Because Fuck Pandas

When people uncovered Blizzard’s copyrighting of “Mists of Pandaria”, most shrugged. I didn’t believe Blizzard would make MoP the next expansion. A TCG expansion? Sure. A WoW patch? I could see that. A full WoW expansion? No. Not a chance.

When Metzen announced the next expansion, I nearly screamed (I probably would have if I wasn’t at work when it was announced.) I spent my lunch hour pouring over every detail I could find on the new expansion, all while my mind yelled, “Pandas? Pandas?! PANDAS?!?!?!?!” There’s plenty more to MoP than pandas: no minimum range, account-wide achievements, companion pet fighting, epeen-stroking gear, a new continent with entirely new storylines, compete redo of talent trees, no more typecasting of hunter pets, heroic Scarlet Monastery, monks, no melee weapons for hunters, and more.

But let’s be honest: it’s the panda expansion, aka expandasion. And they are why I won’t be playing Mists of Pandaria.

Let’s start with the trailer…

We were there. When a world of limitless adventure opened up before us.
We rose defiantly against all those that threatened the peace of our kingdoms.
We ventured to a new, alien world and cast the lords of shadow and flame back into the abyss.
It was we who held the line as death itself rose like a tide to swallow everything we held dear.
We endured the breaking of the world and must now face the destroyer and end his cycle of destruction.
But soon, we will face a new chapter. An adventure unlike any we’ve known thus far. A mystery shrouded by superstition, a land of forgotten power and ancient magics, and a people that may well change the fate of us all.
For all the challenges we have faced, and all the places we have been, Azeroth’s limits have yet to be revealed.

Classic, BC, Wrath, Cataclysm. We faced indomitable evils and conquered them every time. Failure meant oblivion, annihilation for us all; Azeroth and Outland would succumb to tyrants. Now we head to somewhere we’ve not been before to…er, make friends with pandas, learn a new martial art, and explore? I’m a little confused: where’s the terrible evil? Where’s the Burning Legion? Undead? Insane dragon? Can we get even a Diet Coke of Evil, like an unappreciated former faction leader subordinate with a personality disorder, a stronghold, an army, and a grudge? These pandas “might” change our fates? Not exactly selling high, are we? And how have Azeroth’s limits not been revealed? The twice-sundered world is going to suffer yet again? Or has the Explorer’s League failed us epically and not sailed the oceans?

Why would I want to play this expansion?

I am disappoint, Blizzard.

Part of my disappointment stems from my situation. My wife and I will retire from raiding in a few weeks. Already she’s having difficulty sitting at the computer and focusing over the course of long fights (and heroic Firelands has some long fights.) My parents will be staying with us for a while, and I’d rather spend time with them than my raidmates (no offense, guys and gals.) And babies have their own timelines: December 1st is the due date, but normal delivery could be any time two weeks before or after. Our plan was to miss 4.3 (hop on every now and then, maybe try the new content, but nothing planned or serious) and return in the next expansion, assuming our lives would return to some sort of normalcy by then. Everyone starts over at each expansion, and we could go back and push over Deathwing at lvl 90. So when I heard that the next expansion was focused on the Pandaren, I was greatly disappointed, more so than I would have been if my life wasn’t radically changing very soon.

The announcement’s timing is curious, to put it mildly. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim comes out next month, and Star Wars: The Old Republic drops in December. For RPG players like myself, these are two long-anticipated releases. Normally, Blizzard would counter such challenges to their throne with something enticing for players: a big patch released or news announcement around the time another MMO was released. I feel bad for how many times Blizzard cock-blocked LOTRO. What does Blizzard have to counter Skyrim and TOR? Maybe 4.3, not sure yet, and that will only hit one of those two games. The other game gets a free pass. For adult RPG players like myself, we could play one of these new, shiny, exciting, serious games or continue slogging through WoW knowing that in a few months we’ll be playing with pandas.

And that’s a big part of the problem. Why continue playing WoW when I know I won’t continue much further? I never finished Dragon’s Age: Origins because I knew that every minute spent playing DA:O was a minute I wasn’t playing WoW. I could be working on achievements, preparing for raids, running heroics for badges/capping VP, helping others. My gaming calendar always had WoW in it, and, because WoW is a game that rewards activity and punishes inactivity, I played WoW almost exclusively. Now that my calendar does not have WoW in it—even after our planned hiatus—I see no reason to continue. Already I find myself choosing other games over WoW to the point where I don’t log on some nights; amazing how fast burnout and disillusionment can siphon the energy and desire for something.

