Fewer buttons? Yes, please!

Post on optimum number of buttons in a rotation & review some classes.

With news of the stat squish, reducing our insane number inflation back down to something more reasonable, there is another area of reduction that needs attention. This area is in the inflation of the number of abilities each class has access to and uses on a regular basis. As Lore pointed out on the forums, it could be easy to remove buttons people never use, but the bigger problem is in the number of buttons people DO use.

While some people are worried that reducing the number of buttons will increase homogenization, I actually think it would do the opposite. Due to 10-man raiding for high-end content, we have increased the number of buttons so that 10-man raiders wouldn’t be missing any necessary tools to defeat the encounter. You had to defeat the hardest content in the game with only 2 healers present (meaning that every healer had to bring every tool, or they would risk getting benched). In thinking about the “ability squish”, the nature of Mythic 20-man raiding means that you can require one of each  of the 11 classes to be present for optimal raiding, and can balance the game around the idea that you would have around 5 healers likely to be present in the raid. While requiring a “frost mage” or “resto druid” specifically could be problematic, abilities available to all classes allow for more unique flavor if an ability is taken away from some of the classes that had to bring the abilities just for the 10-man content. To get more unique flavor, while having fewer overall buttons, it may be time to remove some places of redundancy.

How should ability bloat be managed? By removing unused abilities and reducing the number of redundant abilities (if two buttons do basically the same thing, one should just be removed and the other potentially improved to compensate if needed). Below are some examples of potential areas by which redundancy and unused abilities can be identified for potential removal/consolidation. While I use specific examples from druids and mages (the classes I am familiar with),

