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wow WoW Recap: Name Reclamation, User Interface and Healing changes in WoD.

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With Warlords of Draenor quickly approaching, Blizzard continues to give us information about the long awaited expansion. This past week, we received information about Name Reclamation, changes to the User Interface, including the previously mentioned Toy Box, as well as the design strategy for healing in the expansion. Warlords is only two months away and every player is eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Blizzard is freeing up names that have not been used for more than 5 years, which allows players to claim previously taken names. The changes to mechanics and game play are in their final stages. During the pre-expansion Blizzard wants to improve class balance and the fine tuning of how much damage we do, as well as the damage the creatures of Draenor will do to us. Once the expansion is released, we should see a few more minor tweaks before we we sink our teeth into the new content.


Character Name Reclamation

Monday, Blizzard announced that they will be freeing up character names that have not been used since November 13th, 2008. If you have a character that you have not played since that date, the character will be flagged for a name change when patch 6.0.2 goes live. Be sure to login to those characters whose name you wish to keep!

Blizzard Icon Release the Names! Character Name Reclamation Coming

With the upcoming Warlords of Draenor pre-patch (6.0.2), we will be releasing sidelined characters’ names back into the wild.

Any characters that have not logged into the game since November 13, 2008 will have their names freed up, making them available to anyone creating a new character or using the paid Character Name Change service.

How Do I Preserve My Names?
You will need to log in to World of Warcraft and enter the game using each character whose name you wish to retain before patch 6.0.2 goes live. While it is possible no one will claim your recently released name and you might be able to snag it again, it is probably not worth the risk if you want to keep your names intact long-term.

Our goal with this great name liberation is to make sure new and returning players have a large and varied pool of names available to choose from—so log in now if you wish preserve your unused characters’ names for your journey intro Draenor. (Source)


UI Improvements

Friday, Blizzard posted a blog highlighting changes to the User Interface and the improvements they have for players. The full blog post is listed below and can be found here. The blog highlights the changes to Maps and Quests, Toy Box, Random Mount, Bags, Reagent Bank, and others.

The biggest changes are definitely with the new Toy Box and Reagent Bank. With the Toy Box, you can send your collection of toys into their own separate tab in your spellbook, which can clear up a lot of extra space in your bags if you're an avid collector. With the Reagent Bank, you can store all your farming or crafting materials in a special area in your bank, which also allows you to craft any item using those materials.

Here is a gallery of some of the changes to the UI:


Healing in Warlords

Healing has always been a touchy subject in World of Warcraft. The roller-coaster of difficulty from expansion to expansion made it evident that healing would once again change. Encounter difficulty is what mainly defines how a healer will perform, which is also tailored around how healers are supposed to be healing.

In the Burning Crusade, the heroic dungeons were horrendous halls of agony where Crowd Control was king. At this time, raiding was still kind of new and Blizzard was testing new raid sizes and encounter design. Healing was an ever-changing experience, based on the raid you were doing.

In Wrath of the Lich King, dungeons were meant for speed, where tanks grabbed as many mobs as they could, DPS spammed AoE spells, and healers kept the tank topped off. Raiding in Wrath of the Lich King was mostly one-dimensional from a healing point of view. You would simply spam the fastest spell possible in order to not let your tank die between your global cooldowns.

Enter Cataclysm Heroics where, once again, the bosses were punishing and required much coordination. Towards the end of this expansion, most of the bosses became much simpler with gear and experience, which starts this mid-expansion roller-coaster. The raids in Cataclysm still had the difficult feel of healing, where the decisions you made counted for something and would impact how the raid received healing.

In Mists, healing was completely reworked with fixed mana pools and changes to how mana regenerating abilities worked. The dungeons were not insanely difficult, with the exception of challenge modes at the start of the expansion, but provided a leisurely pace to do them. Absorbs excelled in Mists raids, where you were forced to top off your raid as soon as possible because the damage would otherwise kill players, making absorbs extremely potent and valuable.

Now, in Warlords of Draenor, Blizzard seeks to re-tune healing once again to make it more entertaining and engaging. Blizzard wants a middle ground between Mists and Cataclysm healing, which means moderately difficult dungeons and less danger of dying to burst damage. Blizzard does not want to allow players to simply spam away their spells like a DPS. Instead, healing needs to be a methodical and conscious decision with every spell you cast.

