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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

The joke is on women in Blizzard's April Fool's gag

Though Blizzard doesn't always treat female characters with as much respect as I'd like, where big game companies are concerned they usually do okay -- heck, the fact that you can play a female character at all puts them ahead of a lot of the gaming industry. But Blizzard doesn't have a particularly spotless record, with sexist NPCs, more sexist NPCs, sexual dimorphism, the lack of women in game lore, and the fact that Aggra won't be heading to Draenor in Warlords -- not to mention the fact that Chris Metzen described the journey as "more of a boy's trip" at BlizzCon. The fact that Blizzard does all of this and I still think of them as doing okay speaks to the exceedingly low standards women have where it comes to inclusion in video games.

And in today's April Fool's gag, the joke's on us with the new female draenei models. Today's draenei are the most sexually dimorphic of the lot, with male models that are extremely muscled and female models that are slender -- but still heavy on the cleavage (seriously, they must have so many back problems). Releasing this so-called ugly draenei model as a joke -- though it might have been intended to poke fun at the gamers who insist on sexualized game characters -- just says outright that any women who aren't the height of perfect beauty are a joke.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

The Loose Ends of Mists of Pandaria

Since the expansion is now locked in its final patch, with no future storylines to come to change the status quo until Warlords of Draenor, we're free to look over the past year and a half and say Did that actually happen to some of the stranger moments in the story. Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of the story in this expansion, I think it had some really good twists and some nice back and forth between various NPC's (for instance, I love the Jaina/Vereesa team, I think Jaina's interaction with Lor'themar is fantastically catty, and the Baine/Vol'jin bromance is a lot more relatable than previous Horde leaders) but that doesn't mean it doesn't have some head-scratchingly weird moments in it.

These moments often take the form of unexplored consequences or loose ends to the plot. Let's look at a few of them now.

The Mogu Woman conspiracy

This one got really strange because the in-game lore for the presence of mogu women got really convoluted. The way I have it worked out, there used to be mogu women, but at some point after Lei Shen became emperor, something happened. We know there was at least one mogu queen, who died by Lei Shen's hand. It seems that after Lei Shen used the power and knowledge he stole from Ra-Den to 'reverse engineer' the Curse of Flesh, he seemingly eliminated women from his society since his people wouldn't need to reproduce any longer in the conventional sense. The only two women left were in fact the Twin Consorts, and they were literally just constructs carved into the shape of women, possibly as a last dig at Monara. This leaves a whole host of questions about Monara and her relationship to Lei Shen - were they related in some way? Was she his last queen, or perhaps even his mother, or just a rival he killed to cement his power over the mogu?

I found this aspect of mogu culture - their rejection of an entire gender as part and parcel of their rejection of being flesh, being alive at all, to be one of the strangest aspects of their culture. It's got some real world resonance, as well. The mogu end up not being just cruel and callous, they're also really creepy in ways we don't see often.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Pushing the limits of the World of Warcraft


I've been thinking a lot lately about the World of Warcraft and in what ways the game can move forward. It's a gigantic ship now, there's so much content and moving pieces in it that any drastic change is unlikely to happen. For instance, WoW isn't likely to just up and throw away leveling in favor of an EVE Online or Elder Scrolls type system.

However that doesn't mean that large change isn't possible. Raiding is one of the favorites to change over time, with new social structures being put in place around the end-game every couple of expansions it seems like. Other major changes are possible in the side games that WoW has, like professions and the recently introduced pet battles. These types of changes are big in their own regard, but at the same time only impact a segment of the game -- one that not everyone takes part in.

So where can the limits of WoW be tested? Where can the next great innovation take place, one that would move the game forward in a way that's unique and attention grabbing? There's three areas that WoW can push into.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Sunday Morning Funnies: Revisionists

Surviving Azeroth
Sunday Morning Funnies is your weekly list of WoW-related web comics.

This week, in comics: Baking with vanilla is never as boring as it might sound. An assault is launched from a garrison. A negotiation devolves to threats. Finally: Afraid to sleep outside in the dark? No living reason you should be!

Well, folks, it's almost April Fool's Day, and this week, we have an extra special Gnomeregan Forever just for the holiday. It even features a guest appearance!

There's also a special edition of Away From Reality up this week, and I wouldn't miss it if I were you. It's excellent.

Fans of Gigz' Kitchen will want to make sure not to skip DLC this week, as well.

In sadder news, Surviving Azeroth Chapter 1 concludes this week! It will go on hiatus and we will be notified when Chapter 2 is afoot. Plus, Shields and Sheep was discontinued, sadly. Zuulzilla (the artist of both): Enjoy your break!