  • Remove buttons that are not used by your specialization: While healers still need to be able to do damage to things, and damage dealers still need healing/survivability tools, there is really no reason for a frost mage to have fire mage spells, or vice-versa. We could actually reduce homogenization by taking away more of the unnecessary and potentially redundant off-spec abilities from the main spec of a class. For druids, while having the ability to use moonfire in feral forms could be interesting (with the new level 100 talent), that is likely just going to increase the ability bloat without being a useful or necessary tool in the first place. Removing more unnecessary buttons in terms of reducing off-spec buttons would actually help to keep button bloat from getting out of control, and this is especially true for pure-DPS classes where these tools increase redundancy and confusion without increasing effectiveness or fun. Now that we have gotten used to the idea of split tool sets, the hard decisions of splitting more tools and increasing the unique set of abilities available to each specialization within a class absolutely needs to be done.
  • Combine mechanics that are redundant with other mechanics – There are some things that actually should be “homogenized” in terms of having two things that function the same having different names and category labels for no real good reason. An example of how this has worked well in the past is putting multiple cleanse mechanics into one dispel button (instead of one button for removing poisons and another for curses). Another example in the current expansion, Soothe is still not consolidated with other dispel mechanics. In terms of what soothe does, it seems to dispel some (but not all!) enrage effects (what’s an enrage again?). In the end, enrage is really just another name for a type of “buff that increases your damage”, and there are also lots of other different classifications of “buff that increases your damage” and so it should share the same classifications and rules of game-play as other mechanics as other buffs that increase your damage. I’d suggest removing spells like Soothe and instead changing current enrage effects to either be dispelled by other class dispels or balanced around not being dispelled. Make all boss enrages either not dispelled or magic effects. The dispels for enrage effects are an under-utilized feature in PVE (I can count on one hand the number of raid encounters where soothe was useful in the last 9 years of the game), and an obtuse and confusing mechanic in PVP. The “enrage” warrior damage increase ability and mechanics could still be called enrage in terms of the name (the way that Eclipse is the name of a moonkin buff that increases damage), but “enrage” effects that are dispelled in PVE (or even in PVP) by things like Soothe could be changed to a different classification of spell mechanics – such as magic, or just not be able to be dispelled at all. At this point, I’m not sure that Soothe even removes warrior enrage in the first place (because enrage mechanics in terms of whether dispels work or not are so poorly defined that druids can’t actually agree on what soothe does at all). Removing things like “enrage” as a spell category with its own set of dispel mechanics could allow for consolidating buttons by eliminating the need for Soothe. While warriors need a buff that increases their damage, it doesn’t have to be its own special “enrage” magic type that is set apart from other mechanics that function exactly the same (that is really just a damage buff mechanic by another name). In fact, not being able to dispel enrage-type mechanics at all would make it easier to balance what enrage mechanics do in PVP and PVE alike. There is no reason for druids to have one button that specifically dispels enrages from enemy targets and another button that cleanses magic, poison, and curses from friendly targets. Just like combining the button that dispelled different debuff categories from friendly players, Soothe is a button that doesn’t need to clog up druid bars.
  • Put the breaks on healing button wars - Now that we can balance around 20-man mythic, healers need fewer buttons that are tailored around two types of healing rotations: a set of buttons for single-target and a set of buttons for AOE healing. There is no need for three single-target direct heals that are both redundant with the other healing spells, but also are the exact same for each healing class (the original “triad” model). Instead, each class should have the single-target heals that makes the most sense and are the least redundant with their class-specific tools. For druids, removing Nourish is an obvious candidate. In terms of AOE heals, the emphasis should be on making sure that all classes have an AOE healing toolset, but that the number of actual buttons they use for AOE healing doesn’t balloon out of hand (especially since raiders are likely to use both single-target and AOE heals in raids). In some places, redundancy should be reduced to increase the unique feeling of classes, even if that means we have to give up some tools we’re used to having (but with an emphasis on removing buttons we hardly ever actually use, or contribute very little to our overall healing). If a healing spell only contributes to 5% (or less) of your total healing being done across an entire expansion, is that spell still important to have access to? The number of buttons that healers are using inside and outside of raids should be examined and should be reduced. The emphasis should be placed on reducing redundancy in healing toolkits – and undoing some of the damage caused by the 10 vs 25-man healing split.
