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Ailuropoda Melanoleuca

October 26, 2011

Dear Reader,

Aurilo is the latin stem for cats; Aurilomancy is the practice of divining the future by gutting a cat and examining the entrails (I promise this is going somewhere).  Poda is the latin stem for feet, like podiatrist.  Mela is the latin stem for black, like melanoma (a skin cancer that makes black splotches on your skin, also related to melanin, which gives skin color).  Leuca (or leuka) is the latin stem for white, like leukemia (cancer of the white blood cells).

This is what the scientists called pandas: A cat-footed, black and white animal.

I almost didn’t write a post on the topic of the next expansion; as MMO Melting Pot has reported, virtually everyone else has, and most of what I wanted to say I found reflected in the posts of others.  I hate to seem like a copycat (which I am), so I almost went ahead with a different post.

Instead, I’m going to dive in to the same nonsense and say my piece.  I think there’s a lot of overreaction and poor writing going on.  Complaining about our cat-footed friends really shouldn’t be an issue.  There seem to be a lot of interesting changes being made, which certainly keeps the game fresh.  Instead, what I think people should be focused on (and some have focused on this already) is the marketing direction of the game.

It’s always been a game with a lot of childish elements to it, and that was fine.  We’re fantasy lovers, so silly walrus-men and “dapper lycanthropes” (to copycat Penny Arcade) were endearing.  I doubt Pandas will be much different.  I think my initial revulsion was due to the obvious similarity to Kung-Fu Panda, which has already been widely discussed, so I won’t say more about that here.

However, reflecting on that disappointment, I more clearly refined why I was upset.  I remember being extremely irritated about the child Boba Fett character in Star Wars.  The first of the newer movies had a child Anakin, so that was all they needed to make the series kid-friendly.  Jar Jar was certainly a further child-oriented addition who grated adults to no end.  However, as Anakin aged, they wanted still to have a child character, so they threw in Boba Fett.  He was a entirely unnecessary addition, and the only reason I can think to add him would be to appeal to kids.

The original Star Wars had mass murder (of the Jawas) and burning dead bodies.  It had anti-heroes who by god, shot first.  It was a fantasy, but it was not a kids movie.  Sure, kids could watch it (I sure did), but its themes were more universal, it’s characters adult and complex.  Sticking kids in turns Bond into Spy Kids, Star Wars 4-6 into Star Wars 1-3.

At some level, I feel that’s why I’m upset about the next expansion.  Three of the four major changes – pandas, pokémon, and the talent trees – are making the game more geared for children.  Only monks stand out as a more adult addition, but compared to Death Knights, who murder innocents for Arthas prior to their redemption, even monks seem a bit kiddy.

I don’t think I need to really explain why the cartoony pandas are child-oriented, so I’ll keep this short.  If you compare the greed-centric goblins, the self-hating lycanthropes, the worldless, lost Draenei, or the magic-addicted blood-elves to the bouncy, food-loving pandas, you can see a real shift in the “darkness” (or complexity of character) ratio.  They’re lighter characters, which is fine, but are also more kid-friendly.

If I didn’t need to explain the pandas, I really don’t need to explain the Pokémon addition.  In fact, I’ll say only this: sure, it was my generation that really started the CCG craze with Magic: the Gathering.  It was the following generation, kids in college now, who really dug in to Pokémon first.  Since then, though Pokémon’s become so culturally infused through shows, movies, video games, stuffed animals, and the original card game that it’s still very popular to kids, and it’s far more socially acceptable for them.  It’s another addition for the kids.

The talent trees are also, indirectly, for kids.  They simplify the game even more.  I’ve complained about homogenization for a while, and this is no different.  Now even within the same class certain iconic talents are available to whomever.  You don’t need to do the research, you don’t need to understand how the talents work, you just choose one and move on.  Beyond that, they’re so similar that there almost can’t be a wrong choice.  Since kids wouldn’t be interested in learning to play, but just playing (which is completely fine by me, but I wouldn’t want to raid with them), this, too, is an addition for the kids as it makes the game more accessible for them.

