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World of Warcraft: Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde

The new WoW lore book from Mist of Pandaria is here. It’s called Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde.

Blizzard announces

Warchief Garrosh’s assassins strike at Vol’jin, leaving him at death’s door. But fate smiles on the wounded Darkspear leader when renowned brewmaster Chen Stormstout transports him to the safety of an isolated mountain monastery. There, Vol’jin wrestles with old hatreds smoldering between the Alliance and the Horde as he struggles to recover alongside a mysterious human soldier.

Yet this is only the beginning of Vol’jin’s worries. Soon, he becomes embroiled in an invasion of Pandaria launched by the Zandalari, revered trolls driven by dreams of conquest and power. This ancient tribe offers Vol’jin a chance to seize the glory that is the birthright of all trolls… an offer made even more tempting after Garrosh’s brazen treachery.

Amid these troubling events, Vol’jin is rocked by intense visions depicting his race’s grand history. As he questions where his loyalties lie, he knows he must make a choice about his own destiny that could save his people or damn them to languish under Garrosh’s heel.

Written by: Michael Stackpole
Release date: July 2, 2013
Preorder at amazon.

 

Excerpt from Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde

When awareness came to him again, Vol’jin found himself whole and hale, strong of limb and standing tall. A fierce sun beat down on him as he stood in a courtyard with thousands of other trolls. They had nearly a head’s height on him, yet none of them made an issue of it. In fact, none of them seemed to notice him at all.

Another dream. A vision.

He did not immediately recognize the place, though he had a sense that he’d been there before. Or, rather,later, for this city had not surrendered to the surrounding jungle’s invasion. The stone carvings on walls remained crisp and clear. Arches had not been shattered. Cobbles had not been broken or scavenged. And the stepped pyramid, before which they all stood, had not been humbled by time’s ravages.

He stood amid a crowd of Zandalari, members of the troll tribe from which all other tribes had descended. They had become, over the years, taller than most and exalted. In the vision they seemed less a tribe than a caste of priests, powerful and educated, quite apt for leading.

But in Vol’jin’s time, their ability to lead had degraded. It is because their dreams all be trapped here.

This was the Zandalar empire at the height of its power. It dominated Azeroth but would fall victim to its own might. Greed and avarice would spark intrigues. Factions would split. New empires would rise, like the Gurubashi empire, which would drive Vol’jin’s Darkspear trolls into exile. Then it would fall too.

The Zandalari hungered for a return to the time when they were ascendant. It was a time when trolls were a most noble race. The trolls, united, had risen to heights which someone like Garrosh Hellscream could not possibly dream existed.

A sense of magic ancient and powerful flooded through Vol’jin, providing him the key to why he was seeing the Zandalari. Titan magic predated even the Zandalari. It was more powerful than they were. As high as the Zandalari had been above things that slithered and stung, so were the titans above them—likewise their magic.

Vol’jin moved through the crowd as might a specter. The Zandalari faces glowed with fearsome smiles—the sort he’d seen on trolls when trumpets blared and drums pounded, inviting them to battle. Trolls were built to rend and slay—Azeroth was their world, and all in it were subject to their dominion. Though Vol’jin might differ with other trolls as to the identity of their enemies, he was no less fierce in battle, and vastly proud of how the Darkspears had conquered their foes and liberated the Echo Isles.

So Bwonsamdi be mocking me with this vision. The Zandalari dreamed of empire, and Vol’jin wished the best for his people. Vol’jin knew the difference. It was simple enough to plan for slaughter and far more complex to create a future. For a loa who liked his sacrifices bloody and battle-torn, Vol’jin’s vision held little appeal.

Vol’jin ascended the pyramid. As he moved up, things became more substantial. Whereas before he had been in a silent world, he could now feel drums thrumming up through the stone. The breeze brushed over his light fur, tousled his hair. It brought with it the sweet scent of flowers—a scent just slightly sharper than that of spilled blood.

The drumming pounded into him. His heart beat in time. Voices came to him. Shouts from below. Commands from above. He refused to retreat but stopped climbing higher. It seemed he might be rising through time as he would be rising through lake water. If he reached the top, he would be there with the Zandalari and feel what they felt. He would know their pride. He would breathe in their dreams.

