Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The State of the Community and Mists of Pandaria

Another expansion announcement, another large group of morons coming out of the woodwork to tell us it's going to be the worst thing that ever happened to World of Warcraft. While this is, of course, nothing new, it always amazes me at just how narrow-minded, short-sighted, and arrogant people can become when they don't like the way things are going.

First of all, people seem to get very entitled around this time in the game's expansion cycle. The new expansion is still a good time away, and our knowledge of the details surrounding it is slim. This doesn't, however, stop a cacophony of players screaming that it's the end of the game or that nothing Blizzard is doing is going to work to fix the problems WoW is currently facing.
Let me get one thing straight - I am not a Blizzard fanboi in the obsessive sense of the term. I love World of Warcraft, and I have loved it for going on six years. I never got into Diablo or Starcraft or really even the original Warcraft series because those genres of games simply don't appeal to me all that much. I can recognize them as good games for what they are, they just don't tickle my fancy, as it were.

That said, I am terribly tired of players tearing down Blizzard for anything the developer does that doesn't precisely line up with that player's gameplay or theme preferences/opinions.

If you don't like Pandaren, that's fine. You're entitled to your opinion. But seriously, don't start your argument with any of the following:

  1. Pandas/Pandaren are cute/cuddly/cartoony, and those things have no place in this game.
  2. Pandaren are a joke race, created as an April Fool's joke, and have no lore.
  3. "Kung Fu Panda!"
First of all, pandas are vicious. Now that that is settled, you can still argue Pandaren are cute and cuddly. However, you're wrong. One look at Samwise's older Pandaren art should be enough to dispel the notion that they are a people incapable of being badass. While it's true that the Pandaren presented to us at Blizzcon may not have been the preeminent vision of badassery, it's hard to ignore how cool they looked in some of their animations (especially the meditation pose!). This is also not even alpha yet - there is plenty of time to possibly revamp the look a bit if Blizzard gets enough feedback from players saying they want Pandaren to look edgier .

Continuing on the first complaint, cute and cuddly have been present in World of Warcraft since the beginning. Gnomes are adorable (if you're into small, irritating rodentia). The whole game has always been cartoonish, and for good reason - it allows the game to age much more gracefully than attempting photo-realistic graphics, and it's an art style that is cohesive and can endure without looking dated. On top of that, it allows models to be attractive while also maintaining a decent framerate on lower-end systems.

Finally, I feel it's very important and contextual to reference C.S. Lewis's stance on childish things:
"Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
On the second point, I really shouldn't have to argue the April Fool's whining. The basic premise of the question was brought up at Blizzcon (skip to 4:35) by someone who looks like he fits the stereotype of the kind of person who needs everything to be badass to make up for the fact that he is, in fact, not badass at all. The idea is that Pandaren were originally an April Fool's joke (they weren't - they started as concept art by Samwise Didier and then showed up as part of an April Fool's joke simply because the joke was related to Chinese food). Even if that were true, it has absolutely no impact on them as a race today. Blizzard showed with the Draenei that they could come up with compelling backstory for a race nearly from scratch. Yes, they had to break a few eggs to make the delicious lore omlette, including retcons that people who probably hate Pandaren still whine about today, but in the end the lore was so good that many people regularly ask why Blizzard apparently "forgot" about Draenei after the BC starting area.

It's not about where Pandaren as a concept came from initially. It's a question about where they came from in the lore and where they are going now. If Blizzard can nail those things, that is everything required to make a great player race. People need to just hold up and let Blizzard, once again, prove that they can craft new lore. Other games do it all the time - that's what a sequel is, and that's what expansions are. Get over it.

Lastly, just... shut the hell up about Kung Fu Panda. Seriously. Pandaren existed long before Kung Fu Panda. If you associate pandas with Kung Fu Panda, that is not Blizzard's fault. Pandaren, according to Zarhym, are the single most-requested feature in World of Warcraft. That doesn't surprise me. Apparently, however, some people believe that everyone hates Pandaren - probably because they assume that only people who scream bloody murder about everything they dislike on the forums are the only people who can voice their requests.

I've gone on way longer about this (only one part of the complaints I have about the community) than I initially intended to, but suffice it to say that I am absurdly frustrated with the community. It seems that forums have simply become a place where any half-baked, wildly misguided whinge you may have can be posted, begging for "BLUES PLZ ANSER" and assuming that your opinion is the most valid among a playerbase of 11 million or more. I know it's too much to ask, but I just wish people would learn to be measured in the way they respond to things.

Of course, politics, religion, and a myriad of other topics show that it's not just WoW players that are incapable of common courtesy and intelligence in discourse.

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