  • Reduce redundancy and increase uniqueness of single-target damage rotations: Bring damage rotation buttons back under control. Reduce number of damage cooldown abilities for each class (especially redundant things that people could macro together if they were on the same cooldown). For example, do we have too much damage from all classes coming from DOT/bleed effects? How many simultaneous DOTs/Debuffs does each class need? Are there places (similar to removing insect swarm for moonkin) where removing abilities could make the rotation feel better? While there is a core set of roles that have to be filled by a rotation, there can be complexity without the need to constantly watch 10 different timers in some cases. At this point, we have mistaken overloading memory and attention capacities as the primary criteria by which we evaluate “interesting” damage rotations. A rotation with 4 buttons could potentially be even more fun and interesting than something with 20 buttons – in this case, more is really not always better.
  • Reduce redundancy and increase clarity of intended AOE damage rotations: With my frost mage, when multiple targets are available, I have too many possible tools that I could use to deal with those targets, leading to more confusion than fun. If there was a more clearly defined AOE strategy (rather than 10 different possible damage spells that do damage to more than 1 target), frost mages might have an easier time dealing with AOE damage. You need a spreadsheet to tell you the maximum efficiency of the damage use between: DOT/bomb (the 3 possible bomb talents you can choose before the fight), Ice Lance cleave to spread mastery damage (likely used during a DOT-cleave strategy), frost nova (Does AOE damage and freezes them in place, on a cooldown), cone of cold (does damage and slows them, on a cooldown), Blizzard (is channeled, with a slow), frozen orb (on a 1 min cooldown), arcane explosion (stand in melee and spam the instant button), and flame strike (a cast time spell to place a damage circle on the ground that ticks over time). These 10 total abilities are all incredibly redundant and you can’t use all three at the same time. Instead, the muddiness and confusion of the AOE tools means that a DOT/bomb + cleave strategy almost always ends up working out the best, with not actually using the tools we should use for AOE. In a raiding situation, I’m only likely to use 3 to 4 of these 10 possible buttons (but, all 10 buttons take up space on my bars!). So, having all of these abilities in their overlap of roles is actually more harmful than good. What is the point, for example, of a frost mage having flame strike, blizzard, and arcane explosion? Instead of three super redundant abilities, if we just had 1 of these that was clearly defined in an AOE rotation, we could actually be better balanced in our AOE damage and have a more unique feeling AOE rotation between each mage specialization. So, if Blizzard was uniquely available to frost (and frost didn’t have either arcane blast or flame strike), and was designed to fit more intuitively within the frost mage PVE rotation (potentially channeled for a shorter period of time and worked with the frost mastery or the 8 other abilities I listed above), that could allow for frost’s AOE rotation to feel more unique vs. fire or arcane (and frost mages would still have 8 total DOT/AOE/cleave abilities even if they lost two of the 10!).
  • Reduce redundancy in damage/healing/tanking cooldowns: While moonkin needed one additional damage increasing cooldown (or some way to control Eclipse better) to allow for controlling their damage output, in MOP, they were actually given up to 4 new buttons for managing damage output (up to two thru talents and two given baseline), which contributed to some redundancy and bloat in the toolset. This largely just brought moonkin in line with the cooldown wars that other classes had been participating in for a long time (because when everyone else has tons of cooldowns, moonkin needed them, too). As a frost mage, I have 4 cooldown buttons I hit to increase my damage: frozen orb, mirror images, alter time, & icy veins. Alter time is actually an ability I could live without ever using as a DPS increasing talent. While it was originally designed to add some fun utility, due to this spell’s interaction with buffs that increase our damage, this is used only as a DPS increase in raiding situations (with a huge drawback of randomly placing you in fire puddles of death). I could live without time warp and be perfectly happy with the four other abilities that increase my burst damage potential. Most frost mages actually just use mirror images, alter time, and icy veins all at the same time, so while mages would complain at the idea of losing any of them, the area of cooldown management is still an area for most classes where there is a huge amount of redundancy in the cooldown buffs we use. In general, the buffs that should be removed are ones that provide either the least amount of unique flavor, or provide the most drawbacks (in the case of alter time sometimes killing me in fires or removing heroism from me when someone else casts it at an inconvenient time) where the buff is also a huge trap that inexperienced players will have problems with.
  • Make more PVP tools not be useable in PVE (and vice versa), with better UI marking/labeling and tools for management that reduce the number of things we put on our bars: The PVP vs PVE ability wars actually end up with over-complicated PVP and PVE situations. Things like excluding long cooldowns from PVP was one area of allowing for separation in toolsets. In addition, sometimes bosses are immune to PVP mechanics. However, there are not clear markings on the abilities themselves that designate PVP vs PVE settings on the tools, and as such, we tend to clutter up our bars with both sets of tools, even when the tool on your bar isn’t going to work in the content you are currently in.  In addition, with some outdoor bosses making outdoor-only tools magically become available, or some bosses that happen to NOT be immune to the PVP mechanic tool, this “set of abilities I can’t use here, but I might use somewhere, at some point” turns into ability bloat on our bars. Even with mods that help us manage our bars, the pvp vs pve toolset becomes confusing and contributes to bar bloat. Inconsistency amongst where tools may or may not be useful leads to people throwing anything from their spell book into a bar somewhere that they can reach in the 1% chance it might be useful at some point.