Finally, although there is no WoW-related NPC this week, I thought I would do a shout-out to Mary's Patreon page, in case anyone has missed it. The perks are great for even $1 monthly donors (sketches and behind-the-scenes content) and, you know, cats that play WoW.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Humor, Comics, Sunday Morning Funnies

WRUP: Impressions on the Heroes of the Storm

Heroes' Frostfire Garb
It's time for another weekend, and the news is still dry as a desert. Unfortunately, we've already made up fake news. We've made up haikus. But not all is lost: we're seeing news and experiences from Heroes of the Storm.

So while it's a tiny diversion from WoW, we asked your intrepid WoW Insider staff about their feelings on HotS at this point. It's looking pretty sexy and I can't wait to play it for reals. What about you, dear reader? Are the heroes keeping you afloat while we all wait patiently for WoD?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Flying in Draenor must be destroyed

Recently, Alex Afrasiabi did an interview wherein he talked about the status of flight on Draenor when Warlords of Draenor launches. Specifically, that the idea of the players not being able to fly even at max level when the expansion comes out is a test of how players react to a flightless expansion, and if it seems successful, it's possible they may not introduce it at all. That from the moment we arrive on Draenor at level 90 to the time we finally leave it to take our adventures elsewhere, we will not fly anywhere on the new continent.

I think this is a marvelous idea.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Warlords of Draenor

Is it time for a dungeon blacklist?


An interesting question was posed recently on Twitter to Ion Hazzikostas: is there going to be a dungeon blacklist option, like there is with PvP battlegrounds?

For those unaware -- when you queue up for a random PvP battleground you can pick two battlegrounds that you don't want to do. The system honors those blacklist selections and you won't be placed in those matches. This is very useful for days when you constantly get Arathi Basin (like I do all the time).

The idea of applying this to dungeons is interesting, and one that I think has some merit to it. When running dungeons there's always a few that no one likes to do, or at least that's the perceived opinion. I'm thinking of things like Heroic Deadmines. There were points in there that were a virtually guaranteed wipe in a PuG. And this expansion I'm not a fan of the Stormstout Brewery... it can just be so long at points, with someone always getting stuck behind the doors for the big bad rabbit of carrot death.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Breakfast Topic: Who deserves the lore spotlight next?

One of the complaints about Warlords of Draenor is that it's another expansion with a heavy focus on orc lore. A lot of that comes from the fact that to players who picked up the Warcraft setting with World of Warcraft the setting has moved pretty far away from the classic 'orcs vs. humans' and into a story about blood elves, goblins, gnomes, draenei, dwarves, trolls, tauren, night elves... in other words, about their characters, whatever race they happen to be. If you're a Horde player, you're most likely to be a blood elf nowadays, rather than an orc (blood elves are twice as popular among Horde players at 28%, putting them ahead of the otherwise neck and neck forsaken, orcs and tauren by almost a two to one margin over any of them) but it's also fair to say that blood elves have gotten a fair amount of focus in the last few expansion (including a pretty sizable story bump in patch 5.1/5.2 of Mists of Pandaria) so who would we focus on as the most in need of some story development?

Among the Alliance, the draenei are looking ready for their closeup in Warlords and I'm absolutely down with that, but I also agree with people who've made the point that gnomes really need some story focus. So, let me turn this over to you? Who deserves the lore next? Who do you want to see get a nice closeup, story wise?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Breakfast Topics, Lore, Warlords of Draenor

How much transparency do you want?

It's come up time and again, and it's always an issue that's fascinated me -- how much information on how World of Warcraft is designed do we actually want? Some of us would be bored to tears by a technical discussion of the whys and wherefores of a design decision, while others would be absolutely fascinated by it. I'm sure no one's forgotten about the era of the 'Ghostcrawler experiment' and the sharp rise of communication from the game's developers. Today we have quite a bit of communication from people like Brian Holinka, Chadd Nervig, Ion Hazzikostas, Owen Landgren and others. I've always felt that it was a very good thing overall for the game to have that channel, with the devs taking time to explain design changes and what they mean. The question becomes, how useful is it to you, and how effective is it in getting players to understand the why behind changes?

Frankly, I think we all know that for every player who reads and absorbs dev interaction in the spirit in which it is meant, there's another who uses it simply as an excuse to blame said person for ruining the game. This goes back to before the time when devs were the ones delivering the news, mind you. I remember the days of Tseric, and the way the forums made him the villain in their self-generated narrative.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Do we need Mythic raiding at all?

I've been talking to guild leaders getting ready for the new raiding paradigm in Warlords of Draenor, and one of the things I'm hearing is that a lot of guilds simply won't bother to do Mythic raiding. That they simply don't want to scale up. They felt that the current paradigm was perfect for them - they could raid, complete a tier on normal, then do a few heroic modes before the next tier or new expansion. This model worked in Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria for their guilds, and with it replaced by flexible normal/heroic (equivalent to current flex and normal) and 20 person mythic (replacing 10 and 25 man heroic modes) they simply have seen the end of their doing that content.

