail on Chen to give him a nod to Samwise for creating such a fantastic race, and then for Rahjak I went all overboard and tried to redesign him — respecting what the fans’ reactions would be. So we pulled that back and designed more toward what fans are used to, but just in my style.

 

Medievaldragon: What can you tell us about the villains in the story? Why did you choose Zhahara, Brokk, Rahjak and Rumblefitz?

Neilson: That came from the early brainstorming sessions that I had with Chris Metzen and Samwise. We knew that we wanted to have new unique villains for Li Li to be going up against in the book, and those were characters that you just dont see that much in the game. I don’t remember the last time we saw a goblin alchemist. I think it might have been Warcraft III. I’m not even sure.

And the Blademaster they are not in the game, and if they are it’s very rare that you’d see these characters. We thought it would be very interesting to choose characters that you don’t see very often.

With Zhahara, you definitely see a lot more of the naga and sea witches and things like that, but she was more a part of the plot and that’s where her character arose from.

 

Eldorian: I was wondering, it seems like a Warcraft III neutral heroes party there. Was that intended?

Neilson: That was certainly a little bit of it, because one of the things we thought was — ok, “What kind of characters do we really love and that we connect with that we haven’t really been able to revisit in World of Warcraft?” — and that’s actually a big part of where the whole idea for the book came from. Being able to go into the pandaren culture. Like I said before, we wouldn’t be able to do that in an expansion, and so the villains were kind of a reflections of that and being able to explore those types of characters a little bit more.

 

Medievaldragon: Were you able to play World of Warcraft for the sake of getting acquainted with scenarios like Booty Bay, Ironforge, and the Valley of Heroes in Stormwind? Your renditions look really great and detailed. How was the research and learning process for you?

Galloway: Unfortunately, no. I had a busy schedule. I wasn’t able to. I was familiar with the project, but not as familiar as one should be for the project itself, so I brought in my Table Taffy studio mates to work on the project.

Dave played the game for quite some time, so they knew the property like the back of their hand. They had my back while were on the project.

 

Eldorian: The final pages of Pearl of Pandaria shows some changes made to the villains’ outfit and weapons. What was the process here, and how did it end up?

Galloway: Basically, as a designer you go in with a vision and respect to how the designs are. I’m very minimalistic when I draw to begin with. So working on this it stretchs me a little bit to add more details — which is great because I never really took the opportunity on my own personal stuff to do that.

 

Medievaldragon: I’m sure fans are pretty intrigued by the fel orc blademaster, Rahjak. He seems to have been originally a normal orc from Azeroth. What clan was he from?

Neilson: He’s a very interesting character, and another one that we sit down and we thought ok the blademaster was certainly a very cool unit type and one that we wanted to revisit, and then we thought “What’s even cooler than that?” … a fel orc blademaster. It’s just keeping cool over cool. We did a little bit of research on that, and the thinking is that he’s probably from the Burning Blade clan, and he went into Outland — and this is probably after Illidan was defeated, but he was able to figure out a way to have demon blood infused into him probably tying into [The Maker] (The Blood Furnace) and those questslines from the game.

In a very broad and general sense the idea was simply, he went to Outland, he figured out a way to be corrupted by demon blood, and he became a fel orc.

 

Medievaldragon: What’s his ultimate goal and motivations to undergo all these drastic changes in his body?

Neilson: His ultimate goal is to be the best fighter, the best combatant or martial artist on Azeroth. So to him, defeat is unacceptable, and he fought Chen at some point previous to the events of the book, and he was defeated by Chen, and so he couldn’t take that. He couldn’t accept that. So he decided then to kind of buff himself up even more by going to Outland and being corrupted, and he believed that that would raise him to the next level to be able to defeat Chen.

 

Eldorian: For those who haven’t watched The Spectacular Spiderman animated series, or Hellboy: Sword of Storms, Your art looks like a cel animation as seen in Disney animated films. what technique do you use in Pearl of Pandaria and what’s the process it undergoes?

Galloway: What is special about this book is that every page — the background is drawn separate from the characters. Any time, Blizzard and DC Comics would be able to utilize the art as clip art for whatever reasons that they want. That was the approach. Because there were some changes that needed to be made due to the expansion, it made it not as tough to make some edits.

