We now return you to our regularly scheduled gaming post, already in progress.

Blizzcon, the Blizzard Entertainment-created celebration of all things Blizzard Entertainment is over for the year.

Amindst all the officially-sanction public relations releases, we got the heads up on some great new products we can expect to see sometime over the course of the next year.

There was news on the next phase of the Starcraft II war, some Diablo III stuff, and of course World of Warcraft.

The new official expansion for World of Warcraft that MMO Champion cracked has been confirmed.

That’s right.

PANDAS.

I remember once someone showed the overall map of Azeroth, and highlighted which areas someone could squeeze more zones into for future expansions. I don’t remember anyone showing us where they could hide an entire continent, but hey, I’m all for it.

I like Pandas. I also am a personal fan of the Pandaren that we were once told, I swear we were told, would never be an actual in-game race. I should look for that quote, I thought there was an interview with Samwise where he was specifically asked about Pandaren in game, and he said something like “We added them a little bit here and there for fun, but were never going to expand on it.” I dunno, maybe I was smoking bacon that day, and the fumes gave me sweet, sweet dreams of big jolly pandas.

I like the Pandaren so much, that I have the Pandaran Monk non-combat pet.

Won’t that be interesting to explain once we meet more Pandaren in the wild?

“Who, this? Oh yeah, I bought him at the market years ago, and he’s never left my side since. I’ve grown in power, killed old gods and lich kings and dragons, and he’s been right there beside me through thick and thin. Oh, he’s your father? Huh, he never said he had family when I bought him. In fact, come to think of it, I’m not sure he knows how to talk. No, no I never tried talking to him myself, but if I bow to him, he does bow back. And he exercises a lot, waving his arms around. Pretty much all he does is follow me around, day after day, never tiring, never complaining.”

There is so much I could gush about, so much I could be snarky about, but hell, why rush? There are months ahead of us to explore all the potential ramifications.

But I DO have two things. :)

First is this twelve month subscription thing that kinda slid in under the radar.

You might think you’ve got to pay for twelve months of WoW time all up front, but you don’t. You don’t have to change your subscription pattern at all.

You just have to sign a digital contract with Blizzard committing to paying for your monthly account, without cancelation or interruption, for the next twelve months.

You just gotta say, come hell or high water or a drought of content over a spring of new game releases, that Blizzard will still get theirs.

In exchange, you get a free BoA mount that looks really cool on all characters, and you get a free code for the retail version of Diablo III.

Oh yeah, and an automatic beta key for the next WoW expansion.

It’s an interesting trifecta.

You get a new mount, but since it’s in game it only cost a little design and code time. That is an investment, but it’s one they are set up for.

You get a Beta key. Well, again, digital only, and not only is it a small investment on Blizards part for email sending invites and access front ends, but they need beta testers of their digital products anyway.

Both make perfect sense. You’re not actually paying any extra, but Blizzard isn’t actually paying any more either. We get something on a digital download, and Blizzard gets a financial commitment. If you were going to do this anyway, play for another year, why not?

Everybody happy.

But the third part is a free copy of a retail product they have been working on for years, Diablo III.

Granted we’re not getting a box version mailed to us, but we are getting the code and digital delivery of the final, retail launch version of the game.

We can see what’s in it for us, but what is Blizzard getting that is worth losing out on that many potential sales?

Hugh at MMO Melting Pot has about the best explanation I’ve seen that makes financial sense. If Blizzard anticipates a content drought over a long period of time, between patch 4.3 and the 5.0 Pandaria expansion, then they may have done the math and would prefer to lose a $40 short term sale in exchange for a guaranteed 6 to 8 month game subscription lock-in during the times people normally cancel accounts… you know, summer vacation time.

Especially if there are a lot of great new MMOs coming out to compete.

Cynical? Maybe, but on the other hand… successful.

I already signed up. The mount and beta key are nice, but it was the Diablo III that I was going to buy anyway that sold me.

In my case, Blizzard lost out on the deal. I am someone who WAS going to continue my subscription over the next twelve months anyway, AND I was going to buy Diablo III. So, free game? Gee, thanks!

The other thing I want to touch oh so very briefly on, is this PokéWoW thing.

