The Vengeful Polyglot

BlizzCon 2011 Recap: Pandas!

Posted on: October 24, 2011

Since I wasn’t able to actually go to Blizzcon this year, this picture from the Curse afterparty (photo credit to Corey Sandler) is as good as I can do. But man, do we ever look like we’re enjoying some competitive skeeball!

In all seriousness, though, we got a whole lot of information out of Blizzcon this year, most of which really needs to be seen, I think, before it can be evaluated. I’m sure excited to see these things on live, though!

 

Mists of Pandaria

As is pretty well-known now, we finally got confirmation that the trademark filing some-odd months ago was in fact for the new expansion. As excited as I am about it, something about it hit me a little oddly. I remember reading an article on WoW Insider which made the observation that this launch was so very different than Cataclysm’s because very little was known prior to Blizzcon. Lacking a big leak, we were kept mostly in the dark until Blizzard was ready to open the curtain.

I’m not sure this is entirely so. I think the real reason the tide of speculation over the trademark was stemmed to a trickle was that Tom Chilton came out and pretty much said that the buzz about MoP being the next expansion was “wildly overhyped” in an IGN interview:

Speculation swirled recently regarding Blizzard’s decision to trademark “Mists of Pandaria,” as many thought it may indicate the name of the next World of Warcraft expansion. Pandaria, inWarcraft lore, refers to the home of the Pandaren, basically humanoid war pandas you may remember making an appearance as neutral heroes in Warcraft III. Chilton said the speculation was, “wildly overhyped.” He added, “if you look at traditionally how we’ve handled that race it’s been in those secondary products because we haven’t realized it in the world. Most of the time when we do anything panda-related it’s going to be a comic book or a figurine or something like that.”

Sure, he doesn’t expressly rule it out, but he’s dismissive enough that, in retrospect, I feel more than a bit misled. I understand, from a business standpoint (and from a “fun” standpoint, as well) that the element of surprise is important to an IP’s sales. Keeping the curiosity up can help drive sales. If, however, something leaks out, shouldn’t you either not comment or admit, “Yes, you’re right, you found us out”? While it might not have been an outright lie, it kind of still feels like one. That awkwardness aside, I am really excited about a lot of the content being released.

Mists of Pandaria, unlike recent expansions, is to focus on the conflict between the Horde and Alliance rather than a big baddie. This is something I’ve felt was far, far overdue. Especially since the decline of world PvP, choosing a faction has seemed more of an aesthetic choice than anything based on ideology. Each expansion has the Alliance and the Horde grudgingly coming together (usually thorough neutral factions) to fight the dastardly foe of the day, putting enmity aside for the greater good. That’s fine, but it sure doesn’t give you the hostile feel you’d expect from such an extreme faction divide. I’m ready for some old-fashioned orc-on-human smackdown! Let’s do this.

Blizzard is also not being coy about seeing what works in other MMOs and folding that into the already monumental success of WoW (particularly, I think, in advance of Star Wars: The Old Republic coming out this winter). I think some of these changes are aimed at gaining back subscribers that peeled away to try out games like Warhammer or Rift, as well as reaching out to some larger demographics that previously may not have been entirely won over by Blizzard.

 

Pandaren

World of Warcraft’s first neutral race! Based on the introduction of transmogrification, I’m not too surprised. The whole silhouette theory seems to have gone out the window a bit, as I’ve mentioned before, so both factions having access to a race doesn’t seem off the wall at this point. The idea that the “factioned” Pandaren are offshoots from a larger neutral race (kind of like the Horde’s own Goblin cartel) seems like a good way to frame the conflict.

The obvious elephant in the room is, well, they’re rotund, drunken pandas, famous for being a April Fool’s joke one year. However, the story team has stated that they’ve treated the lore with dignity and well-tempered humor, and I’m inclined to believe that. As others have said, weren’t we pretty skeptical of our spacegoats from space? They wound up a much-beloved (if slightly ret-conned) race. Pandaren were also in Warcraft 3, and so they’re definitely not a recent pop-culture reference. It’s internally consistent, and I’m looking forward to some nice, juicy lore.