So basically there’s a couple guys, myself and Derrick, that would be on backgrounds, some on layouts, and then a couple colorists because with this kind of process it’s like an assembly line. That way each page every day could be accomplished with all of us working together. We also had a studio mate who would come in and put the characters on model as well. It’s like animation on paper.

 

Medievaldragon: I think fans will enjoy some of Li Li’s adventures. She’s in search of her uncle Chen Stormstout going all around Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. You managed to add some in-game elements like professions and the backstory of some holidays. How was the process of thinking, selection, and writing of these type of details into the story?

Neilson: It was all a part of the brainstorming process in just trying to pick out little areas where we could add history, and details and lore that didnt exist. One of my favorites is Brewfest, and being able to for the first time kind of explore where that came from, and how it all came about and everything else. The dwarves are always so fun to write for and to work with. The hard drinking, scottish characters are always a blast. So those kind of things it was such a fun project and being able to step away from what I normally do — books like the WORLD OF WARCRAFT: ASHBRINGER or co-writing WORLD OF WARCRAFT: CURSE OF THE WORGEN with James Waugh. They are very dark. They are very somber. It was a nice departure. It was very fun.

 

Eldorian: At the end of the book, it says fans should expect a continuation of Chen and Li Li’s adventures in a free online novella titled Quest for Pandaria. Will the online novella gap what happened between Pearl of Pandaria and Chen and Li Li’s appearance in-game?

Neilson: Yes, it does — and one thing I wanted to mention is the graphic novel PEARL OF PANDARIA. I think is now scheduled to be released on September 25th — so PEARL OF PANDARIA will be released a little bit after the first installment of QUEST FOR PANDARIA is posted on the website.

We’ll actually put up a message for people saying if you want to avoid spoilers we recommend that you read PEARL OF PANDARIA before starting QUEST FOR PANDARIA — which is going to be a four-part, a series of short stories.

It will detail the events that happened after PEARL OF PANDARIA, and leading up to the game and where you see them in the game.

 

Medievaldragon: Micky, there’s a cliffhanger in the story that is not concluded in Pearl of Pandaria, concerning the whereabouts of the Pearl and the Fisherman. Will this be concluded in Quest for Pandaria, or will fans have to wait an see in-game?

Neilson: The story of the Pearl will be continued in Quest for Pandaria!

 

Eldorian: This question is for both of you on the story and artistic aspects. Why should fans of the game get a copy of World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria?

Neilson: For me it’s really different, and I fell in love with the character of Li Li, and I fell in love with the lot of the other characters. There is also a lot of history that is conveyed — a lot of history about Chen Stormstout, a lot of history about Pandaria and the turtle … Shen-zin Su. It’s sort of a time-capsule glimpse into Azeroth before the Cataclysm, before the game changed. So there’s all kinds of reasons, and of course, fantastic writing. Number one reason.

Galloway: Of course, that’s the number one reason. (chuckles)

 

Neilson: Hehehehe! … and good artwork too!

Galloway: It’s ok — why wouldn’t they want to pick it up? Like Micky said, the writing is fantastic, and his track record writing these books is fantastic too. I think fans would want to take their chance with the book. It’s different from what Blizzard has done in the past, and I think it’s a nice different approach to the property. We intended to approach it as if it were an animated feature. So we hope people will pick it up and enjoy it.

 

Eldorian: Thanks a lot for this interview, guys. It was a lot of great information. I really enjoyed hearing all of your answers. I just wanted to say it was a fantastic book, I loved it, and everyone should go out and buy it. Absolutely.


Pre-order DC Comics WORLD OF WARCRAFT: PEARL OF PANDARIA.

Read our recent review of this graphic novel.

Other Pearl of Pandaria interviews held by the community:

Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria

Pearl of Pandaria review

Blizzard Entertainment sent a copy of World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria for review. I just opened the box, and got thrilled with the format of this DC Comics graphic novel product.

Product Cover

I haven’t seen anything like this before from DC Comics. The dimensions of the book resemble that of an iPad, thus comfortable to hold. An iPad is 9.50″ x 7.31″. The World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria Graphic Novel’s dimensions are approximately 11.25 x 7.37″.

The front cover artwork of World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria seen above is a book jacket you can remove and frame up if you wish to. This is how the book looks like without the book jacket.

