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Bloggers Wanted: Dreaming


Apr 02
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs ...
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Bloggers Wanted: Disappointment


Mar 19
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and...

Preview: World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

Mar 19 // Aerox
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (PC [previewed], Mac)Developer: Blizzard EntertainmentPublisher: Blizzard EntertainmentRelease: 2012 The events of Cataclysm (World of Warcraft's most recent update) have caused the southern continent of Pandaria to emerge from the fog that has hidden it for the last ten thousand years. World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria tells the story of what happens when the Alliance and the Horde discover this new continent, its resources, and the people who live there. Unlike previous expansions, Mists of Pandaria will not feature a single "big bad boss" at the end of the patch cycle. As Lead Designer Cory Stockton explained, the central story arc of Mists of Pandaria concerns the tensions between the Alliance and the Horde finally coming to a head and erupting into an all-out war. Mists of Pandaria begins with the Horde and Alliance both landing on the continent of Pandaria, and conflict breaks out between the two almost immediately, as each group fights to rally the Pandaren to their side as they prepare for war. The future patches for Mists of Pandaria will be heavily story-focused, with each update being described as essentially a "story sequel" to the one before it. Instead of just introducing another dungeon that brings you one step closer to defeating the "ultimate boss," the patches will advance the story as the war moves from Pandaria to the mainland, culminating in a full-blown siege on Orgrimmar. Greg Street, Lead Systems Designer, told me that one of the major priorities for Mists of Pandaria was to provide much more end-game content for players, particularly since the primary focus of Cataclysm was revamping much of the original world and the starting areas. In addition to the seven zones on the Pandarian continent that will take players from level 85 to 90, nine new dungeons and three new raids, and multiple end-game faction quest lines, Mists of Pandaria will also feature a number of new systems designed to appeal to end-game players. To encourage players to revisit older dungeons and to increase some friendly competition within a player's own server, Mists of Pandaria is introducing a dungeon challenge mode. Essentially a timed dungeon run, the challenge mode will automatically scale players' equipment to the proper item level of the dungeon. Beating dungeons fast enough will earn players a spot on the leaderboard, and will provide cosmetic, visually impressive equipment for players to use in transmogrification. The pet battle system that was announced at BlizzCon was also shown to us in more detail, although we unfortunately were not able to get hands-on play with the system. The pet battles will be 3 vs 3, and they appear to play out like a typical turn-based fight in an RPG like, say, Pokémon. Battles will be cross-server and simple to jump in and out of, but competitive players may be disappointed -- this system is designed to be low-key and casual. You can't see the name of your opponent, you can't speak to them during the battle, and there are no rewards for winning. Mists of Pandaria is also introducing a new quest type: scenarios. Street explained that when people end up with a group quest in their quest log, they tend to skip it -- players find it too difficult to get together a proper group just to run and do a short quest. Scenarios aim to solve that problem by replacing standard group quests with short, instanced content designed for three players. Rather than spamming general chat looking for party members, you can queue up just as you would in the dungeon or raid finder. The content is specifically designed to not require the holy trinity of tank-healer-DPS; the idea is that viable groups can form quickly, and people can jump right into the content. While the examples we were shown were all combat scenarios, Cory Stockton suggested that there may be some entirely non-combat story scenarios for players more interested in Warcraft lore. And, as anyone who has been following Mists of Pandaria knows, this expansion will be introducing a new race -- the eponymous Pandaren -- and a new class, the monk. Mists of Pandaria will also include a complete overhaul of the talent system. Street told us that the original talent tree concept essentially ended up creating cookie-cutter builds, as the community identified an optimized build for each tree. Many of the previous abilities granted by talents have been rolled into the abilities themselves, and talent choices now provide smaller, situational abilities or bonuses, regardless of specialization. For example, when I made my Paladin, my first choice was choosing between one of the following three talents: a flat 10% movement speed increase in all situations, a moderate movement speed increase that lasted for eight seconds but only triggered when I used Judgement, or a significant movement speed burst that was its own ability on its own cool-down. The idea behind the new system is to make each talent choice viable and to eliminate "must-have" talents that virtually all players end up taking. There's no specific release date yet, but Blizzard says that five of the seven final zones in Pandaria are content-complete, and that they're trying to get Mists of Pandaria out as fast as possible. This expansion doesn't appear to be fundamentally altering the core of World of Warcraft -- you'll still be doing quests where you kill ten jaguars, and returning players will likely only find minor tweaks to their existing rotations -- but Blizzard is hoping that the expanded focus on end-game content and the looming war between the Horde and Alliance will keep existing players entertained and entice lapsed users to return to Azeroth.
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It's been out for a little over seven years now, but World of Warcraft is still going strong. Last week I was invited over to Blizzard to take a look at Warcraft's upcoming expansion, Mists of Pandaria, and I was able to get some playtime with the game and speak to some of the members of the development team about what's in store when Mists of Pandaria is released later this year.

