Friday, October 21, 2011

Pandaria and me(h)

I'll have to admit that this year's Blizzcon took me by surprise. Seriously, Mists of Pandaria? Everyone and their grandma was hoping for a Pandaren expansion with a monk and/or brewmaster class. Instead, they got an expansion in the continent of Pandaria, with a monk class and a brewmaster spec. Duh.

I was a bit shocked because I never thought Blizzard would go in this direction. It seems to me they've been coyly denying any future dealings with Pandarens but what do I know? I'm not a big Warcraft buff.

So here we are, at Blizzcon 2011 and a lot of folks seem excited about the new expansion. Others, aren't so much. Oh, believe me, there are plenty of people who are just like me, namely meh. Still don't believe me? Here's a bunch of comments on Arstechnica.

Please understand that I'm not trolling or bitching or anything like that. I'm just trying to analyze this news from the perspective of someone who has quit WoW for many months and was just curious if there's the slightest reason to return to WoW with the next expansion. The way things look, there's no chance in hell I will return, not even if Diablo 3 weren't around the corner.

Another cute race doesn't do it for me. I'm thinking at this point that Blizzard is trying to appeal to the even younger demographic, perhaps in the 6-10 range. OK, I get it, older people also like fluffy things. Hell, I love fluffy things. I love cats, for example, but I would never own a pet. I love to look at them and play with them, as long as they're not mine. But I digress...

Another class seems a bit redundant at this point. There are already plenty of classes in WoW. The fact that this one doesn't seem to use weapons a lot is odd. I like my characters to use powerful weapons. You can always upgrade weapons but you can't upgrade your fists.

The total revamp of the talent tree has gotten old at this point. If I were playing WoW again I'd simply be tired of all these changes. I mean, it looks to me that Blizzard's philosophy these days is to revamp the talents and skills with every expansion. Just to keep things fresh, y'know.

Changing resource systems - yet again - is another thing that will potentially turn things upside-down for certain players. I'm talking about the warlock's resources (I haven't looked at other classes). C'mon, a different resource for every spec? Sheesh.

Combat between pets? Methinks Blizzard has run out of inspiration. I'm sure lots of people have swooned when they heard the news. I'm sure I would enjoy playing with my pets for a while - a short while. But how long until this, too, will grow stale? To me, this smells like a gimmick to keep players interested a little while longer. The person who thought of this must have felt like a genius: "Hey, I know how to keep players glued! We can give them combat pets! Just think about it: most players must have dozens of pets by now. If we add skills to them we can increase the time spent in WoW at least tenfold!"

A level cap of 90 seems to indicate a lack of content similar to Cataclysm. We all know how that went. Personally, I was bored with Cataclysm less than 2 months in. Will the same thing happen now? I bet not. Now there's kombat petz!!

In what has become a sort of tradition, Blizzard is pulling the no-flying-until-level-cap bullshit again. Another reason not to be drawn back to the game.

As far as grouping and quests and raids and dungeons, there's some nice stuff on the PvE side but nothing outstanding.

On the art side, I'll give it to Blizzard: they do know how to design some beautiful zones. Yet, something doesn't feel right to me. While it's all beautiful, Pandaria is a blatant copy of China. I believe they could have worked a bit harder to give it a general Asian flavor without making it specifically Chinese (not that there's anything wrong with China). There are other cultures and countries in Asia apart from China, such as India, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and so on.

I've said what I had to say. It's not a collection of rants but merely my observations based on what I've seen so far. I'm sure there are many ex-WoW players who are looking for a good reason to return. While those who are still playing the game are thrilled with the new expansion I'm sure, I'm pretty positive that most of the ex-players aren't.

My feeling is that World of Warcraft is now past its prime and sliding on the inexorable slope of decline. Mists of Pandaria seems like a desperate attempt to keep the player base interested. I doubt they'll gain a lot of new players over this and I'll bet you a dollar that by summer 2012 we'll see even more bad news about the diminishing subscriber base. But hey, it wasn't meant to last forever.

