In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks you’ve heard that Blizzard has lost their minds, the new expansion totally aims at getting kids to play WOW. At least, that’s what a lot of people in the wow community are saying. It’s the “last straw”, it’s Blizzard jumping the shark, or if you’re Wolfshead who has been saying every expansion killed WOW since BC, with Blizzard “jumping a bigger shark” than the last one. There are a lot of Wolfshead’s out there this time around, but why?
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH
For me, Cataclysm never really felt quite right. I really tried to pump myself up for release, but frankly I was more interested in killing the Lich King than I was about Blizzcon 2010. And in the past few months I’ve been plagued with questions about the World of Warcraft, had I changed or had the game? Then it came to me, I and a lot of WOW players are going through what relationship therapists call the Seven Year Itch. A time where members of a relationship reflect and evaluate their relationship. Often this leads to a realization that one hasn’t been happy with things for a long time and it’s time for change.
Playing a game like World of Warcraft forms a bond between the player and the game, the player and the publisher, and the player and other players. This complex relationship creates a huge emotional investment. I’ll be the first to admit, much of the romance has gone out of the relationship between me and the game. It may sound silly, but this is exactly how I see the complex interaction of player and game. And as the 7th anniversary of the game looms large on the horizon (original release Nov 23, 2004), many players are re evaluating that relationship, myself included.
Having realized that, I think Blizzard has made a gamble with Mists of Pandaria they’re taking a chance at putting some spice back in the relationship…
The number one complaint lodged by the Pandaria dissenters is that Pandas are childish, they make the game look too cartoony, etc. Because, World of Warcraft has always been a serious game where serious shit goes down, srsly. Forgive me if my response is just as childish as the initial argument, which is absolute bullshit by the way. One of the reasons I hesitated to pick up WOW in the first place was that it looked too cartoony. In fact, it was one of the reasons I think a lot of people avoided the game initially. The game has always looked like this, there has been no massive overhaul that has changed the style or fidelity of the games graphics. Furthermore, I ask you this: Goat/Squid hybrids from space are okay right? So are Rasta Trolls that be flippin mon? Gnomes with pink pigtails? Night Elf mohawks? Undead metaleheads? Native Taurens smoking peace pipes? Hell, the antisemitic overtones of Goblins are accepted! But Pandas are just over the line?
There has always been a sort of flippant cheekiness to World of Warcraft, that’s part of it’s charm. Be it a nod to He Man in Shattrath, quests to find lost Hookahs for stoned Trolls, or getting the On A Boat achievement to fulfill your daily internet meme quota. If you’re okay with all of those things, then you shouldn’t have a problem with Pandas, if you do then you either just don’t like the game anymore or you’re performing some sort of mental gymnastics that I just can’t get my head around. Worse, half the time these complaints are lodged by someone from a guild with a super serious name like “Nagas in Pajamas”.
Okay, maybe those bitches be trollin…
Irregardless, if you accept the game as it’s been in the past you have to admit there’s not much earth shatteringly different about adding Pandarens to the mix. Of course, there is also the Jack Black situation to be considered. Jack Black can be blamed for a lot of things, ruining movies (definitely) but ruining WOW? Not so much. Kung Fu Panda (2008) came out a significant amount of time after Pandarens were added to WCIII: The Frozen Throne (2004), and yes they’re likely to add references to the movies, and in fact I kinda hope they do. Why? Because it’s a relevant tie in.
The complainers tend to forget the references to Blade Runner, Monty Python, Star Wars Episodes IV & V: A New Hope & The Empire Strikes Back, Army Of Darkness, and Toy Story in Warcraft III. Yes, TOY STORY of all things. Where was your bitching then?
NEVER SAY NEVER
Of course, a very valid point that people make is that Blizzard reps have stated in the past that Pandarens in WOW just wasn’t going to happen. Though, more likely the wording was probably more along the lines of “We have no current plans to add the Pandaren race to the game”. Which is just a non committal, meaning they may decide to add the race later, they may have already decided to add it later. But not right now. Of course, this also brings up something else – the fact that Blizzard reps have made other declarative statements in the past that have looked foolish in retrospect.
Let’s go back to Vanilla WOW, Molten Core raiding took a long time. Worse, as a Mage you were likely spending the first half hour of the raid making bread and water. Why? Because you only summoned 4 of each at a time. Mages complained, saying this was not engaging gameplay that it was a timesink, plane and simple. That it was just the very thing that Furor & Tigole had decried in the days of EverQuest.
There was a huge post about this very issue where Tseric (before the bus) stated matter of factly that increasing the stacksize of food would be contradictory to the design goals and ideals of the company. End of discussion as far as he was concerned because opening up the topic again resulted in accounts being banned and whole threads being deleted. A week later, Tseric made the announcement that Blizzard would be making Food/Drink spells summon up to 20 at a time.
Of course, no amount of proof will ever be enough for some people because frankly we like to argue and damn you for trying to change our minds with proof or logic. The sad fact is that some people have already decided that no matter what happens, they won’t be happy because Blizzard’s involved and fuck Blizzard that’s why. To which I can sorta relate though, as I said earlier I’ve fallen out of love with the company, the game, and yes even people I once respected in game. It’s hard to see the good when you feel a certain level of nerd rage, actually it borders on downright impossible. But, when I look at the feature set for mop I can’t help but be intrigued.
If nothing else you have to admire the outright gravitas of Blizz and crew for handling the subject most novelists avoid like the plague: what happens when the ass of ultimate evil is officially spanked? Does peace really reign amongst those who united against a greater foe? Or does the oldest battle begin anew. It makes sense that the horde and alliance would be back at each others throats with a vengeance, if there’s one thing we’re good at it’s finding someone to blame and the survivors of the Cataclysm all have a handy scapegoat: each other ( I bet you thought I was going to say Jack Black).
The dwarves careless digging obviously caused everything to go wrong. The Horde clearly let Bolvar die because they’re racists. Those Goblin immigrants took our jobs!
I doubt it’ll get strictly topical in terms of real world politics (clearly that could be a concern) but the point is that the post Cataclysm climate is a perfect storm of possibilities. The PVE scenarios for instance are a perfect opportunity to build on faction antagonism and to bring back something that’s been missing since wrath, an enemy I can care about. You know, the Alliance.
You don’t have to be into pvp to get a little thrill killing some humans. Blizzard is taking a risk, but if it’s done right it could be just what the doctor ordered – a return to the roots of the Warcraft IP, orcs vs humans. They could put the WAR back in WARCRAFT, how can people not be excited about that? Oh right, Pandas. Well yeah, I guess those hippies are going to try to tell us to think of the children, they want us to give peace a chance thereby causing even greater conflict and therefore a more engaging, dramatic storyline. So yeah, fuck Pandas….