Not to mention, they’re amazingly modeled and come with a wonderfully different environment, even if it is a bit campy. Part of what worries me about the Pandaren is their… roundness. I was thinking of tier models, particularly the Horde caster ToC tier. You know, the pointy one? I just can’t see how they’re going to fit tier onto those fluffy shoulders. For that, I suppose, there’s nothing to do but wait and see. I’m also interested to see just how much sexual dimorphism they’re going to give the lady pandas. Are we going to have another female Worgen (or even Troll/Draenei/Tauren) fiasco? Only time will tell!

Here’s hoping those racials are temporary, or indicative of another racial overhaul. Otherwise, those are some pretty overpowered leveling tools. The rested one in particular is pretty drool-worthy!

 

Monks

I am SO excited for monks! For so long we have clamored for a melee healer, and now we’re getting one! I could not be more psyched. I’m sure the tank will be pretty neat, as well, but I just can’t get over the fact that I am going to PUNCH HEAL people! It’s going to be epic.

The elimination of auto-attack is something I foresee people hating pre-release and then realizing, “Hey, I don’t notice anything different,” on live. This is something I’m 90% certain was taken from SW:TOR that they want to test out before springing it on classes that already exist (unless I’ve misunderstood the announcement, this is a Monk-only thing right now). I can’t imagine, having been in the SW:TOR beta that I’ll miss it too much. Casters already live without it, and if you’re following a tight attack priority you’re generally not sitting around auto-attacking anyway. I won’t be sad to see it go.

Monks!

 

PvE Additions

There were several PvE content additions announced that I think will be really interesting to see on live. First are PvE Scenarios. In my head, these will be all the fun of battlegrounds with none of the Night Elf Rogues! And that can only be a good thing. In all seriousness, if you don’t consider the queue feature (and it would be cool, in my opinion, to be able to just “walk into” scenarios already going down in the world), these are very similar to world events in Warhammer and Rift. I’m guessing Blizzard wants a piece of that pie, and I think fans will respond positively to it. I’m certainly not complaining: the idea of role-less PvE content is really appealing to me, as are instant queues!

World bosses are back and I’m happy to see them! I think they added a lot of depth and excitement to being out and about in Azeroth, and I would love to see again the impromptu raids of yore to take down some minor dragon or another. Speaking of things coming back, we’re having another round of classic-dungeons-made-heroic: the fan-favorite Scarlet Monestary as well as the kind-of-out-of-the-way Scholomance. I know there are some players who cry foul at recycled content, but as a huge ran of revamped Naxx et al. I have to say I enjoy getting the chance to go back without having to roll an alt.

Challenge Dungeons give me pause, a bit. I understand that Blizzard is moving from the current Heroics-as-entry-raiding model to a Raid-Finder-as-entry-raiding model, tuning Heroics back down to the lol-easy Wrath level and adding additional difficulty in the form of these Challenge speed runs, but I can’t decide if this is going to be a net positive or negative change. We already speed through Cata heroics with the Dungeon Finder, despite them not being as streamroll-friendly as Wrath ones were, and as I’ve previously discussed this has had a lot of social ramifications. Is adding a tangible reason for all discussion to be of the “gogogo” variety, and even a PvE epeen scoreboard (I like in-game rankings over there in PvP — well away from me — but that’s a personal opinion), going to make for a pleasant play experience? On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that reasonable (and/or slow) people will entirely eschew these new dungeons, and that my heroic experience will in fact improve as power-hungry jerks are drawn away. Could be! We’ll have to see.

(Disclaimer: I know not all people who want to have fast runs are power-hungry jerks, nor are all people excited to have a tangible PvE score — you all know exactly the type of player I’m talking about. “God’s gift to WoW,” with his abusive language and constant meter-posting, appears about once in every few Dungeon Finder runs, I suspect!)