To top it all off, they're offering players who subscribe to WoW for a year, a free copy of Diablo 3. That's laughable. It proves how confident Blizzard is in their Pandarian expansion. In other words, "we'll bribe you with a copy of D3 if you pay us for a year of WoW because you'll get bored with it in 2-3 months anyway". It would have been nice of them to offer this deal to anyone who, in the past, has subscribed to at least 12 months of WoW. But whatever, I'm still going to buy Diablo 3.

I'm actually glad that this next one won't be a solid, massive expansion. Otherwise I might have been tempted to try it. As it is, I'm (hopefully) going to enjoy myself to the max with Diablo 3 and I won't have to pay a monthly subscription to do so.

Finally, lease, if you leave a comment here, don't be throwing insults and such. If you are stoked about Pandaria, that's great, I'd be happy to hear why it excites you so much. If not, likewise.


Unknown said...

Hello my friend, here I come with my 2 cents and I'll try to be as short as possible.

I don't play WoW Anymore, I stopped months and months ago, after 4 years of fun. But I keep an eye on wowinsider, mmochampion and 2 wow-related blogs (you and huntsmanlodge). Because I loved Azeroth and I still like reading about the game.

That said, the only thing that makes me really feel "meh!" is how people reacted to the panda race and the new pet-combat system, often compared (ironically) to Pokemons. Everyone feels "violated". It's like saying that Wow MUST BE a clever, adult and mature videogame for clever, adult and mature players (and now it becomes a childish, stupid and too-cute game for toddlers).

Let's be honest, WoW is ALREADY filled with silly, stupid and immature content. I can't forget the "collect 10 poo samples" in Nagrand, for example, but there are countless similar situations.

Scheduling and raiding for 4 hours with 10 guildmates to defeat a badass-boss wont make you look smarter or more mature, at all. Gambling at the Auction House can make you feel "cool" but you're still playing with pixels, no matter how "uber" you think you are.

Aged players -like me- are the most upset, because they suddenly feel like old guys mixed with children.

Blizzard is doing it the right way: washing out the old to make space for the new generations. Because old players are strongly tied to old mechanics and always complain for everything.

Greygamer said...

I did feel a little meh when I watched the opening ceremony. However the FAQ hints at more diversification for people that reach level cap. For me this was really where Cata went wrong. That and it wasn't really finished when they released it.
Hopefully this time it is finished before release. I will certainly be hoping to stick around for another 12 months ;)

Darth Solo said...

I'm not bashing Blizzard for introducing Pandas and all that. Good for them, good for all those who continue to play WoW. It's just that I didn't see anything good enough to bring someone like me (and countless others) back to the game.

I love Azeroth too, that's why I've been playing for so long, but perhaps the time has come when I'm finally over this game, and whatever new things they add won't be enough to lure me back.

There nothing wrong with that. Maybe the game needs new blood and maybe it needs a slightly new direction. In any case, we all know that it won't last forever.

I'm really curious what Titan will be like. If it's fun enough and not subscription based, then you can count me in.

Sealskjaer said...

@ Loque

A well resaoned argument. I am firmly one of the 'meh' crowd in response to this new expansion announcement but your thoughts have helped me order mine beyond the initial knee-jerk.

I think what I, and probably many others are most upset about is the fact that wow seems to be moving in a new direction (away from us). I have loved playing this game for almost 5 years and it is sad to see it changing in a way that doesn't appeal to me.

Nothing can stay exactly the same for ever but still, change is hard. It is very jarring to find that a game I've lived and loved for 5 years is one I won't love in the near future.

Darth Solo said...

I'm not even upset. Like I said, I'm actually relieved that I won't be pulled back in again. Ah, freedom.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect Darth, I don't think you can be objective about a new WoW expansion at this point. Cataclysm ultimately failed for numerous reasons. 1.) Most of the effort was put into changing the 1-60 leveling experience, and while that may not have impressed most veteran players, it was something they had to do. No one would be willing to level to 90 (or eventually 100) in the old world. 2.)Heroics were WAY too hard compared to what Blizz had gotten everyone used to in Wrath. There was endless trash packs and raid-like mechanics (some of the fights were literally harder than almost anything in the first few wings of ICC). It made pugging a time-consuming nightmare.

