Early last year Blizzard stamped out an unofficial vanilla World of Warcraft server project called Nostalrius. But it didn't go quietly.
They were not prepared!
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If you played World of Warcraft when it launched you'll remember world PvP. You'll remember the impromptu battles at Tarren Mill between Horde and Alliance, or Stranglethorn Vale or Booty Bay. Unorganised fun that echoed the Orcs vs. Humans essence of Warcraft as a real-time strategy game.
UPDATE 3/11/17, 11:50pm: Blizzard has shed a little more light on its forthcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth, following its whirlwind Blizzcon debut.
"The fall of the Burning Legion has set off a series of disastrous incidents that reignites the furious rivalry between the noble Alliance and the mighty Horde," explains Blizzard. "As a new age of warfare begins, Azeroth's heroes must set out on a harrowing journey in search of new allies, race to claim the world's mightiest resources to turn the tides of war, and fight on several fronts to determine which side will lead Azeroth into its uncertain future."
Battle for Azeroth will introduce two new fabled kingdoms: the Zandalar empire, and the kingdom of Kul Tiras. "As a champion of the Horde, says Blizzard, you can travel to the Zandalar empire to persuade the trolls to lend their naval might. As a defender of the Alliance, venture to the seafaring kingdom of Kul Tiras, home of Jaina Proudmoore, and rally its inhabitants to fight for your cause.
Chris Bratt has now interviewed Blizzard about World of Warcraft Classic servers. He even asked J. Allen Brack about his infamous "you think you want it but you don't" statement, which he once made about legacy servers. Chortle, chortle.
The BlizzCon 2017 opening ceremony - the place for this year's major Blizzard announcements - will take place Friday, 3rd November at 6pm GMT. And as always we'll be both in the audience there and in our office here covering it live.
Due to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, flooding in South Asia, and "countless other crises" around the world, Blizzard has decided this year's World of Warcraft charity drive cannot wait. Instead of releasing the new charity pet alongside BlizzCon in November, Shadow the Fox is available for 'adoption' now.
For nearly a year Blizzard has been threatening to change the name of its proprietary online multiplayer service Battle.net to the more on-brand Blizzard.net. That is the name of the company, after all, which would theoretically make things less confusing. However, after a scant few months under the new monicker Blizzard rethought this approach because the Battle.net name has been around for over 20 years (since the studio launched Diablo in 1996). Changing it now has led to bewilderment.
World of Warcraft fans reckon they've worked out the location of the next expansion - using an image of a map on a leaked skirt.
Subtle clues unearthed by the WOW community suggest the next expansion is set in Kul Tiras, which indicates players will fight the Old Gods.
The World of Warcraft subreddit is currently in overdrive after World of Warcraft database website Wowhead posted information data-mined from patch 7.3, which is currently in the Public Test Realm (PTR). The new build adds new voice over files, but what is of real interest to players is a new armour set with an interesting name.
Overnight, World of Warcraft players noticed something odd. They noticed enemies' health amounts changing depending on who was fighting them. The higher a player's item level, the more health the enemy would have. In other words, enemies were scaling to a player's gear.
Blizzard has decided to do away with the name Battle.net and simply call the platform Blizzard. It was a bit old fashioned.
World of Warcraft's next major patch, Tomb of Sargeras, arrives on live servers on the 28th March.
If you played Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne (gosh, what a game that was), you'll remember the Tomb of Sargeras as the location in which Gul'dan was lured, before being murdered by some demons and having his skull turned into a magical artifact.
Sargeras himself is thought to be one of Warcraft's most powerful villains, having formed The Burning Legion in an effort to destroy, well, everything. He's done an alright job at that so far, although Azeroth remains the world he's yet to conquer.
World of Warcraft WoW Tokens can now be redeemed for a brand new currency called Battle.net Balance, which can be spent in other Blizzard games. You can use your Battle.net Balance to buy a loot box in Overwatch, for example - it's already one of the drop-down payment options.
For years, World of Warcraft players have wondered whether the gargantuan MMO houses a secret Cow Level, despite Blizzard insisting THERE IS NO COW LEVEL. Well, now there is.
If you've played World of Warcraft, there's a sound effect that'll forever be embedded in your brain. A wooshing noise that triggers an immediate fight-or-flight response as you scan your screen for the stealthed rogue or druid that's about to ruin your day. It's a fantastic tell. It was also, it turns out, a mistake.
The famed Nostalrius vanilla World of Warcraft private servers will return, resurrected by Elysium, on Saturday 17th December.
The return follows successful stress tests that peaked this past weekend with more than 10,000 concurrent players - far in excess of anything official WoW servers offer.
Remember Tarren Mill battles in vanilla WoW? The following screenshot was taken from the recent Nostalrius stress test.
After 23 years at Blizzard, we were all a little surprised to hear that Chris Metzen had actually retired.
The Nostalrius team has thrown down the gauntlet and the Nostalrius vanilla World of Warcraft experience will return - with or without Blizzard's help or permission. But not in name; Nostalrius cannot be Nostalrius for legal reasons, so it will be resurrected as part of the unofficial WoW Elysium project. The Nostalrius database, with saved character data, may even be carried across. There's no timeline but the suggestion is that work will start straight away.
