Blizzcon 2011 – They Said Mists of What?
Blizzcon 2011 has come and gone. Besides the big announcements this year there was plenty of fan meetups after the convention in the evening, from the WoW Insider meetup to the Hilton After Party. Being able to hang out with 7 of my guildies at the convention was one of the highlights, besides of course me trying to convince Ghostcrawler to nerf Warrior tanks, mostly because my best friend is one, and I wanted to see him squirm.
Enough about what I was doing, lets get down to the big announcement, Blizzard announced that Mists of Pandaria would indeed be the fourth expansion to its epic blockbuster MMO World of Warcraft. Though it seems it got a mixed reaction, let me break down some of those features and the reactions I heard and talked to people about while at Blizzcon.
With the fourth expansion we will see a new class, Monk. Which I happily predicted. Now the monk class is going to be a bit different than what we are used to from a melee perspective where there is no auto attack, that the players must push a button for the monk to attack at all. While this mechanic sounds interesting, I am just not sure how this will stick and I predict after a while Blizzard adds auto attack in for Monks. The example they gave at Blizzcon of where if a mob is at 5hp fighting a warrior, the warrior’s auto attack will finish them off, but for a monk they need to wait to push a button, to me that reason should not be the justification for not having auto attack or why its cool to not have it. If Blizzard can have the cooldowns set in such a way that you can constantly be pushing something I think it will work out ok, but if you are ability capped and wind up just standing around that will be a big problem. Now the idea that they will also handle tanking and healing duties was interesting, so they will share gear with bear and resto druids respectively. The idea behind the healing for them was interesting. Blizzard said they were challenging themselves to break out of the current click that health bar and cast type healer, instead maybe have DPS translate into healing, maybe by placing AoE type statues or totems around the area, that would be charged and release heals, if implemented correctly this could be a fun new healing style that might draw more folks into a healer role that previously were turned over from the whack a mole type healing setup that exists today.
Next up is, Pandaren. My lord the amount of complaining against pandas in the game. Everything from “there is no lore”, “its a cop out”, “they were an april fool’s joke”, etc. I heard it all at Blizzcon and after. But I also heard just as many people say how much they loved the idea, and are excited. Me I sit in the middle on this, I would have preferred they be non playable, but have the Monk class. I would have been OK with that, but right now I am just waiting to see. I will say the starting area was fun to play though, and the graphics for the pandaren are amazing on a 7+ year old graphics engine. I think part of my issue is that Pandaren can be both Alliance and Horde, having them be on both sides feels like we lose something from a PVP perspective. As it stands now I see Tauren, undead and orcs I know thats the opposite faction, but when I see a Pandaren, I just won’t know. Of course there is the red text, but I look at the characters first, because lets be honest if you were in real war, you don’t have little red text over an insurgents head telling you they are a bad guy.
The talent system changes are great I think, as they allow you to customize what you can do and compliment how you would like to play, instead of forcing you to take a certain set of talents then having 2-4 garbage talent points left over that are basically meaningless. Granted, I sincerely doubt that sites like elitistjerks.com will be out of business because of this. Despite what Blizzard may think, you will not get rid of the theorcrafting or the mathematicians of Azeroth in finding what that optimal build will be. However if Blizzard creates a wide range of content where different talents will shine better than others from time to time, you will see people switching their talents like glyphs, which was also another feature that Blizzard said they were looking to accompany this new talent system. I am all for this system, the talent tree system feels dated, I want something new, and the new Death Knight talents let me play more and more like a Sith, which I am all for.
Pokemon! OK not really, but non combat pet battle system. Yup we will soon be able to take our non-combat pets, level them up and fight them against other players’ pets. This is something I not too long ago predicted on my podcast, The Sundering. Granted it was under the segment of ridiculous future patch predictions, who knew that this ridiculous prediction would become reality. Essentially you create teams of 3 pets, level them together to fight in turn based combat against other pets. This will be a huge time sink after the rep grinds, profession grinds are all completed. What will propel this new gameplay mechanic to the next level is if Blizzard offered this up as a mobile game via iPhone or Android, that would really kill productivity the world over. In fact if blizzard offered this as a feature in the wowarmory app for say an extra $3 a month, I would probably pay it.
Next the big one, World of Warcraft Annual Pass. Basically this is a limited time offer for a 1 year commitment to subscribe to World of Warcraft based on whatever billing model you want, bill monthly, every 3 months, or 6 months, you are just committing to doing so for a total of a year. What do you get out of this cellular type contract? Well you get an in-game Tyrael’s charger mount when patch 4.3 goes live, which this mount looks unbelievably awesome. Next guaranteed access to the next World of Warcraft expansion beta program, so play Mists of Pandaria before anyone else. Then the next one, a free digital copy of Diablo 3. So if you were planning on playing WoW for a whole year anyway, getting the mount, access to the beta and a free copy of Diablo 3 is a no brainer. Many folks claim this is a money grab or a desperate way to keep subscribers. Folks, lets not forget Blizzard is in the business to make money, with Star Wars the Old Republic coming out end of the year, it makes sense to try to keep your subscriber base locked in, its solid business sense. For me, I was planning on playing another year and also getting Diablo 3, so this deal was like hey Blizz, thanks for the free stuff. Not sure how long the deal will last but if you are going to play WoW for another year, sign-up, get some Diablo 3 and some other nice perks.
In the end, while I am not overly excited by playing Pandas, I wasn’t that excited, nor am I currently excited that we have space goats, err Draenei, in the game. But I have the same choice, I do not have to play as one. Do I like the other changes they are making? Absolutely. The new continent looks fantastic, the talent system is a fantastic redesign and can’t wait to see it in action. I am looking forward to the monk class, which if they pull off the healing spec and playstyle well, I may even consider re-rolling, who knows. Then the WoW annual pass was a simple decision. Overall I am looking forward to Mists of Pandaria, and the changes it will bring to the game, which I feel are badly needed.