Through The Mist: World of Warcraft Pet Battles

Through the Mist is a regular column from Luke Le Page covering everything World of Warcraft. If you’d like something covered in a future column, drop us a line!

This week I logged in to take a look at the new pet battle system coming with Mists of Pandaria. Prior to logging in I was not particularly looking forward to this feature and it was something I looked at as a time waster while waiting for queues to pop and raids to form. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the feature. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my overview of the major changes Pet battles does not offer us anything ground breaking in terms of new MMO technology or gameplay, it is simply a mini-game that is extremely fun.

To enable the feature we need to learn about pet battles from Varzok in Orgrimmar. He can be found near the flight master.

Once we have learnt the ability we now have to find some critters to fight. We can do this via our mini map – attackable critters appear as a paw on our mini maps and are spread generously throughout the world:

To attack on these critters we simply click on them. We begin the battle with just 1 pet slot and can unlock more as we progress through levels. At level 5 we receive our 3rd slot and can then queue to fight other players, though we can challenge players to a pet duel at any level in person.

As our pets progress in level, they unlock new skills and eventually we can capture the critters that we are fighting. Each pet has 4 stats: Health, Power, Speed, and Quality.  Health, Power and Speed increase as your pets level up.  Quality designates the overall strength of your pet’s stats and will vary on every pet that you catch.

We also have the option to rename each of our pets individually – this is helpful as we can capture multiple types of one pet as we battle across Azeroth. It also allowed me to officially rename my Panda from the original collector’s edition to the name by which I have been referring to it for years.

As mentioned above there is nothing mind blowing about this new feature, it is in fact very much like the classic Pokémon games from the Nintendo Gameboy. It is highly addictive and a lot of fun to play and after having played it on the Beta I have spent close to 5,000 gold on pets on the live realm, ready to be levelled as  soon as the feature is released.

Through The Mist: Level 85-90 Experience Points

Through the Mist is a regular column from Luke Le Page covering everything World of Warcraft. If you’d like something covered in a future column, drop us a line!

Last week I looked at the Pandaren starting area and I had hoped to preview some of the higher level content for you this week. Unfortunately the first zone we enter for Mists of Pandaria, the Jade Forest has only been reopened fairly recently after a major overhaul and I have not yet had the chance to replay it.

First I’d like to direct current subscribers to the following information regarding the recent Blizzard security breach. I encourage all current subscribers to follow the steps suggested by Blizzard in regards to account security. This breach also limited my game time last week as I could not for the life of me locate my authenticator for the hotfix so I apologise in advance for not being very content oriented this week.

The pre Mists of Pandaria patch (5.0.4) is also now available via background downloader and the pre expansion event will not be publicly tested.

There’s also some interesting information regarding the use of Blizzard’s recruit-a-friend system for levelling a Monk.  You can see here that Monks using this feature WILL be able to receive realm first achievements. Though using the Scroll of Resurrection feature to have an instant level 80 will not allow realm firsts.

Recently it was discovered that the experience required for levels 85+ was increased significantly in the Beta. There were also a number of changes to the pre-85 levels you can see the conversions below:

These increases seem fairly significant, however my own experience on the Beta has shown that the experience received for killing mobs as well as completing quests shows a significant increase in Mists of Pandaria, we also know that these are not finalised numbers (source).. Though it was some time ago, Level 85-86 took me less than 3 hours in an extremely crowded (and bugged) zone early in the beta. Unfortunately given the overhaul to the Jade Forest mentioned above, I cannot currently comment on this with great detail. A quest in the Valley of Four Winds for example gives 141,900 experience points, so the overall increase is relatively minor when put in perspective:

Next time I’ll take a look at The Jade Forest once again, the small amount of play time I had this week showed it with a significant visual overhaul. I also intend to offer a preview of  the new Pet battle system.

WoW Subscriber Numbers – The Rollercoaster

Given all the MMO News over the past month, one piece of news slipped under the radar for me.