He would become one with them.

He would not allow himself that luxury.

His dream for the Darkspear tribe might not have excited Bwonsamdi, but it provided life for the Darkspears. The Azeroth the Zandalari had known had been utterly and irrevocably changed. Portals had been opened. New peoples had come through. Lands had been shattered, races warped, and more power released than the Zandalari knew existed. The disparate races—elves, humans, trolls, orcs, and even goblins, among others—had united to defeat Deathwing, creating a power structure that revolted and offended the Zandalari. The Zandalari hungered to reestablish rule over a world that had so changed that their dreams could never come true.

Vol’jin caught himself. “Never” be a powerful word.

In an eyeblink the vision shifted. He now stood at the pyramid’s apex, looking down into the faces of the Darkspears. His Darkspears. They trusted his knowledge of the world. If he told them they could recapture the glory that was once theirs, they would follow him. If he commanded them to take Stranglethorn or Durotar, they would. The Darkspears would boil out of the islands, subjugating all in their path, simply because he wished it done.

He could do it. He could see a way. He’d had Thrall’s ear, and the orc had trusted him in military matters. He could spend the months of recuperation plotting out the campaigns and organizing strategies. Within a year or two of his return from Pandaria—if that was still where he was—the Darkspear banner would be anointed with blood and more feared than it already was.

And what be that gaining me?

I would be pleased.

Vol’jin spun. Bwonsamdi stood above him, a titanic figure, ears forward and straining to gather the pulsed shouts from below. It would gain you peace, Vol’jin, for you be doing what your troll nature demands.

Is that all we be meant for?

The loa do not require you to be more. What purpose be there in your bein’ more?

Vol’jin looked for an answer to that question. His search left him staring at a void. Its darkness reached and engulfed him, leaving him with no answer and certainly no peace.

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June 7th

News

World of Warcraft loses a million subscribers since february

Historys largest MMO hit game has shrunk some more. And a good some at that. In only the last three months World of Warcraft has lost over a million subscribers.

This news hit the scene after yesterdays quarterly investor call. The announcement was made by Activision-Blizzard.

It was reported that this february World of Warcraft had 9.6 million subscribers. Now that number is down to 8.3 million subscribers. A huge loss of around 1.3 million active subscribers.

8.3 million active subscribers is still an enormous amount of people paying for the chance to play an online game every month, however it is now obvious that Blizzard must take steps to regain some of this previously owned leverage.
Discussions have for some time circulated around Blizzard wanting to take WoW back to more of a vanilla feel. Some argue that this is the only way for rapid subscriber growth for the game.

A million subscribers less for WoW might create an opportunity for other companies. There will no doubt be a real vacuum to fill, with so many players leaving the game.

Will the loss of so many players mean something for the rest of the gaming market? If so, what? And how should the vacuum be filled?

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May 9th

News

Why the subscription MMO has to make it

sub

In a recent interview with ign.com the game director of Guild Wars 2, Colin Johanson, said the following.

“It takes some serious balls to jump into the MMO industry and go after it. You’re basically betting your company any time you decide that the thing you’re going to make is an MMO. They take so long to make, and they take so much money that either you’re successful and you’re going to do really well, or you’re not and your company’s toast. If you have a really big backer, maybe you can survive that but it’s a huge risk.”

Johansson is of course right. However lately there has been a trend within many gaming communities to promote and argue the idea that the era of the subscription mmo is over.

 

The two arguments

There seems to be two main arguments for the death of the subscription mmo era.

The first is that since there are several free to play mmos out there today, players have come to expect to play mmos for free. Competition has driven down the possibility for taking a monthly subscription fee and the market simply won’t support this model anymore.

The second argument seems to be the examples of the recently launched mmos, originally planned to be following the subscription model, but since then was forced to go free to play. And there are some good examples here.

As Kate Cox over at Kotaku notes,

“All of Sony Online Entertainment’s titles, including EverQuest and its successor, EverQuest II, are now without a subscription fee. City of Heroes and Lord of the Rings Online haven’t required a monthly charge in several years. DC Universe Online saw a 700% jump in revenue when it became free.”