Don’t get me started about only getting 1 talent every 15 levels, either.  That just pisses me off.  The reward for leveling was talent points.  I already lost half of them.  The little dopamine squirts I got every time I spent one of those points (often wrongly) meant I was feeling good.  While I applaud the designers for making their game less addictive for a change (literally – dopamine is what a lot of addictive controlled substances manipulate), I also find it frustrating that they’ll be less little rewards along the way.

I’m an old man now.  I don’t want to spend my free time with kids.  If WoW’s to turn from a casino to a playground, I’m going to feel more out of place than I already do.  In fact, don’t they generally arrest adults who hang around playgrounds but don’t have any kids of their own there?

That said, I’ll play the xpac; I know I will.  I’ll almost certainly play a panda monk (since it will be the only class I haven’t leveled and the only new zones I haven’t seen).  I really like the idea of there being no end boss; the best stories aren’t about the obvious bad guys, but about what the obvious bad guys release (which often kills them).  More on that another day.

On a related, but only barely, note, I’ve started to feel the crunch.  The 10×85 challenge was to be completed before the next expansion.  That now has meaning, a time limit, a deadline.  7 down, 3 to go, and go I must if I want to finish.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and skeptical)

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 11:11 am

    I’m struggling to formulate what I mean here, so bear with me 🙂 I’ve always been a supporter of kids – and when I say kids I mean the 13-16 bracket – playing. I seemed to kind of collect them – I guess I’ve just been polite so they’ve hung around. But I’ve always fought to have them allowed into guilds I’m in, I’ve always fought to bring them along to raids. 9/10 times I’ve been proved right, and they’ve had a level of maturity while playing and in guild chat and in interacting with other people.. I don’t tolerate anything less.

    What does annoy me is that I view the game as being dumbed down for kids, when actually it’s not the kids who need it. I really don’t know who does. I just don’t think I understand the market Blizzard is aiming for, because quite frankly my 4 year old prefers Taurens to Pandas, can read the map really well (yes better than me :/), understands that some buttons hit harder than others, and I’ve no doubt that if I actually let him play he’d be competent at levelling.. People have proved that you can level to max with only autoshot and the like. So how difficult can it be, really?

    I’m just a bit confused really. I don’t mind playing with kids. But I want them to step up and play my game. I don’t want to be dragged down to the sort of game you get on the Disney Junior website 😛

    • October 26, 2011 3:21 pm

      13-16 bracket! I love it. You make it sound like PvP, which, from my experience, it is.

      I’ve played with kids before, and with one exception all of them eventually showed to be brats. Of course, to be fair, so did a lot of the adults I played with. I just found out the the 15 year old girl who I’ve been tanking with, who whines, complains, shows up late, takes too many afks, etc, is actually a 28 year old woman. My RL friend in the guild had surmised her age based on her behavior and told me as if it was fact. I never questioned it since it fit so perfectly. I don’t feel bad about replacing her on raids, then. I truly believe that young people can be as – or more – mature than adults and play as well – or better; I just haven’t run in to a lot of them personally.

      I’m not sure that even 13-16 is the age bracket they’re aiming for, though. I’m thinking a little younger, and I agree with some of the Free to Play options I’ve seen floating around; I think after they cash in with this xpac they’re going FtP, so it makes sense that they’d market to a younger and less cash-available audience. That’s so speculative, though, that I didn’t want to put it in a post.

      As for the dumbing down, well, if I used that term, then it was unfair of me. I know how smart kids can be, since that 13-16 bracket is where I spent 8 hours a day for the last 10 years. That said, the reduction in complexity does, no matter how we feel about it, make it more appealing to kids. While younger brains are faster at recall, studies show that older brains are better at holistic thinking about complex problems. Making it simpler literally makes it more accessible to kids.

      Anyway, thanks for dropping in!

