Warlords of Draenor: The Dark Portal is the New Glass Ceiling

Happy gnome shouting Ladies! In Warcraft!

Drawing by Paululum, aka @Doodlegnome.

Let’s go back, way back to an alternate timeline. It’s Blizzcon 2013 and we’re in a world that seems similar to our own. It’s moments before Chris Metzen announces the next expansion. Suddenly the screen changes and the now-familiar logo goes up. Relatively little is changed. It is called Wars of Draenor.  Metzen strides across the stage, the heady determination evident in his face. He unveils a piece of concept art that has him nearly squeeing with excitement – a large digital fresco in shades of brown and red. Present is our antagonist Garrosh, his right hand Zaela and the assembled orc lords. It looks as much of a motley crew as any metal band. 

But then he regales us with a second mural – the combined might of Azeroth as we know it rushing to meet on the battlefield. There’s a righteous female draenei champion leading the charge for the Alliance and for the Horde, there’s Aggra and Thrall, Draka and Durotan. We see Varian, Jaina, Moira, Tyrande, Malfurion, Vol’jin, Sylvanas, Gelbin Mekkatorque, Velen and Maraad, Lor’themar, Genn Greymane, Gallywix and Baine Bloodhoof. All of our races’ leaders are present and accounted for along with many of our valiant champions. We are going to stand tall against Garrosh and his Iron Horde.

We see ourselves reflected in this art and we get jazzed at the mysterious hints of characters we’ve met briefly before or new ones that look exciting and powerful. 

When the the lore panel takes place, a fan asks Metzen about what Aggra’s role in the expansion will be as she was seen in the opening announcement. Metzen laughs and wryly remarks, “Who do you think is going to help lead the Horde in this familiar world? Thrall? He’s never lived here!” 

As much as I would love it, we don’t live in that timeline. Let’s talk about what actually occurred and why it is so important.

If you don’t read World of Warcraft blogs or Twitter, maybe you missed the heated discussion that’s been going on about how the marketing and potential story choices were being handled regarding Warlords of Draenor from its debut at Blizzcon this year. Chris Metzen as well as another influential member of the Dad Crimes crew Dave Kosak, seemed to paint a pretty male-centric vision of Warlords that left many people with a bad taste in their mouth. If this was the opening salvo of the newest Blizzard product, why weren’t there more women involved in the offerings?

What further drove the wedge in between the developers and fans was Chris Metzen during the lore panel answering to a fan’s question about what Aggra would be doing and he alluded to the fact that she wouldn’t be there because it was a “boys trip.” While I think this was a moment of sheer Metzen-level exuberance that didn’t properly filter itself, it definitely left a profound impact on people already confused or bewildered by the expansion reveal. Here was someone at the top of the creative development for our beloved game joking around that going to Draenor was akin to a bunch of dudes packing their axes like rods and heading back into the Dark Portal for a beer-fueled fishing trip. It rang as a poor attempt at a joke but it, unbeknownst to Chris, created a rallying point for fans, women in particular, that was on a level with “Hush, Tyrande.” It’s much easier to start picking apart sexism and character representation in World of Warcraft when you are given such moments that are so overt and show such a lack of understanding and consideration for your audience’s makeup.

While I believe Metzen (or even Kosak by extension with all of his “savage” talk) to be a fairly well-meaning guy, the fact of the matter is the comment underscores a lot of what usually inserts problematic content or creates a problematic vacuum of certain key building blocks of a fantasy world you want to make. It’s a small group of people (in this case, the men on stage) being excited by things and forgetting that we’re not all jazzed up about seeing metalhead orcs go back in time to cleave things in twain with other orc dudes. It’s fun and cool to Metzen, who ultimately gets to revisit a potent and fun time in his writing career, but it doesn’t seem to take some of us along for the ride in quite the same way. This is where I feel the real disconnect is occurring: not that I truly believe Warlords of Draenor will be entirely absent of cool women characters (I’ll talk more about this later) but that main figures of creative development presenting the story to us didn’t feel it necessary to talk about most of them except only briefly.

It’s confusing for two reasons, one, because we literally just came from a world that is as close to an idyllic meritocracy as World of Warcraft will ever have (Pandaren) and two, because there doesn’t even seem to be very solid logic for why Aggra in particular wouldn’t be there. It’s this moment of non-consideration for the idea that a Draenor native mama wouldn’t be present to show her son the planet she grew up on that gives us pause because it isn’t particularly just about her but shoots an arrow straight into the larger problem of being overlooked or under-considered by some of the top dogs in creative development. World of Warcraft has, up until this point, been moving forward in both its’ lore and story with regards to representation and so it feels like whiplash to see this being the initial offering we’re given.

Though, if I think hard enough, we can look back again how even Mists of Pandaria was presented to viewers initially and extrapolate that when it comes to selling people on their expansions, Blizzard really doesn’t give a hoot about ladies. No matter how much progress you make in making a world that has tons of really enjoyable, memorable and complex women characters in it, when the wrapping paper on the whole she-bang (heh) still looks dominated by men, you find yourself more and more unwilling to open it. So in this aspect, you could say that this just a marketing problem and not a story problem. I think that’s fairly close to the truth, but despite this being an issue with how they want to sell an expansion, it does have an effect on the story after all.

This is is why, going back to the “boys trip” quote, Aggra’s seeming non-inclusion in the story is such a big deal. When women are not considered for being played up as a cool fixture of your story to your audience from the outset, you might find yourself overlooking them in other places. The idea of Thrall going ahead to lead the Horde with his parents without his wife or his kid says a lot more about how creative development wants to talk about fathers and families versus motherhood and the like. And it’s weird, as someone who is not a mom, but knows plenty of them who play. (I am going to address more of this in a later post, so just hang onto your pants.)

Does this ultimately mean that I believe that the expansion is going to feature no women at all? Absolutely not. Like I said, Mists of Pandaria, once we got into the meat of the story, featured many moments where I felt women had their role to play in both the overhanging story arc (see Isle of Thunder patch with Jaina and Vereesa) as well as the day-to-day stories that we see in the Pandaren people or even something like the Klaxxi. I felt that both narrative and quest development teams did a really good job creating a world that was seamlessly egalitarian, even if we crash-landed on their shores with war in our hearts and sometimes less nuanced character development. Pandaren gave us a world where all of the women were equal participants in everything, whether it was protecting the land, working it or being diplomatic entities. It wasn’t just strong women like Suna Silentstrike, but women that were humble, quiet or nuanced in some other way. And I felt that it rubbed off on even some of our regular Azerothian  sisters. Because of that, I have a cautious optimism that Warlords is going to have just as many orc and draenei women filling in the gaps that we didn’t get to see in the opening cinematic, not just as brave champions of the Light (like the hotly speculated Yrel) but as complex personalities all over the place.

