Tag Archives: Battle for Azeroth

Honest Game Trailers Battle for Azeroth

Honest Game Trailers is back with a stab straight at the heart of World of Warcraft and the Battle for Azeroth expansion.

Honest Game Trailers tends to hit a little harder than the movie side of the house, but this one hits hard enough to leave a mark.  Still pretty funny, but oh so very honest.

Why are there Levels in Battle for Azeroth?

This is one of those question that I am pretty sure I know the answer to, but I want to ask it out loud just to see what else might shake loose.  What am I not considering in this mix?

It is here…

I am playing through the Alliance side of the expansion right now.  My paladin is already through the Tiragarde Sound zone on Kul Tiras and I am enjoying the new content.  The environments are beautiful, the quests are good, varied, and plentiful, and the various side tasks and ventures change things up.

But, as I write this (ten days before the post went live because I kept pushing it off to post something else), my pally is already past level 116 and I expect will hit level 120, the level cap, long before I am finished running him through the base content.

Not that I will suddenly stop when I get there.  But I will spend most of my time in this expansion… call it two years less the three weeks at most it will take me to meander to level 120…at the level cap.

So why bother having levels at all at this point?

The zones scale with you so gaining a level confers no special benefit.  In fact, there is a downside to it.  All the gear you get along the way is set for the level you at which you acquired it, so you have to keep replacing gear for ten levels to keep it abreast of your progress… after which you can then work on replacing gear to boost your item level.  And, as we found out, collecting gear upgrades actually makes getting through the new zones more difficult.  You are better off keeping your item level low, a seriously messed up situation that Blizzard seems just fine with.  I mean, I was afraid of what ilevel scaling was going to do when they introduced it in Legion, but this goes well beyond what I would have imagined.

Whatever.  If people complain enough Blizz will grudgingly fix it eventually.  Back to levels.

Traditionally levels have been used to gate content, and Blizzard does do some of that.  As you hit certain levels things are unlocked for you.  But with ten fast moving levels players will still be unlocking content after they hit 120 via various other means.  I don’t have to look much farther than the achievements to know that there will be plenty to do past hitting the level cap.  There will be world quests to unlock, new content to enjoy, faction to grind, and the groundwork to unlocking flying to start in on.

EverQuest, the king of MMO expansions, is almost six years older than World of Warcraft, has released 24 expansions so far, and has a level cap of 110 last I checked.  If you look down the list of expansions you will see that not every one raised the level cap.  You can see streaks of two or three expansions in a row with the same cap.

Then again, they do keep raising the level cap in Norrath every so often, so levels have their draw.  But it clearly isn’t a necessity.  SOE found alternate methods.

The downside is that levels are intimidating and/or silly after a certain point.  That the level cap is 120 with Battle for Azeroth has to work against it somewhat.  Purists like to say that you need to play through the whole thing, but when you are trying to collect new players, the starting proposition that you must play through 110 levels in order to get to the new/good stuff is a losing one.  Just having 120 levels can be seen as a pretty big barrier to entry.

So why have more levels when it is pretty clear you can do without them?

The answer, to my mind, is because people expect them.

Blizzard is a very conservative company when it comes to their successful properties, and none of them is more successful nor a bigger money maker than WoW.  When you have the goose that keeps on laying golden checks every month… and when you have made changes in the past they haven’t necessarily turned out well… you do all you can to maintain it with screwing things up.  Launching an expansion with a boost in the level cap… and a 10 level boost because 5 level expansions were not as popular…  is just part of the recipe for success to which Blizz feels they need to adhere.

Basically this is the way they’ve always done it and it works, so why change?

Addendum: There is a closely related post over at GamingSF this morning as well.  Armagon Live also has a post about that as well.

WoW Battle for Azeroth Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases

Fortunately I did some of the groundwork for this post back with the WoW Legion release.