Introduction

The first chapter introduces the history of Liu Lang to set the background and starting point of this story for readers new to World of Warcraft and/or to the Mists of Pandaria expansion.

Liu Lang was the first Pandaren to leave Pandaria with the wanderlust of adventure. Originally, after the Sundering ten-thousand-years in the past the Pandaren thought the whole world had been destroyed, and because of the Mists none dared to explore thinking they wouldn’t find their way back home.

Liu Lang observed the dragon turtles would leave into the sea, but eventually returned to the shore they were born. Thus, with that wisdom, Liu Lang explored beyond the mists on top of Shen-zin Su.

The Pandaren laughed at Liu Lang and thought they would never see him again. Five years later, Liu Lang returned to Pandaria on a now grown turtle to share his adventures with fellow Pandaren. The turtle would return home every five years, and more Pandaren accompanied Liu Lang and as centuries went by the turtle became as big as an island.

Some of the lore in this graphic novel is exclusive and won’t be seen in the Mists of Pandaria expansion. However, the story of Liu Lang will be experienced by players who delve into the path of the Lorewalker. I recently shared my experiences in beta on where to find all the sites and achievements to reach exalted with the Lorewalker, and some videos that tell the lore of Liu Lang.

Micky Neilson

Micky Neilson joined Blizzard Entertainment in 1993. He’s got several video games story development experience under his belt, including: Warcraft III, The Lost Vikings II, World of Warcraft, StarCraft. He’s presently Lead Publishing at Blizzard with two graphic novels: WORLD OF WARCRAFT: CURSE OF THE WORGEN (co-written with James Waugh), WORLD OF WARCRAFT: ASHBRINGER (Number Two in New York Times Bestselling Graphic Novels List).

If you have read both graphic novels, you are in for a great story with PEARL OF PANDARIA. It’s written from the point of view of Li Li Stormstout, the niece of famous adventurer Chen Stormstout who we are acquainted with since his debut in the bonus orc campaign in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne (2003).

There’s definitely a message to be found in the context of the story aimed both at young children and [why not] adults. Sometimes we celebrate holidays, study history in school but do not live what we celebrate and commemorate.

Li Li is a dreamer and loves the stories of Liu Lang, but sees that her father and even the Elders of Shen-zin Su have forgotten what it is to leave the Wandering Isle and explore the world and enjoy every day of their lives in a continuous adventure.

She’s young, but not a coward. She refuses to live in a pedestal, and decides to leave the Wandering Isle to go in search of her uncle Chen Stormstout. I liked very much Micky’s approach and direction in this story.

According to Licensing Manager Kat Hunter, in the DC Comics website, this is an independent story outside the Mists of Pandaria expansion. While you might recognize some elements that appear in-game, the story takes place before the events Pandaren level 1-10 players will experience in the Wandering Isle’s starting location in-game.

One of the scenes when Li Li goes to Stormwind gives a glimpse into where in the timeline the story takes place, and it’s definitely not Mists of Pandaria-time, nor even Cataclysm-time. One guard is asking for volunteers to go to Northrend for the ultimate fight against the Lich King. Another scene reveals the fight against the Emerald Nightmare — which took place during World of Warcraft: Stormrage — hasn’t happened yet.

Li Li Stormstout is not an NPC in the Wandering Isle for example. You get to meet her as an NPC later on at level 86 in the Valley of the Four Winds alongside Chen Stormstout.

Sean “Cheeks” Galloway

Sean Galloway is the artist of the interior pages and front cover. Not everyone is used to comic books or animation, so it’s normal for people to like or dislike the artwork style.

Personally, when I saw the front cover a few weeks ago I had no idea who the artist was, but recognized the style right away. The artwork and the coloring resembles that in TV animated series and even Disney animated films. Knowing how Blizzard Entertainment works they will get the best in the industry. We have seen Simon Furman (The Transformers) behind the StarCraft comics series, Walter Simonson (Mighty Thor) behind the World of Warcraft comics series. All the awesome writers and artists in the Tokyopop Manga. You know the drill. Blizzard Creative Team is passionate about their projects and fans themselves of writers and artists that are involved in their personal geeky hobbies: Tabletop, fantasy stories, SciFi, etc.

I won’t lie. I have rarely watched american TV in the past 12 years since playing Blizzard games — kinda odd for someone who lives in New York City. Sean Galloway is a name that caught my attention though.