Now, I don't do a lot of 10 man raiding - I've stayed 25 pretty much since I switched guilds back in Cataclysm - but I know from experience how it feels to have that stress on your guild, and I find the idea that Mythic raiding will be out of the reach of some players not because of their skill, but because of the numbers game a little sad. To hear players that have been doing heroic content for two or three expansions now say "I guess we're done with that kind of thing" seems a bit off to me. And it dovetails into another idea I have, namely this - not all fights work as a hard mode in the first place. Some fights feel epic and really different with the addition of new elements that we see in a harder mode (Firefighter from Ulduar comes to mind) but others just feel like the same fight with more damage and health - and those fights to my mind don't need to exist.

This has me wondering - do we need Mythic raiding at all? Going into Warlords of Draenor, we're looking at LFR, Normal, Heroic and Mythic raiding. Four raid sizes, each aimed at different kinds of raiders. Yet all four of them present the same basic content, simply scaled differently - the same boss fights, just on a different scale of difficulty and (in the case of Mythic) presumably some different mechanics. What we're seeing right now in Siege of Orgrimmar is that for some players, this is contributing to burnout - saying 'hey, go do heroic if you're bored' doesn't help when heroic is the exact same content, just harder. Do we need more of this?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

The passive faction cannot stand

Since I complained (some have said whined) about the Horde yesterday, turnabout's fair play and I should focus my complaining on the Alliance for a bit. Because if we're fair, the Alliance needs some changes in its story, too. And I think it's fair to say that what the Alliance needs isn't necessarily a victory - especially in terms of Horde/Alliance conflict, it doesn't actually drive the story forward necessarily to have one side win, and the end of Siege of Orgrimmar could in fact be seen as the Alliance winning. No, it's not really victory that's lacking.

The problem the Alliance has is as simple as the statement at BlizzCon that the Alliance is the 'Captain America' faction, the faction that has a more standard heroism about it. The problem with that is, in many ways heroism is depicted as being reactionary. You respond to a threat, you react to a crisis, whether it be Deathwing or Garrosh. Villains act, and heroes react - it's one of the reasons that actors often state that the bad guy is more fun to play. For better or for worse, the Alliance presence in Pandaria was a reaction to the crash-landing of Anduin's ship after it was chased by a Horde fleet, and everything that followed was reactionary. The Alliance stayed in Pandaria purely because the Horde was there, they weren't there to explore or even conquer. The entire struggle over the Divine Bell was a struggle to keep the Horde from getting it because they knew the Horde would use it (as they did) and so far, despite her having every reason to feel that the Horde cannot be trusted Jaina Proudmoore is being painted as villainous for maintaining this position.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Know Your Lore: Tauren at the end of Mists

The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.

There are an awful lot of loose threads around the tauren right now. The Grimtotem are scattered, making temporary pacts with the Alliance in Stonetalon, besieging the night elves in Feralas, and their greatest leader was last seen claiming an artifact of elemental power. In the wake of Cairne's death, Baine Bloodhoof chose to allow Garrosh to rule uncontested - but that position clearly changed over time, and Baine led tauren troops to the support of Vol'jin's rebellion against the Warchief, rather than simply challenging him as his father did. Ironically, this choice shows a certain political maturity - recognizing that trial by personal combat might not be the best means to effect regime change in the Horde - while it also shows a bit of a break with the old ways of both the Horde, and the tauren people.

Baine's father Cairne chose to live, and die, by the older ways of ritual and honor. Betrayed by Magatha, he died from poison on Garrosh Hellscream's axe and with him seems to have died the last vestiges of the tauren ways of the past. Baine led an expulsion of those Grimtotem that would not swear allegiance to him over Magatha that culminated in a battle against their last leaders in Mulgore, and at the end of that battle, Baine ruled the shu'halo as undisputed chieftain of all. But in doing so, he also led his people into their last break with the past, and following the defeat of Garrosh and the ascension of Vol'jin to the seat of power as Warchief, one must ask - what role do the tauren fill in the Horde to come, and where will Baine's current choices lead them in the future?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

I'm so bored with the Horde

This isn't a rant about how the Horde is bad, or how you should feel bad for playing them, or anything. If you like playing Horde, I'm not arguing that you're wrong to do so. I know that's a subjective thing, and some folks just plain like specific Horde races better. This is more about how, after Mists of Pandaria, I'm completely exhausted as a player with Horde stories and the Horde/Alliance conflict. I'm not inherently opposed to Horde/Alliance conflict. In fact, I think it made Mists of Pandaria a very strong expansion, with a strong and interesting story. I especially liked patch 5.1, and played both the Horde and Alliance storylines.

