Thursday, October 27, 2011

The End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine!)

with apologies to REM...

So if you consider yourself of genre blogger of any sort, then whatever genre or industry it is that you concern your opinions and speculations on, occasionally certain watershed moments come along, and it is mandatory that you talk about them.  In the MMO genre, the news that comes out of Blizzard Entertainment's annual fan convention - BlizzCon, fall among those.  And for this year, more specifically, Blizzard's most recently announced expansion to World of Warcraft - The Mists of Pandaria.  (Am I the only one that wants to call it Pandara?)

Now as you undoubtedly know, there has been a great wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the blogosphere over the new expansion.  The first reactions were, nearly as I could tell, pretty much universally negative.  But more recently, I've seen more than a few people start to look at what exactly is being put out here, and come to realize just how much is going to be included in this expansion, and what it might actually mean.  I know for myself, even I rolled my eyes when I first heard Pandaria.  We're all familiar with the original April Fool's joke -- or at least you should be.  And like most people, I found my initial opinions being shaped by the overwhelmingly negative comments I read.  But once I stopped reading other people's opinions, and started reading what they are actually doing -- well the more I read, the more excited I became.  And so now -- well I'm hugely stoked about what's coming down the line for WoW.  So before you continue reading about what I think, if you haven't yet, I encourage you to jump over to the actual site and read what they are saying.  Form your own opinion.

You can find a nice overview of the entire expansion here.  You'll find a more specific discussion on the changes (and reasonings) behind the talent tree changes here.  And there is a great overview of the new Dungeons and Raids here.  Then come back and allow me to talk about why I think this is the absolute best time to return to World of Warcraft.

Panda Race?  Really?
So you don't want to play as a big fluffy teddy bear.  Or maybe you do.  I mean, on one hand you're probably thinking - Good lord they're the panda race!  How ludicrous is that?  But you might also be thinking Yeah but they're friggen Panda Bears!  And either approach is equally valid.  But I invite you to consider this.  When Burning Crusade came out, and we all learned that the new race was going to be based on -- gawd forbid, the Lost Ones, we all moaned loudly and facepalmed.  At that time, the only Lost Ones we had ever seen in the game looked like this:


Who the hell wanted to play that? But when Burning Crusade actually got around to coming out?  We got this:


If there is anyone that can make a race of pandas look cool and badass, I trust the artists at Blizzard to do so.

So much content!
As for myself, honestly, I don't care about the panda race.  I quite likely won't even play one.  And if I do, it will only be to experience their starting zones.  Because did you see what that one article mentioned?  Allow me to repeat it for you:

The continent of Pandaria's unique Asian-inspired landscapes are spread across five new zones for players to explore, as well as a panndaren starting zone and central quest hub.

Holy smokes five new zones!  I'm continuously amazed by the people that go on about how Blizzard is only focusing on changing the game and not providing new things and new content for players.  There is more new shit for players to do, see, and explore in this expansion pack than you can fucking shake a stick at.  And remember, we're talking Blizzard here - you know the art is going to be breathtaking.  Even if your first task in the beautiful new zone is to collect five bronze dragonette statues.. or incense burners.. or whatever.

The Talent System
I'm not going to go into a long winded discussion as to why I think Blizzard's changes to the talent tree are the absolute right thing to do.  Why, regardless of what you might personally think, balance is the most important thing to get right in an MMO, and why I always felt the talent system only ever offered limited choices, and quite often those choices were limited to the choice between playing something broken or not.

I will only offer this.  Say you're not a theorycrafter.  Say you're just a casual Joe that likes to log in, play his character, do some dailies, maybe run an instance or two, (or not), and log out.  When Mists of Pandraia launches - you will know as much about the new talent system as the hardest core theorycrafter.  The talent system is a big 'ol giant reset button.  And for quite some time, new players and veterens alike will be playing with talents, exploring possibilities, and trying out new and different things.  If you know anything about MMO's you know there is no better time to play one than when everything is new, and everyone is trying to figure out how things work.  Every build is equally valid.  No one is telling you Thou Shalt Roll Holy or Die, and you are less pressured than ever to conform to a specific role.  That alone should give you pause for consideration.

Monks!
Well... ~buffs nails~  As you of course know, it goes without saying that my first Pandarian expansion character will be a hot little Night Elf Monk named Dusty.  Of course.. I'm sure the name is taken.. so it'll probably have to be Dustee, or Dustie, or some such.  I can't take all the credit for the class, of course.. but I'm pretty sure they were thinking of me when they created it.  After all - a melee class that heals?  Say WHA?  Oh and it's a brand new legendary class?  You know that thing is going to be OP like nobodies business coming out of the gate.  I hated Death Knights.  Hated them with a passion, and suffered through months of face palms and rolled eyes as I made my way through Burning Crusade while being mobbed by the legions of Death Knights running across the waters of Zangarmarsh all around me.  Yeah I'm not making that mistake this time buddy.  No sir!  Monk Day One by gawd!

I kid - mostly.  But I have always loved melee dps classes.  My warrior doesn't even known how to hold a shield.  So a melee dps class that might also actually bring some utility to a group besides DPS quite excites me.  I'm hugely looking forward to playing this class.

Pet Battle System? Tchya!
Again, I honestly consider this genious.  First, we all know there are a gazillion people out there that collect pets by the hundreds - literally - hundreds, for no reason at all already.  I'm not one of them.  I have like, 5 pets, and 4 of them were given to me for free by Blizzard for being a happy customer.  Though, I think my Panda Bear pet from the original Deluxe Edition is now going to be solid gold in the expansion.  Oh yes!

But I digress.  When Guild Wars added the polymok game in Eye of the North, at first I poo-pooed it.  I don't need no stinkin' pokemon game in my MMO!  But then I played it. And then I got a few extra figures.  And then I found myself seeking polymok trainers so I could take them on and get their polymoks.. and then.. and then.. yeah, you know the rest.  Again, I'm amazed when I hear people complain that this expansion isn't giving casual players more stuff to do.  Here's a perfect example of a huge potential for tasks, contents, quests, and activities for even the most casual of players - and it has nothing to do with raiding.

Casual Dungeons and PvE Scenarios
I need to find the goods on the PvE scenarios, but as I understand it, they will offer a system similar to current battlegrounds, but focused on PvE content, that you can complete with any class makeup.  And if I understand this correctly, then this again sounds awesome to me.  Especially if this uses the LFG tool, as the LFG tool now allows you to group across servers.  So that means you - over there on Argent Dawn - and me - over here on Ysera - we could get together and run instances together, along with some other random (or not random) folks, without having to transfer servers, and without worrying if we have the exact right class makeup.  What about that can't possibly be good?


Let's Do This!
So yeah, I'm pretty excited.  This is the other MMO that is now making dibs on my time other than City of Heroes right now.  My goal is to have at least one 85, and possibly 3, by the time the expansion hits.  Shouldn't be too hard - my warrior is sitting at 83 right now.  And my rogue and hunter are both in their mid 70's.  There's not a lot to do right now in WoW, and everything you do is going to have a certain lame duck feel to it, to be sure.  But I have to get ready, and I don't know how much time I have!

Even if you think I'm a total idiot and these stupid mists and stupid panda bears are the final death blow to a game that was already on it's last legs, I want to hear from ya!  And if you read this, and suddenly find yourself thinking Hey.. maybe this won't be so bad.. then I especially want to hear from you.  After all -- what's not to like?