In the animation front, Sean Galloway is the founder of Table Taffy Studios and lead character designer for The Spectacular Spiderman animated TV series. Sean has been involved in Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, Blood and Iron, Disney’s Tron Animated, Dreamworks’ Mastermind, G.I. Joe Renegades, and Scoobie Doo Mystery Inc.

As a comics penciler/artist he’s been involved in TEEN TITANS GO and the Teen Titans stories in WEDNESDAY COMICS. He’s also done video game and toy design. Some fans know him for his creator-owned properties: Bastion’s 7, Gumshoes 4 Hire and Little Big Heads.

In terms of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, the artwork style sometimes might break what’s known as the “Warcraft Style” — which players are used to with Senior Art Director Samwise Didier, René Koiter, Glenn Rane, and other Sons of the Storm artists. However, considering the main character of this story is a little girl named Li Li, and the bulky shapes of the Pandaren — it made sense to go the TV animated series style which is welcomed by children, teens and adults in general, rather than one specific audience.

Some of us have been playing World of Warcraft since 2004-2006. Some might have by now a young kid at home which is ready to kick some indiscriminate justice at your side against the evils of Azeroth. World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria makes a perfect gift to a son/daughter, nephew/nice (etc.) as a background story prior to playing World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.

The coloring techniques are amazing and quickly you get to dig Sean Galloway and his team’s style. There are many landmarks and locations captured in this 128-pages graphic novel, including Booty Bay, Ironforge, Kharanos, Azshara, Westfall, Golshire, The Dark Portal, Stormwind, Stonetalon Mountains, and Orgrimmar — to name a few.

Wish to ask Micky Neilson or Sean Galloway a question? Post a comment below using your Facebook/Yahoo login. We will talk with them on Wednesday during an interview.

Pre-Order World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria now. Release Date: September 26, 2012.

Chapters

  • Chapter One: The Song of Liu Lang
  • Chapter Two: Wanderlust
  • Chapter Three: Thunderbrew
  • Chapter Four: Kalimdor
  • Chapter Five: Journey’s End

Characters

Li Li Stormstout
Chen Stormstout
Strongbo
Zhahara Darksquall (Naga witch)
Blokk (Ogre)
Elder Po Stormstout (Li Li’s father, Chen’s brother)
Shisai Stormstout (Li Li’s eldest brother)
Xiu Li (Long-lost Elder Po’s wife)
Rahjak (Fel orc blademaster)
Grimbooze Thunderbrew
Dark Iron Coren Direbrew
King Magni Bronzebeard
Keeper Orremin
Rumblefitz (Goblin alchemist)
Fisherman Wanyo (pandaren)

Graphic Novel Credits

Written by: Micky Neilson (Blizzard Entertainment Publishing Lead)
Art and Cover: Sean “Cheeks” Galloway
Lettering: Saida Temofonte
Blizzard Special Thanks: Chris Metzen, Sam Didier, Cameron Dayton, Doug A. Gregory and Glenn Rane
Sean Galloway Special Thanks: Table Taffy Studio’s Derek Laufman, DJ Welch, Dario Brizuela, Caleb Sawyer, Hwang Nguyen and Ryan Odagawa.

Editors: Hank Kanalz& Sarah Gaydos
Design Director: Robbin Brosterman
Publication Design: Larry Berry
VP-Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
President: Diane Nelson
Co-Publishers: Dan DiDio & Jim Lee
Chief Creative Officer: Geoff Johns
Executive VP-Sales,Marketing and Business Development: John Rood
Senior VP – Business and Legal Affairs: Amy Genkins
Senior VP – Finance: Nairi Gardiner
VP-Publishing Operations: Jeff Boison
VP-Art Direction and Design: Mark Chiarello
VP-Marketing: John Cunningham
VP-Talent Relations and Services: Terri Cunningham
Senior VP-Manufacturing and Operations: Alison Gill
Senior VP-Digital: Hank Kanalz
VP-Business Affairs, Talent: Jack Mahan
VP-Manufacturing Administration: Nick Napolitano
VP-Book Sales: Sue Pohja
Senior VP-Publicity: Courtney Simmons
Senior VP-Sales: Bob Wayne

Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore, Tides of War

world-of-warcraft-jaina-tides-of-war-cover-final

World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War takes place months after the Hour of Twilight and the defeat of Deathwing.