While I have put in some specific examples above, this is not a complete list of what tools might be removed (especially when some abilities are contingent on other class’ abilities). However, there is still a great deal of redundancy and unnecessary confusion built into the current toolsets for each class that could be fixed to improve the unique fun and feeling of each class.

State of Mages in MoP: An Expansion of Problems Pt. 1

Some of you may know me but most of you will not. Currently I (Mastamagee) am a Frost Mage raiding with Lissanna in Undying Resolution on US-Elune. What I’d like to discuss in my first blog post is the change the Mage community has experienced since MoP has launched. Most classes can probably relate in some way to what I’m about to say, but, Mages especially, might get a feel for what’s happening within the community. I’ll keep it short and I encourage questions to be asked. Let’s dive right in!

Since the introduction of our new talent system we have seen a world of change. We went from being able to use 3 trees worth of talents to this boring, mundane system we have now. Blizzard’s goal was to simplify the talent systems and get away from “cookie cutter” builds. Sure, they simplified it, but what we have now is another cookie cutter system with very little deviation from the norm. At least with the older system we had choices and could deviate just a little. In all honesty, the older system would tell who actually knew what they were doing (even though you could go copy it from the web). Performance was easier to track. Now, it’s just “take this, press this, keep this up, win”. I feel it’s time we break down each tier and show just how little choice we actually have, spec by spec. Some will agree, others will not. It’s a matter of opinion as we are all trying to get something different out of the game.

Level 15: Fire is completely locked into Presence of Mind. End of story. Horrible talent that really skews Alter Time + Combustion combo. In SoO, I would argue that Blazing Speed is the talent of choice for both Frost and Arcane but some will argue against it and that’s fine. Nothing against you if it works for your setup.

Level 30: For all 3 specs, Temporal Shield is going to win over Ice Barrier on every fight, except one, for two reasons: it reduces damage by 15% while healing 100% of damage taken over 6 secs AND it’s off the GCD. The ONLY fight that Ice Barrier should be used in SoO is on Malkorok to help sustain your Ancient Barrier. If you don’t mind using Ice Barrier then take it. There’s nothing against it you for doing so.

Level 45: take what you want as we have very little use for them (except Nazgrim and Sha of Pride large adds).

Level 60: Here’s where some start to deviate: Greater Invisibility is the recommended talent this tier. Damage is very predictable this tier. VERY predictable. You have no excuse to not use Greater Invisibility. Some people like Cauterize because it’s passive BUT it has been known to be rather buggy and if you receive two killing blows back to back you WILL die. Cold Snap doesn’t have much of a use this tier. We used it a lot in Tier 15 to cheese mechanics during Heroic content but it’s not worth taking anymore. Greater Invisibility is on a 90 second CD, Cauterize is on 120 second CD and Cold Snap is on a 180 second CD. With Greater Invisibility you have the other option to use Ice Block should you get into a situation where you need to mitigate damage, remove debuffs or drop threat. There really is no deviation in this tier. Honestly, I haven’t changed my level 60 (or 15 and 90) talent this entire tier. Not cookie cutter eh Blizzard? Remember I’m giving you options here but stating the cons as well. It’s up to you to decide what works best for you.

Level 75: Ohhhhhhh the infamous Bomb talent tier. This tier has so many issues but I will only touch on a few. Every boss has a specific bomb that has to be used to maximize damage. Frost Bomb only feels fluent with extreme levels of haste, has horrible single target damage and doesn’t produce enough damage for the decreased amount of Brain Freeze procs you receive as Frost. Nether Tempest is only useful if we can cleave 2+ targets, requires higher amounts of haste to be viable and has a tendency to overwrite Brain Freeze procs. Living Bomb is for single target or 2 targets out of cleave range. Downside? It’s limited to 3 targets. Nether Tempest makes us feel like a DoT class. Mages aren’t DoT classes so why are we spamming bombs an entire fight? Remember I’m strictly talking how I approach these fights from my own, and others’, experiences. Use LB if you don’t like multi-dotting, I’ve done it before.

Level 90: I’m sure everyone NOT a Mage has heard us complain about these. They’re all maintenance buffs that reward mediocre play and semi-penalizes poor play. Frost / Fire is locked into Invocation; No deviation. Arcane HAS to play with Rune of Power. Since the nerf on Incanter’s Ward we might as well not even have it listed in our talent “tree”.