Guild Wars 2 is of course another example of a successful free to play mmo game.

While some clearly makes a compelling case for this opinion, there is another side.

The first of these arguments has a serious problem. It’s very hard predicting what the public and the mmo players will and will not pay for. It’s easy to claim that people simply won’t pay a monthly subscription fee anymore, but it’s harder to back that up. Sure the market has shown these tendencies the past couple of years, but this can easily change.

The history of gaming is full of success stories that turned things upside down, and this goes way beyond World of Warcraft. When the original Starcraft game was released the market was crowded with competition. Great rts games like Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Red Alert, Settlers, Total Annihilation, games from the Star Wars series and a little later Cossacks and Empire Earth. Little did anyone know what a massive hit the original Starcraft games would be. But no one furthermore knew that this small game would, in many ways almost singlehandedly, create the progaming and esport scene and set its tone for decades to come. Just as World of Warcraft, Starcraft changed the entire gaming industry.
In the light of this, who are we to say what gamers want, in these kinds of macro terms?

The market side of this first argument is equally flawed. Yes there is more competition in the mmo scene today but with examples like World of Warcraft and EveOnline, with almost 10 million unique subscribers every month combined, is it really logical to presume that there is no more space on the gaming market for additional subscription mmos? Is it impossible to imagine a new great subscription based  mmo, attracting customers both from todays subscription scene and free to play scene? It doesn’t seem to be any real reason to make such a claim.

What about the second argument from the free to play enthusiasts. Recently we have seen several mmos fail. Some failed big. Huge even. Is this a proof there’s no room for success? Does these recent failures (let’s not forget that most of these happened the last couple of years) show the hope is forever lost on the subscription mmos?

A comparison would be one of Apples worst product failures in history, The Macintosh Portable. Does the failure of the Macintosh Portable, and several other laptops of that era, prove the laptop market to be an impossible one to make a real impact on? Does the difficult laptop market at the time prove that laptops forevermore must be free and that the consumers arbitrarily will reject all other laptops? The answer is of course no.

I would say on the contrary. It is the failures of today that builds the expectations of things to come tomorrow.

If you are to make one general claim for all gamers, except of course that most of us love gaming, it seems to be the following; Gamers will pay a reasonable and often even a slightly higher price then expected, for a great gaming experience. Take a look at the hardware we buy, our equipment, the LAN’s we visit, the new gaming consoles we buy and all the games we already bought.

We will pay. That’s it.

If the game is good enough the communities of gamers will support the games until another, even greater experience comes along.

 

The real problem

The real problem for the subscription based mmos, and the only reasonable argument I see as to why these huge games fail – one by one, is that they’re not providing that experience. The recently released subscription mmos simply wasn’t good enough. They didn’t make the cut.

One by one, whether it was Swtor, Age of Conan or Lord of the Rings Online, they all had several flaws, or at least one flaw big enough to make too many players reject the notion of paying a subscription fee for these games. It’s not a coincidence that these games had a big hype around them before their release, Swtor for instance was called the WoW-Slayer, before its release. They didn’t deliver enough and players made the reasonable choice of not paying.

World of Warcraft was the first major mmo to capture a really big, international, reliable audience over many years. If you want to “kill WoW” then you have to provide something great, truly new and iconoclastic. No one really did that yet.

 

Why the subscription MMOs has to make it

There are reasons why the community of players should support the notion of subscription mmos. These reasons are important. Very important.

First of all it’s very hard to imagine how a free to play type mmo in the long run could keep up with a subscription game when it comes to updates, new releases and expansions. Both quantity and quality wise. The game developing company of a successful subscription mmo will simply have more resources to pour back into the game, at their disposal. Ask yourself what would bring more income; three million people buying a game or three million people buying a game and then on a continuing basis paying a 10$ a month subscription fee for that game?
It’s true that some free to play games has better content updates from time to time, then say for instance EVEOnline but generally they don’t. It’s very hard to take an isolated free to play game, like Age of Conan, and argue that it will have the same opportunity to release as great content as EVEOnline, given it where only up to those two games to be self-sustaining, without having the respective game publishing company taking money from other projects in order to create better content for the mmo.

