Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate! And for everyone, stay safe out there today, particularly if you have to be out and about in bad weather.
June 2013 saw an avalanche of information off the patch 5.4 PTR, announcements of several upcoming features like connected realms and flex raiding, some class introspection over action-bar bloat, and unfortunately for Mobile Armory users, a successful hacking attempt.
Patch 5.4 PTR notes The patch 5.4 PTR dropped very early in the morning on June 12th, and an assortment of bleary-eyed staffers was around to manage the cascade of news.
Blizzard announces Flexible Raids That wasn't the only big announcement that went live. Patch 5.4 saw quite a few.
Patch 5.4 PTR: Virtual Realms announced We know this feature as "connected realms" now, and it's been a godsend to low-population servers. The process isn't over as I write this in December.
Alleged Mobile Armory hack allows unauthorized transfer of gold (updated) Most reports of wide-scale hacks turn out to be overblown, but this was one was unfortunately real. GMs reimbursed players for stolen gold quickly, but it was still a nasty shock for Mobile Armory users in the meantime. As blackdew notes in the comments, it was believed to be a cross-site request forgery attack, and probably linked to a malicious ad.
Jimmy Fallon's Late Night: We are the World of Warcraft Play spot-the-people-you-know-in-the-fandom, including our own Olivia!
Patch 5.4 PTR: Arena tie-break system revamp with a 1,000% damage buff This was, to say the least, extremely controversial, and The Crowd Chose You!!! was a hotly-contested subject for months as Blizzard continued to tinker with it.
Zarhym explains Blizzard's player monitoring systems Big Brother is watching, and we're sort of okay with that in context. Which is not to say that all "government" overreach this month was greeted as enthusiastically, because ...
Congressional report says you 'may' owe taxes on your WoW income Like hell we do. "Thanks, Washington," says Fox. "Keep up the good work."
Opinions and Editorials
Vanessa Van Cleef should come back from the dead "Imagine what Vanessa could have been. A deadly, brilliant woman with a compelling story (that in no way involves weird love triangles or romances) and unmistakable motivation to change the status quo."
User engagement and personal bias I think this is really just an excuse for us to link Taufmonster's excellent editorial on "engagement bias" and its effect on player perception again. It's usually a mistake to assume that you are a representative sample size all by yourself.
Has Blizzard left an opening for the next generation of WoW killers? Many games have tried to claim that title and failed. Our commenters generally believe that the only thing that can kill WoW is whatever Blizzard intends to follow it.
Why flex raiding will change everything Another swing and a hit. "Flex" will become the default raid condition in Warlords of Draenor.
On raid lockouts, flexible raiding, and choice A strong argument in favor of keeping the flex lockout separate from 10- and 25-man raiding (which did actually happen), and ultimately an argument in favor of just playing the game how you want to experience it without feeling compelled to run everything in sight.
Which race has the best animations? I really hope Blizzard took a look at some painfully obvious trends here while redesigning character models. All Horde females who aren't elves or goblins say hi.
Arts and Entertainment
The music of Mists with Russell Bower I cannot say enough good things about the soundtrack to MoP and all the people who worked on it.
Around Azeroth: Let's go surfing now, everybody's learning now I still have yet to see this in the Battle on the High Seas scenario. They didn't cut it, did they?
WoW Moviewatch: WoW Then and Now This would have been the perfect header to Rossi's earlier articles on the danger of rose-colored glasses if it had existed at the time. Leaving that aside, I would argue that this is one of Slightly Impressive's all-time best videos. The dialogue and comic timing are superb, and it skewers player hypocrisy and laziness with unerring accuracy.
Around Azeroth: An inner glow Some peoples' transmog sets put everyone else's to shame.
Ghostcrawler might be having Zarhym's baby I've stuck this into the Arts and Entertainment section because art is involved and it is very entertaining.
WoW Moviewatch: Lock Candy Like Gray, I'm surprised this song hadn't been pressed into service in a machinima previously, but who cares? Fantastic job.
Around Azeroth: Poaching players Without question, one of the most beautiful screenshots of the year.
Classes, Raiding, and PvP
Blood Pact: Karazhan and its abyssal depths of fun Megan felt a twinge of guilt over writing this instead of patch 5.4 PTR stuff, but hey, it's Kara.
Blood Pact: Using CompareBot to see differences in logs The last in Megan's series on learning how to use combat logs to increase your effectiveness. Sifting through your data can be time-consuming and tedious, but if you're trying to figure out what you could be doing better, there's really no substitute for a sit-down with your combat logs.
How to PuG a heroic scenario with oQueue I think we first mentioned oQueue on the site in April, and this was definitely the year where oQueue and OpenRaid took off as community resources. The developers were not unaware of their popularity.
The Light and How to Swing It: How many abilities is too many? Ghostcrawler had previously singled out paladins as being a "one-man army," and while that's improved considerably since Wrath, hybrid classes are particularly prone to action-bar bloat. I've wondered if Matt's article prompted this (see below) or Daniel's article for death knights a few days later.
Odds and Ends
Officers' Quarters: One realm's solution to low population Kargath-US hosted a number of struggling guilds with declining raid attendance. Their solution before connected realms was something called the Kargath Council, a union of of guilds that handily solved many of the problems on the low-pop realm.
Playmate Pamela Horton: 'A gamer before I was ever a pretty girl' I'm shocked this became one of the most popular posts of the month, shocked, I tell you. However, I am inordinately proud to recognize Pamela as one of my tribe: Female tauren druids.
Drama Mamas: Being deaf and raiding When a deaf gamer loses his ingame support network, he's put in an awkward position when a raid leader is too rushed to type strategies or anything more than cursory assignments in chat.
WoW Archivist: Paths not taken Blizzard has occasionally talked about and/or worked on features that never made it into the game. I have to say that the survival skills thing from beta actually sounds like an interesting concept, even if it probably would have been a huge pain in the ass.
Talents and abilities you never use One gets the unnerving feeling that Blizzard is likely to mine both the article and comment section for things to prune in the next expansion.
Gold Capped: How to handle undercutters "Ignore them."
Know Your Lore: What the Siege of Orgimmar reveals Garrosh's desire to build an orcish Horde comes from a place of insecurity and fear. What happens when you can't sustain a prolonged conflict and will inevitably lose any war of attrition? Make your enemy bring the fight to you and then control the battlefield as much as you can. Welcome to Siege.
Officers' Quarters: 7 ways to stop the bleeding Flex raiding was coming in patch 5.4 to address many of the problems that Scott identified, but we weren't there yet.
Know Your Lore: A discussion of Med'an As Rossi and so many of our readers have pointed out, Med'an sounds like an amazingly bad FlagRSP description rather than a fully-realized character, and that's perhaps why he's all but disappeared from the current story. There's also a cool discussion in the comments over who'd win in a Superman vs. Goku fight.
WoW Archivist: Patch 2.3 -- Azeroth iterated With the benefit of hindsight, a shocking number of quality-of-life changes that we currently enjoy in the game can all be traced back to this single patch. I wonder what was going on in the dev team at the time.
Stormwind Keep valued at $10,293,472 That's actually quite low for a castle, but that's what happens when you build only one usable floor and no kitchens or bathrooms.
Know Your Lore: Taran Zhu and the Shado-Pan Taran hasn't done a lot to ingratiate himself with players, but as Anne points out, he has good reason to want us the hell out of Pandaria.
If you enjoyed this article, you might get a kick out of our Best of 2009, Best of 2010, Best of 2011, and Best of 2012 series.