Chapter VII – Tora! Tora! Tora!

Blizzcon 2011, Anaheim. Blizzard Entertainment shocks fans worldwide by revealing Mists of Pandaria as the next World of Warcraft expansion.

Although it had been revealed that a MoP trademark was registered earlier this year, the thought of an expansion focused on the forgotten continent of Pandaria, and its inhabitants the anthropomorphic pandas Pandaren, was met with a very strong reaction from WoW players.

“Complete surprise is achieved

The introduction of this post would have been so much better had Blizzard based MoP on the Japanese culture and imagery instead of the Chinese one. There seem to be a lot of sakura trees on Pandaria though, that’s for sure.

Anyhow, I like what I have seen so far of the new expansion. The scenery is certainly impressive, and the change in dungeons and raid environment will be most welcome from me. I started raiding in Icecrown Citadel, which of course had a captivating backstory, yet a very bleak look; then I moved on to Cataclysm, where raids and dungeons so far have been mostly huge rocky caves. At the beginning of the expansion I couldn’t even tell BRC, Grim Batol and the Stonecore apart because it was all a massive blur of maroon/purple/dark brown in my mind; as well as Blackwing Descent is designed, it doesn’t even compare to the stunning Throne of the Four Winds, which is a lone gem in a sea of dullness.

I am not sure about the Pandaren yet, but I have enough faith in Blizz left to believe that they’ll make a decent enough job to give them an adequate background. The new Monk class sounds interesting enough and, being the manga geek… I mean connoisseur that I am,  I have already “reserved” a number of variations on the Genma Saotome name for my future Pandaren Monk.

The new features like Scenari and Challenge Mode were met with a blank stare from me (I pretty much stopped reading at “The rewards for delivering top Challenge Mode times will be mostly cosmetic in nature” and skipped to the next section). I am kinda surprised at how the Pet Battle System is a total Pokemon clone, though. I guess the people at Nintendo are cool with that.

The talents overhaul seems like a move into the right direction. I don’t agree 100% with the notion that we were left with cookie-cutter talent builds, but as a druid I like how the new talents are mostly focused on utility; being relatively new to the druid class, I am still learning how/when to use bear/cat abilities while healing and it’s something I definitely enjoy.

Speaking of druids, I was happy to see Blizzard acknowledege the Resto AOE healing issue in one of their Q&A sessions. Apparently we’re getting new tools, such as healing mushrooms, and according to the MoP talent list we will be able to choose Force of Nature as a healing cooldown (I’m guessing it will be something similar to the current Paladin ability Guardian of Ancient Kings). This sounds exciting but it does nothing about the issues we might face in patch 4.3, although they might have something different in store for us.

Finally, the lack of a major villain has been met with very different stances. In my opinion, it is definitely a plus at this point. Back in WotLK there was a lot of doom and gloom but it felt justified; the Lich King threatened to swarm Azeroth with his legions of undead and we were constantly reminded of it. Almost every bit of questing and raiding was aimed towards the final do-or-die confrontation with Arthas. There was a strong sense of urgency throughout all of Northrend.

On paper, the same could be said for Cataclysm, with the Twilight cultists threat and Deathwing burning and destroying left and right. In practice, it fell flat on his head. People are stuck afk’ing in SW/Org except when *Cata’s main villain* is sighted, at which point players will run to get burninated and win the coveted achievement. The Twilight cult feels more like a joke. Having portals take you from Stormwind to pretty much everywhere doesn’t help. It doesn’t matter that we have the whole 1-60 experience reshaped by the destruction Deathwing brought – it just feels wrong.

So far, so good. However, something that happened at Blizzcon left a sour taste in my mouth.

So much fail

A lot has been already said and written about the Corpsegrinder fiasco. I am not here to discuss morality and sexual orientation, and I have actually rewritten this part of my post after some consideration. I am not going to put the blame on George Fisher; while I certainly do not approve of people randomly throwing around homophobic slurs, it was Blizzard’s choice to invite him and show that interview. What really ticks me off is the choice to introduce mr. Corpsegrinder as a WoW fan – someone we should, somehow, actually look up to.

Sadly, in that video he comes off as a total homophobic, unintelligent brute who likes to run his mouth and blabber about how Alliance is made of queers. I can’t understand how anyone in their right mind would cheer for that. Basically, the message coming across is that Blizzard caters to male high-schoolers with an IQ lower than a monkey’s – with all due respect to monkeys and intelligent high-schoolers.

Korenwolf of Paw Prints at the Portal already explained what’s wrong with the whole affair, probably better than I ever could. That was an astonishingly bad, mind-boggling PR move from Blizzard and they are very lucky that the story didn’t make it to national news outlets. I never wish unemployment upon anyone but whoever thought it was a good idea to air that interview – even in censored form, which only makes things worse – should be fired on the spot… except that this brilliant idea probably came from the higher-ups at Blizz.

World of Warcraft has literally millions of subscribers, from the most diverse countries and backgrounds. There are old people, housewives, kids who play WoW. With Mists of Pandaria the general consensus, which is probably spot on, seems to be that Blizzard is looking to a younger audience to expand the player base, or least looking to new kinds of gamers. There is nothing wrong with that. I like WoW and I’m happy that as many different people can enjoy it as well, as long as it doesn’t turn into Hello Kitty Online (which I might enjoy anyway). Yet the message coming from their biggest showcase of the year goes in the completely opposite direction, giving new strenght to years-old stereotypes. If that’s not a dumb move on Blizzard’s part, I really don’t know what that is.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your latter comments. Obviously, I was very unhappy about the entire Corpsegrinder affair as a player – but if I had a significant shareholding in Blizz/Activision, I’d have been ABSOLUTELY FURIOUS.

    It’s one of the worst PR gaffes I’ve ever seen a games company commit, and as you say, it’s pure blind luck that it didn’t end up on the desk of a pro-gay/anti-games editor at a major news outlet, or that GLAAD didn’t react less moderately than actually happened.

    Reply

    • *nods* thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Indeed that is not what you would expect from a company such as Blizzard. They looked like incompetent fools through most of this fiasco – just think about the first halfhearted apology they posted on the boards.

      I bet they were giving their attorneys the blank stare while getting smacked upside their collective head, as it probably took them a while to realize wtf was wrong with that little stunt.

      Reply

  2. I wonder how many people actually got the reference from that post title.
    *japan nerd high five*

    Reply

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