    • October 26, 2011 3:46 pm

      Heh, I had the opposite to you. My ever so considerate tank, who I estimated was 25 based on his behaviour, was 14 🙂
      WoW used to have a 13 certificate as far as I knew? So I wouldn’t expect anyone younger playing without parental supervision?
      No, dumbing down was all me I think 🙂 It’s just how it feels.. I probably borrowed the expression from British tv 🙂

  2. Nin permalink
    October 26, 2011 1:27 pm

    I honestly think you’re reaching a bit here.

    It seems the Kung Fu Panda was not a silly forgettable cartoon but a cultural landmark – everyone is suddenly referencing it. I can’t quite recall the names of the games, but WoW will not be the first MMO “now with extra pandas!” and I’m not even sure it’ll be second. There have been several years since the last panda-addition, tho, hence it has prolly been forgotten. It would seem pandas are slowly but surely making themselves a standard fantasy trope like elves :D.

    Playing card games is a perfectly good way to spend an evening with friends even for adults – mind you, geeky friends. Let us join forces in resisting classical four suit cards producing industry’s lobby that tries to paint Pokemon and the like as much more simplistic and childish than their ugly plastic pieces!

    The main complexity in playing a character was never in the talent points but in performance. Less talent choices make it harder to screw up, certainly, but that does not really affect one’s ability to research and follow one’s rotation or to use the best ability at a certain time or to notice certain cues for movement etc – the truly important things.

    • October 26, 2011 3:12 pm

      You may be right on all counts, but my point is that I haven’t played the games with cartoonish pandas because, frankly, they look like kids’ games. I didn’t get into Pokémon because it seemed, well, childish, and I enjoyed the complexity of WoW over, say, Maple Story (which many, many of my students played). I don’t have any issue with the introduction of pandas, pokemon, and simplicity into a game, but doing so means it may very well be less the game for me.
      Incidentally, I love card games. I’ll play Spades over M:tG, Dominion, and Ascension (all games I thoroughly enjoy) any day. I think really the market works the opposite way; that someone should be defending the old card games against the new ones.
      Thanks for dropping in!

    • Imakulata permalink
      October 27, 2011 9:49 am

      I’ve been wondering about Kung-fu Panda as well, apparently it really is a cultural landmark. I haven’t seen the movie and – possibly because of that – I don’t find pandas that cute. (They look a bit like bears which are not cute at all.)

      I don’t see any relation between complexity of a game and the graphic style (i. e. whether it’s cute as many Asian games or more realistic style like WoW or most EU/US games). I played Ragnarok Online for a couple of years before switching to WoW, RO is as cute as it gets but I really wouldn’t call it less complex.

    • October 28, 2011 10:14 am

      I didn’t mean to make a relation between them, just that they can both be tuned for kids. A simpler game is more kid-friendly; consider tic-tac-toe and chess as extreme examples of this. A “cute” graphics style is kid-friendly, too. Neither is inherently a problem (heck, I’m playing Glitch, which is pretty cute, too), but I feel that a majority of the changes are in that direction, and I wonder if it’s a conscious marketing move or a coincidence.

    • Imakulata permalink
      October 28, 2011 3:47 pm

      I don’t really find the game much simpler than it used to be – although it’s a bit difficult to judge, difficulty in PvP is mostly related with your opponent’s skill as the skill differences in WoW are nowhere near to tic-tac-toe vs. chess difference. The PvE boss encounters – at least the raids and heroics – seem to be more complex than they used to be when I joined but of course gear plays a very important factor so it’s not easy to judge too.

      Regarding the cuteness, I understand what you mean but I don’t see any correlation between it and difficulty.

  3. Dancingblade permalink
    October 28, 2011 11:53 am

    I see I’m not the only one on a 10 x 85 kick. 75 priest and 52 mage, then I’m done! Of course – I am raiding next to never, so I don’t have that distraction.

    • October 28, 2011 12:02 pm

      Raiding is by no means my greatest distraction; mostly it’s just an inability to grind, so while I zoomed through the first four of my “alts” (my other three toons being “mains,” I guess), the last 3, my blood dk, hunter, and prot warrior, are starting to lag a bit. I really just need to knuckle down and do it. I could hit 85 on the Dk this weekend if I had the will to. We’ll see. Good luck!

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