It is here and it is selling

Blizzard announced today that the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft, which went live around the world on August 13th and 14th, sold more than 3.4 million copies.  From the press release itself:

Heroes everywhere turned out in force, and Blizzard Entertainment today announced that as of Battle for Azeroth’s first full day of launch on August 14, more than 3.4 million units of the latest World of Warcraft®expansion had sold through worldwide—setting a new day-one sales record for the franchise and making it one of the fastest-selling PC games of all-time.*

I was a little worried about that asterisk at the end, but that just points to this:

Sales and/or downloads, based on internal company records and reports from key distribution partners.

So nothing dramatic there, just a clarification without much information.

To put that number in perspective here is how it shakes out relative to past launches:

  • Battle for Azeroth – 3.4 million
  • WoW Legion – 3.3 million
  • Warlords of Draenor – 3.3 million
  • Mists of Pandaria – 2.7 million (first week)
  • Cataclysm – 3.3 million
  • Wrath of the Lich King – 2.8 million
  • The Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

That bodes well for the expansion.

Of course, you have to have some perspective when looking at that list.  Back in 2004 people had to go buy a physical box to play World of Warcraft and it has only been over the years that the process has become mostly a digital download experience.  But back then even that 240K number set a record for single day sales.  That number could have been bigger, but they effectively ran out of copies.  At BlizzCon they told the tale of the truck load of collector’s editions meant for employees being diverted to the retail channel because the game had sold out.  And that was US sales only, as it didn’t expand to the rest of the world until later.

The Burning Crusade number is probably the most impressive on the list, since it is made up of people who went out to a store and bought a physical copy on day one.  I went down to Fry’s on launch day… not at midnight for the launch party event… that used to be a thing back in the day… but closer to noon, to find pallets of the expansion out in the front of the store.  Blizzard was not going to run short like they did with the initial launch.  The cashier told me that people had been lined up outside the store for a copy earlier, so it was a pretty big deal.

I think the last time I went to the store to buy an expansion was for Wrath of the Lich King.  It has either been digital or Amazon discounted pre-orders since then.  WotLK was also a big seller considering how much of it was physical boxes.

And then there is Mists of Pandaria in the middle there, which they extended out to the first week of sales because it had to fight against both the sense of betrayal that some felt after Cataclysm and the lightweight perception that people had about it because it featured Pokemon-like pet battles and pandas as a race.  It turned out to be a fine expansion, but it had some work to do to overcome that.  I didn’t buy a copy until almost a year after it launched.

Anyway, the 3.4 million number is impressive, though the there ought to be an asterisk after it as well to remind people that the number includes all pre-launch digital sales.  You’ve been able to buy a copy of Battle for Azeroth since late January, so they have had a lot of time to pack in the sales, making the “fastest selling” claim a bit dubious.  (I am pretty sure that title really belongs to The Burning Crusade.)

But there were reasons to buy the expansion early, aside from the usual max level character boost (and mounts and pets if you bought the digital deluxe version).

There were four allied races to unlock (for which we received four more character slots per server) and level up, with special transmog gear if you hit level cap with them.  So, as a “giving people something to do” option it had some additional pull relative to past expansions.  And even that was only worth an additional 100,000 sales I guess.

The real number we’d all like to know, how many people are actually subscribed to World of Warcraft, remains hidden.  Once a staple of the Acitivision-Blizzard quarterly reports, they have kept it hidden since the dark days of late Draenor, when the number dropped to 2006 levels.  I suspect that if the subscriber base passed 13 million they would issue a press release, but the days of being able to track that quarter by quarter… or even pick out WoW‘s revenue from the financial statements… are long gone.  The irony of being a public company; they are required to report important data, but they get to decide what is important.

We will see how Battle for Azeroth does in the longer term.  A lot of people are very happy with the open world story and quest lines and the look of things in general.  But there is still the whole question of Sylvanas, a story line that upset some people in the pre-launch events. (#notmyhorde) And then there are the recycled bits from WoW Legion that pop up pretty quickly.  Those aren’t bad, but they aren’t new either.  Blizzard has had time to learn how to keep people engaged with an expansion.  They did well enough with WoW Legion, even if they did open up the Battle for Azeroth pre-orders seven months before it was done.  They will get to show us what else they have learned I suppose.

