Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why Pandas are more silly than Cows

Please don't consider this me trying to convince you. I can't. Nor can you convince me. It is not possible to derive matters of taste with the help of logical arguments. However, what we can do is elaborate. I want to try to be a bit more objective in this post and try to explain many peoples' reactions to readers who are interested in understanding it.

David wondered in his latest comment how I can find Pandas more silly than cowmen. There's a simple reason: Kung Fu Panda. If that movie and all the merchandise around it didn't exist, I might not be exactly thrilled by Pandas, but it would be much less of a problem.

Note: I think that movie is funny. It's just not compatible with WoW.

Now, if Blizzard desperately wanted to add Pandas, irrespective of the current hype around them, they should have tried to make their Pandas as different as they can possibly be from Kung Fu Panda. Watching Blizzard's cinematic, however, reveals that they did not only not try, but actually tried to make their Pandas similar to Kung Fu Panda!

The racial is about cooking - watch that Kung Fu Panda trailer above! It would have been possible to show us all kinds of Panda classes. Panda Mages, Panda Hunters, Panda Shamans, .. .But those in the cinematic exclusively focus on Monks - martial arts - Kung Fu. And they didn't even try to evade memorable pictures from the movie. I didn't find a screenshot that is more zoomed in, but have a look at that screenshot from the "Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom" trailer.

This is exactly the pose that the WoW Panda does in Blizzard's Cinematic.

I was remembered about that movie instantly!

There are no silly, popular movies about cows as far as I know. Moreover, "cows" is the wrong term to begin with. "Bull" is the right one. A mix of bull and man is deeply rooted in western lore and Minotaurs are quite common in all western fantasy settings. Minotaurs are in no way silly, let alone cute.

I am not opposed to using animals as sterotypes for a race in a fantasy game. This has a very long tradition in all cultures. Fables are usually not silly at all!

But Blizzard not only didn't try to avoid any comparions with Kung Fu Panda, they provoked them! And in doing so they played into a fear that many WoW players did have for a very long time: "They aren't catering to us anymore. They cater to a childish crowd that is even more casual than me".

This was a terrible mistake.


  1. People do things for multiple reasons. Blizzard chose Pandaren due to several factors, according to varying importance. The question is whether the reason you posit for Pandaren is the primary reason or an ulterior reason.

    Pandaren has been the more requested feature at Blizzcons "by a wide margin" for years. So much so, they considered implementing them in Burning Crusade and only only chose against it to keep with the space theme.

    Do you think that the primary reason for making Pandaren the expansion race is Kung Fu Panda or the support of Blizzard's most devoted fans? (I presume you have to really care about Blizzard to buy a con ticket)

    As an aside, does Twilight make Worgen stylistically unacceptable, as it is marketed purposefully at pre-teen girls?

  2. It's about tastes. Personally I would have preferred no Pandas but to me they seem on a par with Dranaie and more serious than the Goblin starting area.

    I think one could correctly defend Blizzard on showing the Panda Monks: there is one new class in MoP and one new race. Showing Pandaran Monks is a twofer showing them both without having to do two scenes. I.e. cheaper.

    If Asian-themes plus Pandas means an incremental million new Asian "subscribers", then it was a brilliant move regardless of what the blogosphere thinks.

  3. Do you think that the primary reason for making Pandaren the expansion race is Kung Fu Panda or the support of Blizzard's most devoted fans?

    Unfortunately I feel they did it (also), due to Kung Fu Panda. I already wrote in the post: "if Blizzard desperately wanted to add Pandas, irrespective of the current hype around them, they should have tried to make their Pandas as different as they can possibly be from Kung Fu Panda. Watching Blizzard's cinematic, however, reveals that they did not only not try, but actually tried to make their Pandas similar to Kung Fu Panda!"

    They simply didn't consider Kung Fu Panda a trap - they considered it a chance. At least in my case that's very wrong.

    On Twilight and Werewolves:
    First, I wasn't much affected, maybe because I didn't watch Twilight. Second, there had been werewolves at exactly that location in Azeroth since the beginning. It wasn't streching the lore. Most importantly, however, werewolves aren't silly - not even the ones in Twilight as far as I know. Yes, they are masculine pre-teen girl dreems. But they are not silly.
    It wasn't an issue for me.

    Asking the WoW fanbase what they wants next is, by the way, stupid. Did you read some of the questions asked at Blizzcon? These people care more about whether the Paladin is overpowered than anything else. They are fanatical fans (you called them devoted) and in no way represent the player base.
    I quite agree with Wolfshead on WoW fans. If I were a dev, I'd hate those fans.

