Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More on Blizzcon

Sorry, I just can't come up with anything clever to say about this,
but this is why I'm not crazy about the Pandaren race. 
About the time I published Blizzcon notes the other day, I immediately started thinking about other points that I didn't get to.  So, there are things to continue from the last blog post here.

I've also had some time to reflect on notes coming in from the blogosphere about the shape of the content to come.  It seems to me that the reactions are unduly extreme: either unnecessarily positive or unduly negative. A few things about the greater world order perhaps should be observed:

The important thing I see right now is that for the first time in many years, we are seeing just the hint of the beginning of the story of this expansion, while we have gotten used to viewing the end of these things.

When Wrath of the Lich King was announced, just about every player could clearly picture nudging Arthas' corpse with their foot at the top of Icecrown Citadel.  Cataclysm was announced, and everybody I know spoke of "When we kill Deathwing,"  not "If we kill Deathwing." But that was the nature of the story arc in those cases.

But, for Pandaland, we just don't know what the denouement is going to be. We have some hazy pictures of some evil beings lurking in the underbelly of the new continent, but we can't begin to imagine the motivations and true nature of these things.  I frankly find the open-ended nature of this to be a good thing. But that's why I find a lot of the overly-positive / overly-negative immediate response to be a bit perplexing: it's way to early to make any real evaluation of what is coming up. We know less about it than we did for the past two expansions.

The other thing that seems pretty clear from the blogosphere is that there's a lot of people who really dig anthropomorphic panda bears and a surprising number of them are not 5-year-old girls. Basically, the whole thing is too cutesy for me in, but I have had to reflect and try to understand why I have been vaguely uneasy about Pandarens since first hearing "Mists of Pandaria" a few months ago. An unexamined belief is not a belief holding onto, in my opinion.

I'm concerned about the whole "Asian" thing going on with the Pandaren. Blizzard got into big trouble years ago with the Chinese when they first unveiled their Pandarens walking around dressed as samurai.  Pandas are the national critters of China; The samurai came from Japan. And those two countries dislike each other and get virulent if you mix up their cultural heritages.   Here we are again with that one Pandaren walking around with mutton chops and a topknot-- again, a traditional hairstyle one traces to Japan, not China.

And then, Chris Metzen described the Pandaren "attitude:" easy-going, loving their food and liable to shoot a peace-sign across the battlefield to a fellow Pandaren. I expect them to leap up and start calling eachother "brah" in Jack Black's voice, as in "Hey, brah, slap me some skin and pass the potatoes." How are we to not conclude that the design team hasn't watched Kung Fu Panda a few too many times?

And, it's not that there's anything wrong with Kung Fu Panda, Jack Black, or anything else. It's just that Warcraft races are at their best when they surprise us, going past the easy genre expectations they come saddled with.  Everything I see about Pandarens doesn't seem very well thought out beyond some vague Asian stereotypes and the pop panda culture remnants of the past ten years or so.

I'm not quitting WoW over it or anything like that. I can live with the cutesy-wootsey talking Panda Fans. But I'm not going to do so without suggesting that the Panda racial mount be a pink unicorn.

The Size and Shape of Things:
I really like that we have a proper continent to explore, though five zones still doesn't seem that huge. I did see one interesting picture though, placing the Twilight Highlands next to the continent to display relative size, and each new zone clearly dwarfs the TwiHi, so the size of things may be better than first glimpse would suggest.

I intend to take a wait and see approach on this problem but the devs say that they "let some of these Cata dungeons get away from them." Which is to say that the Deadmines and Halls of Origination were too big and too much.  I'm so torn on this particular issue: I like big dungeons to explore. Some of my fondest memories will always be stumbling around, basically lost in Blackrock Depths.  On the other hand, the current reigning mode of dungeoneering makes Van Cleef and HOO kind of unbearable now. It's important to recall that memory makes most things better than they were at the time, but then I never ran Blackrock Depths almost daily, in its entirety for a year or more.

I heard a rumor that they were not making any "normal" level-90 dungeons; that one will perhaps get to run some stuff on the way from 85 but that upon hitting level cap, the only place to be will be heroic dungeons.  Mostly I can applaud that, having long stated that creating a "normal" dungeon and a "heroic" dungeon was a poor excuse for stretching content.

They also say there will be six new instances on the continent of Pandarea, which is the same as what we had in Cataclysm. And I can state quite simply, that six dungeons was not enough this time around and it won't be enough in Pandarea either.

