Archive for the “Blizzcon” Category

One of the predictions I made for Blizzcon 2013 was that, yet again, Blizz would do or say something stupid that would offend women, the LGBT community, or some combination thereof.

Unfortunately, they didn’t disappoint.

Actual Search term: "Warlords of Draenor Wankfest"

It was quickly noted by many that Warlords of Draenor appeared to be quite the sausage-fest.  There were one or two obviously female characters depicted in the trailer, but overall it was all about the bros, big hairy-chested man-orcs swinging axes and riding warg.

Given this presentation, it was easy for many in the audience to feel left out.

For sake of Consistency

This is a little difficult to unwind due to the nature of the expansion.

The story is that Garrosh steals Doc Brown’s DeLorean and goes back to Draenor to the point in time before Grommosh Hellscream drinks Fel blood, and somehow prevents that from happening.  Rather than fall into servitude to the Legion, the Horde becomes united as the Iron Horde.  They’re still gonna attack Azeroth, but now it’s at maximum strength.

WoD Warlords


Sidebar

Given the physical modeling of characters in WoW, it’s already established that male or female, Gnome or Orc, if there is a class that interests you, then sky’s the limit.  A female Warrior dual-wielding two giant chunks of iron on sticks – no problem. And thus, there is no physical reason for any of the major characters to be one gender over another.


Except the big "reason".

See, every one of these Orc clan leaders is a figure of Lore. They already ARE.  It’s obvious that Blizz wants to revisit these lore characters, and so "they must exist as they did in lore". And, unfortunately, these characters were created in less progressive times, when the testosterone-fueled character design studio was fixated on the Noble Savage trope1, so we got a big sausage-fest. 

And "we’re stuck with them."

James Cameron calling on Line 2, Mr. Matzen

Give me a break

Actually, that’s a bit of a cop-out. "We already haaaad them, so we’re stuuuuck with them, we can’t chaaaange it, it would be inconsiiiiiistent!", "they" bleat. That’s the easy, cop-out answer. Technically correct, for sure, but it also ignores one whopper of an important factor.

Namely, history has already been changed. Garrosh effectively undid everything from the First War era onward.  And since they are no longer besotted by Fel blood, he has also changed the history of Orcs on Draenor. With that in mind, it is therefore possible that one or more of the Draenic Clans is under new management. If you accept the "Klingon model" for Orc culture2, then this becomes even more likely. Easy to imagine that one of the clan leaders LUCKED OUT with the fel blood thing being the ONLY thing that stopped him being murdered in his sleep by a slightly less macho, but infinitely sneakier, female clan-leader-to-be.

Given all the variables we DO know, it’s laughably easy to come up with viable scenarios for any of the clan leaders to be supplanted to a woman within or outside of his clan.

I hope for your sake you are initiating a mating ritual

So … nope, not buying it.

They’re doing this because those are the characters they want to revisit.  Too bad they can’t own up to it.

The U Factor

All of this is in spite of what we do NOT know about the story of the expansion. We have heard plaintive cries from Blizz HQ that they are indeed cooking up totally awesome female characters that will blow our nipples clean off, from fifty yards even.

And that’s great, but we’ve been promised many things in the last nine years, and not all of them have come to pass, or were even (apparently) worked on in good faith. Faith doesn’t always require deeds, but it can be broken by (mis)deeds or lack of deeds where they are required. We’ve been told "have faith" multiple times and seen that faith not fulfilled almost as often. Not because anyone is being malevolent – I don’t really think so. But because nobody in a position to make a difference actually *cares* enough to enact positive action to make women or other groups – such as the LGBT community – feel like they’re being included or at least not being belittled – as part of the culture of this game.

As one small example. There was a big blow-up at one Blizzcon over the hateful words of a particular death metal "artist". We were told that Mistakes Were Made and that We Will Make This Up To You.  And yet, in Northrend, you can still find Gorge the Corpsegrinder, a clear tribute to this man.  Years after the event, they have done nothing to remove this tribute.  Is it because they just don’t care, or because they feel we’ll overlook this eventually if they just lay low and not make a fuss.

So on one hand we have the Grand Unknown.  A promise, implicit and explicit, that things to come will make things better. On the other hand, we have a track record of failure to meet those promises with deeds.

It’s lonely Out There

There is nothing worse from a social aspect than being among a group of people that have a strong bond that you don’t share.  All the little -isms that pull cliques together also tend to push us apart. And seeing an activity, show, book, story, or game that has nobody that you can relate to only enforces that feeling.

A game that focuses on alien creatures already removes a potential relation that you might have with them based on species alone.  At that point, all we have are the most ambiguous cues – tetrapod construction, bipedal locomotion, two eyes, two ears a face, and gender. And for 50% of the world’s population, they see one less thing to relate to in the WoD reveal.

Mistakes were made

Unlike the Corpsegrinder incident, we don’t even get a mea culpa out of this one. Why is that? Do they feel that they’ve already paid that pound of flesh and shouldn’t have to all over again? Do they feel that the pro-female3 WoW audience just won’t be happy with anything and have given up? Do they feel that siccing one of their female CMs on to the Twitter community will diffuse the situation without having to actually provide substance? Or are they just so tone-deaf to the point that they should be banned from ever having band instruments?