My Horde Battle for Azeroth Boost Plan

As has been a thing with the last few expansions, I was wondering how I should use the level 110 boost that came with the Battle for Azeroth expansion.  And, as I suggested in that post, I decided to go the Horde route.

I already had a level 110 Tauren druid, but wasn’t happy with the druid thing in Legion.  The only class with four specs and still I wasn’t happy, eh?

And while I thought about something new, like maybe a monk, in the end I copped out and went with a class I knew I would enjoy.  So now I have a level 110 Blood Elf paladin.

My new pally out in Uldum

Even the name was less than original.  I was running through names to see what I get and I put in the name of a friend who still plays on TorilMUD… and that name was available.  So now I have Nilan the Blood Elf pally.  I’ll have to apologize to the original if he finds out.

I had started working on a different pally with an eye towards getting to level 60 so I could get the trade skill boost along with the level boost… but then I found out that the trade skill boost went away with the 8.0 patch, when they redid how profession skills are distributed.  I was bummed on that.

On the other hand, during my nosing around to figure that out I ran across a suggested plan for how to boost a character.  Apparently if you roll up a fresh character and use the option to try it out at level 100 and then boost from there, you get more stuff.  An extra set of 22 slots bags is always appreciated, but better still you get a level three garrison in Warlords of Draenor if you go that route, with some key buildings already setup and a suite of followers.

This, and the changes to professions so that they are now served up per expansion rather than as one long, 800+ point single continuum, made up for the lack of trade skill boost.  The only reason I wanted the boost was to be able to make some 30 slot hexweave bags.  I am pretty much on track for that now.

All I need are the materials and I am set

Covered on that front I, ran him through the pre-expansion events in order to see them from the Horde side then, when the expansion actually hit, I ran off with Vikund, my alliance paladin and the oldest character I still play, and went to Kul Tiras with Jaina.

Having gotten stuck into that a bit, and impressed with the lay of the land, I decided I wanted a peek at Zandalar.

There are some spoilers about the Horde starting event past this point.  Not a lot of details, but key events are covered.  If you want to stop here, just know that if you’re going to run them both and you want to do them in chronological sequence, you should do the Horde first, then the Alliance.

That starts off the same way on the Horde as it does the Alliance.  You have to run off to Silithus to wrap things up and get the Heart of Azeroth so you can play with azerite.

Still looks like a magic pocket watch to me…

Then you’re back to Orgrimmar where Sylvanas has a new task for your.  She wants you to go on a raid to Stormwind to break out some prisoners from the stockades.

In the Stockades you visit Saurfang who, like many players, is still bitter about what happened during the pre-expansion events.

In Saurfang’s cell

He won’t escape with you and talks on about honor and seems prime to be the resolution to the Horde Warchief problem at the end of the expansion.

Also on the list of prisoners of interest are a couple of high ranking Zandalari trolls.

They don’t stand out at all in Stormwind…

Sylvanas wants the Zandalari as allies, just as Jaina went to Kul Tiras looking for allies, so these two were a bargaining chip.

As we broke them free we were discovered and ended up in a running battle with the 7th Legion, who dogged our every step as we tried to slip down to the docks where a boat waited to carry us off.

Eventually even Jaina stopped by to say “Hi” to as as we tried to get to the docks.

Not the Jaina I remember from Kul Tiras

However she had other fish to fry… or fires to put out.  It seemed that Stormwind was having a flammability issue.

Seriously, is there anything the Horde won’t try to burn down?

That gave us the breathing room… sans smoke inhalation… to make it on to the boat and set sail.  However the locals set out in pursuit of us.

Stormwind Navy is in hot pursuit…

However, as we sailed through a fog bank and closed in on Zandalar, we met their navy.  They made short work of the Alliance ships, with only one surviving to escape.

The Zandalari open fire

This I recognized from the Alliance starter story.  As you speak to King Anduin Wrynn he is interrupted by a report from the surviving ship about what happened here.  This is what sends the Alliance looking for allies in Kul Tiras and has Jaina back home with her very unhappy mother.

So yes, as I noted above, if you want to do this in chronological order, you should do the Horde starter first, then the Alliance.