It’s because of this faith that I feel fully ready to rebut criticisms of those criticisms by saying that it is “too early” to know what is going to be happening in the story with regards to the women. Sure, it absolutely is too early and there’s definitely going to be cool powerful women present in the story of Draenor. (Again, Yrel seems to be held up for this a lot, and I can see why.) The problem is that because of the disconnect in marketing, because we are at this very initial point in the on-going reveal of the expansion, there absolutely needs to be unpacking and discussion and critical awareness. By getting ahead of more permanent story decisions now with our feedback, we stand a greater chance of having a profound impact on seeing ourselves in the story we love so much. This is really the beating heart of the problem, of why this omission felt so glaring. People love Warcraft, a lot of us women love Warcraft. We want to love Warcraft not just as the characters we build up in our heads as complex or nuanced, but to see our stories reflected in the ones that the company creates. Representation matters and the sooner we can have this discussion and make sure that we have a stake in that representation, so much the better. Blizzard has made very large strides in both its’ creative development teams and community management teams to ask for and receive feedback from us, the players. Not just on things like balance issues, obviously, but how we feel about where the story is going, what kinds of things are expressed and are we excited about them.

Feedback is crucial. Blizzard has let us know that it listens to the community and is willing to make changes should they feel that criticism is both substantive and will improve the game. Representation is also crucial. Our media affects and informs our lives and leaving a lot of different groups out of the story (not just women, but queer people, people of different genders, races, etc.) has a subtle but penetrating effect on the people who consume this media, namely us.

In her post about the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and QPOC representation on PolicyMic, Zainab Akande succinctly delivers why this is such a big deal:

“Why does this matter? Because media representation matters. Why does media representation matter? Because the media is a pretty central force and plays a vital role in society at large. Mass media in particular has the power to change or reinforce the habits of its consumers. It also aids in constructing worldviews of its consumers by reproducing reality— to an extent. Perception is the name of the game and it’s difficult to perceive what is non-existent — or in the case of POC and LGBTQ characters, severely lacking compared to the real world the diversity scale.”

If your game doesn’t gesture even a tiny bit at the important stories of 50% of the population that is both playing your game as well as participants in your story in the first offerings you serve to your public, you’re not doing a very good job. Not only in selling a product to as wide of an audience as possible, but in selling a product that has more of a dramatic influence than the work that has come before.

This is one of the reasons why I’m so cautiously hopeful that the chefs stirring the pot that is narrative and quest design in Warlords know what they are doing. Going back in time, not just figuratively for the purposes of the story, but literally, to an earlier time in Blizzard’s game development is precarious. While I understand that Warcraft is where many of the great women leaders of World of Warcraft spawned (Tyrande, Jaina, Sylvanas), going back to a place that feels less unconcerned with what we’ve learned in the past 10 years of gaming with regards to diversity feels tricky at best. So while the excitement is here because we’re getting to finally see a world that was merely hinted at in both Warcraft and World of Warcraft’s lore, a lot of us are feeling somewhat hesitant that it will do due diligence in being a past we want to visit for the first time. The story feels very male-dominated for multiple reasons, as I said, and by going back to it, we might lose ourselves in a timeline that feels unconcerned with the rest of us. However, much like Warcraft then and Warcraft now, we cannot ignore that all of these things are choices. Choices made by the writers, by the developers, and by people like Metzen and Kosak themselves. Fantasy not including women isn’t historically accurate, it’s just repeating sexist storytelling whole-cloth, most of the time due to the lack of perspective that some of their very male authors seem to have. We need to not only look forward to the work of the women who undoubtedly comprise the story development team, but let Blizzard know that everyone working on the game’s look, feel and narrative that they should make a world that all of us here in the present, would want to go back and save. Not only just as characters in WoW’s story, but as video game players in general.

Other posts on this topic:

*in case it wasn’t very evident, the title was written in jest.

Patch 5.4 – Flexible Raiding Feature Announced

Possible implementation of FLEX raiding with Crabby.

Last night, Blizzard dropped a big unannounced Patch 5.4 feature preview onto their blog – “flex” raiding. This raiding would be a new, fourth difficulty somewhere between LFR and normal-mode that would have it’s own ilvl. It is primarily to help those raiders that wish to do a level of content with pick-up groups as well as friends and family in a more casual, social environment. It would work with both friend groups and cross-realm lists, making it very inclusive for those of us who like to pull in people for raids from every corner of the globe. The premise of this works off the idea of scaling – similar to how rares and elites have been working since Patch 5.1. The minimum a group can have is 10 but will add health (and presumably damage) depending on how many people you have, up to 25 players. What also makes this convenient is that loot works exactly the same as LFR – it is awarded individually, based on loot specialization. This means, as promised, that there is no reason to not bring anyone you so choose, so long as you have a balanced role makeup. The devs seem adamant that they want this feature to be for everyone – no minimum ilvl requirement, and that every player should be able to come, rather than a specific class.

Blizzard making a move towards an inclusive social feature such as this is a big deal, especially to someone like me who only ever does raiding these days in a casual environment. My guild’s raid team is a very bare-bones 10-player raid that very frequently pulls in cross-realm players and cancels raids when we can’t scrape together 10 people for behind-the-curve content. The idea of being able to raid with anyone on current content and bringing a variable number of folks gives us way more freedom in terms of both difficulty of content (like raid meta achievements, which the blog said will be doable on Flex difficulty) and flexibility of raid filling. Giving the WoW audience even more reasons to pick and choose their raid experience as they see fit is always a move in the right direction.

Are there some drawbacks here? Absolutely. There’s the ilvl bloat we’re experiencing right now – we’re two content tiers in and we have many orders of ilvl gear that a potential casual player is looking at. Adding yet another swath of gear in between LFR and normal is only going to muddy this further. Will it give players more choices or is it going to just make attempting to figure out upgrade paths even more of a nightmare? There’s also the concern of this pulling even more skilled or socially-connected players away from the potential LFR pool. While random grouping methods have proliferated, I still feel that the subset of players that this is catering to might make them flee from the LFR queues. Lastly, the fact that all three have separate lockouts means there’s going to be some complaining of feeling like you “need” to do all three in order to obtain the best gear as fast as you can, especially if your guild is stuck behind a gear check.

Overall, though, I can’t help but seeing this as a future positive. My guild is even talking about this replacing LFR nights for us – we go in a big group of guildies and friends from other realms on a set night to help us get LFR gear for normal-mode raiding. If we get our own gear and perhaps tackle slightly harder content with only people we choose, this seems like an obvious choice. It cuts out the drawbacks from LFR and gives us more control over our raid experience, socially. We can invite cross-realm friends, do alt raids easier, and not have to cancel raid nights as much. I don’t think flex raiding is going to replace normal raid content for us, even though we only raid four hours a week. Are there guilds that could use this as a replacement for both LFR and normal modes? Absolutely. The idea that you can make that kind of choice now as a smaller, more casual or social guild is great!

