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Blizzard Spills Details on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

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News Posted: Sun, Aug 23 2009 4:07 PM

Blizzard has finally lifted on the veil on the upcoming World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and the official information generally confirms and fleshes out the sneak preview from last week. The new expansion will feature the corrupted black dragon Deathwing as its principle villain. Once thought buried in the depths below the fortress of Grim Batol, Deathwing has actually spent years within the earthen Elemental Plane, Deepholm. The Cataclysm itself is caused by Deathwing's ascent and erruption into Azeroth; an event that will create what Blizzard describes as a "festering wound across the continents. The fallen Highborne Queen, Azshara, will also play a role in the new expansion, but Blizzard hasn't revealed if she's an ally of Deathwing, a foe, or an opportunist making her own play for power in the wake of the chaos that engulfs Azeroth.


Worgen from the Grizzly Hills as they currently appear in-game.


A Worgen character standing in a Gilnean town. Note the improved detailing around the head, ears, hair, and muzzle.

The new races—Goblins for the Horde and Worgen for the Alliance—have been confirmed, and Blizzard has released in-game footage of both Gilneas and Kezan. Goblins can be any class save for Paladin or Druid, while Worgen may be any class except for Paladin or Shaman.


Both races have a powerful set of racial abilities; Blizzard intends to buff existing racial benefits to equal the new races. Players will also finally be able to use flying mounts in Azeroth; a fact which will undoubtedly require certain changes to "classic" WoW's zone sizes.


Goblins. Now available in Priest, Mage, and Warlock flavor...


as well as warriors, shaman, and a bevy of other classes not shown here.

In the original game, early and mid-level zones were designed to be traversed on foot and were therefore sized appropriately. Mounts weren't available until a character reached level 40, and while a number of classes have skills that can slightly improve movement speed, earning enough cash and experience to buy a mount made a huge difference in how long it took to get from Point A to Point B in a zone like Stranglethorn Vale. The cost of various mounts has been dramatically reduced as well; and epic riding mounts (+100% movement speed) are now available at level 40 for a total cost of 50g, where they once became available at level 60 for 1,000 gold. Once Cataclysm launches, players will arrive in Azeroth with flying mounts that move at 150% to 280% of base running speed. The only way to prevent Azeroth from feeling like a continent in miniature is to increase the size of existing zones, and the massive changes wrought by the cataclysm gives the game developers the opportunity to do so.

Phased content will play a greater role in Cataclysm than in Wrath of the Lich King, though my supposition that Blizzard might use phased content to allow new players to experience the "original" Azeroth is incorrect. It is now possible for Blizzard to phase terrain as well as in-game models and effects, however, which should greatly enhance the degree of change as player's complete quests and finish content. Because Blizzard intends to significantly alter the geography and content of a number of zones, new characters rolled post-Cataclysm should feel new even to players who've done the leveling game a time or ten. According to the Cataclysm
FAQ, this is a deliberate decision on Blizzard's part meant to keep the leveling aspect of the game fresh. "Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms are central to World of Warcraft lore, and we want those areas to remain an important part of the game, not just a place to train or auction. Our goal is to make questing, leveling, and the overall story more fun for new, returning, and existing players. By redesigning areas of the original continents and introducing new content that matches or exceeds the quality of Wrath of the Lich King, we can revitalize the nostalgia and coolness of Azeroth."


Rain pooling on the street.


This is a magnification of the area below the right-hand lamp. The bricks remain visible under varying amounts of water.

The game engine will also be "incrementally" improved; the changes can already be seen in some of the posted screenshots. In the image above the rain falling on the Gilnean town has puddled in the street, but the bricks are still visible below the rain puddles. Water in WoW is already translucent to some effect, but if you check the Goblin screenshots (or Blizzard's video), the water is much clearer and ripples more realistically.

The Implications of the Overhaul
Cataclysm is shaping up as a fundamentally different expansion than either The Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King. Building entirely new content for high-level players is one thing, but revamping the entire leveling experience and designing new quests, lore, and backstory is another. The ability to completely phase content, including terrain changes, gives Blizzard the further option of rebuilding old quests the way they might've liked to have done them the first time. Hopefully, WoW's developers will use this opportunity to improve and extend WoW's storyline from level one to level 80. Frankly, it'd be nice to have a dragon-focused storyline that wasn't a complete murk—the plotline in Wrath of the Lich King that dealt with the blue dragon Malygos's insanity felt distinctly tacked-on, particularly compared to the well-executed, Arthas-centric plotline. One of the major differences between Cataclysm and its predecessors is that players who don't purchase the expansion will still have access to a significant percentage of the new quests, storylines, and changes. Even players who have never purchased a WoW expansion (and they do exist), will be transitioned to the "new" Azeroth as opposed to being locked away in a deprecated version of the game.

Information on specific changes to classes, game mechanics, and PvP/PvE content can be found at
MMO-Champion. If you'd like to read through the information Blizzard provided at the various dev panels this year, the topics are: Dungeons & Raids, Game Mechanics, Classes, Items, and Professions, and Cataclysm itself. The official Blizzard Cataclysm trailer is available on YouTube. Bon appetit!
 