After that I was into Zandalar and… and… it was everything I hoped for.

Welcome to Zandalar!

And when I say, “everything I hoped for,” what I mean is something like a Blizzard homage to The Emperor’s New Groove, one of my secret Disney favorites.

I mean, it isn’t blatant… and the city is amazing and beautiful… and it takes itself as seriously as an Azeroth setting can.

With King… and I am not making this up… Rastakhan

But the city is also very over the top, with stairs and giant carvings and images, and when the possibility of the King throwing me out the window came up if he was displease, I will admit I laughed.  It is very much an Andean civilization setting in its way… only with dinosaurs.

Even flying dinosaurs

Anyway, you get yourself setup in the city without the inconvenience of having to escape from jail or anything.  Portals are opened to the Horde cities so you can get back home, you get a tour of the location and can check in with the profession trainers to get the current starting level for the expansion.

Then it was time to choose a zone to start in.  As with Kul Tiras, there are three zones on Zandalar to choose from.

The zone choice map

I did not make a choice yet, though there is a story for each zone.

This is the reason I wanted to boost a level 110 Horde in a class I enjoyed, so I could see all six of the initial zones and run through the stories within.

Of course, it turns out that just because you’re Alliance it doesn’t mean you won’t be running around on Zandalar.  Vikund had already been for a visit.

Warning: Heart of Darkness references ahead…

But that is a tale for another post.

Arriving in Kul Tiras

I was in luck.  I got home about an hour after the Battle for Azeroth went live in my time zone and was able to log straight in and get started. No queue, not hangups, nothing wrong.  And the game wasted no time either.  New things were immediately presented.

I’ll tell you what’s new!

It was pretty much straight off to Silithus to finish up what we started back at the beginning of the pre-expansion events with Mangi Bronzebeard and the great big sword in the middle of the zone.

Mangi exposition while I look on

We did a few things, said good-bye to Illidan Stormrage, and went through the azurite intro which included me being handed a genuine reproduction of the Heart of Azeroth, a neck piece that lets you do the azurite thing.

In hindsight this is pretty much The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything

A bit of instruction, my first bit of azurite capable gear, a flash back through how that sword got stuck in Silithus, and things were wrapped up.

Somebody should do something about that sword though…

Then it was back to Stormwind for a quick meeting with King Anduin Wrynn and… well… anybody else who happened to wander into the room for that part of the question.

The classic moment is when he says, “Good, you’re here” in the crowd

Andiun and his advisors are concerned with word that Sylvanas is off to seek allies in Zandalar.  If the Horde manages that it will lead to a naval ally gap.  The Alliance needs their own allies in that regard, so I was sent off to meet Jaina at the dock.  She has a spiffy new boat.

Stormwind harbor is never neglected

Somehow I managed to fall off the boat almost immediately.

We’re going to get wet again…

Apparently there is a no flying mount zone around the boat, so my mount disappeared right above the gap between the dock and the boat.  Fortunately there was a ramp pretty close to hand and I was able to get out of the water and on to the boat with Jaina, at which point we sailed to Kul Tiras.

On arrival I immediately began to regret that I hadn’t paid more attention to the lore around Jaina and the Proudmoore family.  She was not welcomed with open arms.

I feel like you could have mentioned some of this on the boat…

Her mother runs Kul Tiras and blames her for the defeat at Theramore and the death of her father, so things were more than a bit awkward.

Not her happy face

Jaina was hauled off and I was thrown in jail.  But, as we know from all RPGs through all time, the hero breaking out of jail is super easy, barely an inconvenience, so I was out and free in short order and headed off to Boralus Harbor with a bit of exposition along the way.

In case you were wondering…

From there it was a tour about town, a couple of tasks to get me acquainted, and then off to the familiar from Legion decision as to which zone to go after first.

Only three zones? You have a couple hidden here for later, right?

I went with Tiragarde Sound which, in its description, held the promise of getting in better airs with Jaina’s mother Katherine, which seemed important given recent events.  While there is no jail in Azeroth that can hold me it seems, I’d still like to move pas all that.  So off I went to get stuck into my first zone of the expansion.