(An aside: I started playing Oblivion again to prepare myself for Skyrim. Before I picked up WoW, I played Oblivion. My WoW time bookended by the same game. The world works in mysterious ways.)

When I think of World of Warcraft, pandas are not included. Yes, they’re canon, I’m not debating that. The game I fell in love with—I never played the RTS games—does not have intoxicated pandas. The game I devoted my life to for four and a half years does not include giant sea turtles with entire societies on its back. The game I spend hours each day researching, studying, discussing, writing about does not include monks, bouncing, chi, Hozu, Verming, Shado-pan, Kun-Lai. But soon it will. I want the hard stuff, the adult drinks. I want dragons, demons, undead, vampires, traitors, horrors from the depths, rampaging elementals, mutants, old gods. I want serious evil with a side of humor. I don’t want cutesy with a hint of naughty. If I wanted a sugary, for-fun-only game, I’d play Hello Kitty: Island Adventure.

I am reminded of a quote by the director of the Blizzard cinematic team a while ago. They said that gnomes would never appear in official WoW cinematics because they weren’t epic enough. For me, pandas aren’t epic enough. They’re too silly, goofy compared to the other races. They seem like taller, chubbier dwarves. But dwarves are epic, hardcore, fearsome when they want to be. The Pandaren are chubby, fuzzy drunks; even their monk attacks involve alcohol-inspired movements. No part of that says epic to me. At least Gnomes build epic machines and are direct descendants of titan creations. Tauren and Worgen, the other animalistic races, are ferocious, serious, imposing, traits that give them an epic aura. Pick the animal you’d rather fight to the death: a bull, wolf, or panda. Draenei are another large-framed race, but, even though we may be goofy sometimes, thousands of years of running and fighting the Burning Legion have chiseled our demeanor and forged our resolve; epic is our plight and fight. The Pandaren have problems, yet their decidedly unchiseled frame leads me to believe their problems involve too much of a good thing.

(An aside: People have argued that Pandaren and Kung Fu Panda were developed independently of each, that they evolved convergently. I’m not sold. Somehow two different creative teams derived completely independent of each other that pandas who practice martial arts must be overweight and drunk? Color me skeptical. Heck, even “martial artist” and “fat”, excuse me, “bouncy” rarely apply to the same person. Look at the musculature of the other races. We’re all ripped. That’s what happens when you fight all day wearing armor. Perhaps they made Pandaren chubby to differentiate them from Dwarves, who are extremely well-defined.)

Speaking of too much, Blizzard did what Blizzard is wont to do: they went too far. Like their nerf/buff cycle, Blizzard decided that WoW had become too dark and wanted to lighten the mood in the patch. Also like nerfs/buffs, Blizzard went too far. There’s a fine line between comic relief and over-the-top silliness. C-3PO and R2-D2 are comic relief. Ewoks and Jar-Jar are over-the-top silliness. Gnomes wanting to be Worgen and Budd are comic relief. Pandaren are over-the-top silliness. Looking at this weird WoW creatures line up, Pandaren are the only race to be silly and the focus of an entire expansi–excuse me, expandasion. This is my line, yours may/will be different. 

Story is another big factor…

The Pandaren fought alongside the other Azerothian races until they decided to leave. As face terrible threats from other worlds, the frozen north, and below the ground, the Pandaren have been conspicuously absent. Why should we help you when you never helped us? What do we get for aiding you? The Forsaken seek to expand their borders, Garrosh remains as expansionist as ever, the Burning Legion is never far away, we need to secure and protect our borders. Why should we support those who have never helped us when we don’t have men to spare?

Surprisingly, Blizzard announced the new expansion, but did not name a prime evil. Illidan informed us of our lack of preparation, Wrath of the Lich King was self-explanatory, Deathwing was (re)introduced when Cataclysm was announced. No big baddie was named for Mists of Pandaria. How am I supposed to get enthused about a game when I don’t feel anything towards the last boss, when I don’t even know the last boss? I loved the build-up, the intensifying struggle that BC, Wrath, and Cata all had. The Lich King especially was a blast: besides being a great encounter, the story leading up to the Frozen Throne turned an epic fight into a legendary battle royale. The final boss of MoP will have some background, but we’re not going to see it for a long time. The anticipation will only begin when we start questing, if then. Yay? 