I would even speculate that this tool might give rise to the pick-up raid group again on realms that might have lost out due to smaller, less experienced populations (so any place that wasn’t Mal’ganis, basically) – groups could form via Trade Chat again, and there’d be no loot disputes and would still only need a modicum of skill to participate, as well as the variable size making things a lot easier.  People that have long complained about how LFR/LFG destroyed server communities might see a breath of life to local raiding again. Basically, I’m tentatively optimistic about this as I feel that this is one of the few features that’ve announced in Mists of Pandaria that caters directly to the kinds of things I like to do in-game for precisely the people I want to do it with.

The question that remains in my mind is this – was this the big feature that Ghostcrawler had been teasing at for so long? Is it one of many things that Patch 5.4 promises? I’m excited if this is just the start of a laundry list of things that might improve our quality of (raiding) life in WoW in the future.

As for you guys, are you hyped about this possible addition? Does it affect you at all? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

A Bone to Pick

My guildies dressed up as dinosaurs.

My guildies dressed up as dinosaurs.

Despite the fact that there’s literally so many things to discuss about Patch 5.2, I feel like it’s a minute topic on a brain wandering idea that I want to focus on. I’ll get into my truly exciting discussion about waves and sea spray later, trust me.

My guildmates, particularly some of the people I play the game with the most, are mount and pet collectors. If there’s a pet out there, we have to have it, as soon as humanly possible. So when Patch 5.2 announced that there would be a giant island just for grinding out pets and mounts, needless to say we had to be there. See, the thing about the Isle of Giants is that it really is better go in a group. The dinosaurs (as well as the troll NPCs) all drop Giant Dinosaur bones, which is the currency used to purchase the Spectral Porcupette and the Bone-White Primal Raptor. The biggest dinosaurs on the island drop the most bones and are almost impossible to solo. So it seemed pretty common sense that we should group up with a proper tank and healer and grind out as many dinosaurs and Dinomancers as we could for a few hours to get possible pets and bones for everyone.

The way the bones work is that they are not shared; each cachet of bones from a mob is looted to one person from the tap group, round robin style. This means that to assure that everyone gets roughly the same amount of bones, you have to kill roughly the same amount of highest health mobs, and so on down the line. This is pretty easy to do if you have an organized group, so no problem there, right? Well while we were waiting for one of our party to get back from AFK, we noticed a curious conversation crop up in General chat. One of the server’s most recognizable farmers (who wasn’t a bot/cheating) was very strongly arguing about how the bones should be a shared loot to all parties involved in a kill. I found this really intriguing because it reminded me of something I had just said earlier when we were discussing the drop function: that Blizzard specifically designed these mobs to be most efficiently killed in a group that is concerned about the eventual fairness of everyone involved. This kind of mechanism hasn’t been seen since really Vanilla, where many tasks were unable to be attained without a huge raid group, much less solo. However, it is possible to solo some of the dinosaurs, but your bones per hour rate isn’t as efficient as a group of five who can tackle the biggest dinos. So it is possible to do this at your own pace. However, this farmer was really mad that all bones weren’t shared equally in a group. We pointed out that maybe his real motivation was less about a “fair share” so much as he wanted to be able to benefit from soloing and one-time grouping mechanics to take down a dinosaur but be fairly unconcerned with a group after that. It was seemingly mercenary to me.

This is how a lot of WoW mechanics work now, and I think that’s fine. I’m not saying that this is decaying WoW’s social space or people’s ability to be nice to eachother. For a lot of things, the potential to grief and content to be unseen was there with the old ways of doing things. The way that rare mobs have shared taps, world bosses have faction taps means a lot more people have a shot at getting something for their time. The fact that the dinosaur bones have two possible ways of proceeding – one is soloing and one is working with a group to ensure that everyone receives the same rewards is fascinating to me. It shows a mixture of both the old and the new. Maybe it was intentional, maybe it wasn’t. The fact that it’s got two settings due to the health and bone drops scaling on mob size is cool to me. I think in a lot of cases, a lot of people do not have a group to do this with (which I noted) and so working towards a group’s equal progress for each individual is either new or something they can’t do. But isn’t this maybe a good time to take initiative and work on one? It doesn’t take more than a forum post or a call in Trade/General to form a rough alliance to assure that everyone gets some bones and pets. But I can see where people’s trust in other random individuals have decayed over time, potentially.

I have hope though.

My group managed to get roughly the same amount of bones for everyone (other than the person who was AFK for an hour) and secured all four raptor pets for everyone in the group, including some extras for significant others. When we all have our shiny Spectral Porcupettes or Bone-White Primal Raptors, it will be nice to think back on all the laughing on Mumble and screams when we aggroed an extra Primal Devilsaur. I’m exceptionally lucky that I have that, and I wonder if that’s what Blizzard is trying to push for again: not only mechanics to give everyone to see the content, but to possibly see it together.

What do you guys think about this?

Patch 5.2 – The Problem with Twins, Part 2

Patch 5.2 finally drops next Tuesday and with it, there has been quite a few things of note, particularly regarding the Twin Consort bosses I discussed. The 5.2 trailer, which was posted yesterday, was actually exciting and got me pumped for the raid content. The poetry, the story, feels like some of the patch trailers we’ve gotten before but a lot more cinematic. And while we got a glimpse of a lot of the story behind the Thunder King and his lackeys in the raid, guess who were missing.

That’s right, our wonderful twin ladies, Lu’lin and Suen. Kinda curious, don’t you think? Unfortunately my cynicism that Blizzard left them out of the trailer due to overwhelming shame might have a slightly more logical explanation, courtesy of the developer interview regarding all of the Throne of Thunder bosses earlier this week. This interview, incidentally, is what spurred me to post yet another discussion about these two Mogu sex robots bodyguards.

My thoughts on why the Twin Consorts were left out of the trailer might have been a mid-stream design change to their lore, as per Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas:

An earlier version of the concept for the fight had them actually being spirits of the Sun and Moon, but that didn’t feel quite right (and we all know that the only true spirit of the Moon is Elune, and clearly she was not locked away by the Thunder King).

Now, this exceptionally generous on my part, but I suspect it is the only reason why they’d leave these female bosses out of the trailer video, given how long the machinima take to make. But like so many other things, I wonder if it because they like to leave developing female models for things out or to the last minute because everyone at Blizzard apparently is terrified about designing female models (worgen anyone?) Either way, it’s pretty odd that they are not in the trailer. I can distinctly remember most of them getting at least a second or two of screen time. (The only other female boss is Mar’li and the Council fight she’s a part of wasn’t in the trailer either.)

From people who have tested the bosses on PTR, and in even in just looking at the boss design, it’s pretty clear they kept the Sun/Moon aesthetic in the two of them.

It’s the rest of the interview that left me sputtering yesterday on Twitter:

  • Rumored to be the only known female mogu in existence, Lei Shen keeps his trophies close, and their combined arsenal against interlopers closer.
  • Players may have noticed the complete absence of any female mogu in their exploration of the continent of Pandaria.
  • Indeed, these were specifically created by Lei Shen and empowered to serve and guard him, and they are a direct reflection of his will rather than any broader sense of mogu culture as a whole.