I’m rather fond of that theory myself.  It beggars belief, but I really do think they haven’t ever gone out of their way to do a good PR review of what they’re about to say at a public gathering.   I have strong doubts that anyone at Blizz has ever pursued training in this area. I have strong doubts that they really think they might even need to consider looking into it.

And our fandom feeds any potential arrogance they might have to the point that they don’t see that they NEED that kind of internal support, so they keep doing it over and over again and then sobbing nobody understands us! when the inevitable backlash comes.

I swear by his pretty floral bonnet, I will end you.

So here’s the thing. They can make press releases after the fact saying that they made mistakes and will try harder to not do it gain, but that’s an empty promise with no measurable goals, so job’s not done until they say it’s done.  They like that level of control.

But until they believe it internally and take real, measurable action to correct what I believe are massive internal cultural flaws at Blizzard, they will continue to talk first, think later, and try to ignore the problem.

I’ve reached a crossroad

I love this game, and I love the people I get to play alongside.  I love the dialogs that get opened, I love the characters I meet (NPC and PC), I love the community4, I kinda like the lore, and I like the potential that the game, ever after nine years, offers.

What I do not like is being lied to. I do not like being treated like an idiot that will keep on giving out my money just "Because We’re Activision Fucking Blizzard, that’s who."  I do not like people saying "we will do a thing" and then pretending they didn’t. 

At the end of the day you can piss and moan about lack of Flight until 6.1 and I’m just going to make faces.  But if you choose to short-shrift an entire segment of population based on gender, lie about it, and then barely do just enough to shut "them" up until the next time, time and time again, eventually I’ll run out of patience.  I don’t care if you’re Activision Fucking Blizzard. 

So I am here at the end of PandaLand-point-four watching to see what they do next.  If what they have coming up looks half-assed, begrudging, or an otherwise insincere delivery on the promise they made in Blizzcon’s wake, it will be too much for me to bear anymore.

And, yes, by Mammon, that is a completely unfair and arbitrary standard that I choose.  But here’s the deal, Blizz. You had the chance to set those standards, to provide measurable milestones to show good faith in this, and you blew it. You have hidden behind a pile of bullshit, and have dared us to tell you it smells like bullshit.

So, this is me. Drawing the lines and setting the standards by which I will judge. This is my story to tell.  And I will choose the setting in which to tell it.


  1. Or, "bullshit", if you’re as fed up with it as I am. []
  2. And there certainly are already plenty of cues there. []
  3. Since I don’t meet someone’s "standards" on this, I won’t claim to be "pro-feminist" anymore. []
  4. Implying a consensual collective as opposed to a blanket thrown an unwilling population sample. MR BEAR. []

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Welp, we enter the week leading up to Blizzcon 2013, and everybody in the twitterverse is all excite. There has been a lot of speculation about what we might see at this fabled gathering this year. Allow me to contribute my hysterical speculations.

What we know

  • 5.4.0 is the final content patch for Mists. What we’re looking at is pretty much as far as this goes for this expansion – it’s the ICC of Pandaria.  Which more or less leaves us to our own devices until the next expansion, which has not been announced at this time. Yes, there is a 5.4.1, for which you have already received a patch (though it doesn’t do much yet). That’s a far cry from more real content though.
  • Ergo if there are any "content" patches beyond 5.4.0, we can probably expect more time-killing activities ala land-of-the-endless-dailies or Timeless Isle (this is more opinion than fact).
  • We also have this roadmap, posted in 2007 and allegedly from 2003 which has proven to be extremely accurate in general terms. You can see all the pieces here, though sometimes they arrive in different order than originally planned. For example, Pandaria was originally going to be a part of a far larger expansion, from the looks of it, which would have included bits of the Cata expansion as well.  I guess what I’m saying here is that looking here for direction is not entirely out of line, based on past experience, but it requires a heavy amount of interpretation.
  • If one goes by that roadmap, we have one major piece not yet addressed – The Burning Legion.

 

Now we Speculate

What follows is a series of thoughts based on what we have seen out in the wider internets. I’m not claiming to know what’s going to happen, but I do reserve the right to crow just a little for each item I get right. :)

There will be an expansion announced

That’s probably obvious to most, but it should be noted that Blizz has not stated that there will be. Reasonably, the announcement will take place on the first day.  What we see is "World of Warcraft: What’s Next" and World of Warcraft: The Adventure Continues" when we look at the Blizzcon schedule.

What we do NOT see is availability of the expansion for playtesting, as we had with MoP.  I do NOT recall if that was actually part of the schedule last time.  It would be helpful to be able to remember.

Given all the above, however, one thing we do know is that we’re done with MoP.  If they don’t announce here, it’ll be at some smaller trade show later on, and I don’t think they’re going to do that to their flagship product.

Ergo, now is the time.

The expansion will involve the Burning Legion.

We don’t have a lot to go on here except for that fabled road map.  Considering its accuracy, I’m inclined to look to it for inspiration.

