Sunday, October 23, 2011

WoW at Blizzcon: $#%ing Pandas

I'll say it again: $#%ing Pandas
Most everything I have about the first day of Blizzcon is positive, but I need to get that headline off my chest and out of the way up front.  It seems to me we should be able to do better than with cutesy-wootsy, widdle panda bear characters. I mean, Samwise Didier invented this race in a throwaway sketch to please his infant daughter. COME ON!

Moving on.

Darn, Pandaria looks good!  I watched part of the art panel this weekend and was pretty impressed with the tools they have and they way they use them.  For my money, Wrath of the Lich King was the finest scenery they have yet made for this game, and Pandaria seems like it is made from the same cloth.  I can hardly wait to get to go exploring there.

And, as for the unifying element of this expansion, I'm feeling happy that there is no new Big Bad this time around. I have little doubt that some rotten new NPCs will step forward to have our might focussed against them, but it's nice to not have the world's safety hanging by a string.  No one should be expected to have to save the world EVERY SINGLE DAY!  Not even our characters. If the Alliance and Horde factions go to all-out war, that's a good thing too.

Thinking of war between the Alliance and Horde, during the Lore Panel, an Alliance player stepped forward, braved the boos of the crowd and asked Chris Metzen point blank when he was going to let the Alliance back into the fight. And Metzen just doesn't get it. He described a quest series they are trying to write in which Varian Wrynn takes our characters as valets of sorts in a round-the-world tour to shore up Alliance support. But that's not what I want to see. What I want is to see the Horde gains to Alliance territory retaken and the cursed wretches given a drubbing. I want the political map of the world redrawn.  Cheerleading for the king is a poor, poor substitute.

I think somebody boxed Metzen and a few others about the ears before letting them out on stage this time. The roars for the Horde were a bit more balanced, but I mean... really, Metzen: appreciate he's a writer and he likes his characters, but the Alliance needs action now, not more soul-searching from the king, dammit.

There are so many other things they touched on this weekend, I'll surely come back to revisit some of these in future blogs, but just quick notes after the jump for now.

Talent System Change:
It took me a few moments to recognize it, but this is mostly the same sort of technology development system they used in StarCraft II.  It makes sense. The talent trees had to go and I was pleased that most everybody talking about it owned up to the fact that the system, and it's last redesign didn't live up to expectations. Overall, I think it's an improvement, with two caveats:

  • This is not a frustration-free plan. Some of those tiers of talent selections are still going to be rotten choices for a lot of characters. I don't think this sort of frustration is something that can be eliminated entirely but I hope they can refine it a bit more though.
  • With talents spaced 15 levels apart, I think leveling is going to seem slower. I appreciate that most of the talents seem bigger and more exciting all over, but even as fast as we can level now, 15 levels is a long ways.

Surprise. I didn't expect no more classes in this World o' Warcraft. Ever. The monk was an obvious option though so I guess they were going to try it eventually.

Anyway. A new tank specc? Weird but true.

Another melee dps class?  Except for the fact that it's going to piss off rogues to share da loot some more, I'm not particularly interested.

A MELEE HEALING CLASS!!!!!! I know what my next character is going to be.  I have long dreamed of such a thing and my first impressions is that Blizzard has created a good good thing here.

Basically, the monk healer beats on a bad guy and generates some variant of energy (monks have two of them) and then releases that energy in the form of a smart heal. Or, apparently, he can drop little statue things (totems?) around the area that will radiate healing as well as he releases the energy.  The result being that the monk healer doesn't really have to target who gets healed, but doesn't do a terribly heavy amount of damage either.  I like it!

Challenge Dungeons:
Meh. Every dungeon is already a sprint to the finish when the goddamn death knight zones in and begins chanting, "Gogogo!" I don't enjoy speed dungeons as it is, and giving me medals or whatever isn't going to change that. The only thing interesting me here more is the way they intend to "normalize" one's gear so that you don't overgear the instance as you "challenge" it.  This could be a precursor to me getting to take my lvl 85 character to Ragefire Chasm with newbie friends and I don't throw off the whole instance so much. That would be fun... to play with newbie friends, though I don't expect downranking my gear will every feel satisfying.

Um.... PvE Scenarios (or whatever they called it)
This seems like an alternate to having to run dungeons for Valor Points, for the most part. Not a bad idea, I know several people who would like that. Expect it to be for very very limited Valor Points however. Blizzard said nothing, but they seem to have a lot invested in keeping the hardcores as placated as possible and that means giving them every advantage to better gear faster.  They scenarios they presented here seemed fairly cut and dried however. I hope they get some more imagination into them soon.

WoW Pokemon:
Snore. I guess my nephew would love it if he played WoW. But, he already plays Pokemon on his Nintendo DS and so doesn't need this feature. If, somehow, you have missed this news so far, They are creating a combat system for non-combat pets. For example, you can train your Tranquil Mechanical Yeti to fight other player's Black Cats. Or whatever. The language used by Corey Stockton as he described all this was so reminiscent of the whole Pocket Monsters craze that the audience just kept laughing with incredulity.

This feature just makes me feel old. I was well into my 20s by the time Pokemon came on the scene, and thus was able to avoid the brainwashing effects it seems to have had on everybody I know under 30.  I can't believe how many blogs I've already read wondering about which companion pet they would level up first. I suspect that this system will be moderately easy to build, though. It appears static and turn based, and...  I dunno. I'll reserve judgement til I see it for real, but it feels like /facepalm so far to me.

Sayonara to Range Slots:
I read a prognostication that this was going to happen a few weeks ago. I can understand it too. If you are a hunter, then yr range slot is very important. If you're not a hunter, it's just another stat stick.  Ridding the world of minimum range distance is good, and I loved Ghostcrawler's summation of what this does for hunters: "We went from everything being a hunter weapon to nothing being a hunter weapon" (hunters will no longer carry melee weapons at all). But I shall shed a tear for the loss of Merinna's totems. It's not a large thing, since they had already been homogenized into "relics" but I was rather pleased with the quests involving the acquisition of the four elemental totems. That was good class lore.

Whiny Goddamn Feral Druids:
The paladins of this year's Blizzcon. The cat and bear druids, about to have their abilities separated, brought out the QQ for everybody to see. The Open Q&A on Saturday was one whiny little bear after another crying about how he can't dps in those moments that the other tank has got the boss. Paladins don't feel the love. Droods don't feel appreciated. You'd think there was a tendency among the hybrid classes to take everything too hard. But it's not a hybrid thing. The enhancement shamans who complained about their poor specc treatment are all absolutely, 100% right. I'm with you, brothers!

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