Buying into the story for Mists

The story that we are experiencing in Mists of Pandaria is a very different one than we had in previous expansions, even down to the lack of a Big Bad. I wanted to look a bit into the story we have, and ponder if people are feeling like they have a buy in to the story and content of this expansion.

First, let me define the term ‘buy in’ as it applies here. Buy in is when someone feels like they are a part of the experience, and have something to gain or lose in the process that is being followed. If you experienced buy in to the Wrath expansion, you would care if Arthas was stopped, that all of the bosses we faced had to be dealt with, and so on. Buy in for Cataclysm would mean a belief that Deathwing had to die, so the world could be saved. Those expansions had relatively easy buy in. Of course the Lich King had to die, or his undead army would wipe out the living. Of course Deathwing had to die, look what he did to the world!

Mists of Pandaria, though, had no easy buy in. There was no Lich King with an army of undead. There was no Aspect of Death threatening the very breath of life in this world. From the announcement through to the launch, along with the cinematic, all we had to go on was these cuddly, but awesome, pandas that had some truly awesome moves, but also had some negative thoughts surrounding them in two parts. First that they were originally an April fool’s joke, a well known one at that, and second because they were too closely resembling the character in the movie Kung Fu Panda.

These points meant that at least some of the playerbase, many of whom had inactive accounts due to the Cataclysm effect, didn’t feel like the expansion was for them. More than a few ex players of WoW told me they had no interest in playing the game anymore since it became basically a joke. They said it was one of three things of no interest for them. WoW was now 1) Kung Fu Panda, 2) Farmville, or 3) Pokemon. I cannot say for certain that this was due to a lack of immediate buy in via a big bad, but there was definitely something missing for folks when it comes to Mists of Pandaria.

I have found that most of those who left WoW and have come back to the game during Mists have enjoyed it, and have found a new love of the game, though there are definitely still some issues in the content and delivery of it for some people. We have bad guys, and we know where the content will go in the big picture, though perhaps not in the specifics. Garrosh will be the final raid boss, and we will travel through Pandaria facing threats from Sha, Mogu and Mantid as we travel through this newly rediscovered land. How would you know that from simply watching the cinematic and/or seeing the box art in stores?

The delivery of the content has been another issue. In the lead up to the launch of Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard told us how questing would work. You would have a main story line in a zone, and then side quest hubs, but you would not need to do those in order to move on from one zone to the next. While this is true, you do lose some of the story in this, and might lose some of the context needed. What if you left Kun-Lai Summit before heading to the northern area where you battle the trolls? You would not have as much reason to go to Thunder Isle, and might even have lost out on knowing who Lei Shen is, and why we fear him.

People have grown accustomed over three expansions that content will come in set ways. Months after release, the next tier of raid and PvP content will come along, and then months after that the next. After a couple of patches we will face the bad guy, defeat him,and then move on eventually to the new expansion. This has been the way of things during almost the entire explosive growth of WoW, and part of it’s decline. It has become.. a pattern.. a habit. People dislike when habits change.

Mists of Pandaria has thrown that pattern out the window. From the beginning this expansion has been different, and in the time since launch, it has thrown many of the players for a loop. When patch 5.1 PTR began in mid October, many folks flew off the handle, furious that Blizzard dared bring out the next tier of raiding when so few had any chance to complete the launch tier of raiding content. This was not even a month after the game launched!

The problem was not one of a patch too soon, it was a matter of people connecting the words “new patch” with “new raid”. I predicted even before the PTR went live that Blizzard would be putting out content patches in addition to raid patches in the Mists cycle, and this proved to be correct. Ghostcrawler confirmed in our interview of him that they intend to have raid and content patches at a 1:1 ratio. The schedule of release that he mentioned in that interview was 2 months for a content, and 4 months for a raid patch, and with about 3 months since the 5.1 patch launched, this is actually a bit sooner, but still feels right for raid consumption. People are already saying 5.2 is too soon, and that Blizzard needs to delay by as much as four additional weeks!

I don’t know about you, my readers, but I can tell you that my buy in for the final boss was there from the moment I finished Tides of War, and has only increased as the in game content has progressed. I don’t know a lot of players now who are not in agreement with the fact that Garrosh needs to go down. Heck even @AngryOrc1 on twitter is advocating for the death of Garrosh! I am sure that the closer we get to the end of the expansion, more and more players will buy in for the end of Garrosh, and things will get so much more interesting.

Have you bought into the story for Mists? Are you, be you Horde or Alliance, excited to take on Garrosh? Are you excited for 5.2, or would you rather they wait until you personally are ‘ready’? Let us know in the comments!

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