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Monday, October 24, 2011

Traversing the Mist: New Additions from Pandaria

The next World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria, was unveiled during Blizzcon this past weekend. Now that Blizzcon has ended and we have reached the eye of the new information storm I wanted to take the time to reflect on the addition of a new land and the people and places we can expect to find there.

New Race: Pandaren -

The introduction of a neutral race to the world of Azeroth puts a compelling twist on the two factions we all know and love (or love to hate). The Pandaren were originally introduced to the Blizzard family of games in Warcraft III as an April Fool's joke. However, the community was so intrigued by the idea of the Pandaren race and culture that they were later added to the Warcraft game. While many players feel that the addition of Pandaren to World of Warcraft goes against current WoW lore, their lack of previous storyline means that Blizzard development is in the position to create new and captivating lore for this race to drive the expansion as it is created. Due to this "on the spot" lore creation I believe we can expect to see very rich and expansive story lines revolving around the Pandaren and their culture.

New Class: Monk -

Creating a new class and integrating it into a game that is now almost 7 years old is surely no easy task. Combine that with the fact that this new class will be a hybrid with the ability to tank (Brewmaster), melee dps (Windwalker), and heal (Mistweaver) and you could easily run in to some nightmarish balancing issues. However, I believe the introduction of a new class that can tank and heal could go a long way towards balancing out the current tank and healer shortages. After taking a first look at the Monk game play and considering the use of Chi along with Light and Dark Power as a resource system the class appears to provide an interesting new challenge to players who may be looking to try out a different play style. This new challenge combined with the ability to easily switch roles will likely make the class a big hit from launch.

New Zones -

One panel during Blizzcon managed to go beyond providing exciting new information by giving us a jaw dropping look at the work that the art team has done to fully develop Pandaria and the new zone set being released with this expansion. Inspired by Asian architecture and culture these new zones combine lush farmland with dense forests and detailed structures that are unlike anything we have ever seen in Azeroth. This incredible level of detailing can be seen in the Pandaren starting zone (which resides on the back of a giant turtle) along with the two previewed expansion zones Valley of the Four Winds and The Jade Forest. The design of these zones and the views given of them make me almost appreciative of the fact that we won't be able to fly until max level forcing players to really take in their surroundings.

New Dungeons and Raids -

Looking at the Brewery and Shadow-Pan Monastery you find massive buildings that will be represented at a one to one ratio in the actual zone allowing the development team to create quest hubs out of the dungeons themselves in a non-instanced version. This represents one of the few times in WoW where you will be able to almost fully explore an entire dungeon without ever entering an instance portal. Integrating the instances into the zones in this manner will provide a much more cohesive progression between questing and instancing during the leveling process so that it doesn't feel like you are being removed from Pandaria by joining a group.

Blizzard also announced that they have designed three raids for Mists of Pandaria and gave a preview of the six boss zone Mogu’Shan Palace. This raid is located in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and will be inhabited by the Mogu who resemble the Chinese guardian lions. While only a small amount of information has been released about the other two raid zones the Mantid (insect-like creatures) and Sha (manifestations of negative energy) will both pose as formidable opponents with captivating direction.

Though some may be wishing we could turn our ships around I am ecstatic to be sailing towards the Mists of Pandaria waiting for this new land to unveil itself.

Blizzard has outdone themselves by creating a place of wonder and adventure that will breathe new life into the world of Azeroth and bring new and old players together to experience a level of immersion that the MMORPG genre has never seen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

First Hints at Monk Healing Style

Today during the Class, Item, and Professions Q&A session we got the first hints at the new Monk class' healing style. Rather than targeted direct or raid wide healing the Mistweaver Monk is being designed to provide proximity heals with their ability toolkit using a mana resource, some of which will be based on the Monk's damaging attacks.

To get a preview of these abilities we can take a look at the one healing ability listed on the official Mists of Pandaria website:

Statue of the Jade Serpent: (5 second cast)
Summon a statue at the target location. Anytime you deal damage, a nearby friendly target within 20 yards of the statue will be healed. You can have up to 3 Jade Dragon Statues active at a time.

As the first ability released for this new healer, it definitely has a lot of promise. Combining these static heal locations with the mentioned single target heals based on proximity to the Monk and the intent of having Monks be incredibly mobile a mental image starts to appear of a creative mesh between the available damage of a Disc Priest, the direct heals of a Paladin, and the mobility of a Druid. This will allow Mistweaver Monks to create and conquer a very specific niche in the healing role.

Using the Mistweaver specialization Monks will need to maintain constant focus balancing the use of the Jab and Roll abilities to convert Chi into Light Power and then using that Light Power as it builds up to unleash powerful ancient remedies. In addition, Monks will have to be constantly aware of their positioning near the boss and the positioning of their statues near those who may become injured. This will be a complex and challenging task, but also sounds like an incredibly rewarding play style for those able to master the balance of the Monk role.

Looking forward, we can expect to get a much better picture of the vision the development team has for this class as we near closer to the launch of the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Be sure to stay tuned for future discussion and theory crafting.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Day One - Monk Class Information

- New playable race that can be Alliance or Horde.
- At level 10 you will choose your character's faction.

- Gourmand - Cooking skill increased by 15.
- Bouncy - You take 50% less falling damage.
- Epicurean - Increase the stat benefits from food by 100%
- Inner Peace - Your rested experience bonus lasts twice as long.
- Quaking Palm - You touch a secret pressure point on an enemy target, putting it to sleep for 3 sec.

Monk Class:
- Tank Specialization: Brewmaster
- Melee Specialization: Windwalker
- Healing Specialization: Mistweaver
- Monks is NOT a hero class and will start at level 1.
- Monks can be any race except Goblin and Worgen.
- Monks will have special animations and stances for each specialization.

Monk Equipment:
- Leather Armor (Agility or Intellect)
- They will mostly attack with hands and feet.
- Weapons will also be needed for some finishers.
- Will also be able to use 1h Axes, Maces, and Swords.
- Healers will use off-hand weapons rather than shields.

Monk Resources:
- No auto attack! Devs want Monks to have a street fighter feel.
- Chi (energy) slowly generates and is only used to for the Jab and Roll abilities.
- Jab will generate Light and Dark force used for other abilities. Some finishing moves will require light and others will require dark.

Welcome to Channeling the Mist

Let me start off with an introduction... my name is Secretbrew and with the release of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, I will be rerolling a Pandaren Mistweaver Monk.

I started playing World of Warcraft during The Burning Crusade as an Affliction Warlock. While I enjoyed the complexity of Affliction DPS, I always felt like I didn't have my fingers on the pulse of the raid. Wanting to be a bigger part of the raid group and have more control over our ability to progress through a raid instance I switched to a Resto Druid during the beginning of the Ulduar content patch in Wrath of the Lich King. Now, with the upcoming release of the Mists of Pandaria I am ready to take on a brand new adventure.

Launching an adventure into the mysteries and complexities of a brand new class is exciting in itself, but adding fuel to the fire is the fact that I have the chance to chronicle these adventures from the first day the class was announced at Blizzcon 2011. Channeling the Mist: from a Mistweaver Monk perspective is my way of recording these adventures and bringing anyone who would like to accompany me along.

So whether you are excited about Mists of Pandaria, Pandaren, the Monk class, or the Mistweaver specialization pull up a browser tab and catch a ride.