So what are they doing now?? First off, they have stated right off that Heroics are going back to the Wrath model. Less trash, less endless hallways, quicker runs. For people who want challenges in PUGS they have the new challenge mode (timed runs with gear normalization) and the Raid Finder (which isn't going to be nearly as bad as everyone seems to think). They are adding PvE scenarios which are basically casual instances without class limitations. A new class, a new continent (and a beautiful one from the looks), 3 new BGs, a new race, and a mini-game that everyone will make fun of (pet battles) but that has zero downside. There is no way that adding a Pokemon style mini-game can be a bad thing (especially when you consider how many people collect pets in this game).

Overall?? Cata was a band-aid expansion, incomplete in a way (and I think Blizz would admit this). Mists of Pandaria is going to be the first time in the history of the game where the entire player-base is going to have access to all of the content the game has to offer. And that is why it will be worth checking out.

Darth Solo said...

I think Cata was brilliant, with the way they changed the old world and how they finally made flying possible in Azeroth. Still, I reached the point where I got bored quickly but maybe my time in this game was reaching an end. I'm sure Pandaria will be a lot of fun for many people but I still believe WoW is generally on the downward slope. Maybe I'll be proven wrong and there's nothing wrong with that. As far as I'm concerned, WoW can last forever because at some point I *might* go back to it.

Coop said...

I'm not 'meh' on this expansion at all. Why?

PVE scenarios - BG like grouping for PVE content that rewards JP/VP? Yes please.

New BG types - Up to now all the new BGs were simply different maps for the same concepts. I welcome the 3 completely new battlegrounds.

Bringing heroics back to the Wrath model - I had the most fun in wrath being able to pug dungeons and wrap one up easily in under 1/2 an hour. The cata dungeons were just too time consuming.

Raid finder difficulty - We'll see how this works in 4.3. But, I may actually see a raid now. I just don't have the time or dedication to join a raid team. If I can pop in when I have a reasonable amount of time and see the content, that sounds awesome.

New Talent Model - Yeah things have changed a lot, but I'd rather re-learn a class than be stuck with the same playstyle I've used over the past 6 years. Maybe I'll find a new favorite class? Maybe I'll go back to one I used to love. I really like how they brought hybridization back, while the Cata model prevented a lot of dumb builds, it prevented a lot of fun builds, or great leveling builds. This seems like the best of both worlds to me, not a ridiculous amount of talents each pick means something and you can choose across all three specs. No more multiple points in a talent as well. I always found that bothersome in this game, where the math could dictate that it was better to go 2/3 but maybe only if you had reached a gear plateau.

No, I'm not terribly excited about the pet battles. I had hoped for 10 levels, but realize why they chose to do 5. Leveling is a race, they know they have to put their energies in max level content. They can never go back to the 'it takes 6 months to get to max level' we had in vanilla.

Hopefully this turns out to be a Wrath-type expansion with more options for players.

And free D3? Sure, I'll take it. Wonder if they'll do the same thing with the expansion when it comes out next year? Free expansion for committing to a year? Please.

So yeah, as a super casual, I'm excited that the game is getting more accessible. Honestly I can see the hard core more upset about this expansion, since it seems squarely aimed at casuals.

Unknown said...

I think the simplified talent model focuses on *fun*, instead of offering multiple builds that you never use (because they are not optimized/viable).

It shoudl be similar to the new Diablo III skill stuff: have fun and don't focus too much on mumbers.

Darth Solo said...

@Coop I assume you're still playing. I've quit for a long time and I was curios if the new expansion would be powerful enough to bring me back. It isn't, even though I'm casual in the sense that I don't raid and I play by myself.

@Loque I checked out some of the talents in Wowhead's talent builder and I'll be damned if they made sense to me. Either they look horrible or I'm missing something.