I have no idea how you think of it, I know I have never liked mini-games in games. I’ve rarely if ever enjoyed a game when someone takes the popular neat thing from another game system and tacks it on their own.

I’m willing to give it a shot, though.

What excites about the concept, the CONCEPT mind you, is that our non-combat pets will become another custom, personalised aspect of our characters.

We will be able to name our pets. A truly ‘duh’ idea, a “Well it’s about damn time” idea, but let’s just keep that on the downlow and give thanks, right?

We’ll also be able to move pets around our characters. Did you get that rare pet Batling from the special, one-season one year only Karazhan event to kill the vampire Prince on only one character, and it’s NOT the character you ever play or collect pets on? Well, now you can fix that and similar situations.

But more interestingly, your pets will be able to be trained, leveled and then taken to an arena to fight other pets.

This is the part that excites me and also amazes the shit out of me.

In order for our pets to be able to fight, they have to have combat moves, defenses, all that stuff. AND, they will need new animations to correspond to what they do.

Doesn’t that seem like a shitload of programming time to devote to this PokéWoW thing?

Again, I love it. It’s great. I think it will be loads of fun, and, again, I get to name my pets.

I’ll be able to field a combat team of Grunty the Murloc Marine, a Pandaren Monk, and Stinker the Skunk if I so choose.

But, and here is the butt….

Nobody asked for PokéWoW that I know of, nobody knew it was coming, and yet here it is, a massive commitment in programming resources.

But quests tailored for specific classes, quests to fill out the Rogue Ravenholdt line, quests to individualize our leveling experience and bring a new, fresh reason and interest to playing an alt in Azeroth for the 500th time…

Thats still a poor use of developmental resources?

Huh. Interesting.

27 Responses to “So, Pandas, huh?”
  1. Cheeky says:

    Blues made a great post in the last couple of days explaining that the ‘poor use of dev resources’ argument isn’t a simple 1+1=2 calculation. They said the actual dev time for the mini-game has been very minimal and for something that seems quite big, really isn’t when it comes to ‘cost’. Greg touched on the subject of ‘cost’ at one of the Q&A’s when Cory used the term and GC wanted to explain the apples to oranges conversion.

    I know a lot of people really enjoy the mini-games and though I’ve never touched Pokemon or ever had a desire to play it (maybe it is an age thing or that growing up in Europe it wasn’t big and by the time I immigrated to Minnesota I was too old to care for it. Who knows?) I’m quite excited to give it a whirl. Particularly if they end up porting that aspect to mobile, which Cory said on a DTV interview was something they were looking at. A quick something to do while waiting for my car to warm up in the long winter months!

    I also read into it more as a quick FF style battle – and I love (most) of that series.

    Gotta love the free Diablo game though, f’sure!

  2. Grimmtooth says:

    “Nobody asked for PokéWoW that I know of, nobody knew it was coming, and yet here it is, a massive commitment in programming resources.

    If you want to go down the cynical rabbit hole, you have to go all the way down.

    The mercenary cynic inside of me suspects he knows exactly why this is coming, WHO asked for it, and WHY it won’t go the route of the dance studio. One word: Facebook. Apparently it shits gold like nothing in the world, and they wants gold, precious.

    The NOT so cynic inside thinks that there’s probably a giant pile of unused concepts that they haven’t had time to complete yet, and that this came from that pile, having gotten close to completion in the Blizzard equivalent of somebody’s garage.

    In the end, I think the cynic wins regardless of where the source of this change is, in that I’m sure the CEO of A/B has his hounds nosing through all the corners looking for things to monetize.

    • Nina says:

      I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re absolutely right. Blizz got their feet wet with offline play with the Mobile Auction House. Pet battles would be a perfectly logical place to expand themselves into Always Online mode.

  3. Mike says:

    The blue post with Zarhym responding to the point that nobody asked for Pet Battles:

  4. Rauxis says:

    2 comments

    a) dev resources – oh it sure cost resources, but question always is if Team A (which has time) can help Team B (which is overloaded), or if it’s better to spend Team A’s time with something completely new.
    b) I still have a nagging suspicion that Blizz is going to move a larger part of the game FreeToPlay – at least until MoP hits. Having a lot of people committed to premium services for a year would bolster their revenue. The introduction of completely overpriced guild services (20 bucks for a guild rename….) could also be seen a move in that direction.