At this point I want to stop for a moment and praise the new areas.  While I have adopted a flippant tone, I do have to say that walking about Boralus Harbor really impressed me.  It is a beautiful, detailed zone that feels like part of Azeroth yet not a place I have been before.  It certainly isn’t another trip back to Dalaran.

Looking out on the town

It has a very organic, seaside town feel to it.  Also, the main color scheme is in greens, so I clearly chose the right transmog to wear.  I just tell everybody the shovel is an oar and I am set.

Flying over Boralus Harbor on the local griffon substitute

So first impressions are pretty positive.  I had to stop playing to take care of some things around the house… and then to write this… but I really want to get back and carry on.

I am kind of amused that several sites out there have guides up about getting to level 120 as fast as possible.  While I am often a destination guy, there is some journey here to enjoy.  I don’t have to race with this guy.

Four and a half hours and he’s through.  Now what?  Do you start working on alts then or just badger your guild mates to hurry and catch up?

And So We Begin to Battle for Azeroth

The time has come.  With the worldwide launch of the Battle for Azeroth expansion is set to go live semi-simultaneously world wide today, which in the US means 3pm Pacific Time.  My characters are set, my addons have all finally been updated, and I am otherwise set to go.

Battle for Azeroth is now

Since this is Blizzard, and not Daybreak, it seems likely that the appointed hour will be met.  When you’ll have access to the expansion is illustrated on a chart Blizz has put out.

When can you play?

That also shows what time the blog post is scheduled to go live… well, the US times are correct.  Your mileage may vary elsewhere in the world.

As to whether or not you’ll be able to log in to your server at the appropriate time or just be stuck in a long queue is another story.

And speaking of story, we have had our last bit of the preliminary story.  Unfolding over the last three weeks, it has sought to set the tone for the Horde vs. Alliance conflict that is central to Battle for Azeroth, pretty much dumping the burden on Sylvanas Windrunner, current War Chief of the Horde.

Sylvanas is waiting for you…

After playing through the pre-launch events on both Alliance and Horde, I am still unclear on the “why” of her actions.  She keeps speaking of the survival of the Horde, but what that has to do with the world tree one way or another isn’t certain.  Her orders seem more designed inflame conflict than foster survival.

Nice tree..shame is somebody BURNED IT DOWN!

This provoked the Alliance just as we expected it would… mostly because it was featured prominently in the Battle for Azeroth cinematic trailer from BlizzCon last year.  Young King Anduin Wrynn takes the Alliance to the Unercity for a showdown.  The Alliance prevails, entirely because Jaina Proudmoore shows up at their moment of need. Jaina ex Machina.  And so Andiun seeks out Sylvanas.

I am so going to give Sylvanas a talking to!

But when the naive king goes to confront Sylvanas he is outwitted again.  She escapes and, in the final moments of the cinematic, she and her lieutenants are formed up in what I would consider very much the smug, bad guy lineup.

Sylvanas wins again, I think

The parallel cut to Andiun and his group shows a weary determination.

Duped again

And now the stage is set… for something.  There is, or course, dissent in the Horde leadership that makes me think that Sylvanas might be headed down the Garrosh Hellscream path.  Or maybe she just isn’t telling us everything yet.   We will see as this unfolds over the next eighteen months or so… once we can log in.

The Battle for Azeroth Character Boost Question

Another one of those now traditional points of transition between expansion. I purchased Battle for Azeroth a while back, so I am wondering what I ought to do with that level 110 boost that comes with it.

Soon…

With Warlords of Draenor I boost a death knight to level 90 and with Legion I eventually ended up boosting a mage to level 100.

The death knight was a success and is one of the character that stands ready at level 110.

The mage… was less successful.

I mean, I guess it depends on how you define success. Said mage is also level 110, so clearly got some play time. But I found playing the mage not very fun and, while I got in there and got him his artifact weapon and all that, I eventually just used him for pet battles for a while until he hit level 110.

