So... Mists of Pandaria is official.

There is a lot of raging and incoherent complaining going on right now, and I don't really want to add to that... but I'm sorry to say that I am disappointed. When the title of the next expansion first came up as a rumour, I said that I was feeling pretty indifferent about it... but I have to admit that since then I'd developed some hopes that regardless of what the expansion was actually going to be about, it would contain something that would reignite my spark for the game. Unfortunately the expansion preview panel hasn't revealed anything that excites me - on the contrary, I kept reading about plans for the game that I personally find nothing but extremely off-putting.

As far as the pandaren themselves go, I don't mind that Blizzard changed their mind about including them and that they want to make a former joke race a more serious part of the lore. New races have always been one of my favourite expansion additions. And a race that at least starts neutrally is something that I'm sure a fair amount of people are going to be quite excited about. (I have to admit I'm somewhat intrigued by the further-reaching implications myself - if Blizzard doesn't care about race as an easy way of identifying friend or foe anymore, could other races eventually be allowed to change sides as well?)

However: while I approve of new races in principle, I personally don't find the pandaren appealing at all, and unfortunately it kind of looks like there isn't really anything else to this expansion. I don't think Burning Crusade would have been as good if it had just been "WoW: Blood Elves and Draenei". Or think "Cataclysm: Goblins and Worgen", with no Deathwing or anything. I get the impression that Blizzard is counting on the pandaren being such massive fan favourites that nothing else will matter. Well, it doesn't work like that for this (soon to be former?) fan.

There are other features that don't sound bad in principle, like the pet battles (Pokemon is popular for a reason), but that simply don't interest me personally and just work to reinforce my feeling that I'm not part of the target audience anymore.

The real kicker for me however were a bunch of announcements that actively made me shudder:

Talent trees getting reworked again

Or is it more like "removed"? Whatever. Cataclysm's talent tree revamp was extremely painful for me and actually made me fall out of love with my favourite class for several months because things were just that bad. They did manage to balance things out somewhat after a while though, and in fairness, I did feel like it was worth it. I think the Cataclysm talent trees are good. Not perfect - people who love to go crazy with customisation find them boring I believe - but they achieved what they set out to do.

So why they hell do they want to turn everything upside down again? You know it's going to be another balancing nightmare, and I absolutely do not have the stomach to relearn everything about all the classes I play from scratch again. I think Elder Game has the right of it when he says that Ghostcrawler has gone overboard with the idea of trying to achieve perfect balance.

Challenge Mode Dungeons

"Complete a dungeon in x minutes". As Redbeard already pointed out in a comment, it's pretty ironic that this feature is announced right after I mentioned in my last post that I hate the "rush rush" culture that has developed in instances since the introduction of the dungeon finder. Meanwhile, Blizzard thinks that players should be encouraged to rush more! Sorry, but we simply don't see eye to eye about what makes a fun dungeon experience anymore.

Changes to Questing

"Incentives for dungeons/raiders to run quests and do outdoor/daily kind of stuff. For example finishing a quest might give you a buff for the day, and maybe that buff will let you roll on a loot that only appears to people with that buff." I don't know about you, but once again I can't help but think that this sounds like an absolute nightmare. Dailies and random dungeons are already making people feel burnt out with their subtle pressure to do ALL THE THINGS every day. At least you still have a bit of choice about whether to focus on dungeons or dailies right now, but with a system like that people will not just feel that they have to do the daily dungeon, but to make it worth it they also have to do the quests that will provide the extra loot later... ugh!

I suppose one should never say never, but I really can't see myself buying that one.


  1. Sounds like you and I are very much on the same page, though I based mine purely on the trailer.

  2. So far it seems as if they are using the next expansion to fix all the problems they created for themselves with Cataclysm.

    Everyone said the small loss in subscribers would mean nothing to them but seeing their entire reversal in stance on almost everything (much less linear questing is my favorite) proves that the loss of subscribers was heard and they are making the adjustments needed.

    As you said however, not having a central story might hurt them in the end.

    This looks like a rebuilding expansion for them. Or another 1/2 expansion, just like cataclysm was.

