Reasons behind the WoW pandaren critique

People complained about the pandaran race introduced in World of Warcraft’s Mists of Pandaria expansion. They still occasionally do.
One might wonder why, since the pandaran race has been canon since the pre-MMO Warcraft times, and so have certain other strange animal-like races.
I will tell you what the problem is. It is becoming quite obvious when you listen to the ‘reasoning’ behind the critique.

It is about male insecurities. People who are bothered by pandaren demand more blood, gore, violence and ugliness. This active rejection of beauty sounds very much like fanaticism. Behavior based on fear and suppression of the truth behind it. (World of) Warcraft has always had silly and cheesy elements. But pandaren are, at least in some aspects, more inclined towards peace, beauty and wisdom; attributes of a healthier society. One might argue they’re traits associated with femininity. So when a guy says: “This isn’t ugly and horrible enough!” it’s pretty clear that this is what’s going on. Masculine-ego boost. It’s the same reason why fans of My Little Pony get flamed. It challenges traditional role models and mass psychology induced by marketing/popculture. The resistance is the reactionary act of people afraid of loss of identity. So, basically, as said before: insecurities acting up.
Being fine with pandas roaming Azeroth is the mature approach.

Especially when they’re dual-wielding katanas and giving out free beer, haha.


The problem with World of Warcraft in one anecdote

They introduced profession daily quests, I think with Cataclysm. One of the fishing daily quests required you to swim in the waters of Stormwind Harbor and collect crawfish from traps on the sea floor.
And there were sharks. Highlevel sharks, so if you weren’t level-maxed, their aggro range was especially high.
And this was so much fun. Few things get your blood pumping in that way. (Another example would be covert enemy city infiltration.) Because there was an actual risk, requiring you to pay attention. The sharks had that habit of approaching just when you weren’t looking, from the somewhat murky water. It was a constant sense of danger and you’d look around nervously all the time, trying to not stay at one spot for too long or getting cornered. And this was OK, since you had been given a buff that increases swim speed and gives water breathing. So the challenge was just to stay away from the sharks.

And apparently some OCD babies whined that this hassle interfers with their mindnumbing daily quest routine. And Blizzard does what they always do … cave to them. Probably based on the business dictate to appeal to the lowest common denominator, for profit maximization.

So the sharks got nerfed to level 15 … which of course felt pathetic, disheartening.

Sharks should never be the target of pity. It’s just wrong.

And the water there is also crystal-clear now.
Oh and did I mention the comfort of the water breathing buff that you automatically get when accepting the quest so that you don’t even have to buy potions if you want to be lazy? How this further takes the appeal out of alchemy? Well, the potions AND the buff are pretty much pointless now, since at this point, breath time of characters has been increased to an insane THREE minutes! Unmodified by whether you swim or fight or get hit or anything. As long as you don’t stay submerged for more than 3 minutes, you’re fine. And then, if you still don’t catch a breath and let that extremely long timer run out, you get ANOTHER warning in the form of health loss every two seconds, so that it takes another 12 seconds of health loss before you actually die.

As mentioned in the title, this is just one of many possible exemplary cases that show what kind of mindset ruins the sprit, the magic, of World of Warcraft.

One example of the ego’s control games

The following thread in the World of Warcraft forums is several years old, but it is valuable as exposition of the frequent mind games that happen especially on internet forums when ‘help’ is involved, when people fuel their desire for control by exploiting those in need, since their intentions aren’t really altruistic and they try to derive relevance for their own existence that way. It’s all due to a lack of empathy, and the mechanisms that lead to it would be complex to explain here, but if you’re interested in psychology and have heard of things like Milgram experiment or Asch comformity test, it’s quite likely you will grasp what’s going on.
This severe egotism, among various other mental disturbances, is one of the major things that put me off while playing the game. Just because it’s MMO doesn’t mean it’s social. It very much encourages what I described in a previous blog entry:

Alright, no further introduction necessary, since the thread itself is quite self-explanatory.

Bug made WoW quest better

WoW is so bad these days that a bug actually made a quest more fun (oldschool).

This quest is a nod to Don Quixote. You assist Maximillian and eventually face a huge dinosaur, and you two flee horseback and have to defeat the ‘dragon’ by throwing rocks at it (and occasionally stomp-stunning it to gain some distance), each of which reduced its health by maybe 0.1%. It fit the whole absurd theme of the quest chain so much, how it took minutes of riding around, aggroing all kinds of bystanding wildlife, and eventually killing a huge t-rex by throwing hundreds, maybe even thousands of tiny rocks at it. It’s almost a parody of the whole boss battle mechanics in WoW where you hit often huge bosses with your tiny weapons until they die.

I shared my excitement about this quest with my guildmates, because that quest felt so oldschool, so unconventional, so immersive, making you a part of an odd experience so totally not like the dull streamlined and idiot-proof quest design pattern one usually encounters in WoW.
And then my guildmates asked why I didn’t just throw armor pieces. And I was like: “Huh? What armor pieces?”. They told me Maximillian should have given me some armor pieces to throw at the beast, which would have reduced its health by a big chunk. But I couldn’t remember anything like that.

So back then I wondered: Could I really have overlooked it; missed the moment where Max activated the armor-throw option for me? I doubted that, so I assumed that at the early time when I did the quest, Blizzard might not have added that option and added it later. I thought it was lame of them to massively nerf the fun out of that quest.

Now I read the comments on that website and realize… it was just a common bug that made the armor-throw not work. It was unintended.
But it was a lot more fun. (Although the impatient whiney babies that Blizzard attracts with the game who want everything fed on a silver spoon and shun any type of effort would disagree.)
When I later tried the quest again, I had the armor-throw option, and it filled me with a feeling of disappointment. As if I had been given a quest completion coupon that I simply had to redeem at a machine. It took the spirit out of the quest.

And this is one of hundreds of examples of how Blizzard kills the game’s soul. (Which was never remarkably strong, but the creative designers clearly try to put their passion into the game to the degree they’re allowed to do.)

If you wanted me to concisely summarize what I think is wrong with WoW, I would say: WoW is absolutely not like indie games. That’s what’s wrong.

Game time tokens are translating two-class society into the game realm

The game time token (as used with the name PLEX in EVE Online, and the idea having been announced for World of Warcraft) is another feature with metagaming aspects. Another thing that translates the dominant business mentality into the game. People with good income can buy wealthy-status ingame and with it fund the continued play of those who are ‘poor’ in RL but got lots of time, and they’re working for ingame currency and then burning it up just to be able to continue playing, which of course pleases the business, but puts the non-wealthy player in a dependency relation not unlike wage slavery. After all, they’re spending a considerable amount of time with just making sure they can continue playing. And this more direct tie-in with real money value will likely also rot people’s motivations even more, like guild leveling did by creating guild ad spamming. It creates a survivalist and greedy atmosphere.
It is a two-class society in the making. The rich are benefitting off the poor.
After EVE Online with its players spending much time ship-spinning in the hangar, doing their regular business transactions, World of Warcraft now has something quite similar with garrisons. And after EVE Online’s PLEX, World of Warcraft will adopt yet another feature from them. World of Warcraft is getting increasingly inspired by the one MMO that is more rotten than itself. Which was to be expected when you understand the whole problem complex. For Blizzard there is only one direction. Business pressures dictate them onto a course that has passed the point of no return long ago, and they willingly subjected themselves to those masters.