As Eurogamer's Oli Welsh explained back in September, World of Warcraft: Legion had an incredible launch. Artifact weapons, class halls, loads and loads of demons - it had it all.
Imagine if they don't actually reveal Sombra.
This year's Blizzcon schedule has been revealed, giving us some idea of what to expect from Blizzard's big ol' knees up come the start of next month.
Alright, Donlan's not in today, so I'm writing the bit that goes along with this podcast. Incredibly, he's gone to Disneyland for the week, as that's the sort of ridiculous, whimsical life he leads.
It's been a long journey for World of Warcraft, and it's been a long journey for me with it. I've played it more than any other game, and loved it just as much. Yet for most of that time, I've been what the WOW community would term a casual. I dip in and out, questing mostly, solo or with a friend, working on crafting, running the odd dungeon, not really raiding any more. I have a fling with every new expansion and then move on, sometimes returning mid-season for a few weeks of idle comfort gaming when I'm bored.
Chris Metzen is retiring. He's leaving Blizzard Entertainment after more than 20 years' service. He, the overseer of story at arguably the world's most successful game maker. He, the earring-wearing cool guy on the BlizzCon stage. He, the voice of Thrall. Retiring. And he's only 42.
I had absolutely no idea Blizzard made a Warcraft adventure game called Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans. Then again, it is 18 years old - and it was never released.
World of Warcraft: Legion sales are in and the sixth expansion has done well - really well.
Day-one sales were 3.3m, announced Blizzard, which matches what expansions Warlords of Draenor and Cataclysm achieved on their debuts.
What's more, the amount of players playing WOW together during Legion launch week rose to its highest point since the launch of Cataclysm all those years ago. Life in the old dog yet, eh?
UPDATE: More World of Warcraft: Legion secret-finding success! The epic mount The Reins of the Long-Forgotten Hippogryph has been found. This is the mount people were trying to find when they inadvertently worked out how to summon Kosumoth the Hungering.
Happy World of Warcraft: Legion expansion launch day! The race to the new level cap of 110 is - oh, over already.
I've never played World of Warcraft - well, except that one time - but even I am painfully aware of how significant and divisive each new expansion can be.
World of Warcraft has also been going for a long time - its audience has changed a lot over the years, so how exactly does one go about adapting the game to keep up with those people? That's the very thing Chris Bratt (who, thankfully, has played a lot of WoW) put to game director Tom Chilton when they spoke last week at Gamescom.
That shirt though, my goodness. Anyway, give the video above a watch to hear Tom's thoughts on pre-expansion events, story changes and World of Warcraft's design ethos.
Ahead of this month's Legion expansion launch, World of Warcraft is being hit by a huge demon invasion.
Destiny was once described as a cross between a traditional first-person shooter such as Halo, and a massively multiplayer online role-playing game such as World of Warcraft. Destiny didn't quite turn out that way, but after the game came out it was clear many of the developers at Bungie were fans of Blizzard's MMO.
To commemorate its 25th anniversary Blizzard Entertainment has erected a statue of World of Warcraft villain Lich King Arthas Menethil in Taiwan.
The Warcraft movie hasn't Thralled critics but it's doing the business globally - and director Duncan Jones is up for a sequel if it comes to it.
Globally the Warcraft movie has made $377.6m, reported Box Office Mojo, and more than $200m of that in China. That makes Warcraft the most commercially successful video-game film ever, beating previous champion Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ($336m), which starred Jake Gyllenhaal's muscular torso.
The Angry Birds film, meanwhile - which I've watched and it isn't great - has made $327m.
When it comes to video games, World of Warcraft is probably my biggest cultural blind spot. I'm aware of how significant Blizzard's MMO is and how much it's impacted lives across the world (who isn't) but beyond that, I'm a babe lost in the woods.
This whole Nostalrius business has been remarkable. Who would have thought a team behind a private/pirate World of Warcraft server - depending on how you look at it - would one day be invited to Blizzard for a meeting that included Mike Morhaime (CEO), J. Allen Brack (WOW executive producer), Tom Chilton (game director), Ion Hazzikostas (assistant game director) and Marco Koegler (technical director)?
The Duncan Jones Warcraft movie may be on course to flop in America (where it opens 10th June) but in China it's bigger than Star Wars: The Force Awakens - it's massive! Perhaps we'll see sequels after all.
The world's most successful MMO is still rolling, and this year it's getting its first expansion since 2014's Warlords of Draenor. World of Warcraft: Legion adds a new area, the Broken Isles, along with a stack of updates and an increase in the level cap from 100 to 110.
If you left back when mounts were considered high end, you'll be welcomed back with a boost to level 100 for one character, enabling you to beat down formerly resilient Murloc chieftains like getting glorious vengeance on a school bully.
