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.