The Queue: Nobody expects the Druid Inquisition!

Allison Robert
A. Robert|08.19.09

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The Queue: Nobody expects the Druid Inquisition!

Welcome back to The Queue,'s daily Q&A column where the team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Allison Robert will be your hostess today.

Adam and Alex are busy packing for BlizzCon, so I've sneaked into the Queue offices to answer some questions this evening. There's no consistent theme here, folks; we're all over the map today with BlizzCon, lore, and player textures. If you don't see your question here, I still have a few in mind from the last post to answer tomorrow.

Smapdor asks...

There are 3 historical scenarios that can be found in Yogg-Saron's "brain room"...What is the Shadow Vault event? I would guess that it is something as important lore-wise as the (other) two, but I have no idea.

It's widely believed that the Shadow Vault "memory" depicts a very recent and very unfortunate occurrence that took place (without player knowledge) after the Wrath Gate event. The NPCs in question are thought to be the souls/spirits/incorporeal whatsamajiggies of Saurfang the Younger and Bolvar Fordragon, who perished in the fight, victim to the Lich King and the Royal Apothecary Society respectively. The Wrath Gate cinematic implies that the Arthas has at least Saurfang's soul to toy with (which would explain the Orcish Turned Champion), but the identity of the Immolated Champion is less clear. Bolvar is by far the most likely possibility -- after all, the Immolated Champion is wearing the same armor Bolvar wore going to his death -- but nothing's been confirmed. Bottom line? Expect to see both Saurfang and Bolvar show up in the Icecrown Citadel raid in some capacity.

Sinzaram asks...

I recently ordered the $40.00 Internet stream for viewing Blizzcon, however I couldn't find where I was supposed to actually view it when Blizzcon comes around. Could the Queue, in it's infinite knowledge and handsome, God-like writer please tell me where I view the stream?

Flattery will get you everywhere. Here you go!

Orkchop asks...

What's the difference between a Contributing Editor and a Columnist?

Liquor tolerance. OK, Alex's answer was technically correct, but I'm just throwing that out there.

Mr. Mxyzptlk asks...

Kk, this one may be sort of silly, but are you aware of any plans to improve the character models?

The short answer is that yes, Blizzard has been planning to improve the character models. The long answer is that they don't necessary want it to be a sudden thing, they don't want it to be the kind of graphics upgrade that took place in other games (more on this shortly), and a lot of the process is already quietly underway.

As commenters noted, on the Wrath beta they experimented with adding new textures to existing models. It was, per Tigole, just a "development experiment," but one that alternately shocked and intrigued the player base. Shocking, yes, because some of the textures suggested that the next expansion was going to be World of Warcraft: Children of the Corn Beat Up Giant Monsters For Epics LOL. Intriguing, because some of the less buggy textures that went live actually looked pretty neat, or at least I thought so. Of course, I could be barking up the wrong tree here and this had nothing to do with improving player textures, but it was still cool.

If you've seen the Secrets of Ulduar trailer, it's obvious that Blizzard has also been messing around with better character models -- at least for faction leaders and major lore figures -- because most (though not all) of the trailer was actual machinima created with ingame animations and emotes.

However, there are a few snags to implementing these, and foremost among them is how many players' computers can actually handle it. Better graphics means your computer has to work harder, and big, sudden graphics upgrades in other games had the ugly result of making them virtually unplayable for a lot of people. Blizzard wants to avoid this, obviously.

When Blizzard collects "non-personal system specifications," what I think that means (at least partially) is that they try to get a sense of how many players would be completely screwed out of playing the game, period, if they implemented certain graphical improvements. Hardcore gamers might scoff, but one of the contributing factors to WoW's enduring popularity is that it doesn't require you to run an insanely expensive or complicated system to enjoy the game.

Everyone wants to see better graphics. Nobody wants to deal with the technical issues that might result.

Crash adds...

I request more on this topic: some screenshot maybe?

This is, quite literally, my first screenshot from the Wrath beta:


Broncofan1 asks...

It's getting really old getting disconnected 3 or 4 times trying to log into Dalaran. I never have trouble logging in anywhere else, just "Lagaran." Is Blizzard ever gonna fix this lag problem?

The trouble with Dalaran is that it has a lot of players, a lot of NPCs, and a lot of movement, all of which is set across the backdrop of a city that has to be rendered in 3D due to flying mounts. Even playing with the sort of settings that turn Azeroth into a Third World country -- actually, that's an insult to Third World countries, and I apologize. Even playing with the sort of settings that turn Azeroth into New Jersey, your computer still has to render an awful lot of stuff, and that's made worse by the absence of visual shortcuts and cheats you'll find in cities like Orgrimmar and Stormwind, where the developers only had to put in what you could see from the ground. This cut down on a lot of the lag that you would otherwise have experienced in these places, although I feel obligated to note that these cities were so crowded during classic WoW that people with low-end systems might not have noticed.

In a roundabout way I guess you could say that flying mounts, and the need to "finish" absolutely everything that a player might conceivably see is one of the great unheralded issues Blizzard deals with while trying to make sure that the game remains playable.

Anyway. I got off track there. Truthfully, Broncofan, unless it's something that everyone on your realm complains about regardless of the system they're running, it's likely to be your computer and not the game that's causing the problem, even if you're only having problems in Dalaran. The quickest fixes you can make that will have the largest impact:
  1. Turn down the options on how far you can see things. Your computer will stop trying to load objects and terrain past a certain distance, which means that instead of loading that giant circus' worth of players and mounts in Dalaran, it'll only load it up to a certain distance. Still, Dalaran is so crowded that this might not make a big difference there, but you'll notice a difference outside of the city. Of course, you may not even need to do this outside the city, so...catch-22.
  2. This actually helped me a LOT: cap your framerates, at least while you're in town. The ingame command is /console maxfps n, where n is the FPS beyond which you don't want your computer attempting to load. Most people will tell you to /console maxfps 30; I've had more success with 25. Capping it below that is possible, but in a video game, the human eye can more easily distinguish between 25 and 20 FPS than 30 and 25.
  3. Max out your computer's RAM. 1GB is recommended for running Wrath, but if you don't have much more than that, you're going to suffer.
  4. Never log out in Dalaran, period. I know this is a version of the old "Doctor, it hurts when I do that!" -- "Well, don't do that," joke, but if you're not having any issues running the game outside of logging in while your toon's in Dalaran, this is the most expedient means of getting around it.
Disclaimer: I am no great technical genius and I also play on a Mac; if you play on a PC, some of this might be slightly different for you and I'd welcome commenter input either way.

Have questions about the World of Warcraft? The crew is here with The Queue, our daily Q&A column! Leave your questions in the comments and we'll do our best to answer 'em!

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