Are the developers reading my blog? It seems like they are taking the heavy early criticism of why the hell there’s two female Mogu as raid bosses but not anywhere in Mogu society to heart.  However, there’s so many more questions left open here now that it’s canonically known that they are the only two in existence and only created by Lei Shen. Such as, “Why would an essentially monogender culture have a leader that creates women” or maybe “Why are they sexualized?” Consorts are very specifically a sexualized term, and maybe the developers are mixing real world stuff with Mogu again, but there’s this lingering feeling that these two women weren’t shaped out of stone just to guard Lei Shen. All of this bothers me, little piece by little piece.

Maybe it’s the objectified language in the copy and interview – “treasures” “possessions” “trophies.” Lei Shen created the only two women in existence for their race and they aren’t even granted true humanity in any discussions surrounding them. It’s the fact that they were created to be submissive and servile to him, to protect him. It’s the fact that they are the sexualized equivalent of guard dogs. Giving life out of stone is a pretty terrifying concept as well when you wonder where Lei Shen got the souls (do they have souls) for this purpose.

The only high point in the discussion about these two was the fan-ramblings about what possibly inspired Lei Shen – why not create a bulky Mogu woman, particularly if they are bodyguards? Cynwise suggested that it might be possible fashioning after Burning Crusade eredari, which would explain the model choice. However, I suspect the model choice is less a reflection of Lei Shen’s ideals and more the developers still.

All in all, these two bosses are a serious dig in my excitement for this upcoming patch. We’ve had a lot of trouble with female NPCs in Pandaria thus far and the raid dungeons have not been exempt from this – the last three did not heavily feature any canonically indicated female bosses aside from Lei Shi (the elemental) and Grand Empress Shek’seer (whether or not any of the other Heart of Fear bosses were women is up in the air.) So the fact that the new raid only features three women, two of whom are prized constructs created by Lei Shen and were left out of the official trailer, makes me upset.

Throne has an abundance of bosses and only 3 of them (the Twins, and Mar’li) are actually women. This is in fact a step up from the last raids we have done, but it still feels like a step backwards in terms of Blizzard’s creative development choices.

Patch 5.2 – The Problem with Twins

New Mogu female model in Patch 5.2.

Last week a preview of patch 5.2 dropped, with all the attendant fanfare and data-mining. It seems the focus of this newest content patch (which is going up on the PTR after the holidays) is the Thunder King, along with a corresponding raid Throne of Thunder, which is supposedly reminiscent of Ulduar in both size and aesthetics. What caught my attention initially, other than benefits for Sunsong Ranch was this gossip about how a female mogu model had been dug up.

I raced over to Wowhead to get a gander at what it might look like and was presented with this. We finally get a female version of one of the NPC races in game (out of so many that do not have female counterparts) and it is that? I mean, I’m always glad for more representation but this feels like a step in the wrong direction. It is obviously skinned over a draenei female’s animations/skeleton for the most part, but it is intensely dimorphic (like draenei, troll and worgen women) and very sexualized. Granted,  while the clothing isn’t much different than what mogu dudes wear, the effect combined with the posture, ornamentation and -ahem- ample cleavage skews the aesthetics in quite a distinct direction. At the very least the faces and headdresses radiate more power than sex. That is something, right?

Wrong!

Apparently this model isn’t an added NPC model for mogu areas, this is one half of a set of raid bosses. Yup, that’s right, we’re getting the Eredar Twins v.2 in the Throne of Thunder! Two more specific, incredibly sexualized models that only ever make an appearance as a raid boss (and one quest NPC.) And get this – the name of these mogu women in the raid are Twin Consorts. That’s right, the Thunder King has two royal “partners” (or chattel) in whatever way you take that to mean. But given the name, the attire and the history with this sort of thing, I am guessing we are in for a boss encounter that is full of breathy, sensual emotes. We’ve seen it before, why not again? Why not make them curled up and flanking the Thunder King’s throne? I’m not holding my breath that there’s going to be some radical change of tack for these ladies.

But that’s not even the weirdest part.

Given the idea that these Mogu female models are only going to be present in the raid, it sort of rattles the tenuous consistency that pervaded the Mogu as a race. While most other NPC races that only feature male models sort of laugh off this idea that their women are tucked safely away in villages somewhere, Mogu could pass as a seemingly male-only race because as far I could understand, they weren’t really constrained by the issues of flesh that most other races are. The idea that they were brutish proto-beings (or maybe even Titan constructs?) twisted by the waters of the Vale gives rise to the idea that created, rather than born. This means that they aren’t tied to reproduction and so Mogu females could just be a figment. Or, if they originally were mortal, just hidden away from view like every other group of NPCs that Blizzard has neglected to realistically portray. It raises a lot of questions and creepy concerns with this sudden and very specific appearance of just two women in the entirety of Mogu society – especially if they are merely decadent sexual companions to the Thunder King.

The Mogu are adept fleshcrafters and spiritbinders and very often view death as inconsequential. They also have a habit of putting spirits into shaped stone bodies, some from Mogu who “died” and were resurrected and others from those they’ve conquered or enslaved. Are the Twin Consorts created out of stone and enslaved spirits of the Thunder king? Were they his lovers or companions prior to his death and entombed with his unmarred body? Were they brought into being as some sort of Mogu ideal of decadence, like Pygmalion creating his ideal woman out of marble? So many possible theories and all of them make me squirm. Given the fact that Blizzard has a terrible track record with populating the NPC world with women, coupled with their narratives regarding their place in the world, it seems likely that these consorts could be far more chilling than I could ever imagine.

This expansion has been slightly better than most in terms of representing stories and background characters that are also women. This just feels like a step backwards and a reminder that so many times, women are an afterthought to the creative development team. I know that making two models just to represent a non-PC race is extra development time, but default models for NPC races are still coded as men only (Vrykul/Hyldnir aside), and this bothers me. It makes the female exceptions in the Eredar and now the Mogu stick out like sore thumbs and it always seems to give rise to really sexist representations.  This creates the message that the non-PC women of Azeroth are not terribly important.

In all likelihood, Blizzard doesn’t see this as a problem and it definitely shows. Taking the time out to fully represent NPCs races in such a narrow way intimates a very specific mindset. It is probably “natural” to stick a couple of women (sexy ones, no less) to “change it up a bit” probably because so much of our world (not just Azeroth) is still depicted as men only. It is catering to a male audience and the male gaze when the token women stuck in the scenery are there as eye candy. While Blizzard has made leaps and bounds in both their main stories and player character races (to some extent), their lack of thought into fleshing out the rest of the world is pretty clear to anyone who cares to look.

 

This Fight’s On Fire: Brawler’s Guild in 5.1

The Brawler's Pit in Deep Run Tram, Stormwind When Blizzard first announced this feature, I was excited. I loved soloing things! I really enjoyed being able to outlive and survive something incredibly big. Even though I was slightly squishy on my mage, I was a pretty veteran player and could keep up. I even had entire alts developed towards being able to solo stuff as well. The idea of being a non-traditional (see: Not a Death Knight) soloer is something I’ve always enjoyed.

