Mists of Pandaria is a great name

On Friday I mentioned that it will be interesting to see how Blizzard and CCP differ in the next year when it comes to their flagship titles, but over the weekend, playing some EVE while thinking about Blizzard (I did some mining, so lots of thinking time), I’ve come to some conclusions already. I also want to talk a bit about that comment Tobold made.

When I first read about Mists of Pandaria it sure sounded like Blizzard saying “sorry” for WotLK and Cata. No flying until the cap, refocusing on the open-world, world bosses, harder instanced content, etc. It’s 2004 all over again! Of course Blizzard has promised those things before, and well, we know how that turned out. (Still love this line: “Over time, we’d like the focus of PvP to shift back to being more BG-centric and more focused on Horde versus Alliance — the core of our game.” I was also reminded of the technical impossibly that is Wintergrasp as I crossed areas with 500+ people in local.)

But when you look at the major features, it’s very clear what Blizzard is doing. More of the same. Not in a ‘give them more of the same content’, but rather more of the same approach; slowly evolve WoW from what it was to what Blizzard hopes it will be – an alternative to Saturday morning cartoons.

Trammel and the NGE are significant because in one day, they radically changed their MMOs and gave current players the boot in favor of people NOT playing the game at the time. Grass is greener and all that. Really worked out well for SWG, and nothing says Britannia like elves and ninjas!

WoW has never had such an event, yet every expansion has slowly been pushing people out. Whether you dropped out because raiding went from 40 to 25 in BC, the game went drool-cup in WotLK, or sRPG in Cata, at different times different crowds have been Trammel’ed/NGE’ed out of WoW, and each time the hope was that newer, younger (real or mental age) players with lower expectations would come in. MoP is a fitting acronym here, as Blizzard is cleaning out the old and looking to bring in a totally new crowd.

It’s also fitting that Blizzard is giving away Diablo 3 to millions of people, in the hope that when they MoP up WoW, the dirt transitions to D3 and continues to pay via Auction House taxes. (Side note: Raise your hand if you got a free copy of SC2 because you subbed to WoW for a year? Anyone? No? Wonder what’s different this time…)

As to WoW having always been a non-serious game; either you are delusion or a total Blizzard apologist. Possibly both.

Somehow I don’t think pre-teens were running around knocking out elite mobs in the open-world, organizing town raids, playing the first version of the PvP system, min/maxing the second system, or sitting around with 39 of their closest pre-teen friends to knock out Rag after a five hour raid. And to suggest that this was just a ‘very minor’ part of the game, well, guess Blizzard disagreed when they expanded that ‘very minor’ part for well over a year straight, while at the same time picking up millions of new subs. Naw, total coincidence. Just like WotLK stagnating growth and bring drool-cup easy, or Cata sinking WoW and being a sRPG are total coincidences. It’s just burnout finally setting in after 2-4-6 years, yo.

What is surprising about all of this is that, in effect, Blizzard is throwing in the towel with WoW being a real MMO. Yes the signs have been there before, but MoP sure looks like a total admission here. When your trailer looks like an intern put together a demo to bringing Kung Fu Panda to Saturday mornings, are you saying anything else? And is TAGN going to start double-posting real Pokemon and WoWmon updates? Will we be able to tell the difference?

It’s all a pretty stark contrast to what CCP is doing with EVE, which is to refocus and continue building on to the core game that started 7+ years ago. (Side note: how is it that EVE is a year older with a much smaller player base, yet today looks like a 2011 game while WoW continues to look like a 2002 game?)

From a business standpoint I’m sure MoP will indeed bring in a bunch of new pre-teens to mess around with the game for however long their attention spans last, but from a players perspective WoW has ‘lost’ in terms of supporting those who have supported it before. For many it took a while, but slowly people are being shown the door. Kinda sad that an entire sub-group of MMO players will see this as the norm, and not know or understand that not only is it possible, but it should be expected that instead of turnover and change, an MMO is about growth and addition.

Final side note: SW:TOR has to be pretty happy about this right? They will be the only major online sRPG in town now. Double-defeat admission from Blizzard?

31 Responses to Mists of Pandaria is a great name

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you’ve put into words what I’ve been feeling but couldn’t be bothered to express.I’ve been resigned to WoW fading for me since Cata, and its only friends who have kept me playing (literally, they bought me a sub when I abandoned ship,I re-subbed out of feeling for that sentiment).