The current healing model, which was also prevalent around the end of Cataclysm, is that a healer is expected to push every button on cooldown, literally spamming their abilities. This is what Blizzard is trying to change. By increasing mana costs of spells, they can tune the encounter damage around what a healer is supposed to be able to output. Pressing your most efficient spell should be costly and should be used sparingly. Below is the post by Watcher where he explains Blizzard's design strategy for healing in Warlords of Draenor.

[blue Healing Design in WoD]Our target for both healing and dungeon tuning is something of a middle ground between Mists and Cataclysm. It's important to note that healer balance is not yet final, and damage output in our dungeons (especially pure melee damage on tanks, in light of recent mitigation changes) is still being adjusted. So in terms of the raw numbers, we're not quite there yet. The most helpful thing testers can provide is actionable feedback with regard to specific encounters (also specifying difficulty and which spec you were playing). We're listening and making changes on a daily basis.

That said, I'd like to help clarify our goals with respect to both healer gameplay and dungeon tuning. Healing in Mists, especially in raids and especially later in the expansion, suffered from three major problems: 1) the power of healing relative to player health pools meant that injured players could be topped off almost instantly; 2) mana became increasingly irrelevant as a constraint, with many healers actively reforging out of Spirit; and 3) "smart heals" accounted for a very large portion of healing done, meaning that for some healers their targeting decisions were almost meaningless.
Now, some might be thinking, "so you're saying healers were really strong - that sounds great to me!" The problem is that when healing was in that state, the only way we could kill someone in a raid or dungeon was with massive damage, fatal if the healer didn't react instantly; it led to sudden spike deaths, punished latency, and made healing more like whack-a-mole and less like a series of tactical decisions. And in raids, as soon as maximizing throughput becomes all that matters, healing risks turning into a rotation performed irrespective of the encounter or the incoming damage.

Our goal is not to make healing more difficult. Note that nowhere in the above did I say that a problem with Mists healing is that it was too "easy." We want to slow down the pace a bit, and for the challenge in healing to lie more in making decisions about spell usage and targeting, and less in twitch-reaction and sustaining a DPS-style rotation. This also means that the cost of a mistake is not a dead player, but rather a more injured one, giving you a chance to fix your error.

In Cataclysm, fresh 85s had very little mana regen, and if they attempted to heal a dungeon the way they'd been accustomed in late Wrath (e.g. lots of Flash Heals), they'd quickly run out of mana. In Warlords, players have significantly higher base regen, and less available Spirit from items, so that you'll start off with a much deeper mana pool than is usually the case as a new max-level healer, while avoiding the problem of mana becoming irrelevant once in endgame epics.
In Cataclysm, nearly your only efficient heal was also your smallest, and it was easy to run yourself out of mana and feel helpless as you watched your group die; in Warlords even if you are running on fumes mana-wise, you can still sustain a steady stream of Greater Heal or Healing Touch or the equivalent. You aren't helpless.

Now, as for dungeon difficulty, one of the challenges in adapting to new dungeons at the start of an expansion has been the contrast between players' habits at the end of the last expansion when they massively outgear every dungeon, and the different approach required when undergeared and running a dungeon for actual loot drops instead of currency. The ability to recklessly pull multiple packs of mobs at once and cleave everything down is something that you earn and grow into as your gear and knowledge of the content increases - that's never been the intended dungeon gameplay when the content was brand new, even for our "easy" dungeons in Wrath or Mists.

Normal dungeons should be pretty easy. Some of them aren't quite there yet. But you should feel confident that you can push the "Dungeon Finder" queue button and land in a random group with a high chance of success. If you don't feel that way about a given Normal dungeon (especially a level-up dungeon), please let us know why not. We have a solid chunk of level 100 Normal dungeon content that everyone should be able to jump into when they hit max level, and Normal dungeon loot will be sufficient to qualify you for Highmaul LFR when that unlocks.

Heroic dungeons will be somewhat more challenging, which is the reason for the Silver Proving Grounds requirement to random-queue for them. We're not looking to recreate Heroic Stonecore or Grim Batol or The Arcatraz, but there's a middle ground where mechanics can still matter.
Finally, it's also worth noting that in beta, we're scaling players down to pretty much the lowest possible level and item level at which you could be running a given dungeon. Nearly all groups in the live game will be better-equipped, but we need to make sure the content is viable at the minimum threshold.
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