Thanks to my colleague Simon I’m now aware that World of Warcraft subscriber numbers dropped to 9.1 million, down from 10.2 million at the end of the first quarter of the year.

That’s a big drop, even for a behemoth like Blizzard, but I see it as part of the rollercoaster ride that WoW still has to complete over the coming years. There’s obviously Mists of Pandaria coming up in a matter of weeks, and my money is on a lift in subscribers. That said, it’s a case of diminishing returns in that it won’t boost the subscriber numbers up to their peak, instead providing a needed climb on the rollercoaster before the next drop.

Aside from the realities of an ageing MMO, WoW faces the broader challenge as a subscription-driven game in a challenging economic environment world-wide. Still, I still can’t see WoW going F2P for quite a while, unless its numbers drop a few more million. Even then it’ll probably come down to what the break-even point is as far as subscriber numbers, as well as whether Titan has any firmer timelines as you’d expect a big migration to that from WoW players, depending on the genre it ends up being.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Titan itself becomes a subscription service, with a ‘free’ WoW subscription bundled in. Sounds a bit old-school for an MMO still a long way off being released, but you never know.

Overall, it’s hard to see the drop to 9.1 million subscribers as being too catastrophic (yes, I thought about using the word cataclysmic) at the end of a content cycle. If I were a betting person I’d predict numbers will break 10 million again once the expansion drops.As a WoW subscriber that isn’t at all excited about the Monk class or Pandarians, I’m still damn pumped to be playing the new content when it’s released.

Most importantly of all: what do you think? Are you pumped or indifferent about MoP? What do you see subscriber numbers for the game doing in coming months? Do you want to sign up for a Titan / WoW subscription bundle now or do you think I’m certifiably mad?

Five Reasons I’m Excited About Mists Of Pandaria

With the announcement in the last 24 hours that the next World of Warcraft Expansion will hit virtual or physical world shelves on September 25th, I thought I’d put down some reasons why I’m actually quite excited about the fourth expansion to one of the world’s most successful MMOs ever.

There are of course more than five reasons to be looking forward to MoP, and hopefully you’ll add some more below in comments, but for what they’re worth, here are mine:

1. New explorations

Despite the pandas, I’m excited to have a bunch of new territories in WoW to explore. Having played since Burning Crusade, I’ve always loved those initial days or checking out new zones. That’s not a WoW-specific joy by any means, but it’s still something that gets me going. And hell, I might even get to like the Pandarians.

2. Assessing whether the shark has been jumped

As much as I’m a dedicated WoW player and Blizzard follower since Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, I’m also cynical enough to be interested in whether Blizzard are able to grow WoW via this expansion, or just hold off the decline for a few more months. There’s also the potential that MoP doesn’t deliver, in which case the game will have well and truly ‘jumped the shark‘. Of course, some true cynics would argue WoW achieved that status after Burning Crusade…

3. Watchin’ the innovation

With each expansion Blizzard have delivered some innovative new aspects to MMO gameplay. MoP will be no different and I for one am excited to be able to log in, check out what’s changed, enjoy re-speccing and going out into the wide blue questing yonder. Being particularly selfish, I don’t just want to see WoW show off some new ideas, I want those ideas to be so good that they form a launching pad for my other favourite MMO SWTOR to mimic or even improve on. C’mon, it could happen!

4. Indulging my achievement junkie

I’m a diagnosed achievement junkie and I still think WoW’s achievement system is the best one going around. That alone means I’m keen to immerse myself in MoP and to see if there are some particularly cool achievements. I still tell everyone that will listen (there’s not many left) how I won the Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza – so I’m hoping there’ll be some similar things I can get excited about. Hell, I just want to level up my fishing to the newest level cap!

5. It’s the Event, dummy

In the lead-up to Cataclysm, there was a series of World Events that were nearly as much fun as the expansion itself. Last time it was protecting your home city from being overrun. Who knows what it’ll be this time, but I can’t wait to see it.

So now it’s your turn: will you be buying MoP and if so, is it a return to WoW for you or just the latest expansion in a long period of playing?