Then all the drawbacks came in – invites would be sold via the Black Market Auction House. It would be open to a very select group of people at first. It was difficult in nature. It would be a queued line. And originally, that it had spectators and they were allowed to toss buffs or debuffs at you. This made me lose all interest in competing at first. The idea that your skill mattered very little if you were someone that would earn a lot of buffs or debuffs galled me in terms of having it be pure display of your ability to solo stuff. Having spectators made me a little queasy in terms of possible jeering as well. Thankfully, they removed the buffs/debuffs thing early on, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. This wasn’t necessarily the soloing challenge I had in mind, and it seemed to me that it was geared towards a different sort of people. An affluent, fairly well-geared person that enjoyed putting on a show. It was very gladiatorial in that aspect and I never considered myself as such. So in my mind, it would attract at first just the top-end raider types on my server who made most of their gold selling heroic Deathwing mount runs or something of that nature. I’d never be able to afford an invite, I’d never get in, and if I did, I’d be boo’ed to hell and back.

Curiously, I found myself sitting at the Black Market Auction House even still, chasing around bids as they spiraled up and up. I managed to scoot away with one for 60k, very pricey for the privilege of getting in on this on the first day, but with the same feeling of excitement nonetheless. What was wrong with me? Didn’t I already eschew the idea of the people getting into the Brawler’s Guild? I pushed the feeling aside and made my way to where-ever this guild might actually be. There was no note in the mail and no real indication other than the achievement.

The bar where the matches are held (Alliance-side, at least. Horde is actually held in Orgrimmar proper and is something akin to a tennis match with more spiked fencing) lives up to the hype: it’s tucked away in the tracks of the Deeprun Tram, far away from the civilized Stormwind. It’s full of NPCs who drink, fight, spectate and make bets. There’s shady vendors at every turn, dimly lit booths for people to drink and make deals. It’s modern, industrial and if the game were in real life, undoubtably would flirt with no smoking laws. You walk past the bouncers and definitely get the feeling that you’re in someone’s exclusive and dirty club.

Strangely, I didn’t really see all the high-end people (what ones my server actually has) I expected to be there on the first night; the same people who I saw with Cloud Serpents first after they had spend their first 24 hours of being 90 grinding out eggs without competition. No, it was a lot of people like me – somewhat casual, decently geared but not in full heroic kit. Players with some non-trivial amount of money but not a ton of obvious AH barons. Regular folk who obviously had the passion and the interest and who, it seemed to me, really wanted to be there. This is where my expectations and my reality met head-on and collided.

Everyone was really having a good time.

The stuffy elitism and stand-offishness that I had imagined in my head was replaced with a sense of camaraderie as I started to crank over matches. Maybe it was by the dint of our server designation (RP-PVE) but even the people piped in from other RP realms by CRZ were enthusiastically cheering and commentating matches. No one was behaving badly or being rude. I only had to snark one person for using crappy language. Overall, I felt pretty welcomed. Despite a fairly solid queue over the first day and the next, people started to recognize me really quickly. Friendships and alliances formed up even with other server folk; we gave out tips on fights, grouped together for buffs and shared feasts for optimal stat bonuses. Spectators and competitors alike would help resurrect the dead. I looked forward to going and seeing the same people being around. I even added a couple people to Battle.net.

If Blizzard had intended the small gateway growth to be a hidden social mechanic, then I think they are pretty genius in that respect. I’ve already made a friend or two and we’ve done stuff outside of Brawler’s Guild even. It’s fun seeing them succeed at matches or try out new things, and the banter between matches when you’re waiting on a deep queue keeps things from getting boring.

Murderaffes, Bombs and the Impending Enrage

Socializing and atmosphere aside, Blizzard did a decently good job creating and implementing the fights and queue mechanics themselves. For people who are not in the guild, it goes something like this:

  • A competitor talks to a bouncer standing at the match pit and gets in line. This queue is a buff that’s cast on you. You are alerted in-game when you next in line so you can prepare, and you can check your place in line with the bouncers as well. Leaving the Brawler’s Guild arena area will drop the buff from you.
  • You are ported into the arena when your fight is ready.
  • All fights are capped with a 3-minute enrage timer that lights up the floor nearing the 3-minute mark and then pelts you with fireballs until you die. Dying at the enrage even if boss also goes down results in a Brawler’s reward but no win to push you up in rank. This is so that tanks and healers can’t queue and elongate a fight to infinity. It also keeps queues moving decently fast though the expected time Blizzard wants you to spend in a queue is 15-30 minutes.

This process, via earned victories against bosses, moves you up from rank to rank. There are 8 ranks so far and most of the ranks have 3-4 bosses. The bosses are in a set order so that everyone fights the same mobs. A person in their first match of rank 5 will fight the same boss someone else at the same spot will. It makes things like watching others beneficial as it can give you ideas about how to approach a fight. The fights themselves are a mixture of all sorts of mechanics — council fights, environmental damage, kiting/facetanking, high DPS/burn fights, and using particular fight mechanics to debuff the boss. No one spec or class is ultimately suited better for all of the fights. Some classes that can kite effectively are good, but other classes that can self-heal are better on others. Some are tough for melee, some are tough for ranged. Most of the fights are memorable, either for being a smaller version of a more well-known fight, a famous NPC (which happens more in higher ranks) or a particularly amusing opponent. (Bruce, the first fight in Rank 1, is such an elegantly named croc that most people cheer him on instead of the player.) Some people will breeze through a string of fights and then get completely stuck on another. I’ve not really seen anyone approach the same fight quite the same way.

The fights I’ve managed to get stuck on were the fights with a very tight enrage timer with high execution needs. These are fights that require staying alive or kiting but also having to put out 60k DPS, somehow. All in all, even the fights I’ve gotten stuck on, I’ve had a decent enough time just trying over and over again to get it right and feeling that rush of adrenaline when I barely eek out a win while outrunning some raining fire.

The Downswing of Brawler’s Guild

My initial feelings on Brawler’s Guild were ultimately positive, but nothing gold can stay.

The first three or four days of the guild were really the pinnacle of the experience. I hadn’t expected Brawler’s Guild to be perfect forever, but I hadn’t foreseen that the good times would change so quickly.

Firstly, CRZ can be both a burden and blessing. CRZ is enabled for the zone provided that your server has not enough people queuing or participating on the server. I’m not sure how this works entirely, but the first couple of days were awesome, at least for me: RPers had flocked to spectate and made it definitely feel like a seedy fight club. It made the queues a bit unbearable at prime time and nights before midnight, but the spirit of socializing was fun. I can understand that this “benefit” can vary wildly depending on server designation and populations. Not every server is quite as quirky or polite as mine it seems.

However, CRZ has already been disabled on my server. That means that the place is back to being empty, with the same competitors queuing until the new people show up every day at 1 AM or so. This means watching the same matches but missing a lot of the patter and banter that made them a bit more theatrical.

