Cataclysm

Last
week Blizzard Entertainment invited members of the press to visit
their offices and get the latest details on what awaits players in the
upcoming href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/cataclysm">Cataclysm
expansion for href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow">World
of Warcraft
.
In this first of a
two part look at the radically revamped Azeroth, we’ll give
you an overview of some of the upcoming gameplay improvements,
enhancements and additions. So if you’re interested in
learning the latest details on the fate of Path of the Titans,
improvements to Glyphs, the resurgence of Battlegrounds and some
interesting new information on guilds and raids, then you’ve
come to the right place!

U.I.
Changes and Improvements

With Cataclysm, Blizzard
decided to not only change the look and feel
of old world Azeroth, but to revisit the game’s U.I. as well.
At the recent press event at the Blizzard HQ, Ten Ton Hammer was given
an overview of a number of these changes and the impact that will
ultimately have on gameplay, the details of which can be found below.

On-Screen Announcements

A new on-screen alert system
has been added to inform players of
significant
events directly related to their characters. For example,
when gaining a level you will not only get an alert telling you so, but
also some of the details as to what that means for your advancement. So
things like new spells or abilities that become available at your new
level will be shown, alerting you as to whether or not it’s
worth it to make a trip to visit the nearest class trainers. Other
announcements might include alerting you to new glyphs that might have
become unlocked for your character.

While a seemingly simple
addition, these prompts will no doubt save
players a lot of time digging around for information pertaining to
their class to see if their new level has any cool new things
associated with it that need to be tracked down. From what we were
shown, these announcements are more than a simple boring text display,
but rather have a very slick graphical appearance when they pop up
towards the top of your screen.

The Spellbook

The spellbook has been
completely redesigned and will now include
listings for any new spells or skills that you may be eligible to train
but haven’t learned as of yet. The window has also been made
slightly wider, no doubt to help make room for the graphical elements
associated with the listings prompting you to seek out your trainer.

Professions

Another U.I. element
that’s finally been given a much needed
overhaul, the professions page not only looks a lot slicker overall,
but also helps give players more information at a glance about both
their primary and secondary professions.

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Glyphs,
Inscription and Path of the Titans

One of the major things
revealed at the event is that Path of the
Titans which was originally intended to tie into the glyph system has
been completely removed. While it may eventually be added, it
unfortunately won’t be making it in for the initial Cataclysm
launch.

Lead Systems Designer Greg
Street explained the decision to drop Paths
in more detail, offering an interesting glimpse into the Blizzard
design process:

As we were working on
Paths, we started to feel like the feature was
getting pretty complicated. This is a game that’s been going
on for several years now, so there’s a lot going on
particularly for new players who are just joining World of Warcraft. So
we looked at how we could simplify Paths and we ended up simplifying it
so much that we weren’t sure we were really getting the bang
for our buck anymore of having to teach players an entirely new feature
for the game.



It ended up feeling like an update to the Glyph system. We sat back and
said you know, Inscription never really delivered on our initial
promise of changing the way our play or giving you another way to
customize your character. So we decided instead we would focus more on
making Glyphs as cool as we originally wanted them to be.



We still like the Paths idea. We particularly like the lore hit with
the Titans and it’s something we might pick up again in the
future, but for now it’s out of Cataclysm.


Inscription has indeed already
undergone some fairly interesting
changes as a result of moving away from the Paths idea. One of the
biggest changes is that glyphs will now have three categories rather
than just Major and Minor. This new intermediary level (currently
called ‘medium’ which will no doubt change between
now and launch) will essentially help give players a lot more
flexibility in terms of which glyphs they choose rather than there
being 2 or 3 awesome glyphs that everyone from a given class uses.

Major glyphs will still focus
primarily on core rotational abilities,
while the new intermediary level might give you something like a Glyph
of Ice Block. In other words, they’ll augment abilities not
necessarily considered to be “core” to your class
in terms of DPS or healing, but will still provide a much broader means
of customizing which of your skills you want to add additional benefits
or effects to.

They glyphs U.I. has also seen
some much needed improvements in terms
of the information given to players. Currently, the only way to know
which glyphs your class has available is to either search the auction
house or exit the game to find the information on the web. In
Cataclysm, glyphs will all be listed directly within the U.I. for your
current class, removing a lot of the guesswork from the process of
figuring the system out.