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Bloggers Wanted: Browser Games


Mar 05
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and t...
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Bloggers Wanted: Promotions


Feb 27
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag ...
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Hot on the heels of last weekend's closed press beta, ArenaNet is now taking applications for all future Guild Wars 2 beta events. Sign-ups will only be open for the next 48 hours, so if you're interested, you should put your...

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Bloggers Wanted: Endings


Feb 20
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it...

Guild Wars 2 isn't like any MMO you've played before

Feb 20 // Aerox
Guild Wars 2 (PC)Developer: ArenaNetPublisher: NCsoftRelease: 2012After creating my first character of seven, a Charr Warrior, I began in the Charr tutorial area. My first glance at the screen suggested there wasn't much new going on. I saw an NPC with a glowing green star above its head standing in front of me, some combat skills down in my hotbar, and quest details in the upper right corner. After completing the area and slaughtering a giant possessed statue with the help of about ten other players, I started to see what made the game unique. I tend to be a loner in MMOs; in World of Warcraft, I usually just quest by myself. I made it to level 85 with a Paladin, and I think I did maybe two instances. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, I did one Flashpoint and then spent the rest of the game completely by myself. In Guild Wars 2, I found myself working consistently with other players, and for the first time, I didn't mind. While, as I mentioned earlier, there are still quest givers and floating green stars, that mechanic is only used for your Story Quests -- a quest chain that is personal to your character, instanced, and based on your race and the decisions you made at character creation. Every other quest and event, which will likely make up the bulk of your Player vs. Environment experience, are world events that just naturally happen. You'll hear that a farmer needs help tending his field, or will be informed that a group of harpies is launching a raid on a nearby rock quarry. And as you start running towards these battles, you'll see that most of the other players in the area are, too. When you start fighting or assisting, all you have to do is jump in and start working on quest objectives. You don't need to group up or join a party, you don't need to worry about mob tagging or kill stealing, and you won't miss out on experience or loot as long as you participate in some way. Because it's so easy to work together, and because there aren't any negative consequences, Guild Wars 2 is the first MMO I've played where I actually feel connected to the rest of the player base. Rather than hide from other players, or compete with them for quest spawns, I found myself actively looking for opportunities to help others. Instead of running the other way when I saw large groups of people, I'd start following them, since I assumed they were heading somewhere interesting. Social aspects aside, it didn't really strike me how fundamentally different Guild Wars 2's philosophy was until I ran the Ascalon Catacombs dungeon. The trinity as you know it is absent -- there are no tanks, no dedicated healers, and no classes focused entirely on DPS. Every class feels unique both in terms of weapon skills and mechanics, and every class can contribute significantly in terms of dealing damage and helping the party with support and utility. You don't need any particular party composition to complete the PvE dungeons in Guild Wars 2 -- my group was made up of two Rangers, two Guardians, and an Engineer. According to the developers, the game has been explicitly designed so that you can grab anyone around you and run a dungeon, without worrying about which classes you have in attendance. Don't mistake this design choice for a decision to make dungeons easy, though. They're not. They're actually quite difficult -- even with three developers in our group, we wiped four or five times. Not because the dungeon was unfairly difficult or because the bosses had an unfair advantage, but because we often simply weren't paying attention and/or didn't quite have a handle on our classes yet. While Guild Wars 2's combat will generally feel familiar to MMO veterans, two mechanics set it apart from most other games: the ability to move while using most attacks (even many channeled ones), and the ability to dodge. Having to maneuver during combat, while a simple addition, adds a new tactical level that requires more attention. At early levels, you can get away with standing still and rhythmically pressing your hotkeys in rotation order, but you'll quickly learn that your position in relation to your enemies is important. Knowing when to dodge and how to position your party appears to be critical to success in Guild Wars 2. Since you don't have tanks, and you don't really have healers, anyone can be attacked at any time. Monster AI goes beyond standard threat/hate generated by damage, and we were told that it also takes into account a combination of things such as position (apparently the most important determinant) as well as who's already hurting. You can't just plop a tank on a boss and consider everyone safe -- because everyone is vulnerable, everyone has to know when to advance, retreat, or dodge a massive attack that could take them down in one or two hits. Because of the limited time frame of the beta, I had to make a choice between whether I wanted to dive into the World vs. World vs. World stuff, or the more standard Structured