As a Draenei, I can’t help but wonder when we, the races of Azeroth, are going to stop this internecine squabbling and focus on defeating the Burning Legion. Sure, we need to secure Azeroth before focus our efforts on securing the rest of the universe. But when? This impending trip to Pandaria sounds like another delay in our assault on the Legion, and, more importantly, another campaign to wear down the armies of Azeroth. Yes, let’s kill each other to make the Legion’s job easier. Go us. Could we once be the aggressors instead of waiting around to die like we’ve done on so many other planets? We have friends and allies willing to help. Are some inebriated monks going to tip the tide, or are we just going to kill more of Azerothians while the Legion grows ever stronger?

Speaking of existing races, why not progress the current storylines? We have seven years and three expansions worth of stories. There are many loose ends, intriguing developments, rich characters that will go nowhere because we’re not going to be anywhere near them. The Draenei story especially has not progressed at all since BC. The Worgen were introduced in Cataclysm, but, aside from the Gilneas starter zone, we learned little about them. And everyone is recovering still from Deathwing’s emergence; we saved Azeroth, but the land is not yet healed. But Blizzard is content to send us off to Pandaria and let the stories progress without us players. MoP feels like an intermission, a vacation from the “true” story of Azeroth. But I don’t want an intermission, I don’t want to be sent off to summer camp while the adults decide the fate of Azeroth, I want to complete the stories I played. I’ve worked too hard, have too much at stake to let Varian and Garrosh fuck Azeroth up while I’m busying myself with pandas.

Would I be so anti-panda if I didn’t have a definite hiatus date for my WoW raiding days? Am I projecting my angst over leaving a game I love onto MoP? Might my disappointment be truly slight but subconsciously I’m still dreading retiring from raiding? Possible. Doubtful. No. As I said above, I was excited to hear the next expansion as I anticipated picking WoW up again once life settled down. But when MoP was announced, the game lost all excitement for me. Instantaneous burnout. I had things I wanted to, was doing in WoW before MoP was announced: I just got Ninek the project alt to lvl 84, he and my other characters were busying themselves with Hallow’s End festivities (after three years, Lyraat finally got A Mask for All Occasions), and I even tinkered in the auction house for a bit for some quick gold. In the week since the formal announcement, I’ve logged on for a total of about 12 hours, three of which were spent raiding. That may seem like a lot—and for many, it is—but not for me. My normal play sessions are 3-4 hours per night, every night, with an additional 6 hours of raiding every week. That’s more than a day of /played every week. For me to drop to half of that…Yeah, burnout.  

A friend of mine from high school, her parents had been married for twenty-some years. They had two daughters, lived well, had successful careers and were seemingly happy. My friend went off to college, her younger sister followed her a couple years later. When the nest was empty, the parents divorced. Shocking, surprising. I never understood why. They had done the hard work of raising two children, and now, when the hard work was over, they parted ways amicably. I think I understand why now. After a long, difficult journey, I come to a crossroads with WoW. My gaming is about to become easier, more relaxed. I should be excited for this new expansion. First glance shows I could be quite casual and still see all the content and not be a lvl 90 n00b. Long-desired improvements to my class are coming. The new race are bigger, furrier, cuter Dwarves. The new class sounds like a lot of fun without being so insanely game-breakingly overpowered as death knights were. Heck, even the companion pet fighting game has me intrigued. Mists of Pandaria could be the best expansion to date. Yet as both WoW and I approach new chapters in our lives, I look at WoW again and realize that this isn’t the game I fell in love with seemingly so long ago. For the first time since I rolled a Gnome warrior on my wife’s account, I can envision a life without WoW. More to the point, a life without WoW seems better than a life with WoW. I dedicated so much of my life to WoW that even taking an extended hiatus is difficult. But continuing the relationship just doesn’t feel right. It’s time for us to part.

