Despite losing some subscribers, Blizzard's gigantic MMO World of Warcraft is still ludicrously popular and Blizzard has no plans to stop supporting it. From big expansions like Mists of Pandaria to smaller updates, the most dominant MMO in the history of gaming still gets tweaked and modified. And more tweaks have come this week.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
Whatever your opinion of World of Warcraft, a Blizzard cinematic trailer is usually something to behold. That proves to be the case here, as Garrosh Hellscream transports the dark essence of the Old God Y'shaarj. That orcish cad. The dramatic attempt to stop him might be slightly undermined by the fact that his assailant is a kung-fu panda, but let's not get speciest - it's still an enjoyable slice of dramatic posturing.
Blizzard has kept up its focus of "narrowing the PVP gap" for World of Warcraft players in the last few major patches, and the changes incoming along with a new battleground and arena in patch 5.3 are perhaps the strongest steps taken to lessen the gear disparity between hardcore PVPers and more casual combatants.
Last week, the massive Thunder King update stormed across Pandaria and the World of Warcraft servers, bringing a new raid, daily quests, gear, and a questing island area using a server-wide content unlocking system. The patch marks the 16th major update for the reigning champ of the MMO genre and its nearly eight years of activity. After a prolonged focus on balances and the endless content churn, Blizzard Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street feels (via IGN) the patch is a return to the sense of wonder and danger of Azeroth's early years.
2012: The Year Without a Blizzcon. It was also the year I was finally ready to attend, which made the absence of Blizzard's annual blow-out all the more poignant. But at last, we've been told that the life-sized-Thrall-statue-shaped hole in our hearts will be filled once again on November 8 and 9 in Anaheim.
The launch of Guild Wars 2 had the energy of an election night. The candour of ArenaNet’s original tradition-defying mission statement gave way to a year of rising expectations, tempered by the trickle of information from the beta and the gloomy subscription forecasts battering its rivals. It was a relief when the game turned out to be something special.
I've only ever dipped into World of Warcraft, so I can only imagine how the past eight years have felt for those who fell in love with Blizzard's new online world back in 2004. Maybe they passed quickly, in a flash of boss fights, raid wipes and ding explosions. Maybe it feels as though it's been around forever. Mists of Pandaria seems to have rekindled the post Cataclysm subs slump somewhat, so WoW will be a long while yet. But if WoW were to die, the sequence that would flash before its eyes in its final moments might look a bit like this celebratory 8th anniversary video, which revisits many of Azeroth's well-trodden lands.
Blizzard have responded to the class action over the sale and effectiveness of online authenticators, calling the move "frivolous" and saying the claim is "filled with patently false information." The company go on to say that they will "vigorously defend ourselves through the appropriate legal channels." Vigorously! That's legal speak for "it's on."
As you'd expect with so many players, copies of Mists of Pandaria flew off the shelves - just under 3 million copies on Day 1, with both Stormwind and Orgrimmar filled to bursting point with excited players on dragons. And some people complaining about pandas. Mostly though, excited people on dragons. Does this mark a reversal of WoW's somewhat flagging fortunes over the last year?
Tossing spheres at vocabulary-strapped monsters sounds like madness, but Blizzard certainly must enjoy Pokémon's idea, with its pet battles minigame stepping through the Mists of Pandaria in World of Warcraft. If you don't already have a certain song stuck in your head, then the player-crafted WOWkemon add-on dispenses with all subtlety and turns your critter conflicts into full-blown Pokémon rumbles.
Pacifist players in World of Warcraft are a bit of a niche phenomenon in Blizzard's behemoth, since they're perfectly willing to turn the MMO's sometimes tedious grind into an unholy abomination by managing to cap a character without ever killing a single creature. As an echo of Everbloom's legacy, Warcraft player Irenic journeyed to level 90 without a single kill and just one quest completion under his or her belt.