Prince Anduin continues his education in the Exodar with Velen and the draenei — in continuity with the Leader Short Stories: “Velen: Prophet’s Lesson” by Marc Hutcheson.

Kalecgos and the blue dragonflight continue to regret Malygos’ demise, the Nexus War and the Hour of Twilight which is their responsibility due to Arygos’ betrayal and the use of the Focusing Iris to give life to Chromatus — as seen in World of Warcraft: Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects.

Garrosh Hellscream recently set a plan in motion to invade Ashenvale — in the pages of World of Warcraft: Wolfheart by Richard A. Knaak. However, it backfired when the Alliance got word of it and reinforcements came in kind through Theramore marching toward Southern Barrens, Stonetalon Mountains and Ashenvale to respond to Garrosh’s atrocities.

Players have experienced this war in-game in the Cataclysm expansion’s low-level quests.

Garrosh has learned from his mistakes and came up with a master plan to now not only invade Ashenvale, but to take the entire Kalimdor continent for the Horde.

Christie Golden fully benefits from her years of hands-on experience playing World of Warcraft. She is played up to level 75, but still has plenty of material to work with. She used elements from each expansion to add to continuity. Garrosh uses elements from questlines seen in Terrokar Forest (Burning Crusade), Vash’jir (Cataclysm), Coldarra (Wrath of the Lich King) and fused them to mastermind Garrosh’s ultimate plan.

Tides of War is an epic battle between the Alliance and the Horde — rated M, with all the violence, blood and gore.

I was literally surprised by the large amount of characters that either take center stage in the story, or make a cameo. It shows Christie Golden and the Blizzard Creative Team worked really hard with each character that appears in the story and to keep track of continuity.

I’m still unsure about two characters who made a cameo, as they were supposed to be dead long ago, but in general I counted at least 84 characters. Some are established known NPCs who make a cameo, others were created by Christie Golden as they don’t even show up in WoWHead, and few are merely mentioned (i.e. Arthas and Admiral Daelin Proudmoore).

The story mainly focus on the point of view of Warchief Garrosh Hellscream, High-Chieftain Baine Bloodhoof, Lady Jaina Proudmoore, and Kalecgos the blue dragon. Supporting characters who get some relevant screen time in certain chapters are King Varian Wrynn and Thrall.

It’s no longer a spoiler to mention the focus of this book is to lay the groundwork for the destruction of Theramore — coming up in Patch 5.0.4 on August 28th.

This heinous crime is the trigger that starts the war that eventually causes the Alliance and the Horde naval fleets to get stranded within the Mists of Pandaria.

Thus, Tides of War novel serves as a prequel to the events of the upcoming World of Warcraft MMO expansion pack, which is expected to launch in September 25th.

Many changes are to come in the expansion, and I am not truly convinced some of these changes are currently seen in beta servers.

Not only Theramore, which will now become a crater, but even Dalaran might have some changes as well. Significant ones.

The events set in this novel will change Jaina Proudmoore in ways we have never expected, that will put her down the path of hatred and revenge her father Admiral Daelin Proudmoore and her former lover Prince Arthas walked. Will she come to her senses, or seek to return the atrocities of the Horde back at them in kind?

Whichever path she chooses, it will certainly change her forever.

I finished reading the novel. It shook me to the core at an emotion level no other Warcraft novel has at this magnitude. There will be countless loses of life — NPCs we have interacted with since 2004, and characters some players have grown fond with in past Warcraft novels.

I definitely recommend hardcore lore fans to pick up, and read World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War — available as hardcover, mass market paperback and eBook formats.

Got questions for Christie Golden? Blizzplanet’s Eldorian will have a live phone interview with Christie Golden on Wednesday, August 22. Share your questions for her here.

More comprehensive spoilers here.

Non-spoiler reviews and interviews by other fansites:

Blizzplanet: Diablo III Normal Difficulty

Diablo III Normal Difficulty Finished

It’s been ages since the first time I beat Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. I can’t say I played religiously everyday, nor multiplayer. Still, I have fond times spending hours and days clearing every single cave, basement, and underground levels.