I want to emphasize that these are my personal feelings. I know a lot of people are extremely excited for the upcoming expansion. I’m happy for y’all. Truly, honestly. I hope you love the expandasion. Mists of Pandaria has a ton of potential, and hopefully Blizzard can execute on that promise. For me, though, all that win is outweighed by my dislike of Pandaren. Other people feel differently, and that’s okay. I’m not going to blast Blizzard for making the game too casual or decrying the death of WoW. I’m disappointed that Blizzard is sending us to Pandaria. That does not mean I think the expandasion will be the ruin of WoW. Pandas will ruin my WoW; make up your own mind. I’ve blasted a lot of people for trying to drag others down as they circle the burnout drain. I will not buy MoP and I’ll probably let my subscription expire in a few months. That and this blog are how I’m expressing my distaste for the direction of WoW. If you are excited to be a monk, to explore Pandaria, to drink and eat bamboo and be merry, I sincerely wish you the best. It’s the end of my journey in Azeroth, or at least a long rest. Your journey is yours. Enjoy it.

What’s next for me? My wife and I are committed to raiding for a couple more weeks. We won’t get exalted with the Avengers of Hyjal (horrible rep grinds ftl) nor will we get our drakes, but we might get to 6/7 H-Firelands. Considering the troubles we had at the beginning of the tier (several cancelled raids, our second full week of raiding Firelands and we sharded half the loot), I’m quite pleased. After that, it’s baby time and the holidays. Even if we weren’t procreating, my play time would be reduced in November and December. Beyond that, though, don’t expect a whole lot of WoW stuff from me. Skyrim and SWTOR are calling to me. A single-player game will be great with a newborn: pause any time, no commitments, can go at my own pace without feeling pressured (from within or without) to go hardcore. And SWTOR, well, I’ve been a huge Star Wars nerd for a very long time (proof.) I probably won’t be a day one player, but I’ll definitely play it. As for this site, it’s not going anywhere. I plan on at least one more WoW post before I retire from raiding. Got some things I’d like to blab about and I want to end my WoW blogging days on a more positive note than this; I don’t like rageposting, but sometimes, I cannot help myself. I plan on blogging about Skyrim and SWTOR and the baby and whatever else I feel like. I’ll still be on twitter. I might even do Facebook…nah.

This isn’t goodbye, the conversation is going in a new direction.

About Lyraat

Lyraat, former SV hunter of [Better Part of Valor] on Elune, current dad and gamer.

Posted on October 28, 2011, in Memorable, Self, The World, WoW. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I think it’s quite a bit too early to determine that Mists will be silly and dumb without any serious hooks. There’s already been a lot of discussion on the blogosphere about potential sinister storylines, and considering we know ZERO about what’s going to be happening there, I think to declare the expansion as being boring and uninteresting to your desires is too hasty!

    There will be major villains, there is an entire society and culture we know nothing about yet, and – this is the most important thing – I don’t think Samwise would WANT them to be a joke. Have you seen his art and the obvious love for them? These are serious warrior people, and I expect to see a lot of decidedly un-joke Pandaren personalities when it launches.

    Also, sure, it’s not going off to fight the Burning Legion or the Old Gods (that we KNOW OF, remember, who knows?), I think refocusing on the Horde/Alliance war isn’t a bad thing. Garrosh & Varian and all the others, they’ve hated each other all Cataclysm but we haven’t really SEEN it, for the most part. But it sounds like – especially with the destruction of Theramore leak – things are going to get really serious, and I love that.

    Don’t get me wrong, if you still feel like this a year (or whatever) from now, when more information is out about the expansion, that’s fine, but it seems kinda premature right now.

    In any case, hope you stick around on Twitter and blogging though, even if it’s about a new game. :)

    • I am being pessimistic early. I can’t help it.

      Thinking back to previous expansion announcements, I remember being stoked about Wrath and pumped for Cata. When disappointment is my first reaction to an expansion, that’s going to color my thoughts for a long time. First impressions matter.

      With all new stories and a continent of unknowns, I could be optimistic and say, “Wow! A whole new world to explore! Where do I sign up for preorders?” Or I could be pessimistic and say, “Oh boy. A land and furries I have no connection to and no desire to learn about. When’s SWTOR coming out?” Unfortunately, I’m on the latter side of the equation. You mention hooks, and that is a problem. There are no hooks that draw me to Pandaria. I never liked the Pandaren, never had any interest in them. The only story we’re carrying to Pandaria is the escalating Horde-Alliance tensions. Every other storyline is dead or being put on hold. We spent so much time developing dozens, hundreds of stories, but now we’re going to ignore them all as we move forward. So what happens to the stories we develop in Pandaria come the expansion after next? Why would I want to trudge through Azeroth’s Asia and then say sayonara to all the plots we started in the expandasion once the next expansion comes out? Blizzard has to sell me on MoP—the first time they’ve had to sell me on any expansion—and right now, they’re failing.