The Devs also say they intend to check the difficulty of heroics at a lower level, which, um... I'm definitely not happy with. There were difficulties in Pugging during the first months of Cataclysm, but Lich King heroics really were a cakewalk and I wish we didn't have to go back there.

There is another aspect to these dungeons ...

Heroic Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery

I hate retooled heroic dungeons. Hate hate hate hate hate. I hate them so much. I hate the lazy approach Devs take and how they use it as a shortcut to creating real content. I hate that they are still so full of trash. I hate that the drops are just recycled models created years and years ago.  I hate that they don't keep enough of the lore of the old places intact. I hated that Zul Aman was just about completely identical to the Old Zul Aman. And, OMG did I hate the old Zul Aman.

What are they doing for bosses this time? The first boss in one of the SM (where SM really starts to take on the twinges of sadism and masochism for how excrutiating it's going to be to quest there) wings is going to be Ras Frostwhisper. Ras Frostwhisper? Didn't we kill his butt in the Battle of Mt. Hyjal in the Caverns of Time? So they are retooling the instances and repopulating it with bosses from different instances? Do you think they have just... given up trying to make new characters?

No, I don't like it. And they promised one more recycled crap dungeon on top of those two.. It had better not be Gnomeragon. Really, Blizzard, don't do that one.

Upon further reflection, I have discovered that the four wings of SM will be boiled down to two separate wings. That may be the "third" retooled dungeon right there.

Thinking happier thoughts now ...

World of Warcraft Annual Pass
Hey, what a way to shore up the roller-coaster of cyclical subscription rates between expansion releases. You don't even have to pay for it all at once, you just keep on the subscription schedule you always had and just promise to keep it for a year. Just one leetle promise and they're giving you...
  • a pony (Tyrael's Charger; a horse that's styled a lot like Tyrael from Diablo) 
  • A beta pass to Mists of Pandaria when it comes
  • A free digital download of Diablo III. 
  • The free digital download of Diablo III can also be used as credit towards the Diablo III Collector's edition as well.
This is crazy talk! Free Diablo III? My little fanboy heart goes a-racing at the very thought. Why haven't I signed up for this yet?  'Scuse me a sec....

The Destruction of Theramore?
Right after Blizzcon, a Chinese newspaper leaked information suggesting that Jaina Proudmoore's Kalimdor nest was going to be wiped clean by the wrath of Garrosh Hellscream or something.   Zarhym, on the official forums made a rather confusing post about that rumor, pointing out that the Horde has an overzealous leader and all sorts of crumbling relationships while the Alliance is binding up stronger and harder than it's ever been.  Which suggests to me that the Horde may not be able to pull off a feat like this. And then he said "You've got to break a few eggs...." which, I would perhaps interpret to mean that Theramore was the eggs.  I don't know what Zarhym is talking about other than trying to have it both ways, I guess.

I'm mixed on this whole concept. When was the last time anybody went to Theramore that wasn't sent there by a goddamn lame-o mage who threw up the wrong portal because he still thinks that joke is funny?  On the other hand, Jaina is one of these awesome Warcraft characters and has done so much for peace in that region, I don't think I could bear for her to lose her city.

Christine Golden is supposedly churning out the next novel, and it allegedly has Jaina as its focus. I reckon we'll get some vision of the future from that.


  1. I was telling Smudgel and Wildhorse the other night that, after announcing "that for the first time since BC 'Everyone' is playing the same Xpac" that Chinese players aren't going to see MoP (god I love my abbreviations, and MoP seems appropriate, lol) till 3 years after it is irrelevant because of Pandas

  2. I know Merinna hates my harping on the "profit" side of Blizzard and WOW. But, it seems to me that it's much cheaper to recycle older Dungeons than to redevelop brand new ones.
    With Blizzard and their masters at Vivendi, "It's all about the Benjamins".
    Plus, the year subscription thing, smells like a Mobile phone package to me.

  3. I at least partly agree with ya, Soma. They are clearly saving some development costs and perhaps more important, development time by reusing existing assets.

    The year subscription thing is totally an attempt to stop those news stories about the subscription levels falling off in between expansion releases. It should be very successful at hooking the nut jobs like us. But I think we'll still see some subscription decline. Although, that number will be a much more realistic count of the players who really are bailing on Azeroth for good.