Secondly, a lot of people are finding out that there is a hidden wall implemented that is beyond skill and that is gear. You will not be successful past rank 4 fights and every rank thereafter without increasingly decent gear, even if you are a burst class. If you aren’t? Good luck getting past certain fights. I wouldn’t say the mixture of mechanics are friendly in general, but there is definitely a need for a minimum level of gear to be able to DPS enough to not die to the enrage. What I had thought initially needed was just skill, but ultimately because it is a PVE competition, gear will always be a factor. I found this out the hard way – I was constantly dying to Akama in Rank 6 just due to not doing enough DPS on my most successful attempts when I wasn’t dying all the other attempts to being eaten alive. It seemed so hard to me that I couldn’t burst him down before getting overwhelmed by adds, and I couldn’t pull off him enough to DPS down adds without losing DPS time on him. Being a mage, I had very little in the way of survivability, so I was getting increasingly frustrated. I figured it might be a spec issue and went not only arcane but frost at one point, only to realize that it might be a gear thing. People who were progressing past me onto Rank 7 all had full 496 and above gear. Whispers were going around that some fights people were getting stuck on up there were needing 80k DPS! I got some upgrades and while the fight didn’t become magically easier, I did beat it the first time around with the new gear and as fire. This was the proof I needed for my point and I felt rather disappointed about it.

The problem is that one of the reasons I got into solo PVE stuff was because a lot of it just came down to skill or spec and being creative. Gear isn’t creative, it is merely a tool to future success but needing group PVE content gear for solo PVE content is a little bit disappointing because it brings that elitism I had been wary of at first back into play. You’re not going to see someone who casually raids at Rank 8 any time soon. I’m sure there’s a couple people who might, but for most of us, we’re not acquiring gear fast enough doing 3 normal bosses a week (even with LFR) to break required DPS checks even with perfect execution in Brawler’s Guild. We’re just not. I would like to reach rank 7 for the once-a-day invites I can sell or hand out to guilds mates, but I know Rank 8 is a little out of my reach.

Thirdly, there’s also problems with people. I know that this is probably just me being a whiny baby given that my server is downright docile in comparison to others like Illidan or Kel’thuzad or Mal’ganis but it seems to have opened up enough so that people who legitimately aren’t concerned with having fun or behaving or treating others well are there. I was doing dailies last night when I see two people from a notoriously vulgar guild talking in General about how they got the invites dropped off rares. Against my better judgement, I go to take a swing at Akama later and see them there, only to have to ask them to not talk about “raping a boss.” What ensued was a genuinely upsetting and creepy convo wherein I had to report both for language and felt myself pretty badly shaken for the entire interaction.

Could this have happened on Day 1? Oh absolutely. But the less effort, time or gold/resources something takes, the less people feel invested in being decent. It’s like Trade Chat – anyone can talk, so everyone, even the shitty people, feel like they can and should contribute. If this is elitism, then I’m okay with being called that. I’m not talking about people who lose fights regularly or whathaveyou, I’m talking about people who want to do nothing but show up and drag the same shitty language and shitty attitudes with them because they are narrow-minded gamers and they don’t have to care about anyone else. It’s like a battleground except you’re forced to be in the same room with them at all times due to the nature of Brawler’s Guild. It made me not want to go back honestly.

So despite my honeymoon period at the beginning, I can definitely see that my time spent at Brawler’s Guild will not be quite the same as when I had first stepped in. However, was it money well spent? Oh absolutely. I really like the idea of competing in solo PVE situations and the added social layer has been pretty fun. However, unfortunately like everything in WoW, if I want to participate, I have to put up with the fact that there are assholes. They might not be able to debuff me during a fight, but they’ve managed to debuff me a bit emotionally.

Blizzard hit on a good thing here, so I do hope they expand it. However, as the difficulty scales up and up, I wonder if the rest of us can keep up with the ever-increasing gear demands and the longer wait as more people jump into the fray.

Amber is the Color of my Gender

Technically I meant to title this as “Amber is the Color of my Sex” to be scientifically accurate but I figured it might attract the wrong kind of attention. Yesterday on Twitter, I was reading a really interesting discussion on the nature of Klaxxi gender. The reason for the speculation was because, despite Blizzard’s past laziness with regards to gendering their non-player races, it could easily be left open to interpretation with a bug race like the Klaxxi.

World of Male-craft

Unfortunately my skepticism that Blizzard made a race that wasn’t populated with dudes unless otherwise specified (Grand Empress Shek’zeer) is high. While Blizzard is exceptionally clever and the Mantids have been left open to interpretation, I don’t think it was done on purpose. Warcraft constantly defaults to “maleness” as the norm when it comes to NPCs unless there’s a reason to duplicate women elsewhere (in the case of some NPCs that have player races.) This isn’t surprising at all given that it is way cheaper on both resources and development time to only create men. Why?

Their logic seemingly is that in a world of war and aggression, wouldn’t most women die or be hidden away so you can perpetuate your tiny little race infinitely after adventurers slaughter billions of your kind every day? On top of that, they seem to not quite “grok” how to gender models as women without extensive time put into it if a model doesn’t have tits or a pink bow on it’s head. Those two facts make representation in the game world a fairly open-and-shut-case. There are notable exceptions to this: Centaur, Naga (who have explicit male/female models), Dragonkin (at some levels), and Harpies/Dryads (who are exclusively female.) The rest are seemingly neutrally gendered or typed male, even in the face of actual logic. That’s just how gameplay will always clash with lore.

This is the largest point in the idea that Blizzard may have made the Mantid at large a mixed gender race. However, this doesn’t stop us from using their lack of detail to our advantage to speculate otherwise.

BUGS, BUGS, BUGS

I’m not an entomologist but insect societies, which the Mantid and such seem to based on, wouldn’t necessarily conform to Blizzard’s “all men all the time” rule when it comes to NPC races. By setting up a female Grand Empress with an unclear line of succession (there’s combat and corpse eating but it doesn’t say if it is matrilineal or what) as well as offspring being sired by her (presumably), they seem to leave the door open for contradicting themselves with their own male bias. Insect societies that behave with a “queen” being the mother figure (see: Grand Empress Zek’hara) like ants and bees do not have an overwhelming majority of their society as male. Most of the workers tend to be female drones, with some breeding males groomed for the queen. It would stand to reason that if the Mantid were similar to these species in terms of being colony insects, that most of them (including the Klaxxi) would be women. However, a couple of facts about the Mantid move them away from being simple colony insects.

1.) They are fearsome in the singular, more-so if fighting in a swarm.

Insects that are typically colony-based do not have individual characteristics such as these, whereas Mantid seem to be capable of doing great damage all on their own, moreso if any group of them stick together.  A single Mantid is able of making personal decisions as well as defending themselves, and could live away from the group.

2.) They do not communicate via collective.

Unlike the typical sci-fi/spec-fi convention, Mantid and Klaxxi talk to eachother using technology via sound frequencies boosted over large areas and developed language, rather than things like scent markers, swarm intelligence or the ubiquitous “hive mind” where all members in the society are linked telepathically to the central power and do not think independently.