    In the end, I am actually looking forward to something now. A big change in the way cataclysm has made me feel for sure.

    If only they had made these changes with the cataclysm story together as one thing, they might have had a great expansion there.

  3. You missed a big part of the challenge dungeons - namely gear being equalized. Of all people, I would have thought that you would have been able to see the value of running a dungeon and having skill be greater than gear.

    When I heard about that, I started thinking that MoP challenge dungeons could be what BC dungeons were.

  4. /sigh

    I'm not that impressed, really. There's too much out of sync right now, and just going out and adding Pandaria isn't going to gloss over the fact that there are now four regions that will need their stories updated.

    Considering all that they want to do and their track record of delivering it all (or not), I expect that a decent portion of this will not make the final cut. My bet is on WoW Pokemon, although I suspect that little development is the single biggest driver for Mists of Pandaria to be rated "E" rather than "T": let the kids in so they can play WoW Pokemon!

    I agree with you, Shintar, in that the challenge dungeons will have the effect of only encouraging the "gogogo" culture, especially when you add the "I've gotta do dailies and then queue" group.

  5. I dunno, I see the new "scenarios" mode, I see a new way to run heroics for the "go go" crowd that want a challenge (this may get them out of your dungeon), I see new mini games that are totally unlinked to raiding (blizzemon). And especially, I see a clear statement from Blizzard that they think it was a mistake in Cataclysm not to have enough to do at endgame bar raiding.

    In fact, here is the quote:

    "With World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, our focus was on rebuilding the old world and improving the level 1 to 60 experience for players -- and as a result, we didn’t end up creating a lot of new types of content for players to tackle once they had reached max level. One of our primary design goals for Mists of Pandaria is to give players a wider variety of content and different types of gameplay to enjoy once they reach level 90, in addition to the Heroic dungeons, raids, and daily quests that they’re used to. To that end, we are introducing three major new features in the new expansion: scenarios, challenge modes for 5-player dungeons, and companion pet battles."

    One really consistent theme I see in the blogosphere at the moment is "Blizz lost the magic, Cata has been only raiding and rush at endgame, there aren't the options, where are the alternatives I had in Vanilla or TBC?". So Blizz says "You guys were totally right, we screwed up, we're aiming especially to introduce a ton of new stuff in MoP!" and then everyone says "Hey, we don't like your new stuff anyway."

    To me, that says people are bored of the game WHATEVER blizzard tries to announce, not that people don't like MoP. I expect another wave of quitters in MoP just like Cata, which is actually just a wave of people leaving the game because they don't want to play another expac. But maybe those that are not bored yet, or newer players, will find these new features fun.

    Just my 2c. I actually became a lot MORE positive as the day went on :)

  6. @Grumpy: So far it seems as if they are using the next expansion to fix all the problems they created for themselves with Cataclysm.

    I actually agree with that; the problem is that people seemed to dislike Cataclysm for a million different reasons. (I lost count of how many people I've seen argue that Cata has only been catering to the casual/hardcore. Both at the same time!) Considering the things you usually rant about, a lot of the changes they promise sound like solutions to your problems, and I'm happy for you. Unfortunately there's nothing addressing the issues I have, and only proposals to make things worse.

    @Anonymous: I appreciate a challenge, but never at the expense of immersion. The main thing I used to love about doing instances was the sense of adventure they provided me with. Admittedly this has already been diminished greatly by the dungeon finder and its ilk, but up until now I could at least chuck that up to "unintended consequences". This is Blizzard finally saying that actually, stopping the big bad in that dungeon over there really doesn't matter; it's just a random obstacle course for which we'll give you a medal at the end. I find that thoroughly depressing.

    @BoxerDogs: I don't care what the rest of the blogosphere says, show me a post where I've complained about having nothing to do. ;) I believe that while I agreed that Cataclysm seemed to have less of everything, I never actually felt that there was nothing for me to do - my problem is that they keep chipping away at things that I like (in terms of design, not in terms of quantity) until I don't like them anymore. I'm not bored of the game, I'm slowly being driven away. MOAR STUFF doesn't help with that at all.