    Rauxis, chosen on CAT

  5. marcel says:

    I think this wowkemon thing is basically another blizzard shot at the mobile market.

  6. Xew says:

    I’m pretty meh on the whole MoP – I signed the digital contract mostly for the beta spot – D3 for free was nice, but I’ve been wanted to beta test BC, Wrath and Cata, and never got in… I’m hoping by beta testing it, I’ll get enthusiastic. I was pretty unhappy with Worgen in theory – but now I’m playing one and really liking it. So, I have hope.

    However. I want the poke-retard-pets to die. In a fire. If that gets through when the really interesting Path of the Titans never sees the light of day, I’ll be a sad panda (and yay, I CAN be a sad panda).

    It’s not even about resource management or time or whatever. This is so niche, they should have given it to hunter pets. You want a pet that can fight in an arena? level up a hunter pet and let them fight. I don’t want my feline familiar to tug on my robe and ask ‘Xew, why won’t you let me fight?’ Bleh.

    Sorry for harshing your mellow – but I’m just so not into that.

    • bigbearbutt says:

      Oh no, I can totally get your point.

      I can tell you why hunter pets aren’t the only ones getting it…. because then only hunters would benefit from it.

      • Xew says:

        But that’s the great thing about it being hunter only – there’s no restriction (except poor gnomes) for being a hunter, and they already have all these great pets you can tame with awesome abilities… now you can go off and play petvpet and let me go on collecting companions with interesting names like ‘Feline Familiar’ and ‘Lil’ Ragnaros’ and not ‘FelixdCat’ or ‘Flamehead’ for the billionth time.

        Slightly offtopic, but I found Blizz’s response to “why can’t I name my demon?” ridiculous. “You’re pulling a demon at random out of the nether – everything” – lolwhut? I think you’re confusing demons with DK undead pets Dev-guy. I get the same demon, everytime – from level 1 to level 90. I think after a while, I should be able to rename Pipmir and Khuurlan to Steve and Gary, thank you very much. I’m the master (despite Khethialax’ denial everytime I summon him) here – fall in line with my naming structure.

        Renaming companion pets just seems odd.

        • Eliandor says:

          The demon pets naming thing was answered better elsewhere from what you’re quoting. You do pull a demon at random… the first time. Back when you had to do a quest to get the demons it was more obvious… you summoned one and had to fight it, subdue it to your will. Since demons are sentient, unlike hunters’ animals, they have names, and while it isn’t really mentioned in game, the name could be part of your dominance over the demon. The demons can also speak and converse, unlike animals, which just learn a series of human noises that they respond to, so the names are theirs, and not something you can change.

  7. Torcthaim says:

    I wonder how many developers they’ve hired from Wizard 101; the vanity pet levelling and combat became a feature there a while back. And continuing that line of thought, Wizard 101 is definitely a game for kids, and they outgrow it. The poke-pet combat strikes me as something to attract a little younger audience….perhaps some of the kids who are outgrowing Wiz101. A lot of the older players have left or are considering leaving, pulling in some new (younger) blood is a smart thing to do.

  8. Grayzzur says:

    Too bad Pandaren can’t be Druids, because I think an awesome thing to add to the game would be…. wait for it….

    Pandaren Bear Form.

    Complete with custom shift animation… instead of *poof* you’re a bear… it’s *bend over and put your front paws on the ground* you’re… still a bear.

    :)

    • Rowtan says:

      @Grayzzur …. oh yes, that was my first reaction too! It would have been awesome to be a druid bear panda!!

      Actually .. I fib. First reaction was … Pandas? really? I was convinced, even after it was officially “announced” that it was a joke – especially when the Pokewow stuff came out too. The main thing I’m interested in with the Pokewow is trading via the AH … play a few mini-games, level up cool pets, then sell em. Unless I dreamed that bit about being able to sell them?

  9. Ben says:

    Sorry to be a hater , but it feels to me like WOW jumped the shark !

    Grayzzur is on the money no druid ?