  4. Look at it like this. I have no problem with a race of cats. Make them like that and it's ok.

    But make them like this and nothing is ok. You messed it up! The name of the game is World of Warcraft. It can't be World of LolCraft at the same time, no matter how much Blizzard wishes to cater to absolutely everybody and her mother.

    And just for the record: I like Lolcats. I think they are cute. Just don't put them in World of Warcraft ;)

  5. Gnomes.

    Re-download WoW for the free trial, Youtube a gnome 1-20, talk about WoW being a serious game with serious races.

    As for ulterior panda motives, I dunno man, I think you're in the deep end. Why would they show a Pandaren mage when the new class is... monk? Kung Fu Panda doesn't own pandas, kung fu, standing on bamboo sticks in a tiger-crane (or whatever) pose, and walking on eggshells around the existence of the movie would have only made the comparison more noticeable.

    I get it. I giggled at the iPad when it was first announced too. Pandas fit in with gnomes and Tauren and Taunka and all the other bizarre races Blizzard squeezes in.

  6. I now deleted several comments on that post that were simply stating their opinion and in no way considering what I have written in this post.

    If you write ...

    "Furbolgs. Sentient, bipedal, anthropomorphic bears. in warcraft for years. Pandas. Type of bear. I don't get whats hard about that. "

    ... then I delete this, because I just explained exactly this very difference. And the commenter ignores this point - and thus this post - completely.

    @Azuriel, you might want to reconsider that iPad comparision.

  7. @Azuriel
    I understand what you're saying, but i think you misunderstand the guy. *slams door

    really though, i think you're
    saying (WoW)gnomes aren't serious?
    and i can agree with that. but i think what nils has said, is it's not just a matter of whether or not you find "x" race purely whimsical or not, it's also the manner and context in which they're presented. gnomes are and have been a fantasy standard whereas i'm not aware of any pandaren fiction other than said movies.

  8. "Kung Fu Panda" is a Hollywood product and therefore stolen from older material and then dumbed-down.

    I'm not sure of the original source of martial arts pandas balancing on bamboo poles in slapstick comedy, but they go back to at least as far as Rumiko Takahashi's "Ranma 1/2", which was published in 1987.

    Here's a link to her interpretation of the idea:


  9. Thanks a lot for that link, Chaos Engineer!

  10. Unfortunately, I don't think it is a terrible mistake, at least not from a business perspective. I have a bit of a theory though.

    My theory is that Blizzard is now using WoW to try to draw in as many new players as possible. They grabbed the original MMO crowd when WoW first started, and then expanded from there. Most of that original crowd has probably moved on, so they've slowly changed the themes of the game to appeal to different demographics.

    The value in this is that it expands the size of the MMO market. Once a player has tried one MMO, they're willing to try another. Which becomes useful whenever Blizzard gets around to actually releasing their next MMO.

    My bet is that Blizzard's next MMO is going to be much more focused in it's lore and execution. And I would also place money on it being more serious. Why? Because WoW is becoming less serious, and why would they try to run two MMOs without trying to make them as divergent as possible in every way including themes?

  11. As you say, you are not trying to convince anyone, just to explain your point of view, and that's fine. But I don't think it's necessarily fair to say that Pandarens have been implemented in a silly manner (i.e., LoL catz instead of tigers). I know you find them silly, but I think it's worth noting that there are many people out there who don't find them silly.

    I expected there to be Pandarens in the game when it was first released, and always thought they would be added at some point. Also, development of the idea behind Kung-Fu Panda started very shortly after the Pandaren Brewmaster (who had a character inspired by the drunken master trope - hence kung-fu) appeared in Warcraft 3. While they may have been inspired by an earlier influence (as Pandarens presumably were), I wouldn't be surprised at all if someone came up with the concept for Kung-fu Panda while playing Warcraft 3.

    At least it's hard to make panda puns. When I first started playing WoW, every single Tauren in encountered for the first few months had a name that was a cow pun.

  12. @Verilazic

    You're giving Blizzard waaay too much credit. Not even Blizzard is crazy enough to intentionally screw up their major cash cow. Keep in mind blizz hasn't even announced what Titan is yet, so it's not going to be out anytime soon. Therefore the WoW dev's must honestly think MMO gamers want Kung Fu Panda. It's called bad humor.

    Ever since RealID, it's been obvious that the WoW devs have been getting more and more out of touch with their player base. This Kung Fu panda thing is just the latest and most flagrant example.

  13. I think TAGN perfectly sums up the entire panda controversy here:

    On Pandas