World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor Expansion: Beta, Release Date, Trailer, Character Models, Pre Order

January 30, 2014 Updated: January 30, 2014

The World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor expansion is set for a 2014 release date, though a specific date hasn’t yet been announced.

But information has been consistently coming out about the expansion, including regarding the upgraded character models.

Let’s check it out:

-Character model revamps

Artcraft – A First Look

The revamps are described by Chris Robinson, senior art director at WoW, as a sort of “spiritual update” to the art content that currently exists in-game, ” except we’re completely redoing them from scratch,” he wrote in a blog post.

“That includes the base model, skin tone variations, customization options (e.g. wrinkles, scars, moles, earrings, etc.), hairstyles, and any skin variations for NPCs you see out in the world, like Iron Dwarves or Leper Gnomes. We’re pretty excited about some of the ideas you’ve given us for new customization and skin options you’d like to see, but our first goal—which is already a monumental endeavor—is to make sure that the visual content that currently exists is brought up to or surpasses the level of quality you see in current boss models, the Pandaren, and central NPCs like the new Vol’jin model.”

The first preview is the human female with a single face option and single skin tone. Using this original model as reference, the designers then start posing and morphing the face into different expressions.

Joe Keller, a senior character artist, added: “Everyone is pretty familiar with the Human character models in WoW, but working on these updates gives us a chance to embellish and fill in the blanks. For the Human female this meant we could give her more muscle definition and personality in the face while still staying true to the overall look and spirit of the original. Hopefully this will also help show her as more of the capable fighter that she is.”

The expansion will also include characters including a gnome, a night elf, and a troll. Only the gnome, dwarf, and orc are available for perusal so far.

orc

dwarf

gnome

In addition, some of the designers gave a sneak peek into early renderings of the undead female character model after the Blizzcon last year.

These are screenshots from a talk posted on YouTube by World of Warcraft.

undead

undead2

After these drawings–once the models and the texturing was done–they were sent to animators.

Check out some interesting discussion–and animation–about the models starting around 15 minutes into the video.

-Dungeons and Raids Changes

The game designers are looking to “bring dungeons back to their roots and make raiding even more accessible and flexible than ever,” they said in a blog post.

Six new dungeons will be introduced, and the classic Upper Blackrock Spire will be brought back.

“We’re also looking to get back to the roots of dungeon content this expansion, and ensuring that they’re not only a significant part of the leveling and story experience as they always have been, but that they also play their part in helping you gear up and get ready for raiding,” the designers said. “To that end we’re going to bring back max-level ‘Normal’ dungeons, which—along with Scenarios—will help bridge the gap between level-up quest gear and Heroic dungeons. As Heroics won’t be the first thing you jump into at level 100, it also gives us some room to make Heroic dungeon content a bit more difficult.”

Additional dungeons will likely be introduced beyond the initial expansion release.

Mists of Pandaria brought some pretty big changes to raiding including the Raid Finder and Flexible Raids.

Designers are looking to continue the Flex structure but upgrade it some.

That change will include accommodating groups between 10 and 25 in normal mode.

“There will no longer be’10-player Normal’ or ’25-player Heroic’—there’ll just be Normal and Heroic, and they will both scale to fit the number of players present,” the designers said. “Even Raid Finder will benefit from the addition of our Flex scaling tech: no more needing to stand around staring at a boss waiting for your group to fill back up if someone has left.”

The Mythic difficulty with a single 20-player size will be for the best of the best and offer highest-quality rewards and prestige.

Meanwhile, aspects of traditional looting will be introduced through adding tradeable loot that people can just take directly from a boss’s smoldering corpse. “That’s what we’ll be offering in the new flexible versions of Normal and Heroic raiding coming in Warlords of Draenor,” the designers said. “The number of drops will scale with the number of players, and loot can be distributed in whatever time-honored traditions you choose: DKP, Suicide Kings, karma, dice rolls, coin flips, rock-paper-scissors, ‘guess what number I’m thinking of,’ nepotism, thumb wars, etc.”