    Does it feel like Vaders in the room all that heavy breathing ? down their necks :)

    Great last post Bear , Sorry i was to lazy to type it :P

    You had me a little worried at the start( thought you were going to come out AGAINST gay marriage )

    Still reading , still liking it and still not playing WOW .

  10. Riegnman says:

    I agree. Companion pet battles on my iPhone. With advert bars across the top and bottom. If I don’t want the advert bars, I pay $.99/month or $1.99/month or whatever they feel is a reasonable price to charge to lose all of the advert $’s that they would be making.

  11. Manxome says:

    I like the direction and final point in this post. Overall, I’m in the ‘wait and see’ camp for MoP and pokeWOW is not exciting me at all. What I WOULD like is along the lines of your point: a reason to go back and see the old content. No, scratch that, there is reason enough since Cataclysm totally retooled it. With Cata, I was very excited, having both several raiding toons and others dedicated to nostalgia trips and seeing unseen content.

    Sadly, I have not seen much content past starting zone+1 as I out level it so quickly, it became boring just single-shottinng mobs. Seriously, my Goblin shammy who admittedly did run dungeons but did NOT have any heirloom gear, was close to level 30 when I gave up – that’s right, gave up – on Azshara.

    What I want is a sense of peril. I don’t need a reason beyond that to continue to roll alts and see the wonderful world that Blizzard has created in WoW. I enjoy my leveling on the side of my raiding thank you very much.

    So, with this in mind: I would love to hear that, in addition to challenging 5 man PVE content, they introduce at least one, but perhaps several “hard mode leveling heirlooms”. Give me a neck piece – or two – that I can choose from and wear to nerf both my XP gain and my stats. I’d take them off in dungeons, but would happily wear them on my “see the game” leveling toons. I’d suggest that a 40-50% XP nerf from baseline (my unrested, non heirloom toons never get further than 2/3 through a zone before I’m over level for it) as well as perhaps a 10-15% scaled down gear/stat nerf. Another, less impactful, neck could be made for an in-between setting.

    With such a treasure, I’d have to think about my pulls, cooldowns and how I’m going to get through the quest. AND I wouldn’t outlevel a zone before completion! Just imagine the fun!

    And, if leveling ever became a grind or I wanted this toon at end game, I’d simply take the neck off and gogogogo.

    • Manxome says:

      Oh. And since I level with my wife – something that we both have found horribly boring insomuch as the game mechanics are a big yawn – we’d have a great reason to play and level together. Heck, make a third neck piece that’s even more drastic on the gear/stat nerf for when you’re leveling with a group!

    • BenBos says:

      Why don’t you shut down experience ? It is possible since almost 3 years, or didn’t you know that ?

      I do it all of the time/ I shut down experience gains and do most of a level zone I like, then run the dungeons in that bracket and only then put up experience again in … BG’s.

      Alsways a nice feeling that you are “the boss” in those BG’s with gear that actually is on par (if not better) than heirlooms).

      It is all up to the individual player to decide if he want to shut down experienc or not.

  12. The Dewd says:

    Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d buy D3 or not. I didn’t want to have to spend the money, especially since I’d probably play WoW more than I would D3 – so this is win-win for me. I get D3 and can play it solo or with my WoW guildmates when I’m not busy in WoW or just aren’t sure what I want to do next. The mount is nice – but mostly because my Draenei Paladin still wants her Charger back – stupid elekk.

    I’m also “too old” for Pokemon – but I’m excited to see how it, and most of the other MoP stuff plays out as more information is released. For me, BC was a “oh, we’re going somewhere new” and Wrath was exciting but I don’t really care for my DK that much – I just have one to have one. Cata was full of promise but it was mostly for more serious raiders than I am – or people who didn’t already have a ton of 80s to level to 85. This is the first expansion I really really can’t wait to see. I almost don’t want to be in the beta so it’ll all be fresh and new – I just want the XPac to release already!

  13. Navimie says:

    I like this post, BBB. I know there are lots of people out there saying WTF, but I know I am excited about being a Pokemon Master. I also thought it was a joke when i first heard about MoP. The pokewow thing is something I didn’t expect but I think it makes it more enticing for those 10 minute wow players who wanna squeeze in a little something. After all, Pokemon was totally addictive and a sensation at one stage – why not add more addictive stuff to WoW eh?