PvP. Since the World PvP was new to me (and since it seemed that's what everyone else was doing), that's where I chose to spend my time. It was, again, unlike anything I had ever played before. Throughout the weekend, the World PvP was consistently compared to the Realm PvP system of Dark Ages of Camelot, both by multiple members of the press and even some developers. I haven't played DAoC, so I can't confirm just how similar or different it is, but the general gist is as follows. Three entire servers are pitted against each other in a two-week, persistent battle across four connected maps. Three of the maps are virtually identical, and serve as each server's starting base of operations. The fourth map is a unique one in the middle that generally serves as the central hub for the fighting. You can freely travel to any of the four maps at any time through portals, though, so raids and incursions into "home base" territory are common. The goal is to capture various structures such as supply camps, keeps, and towers, and hold them for as long as possible. The more structures you hold, the more points you earn. The server with the most points at the end of the two weeks is the victor. The basic idea may sound simple on paper, but in practice it's anything but. Keeps and towers can acquire fortifications and weapons that can be manned and fired. Players can repair gates and walls as they're attacked, and also have opportunities to purchase upgrades for the entire structure -- but only if they have the money and supply to do so. Supply camps send out supply caravans to keeps and towers, but are lightly defended. A keep that's well supplied can last for hours during a siege, as long as there is at least one player inside to initiate repairs. Cut the supply lines and blockade the entrances, and the gates will fall fairly quickly. Add another team into the mix beyond the traditional two, and you have a fluid, complex PvP system that I found to be quite enjoyable, and I normally don't participate in PvP scenarios. I tried the World PvP on Saturday afternoon, the battle having raged on for a little over a day. We were in second place: the Green team had a moderate lead on us, while the Blue team was lagging far behind. As I joined the fight, I was told we were grouping en masse to try to take back a Green keep near one of our own castles. I met up with my team at the front gate, which we were trying to batter down to no effect. Looking at the map, we realized that the Green team owned almost every supply camp across all four areas, and that the damage we were doing was quickly being repaired by someone inside the keep. Technically, with enough time, we would have eventually been able to wear it down, but a Green scout had alerted his team that we were assaulting the keep, and we ended up being driven off by a defense squad. As we tried to regroup, we realized we needed to take back the supply camps. Our commander noted that the Green team seemed to consistently travel in one single pack; because they could theoretically be attacked by two teams at once, this wasn't necessarily a bad move. We figured, though, that we could use this to our advantage. We decided to attack another Green structure -- this time a tower -- but we peeled off two small teams of four (one of which I joined) to go try to take back the supply camps while Green was distracted by this new assault. It worked. For the next hour, my small group ran across all four maps, liberating supply camps and taking down any Green caravans we saw along the way. Currently, you are only notified that one of your structures is under attack if you are near it, although you can look at the map and see who controls each point. If you watch the map carefully, you can see that you're losing ground, but you won't know anything about the size of the force or which direction they're heading in next unless you have players scouting the area. Green apparently did not do this, as we were able to take all but one supply camp for Red. With their supply lines cut off, Green had a much harder time defending their points. We all grouped back up, and went on a rampage across Green's home territory, capturing four or five towers and keeps before we were eventually located and repelled. I logged out that night in pretty good spirits, convinced that we had put ourselves in a great position, until I logged back in Sunday morning and found that Blue had mounted a huge comeback overnight, taking virtually all of the territory we had previously won. Oops. Guild Wars 2 seems to have kept many of the basic structures and tropes of the MMO genre (levels, five-man dungeons, distinct classes), but much of the core MMO gameplay has been tweaked or expanded to create a new experience. MMO fans looking for something new will, I think, enjoy how social this game is, and appreciate that ArenaNet has tried to make group questing and dungeon running smooth, painless, and natural. PvP fans, especially those looking for persistent and complex battles, should enjoy the World vs. World. vs. World gameplay. If you've never played an MMO before but are interested in the genre, the lack of a subscription fee and the accessibility of the game may make Guild Wars 2 worth checking out. In a genre that's filled with clones and rehashes, the beta of Guild Wars 2 was refreshing. While there's not necessarily anything wrong with any previous MMOs, it's nice to see that ArenaNet is taking Guild Wars 2 in a unique direction.
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This weekend, ArenaNet gave select members of the press a chance to see the current beta of Guild Wars 2. We had the opportunity to create Human, Charr, and Norn characters of any class, and play through each race's level 1-3...