Am I disgruntled? Yes. Are other Mages? Sure are. Trying to simplify our talents caused more problems than they’re worth. I switch two talents in an entire run in SoO (and only one of those for one boss only). I’d discuss Level 100 talents but we don’t have enough information about them to entertain a post. This is all I have time to discuss at this time. My next post will discuss the use, or lack of use, for our Glyphs. Thank you for your time and I hope to be writing more.

Disclaimer: Please remember this post is simply suggestions and I know it may come off as that I think these are the best but they’re not. We each have an opinion and are welcome to it. After months of testing and plenty of lockouts to back it up I’m presenting my ideas from this information.  I’m presenting only one side of the Mage world when evaluating these talents after much research and there are plenty other views out there. Please take what you want from these posts as it’s only one opinion.

Mastamagee – Frost Mage – US Elune

WOD: Happy with the raid size changes

Now that I’ve gotten rid of the big, black cloud hanging over my head, I can talk about some things I am really looking forward to in WOD. The first of these is the change in raid sizes. It is no secret that I was really unhappy with the initial split of 10 v 25. Like everything in the game, I went through several stages of grief, including: Angry posting and cursing, as well as bargaining and trying to find a compromise, and depression over what I thought was going to signal the loss of 25-mans forever when Blizzard chose to do nothing in MOP, and acceptance of the loss of many 25-man guilds from the World of Warcraft as 10-man guilds largely replaced all but two of the dozens of 25-man guilds we started out with on my server before 10-man progression raiding was implemented.

Through all of the ups and downs, I have remained an active raider in a 25-man raiding guild. I never have done much in the way of 10-man raiding. The 10-man raid size was never my thing. It is with that larger context in mind that I wanted to share my thoughts on the changes for raiding in WOD. While I have great sympathy for 10-mans having to transition to 20-mans, I don’t have a sense of perspective where it would make sense for me to try to represent that population. Instead, I’ll focus on my own transition from 25-man to 20-man raiding.

Here is a brief recap of what raiding in WOD will look like:

  • The current LFR system will stay in place. This will use current LFR loot.
  • The current 10-25 man Flex mode will now be a called Normal-mode and will be flexible in size between 10 and 25. You can choose between LFR loot and and master-looter.
  • The current Normal raiding will now be called Heroic. It will be flexible in size between 10 and 25 raiders, and you can choose between LFR loot and master-looter.
  • The current Heroic raiding will now be called Mythic, and will be limited to 20 people only.
  • The raid sizes other than Mythic will also be cross-realm capable, and it looks like each difficulty is on a different lockout (meaning you could get 4 chances of loot – one off each raid size).

As a 25-man raiding guild, my guild will likely do the following content:

  • Our main raiding size will be the new Heroic flexible size. We will likely run with between 20 and 25 raid members in Heroic.
  • We will kill some Mythic bosses. Whether or not we kill all the mythic bosses in a raid tier will depend on lots of different factors.
  • We will likely have some normal-mode Flexible size runs for our alts during times when we have alts who are raid-ready, and we could potentially start with normal-mode Flexible in the first raid tier while people are still gearing up. We will be unlikely to run LFR as a group, though individual members are welcome to run it on their own.

We will have to make some tough decisions along the way:

With a roster of between 30 and 32 people, we will have to be careful about how we recruit between now and the start of WOD raiding. We will want to start WOD raiding with a roster between 25 and 27 people. This means that most of the time, our Heroic flexible raid will be at (or close to) the maximum 25-person capacity, but that we won’t be sitting a huge number of people on Mythic nights that require no more than 20. We have to shrink our roster a little bit, but since people naturally come and go around the time of expansions, it means we have room to let our roster attrition down to a comfortable place by just halting recruitment at the point where we’re mostly done with SOO raiding.

I am happy with this new system of raiding.

When I knew that “separate but equal” 10 v 25-man raiding wasn’t going to be possible, I wrote multiple posts suggesting we drop down to one 15-man size. This was before Flexible raid sizes were possible. However, with flexible raid sizes, I see how 20 people could be desirable for a max-tier raiding. The most hardcore guilds are still often 25-man guilds. The changes don’t really impact people who would never hit Mythic-level raiding.