The second reason to support the notion of subscription mmos is related to the first one. To put it simply; there is no better way for the communities to support game developers than to support the notion of subscribing to a game. If we gamers won’t take on a “will never subscribe attitude”, then we will support maximal growth of companies releasing great games. Companies that will release great games will grow more, and be able to release better games in the future, if we subscribe rather then expect to pay a one time fee.

The third reason is simply to keep micro transactions out of our games. Whether it’d be faster mounts, better items or weapons, these things should not be sold ingame for real currency. This is very important because it creates an economic class system within the mmo games. Some gamers can afford to pay, others can’t. Having to buy anything else then cosmetic upgrades (which you could argue against aswell) is the most efficient way of separating gamers by their real life income, and thus relating the gaming experience to your buying power as a consumer.
It’s also considered a boring element by many gamers and will keep a lot of folks away from these games. Subscriptions, combined with the gamers demanding the limiting of these kinds of ingame micro transactions, is the best way to keep this ghastly idea out of our games.

The fourth reason why the subscription MMO has to make it is because several payment models creates a more dynamic and versatile game market. And that’s a good thing. If there are more than just one basic expectation in regard to the payment model for a game, the game developers has a more dynamic sheet to work with when creating a game. The possibility for diversity will effect the market, the games and therefore the different projects. Diversity is often a good thing. This is the case here as well.

As Colin Johanson, said.

“It takes some serious balls to jump into the MMO industry and go after it.”

Johanson is right. It takes balls.

Therefore we gamers should be open-minded and support the game developing companies, by supporting both payment models.
Not condemning one to benefit the other.

Both free to play and subscription based mmos can coexist.

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April 12th

Editorials

Art day: The art of Josh Atack

The talented concept artist Josh Atack recently shared some of his great work with the community. The art he shared came in the form of vintage-styled World of Warcraft posters.

Josh has his home at badgertracks.net.

 

Dalaran

 

Thunderbluff

 

Undercity

 

Have a link to some great game concept art you want to share?

Do so in the comments bellow!

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March 30th

Articles

News

Art day: Sound design

With the World of Warcraft patch 5.2: The Thunder King, among other things, came new creatures. One of the new world critters is the Patch is the Zandalari Battlesaur. Often one forgets what goes into creating new content. Not only programming and graphical design, but also sound design is an important part of new content material.

In a recent article, the Blizzard sound artist team shows some of the work they’ve done with the new patch. They also answer some questions in an interview.

Blizzard employee Nethaera points out that there are several layers in simultaneous relation, when designing sound for a creature in the game. These sounds are recorded, mixed and mastered individually and then put together.

In the case of the Zandalari Battlesaur, here are the individual sounds in the process.

A voice actor: We pulled in some of the best voice talent in the industry who excel in making creature sounds. In this case, we were able to bring in Jon Olson who also did the non-Voice Over sounds for sha and hozen mobs. What you hear is an edit of two takes that form a base layer of performance and sound that other layers and effects are crafted around.

Bear: Early last year, senior Sound Designer Chris Kowalski took his recording gear and his courage to Big Bear to gather some scary up-close source material from several of the wild animals at Predators in Action. The bear recordings from that visit were used to add size and embellish some of what the actor did.

Tiger: While at Predators in Action, Chris was also given the opportunity to record the tiger that was used in the movie Gladiator. This resulted in a ton of great material, including a lot of big cat chest rumbles and roars you may hear mixed into several creatures across Pandaria.

Final Sound: The final mix is comprised of all the layers above along with additional processing and mastering that make it fit within the world.

Here’s how the individual sounds for this particular creature correlate.

 

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March 30th

Articles

Art day: The WoW Tier 15 Armor Sets

World of Warcraft Patch 5.2 introduced new tier 15 armor sets.

These can be found inside the Throne of Thunder.

Here’s how they all look.

 

Death Knight – All-Consuming Maw

 

Druid – Haunted Forest

 

Hunter – Saurok Stalker

 

Mage – Chromatic Hydra

 

Monk – Fire-Charm

 

Paladin – Lightning Emperor

 

Priest – Exorcist

 

Rogue – Nine-Tail

 

Shaman – Witch Doctor

 

Warlock – Thousandfold Hells

 

Warrior – Last Mogu

 

So what do you think, how well are these sets designed compared to the previous ones? What is your all time favorite armor set?

