By perculia on 2014/09/17 at 11:37 AM Pacific
Welcome to the first in an ongoing series of programming- and engineering-focused articles that, over time, will cover some of the technical nuts and bolts that go into creating and running World of Warcraft.
Before we kick this first one off, a quick warning: What follows is a fairly technical explanation for a graphical-setting change related to anti-aliasing. Most of you probably won’t notice any difference at all—this is primarily for those who tend to tinker with their hardware and graphical settings.
In short, we’re taking strides to improve the performance of World of Warcraft, while also ensuring there’s plenty of potential to further increase graphical fidelity and enhance our support of high-end CPUs and graphics hardware.
For Warlords of Draenor, we made a decision to remove Multisample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) and instead include a new anti-aliasing technology called Conservative Morphological Anti-Aliasing (CMAA). This change is going to allow us to bring some overdue technological advancements to World of Warcraft over the course of the next few years—we’re thinking long-term with this change.
One reason MSAA remained viable for WoW over the past decade was that the GPU had the time and resources to handle it. WoW has been a CPU-bound game for much of its lifetime, but during the Warlords development cycle, we endeavored to change that. A lot of that work involved analyzing the flow of data through our code and making sure we work on only what we need to for any given frame. One example is we now variably reduce the number of bones that need to be animated based on proximity and view (sometimes called level of detail, or LOD), a primary consumer of CPU time. We’ve also added a job system that the engine uses to task out animation and scene management in ways we had prototyped in Patch 5.4, but are expanding in Warlords.
The outcome of all of this is that more than ever before, World of Warcraft relies heavily on a GPU that previously was largely free to handle things like MSAA. We explored a number of options to reconcile this increased GPU demand with the game’s anti-aliasing needs, and ultimately decided to embrace CMAA as our anti-aliasing technology for Warlords of Draenor. As with anything that can potentially change the look of the game, we vetted removing MSAA through our engineering and art teams before coming to the conclusion to swap it for CMAA. CMAA provides solid anti-aliasing at a fraction of the cost in memory and performance. It also integrates well with technologies we have planned for the future, and helps us bring those to the game sooner. We also support FXAA (Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing), an even lighter-weight solution, as an option for our players using DirectX 9.
CMAA fulfills our goals of providing high-quality anti-aliasing at reduced performance cost, while giving us the extra headroom we need to further improve the graphical fidelity of the game. We don’t have to make any architectural concessions within the engine for CMAA to work, and for Warlords of Draenor we’ve already been able to implement new graphical features like target outlining, soft particles, a new shadowing technique, and refraction—and more graphical features are on the horizon for future patches and expansions.
For the launch of Warlords of Draenor, CMAA is the top-tier graphical setting available, but after release we’ll be exploring more options for players with high-performance graphics cards—and if they provide quality while still fitting into our future technology plans, we’ll take a serious look at adding them to the game.
The graphical future of World of Warcraft is a bright one, and the changes we’ve made during the development of Warlords of Draenor have laid the groundwork for us to continue making the game look better and better far into the future.
Thanks for reading!
By oliviadgrace on 2014/09/16 at 11:08 AM Pacific
As your journey takes you from Pandaria to Draenor, we wanted to extend one last opportunity to obtain your Legendary Cloak—and share some important updates related to this iconic item.
As a part of the transition from Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor, we’ll be making some changes to the Legendary Cloak quest line and ultimately closing it out as players head into the new expansion. Once the quest is fully closed, the item will no longer be attainable, and the cloak will become a symbol of the great deeds you’ve accomplished in Mists of Pandaria.
With the release of the pre-expansion patch (6.0.2), players who are not already on the journey through this quest line will no longer be able to begin it. We will also be removing the Test of Valor step with patch 6.0.2 as a part of our transition from using Valor as a currency.
Once Warlords of Draenor launches on November 13, the Legendary Cloak quest line will be gone entirely—the quests and the cloak will no longer be obtainable, and any related in-progress quests will be cleared from your log.
But when one door closes, another door opens. In Warlords of Draenor, players will have the opportunity to earn a new Legendary item available exclusively in the new expansion: Khadgar’s Band of the Archmage.