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ClemSnide replied on Mon, Aug 24 2009 1:44 PM

Very cool news! But why did we get the Wolvar (or Worgen, whatever)? I mean, Goblins are everywhere, but players kill a bunch of Worgen at level 20 and then don't think about them ever again.

Excpet a lot of whingeing on specific aspects-- I'm guessing that "only" having 5 more levels to work within will annoy some-- but all in all Cataclysm looks like it'll be a winner. I just hope they expand bag space for all the cool things we're going to get in the introduction event, and expand the number of charas per server so we can get those new races into a full roster!


"I didn't cry when Bambi's mother was shot... but I cried when HAL was turned off."

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replied on Mon, Aug 24 2009 5:07 PM

Wow, most impressive. I think this is going to be a real winner!

RT

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Joel H replied on Mon, Aug 24 2009 6:11 PM

Clem,

Worgen played a significant role in both Shadowpine and Duskwood, particularly since Duskwood was attacked by the Dark Riders of Deadwood Pass. This group is seeking the Scythe of Elune, which allows the wielder to summon Worgen from their home plane/dimension. Cursed worgen (ie, PCs) are normal people who were transformed by these trans-dimensional worgen.

It's not clear how the Worgen got into Gilneas.

Wolvar and Worgen are *not* related. WoWWiki refers to the Wolvar as a primitive race of wolverine-people, presumably they evolved in Northrend the same way Tauren (cow-people) and Tuskar (Walrus-people who look like Dr. Phil) did.

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ClemSnide replied on Mon, Aug 24 2009 7:09 PM

Joel-- I'm guessing you're going to be camping out at your local GameStop just so you can play a Worgen! ,) Well, me too. It's just that they seem such a minor part of the Azeroth experience, encountered early in your own explorations and forgotten later. (And thanks, I didn't know that the Wolvar were wolverine anthropomorphs; the difference isn't great when you look at them.)

See, Goblins are so ubiquitous that it's like the Horde got the better of the deal. I had hoped they would save the Goblins for something more special and cool than just another playable aligned race. Aren't the mercenary Gobs the very definition of neutrals?

And why not Ogres? That at least would give Orcs something to feel superior to.


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ok it's interesting, alot of the beginning was a bit jargony for someone who's never played the actual storylines through. One thing I didn't understand is the water rain puddle effect procedurally done or is just statically programmmed? Do they puddles appear randomally or is it always going to be under the light post?

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Joel H replied on Wed, Aug 26 2009 1:26 PM

Clem,

Who camps out at GameStop when you can order from Amazon? :P

Ogres would be relatively limited as a player class. According to sources, ogres are typically warriors, mages, shaman, and priests. That's not a ton to build a race around and I frankly can't imagine wanting to run around as a fat idiot. :P

I think you're correct about the relatively limited role Worgen played in classic WoW, but they did have a quest chain and story all their own in the Grizzly Hills. Look at it this way--the Draenei appeared in the Warcraft 3 expansion (which a big chunk of WoW players probably didn't play), and were represented in classic WoW by one tiny encampment in the Swamp of Sorrows and one nutty NPC wandering around in the Blasted Lands.

Just as TBC focused on Draenei and vastly expanded their role/lore, it's a good bet that Cataclysm will do the same for worgen and goblins. Yes, goblins are found all around Azeroth, but how much have we actually known about them based on in-game quests? Every goblin quest I'm aware of involves rescuing someone or retrieving Item X for Fun & Profit. They're common, but they haven't been deep.

BurgendyBlues,

All of what I'm about to say is based on impression; I don't have hard facts on this:

Based on what I've seen from Blizzard's ambient weather system, I'm virtually certain such puddles are statically programmed to appear. They don't appear everywhere, and I can't say I've ever repeatedly noticed that one particular puddle *always* appears when it rains, so it's possible that the game engine randomly selects which pools are rendered from a large group.

Weather effects occur independently from terrain. Deserts can have sandstorms, for example, but those sandstorms don't deform the terrain in any way or create new dunes. It seems unlikely that Cataclysm will fundamentally change this, as it would require a fundamental overhaul of the way terrain is handled by the game (and would necessitate a full review of *all* content.)

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ClemSnide replied on Fri, Sep 11 2009 6:56 AM

@Joel H-- Based on Dalaran chatter, I sometimes imagine that half the players of WoW are fat idiots. Making them Ogres would just be playing to type.

Y'know, I just came up with that off the cuff as an insult to Orcs (not that there is any lack of insulting things to mention about Orcs, but you want to stay current); but the more I think about it the more I like it. Two heads are better than one! And four classes are what Gnomes and Tauren get, so it's not unprecedented, though they ought to throw in Ogre Paladins as a joke. The residents of Ogri'la might like that.

Yes! I will campaign to make Ogres the next playable race! And after that, Viscous Oil!


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