    And I’m laughing now thinking about what it would have been like to have Pandaren druids. In fact I think I’ll go write about it.

    Thanks for the read, had to link it, I liked it that much :)

  14. Jem says:

    There’s another thing with WoW/Diablo III cross over – apparently you can upgrade your diablo 3 to a collectors edition and get 4 months of free WoW time. So ifyou get the free one, you can take the cash you would have spent on it anyway, get the CE version and get free WoW time. I haven’t looked into it myself but my guildies have mentioned it.

    The ‘annual pass’ concept was well designed to appeal to a wide player base I think, and also leads to speculation about what next year’s pass will include. ‘Annual’ implies it will be a regular thing, so that would be interesting to see if it comes up again next bliz con.

  15. BenBos says:

    It is so obvious that only the non active WOW players can come up with things they don’t like in the new expansion.

    Like that Ben guy above: “still not playing”.
    Good, move on then.

    The rest of the active players I talked to have found many points of intrests in what Blizzard introduced. And there were many things. In fact almost too many.

    AND a new continent AND a new design in talents AND PVE scenarios AND new world PvP AND a new main pet game inside AND challenging modes in dungeons AND a new Race AND a new Class AND new world bosses AND the usual new dungeons, raids, BG’s, even a new arena…

    Simple fact: if you ignore ALL of this, you better leave the MMORPG field altogether. A new Light sabre will not do it anymore.

    10 years ago I played with my son Pokemon to death both on the gameboy and in the card game. We had so much fun and it will always be burned into our memories. So when I told my son they would a capture/raise/battle the Pets system in WOW, he was MORE than excited. … He is now 19.

    You see as a 40 year old I did play the thing and… believe me it is addictive… Very addictive.

    I aml 100% sure (if Blizzard plays it like they usually do), they have a winner within a winner’s game. Gear chase meets Pet Catch in match ups.

    I like the turn based character. It is a complete different mechanic within WOW and it will attract its own player base, just like Arena and BG play.

    Secondly I am excited about the scenarios: it will re introduce the MUCH needed casual grouping up we found in Wotlk, without resorting to too difficutl dungeon mechanics.

    10/10 for this expansion and it will strike with ease into the 30% of subscribers of SW TOR that didn’t leave after 5 months of running around in closed encounters of fake space ships and fake bordered worlds.

    • Love says:

      I’m active. I’ve been playing for a long time and never took time off. But. I can come up with a lot of things I don’t like about the next xPac. Or more to say, my reaction is ‘meh’. Yes, I am not excited at all. I don’t care about pandas, I’ve been playing the same race with all my chars (got 5 85s and rest in the Wrath bracket). I am dedicated to my main, and while I will try out monk, it shall not be the main interest point for very long. Scenarios, challanges, pet combat are not of interest – the only thing I care about is raids. And I get no promise of epic feel. So unless Sylvanas goes AWOL and we have to kill her or something, I don’t see me getting excited any time soon. We’ll see.

      Point: don’t make assumptions. Some people like, some people don’t.

  16. […] than most people are expectingBig Bear Butt has a number of thoughts, but most interestingly, is really excited by the pet combat systemJosh Myers at WoW Insider has some well-thought-out speculation on how Monks will play (note – […]

  17. […] Big Bear Butt fills us in on his thoughts regarding the new expansion and the annual subscription. […]

  18. Gladiola says:

    Overall I am super excited about the expansion, even though I’ve never really liked pandarens per say. Pet combat sounds amazingly fun, and I totally see how it was a better use of time and resources than the quest examples you mentioned. I do enjoy the fresh new leveling content the Shattering brought and I think people tend to forget how much work was put into the revamped zones and questlines, not to mention it was a welcome answer to pleas of long time players to update classic content. I constantly hear from people I play with regularly how much they hate questing in general and rarely if ever hear it mentioned as a way to spend downtime ingame like pokepets surely will be. Not to mention the financial and competitive avenues it will open up for players of all spectrums. I think it was just as brilliant as the Annual Pass, for multiple reasons!

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