  7. I was thinking of this quote of yours:

    "I think that was part of BC's beauty: that I always felt that I had things to do even without participating in every part of the game, and with no achievement system there was no meta game to tell me what I should or shouldn't do."

    I could better express it as, I have seen many thoughts on the blogosphere (and here, although I may be misreading the above quote) that say the things to do are all too related to raiding, or too linear, or too much part of the meta game of maximising the character. I guess all I was trying to say is that mini pet battles, or the new scenarios, or the four new BGs, or iLvl capped dungeons to play skill not gear, are adding new things. And personally, I think these new things are a bit of a throwback to Vanilla and TBC, rather than WotLK and Cata, which were very much "raid or quit".

    Of course, the new BGs, the new pet battling, the new scenarios, the new iLvl capped dungeons may not be exciting to the priest with a cause. And (as always) your thoughts and comments are far more balanced than other commentators that basically watched the intro and said "Pandas, I quit forever". But I do stand by my contention that many people will quit when MoP launches, just because after 4 expacs they have had enough of WoW, more than because it is MoP that "jumps the shark". For the people that aren't bored of WoW, I think these new additions look interesting, and certainly MUCH more interesting than another expac of nothing but dailies and raiding.

  8. @BoxerDogs: Yeah, you misunderstood, that quote was about how the game felt a bit more open and freeform to me in the past, like I could take or leave content as I pleased, instead of everyone being expected to do the content of the newest patch and nothing else.

    Like I said, pet battles sound like an interesting concept and I have people on my blogroll who are already excited about it, but personally I want to play my character, not her pets. And most of the other stuff honestly just sounds a lot like "more of the same" to me - for example I suspect that "scenarios" are just going to be another type of instance.

  9. We already have professions which require you to obtain some materials and then force you to run a dungeon (or raid) to obtain the last element to finish the item.

    I think it can work if they put the focus for the quest-dungeon part on the quest.

    If it just requires you to run preparation quests before you run a dungeon it'll be a nightmare. But if the dungeon is just the finishing phase for a quest it can be fun.

    See the added loot as something you get from the quest and not something you get from the dungeon and it looks much more interesting.

  10. What they showed with MoP is a tacit (or not so tacit) admission they made some serious mistakes in Cataclysm, and want to fix them. That's what they needed to do to get me to start to forgive them. When it comes out I will buy MoP, resub, and give it a fair chance.

    I don't really understand the panda hate. Do some people wrap their egos so much around the game that they feel contaminated by them?

  11. Shintar, I do understand the desire for 5-man dungeons to feel more involved and more epic. But at this point, we all just have to admit to ourselves that the ship has sailed.

    Vanilla and BC, had some very complicated and difficult 5-man instances, but after the massive length and difficulty nerf that was Wrath - compounded by the fact that Wrath was the high point of subscriptions, seems to be the point of entry for a very significant portion of the current player base, and introduced the Dungeon Finder, its pretty obvious that we can never go back.

    Blizzard attempted to bring back the challenge in Cata, but for all the reasons mentioned above, it now appears that they are admitting it was a 'mistake'.

    So challenge dungeons.... hopefully there will be more to the 'challenge' aspect than just speed runs. I'm just trying to hold onto anything promising at this point. :p

  12. Plain and simply, China is becoming blizz's largest customer base. This next expack is catering to that demand.

  13. It's not too much of a reach that this expansion is incorporating Asian elements into the game. If you think about it, Wrath had many elements from Nordic cultures and a lot of rustic, Scandinavian elements on the gear and the landscape. Cataclysm borrowed heavily from ancient Egyptian culture in Uldum and with Throne of the Four Winds. It seems like the natural progression of the trend to move onto all things Asia and to find ways to bring a different ethnic setting into the mix.

    Regarding the Challenges, I feel you still may be missing the point of them. I have never felt like the average Heroic should be rushed through. I get very discouraged and annoyed by people who try to tell you to pull faster or not to drink, just because they have somewhere to be and just want their Valor Points. I don't think Blizzard is adding the Challenges as a way of condoning this type of behavior, but rather to show that there are some dungeons you *should* be rushing through, because they are designed for that reason and then there are dungeons where you get no added benefit by doing them faster.