A last interesting thing of
note here is that, if they can pull it off,
Blizzard would like to even change glyphs from being a consumable into
something permanent. So once you learn a glyph, your character will
always have access to it without having to purchase another consumable
copy. It sounds as though this is still being worked on, but if it
makes it in for launch this could add a much needed means of making it
easier to switch between builds on the fly.

Archeology

For the lore conscious among
you, the Archeology system seems to be
shaping up quite well so far. The version we were shown was still a
work in progress, but as with many of the other redesigned U.I.
elements listed above, the interface is extremely slick with a strong
focus of presenting more, and better information in an easy to
understand manner.

There are two types of
artifacts that can be found in Archeology, with
the entire system intended to be another means of giving characters an
opportunity to learn more of the lore in the game beyond
what’s found in quest text, shown in cutscenes, or read in
the numerous books scattered throughout the world.

As you find fragments from a
particular race,
you’ll be able to assemble them into a Common Artifact. A
nice thing to note here is that the items themselves will be stored
within the Archeology Journal rather than taking up standard inventory
space, so you’ll never have to worry about how
you’re going to juggle picking up another secondary
profession from an inventory management perspective.

There will also be Rare
Artifacts that can be assembled which will
actually produce usable items for your character. Most will be
cosmetic, though there will also be a number of character enhancing
items in the mix as well. On the whole though, the new secondary
profession is really geared towards more casual players or those who
genuinely enjoy the exploration and lore aspects of the game.

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PvP
Changes and Improvements

A subject very near and dear to
me as a very PvP-centric player, the proposed changes to PvP sound
as though they’ll greatly rejuvenate interest in
Battlegrounds. While some of these improvements have previously been
revealed, here is a quick rundown of some of the important things to
know about Blizzard’s plans for making BG’s the
place to be in Cataclysm.

Two new Battlegrounds are being
added, including the recently revealed
Twin Peaks CTF map. While similar to WSG in certain aspects, on the
whole Twin Peaks also improves upon the same concept in a number of
meaningful ways. For example each faction will have two separate
graveyards to prevent spawn camping, one placed near the entrance to
each base and the other closer to mid-field. Players will respawn at
the graveyard closest to where they die, so that will also mean much a
much shorter run upon rezzing to get back into the action.

Also of note, Twin Peaks will
be on a timer with the team capturing the
most flags before the match is over being declared the winner. This is
another welcome improvement as it will help prevent the incredibly
annoying turtling that some matches can devolve into.

From what we were shown, the
Twin Peaks map is also designed to offer a
slightly different flow of battle than what’s found in WSG.
For example, the mid-field area is a bit longer with more objects
strategically placed to help players break line of sight. The secondary
entrance to each base is also a much more direct path which will no
doubt require teams to actually bother keeping a certain amount of
people in their flag rooms to defend.

Some of the other upcoming
changes to PvP include:

  • Conquest Points will be a
    shared resource between rated Arena and
    Battleground matches. This will ultimately mean that you’ll
    no longer be required to participate in arenas to get the best PvP
    gear, which is a very, very welcome change in my books.

  • While teams entering rated
    BGs won’t need to be a set group
    the way they are in arenas, you will still need to enter as a preformed
    group similar to dungeons or raids.

  • Each week, the rated BGs
    will rotate between different team sizes,
    insuring that 10, 15, and 25 person maps all see increased
    participation.


There will be a weekly limit to
the number of Conquest Points a player
can earn each week, similar to how raid emblems function currently.
This is to help prevent players from simply playing BGs 24/7 and
getting a full set of high end gear in too short a period of time.
It’s also important to note here that since Conquest Points
will be a shared resource gained through both Arenas and BGs, this
weekly limit affects both gameplay types rather than there being a set
amount for either individually. Ultimately this should offer players
much more flexibility in terms of which type of PvP they’d
want to pursue to obtain Conquest from week to week.

As mentioned above, Arena and
BG rewards will all be the same now. This
is a very welcome change in my book, as the two styles of PvP are so
radically different that someone who likes one may genuinely dislike
the other. So you can spend 10x the amount of time in BGs currently yet
still have an incredibly difficult time achieving the same level of
gear that you can obtain in arenas in a fraction of the time.

Currently existing BGs will not
be seeing any kind of redesigns
unfortunately, though thanks to the rotations of rated BGs from week to
week they should still see a much higher degree of participation which
will likely be at the very least on par with the queue times
experienced during the current bonus weekends.