If you haven’t yet earned your Legendary Cloak, you still have one final opportunity to make accelerated progress on your quest. Rather than end the Gaze of the Black Prince buff on Tuesday, September 16 (as previously announced), the buff will remain active until the release of the Warlords of Draenor pre-patch (6.0.2). This buff increases the reputation gained with the Black Prince by 100%. It also increases the chance of obtaining items from his foes needed as a part of the Legendary Cloak quest line, including Secrets of the Empire, Sigil of Wisdom, Sigil of Power, and Titan Runestones.
Good luck on your quest, but remember that your voyage doesn’t end here. Soon, you’ll be setting your sights on the new Legendary item, Khadgar’s Band of the Archmage, in Warlords of Draenor.
To learn more about the Legendary Cloak quest line, check out our previous blog posts: I am Legendary and The Time Has Come: Legendary Quest Line.
By perculia on 2014/09/15 at 12:02 PM Pacific
By perculia on 2014/09/14 at 2:14 PM Pacific
By oliviadgrace on 2014/09/13 at 10:02 AM Pacific
By oliviadgrace on 2014/09/12 at 6:38 PM Pacific
For consolidation of abilities, we merged several passive abilities. One notable change is the merging of the Ravage into Shred, and Pounce into Rake; saving a couple keybinds that were only used in conjunction with Prowl. The loss of Symbiosis primarily impacted Druid survivability, as many of the abilities received through Symbiosis were defensive cooldowns. To compensate for that, we improved Barkskin (for non-Feral Druids) and Survival Instincts (for Feral and Guardian Druids).
In an effort to reduce the physical mitigation of some classes, we've modified the amount of Armor provided by some armor types.
By oliviadgrace on 2014/09/12 at 12:05 PM Pacific
As players testing Patch 6.0.2 on our Public Test Realm (PTR) have already seen, we’re making a number of changes to the WoW user interface—changes that are designed to eliminate clutter, free up more of your inventory space, help you find your stuff more easily, and improve your quality of life in-game.
Map & Quest Log
In Patch 6.0.2, we’ve made a brand-new UI to bring together the Map and the Quest Log with everything you need to manage multiple ongoing adventures. Now when you browse by zone in the Map & Quest Log, you’ll find all of the associated quests you’re on, your progress, and relevant cartography.
In addition to intelligently ordering your quests, the new window (default hotkeys: M or L) gives you more information about your objectives right on the map. It also features scroll-wheel zooming, click-and-hold panning, and a handy View All Quests button—plus, if you leave it open while you’re moving, it fades so that you can see both the map and the landscape you’re venturing into.
All of the fun “toy” items that you’ve accumulated over the course of your travels now have a new home in the Toy Box. As with mounts and pets, you’ll right-click on eligible toy items in your inventory to send them to your Toy Box. Once learned, the toy will be accessible by all characters on your account.
If you want to expand and complete your collection of toys (or mounts or pets!), you can see each of the ones that you have not yet unlocked, along with information on how they can be obtained. As you might expect, any toy that you’ve learned can be dragged from the Toy Box and placed on a toolbar for fast access.
How to Randomize Your Dragon
There is now a Summon Random Favorite Mount button at the top-right of your Mounts collection (default hotkey: Shift-P). This smart button selects randomly from among the mounts that you’ve marked as favorites, and chooses a mount that is suitable for your current zone and situation. For example:
Right-click and select Set Favorite on your favorite mounts to get started.
Bags, Bags, Bags
In Patch 6.0.2, bags can be given designations for particular types of items. These include:
When you go to your main backpack and click the Clean Up Bags button in the top-right, your belongings are sorted into your bags based on the designation you assigned to each bag, with overflow going into the backpack. Furthermore, there are now borders around the icons of all items that are colored to indicate item quality; recently looted items glow so that you can quickly spot them; and gray (junk) items have a gold coin icon when you visit a vendor.
You now have additional storage space in your bank! The new 98-slot Reagent Bank tab offers up extra slots for your profession materials, and an option to deposit every reagent that you’re currently carrying in your bags. We’ve also increased the maximum stack size for many materials and reagents, and when you craft anything—from anywhere—you’ll now use materials that are stored back in the bank.
But Wait, There’s More!
To get a closer first look at all of the changes coming in Patch 6.0.2, please join us on the Public Test Realm (now live).
By oliviadgrace on 2014/09/11 at 7:00 PM Pacific
By perculia on 2014/09/11 at 4:00 PM Pacific
By oliviadgrace on 2014/09/11 at 9:00 AM Pacific