    I'm also unclear how you feel that the changes to talents will lead to people having to re-learn their classes. The core elements of each class are still there. You're having to add new things to your existing skill set, but I don't feel it's as drastic as you're making it sound.

    Thanks for the post, Shin!

  14. Just as a general note, I'd like to remind everyone that for all the reasons I'm disappointed with the MoP announcement, I'm not hating on the pandas or the Asian theme. :P I just don't care for it and didn't see anything else in terms of zones, story etc. There are plenty of other places to discuss the appropriateness of pandas. ;)

    @Oestrus: there are some dungeons you *should* be rushing through, because they are designed for that reason

    As far as I'm aware they'll be the same dungeons, only with a different ticky box selected, so they'll be designed exactly the same. As I said in a comment somewhere else, I just can't see the new challenge modes not affecting the "normal" runs as people get used to rushing through places even more often than they used to.

    The core elements of each class are still there.

    Well, you could have said the same about the Cata talent revamp, and it was still drastic. (I remember you actually liking the 4.0 priest, but I believe you felt that your druid was broken by the changes?) A lot of the new talents are simply cut out of existing talent trees, so all those specs will need rebalancing - for example holy priests will need to be balanced around the assumption that they might NOT have Body and Soul, Surge of Light, Desperate Prayer and Serendipity (if the new talents are indeed supposed to be optional). On the other hand some of the new talents just scream "ridiculously OP" and will likely once again take months of nerfing and buffing until they are "just right". I do think that's absolutely reason enough to expect things to be seriously out of whack after 5.0.

  15. The problem, with lots of content, is that bliz make it almost compulsory, you HAVE to run it or fall behind. Other games dont do this. Take Rift, there is alot of varied endgame, but most people pick the bit they want and do that, you dont have to run eveyrthing like a 2nd job to stay current.

    Also, yeah GC is going overboard on balance, Someone once told me the only way to achieve balance in an MMO was to only have one class.....well GC is well on his way with this one, maybe not one class, but only one spec....

  16. The Challenge Mode seems like it'll give the speed run crowd their own queue so the laid back people can do the rest on their own terms.

    As far as the big class, talent, etc changes, I would much rather play a game where things are dynamic and changing than sacrifice that for perfect balance. We could have near perfectly balanced vanilla right now with no new additions or innovations of any kind, but I for one would not still be playing that. Instead, I accept things will be wacky for a minute, and take it as a stumbling block in the path of progress and evolution.

  17. Some people hate the "rush rush" culture, myself included, but many people also like more of a challenge to their heroics. The general difficulty is being tuned down, so for those that like a more involved heroic with extra bonuses, we have an option.

    The talent tree system as it currently stands isn't feasible for higher levels. It was very well balanced for 85, but extra levels all of a sudden change things and you get OP talent-matching again. The current option is far preferable - talents are interesting, with enough variety to feel like a choice while similar enough to feel like you don't have to pick one particular thing.

    Keep in mind how little we also know about this expansion. We know that faction war is about to break out, and that there are pandas and other races on that continent. Not much else really.

  18. I'm actually pleased (or should I say relieved?) to see some of the changes for MoP. The talent rework terrified me until they indicated that you could change your talent selections when out-of-combat - that actually sounds like a great design, absorbing the "required" talents as defaults, and offering you to choose which survivability or utility skill you need RIGHT NOW. I think it's going to offer a lot more interesting gameplay in both PvE and PvP, as people experiment with the options more frequently.

    Dailies+Dungeons, I'm totally in agreement with you. It sounds like the kind of thing that will be fun in theory, but horrible in practice.

    As for the rest... Well, Poke-Companion-Pets or not, what made me happiest of all was the new pet system, paired with the account-wide achievements. When I heard this, it was acknowledgement that rewards are moving toward true account-binding. As soon as this thought struck my brain, I felt the most blissful sense of freedom, as the massive ball-and-chain of Wealth (in all its many variations) released me from its unyielding bonds to my main character. I began looking at Monks with a sense of open curiosity, and actually find myself looking forward to it.

    Is it different? Very. Are they flopping around in dazed confusion? Possibly. Is it going to work for me? I think so.