I also did that with both druids and my rogue. I played them more than the mage, but I found the druids under powered as feral and the combat spec rogue a little too squishy. The latter was a bit of a surprise as I had played him up to 100 towards the end of Warlords of Draenor, using the pre-Legion events to get him lined up for that expansion. (Remember that one time when pre-expansion events gave good experience?)

I mean, it may be just how the classes played out in Legion, but I really only enjoyed playing the heavily armored melee classes. Just jumping into the fray and beating on baddies was clearly my thing. The retribution pally was my main for the expansion, while I also did quite a bit with the death knight and a warrior.

The main exception to that was my hunter, always my primary alt. But hunters are special.

So given my experiences in Legion, what I enjoy, and that my ret pally seems even more badass in 8.0 than I expected (at least up until today’s patch nerf), my predilection is to boost something that is similar, or possibly the same, as the classes I enjoyed in Legion.

The first one I am thinking about is a monk. I have a 60-ish Panderan monk sitting around from back when we all made pandas because we could, but I never really got into it. I think he is only past 60 because of the Legion pre-expansion events. The upside of the monk is its paladin-like “be all the things” three specs. I would likely only go DPS, but that I could be a healer or a tank is something of a draw.

The downside is that by this point I really don’t have a good feel for monks as a class and, having felt let down by the way feral druids played in Legion, I do worry a bit about expending a boost on another leather wearing melee class.

The monk fits the model from the past, bringing a new class into the mix on the Alliance side. But with Battle for Azeroth I wonder if having a class I like on the Horde side of things might be a better plan.

For all the angst about the Horde vs. Alliance aspect of Battle for Azeroth,  It does sound like there might be significantly different paths for players on either side of the divide.  One of the disappointments with playing the opposite faction is discovering just how quickly both sides merge into essentially the same quest line.  It sounds like my Alliance characters will be heading to Kul Tiras, while the Horde side will be headed to Zandalar, and I don’t want to miss out on the Zandalari trolls.

Battle for Azeroth map with the new islands

The trolls have the best architecture… “more spikes dammit!” is not their primary design philosophy… so I don’t want to miss out on that side of things.  So a Horde character seems like a good option for a boost.

While I already have a 110 druid there, I have been down on the druid thing for most of Legion. So another class is probably in order.

The primary one would be a Horde paladin. If a pally is/stays hot to trot for the Alliance, then it ought to be likewise for the Horde. That just leaves the question of which race? A blood elf feels like the right answer, but I also like tauren and could go either regular or Highmountain on that front.  Alas, the Nightborne don’t do the pally thing.

I could also go with a deathknight or a warrior on the Horde side to boost. The DK would have the advantage of starting at level 55, so I could just get up to 60 quickly enough, select a trade skill, then boost and get both the level and the trade skill up to 110. On the warrior side, I already have a Highmountain tauren warrior. I could boost him I suppose.

Moose on moose action outside Orgrimmar

An alternate Horde plan could be to go with a hunter. Again, a special class, and I have an Orc hunter that has been slowly leveling up over the years. I managed to get him to level 40 back in 2007 so he could have a mount.

Wolf mount doesn’t look happy

Things were different back then.  He sat neglected for quite a while and was likely the last hunter I had on my account that still had a quiver with ammunition in his inventory. I have dragged him out every so often just to do things on the Horde side. He is level 61 now, so would have the trade skill thing going for him like the DK. He even holds the Horde guild we put together back in 2005 or so.

But I have never really had a lot of affection for the Orcs, aside for that quest where you beat the napping peons in the starter area. I think I would be happier with another race.  Or at least the upright Orc model that has been promised.  That might help.

Anyway, I don’t need to get the boost decision set right away.  While Battle for Azeroth is just over six days away, since it launches in the US at 3pm Pacific Time on August 13th as part of the world-wide launch, I suspect that it will be a few days before things settle down and, once that happens, my Alliance paladin will be first over the top and into the new content.

Eventually though I will want to start in on alts and will want to see Zandalar, so it would be good to start getting any potential alt up to 60 for the trade skill boost benefit… if that is still a thing.  Given how much trade skills have changed, I had best read up on that to see if it is worth the effort.