There is also the fact that many, many of the in-game and out-of-game lore pieces have been very strongly focused on the Legion and things around it.  The adventures of Anduin, for example, as well as Wrathion.  We KNOW the Legion is going to be a huge part of WoW at some point, it’s a confrontation that is being teased in lore and legend and prophesy. Between them and the Old Gods, we’re looking at 80% of what threatens Azeroth. Maybe more.

The expansion will be called "Warlords of Draenor"

I admit this may be premature, in that the trademark was applied for outside the US and only a week before the Con.  However, it does fit in with the story arc we’ve been uncovering.

An alternate, The Dark Below, does have some bearing on the Old Gods thread, but if I remember correctly, that was discredited not long after it appeared in trademark sites.

One should also remember that the same trademark sites have been used for the Warlords title, and take both with a grain of salt.

The expansion will involve a new, "lost" continent of Draenor.

One should remember that Outland was not Draenor, but simply a part of it, one continent on a larger world. Given Blizz’s penchant for pulling entire lost continents out of their electronic butts, doing so on a world about which we know SO LITTLE makes a certain amount of sense.

Also, discovery of this continent leads us to …

Alleria and Turalyon will return

turalalleriaTheory: they found their way onto the lost continent and were either detained or could not find the way back.  After many years of research and hard work, they’ve opened a portal that leads back to the dormant one in Zangarmarsh.  Or maybe Blizz invents some new sort of Twisted Nether transport vehicle similar to a cross between an airship and a sailboat  (The AD&D Astral plane was full of such vehicles, and they were super cool).  After many years and with the assistance of a stranded colony of Ethereals, they have returned in style.

It should be noted that these two have been teased for at least two expansions in the "hints and tips" pane of the loading screen – which is one reason I leave that feature turned on.

EtherealThe Ethereals are a new player race

I’m not sure if they’ll be a new player race similar to the Pandas or not (bi-factional) or if they’ll belong to one faction and some other race fill in for the other.  If the latter, I have no idea who it would be.

It’s all weaksauce regardless. I am basing this on the merest whiff of a hint dropped here and there.

But if they are a new player race, I bet the starting zone is associated with where Alleria and Turalyon were stranded.

Outland will not get a revamp

There was a lot of joyful / hysterical speculation in Twitter especially that Outland would at last get its remodel and quest streamlining.  I doubt this myself because (a) the Cata remodel of Azeroth was not a cracking success and (b) they hate going back to old stuff.

There was the Twitter sub-thread that Outland would be revamped and be NEW content for the new expansion.  I doubt this because then they’d have to fill in the 60-70 leveling gap from bits of Azeroth and/or Northrend, and I doubt they want to do something so complicated.   HOWEVER, I do consider this to be more likely than revamping it "just because". 

The new level cap will be 100

The most blatant clue about this is that several BoA items drop from Garrosh that "require level 90 to 100", which is an odd thing for the tooltip to say if the next expansion is good for only five levels, I think you’d agree.

The less obvious clues are back in that roadmap.  It’s fairly clear from looking at it that bits of Wrath, Cata, and MoP were meant to come together as one large expansion.  For example, Worgen were possibly supposed to be part of the same expansion as Pandarens. And, thus, the remaining pieces do seem to come together as a whole expansion, rather than a mini-expansion such as what we’ve been getting.

There are no indications of any new class

That’s not entirely true.  Consider the Pandaren.  Outside of the roadmap doc, the only reference to Pandaren in game terms was as a practical joke or two. Blizz insisted that there could be no possible way that they’d ever make it into the game as a serious race.

What class has also been likewise the source of jokes and amusement?  Why, the Bard, of course!  So there’s that.

More likely, though, I think we might see another attempt at a Hero Class, this time with less problems than the DK rollout.  Possible candidates: that have been hinted at here and there: Archdruid (from Druid, possibly from Stormrage himself), Archmage (from Mage, possibly from Jaina), Necromancer (Warlock, possibly related to the Green Fire quest line), Ranger (from Hunter, possibly via Alleria), and Vindicator (from Paladin, possibly related to Turalyon)

Since this is such an empty bucket, anything that fills it will be no particular surprise.

Release will be in the Holiday timeframe, 2014

I know, someone once asked me, "surely you can’t expect people to wait 14 months for an expansion?"  This’ll be closer to 12, which is a reasonable cycle but one that is largely devoid of content, nonetheless.

Expect beta testing to be over the summer, with the final polish going on around August.

Will they announce that this is the schedule. Well, they never have before, so I’m doubtful.

YOU FACE JARAXXUS

Crap. Not again.

Seriously, we need the Dance Studio for this one. Obviously.

Anything else?

Probably. I could hope to see things like ink-derived armor dye, but there is no indication. We’ll probably see at least one more trade skill streamlined as Blacksmithing has. But most people will focus on the Big Picture, and who can blame them?

Bottom line is, I have a suspicion about where things will go, but no hard facts to back it up.  Clues are not facts.

I do, however, think this particular story line would be very, very cool.

I’ll be watching this as much as anyone else.  Excite!

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