While the changes prevent dabbling by guilds into killing 1 or 2 mythic bosses, it clearly shows where the division of difficulty should be divided: The hardest difficulty can be tuned for a single raid size, and mechanics that would fail in 10-mans can be used in 20-mans. It also allows two 10-mans to be combined into a single 20-man, and doesn’t require 25-mans to cut huge chunks of people from their rosters. I basically get what I want: A single raid size at the most hardcore end of raiding. It also still allows people to do 10-man normal-mode raiding if they really want to. Seeing as how only a tiny percentage of the WOW player base will ever raid Mythic difficulty, I believe that even with some short-term growing pains, this new way of raiding is going to feel better for most people in the long-run.

Suggestions for easing the transition.

  • To Blizzard: The costs of server and faction transfers need to be reduced around the time of the expansion transition to ease the burden on guilds trying to recruit new members. The 10-man teams who have to add 15 more people to their rosters will only survive if the costs of transferring are worth the risks of joining a group that may show instability early in the transition. If two guilds on different servers want to merge, the costs of doing that merger is often prohibitively expensive. So, if a huge factor in the survival of current guilds comes down to the ease of bringing in people from another server, these server transfer costs needs to be something Blizzard considers in the upcoming months leading to the expansion.
  • To guild leadership: Guilds need to be open to their members about what the plans are for how to deal with the transition. Guilds need to plan early, so that the expansion transition doesn’t catch anyone by surprise. Any transition for a new expansion can be difficult. There are always new things (both good and bad) to deal with as the content changes. Guild leadership needs to communicate early and often. If the guild plans to recruit more people, then get all the members involved. If the guilds are going to lose people, then communicate early about how that is going to be handled. Whatever unique problems that the expansion poses for guilds, be clear to your members about how you will handle the transitions.
  • To players at large: Plan in advance for what raiding you really want to do in the next expansion. This transition will be a great time to join new raid groups, help shape the direction of your current raid groups, or help with recruiting new members to your team. If you are returning to the game, the expansion transition will be a great time to find new guilds who have opened their rosters.

In conclusion, I think Blizzard made the right choice in their changing the raid sizes to have one single end-game raid size. Using the flexible technology for every other raid size also allows a lot more flexibility and choice. In the end, the change in raid size is one of the things I am looking forward to the most. I appreciate that Blizzard was able to finally fix the failing 10 v 25-man raid size problem. I look forward to seeing the future of raiding.

Lords of Draenor: Where are the girls at?

I am a female who plays world of warcraft. There are lots of other females who play world of warcraft. Being a gamer and escaping into fantasy worlds is part of how I try to escape the everyday sexism of the world, or how I otherwise get away from things I can’t control in the real world. This everyday sexism includes the fact that three females had roofies slipped into their drinks at a party they were attending the weekend of Blizzcon. One of them fortunately didn’t drink the shot they were given, and the three were otherwise not harmed because they were able to stay together. However, when I talk about the importance of female representation in WOW, I want this to be something people remember. I didn’t attend Blizzcon this year, but when I went last time, it was obvious that women were the minority – even in the fact that they converted the women’s bathroom in the main panel hall into a men’s bathroom to accomodate the greater number of male gamers – even if that meant I had to leave that hall and go search in other halls for bathrooms.

The nice thing about playing a female character in WOW is that I’m just as strong and powerful as a male character in WOW. I don’t take a strength penalty for playing a female character. If Boys can do it, so can I! Your character’s gender shouldn’t really matter all that much in a world where everyone can be a hero. In World of Warcraft, I almost always felt included in previous expansions. While I faced harassment from other players, especially in Vanilla WOW (including someone who stalked me in-game for a day or two even after I put them on ignore), the game design its self still made me feel included in the storyline’s narrative as a female. In Vanilla, I could still look up to strong female character leads, including Tyrande as a night elf druid (though she has felt a lot more like a secondary character after Malfurion’s return). Other storylines have included female dragon aspects, Jaina chasing the horde out of Dalaran in MOP, Sylvanas as part of the WotLK storyline, and helping Aggra save Thrall in Cataclysm. These strong female leads are characters I look up to and feel that if they can do it, so can I. Strong female lead characters provide support and motivation for female players, and ignoring female-driven storylines in WOW is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that the video game industry at large has a history of excluding women.