On the whole, players will
typically never lose rating points until
they reach the upper limits of the rating system. So unlike the old
Honor system where you were constantly fighting against honor decay as
well as risking loss of honor when your team lost a match, you
generally won’t lose rating points in the new rated BGs even
if your team is defeated.

The
New Raid Philosophy

We were also given some
insights as to some of the changes coming for
raids in Cataclysm. As revealed previously, raiding in 10 and 25 person
instances will now offer the exact same rewards, with the biggest
difference now being that the difficulty of raids between group sizes
will also be adjusted accordingly to account for offering the same
rewards. Of course, to help account for the larger group size, 25
person raids will gain about 50% more emblems per boss than a 10 person
raid tackling the same content.

However, one interesting thing
discussed is that 25 person raids will
now have the option to split into multiple 10 person raid groups at any
point each week if they so choose to. So for example, if your guild
begins raiding a dungeon early in the week but then on the following
nights you aren’t able to get all 25 people online at once,
you can opt to split into 10 person groups and continue the same raid
where you left off as 25 players. This shift in raid size will only be
possible in one direction though. In other words, you won’t
be able to join two 10 person raid groups into a larger group.

The other major new aspect of
raiding in Cataclysm is the ways in which
players will be able to move from one raid lock to another. As Greg
Street explained it:

As a lot of you are
probably aware, in today’s raiding if you
were to go to Ice Crown Citadel with one raid and you were to kill
Marrowgar you are now locked to that raid. And unless you go into that
raid ID and continue from there, that’s all you’re
getting for the week.



In Cataclysm, what we’re going to allow you to do is join any
other raid as long as you haven’t killed any bosses that raid
hasn’t already killed. So for example, if I go and kill
Marrowgar one week and then I’m done for whatever reason, the
next day I could log in and join a completely different raid that has
at least gotten to Marrowgar or farther.


One question raised was whether
or not this could eventually evolve
into cross-realm raids similar to the current implementation of the
dungeon finder, but it doesn’t sound as though there are any
plans to implement something of that sort at this time. Still, the
combination of being able to split raids into smaller groups or join
another raid that’s gotten at least to the same boss or
further each week should greatly expand the flexibility of raiders in
the expansion.

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New
Guild Features

Last but certainly not least,
we were given a closer look at some of
the new tools and features that guilds will be able to enjoy in
Cataclysm. Along with the new elements, we also learned that the idea
of guild currency has been dropped in favor or having guild
achievements unlock various rewards that members will be able to
purchase with gold.

The new guild U.I. is still
fairly compact, though it certainly
contains a lot of information in a deceptively small package. The main
window will list important announcements such as members gaining new
levels, raid bosses defeated or even guild achievements which have been
completed. An interesting thing of note here is that these
announcements can be stickied, so even if you’re unable to
log in for a few days you can still keep up with the biggest guild
happenings.

Guilds will be able to level
from 1 to 25, with each new level granting
the guild a new perk. So rather than the previously announced talent
system, these perks will be an automatic unlock upon gaining guild
levels. Part of the reasoning behind this switch is simply due to the
former guild talents system putting too much control over guild
benefits into the hands of one person, the guild leader. The most
recently unlocked perk will be shown at the bottom of the guild U.I.,
along with an icon and description for the next available perk that can
be unlocked, so now everyone in the guild can know exactly where the
guild stands in terms of progression and the benefits of gaining new
levels.

Players will also have a
reputation tab which tracks how much
they’ve contributed to the guild overall. This is tracked
similar to standard reputations, with each new rank granting the player
the ability to purchase any unlocked rewards at their current rep
level.

The new guild roster will now
also list professions for members which
will allow you to search for a specific recipe and then it will bring
up a list of who knows that particular recipe. So for example say you
were looking to have a specific enchant done, you can now search for it
in the guild roster and will be shown a list of who in your guild knows
the recipe along with their online status so you’ll know at a
glance who is online that could do the enchant for you.

The final new addition we were
shown relating to guilds is the new tab
in the Achievements window that will track any guild specific
achievements. A cool thing here is that certain achievements will also
list the names of guild members who contributed to unlocking them, so
things like boss kills will list out exactly who participated in the
raid.


Overall, we were given plenty
of fresh insights into the nuts and bolts
of some of the upcoming changes and new additions in Cataclysm. Be sure
to share your thoughts on any or all of the above right here in our
World of Warcraft forums, and keep your eyes peeled right here at Ten
Ton Hammer for a look at how old world Azeroth will be affected by the
destructive upheavals in the coming expansion.


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our World of Warcraft Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.

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