Poised and Ready

I will have screenshots up when beta servers are not dying due to turtles blasting them off their racks, but apparently Ji Firepaw’s dialogue got changed. He now refers to women Pandaren by how poised and ready they are, making his character arc a little more subtle. As Llandrywyn on the MMOC forums espoused:

Where I find myself agreeing with the people who find it inappropriate came about by considering a simple question; “If Ji Firepaw is a flirtatious, bordering on sexist, lecherous old panda, what benefit does it have to his story?” Honestly, I can’t find any real benefit; without this line of dialogue he’s still define as being somewhat flirtatious, impulsive and reckless. His character is still developed in the same way and my overall impression of the character remains unchanged, except I find him somewhat more endearing in that he retains a little more dignity. I freely admit my personal feeling shouldn’t be a factor in the decision making of a creative enterprise, but the question I pose to this thread is this:

“If a character can be conveyed in the same terms, for the same overall feeling and with the same overall character traits, is it not just good and respectful practice for the designers to minimise content that might offend?”

I’m so fucking overjoyed with emotion right now that Blizzard changed this. There’s some speculation that this was part of a larger sweep of changes. Maybe we didn’t cause them to change it directly, maybe we did. I’m counting it as a victory anyways. I’m so proud and emotional about this – Blizzard, you did good this time. You nipped something lazy and uncreative in the bud and worked towards making an NPC that I don’t feel slimy talking to. I’m really happy with myself and everyone who took the time to talk about this issue. We really did something today.

Screenshot from courtesy of Xelestri:

Mists of Pandaria Beta: First Impressions and Nitpicks

I’ve been enjoying the beta greatly. I’ve been taking it slowly, exploring a little bit on my mage and testing out glyphs and talents on random mobs I pass-by while taking screenshots. A lot of people have been doing the high-level quests but I tend to burn out fast when I do that so I’ve been plonking around with testing abilities and rotations primarily. I also rolled a monk (Shojuu) and have been leveling her in the early morning just to avoid the deluge of other people who are in the beta right now.

The art direction and mechanical development of this expansion is in such stark contrast to how half-formed Cataclysm felt; what the Blizzard development teams learned from Cataclysm’s challenges definitely reflects here. Abilities have a lot of polish and additional functionality, and the world feels so much more cohesive and alive. I could get lost in Pandaria and I’ve only been around the Jade Forest at this time.

One thing has stood out to me so far, while testing new Pandaren monks. Early on in the leveling experience, you meet Ji of the Huojin. He’s part of the Firepaw clan that’s in the first village you come to after leaving the initial starting area. As a female Pandaren I ran up to him to turn in my quest, only to be greeted by slightly creepy conversation text.

I went back and did the quest as a male just to see how it changed. It was similar text in that it was constructed similarly, but it did not have nearly the level of inappropriateness.

See for yourself.

What he says to women:
Hello, friend!
You’re some kind of gorgeous, aren’t you? I bet you can’t keep the men off of you!
Join me! You and I are going to be good friends!

What he says to men:
Hello, friend!
You’ve got a strong look to you! I bet you’re all the rage with the ladies!
Join me! You and I are going to be good friends!

It’s a subtle difference but it pulled me out of playing for a moment. I am aware that Ji is written to perhaps be slightly too friendly. I know people in real life who are like that. However, how it reads to me, as a woman in real life – it came off as exceedingly creepy, especially with the absence of a male-centered experience up until that point. The focus is on how beautiful she is, rather than strong. Given how Pandaren society seems to value strength and poise as gender-neutral traits, why make this guy espouse an exception? Add to the fact that this is stuff I hear from weird random dudes I know all the time, with the added “You and I are going to be good friends”…

…well it comes off as weird. I made a forum thread trying to break this down and it will probably get crapped on, but oh well. Part of beta testing is picking out bugs and giving suggestions and I actively want Pandaria to feel as cool as I know it could be, even if you are a lady Pandaren.  Recognition of gender is important, but not in a way that marginalizes. Blizzard hasn’t done a knock-up job of this in some places, but overall when I’ve leveled characters, I’ve not felt like the world I am presented with as a lady toon is wildly different from a male toon. It shouldn’t be that way in a fantasy game anyways! As I explained yesterday when bringing this topic up, “It’s one thing to encounter sexism from other players in roleplay who are dragging that stuff with them, but a game company can make a fantasy world in whatever image they choose. It should let women and men stand on equal footing, especially in a video game where mechanically it’d be a disservice otherwise.”

Obviously there’s a lot of unchallenged sexism in the developers and creatives at Blizzard themselves, but I felt that if I’m given access to the beta in order to make it better, why can’t better mean “less othering”?

Discussion Post: Beta Thoughts So Far?

Panda looks at giant carrot.

Screenshot courtesy of @alexziebart

It’s PANDAMONIUM, folks!

The first wave of beta invites went out (sadly, none to me) and so far we’ve seen a pandalanche of news and quirky things coming from testers. Gloriia of Corgi Island has some primo beta videos and stills from her time spent as a female pandaren monk, so you might want to check that out. I peeked over my boyfriend’s shoulder and watched him run around Stormwind with his flippy belt and flippy hair and very expressive panda lady face (lucky sod.) I’m so far impressed by what Blizzard has offered us in the way of the expansion.

As far as non-pandaren related beta stuff, there’s been some intriguing mage glyphs floating around. Who is going to find random critters to turn into turtles, leaving your indelible magey mark on the world?

What are you excited for in beta so far? What would you do if you got an invite? Have you just been reading every scrap of news you can get your hands on? Let me know in the comments!

PS: If you want to hear the most hilarious Mists of Pandaria discussion, tune into Bifactional this week. *tiptoes away*