Soon to hit the Public Test Realms, Mists of Pandaria's 5.1 patch is the first step in what will be an ongoing conflict between the Alliance and the Horde, escalating and spreading across the new continent with each major update. The first wave will focus on the eastern coast and the Krasarang Wilds region, where Alliance players will represent the new Operation: Shieldwall faction, and Horde players the opposing Dominance Offensive.
News fountains on tap today: Of Orcs and Men shows green people bicker just like us, the stone-faced Agent 47 of Hitman: Absolution shows off his creativity for the kill, and Mass Effect 3 gets its biggest multiplayer update yet. I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite "read more" segue on PC Gamer.
Blizzard announced today Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's fourth expansion, sold 2.7 million units within its first week since launching on September 25. Active subscriptions also jumped past 10 million as a result.
Mists of Pandaria feels like the end of an era - not of World of Warcraft as a game, not by a long stretch, but of World of Warcraft as a cultural phenomenon. In most ways, give or take your tolerance for kung-fu pandas, it's an expansion that just about any MMO would kill for. It's not however the much hoped for shot in the arm that's likely to restore the game's flagging fortunes, or a sweeping update that makes it possible to forget how old both its design and basic game systems actually are.
Blizzard's spent a decade refining and developing those ideas though, and even now, the king of fantasy MMOs has the power to surprise and impress. Can that be enough to keep players happy, bring some back to the fold, and even pick up a few newcomers with its practiced charm? Let's find out...
The leaves tumble from their branches, frosty fronds etch car bonnets in the cool hours of the morning, and highstreet shops prematurely fill their shelves with tinselly tat. Yes, winter approaches. But fear not those long dark hours! We bring you issue 245 of PC Gamer to warm and illuminate with stories of giant war robots, jump-pack powered interstellar pioneers and more!
On the cover this month is one of the hirsute kung-fu masters from World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. We have a whopping eight page feature on Blizzard's long-running monster MMORPG, with 50 tips to help you squeeze the most awesome from its latest expansion. Hot on its heels is our huge Planetside 2 guide, talking you through the Auraxian battlegrounds and most hectic hotspots. And if you weren't yet convinced that playing together was the best way to stay warm this winter, we follow that up with our 15 favourite co-op games of all time. Oh, and then we just straight out give you one of them, in the form of a Steam code for Payday: The Heist.
And while we're in the spirit of giving, the mag also includes access to the DOTA 2 beta - a code which might otherwise set you back £20.
Issue 245 is on shelves and online right now. Our digi-edition can also be purchased through Zinio and Apple Newsstand. There's also the option to subscribe and get each issue earlier and for less money! Sweet. Read on for fulsome details of issue 245's finely crafted content.
Logan, Evan, Omri, and T.J. join forces with special guest and PC Gamer Podcast veteran Chuck Osborn to spray and pray their way through the gaming news of the day. Is Mists of Pandaria worth your time if you've fallen out of love with World of Warcraft? Is Windows 8 really as disastrous as Notch and Gabe seem to think it is? What is it about Borderlands 2 that earns it such universal praise? Has one Unreal Tournament 2004 bot heralded the early coming of the machine apocalypse? Have we presented enough thought-provoking questions to get you to listen to the freaking podcast already?
The last you can only answer yourself, but we've got the rest covered in PC Gamer Podcast 331: Osbornderlands!
Blizzard's main font of attention right now certainly involves pudgy pandas punching everything in sight, but an interview by Curse with Blizzard vice president of game design Rob Pardo reveals the developer plowing full steam ahead with its mysterious Titan MMO project using a team of over 100 people.
At last night's Mist of Pandaria launch event we sat down with Blizzard's Scott Mercer and and Darren Williams to chat about the thinking behind the monk class, challenge modes, and the new continent itself. Find out why Blizzard chose now to bring the Pandaren into World of Warcraft, and what role the expanding Chinese MMO market played in Pandaria's origins (hint: less than you think.)