      I’ll see how it goes, but I am flabergasted that a group of erstwhile switched-on people can offer MoP as an expansion for WoW players.

      It’s not the Pandas, I like the idea of the race and the Monk class, its all the other stuff hooked onto it, like the talent trees and the re-simplification of weapons.Hard to sum up, but I’m sure my 10yr old will love it and who knows they may still get my sub via him (maybe they ain’t so dumb after all!!, but I’m a bit gutted)

  1. I will catch them all!

    And what do you mean EVE continues to look like a 2011 game? They redid their graphics engine and all their ship and station models a about two and a half, so most of the graphics you are seeing are much newer than WoW and not relics from 2003 as you seem to imply.

    • SynCaine says:

      That’s my point, EVE looks like a game someone is updating, be it new ship models, new turrets (they look nice IMO), new effects, DX10, whatever. WoW does not.

  2. Max says:

    It was all good till you mentioned EvE again. EvE and Darkfall are both failures as games. They were , they are and they will forever be . Comparing them to WoW (one of the most successful games of ALL time to date) just devalues your whole argument

    Fact is WoW sailed away form being an MMO into thempark land. It still is a better game

    What CCP can do with EvE? -who cares -it was never fun game to begin with. Reading about EvE was more fun than actually playing (btw you play eve? df? – answer is NO.. Why? -they are NOT FUN)

    Yes WoW is a disappointment for many but that still doesn’t make current forays into sandbox genre a success. A failure of one product does not make the other a success. Especially when “failure” is in the eyes of the beholder and success is rather ephemeral (read about CCP financial troubles)

    • How exactly are you defining success?

      EVE Online is a profitable online game that has been growing and expanding for more than 8 years.

      Where exactly is the fail? Because the fact that you don’t like the game is a pretty narrow definition of failure.

      • Max says:

        That is a good point . Let me elaborate -while subs numbers matter the quality of gameplay is an issue there as well

        On both accounts EvE while not a complete failure has been just a middling success (about 2 orders of magnitude less than WoW)

        I also happen to dislike core gameplay of EvE (which could be described as “waiting” ,or DF – “waiting and macroing”), as opposed to WoW (which is combat and loot).

        Of course what is fun is subjective but when even EvE players agree that most of it is boredom, there is not really much to say about quality of its core gameplay

        • SynCaine says:

          The highs from EVE are orders of magnitude higher than those in WoW, so is WoW a failure?

          The average day in WoW is perhaps more interesting than the average day in EVE. Is EVE a failure?

          The worst day in EVE is far more memorable (in terms of impact) than in WoW. Is that a good or bad thing for EVE/WoW?

          How’s the quality of 2004 WoW gameplay working out for current-day WoW players? How will the gameplay work for them post MoP? I think we know what EVE players are going to be doing.

          Sub numbers are what they are. WoW is a mass-market fantasy game. EVE is a hardcore Sci-Fi game. CCP made the game they wanted to make, made it work, and have continued to make it work 7+ years in. Think the guys who made 2004 WoW are still excited to be playing with Pandas?

          Edit: And if EVE is a middling success at 400k subs, than I guess LotRO and basically any game not called WoW are total failures? That’s a funny way to define success, especially when no one has even come close to reach the level one (lucky) title reached.

    • mararinn says:

      “WoW sailed away from being an MMO into theme park land”? WoW started it’s life as a theme park MMO! That it’s taken you this long is testament to the power of the theme park in entertaining gormless youths such as yourself.

      EVE Online is not a “fun game”. It is a virtual world where you get to exercise the darker side of your personality and discover that choices have consequences. Players are the content — the fact that you found it “not fun” speaks volumes about your ability to think outside the square, or more to the point to think outside the theme park ride queue.

      Which is the better game? The whole point of WoW is to get to the endgame as quickly as possible so you can spend the rest of your life fighting the same monsters over and over again. In EVE you fight monsters only long enough to fund your attempts to be a monster yourself. The content is varied and intriguing because the players *are* the content.

  3. bhagpuss says:

    I commented elsewhere that Blizzard has been boiling the frog in WoW for several years but with the introduction of pandas it seems someone turned up the heat just that little bit too sharply and some of the frogs jumped out of the pot.

    I don’t really care. I played WoW for about 3 months in 2009 and that’s my sum total of hands-on time with any Blizzard game. I have no emotional investment. I’ll probably pop in again some day but I doubt I’ll stay any longer next time round.