As is its wont, Blizzard is running a beta ahead of the game's release in August, and we've got 1000 keys to give away. We're expecting these to be quite popular, so we're doing a random draw rather than first-come-first served. To be in with a chance of winning, simply pick an entry method from the widget below.
In discussing a World of Warcraft: Legion spider mount that costs a whopping 2m gold, assistant game director Ion Hazzikostas gave a glimpse behind the curtain at what it takes to keep millions of players happy.
The Warcraft movie recreates a number of locations from the game upon which it is based, including, wait for it, Goldshire Inn!
There was a to-do recently when Blizzard lawyers forced the World of Warcraft Nostalrius servers to close. They were pirate/private servers not allowed by Blizzard so they didn't have a wooden leg to stand on, yet they offered something Blizzard does not: a vanilla (pre-expansions) version of World of Warcraft for people to play. And they were popular - home to an active community of thousands of people.
World of Warcraft's sixth expansion, Legion, is set to launch on 30th August, Blizzard has announced.
Players can pre-order Legion and receive an instant level-100 character boost, along with early access to the new Demon Hunter class. Though the timing for when this upcoming class will be unlockable has yet to be announced, and it will require a level 70 character.
The Standard Edition of Legion goes for £34.99, while the Digital Deluxe Edition costs £49.99 and includes an Illidari Felstalker mount and pet for World of Warcraft, a Felstalker mount for Heroes of the Storm, a helm transmog and wings for Diablo 3, and a pair of fel-infused StarCraft 2 portraits.
Blizzard game servers were overloaded and brought down by a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack overnight that hacker group Lizard Squad appears to have claimed responsibility for.
Is World of Warcraft taking a leaf out of Call of Duty's book all these years after that multiplayer shooting craze began? Blizzard has just announced plans for a fundamental overhaul to player-versus-player combat for expansion World of Warcraft: Legion, which arrives on or before 21st September 2016. The plans include changing completely how PVP will reward you for playing, as well as the surprise intention - for a game based so heavily around the concept of 'better gear' - of making everyone's statistics the same for battles, regardless of equipment (although there a few exceptions - see below).
Demon hunters seem pretty great. Having mucked around with World of Warcraft's second hero class at this year's BlizzCon, I came away impressed by the sheer amount of mobility they're set to offer. We're talking double jumps, dashes and the ability to glide through the air using a pair of big ol' demon wings that sprout from your character's back. Being primarily a Player vs. Player kind of... player, this all sounds like good stuff, but unfortunately I'm just not really that into elves.
Blizzard just set live the first trailer for the Warcraft movie, due out summer 2016.
The trailer, below, shows humans and orcs fighting in all their CGI glory.
To coincide with the release of the trailer, we just published a feature on the Warcraft movie, based on a trip to the set. Go check it out!
UPDATE 06/11/2015 8:19pm: World of Warcraft: Legion is confirmed for a summer release.
Blizzard made the announcement during its BlizzCon keynote where it premiered the following cinematic trailer for the upcoming WoW expansion:
Pre-orders for World of Warcraft: Legion are available now on Battle.net.
Overwatch on console! New Hearthstone Adventure! Warcraft movie trailer debut! No Diablo. Sad face.
World of Warcraft subscriber numbers have been falling for years. The online game's real high-point was 12 million subscribers as third expansion Cataclysm launched in the autumn of 2010 - five years ago - and since then numbers have steadily fallen.
It's alarming how swiftly Gamescom came and went this year. It feels like we only just shipped Ian and Chris out to Cologne and yet, by the time this article goes live, they'll already be home.
Anyway, that's quite enough pondering over the linear passage of time. In this episode we run through the most interesting bits of news to emerge from Gamescom, Ian sticks his face in Homefront the Revolution - quite literally - and Chris throws himself into a crowd of rampant Blizzard fans at the very moment World of Warcraft Legion gets announced. Meanwhile, in Brighton, Aoife and I sulk like the mature adults we are.
It's easy to take for granted what an extraordinary body of work Blizzard's Battle.net game launcher represents. By any measure of quality, profitability and breadth of creativity, Blizzard has everything most publishers could ever dream of - and yet it's never looked more vulnerable when measured against the standards of its own achievements.
StarCraft's eSports crown has long sat on another's head, while Heroes of the Storm has yet to penetrate the public consciousness in the same way that Hearthstone has managed to, and to such a remarkable degree. Hearthstone! Even this seemingly unstoppable rising star of the Blizzard family has yet to prove its longevity at a publisher where the value of franchises is measured in decades, rather than years.
What did yesterday's reveal of the Legion expansion do to bolster the foundations of World of Warcraft, the game that remains the jewel in Blizzard's crown, yet continues to suffer a slide in subscribers? Part necessary summarising of a knotted ball of unfinished business, part name-dropping fan-service, the positioning of WOW's sixth expansion felt, in truth, like a bit of a mess at first.
Wilkommen to our third and final Gamescom update. The show's going to continue over the weekend, but the business folks are packing up and fleeing, leaving the vast showfloor to the general public to drift between heaving booth demos, like Dead Rising but with more Final Fantasy cosplayers.