Most of my posts here are really critical because that aspect of theorycrafting and “backseat driving” is something I enjoy. However, people who have known me for a long time will realize that I have a lot of trust and respect for the game’s developers. For as much as we all criticize, there are a lot of things they do get right. So, lets look at why I’m excited for Pandaria and why you should be, too (Anne touched on some of these reasons in her post, but I wanted to talk more about it here because that’s just how excited I am):
1. No Story Spoilers!
While a lot of people are upset over not knowing who the end-boss of Pandaria is going to be, this is one thing I’m actually incredibly excited about. When the game originally came out, you didn’t know who the end-bosses were going to be until they released the patch information. You were excited about every raid tier because every raid tier had the “big bad” end-boss and defeating them left you with a strong sense of accomplishment. In every other expansion, we have been chasing that thrill and have been left disappointed. Why? Because having someone spoiler the end-chapter of your mystery book before you start reading it sucks. Sure, the book can still be great, but you know what is coming in the end and the surprise or anticipation of what might be lurking around the corner is totally dead. You know the end-chapter of Cataclysm is Deathwing and so you know every other raid is less important because their end-bosses don’t really matter – they are just designed to get you closer to killing the only boss that actually matters. There is no surprise or anticipation when you know the end of the story. There is no excitement without the unknown.
Withholding information from us about the upcoming raid encounters just means that we have something to look forward to – they can unveil the chapters of Pandaria slowly over time without having to beat us over the head with their punchline in every quest we do. They can let the story unfold naturally and make it feel more alive by allowing the players to be surprised. While everyone worries about that story being too child-like, I trust Blizzard to do their lore Blizzard-style, and that means it’s going to be awesome. Blizzard has written some great storylines over the years and I expect their new storylines in Pandaria to be just as epic as the ones that have come before, only this time, Blizzard gets to surprise us. This allows them to do totally crazy things like making our beloved faction leaders into PvP-themed raid encounters without having to spoiler the whole thing for us a year and a half in advance, or to invent totally new monsters that we haven’t heard of before to invade our darkest nightmares. It makes total sense for us to NOT know in advance what kinds of dangers lurk in a forgotten land. I can’t wait to see what new evils lurk in the shadows in the seemingly friendly land of Pandaria. Not knowing what lives under your bed is much more thrilling than knowing what is really there. It’s not going to be all cute & cuddly. It’s still Blizzard, the people who brought you Illidan, the Lich King, and Deathwing – they know how to make epic encounters. However, they have to introduce NEW lore so that we don’t have to kill Onyxia again in MoP (I mean how many times can people duct tape her back together?). They just want to make all the raiding tiers feel more epic again by introducing NEW story lines and NEW bosses with NEW lore. For the return of “new” exploration, I’m most thankful of all.
2. Things to do outside of raids and BG/Arenas
Blizzard has usually focused on the leveling experience (Vanilla, Cataclysm) or end-game experience (TBC, WotLK), but the focus has never been on what awaits us outside of raids. There have been PvE daily quest hubs that are entertaining for a week or two and then quickly become grindy & stale – or repeating the same handful of instances over & over again until our brains go numb. Pandaria brings us new things to do outside of our raids or PvP focus and they give us more opportunities for advancing our own characters on our own terms.
- While some people won’t like pet battles, you can’t fault Blizzard for wanting to come up with creative ways of giving you something to do that feels less like the same-old-grind. At the very least, you get to name the 150 pets you have picked up over the years, and for the ability to run around with “Miniliss” the baby moonkin and “leafy” my trusted baby tree. They give new options for pet collectors to do something with their non-combat pets, in a system that was probably pretty easy to design, and is totally optional (the pet battle stuff won’t have any effect on your main character at all, but they provide an outlet for advancing in the game in a totally new way).
- The Scenario/skirmishes allow for small group play without needing to wait in an hour long queue for a tank and healer to grace your DPS players with their presence. This gives you something short & fast that you can do without much of a hassle. They’ll never get the LFG system to force people to play on tanks & healers, so it is nice to be able to circumvent that system when you just want something quick to do. You want to run something fast as a DPS player without two hours to sit around in the game? Sure, just hop in a Scenario and fill some time! If the scenarios drain some of the DPS away from the main instances in the LFG, then the LFG queues get shorter. Giving people something to do other than sit in queue may actually help shorten the queue times for the 5-man Heroic Dungeons. If this holds true, then everyone wins, and the 5-man system we use now with fixed roles (tank/heals/DPS) may become secondary to a more fluid and flexible system so that our poor tanks & healers don’t have to be overworked all the time.
- The timed Challenge-mode dungeons give people a way to earn their sense of accomplishment in a way that doesn’t come from out-gearing content (and they have better replay-ability since you can always get faster, whereas achievements are something you can only earn once). I can see guilds having Challenge-mode contests, within their own guild or against other guilds to see who can be the fastest. The rewards from this are purely cosmetic, but they also have public rankings to allow people to see who is “best” and this is likely going to provide hours of entertainment for people who can use this (rather than having killed X boss) to feel a sense of real accomplishment. The most hard-core players now have a way to show a badge of just how hard-core they really are.
You may not really think these options will make much of a difference. Maybe they will get stale after a while, but they show that Blizzard is trying to make a game that is fun for everyone. You’ll still have your Raids and BGs and Arenas if that’s all you really want to do, but for people who want more than those three things, you finally aren’t being ignored anymore.
3. They are focusing on solving class “quality of life” issues.
Getting rid of the old talent trees doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it really is. For as critical as I will be over the next X years about the new talent tree, I love the fact the old talent tree is getting nuked. This is the one thing that makes me all giggly bouncy happy: They aren’t locked into certain class design problems because of a failed talent system. Lets look at some examples.
- They need druids to be 4 specs instead of 3? Well, the old system wouldn’t let them (the UI and coding really wasn’t set up in a way that could let them separate cats & bears). With the new system? BAM 4 specs! Problems fixed! Now, you get to choose and specialize and not be limited just because your off-role was too good. They don’t have to constantly fight & struggle with the feral druid spec because they have more design control over what makes cats and bears different (you may even see specialized tier gear for cats & bears, and bears won’t have to get unintended nerfs because of trying to limit things cats can do).
- They want to get rid of ranged weapon slots and relics? BAM! No more ranged slot and relics! What did this have to do with the talent trees? Well, they’d have to go thru and change every single talent from every single tree that related to this ranged slot, and make sure there are new talents to fit with the new system and new spells/abilities that would come along with the change. Every time they make a mechanic decision, they have to look at how it effects thousands of different talents. Well, no more. They get a chance in 5.0 to deal with quality of life issues for the classes that allow them to make more changes because they have fewer unintended consequences.
- They can change/remove any spell or ability for any class without having to change a dozen talents that were based around that spell/ability (ie. changing hunters to focus instead of mana in Cataclysm would have been easier on Blizzard if they didn’t have to do all the supporting talent changes).
Even if the new talent system leave a lot to be desired, I’m overall much happier with what I feel will come out of the change. We haven’t seen what the classes will feel like in Mists of Pandaria, but I’m really excited to start that adventure. It’s a whole new way of class design for the developers that opens up a lot of opportunities to make this game more fun. Now, they may mess up a long the way, and they can’t make everyone happy. However, Mists of Pandaria brings with it a lot of exciting opportunities to make the game more fun for everyone. I miss the sense of “new” and “exciting” that have been lost along the way, and I can’t wait to see what is around the corner.
(and if you aren’t convinced, there are more reasons why you should love MoP that Anne wrote on Wow Insider)