      Re: Samwise = interview with Samwise = He created Pandaren as a x-mas gift for his kids. Need more be said?

      Okay, how about this…I have three dachshunds, two elderly 8-pound mini-dachshunds and one enthusiastic 20-pound standard. The older dogs have lived together for a while and, like many old married couples, get into arguments. One steps on the other’s face accidentally, the steppee gets upset and growls at the stepper, teeth are bared, lips curl, ears flatten, snaps are exchanged and we separate them. They mean what they “say”: they are ferocious, tenacious, stubborn, and angry. And even though they could hurt each other if they ever went for blood, we can only laugh. It’s like carebears fighting. Dog fights are nasty affairs except when cuteness fights adorable. That’s what I see when I see Pandaren. Samwise’s hardcore pictures are cool and show the pandas’ tough sides. Yet I don’t see fearsome, I see huggable. I don’t see martial arts, I see tea parties with stuffed animals. I don’t want to play with cutesy.

      Re: Horde-Alliance conflict escalation = That has potential, but why are we fighting it overseas? If Theramore is destroyed, why would Varian send us to a heretofore unknown land? He’ll want retribution for those killed, he’ll need to establish a new outpost on Kalimdor’s east coast, and he’ll want to avoid angering a newly-discovered race. Fighting the Horde on Pandaria makes no sense whatsoever. Even if Varian is an idiot, the other faction leaders should be wise enough not to attack. Two superpowers sending their armies to an Asian country to fight a war. Sounds vaguely familiar…

      Going back to the “Blizzard has to sell MoP to me” idea…Both SWTOR and MoP are in similar places. I know the lore of each well (more so with SW than WoW, but I’m comfortable with both), but the games are going to places and/or times that are unfamiliar to me. Yet I’m excited for one and dismissive of the other. Why? Pandas, for one. But more importantly, I haven’t spent the last 4.5 years slogging through content in SW to get here. I don’t feel like I’ve just wasted a hefty chunk of my life working on SW content to start anew in SWTOR. MoP is a complete redo of WoW. If Blizzard is going to redo WoW, then I’m moving on to something else.

      Again, I don’t like being angry. I don’t want to be a killjoy. I want to enjoy WoW. But I don’t want pandas in my WoW.

  2. The expansion is a joke. You’ve pointed out some reasons why and maybe you just don’t think blizzard would do something like this. I think the next expansion is actually Emerald Dream, and since it’s been anticipated for so long, they’ve announced a bogus trailer, so when they do officially announce ED, it will create even more hype.

    After all, he does say Azeroth’s limits HAVE NOT been revealed.

    • MoP does seem like Blizzard is trolling us. However, given the depth of content already shown, I dont think Blizzard would come out and go “psych!” They might, I guess: I mean, pandas were originally an April Fools joke. Might MoP be one giant, elaborate joke? Doubtful.

  3. Just stumbled on your blog, sorry for being a Johnny-Come-Lately. But just wanted to mention I completely agree with everything you said. I started playing December of 2006 and my wife and I were in a casual raiding guild for many years. We went to Blizzcon this year and had an absolute blast, but I was slack jawed with the announcement of the Kung Fu Panda expansion. And not in a good way. And Pokemon inspired battle pets? Really?

    I have personally tried really hard to come to terms with Panda Land and the direction the game has taken, but I just think it all really sucks. My family has canceled all 3 of our accounts (even our 9yo doesn’t want to play since we won’t be on) so it isn’t just you. I will miss WOW and the friends we made along with way. We had some amazing and epic adventures in Azeroth, but it is time to move on. We also just had a new baby Dec. 15th and that is making it even easier for us to say goodbye to Azeroth. Thanks to Blizz for many years of fun and adventure but Kung Fu Pandas and Pokemon just aren’t in the cards for my gaming future. Thanks for your blog and viewpoint.

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