These two indicators mean that it is very possible that Mantids are not specifically majority female and may perhaps be a mixed-gender population (which is still not majority male.)

Not So Much Man-Tids: Meritocracy Within an Aristocracy

My strongest case for there being mixed gender despite Blizzard’s plans to leave a fairly non-dimorphic insect species mostly male is the cycle of the Mantid Swarm.

Mantid assaults on the Serpent’s Spine are a terrible thing to experience, both as a defender, and as a mantid. Only the smartest, strongest, or most agile of the mantid survive this encounter, and pandaren defenders are slaughtered outright in terrible numbers.

Mantid survivors make their way back to the great trees, often bearing trophies of their conquests. There, they are welcomed back into the mantid society, and take their place among their civilization according to the level of their deeds. The purpose of this rite of passage is unclear. but those who travel beyond the wall are forewarned: any mantid you encounter beyond the wall is a hardened veteran, to be feared and respected.

Mantid Swarm lore scroll in-game

In short, the Mantids and by virtue the Klaxxi, are a merit-based insect society. Those that we see in-game that are not throwing themselves against the wall as cannon fodder are the highest achieved in Mantid culture. At no point are these best and brightest codified as male, even those who are pegged as the most strong. Blade dancers, manipulators and bladeguards alike are, despite the game’s norm, potentially female. Due to WoW having no dimorphism in body types among the Mantids (save for the Empress) means that we have a potential for yet another mixed-gender NPC race. Granted, I still believe that this is by accident, but the idea of the Mantid society defining themselves by accomplishment seems more a true reflection of the Warcraft gender politics than even us as player characters are. In this vein, it’s very possible that the Empress ascends to the throne by virtue of being the most accomplished female within the group, rather than strict familial succession. We could conjecture even further and say that gender is fairly irrelevant as how Mantids define themselves in all aspects other than the singular Empress hierarchy. Gender as a societal construct seems fairly irrelevant to them and solely a biological indicator of sex. What a Mantid does during and after the Swarm cycle is far, far more important and is the pinnacle in individualism.

In this respect, despite Dread Wastes giving me the major wiggins, I find the Klaxxi/Mantids very exciting and hope that we see more lore about them in the future. As someone who uses the game to escape the ridiculous gender politics of reality, seeing a society work solely on individual merit makes me gleeful.

WoW Mobile App Goes Free: A Lil’ XT Pet For You!

Apple Cider cheers at Lil' XT

Since Blizzard announced yesterday that their Remote app went completely free for all extra features (including mobile armory, and guild chat), it means that those of us who had been paying up until this point (me) got a free 7 days added to their account, as well as a thank you present of a Lil’ XT code. Since I already have a Lil’ XT, this means that I get to do my first-ever giveaway!

Lil’ XT is a valuable pet and steadfast companion. Not only does it do cute little mechanical idle animations, but it also has a very helpful mechanical wrecking feature. This means other mechanical pets as well as train sets, without needing to plunk down 200G for a Train Wrecker. And it is infinitely reusable. Talk about a bargain! Lil’ XT is also a Mechanical class pet, which means when pet battles come out, it has extra damage towards Beasts. It is a very strong choice for your first Pet Battle team since most of the first fights you encounter are against Beasts!

Just leave a comment below with what your favorite pet to battle with in 5.0.4 will be and I’ll pick a winner this weekend and announce it on Monday as part of my 5.0.4 post. Best of luck!

A Voice From A Warm Place: Dragonwrath Easter Egg in Mists of Pandaria

A blue dragon roars in Jade Forest.

I admit, I haven’t been using my beta access to its fullest since I got it a couple of months ago. The other night, however, a tweet came across my timeline regarding friending options and so I updated my game and hopped in to test it out. Afterwards, the person I was partied with and myself decided to fuss around with pet battles. I was flying around to look for critters to battle with my Spectral Kitten, listening to dance music very LOUDLY, when I heard it.

It was a woman’s voice saying something.

I blinked and looked around. Since I was still in Stormwind limits, I figured it must be an event with buggy zone sound. I asked in party chat if they had heard what I did and they said no. I wondered what it might be but I looked back in my chat log and saw this:

The warm embrace of Tarecgosa’s presence encircles you.

For anyone that doesn’t have a completed legendary staff, this is the text emote that the staff randomly pops up from time to time. I’ve always really loved that little touch; I saved Tarecgosa’s essence and now it is a part of me. It is there to comfort me when I need it. It’s like a little hug when I’m doing stuff in-game. My question then was, “Does this mean there are voice emotes as part of the staff now?”

Due to the addictiveness of pet battles I was in beta for another three hours. My emote popped up again and then I very distinctly heard her voice.

“Your deeds will live on forever in the memory of the blue dragonflight.”

I admit, I started freaking out (in a good way) at that point. I started doing a little digging and it turns out that according to the two MMO-Champion threads that I found (that only got a couple of responses, what gives?) that the staff has a random choice of 5-6 voice emotes when the staff says something to you. It seems like this little easter egg was added in a content patch at the end of July. I am really stoked about this, obviously, as a staff wielder and a dragon fanatic.

But what does it mean? My boyfriend pointed out that they’ve always done little Easter egg stuff with legendaries even after their relevance. (Remember what happened when you brought Atiesh into Shade of Aran’s room?) I want to think that it might be something significant; some additional lore might be down the road or us Dragonwrath holders might be allowed to keep our staves longer into the expansion. I know that this probably isn’t true and it breaks my heart to think that I will have to put down my wonderful staff in a couple weeks; I won’t hear Tarecgosa’s voice again unless I’m AFKing. This is just another regret along with having to weapon-swap just to turn into a blue dragon as well.

Getting a Dragonwrath was such a game-changing experience for me and not just because I had a piece of lore strapped to my back. My experience getting the staff and all the feelings that went along with was so important to me and validated a lot of things I felt about myself – that I was good enough, that I deserved this.  Add to this the fact that Blizzard finally decided to give a little more story to some of the female characters in their world (even if Tarecgosa’s time in this plane was limited) and I was a part of that? Mind-blowing.

So many times in game, hearing voices has meant that something evil was lurking around the corner, undermining our confidence in ourselves, our friends, our sanity. This is a distinct change from that and I am glad for it. I know this won’t mean much to most people, that it is just a collection of pixels, but it warms my heart. There is a wonderful lady dragon’s spirit watching over my gnome, protecting her. Cheering her on from another realm. I know that I will miss having this constant presence gone from my game after it being part of my everyday life for six months now. Still, I have a feeling she won’t be very far from my thoughts.

When I was flying up to the Skyfire to go to Pandaria this morning, I heard her whisper to me.

“Never give up.”

I won’t.

 

 

Mists of Pandaria Cinematic Debut and A Retrospective on WoW Cinematics

The Mists of Pandaria cinematic finally came out this morning, a few short weeks before the release of the pre-MOP 5.0 content patch and a month shy of the expansion dropping. I watched the whole thing a couple of times to get the full effect. My initial feelings is that it is lighthearted but with a touch of seriousness and conveys a tiny snippet of the overall tone of the expansion well. It illustrates the inherent conflict in the Alliance vs. the Horde and sets the Pandaren nation as a contrast to that. It sets up the initial events leading up to the Azeroth primary races finding Pandaria after a naval battle and revealing the rich landscape that they didn’t know about.