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Bloggers Wanted: Beginnings


Feb 13
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it ...
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Bloggers Wanted: Training


Feb 06
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it w...
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Bloggers Wanted: Improvement


Jan 30
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with...
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Bloggers Wanted: Location


Jan 23
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with t...
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Bloggers Wanted: Mobility


Jan 17
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the ...
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Bloggers Wanted: What I Want in 2012


Jan 09
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the ...
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Diablo III appears to have a release date


Jan 07
// Aerox
It's not officially 100% confirmed, but this physical display at a Minnesota Best Buy seems like pretty solid evidence. According to a series of photos sent into Joystiq by one of their readers, Best Buy is advertising a midn...
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Bloggers Wanted: Predictions


Jan 03
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the ...
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Bloggers Wanted: Resolutions


Dec 26
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "...
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Bloggers Wanted: Giving


Dec 19
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Blo...
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Bloggers Wanted: Modifications


Dec 12
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Blogge...
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Bloggers Wanted: Xenophilia


Dec 05
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Bloggers ...
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Bloggers Wanted: Tales from Skyrim


Nov 28
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Bloggers W...
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Bloggers Wanted: Thanksgiving


Nov 21
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Bloggers Want...
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Bloggers Wanted: Zelda Week


Nov 14
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Bloggers Wanted ...
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Bloggers Wanted: Acquisition


Nov 07
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Bloggers Wanted ...
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Bloggers Wanted: Peripherals


Oct 31
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Bloggers Wanted Es...
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Bloggers Wanted: MMO Stories!


Oct 24
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Bloggers Wanted Essay...