In the marketing of WarLORDS of Draenor, I did not feel included.

The introduction to the new expansion presented at Blizzcon and on the related marketing website makes me feel like an outsider who isn’t welcome to pass thru the portal to Draenor because I’m female, regardless of all the history of the last 9 years. While this isn’t necessarily Blizzard’s intent, this is exactly what they are saying when they joke about the Boy’s Club of Draenor not being a big deal. The problem is that if the marketing material excludes a large portion of the player base, and says that females aren’t included in their target audience, it will be hard to make up for those slights later on. Sexist marketing materials prime us to expect to feel excluded, even if the quests end up not directly being exclusionary in the game.

Dudes_of_Draenor

What do we currently know about the inclusion or exclusion of women in Draenor?

Other bloggers have pointed out that leaving Aggra at home in Azeroth to take care of Thrall’s baby is a mistake: It is a mistake because Thrall’s own mother refused to be left at home. It is also a mistake because Draenor is Aggra’s home planet that she remembers, and a place that we think she would want to return. As Aggra has proven in WOW’s storyline to be more than just a girlfriend/wife/mother, forgetting this and leaving her behind does a huge disservice to the game’s storyline – and only benefits sexist beliefs that women should stay home and be caregivers.

In tweets discussing the Draenei female who works under Valen, I have heard her referred to as the “Joan of Arc”. However, this is not particularly reassuring as what most people remember about Joan of Arc is how she died (and not how she lived), and the fact she was a martyr killed for heresy. This sets Yrel aside and presents the feeling of being a helpless martyr, rather than a strong female lead. Given the fact that she doesn’t appear in the listing of important figures above, I’m more inclined to believe that she’s going to be a secondary character that won’t provide the same type of strong female lead that we found in Aggra or Jaina.  If they did include her in the promotional materials listed on the website, it’s possible I wouldn’t feel the same. However, just passively mentioning her with zero character development presented doesn’t inspire me want to run out and buy the expansion.

There are very few women at all in Blizzard’s marketing materials. Only a couple female characters appear in the whole entire trailer for the expansion, with at least a 10:1 Male:Female ratio even in the supporting characters. There are almost no female characters on the Warlords of Draenor website at all. While subtle sexism always existed, it felt more present and problematic in going back to Draenor, land of the dudes only club, where we’ll spend more time focusing on the Orc storyline that I’m actually already tired of hearing about. The dude’s only club tainted my excitement for the expansion. Blizzard says there will be females in the expansion, but they aren’t in Blizzard’s marketing materials – so, then the disconnect is that their marketing materials failed.

For as much as I am happy about changes being made to the game by the class, UI, and other system-related things, I don’t really have a motivation to care about going back to Draenor because I wasn’t made to feel included. I know this feeling wasn’t intentional on Blizzard’s part. Covert sexism can, however, still hurt just as much as overt sexism. This feeling really needs to change before I have to decide if I want to spend my female money on what Saxsy Mage called “World of Dudecraft”. The cinematic team needs to work harder at getting more female representation in their cinematics, otherwise the girls will go find games that care about women as part of their target audience (if any non-sexist video games even exist in the first place, though I will admit that part of the problem is also the larger cultural context of sexism in which video games are made makes people forget that they should care about how female gamers feel in the first place).