 

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March 30th

Articles

Follow up

Morning conference: Making $10,000 through Diablo III

Some of us remember the infamous player who made over $10,000 with Diablo III‘s real money auction house system. Some discussions followed on reddit, which the player took part in.
There he said he’d never scammed, botted or otherwise cheated at all in his efforts because trading in item markets is part of how he has fun, so it “wouldn’t make sense” to cheat.

He, among other things, said that

Gold is like a foreign currency. It represents value, but only within the specific game world. You can’t use gold to buy things in stores in the US, just like you can’t use Yen to buy things in those stores. If, however, you can convert that currency to a usable one, it has an “exchange rate.” Gold has an exchange rate exactly like a foreign currency has. (Except gold is more easily exchanged than 90% of the currencies in the world.)

Since then Blizzard has promised to look over the currency converting abilities of the Diablo 3 auction house, but so far they haven’t really gotten around to it. It might not be in Blizzards best interest to have a system where elaborate strategies are used to extract these kinds of sums of money, but it’s not in their interest to remove this initial idea from the game either.

Making this much money from one game however, raises some questions. The interesting ones for now are; Have you ever wanted to make money from gaming? If you would go for it, how would you do it? Would it be through systems like the Diablo 3 auction house, or would you want to earn your money through pro gaming, tournaments or streaming?

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March 29th

News

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition, update 9 and creativity

Recently 4J Studios released a new trailer for the Xbox360 console version of Minecraft. The trailer shows the upcoming update nr. 9 for the big hit game.

In the trailer we also see “The end of the world” and footage of the Enderdragon.

Minecraft could be considered to be a pretty interesting game. Not because of the playing mechanics or graphics. The huge portion of freedom the players have has attracted many to buy the game. Minecraft survives in a highly competitive market due to having creativity and player freedom at its core.

When one sees the current game projects generally and the mmo projects in particular, the feeling is that a lot of today’s game developing companies and publishers should learn from Minecraft. Learn how another mindset in regards to online gaming is possible.

In order to craft new, modern and iconoclastic games the player creativity and freedom should be put at the center of the productions. The Minecraft creator Markus Persson did this in his own way, but there are many other ways of doing it.

Even though it can’t always be easy to think outside the box in a very tech-savvy industry, a larger effort should be made. Maybe it will be a coming product of that kind that is going to set the new standard for the industry in the years to come?

How do you think the game developers should tackle the creative and freedom based aspect in mmo games, in a practical way?

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March 28th

Editorials

News

Swtor: Game back on track with expansion?

The Hutts will not be allowed to expand their dominion at our expense.

―Supreme Chancellor Leontyne Saresh

 

The expansion “Rise of the Hutt Cartel” has been dated and will be hitting the stores on April 14th. This was announced by Bioware at the Game Developers Conference, the worlds largest conference for game developers, held in San Francisco this week.

A while back Star Wars: The Old Republic  the big investment of EA and BioWare, had to go from being a traditional subscription mmo, to changing its format to free to play.

Since so much resources had been put into this colossal project, for example thousands of hours of recorded voice acting and of course the stake in itself of constructing a mmo, going free to play was seen as an enormous loss for the two companies, EA in particular.

This affair got so bad that some started to promote the idea, quite vigorously, of the the time for the subscription mmo being over. More of this in our upcoming editorial.

Despite old debacles, EA and BioWare decided to move on and focus on their future expansion.

And here it is.

 

Will you play Rise of the Hutt Cartel? And will this expansion be a possible clean slate and player magnet for Swtor?
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March 27th

News

The great online merge: Dust 514 and EVE

The game developing company CCP has made the great effort to merge and integrate a PC game and a Ps3 game together.

A risky project many would say, but not an uninteresting one.

Creativity spawns reward and so..

 

 

What do you think? Will you try it? If so which of the two games?

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March 26th

News
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MMO Opinion

MMO Opinion is an opinion and news driven online magazine, regarding the world of the massive multiplayer online games.
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