And frankly, that was the last time any of my Horde characters got any serious play.

Since 5.1 I've felt myself shifting away from the Horde. Part of that was going back to raiding on my draenei warrior, of course. But a bigger part of it was simple ennui, and a general culture shift in the Horde that left me feeling totally unable to connect to it. When I rolled my first Horde characters (an orc shaman and tauren warrior back in vanilla days) there was a real, concrete tone shift when I played them vs, when I played my Alliance characters. A sense of desperate odds, of outcasts banding together to stand against a hostile world, facing off against a monolithic power.

That's gone. It's probably gone forever. Even after the events of Mists of Pandaria, it's impossible to view the faction that banded together from the events of Warcraft III as the same entity anymore - over the course of two expansions, the Horde went from underdogs to aggressors. And while I've heard many players say things like "the orcs are not the whole Horde" to attempt to distance ourselves, fact is, my tauren did the quests in Twilight Highlands. My blood elf led the charge onto Pandaria's shores, and he stole the Divine Bell so that Garrosh could make use of it. Up until patch 5.3, if you played Horde, there was no real way to not aid Garrosh's cause - you were complicit in everything that helped make the Warchief's plan work. The orcs may not be the whole Horde, but what excuse does that give your pandaren or forsaken, when they're the ones who delivered the keys to the kingdom into Garrosh's hands?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Siege of Orgrimmar and the waiting game

I've played World of Warcraft for the entire history of the game, since about a month after launch (my wife actually played in beta, and she's the one who got me into WoW in the first place) and I've raided for pretty much the entire time - I took a few months off after The Burning Crusade dropped, and had to catch up in BC raids. Since that time, though, I've raided - I was in my server's most progressed guild in Wrath, switched servers but ended up in the same situation in Cataclysm, and have settled down to a still well progressed but less aggressive heroic raid in Mists of Pandaria, cruising at 10/14H and working on Thok. We have one pally, so Thok's a bit of a gigantic cinderblock wall, but we're still plugging away.

Being that I've been raiding so long, I sometimes see patterns. There's one I saw in BC, and repeated in Wrath and Cataclysm - the end of expansion lull. Once we get into the last tier of content, there's a surge of interest and everyone leaps to get in there and work on it... and that lasts a couple of months. After that, however, interest starts to wane. Players get burned out, stop playing, need to be replaced. Each player who needs to be replaced causes tension as the guild slows down due to the losses. Recruitment means bringing in people with less gear, less experience, and even if you manage to get a player with both the gear and the experience, it doesn't always mean they know how you do things. I was once recruited, after my Horde guild had killed all of Heroic Dragon Soul, by an Alliance guild that was on Spine. I took the jump because I wanted to play Alliance again - and even though I was geared as well or better than they were, I still had to relearn the fights based on their strats, and make suggestions based on my own experience that meant delays as they learned these new ideas.

This can lead to a feedback loop - players burn out, leave, this stresses the guild, more players get burned out. It's always present in raiding - churn is inevitable, recruitment must be continuous - but the promise of future content to come creates a counter pressure. You don't just raid to see the current content, you do it to be ready to get into the guts of the new stuff when it drops. But when you get into the last tier of raiding, there is no new content to keep you interested. And so, when that last raid tier takes months and months - sometimes, as in the case of ICC in Wrath, over a year - it becomes very difficult to keep guilds focused on progressing through it. Talking on twitter about all this after reading multiple posts on the issue, I started thinking about how it works out.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Sunday Morning Funnies: I found it

Experience Boost
Sunday Morning Funnies is your weekly list of WoW-related web comics.

This week, in comics: A kitty is trapped and only Narya can, uh, save Whiskers? Cadi is drowning the world's sorrows. A dwarf bursts into song, though maybe not the song you'd expect. A brother is slain. A moat makes someone very happy.

Last week, Gratz uncharacteristically only posted two comics, when typically there are three. Obviously, this could not stand. To make up for it, we have four this week, plus a new drawing in the Extras section. (It is worth noting that few comics on our list typically post more than once or twice a week, so three most weeks is excellent, and four is a nice treat!)

Surviving Azeroth was missing last week, but is back this week with a new comic. Next week, Chapter One is scheduled to conclude, at which point, the comic will go on hiatus. We will all have to wait for Chapter Two, it seems!

Rug popped into the comments section last week to hint at a "certain calendar idea." Why do I feel like the theme might be something along the lines of "sexy ripped male dwarves with beards that waft wonderfully in the various breezes of 2014"?

Here are this week's WoW-related comics:

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Humor, Comics, Sunday Morning Funnies

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