I know I’m going to be one millionth person to say this but… Pokemon? In my WoW? It’s more likely than, apparently, I would think. Pet battles are coming, I can only guess in an effort to draw over loyal Pokemon fans, or possibly to appeal to a younger and/or female demographic. This is another addition I’m on the fence about. I’m of the Pokemon generation, I’m fairly young, and I’m female — the most appealing aspect of Pokemon, for me, was already in the game: collecting. I already can, and do, collect non-combat pets, but that has never translated into a desire to go on my own Pokemon Master quest and travel with them across Kanto– er, Azeroth. It honestly seems a bit out of left field.

To the best of my quasi-game-theory-educated knowledge, the collecting and naming are the elements female gamers are most drawn to, elements which already partially existed in WoW. I’m not sure exactly who they’re trying to appeal to, unless it’s Pokefans already subscribed to WoW; while the younger crowd still goes nuts for Pikachu, it’s far from the glory days of my youth. People don’t smuggle the things into class to trade at recess. Pokemon’s day in the sun has passed. I just want to know who Blizzard is courting here that it isn’t already involved with. If it’s a legitimate attempt to add alternate content for subscribers that are already faithful to WoW, god bless them, I’m just used to being able to identify an expected return for the investment of man-power.

 

Further Simplifications

Thar be a talent revamp an’ gear changes afoot in the new expansion! I think I may have been the only person not to see it coming, but I welcome it nonetheless. The talent revamp in Cataclysm far from accomplished its goal — cookiecutter specs are still cookiecutter, even if you get to take a few fun talents on the side. From what I’ve seen of the new talent trees, I’m really excited to see how they’ll work in practice. The choices do seem really compelling, I’m just wondering how much from the previous talent trees will be rolled down into the base “spec” decision — I don’t want to lose spec flavor due to the elimination or “spreading-around” of iconic talents. I’m assuming we still generally get the same spells with a similar playstyle to the one we’re used to, despite it not being bolstered directly by talents. Again, these really do seem to fit the bill for what the developers have been going for. Fun choices!

I’m also totally on board with further gear simplification. It’s easier on new players, and less annoying for veterans. I won’t miss the ranged slot on my Warrior or Rogue, wands make a ton of sense as mainhand weapons, and relics etc. became completely boring to me as soon as their flavor was removed and they became glorified offhands. I’m also glad the minimum range will be going away for Hunters. All in all, these changes make gearing a lot more straightforward.

New character models are being worked on. New character models! I am gleeful. While this is more of a updating than a simplification, I think it will make the game seem a lot more cohesive overall. I know the WoW Annual Pass isn’t exactly a simplification either, but… Free Diablo III! I think it’s a really smart decision to incentivize sticking with WoW past the release of SW:TOR as well as not making loyal fans choose between Bizzard’s IPs. The change makes just a ton of business sense, and it makes you feel like you’re really getting something for your loyalty. Excellent!

 

Overall

I am so, so looking forward to this expansion. I was a bit hesitant at first, but I think it’s growing on me. It could be that I’ll eat up pretty much anything having to do with WoW, but I do actually think most of these changes will be positive for the game as the whole.

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3 Responses to "BlizzCon 2011 Recap: Pandas!"

I think you referred to as pandas as a class >.> And it sounds like Challenge Dungeons are going to be the same dungeons we’re running, tuning all our gear either low or high for consistency, with only the high score and cosmetic armor as reward with no ‘real’ loot (unless they shove valor onto it)

A herp derp race. 😛 Fixed. Challenge dungeons do reward valor, I think? Maybe. The most confusing thing about the mogging rewards is that I don’t think the people who are super gogogo speed-demons are the same people who care about cosmetic features. But I could be totally wrong on that one. 😛

Valor, yes :3 They talked about it a bit more formally in MMO-Report, also

” Depending on how well the group does, players will receive recognizable prestige rewards such as mounts, pets, titles, achievements, or special armor artwork that can be used with transmogrification to customize a character’s appearance”

It seems like timed runs from ZA but made so you can’t steamroll it? (since you either had to have an epic guild for that or pay an more epic guide to 9 man it for you)

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Blog by a programmer cum linguist cum writer cum total geek. One who pretentiously uses "cum" in place of any other logical connectives. Direct questions to the Ask Lauren page!

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