Some people rush through the quests to reach Diablo. I’m more a completionist, and I just can’t rush through. Takes longer, but satisfaction and victory thrill is felt tenfold.

It’s been over a decade, and we waited so long for this game to ship. After defeating Diablo III in Normal Difficulty, I can only say: It was worth the wait. Blizzard Entertainment’s creative team and the Diablo III team built something that feels like Diablo II, but improved so many areas of the game.

The storyline is awesome. I never saw many of these plots and characters coming. The story feels truly epic, be it quests, in-game lore books, or dialogues between the NPCs. I explored it all. From what I saw in the achievements, I barely missed a few in-game books.

I only found one flaw with the game, and that’s mostly because the Auction House is currently disabled until further notice. So hard to make space in your inventory and stash.

I’d say the cost for each stash 14 slots needs to decrease, and the cost of the tabs as well. The second tab costs 100,000. The third tab costs 200,000. That’s 300,000 — not counting the additional 10,000 per 14 slots.

At the time of finishing Diablo III, I only managed to get the second tab (100,000), and only have 50,000 gold (a quarter of what the third tab costs).

All my focus went into spending gold to buy 14 stash slots, and to buy the second stash tab, and all its slots. I was not able to invest in upgrading the Blacksmith. At all. Thus didn’t even use the Blacksmith’s recipes to build gear.

There’s a work around if you are running out of inventory space and stash space while you manage to get all three stash tabs. You have up to 10 character slots. Create two level 1 characters you won’t be using for a long while. Empty the stash onto both characters’ inventory — use them as bank characters so to speak. When the Auction House is launched, put all those items in those two bank characters for sale. Much better to use this method, than to trash stuff that might have potential value at the Auction House. Go, empty your inventory and stash to make space so you can keep farming Nightmare Difficulty items until the Auction House opens.

At level 32, I beat Diablo III Normal Difficulty wearing only what I looted from bosses and rare elites. Lot of yellow gear. No Blacksmith gear. I’m so glad I could experience the entire gameplay and storyline, and to be able to say indeed Darkness Falls, Heroes Rise. Mission accomplished. Yet so much work to do. Next step: Nightmare Difficulty.

Other than my suggestion to lower the stash costs, this game was worth the wait. Very polished, awesome scenarios, cool random events and game mechanics, and quests. Diablo III is everything Diablo II should have been, now in the flesh, made reality. I love this game, and truly hope to play it often in coop-mode. Big <3 to Jay Wilson, Christian Lichtner, Andrew Chambers, Kevin Martens, Jason Bender, Wyatt Cheng, and the remaining Diablo III Team.

I'm amazed by all the information found in-game about the story. Now I understand how important it is for fans to read Diablo III: Book of Cain and Diablo III: The Order. Reading those two books will prepare players to the video game’s storyline, and overall help them understand what’s going on, and who the characters and locations mentioned are.

Big kudos to Chris Metzen, Micky Neilson, James Waugh and the whole Creative Team for their truly epic story. As usual, there’s a cliffhanger. What’s next? As Jay Wilson mentioned throughout these past few years, there will be Diablo III expansions. Who do we fight now? There are some characters in the game whose whereabouts are still unaccounted for.

Update: Because of the ending, the repercussions are palpable, and yet unpredictable. Will the expansion be set several years in the future? Will Sanctuary have to fight in other worlds where the Burning Hells still have foothold? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I recommend reading Diablo: The Sin War Box Set (Kindle edition). To read the eBook on your PC/Mac computer or mobile device download the Kindle app.

As a mass market paperback, you can get it here:

Chronologically, Diablo: The Sin War is the earliest event in the Diablo story — about 3,000 years in the past. In this book, the Angiris Council voted against or in favor of humanity. The true origin of Sanctuary and the Worldstone are revealed too. Material that is widely used in the Diablo III quests, in-game books and NPC dialogues. Some important characters that play a role in the book trilogy: Trang’Oul, Rathma, Kalan, Lilith, Mephisto, Tyrael, Imperius, and Uldyssian.

Possible Expansion Characters – Spoilers

  • There are seven lieutenants of Azmodan. We only fight two: Ghom (Lord of Gluttony) and Cydaea (Maiden of Lust).
  • Missing Lieutenants of Belial
  • Adria
  • Zoltan Kulle
  • Inarius
  • Lilith
  • Malthael
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