Past that though?

MANLY MEN DOIN’ THANGS! HITTING STUFF! BREAKING SHIT! SPITTIN’ ON GROUND! MRARRRRRR! MEN MEN MEN!

I can’t get an accurate confirmation as to whether the pandaren man in the trailer is Chen Stormstout or not but the fact of the matter is that this trailer is literally and utterly masculine. It features male power fantasies and counterpoints them with a more wise, agile man. It’s all men! All men, all the time. Just the way we like it, eh?

Barf!

I could easily see this being an amusing bit of symbolism for masculine conflict resolution and colonialism. The problem is that most of the viewers are not going to reflect on some of the subtleties here. Let’s take a magical journey through this trailer, shall we? (If it helps, some of this could be interpreted as the same tone as this. Thanks, @iateyourfood!)

Note: Lots of Images

I admit I really liked the voice-over asking the really hard questions but the nature analogy seemed very cliché. I will take this moment to say that the animation for the cinematic is a far cry better than the original cinematic. Very lifelike in some places. The cinematic also sets up, as I said before, the initial story of how people find Pandaria: a huge naval battle crash lands Horde and Alliance forces and strands them on this mysterious land shrouded in… well I’m sure you can guess.

Our first manly man, the delegate from the Horde! Let’s call him Thunk Rockjaw. Thunk, despite having eaten several full villages of Night Elves, does still manage to have a beautiful, expressive face. The detail on the armor, hair and his skin is just unbelievable. You can also see his WICKED SICK TATTS, BRO. Is this the same orc from the other cinematics? Who knows. I’m sure someone will figure it out.

And here comes the Alliance. Admiral Chestyhunk. Captain Hunkachunk. Slam Beefchin. Sizzle Beefslab. Reportin’ for duty with a very sharp stick.

He’s going exploring on this jungle island full of ruins that look radically different. This is NEW! STRANGE.

Secondary note: I hate to see you leave, Captain Beefypecs, but I love to watch you go.

Thunk Rockbuff spies the enemy. Sizzlechin Rockgroin uses up most of the animation budget on his glistening, dewy, chest hair. I really wanted to call this pic the PINNACLE_OF_MASCULINITY.jpg. My computer almost exploded from this much testosterone oozing out of my video card but I cooled it down with some compressed air and playing Cher on my iTunes.

RARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

DON’T MAKE A MESS IN OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES, THUNK, PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT NOW

Smolder Beefgrin can ring my beelll, ring my belllllllllll…

I like the salt/mud detail.

I’MMA FIGHT YOU

A CHALLENGER APPEARS

Whoa, it might not be human. Look at those eyes. And the noises! I swear though, if Pandaren have roarly-morwrorrr noises like the Worgen sniff, I am going to turn off all my in-game sounds permanently.

The fur detail is really intense. I’m pretty impressed.

The animations for the Pandaren in the trailer was one of the more impressive things given the weight/height of him. Interestingly enough, Pandaren are as tall/taller than Humans or Orcs, but he looks rather short in the trailer. I liked the fighting stance though.

Captain Sizzlebritches cannot best the Pandaren. For shame.

I couldn’t get a good shot of it but you can see lots of really intriguing clothing details, including the bottles hanging off the belt.

YOU WERE BESTED BY A CAREBEAR, ADMIRAL CHESTHUNK

NOT IN MY HOUSE *expertly arranges post back into place*

Anytime I want to go into discussing toxic masculinity, I think I’ll just use this as a sort of LOLCATS-style reference. Because really, dual-fisting weapons, the vacant expressions, the INTENSE ‘ROID muscles, it is pretty much all jammed into this picture. This is like some sort of Liefield-cum-Conan manliness wet dream.

WELP, WE AT LEAST KNOW HOW EACHOTHER FIGHTS, SO LET’S STOP FIGHTING AND COOPERATE SO WE CAN FIGHT THIS DUDE! FIGHTING! YEAH

I LIKE BEEF JERKY!

*TUSSLE*

The Pandaren moved with a lot more agility and weightlessness than his size would suggest. I couldn’t tell if that was intentional or a flaw in animating mass/gravity.

Uh-oh. Shit’s about to get REAL.

OH MY GOD, I GET WHY  IT IS CALLED MISTS OF PANDARIA NOW

WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Beautiful scenery, with requisite monks training in the background.

Voiceover: What IS worth fighting for?

That’s a very good question, actually.

I feel that the trailer had a very deliberate message/narrative to juxtapose the beliefs of the Pandaren versus the beliefs of the Horde/Alliance. It’s pretty evident that this is going to be the thread that weaves itself through all of the stories of the expansion.

My biggest beef (heh) about the trailer was that despite it playing some notes about the conflict at large, it didn’t really give us a new or unique look that was different from any of the other trailers. Notice how there are no women involved. I know that women would have destroyed the giant EAST MEETS WEST, rage and fighting trope going on, since you know, women are not into being aggressive fighters out to push their empire outwards but would it have killed Blizzard to throw us a bone here? Also, no gnomes. There have NEVER been any gnomes in any trailers at all, ever.

Cinematics: An Interesting Retrospective

The lack of women in this trailer in particular got me thinking, however. How many women HAVE there been in all of the Blizzard cinematics since the game first came out? I knew that I had a pretty decent memory but I went back and watched all of them just to refresh myself. And surprisingly? The trailers have gotten more and MORE male-dominated since Vanilla came out.

World of Warcraft (2004)

One night elf druid versus the five other male characters (dwarf hunter, orc warrior, human mage, tauren shaman, and undead warlock) present in the cinematic. The voice-over is also done by a woman.

The Burning Crusade (2007)

One blood elf mage versus the SIX other male characters plus voice-over and additional footage of the masculine “big bad” Illidan.

Wrath of the Lich King (2008)

No woman in the trailer unless you count Sindragosa*. Trailer predominantly features masculine villain Lich King with voice-over done by King Terenas (also male.)

Cataclysm (2010)

No women in the trailer at all. Trailer predominantly features masculine villain Deathwing with voice-over done by …Deathwing.

Total: 3* women out of 13 men in the first four cinematics, 3 out of 16 if you count MoP.

—–

I can’t really infer much about this other than the fact that despite there being slightly more women involved in the actual storylines in-game, the trailers are woefully under-representing everyone, but mostly women and have been going backwards in this fashion, this newest cinematic being no exception. This also could include the box art and promotional items as well but that’s a longer post for another time. My real interest lies in seeing more women involved as major players in the stories present to the players inside of the game, but some recognition in the big showy cinematics or even the machinamatics would be a real treat.

Stop centering narratives around masculine, Western pursuits for conflict, Blizzard

Until then, enjoy the Thunk and Captain Burlychest v.2.