  19. @Toggle: I suppose it is possible that challenge mode will actually end up segregating the player base. A lot of it will depend on details I guess, such as whether they drop the same loot for example. (I could see them completely removing loot as a distraction from challenge modes actually.) I don't think being worried about "spillover" in attitudes is strange though - just look at the way some people expect to steamroll lvl 85 normals in the same way as heroics, even if half the group is freshly dinged and has no gear.

    @Anonymous (the 2nd): Oh, there was always going to be change to the talent trees with a new expansion, but there's making adjustments and then there's deciding to scrap the entire system again. I just don't think that the latter was needed.

    @Homeschool: I don't know, that "great design" sounds a lot like glyphs to me, and how often do you really change those around? Some people probably do it regularly, but in most cases there's usually a "best" choice for the content you usually do that's rarely worth changing. Either way they never really grew on me as a really interesting system either.

  20. Augh. I am really sorry if you're dealing with negative commentary right now - that wasn't the point of linking you at all. I was just trying to highlight some differing opinions about the new xpac, and yours was a particularly eloquent summation of why you weren't terribly thrilled with the idea. It was a good post. It was a really good post, even if I don't personally agree with some of the points. If you'd like me to take the link down from TDQ, please hit me up on Twitter ( @Shadesogrey ) or just email me at the site, anne at wowinsider dot com, and I'll do so.

    I'm really sorry if this turned into a problem for you, that really wasn't my intent at all. :/

  21. Pouncing on GC and Talent System 3.0 seems to be the en vogue thing in the blogosphere, but that was probably the best part of the reveal to me. And yes, it really did need to be scrapped again. The talent tree model as it exists today is inherently non-extensible and thus broken. If Blizz tries to add anything to it, they guarantee themselves several man-years of development effort toward rebalancing. Blizz has far better things to spend time on, and we all know it.

    The current hater mantra on other blogs is "less choice", but the choice we have today is mostly illusory -- you either grab the cookie-cutter spec from Elitist Jerks or UR DOIN IT WRONG. In contrast, almost every tier revealed in the talent panel had me going "whoa, which of these do I pick?" I think I had an aneurysm when I saw the last two shaman tiers -- see, these are the fun, interesting choices that the old talent trees were supposed to provide and never once delivered. I get a certain D&D vibe from the new system, choosing from ultra-powerful feats to make my character unique.

    I think my only (marginal) disappointment is that there are only six decision points as presented, but six is still more than zero or one, which is how many legitimate choices you get in most talent trees today. However, with this new talent system design they can insert new tiers without utterly breaking the whole thing. I see this being a very extensible design that Blizz has not really begun to tap into yet. I honestly believe this is the last major talent system rework. They can take this design in a lot of interesting directions without having to completely gut it the next time they raise level cap. It's a keeper for sure, from a development viewpoint.

  22. Don't worry, Anne, it wasn't a huge issue. I'll just turn on comment moderation for a few days and it'll be fine. I appreciate that you read my blog and consider it link-worthy sometimes. :) Generally getting a bit of extra traffic is nice, but considering that I am a somewhat disgruntled player these days (no denying that!), I think that a lot of what I write simply doesn't match Wow Insider's more positive tone of reporting anymore (and readers act understandably annoyed).

  23. I must admit I do share your sentiments exactly. Perhaps some time away from Azeroth is in order, see what else I have been neglecting in the last couple of years.

  24. What you said about 'no longer feeling like the target audience' is very much applicable here. :\

    Everyone I know is getting super excited and I just feel left behind now. It's really pretty miserable. I don't particularly like the pandaren, but I could get over that- except the other exciting things are pokepets (... ehhhh) and the removal of the talent system as we know it, both of which are huge negatives, as far as I'm concerned. :(

    There's no winning this thing. I liked Cataclym's content and questing, I liked the difficulty increase from WOTLK even though it meant I had to wait to experience content- I'm not throwing in my towel just yet. I'll try MoP, more than likely.

    But I definitely feel like the game is moving away from me as the target demographic, and more towards 12 years old. Except, inexplicably, EVERYONE ELSE seems to like the changes?