BlizzCon 2011: Examining the new Heart of the Swarm units

Oct 21 // Aerox
Sad news Protoss fans -- the iconic Carriers, as well as the Motherships, are being cut from Heart of the Swarm. As Tony told me, and as anyone who plays online often knows, these two units simply weren't used very much. The Mothership was too high up in the tech tree and too expensive to really be viable, and Carriers were generally ditched in favor of Void Rays and other Protoss flying units. The good news is their removals are making way for a new Protoss capital ship: the Tempest. The Tempest will hopefully eliminate one of the Protoss' current weaknesses -- dealing with large amounts of air units. Protoss players are probably painfully familiar with seeing huge swarms of mutalisks coming at them and being unable to do much to defend, so the large area-of-effect air attack the Tempest is packing may make that fight a bit more even. Another new Protoss unit, and by far the one I'm most interested in, is the Replicant. The Replicant has the ability to permanently transform into any non-massive unit on the map, as long as you have sight on it. Not only do you take on all the properties of the unit you're replicating, but you also gain all of their technology and abilities. As Tony told me, that means that (at least in its current form) if you replicate an SCV, you can use it to build a command center, and then start controlling and training more SCVs. The cost to build Replicants is very high, so you won't be able to mass them up and go crazy, but it sounds like even one might be enough to give you a huge advantage in battle. The final new Protoss unit revealed is the Oracle, which is another flying unit that mostly focuses on support. The Orcale has a range of abilities, including one that locks down a mineral field to prevent it from being harvested, one that lets you inspect an enemy building to see what's currently being built and researched, and the ability to phase out both friendly and hostile buildings, temporarily removing them entirely and preventing them from functioning or taking damage. Over on the Zerg side, Overseers are getting the axe. To replace some of their functionality, the Zerg now have a new air unit called the Viper. An air supporter with no actual attack, the Viper has some unique abilities that are pretty different than what you've seen in StarCraft before. The Viper can shoot out a Blinding Cloud, which reduces the range of all units stuck inside the cloud to one. Being harassed by a bunch of marines? Drop a cloud on them, and they can't shoot anything unless it's standing directly in front of them. The Viper also has an ability called Abduct, which lets him grab a unit with a tentacle and pull it towards him. Tony explained a variety of ways this could be used: pulling your own units out of combat to protect them, pulling enemy units out of range of friendlies, or even using the Viper to move your own units over obstacles, like cliffs or boulders. The Zerg are also lacking in siege ability, so they're getting the Swarm Host. The Swarm Host is slow and defenseless, but it can burrow. And once it's burrowed, it starts spawning a stream of melee units, Locusts, that Tony explained as currently being about as strong as a Zealot. One or two Swarm Hosts aren't hard to deal with, but if you manage to burrow a whole bunch right outside an enemy's base, they'll soon find themselves overwhelmed by Locusts. The Terrans aren't losing any units, and are seeing a number of current units get some hefty upgrades. The Hellion can now be upgraded into a Battle Hellion, a slower-moving, stronger version of the Hellion that makes them viable in mid- to late-game. Tony explained that they were looking to improve units that would be built for a specific purpose in the early game, but then ended up completely ignored as they became useless. The Thor is also getting a massive upgrade -- literally. It's even bigger than it was before. You can only have one out at a time, but it's even stronger and more powerful than its previous incarnation. As a tradeoff, it no longer can attack air units, but with regular attacks that already deal serious damage and a new, massive area-of-effect ground attack, the Thor will be a serious force to be reckoned with. The Terrans are getting a couple brand new units, as well. The Warhound is a small walking mech that functions similarly to the old, now-replaced Thor. It can't shoot anti-air missiles as far as the old Thor could, but its increased speed and maneuverability appear to make up for it. The Terrans can also build Shredders, which can't attack while moving, but once set stationary channel area-effect damage to both grounded and flying units. If any friendly units wander into its range, however, it temporarily shuts off so as not to damage them. You won't want to deploy them in the middle of a large battle. These are the major units that were revealed so far today. Other units are slated to receive a number of tweaks, both in their stats and in the way some of their abilities function, but this is the big stuff. If change scares you, or if you're not planning on grabbing Heart of the Swarm, the Wings of Liberty ladder will still be available. If, like me, you're going to jump right into Heart of the Swarm as soon as it launches, there's a lot of information here to consider as you start preparing your new strategies. GLHF.
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As many of you probably saw, one of the revelations that came out of BlizzCon this morning were some of the new units that will be available in the multiplayer portion of Heart of the Swarm, the upcoming StarCraft II expansio...

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Bloggers Wanted: Online Passes


Oct 17
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Bloggers Wanted Essay R...
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Bloggers Wanted: Integration


Oct 10
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the "Bloggers Wanted Essay Resp...






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