    On the other hand I’ve never played EVE and I very much doubt I ever will. I don’t like pandas much but I like spaceships even less.

  4. Dril says:

    Other than the comparisons to Criminal Spreadsheet Simulator Online, I agree.

    The thing is, I’m not even bitter towards Blizzard as a company, since I still regard Warcraft 3 with such high esteem (only M2TW and classic WoW match it; Portal 2 and its mods have the potential to equal it.) I don’t know whether it is wholly my appreciation for Blizzard’s past, or whether it’s the fact that I can convince myself that it is and forever will be the B/C/D Team that’s ruining WoW. Thing is, I can actually believe that’s the case, considering Tom Chilton, architect of much of WoW’s bad shit, is now doing important, decision-making duties.

    • SynCaine says:

      The reason EVE is brought into the conversation is because it’s older than WoW yet still “the same game” in terms of it’s core. Without EVE and a few others, one could easily suggest that NGE’ing your game is just how MMOs work, and that you have to kick out the old to bring in the new. That would be a pretty sad reality.

  5. Aufero says:

    Mists of Pandaria looks like fun. I’ll undoubtedly resub to try it – and I’ll undoubtedly unsub again after two months, because it looks like about the same amount of fun as Cataclysm. One character to max level, and boring as hell after that.

    But hey, thanks for making triple-A MMO expansions I can drop as quickly as I get tired of Facebook games. It’s much easier on my wallet than 5-year subscriptions.

  6. Rammstein says:

    I have to admit, MoP completely shocked me, but the question remains as to what Blizzard’s strategic reasoning is here. I see two possibilities that make sense to me so far:

    A. Blizzard is positioning WoW as MMORPG-lite, and titan will be the new vanilla WoW.

    B. Blizzard has decided that MMORPG-lite is the way to go with mmo’s, that SC2 and LOL are more suited for real gamers, and people that want virtual worlds can go play DF and EVE with the few others like them.

    I lean towards A, but I’ve been wrong about blizzard before,as this weekend has reminded me.

  7. rulez says:

    “As to WoW having ever been a serious game; either you are delusion or a total SynCaine apologist. Possibly both.”

    That you can experience any game in a serious manner within your guild/community does not make the game serious but your approach to it.

  8. rulez says:

    I think the quote fixed itself. :D

  9. Wyrmrider says:

    The SW:TOR team must be pretty happy about this, yeah. They can certainly out-sRPG WoW, and they even get some free publicity for their “no auto-attack” talking point.

  10. Paul says:

    For the non-casual gamer, what exactly is being removed in MoP that was present in Cataclysm? There are still end game raids with hard modes. Are you complaining about heroic 5 mans being easier? No one liked grinding those in Cataclysm.

    The complaining about casual content sounds an awful lot like objecting to content aimed at other people. You’d almost think the hardcore believed they were entitled to having the entire game revolve around their needs. Sharing is hard, I guess.

  11. Mig says:

    I am sick of this burnout argument. Between football and hockey I have played or watched thousands of hours of both sports for decades. While both sports have gone through some mild alterations over that time, I have essentially consumed thousands of hours of content that are at best minor variations on a theme. I will not wake-up one day and say, “oh shit, I am sick of football.” However, if one day they decide that both sports are too violent and they removed all forms of hitting I would stop watching. I would not stop watching because I had “burned out” on either sport, but because they changed an essential part of the game that was a core factor in my enjoyment of the product.

    In enjoy achieving goals with large groups and open world content in MMO’s, I played WoW for thousands of hours when it had those elements. I enjoyed WoW less and less as changes slowly eroded the aspects I liked. I now play other games that have those elements and will continue to consume thousands of hours of similar content. How is this concept difficult to understand?

    • Rammstein says:

      “How is this concept difficult to understand?”

      The only thing that’s difficult to understand is whether you missed the massive sarcasm surrounding the burnout argument referenced in this piece, or whether you caught it and were referring to the burnout argument in general, but in an unclear fashion.

  12. Kyir says:

    Jeez Syncaine I did all that stuff when I was 13.

    I am incredibly offended.

  13. […] childish and cute. We can all see the audience Blizzard is, and has been, shifting WoW to. That’s been covered. The panda is just the salesman pitching the gameplay, and the gameplay he is selling is not the […]

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