In addition, the wing-based queue system currently used in flex will not be part of the expansion. Only Raid Finder will have wings to queue for. “The new Normal and Heroic scalable difficulties will still require you to go to the raid entrance, zone in, start at the first boss, and progress as far as you can in that week.”

PvP Upgrades

The game will include new challenges, rewards, and user interface improvements for PvP combatants.

A new world PvP zone off the northeast  coast of Tanaan Jungle will be introduced in the expansion, including a battle that has no distinct beginning or end.

“There will be items to gather, creatures to summon, and tons of action on multiple levels,” the designers said in a blog post. “While you can enter the fray sooner than level 100, you may find yourself biting off more than you can chew—enter at your own risk!”

Players will enter and be presented with objectives based on the status of the battle at that time. The closer the player gets to the opponent’s base, the more difficult the tasks become. Objectives can change at a moment’s notice.

The number of players and faction members allowed in the zone won’t be capped.

Meanwhile, the battleground scoreboard will be upgraded, with a new statistic that takes into account objective-based gameplay you engage in, such as returning flags, healing, doing damage, etc.

Also, flag timers and other objective timers will be viewable on the map.

And “We’re upping the ante in Battlegrounds even further,” the designers said. “Winning in Battlegrounds could garner players extra random rewards such as a PvP set item, a random bind-on-equip item, consumables, and more.”

They also described the Trial of the Gladiator, which was built on the same system used for the Arena Tournament team. Players will be able to enter and purchase gear, enchants, and gems from a vendor, and then match skills with other players.

Another PvP improvement revealed recently by community manager Bashiok is this: an on/off toggle for players on PvE realms to be added in Warlords of Draenor, “which would absolutely and in all situations allow someone to refrain from becoming flagged regardless of their actions.”

“Heals toward flagged players would fail, coalescing to PvP realms wouldn’t be possible, misclicks and AoE’s would never damage a flagged opponent, etc,” he said. “It’s actually quite a bit of work because of all the systems involved, but it’s still something we think PvE players should have, and how the game should work for them.”

Story, Zones, Garrisons

The story behind Warlords of Draenor–the fifth expansion of World of Warcraft–is that in the era of an Old Horde, a union of great orc clans, the Iron Horde, tramples the planet Draenor beneath war machines–and Azeroth falls next.

World uncounted will follow, according to the game description.

“You must mount a desperate charge on Draenor – savage home of orcs and adopted bastion of stoic draenei – at this pivotal moment. Your allies are legends from across time; your fortress a foothold in an alien land. Lead the armies of one world against another…before the future itself is unmade.”

The heroes of Azeroth are opposing the Iron Horde.

To help get players up to speed, Warlords enables people to immediately upgrade one of their characters to level 90 and master new abilities at the gateway to Draenor. The level cap is going to raised from 90 to 100.

To build up your own forces, players construct garrisons, an enduring home base that is integrated with Draenor, and customize it with structures including farms, stables, and armories. Players recruit followers (non-player characters) and can send them to do things or get them to man their bases.

Garrison expansions will probably cost resources such as stone, along with gold or other resources that come outside the garrison, one of the game designers said during the post-Blizzcon interview.

Closed Beta Test

Blizzard announced on January 16 that there is going to be a closed beta test that begins soon.

It said that people should make sure to be opted into Warcraft betas and that the hardware specs in people’s Beta profiles should be up to date (full instructions here)

Pre Order and Different Editions

There will be standard digital and digital deluxe versions, along with a physical Collector’s Edition.

“This time, if you pre-purchase the Digital Deluxe edition you’ll get your exclusive World of Warcraft pet and mount right away, allowing you to bring a little bit of Draenor past into Azeroth present,” according to Blizzard.

Anyone who pre-purchases either of the digital editions gets the boost to level-90 immediately, in addition to a mount and a pet. Information on the pre-purchases should be available soon.

Game designers are also looking at testing a feature that enables players to purchase a character upgrade directly.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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