Given the larger cultural problem of sexism in video games, and in American culture more generally, Blizzard should be asking themselves several important questions:

  1. Who is the target audience? Does this include both males and females? (edit: other potential minority groups should also be considered, too).
  2. Does our marketing materials for the game appeal to our whole target audience, or are we excluding some of our target audience? Do we both strong male and strong female characters in our marketing materials? (Edit: Are other minority groups represented?)
  3. Does our game appeal to our whole target audience, or are we excluding some of our target audience? Do we have strong male and strong female characters in our game’s story lines and progression? (Edit: Are other minority groups represented?)

If the answer to question 1 is “both men and women”, I believe that they failed at #2 for Warlords of Draenor. Time will tell if they failed at #3, but given that their marketing at Blizzcon excluded women, they have a lot to make up for missing a large chunk of what I hope they believe is their target audience. While we’ve been reassured by Blizzard that there will be female characters in their Draenor story lines, they missed a huge opportunity at Blizzcon to show that they understand what the demographics of their target audience looks like. We shouldn’t ever leave a Blizzcon event asking ourselves “where are the female characters at?” Once they’ve missed their opportunity with releasing biased marketing materials, they have already lost the chance to connect with the part of their audience that didn’t think the marketing materials appealed to them.

We can’t see the story lines if we are turned off enough to not want to invest money in the company. I make game purchasing decisions based on whether or not I think I am included in the target audience for a game. Other females do this, too, and so by not appealing to half of the world’s population, many gaming companies miss out on our money. I don’t buy a lot of console games because I don’t feel like the target audience for those games. I’d rather not spend the money on something where I’m not included.

Am I likely to still play Warlords of Draenor? Yes, but now I’ll be hunting for female characters in the beta instead of enjoying the questing storyline. Breaking the immersion effect by making people feel excluded can have really long-term negative consequences in the player base. By largely downplaying this point in their post-Blizzcon posting about the lack of female characters at Blizzcon not being a big deal, it doesn’t allow that wound to heal. Given that sexism in video games comes up time and time again, it is unacceptable to forget that women want to feel included in the game’s promotional materials, and from this point on, some people are going to count the number of males and females in any Blizzard trailer they release, instead of actually enjoying the trailer – and if they don’t find the gender balance to be acceptable, they may just not bother buying the game. Others may not be quite as forgiving as me, though it is unlikely that I’ll ever forget.

Other posts to read related to sexism in Blizzard’s Blizzcon announcements:

Twitter Update:

Yesterday, we heard from several people from Blizzard about this topic, and out of fairness, I’m going to copy some of what they wrote here:

Helen Cheng:

“Don’t worry, there will be cool characters, both male and female, in Warlords.”

Netharea had a series of related tweets, and while I can’t post the whole discussion, the highlights are roughly:

But I hear Garona will be showing too….  And a Draenei paladin named Yrel that I can’t wait to meet… Just to keep perspective, there are a lot of characters that will be in play both male and female. The story will be there either way…

In addition, Zarhym agreed to pass along the comments made by the community about this topic.

However, the knowledge that there will be women in Draenor (which we always basically knew because it’s a giant planet) does nothing to change the fact that Blizzcon and the website clearly marketed the next expansion as “men doing manly things”, and displayed a lack of sensitivity to acknowledging that I want more than just “men doing manly things” to be important enough to discuss at Blizzcon and on the related marketing website. Some people think my complaints are about the story. However, I can’t comment on the complete story of WOD because we haven’t seen the whole story, and so I don’t know what part of the story would need to change anyway. My complaints are really about how the game was marketed to us through Blizzcon and the related website release – which I have presented tangible examples of places where their marketing didn’t get me excited about the game, but instead had the complete opposite effect. In particular, stringing up 10 dudes next to each other on the website with no mention of females being important to the story anywhere on the website is something problematic to me, that makes the website distracting more than helpful to their marketing campaign. A website, however, can be fixed without changing the story, by making sure that marketing materials give enough references to things other than “men doing manly things” that are likely already present in the game. Future marketing materials, cinematics, and Blizzcon presentations can be designed to feel more inclusive of their whole audience.

Edit: Also relevant, linked by @miamat : Social Justice League “how to be a fan of problematic things“.