After taking a few days to really chew over the announced changes to World of Warcraft, and to really think about the annual subscription package, I realized that I'm not quite as upset as I was on Friday. While I'm still a little miffed about some things, and I'm not going to be holding out any hope that we'll even see a Beta for MoP in the near future, I think that there are definately some good possibilities on the horizon.
Games evolve - it's part of the process
I think the first thing I had to get through my head was that despite the fact that MoP, BC, Wrath, and Cata are all "World of Warcraft" expansions, they are really their own game when you stop and look at them. While they offer the definite plus of being able to carry your account/characters forward to each expansion, each expansion has offered us something different. We fall into the trap though of looking back at the original release, and holding each expansion up in comparison. We get used to a certain style of play, and then every other year or so things get shaken up - and we're back to learning our class again - at least for a couple of hours.
Of course class changes aren't the only thing that takes place, the game changes in so many other ways - many of which we don't see or even care about. For example if you don't PvP, you couldn't care less about Arenas - and the same goes for PvPers that don't raid. We get so wrapped up in these changes though, that we lose sight of the fact that WoW is a game - and a pretty damn big one at that.
Do you really miss Vanilla?
I know I personally make a lot of comments about "back in the day", but I wouldn't trade what we have now for a Vanilla server. I honestly don't think that raiding was more challenging, just a bigger pain in the ass. You can argue all you want about the "skill" you needed to be a great healer, knowing when to downrank, when to cycle out for mana, etc. - but I don't think that really added anything beneficial to the game. Same goes with needing a complex spreadsheet just to figure out if 5 spellpower was better than 2 intellect and 3 spirit.
Remember Rum Tum Tuber surprise and Whipperoot tubers? Farming out Goretusk livers just so you could get a pair of stamina buffs for the night? Resist sets? How much time did we spend running a level 45 dungeon farming nature resist gear so we could fight HuHu? And the elixirs/potions required! I'm going off memory here, but I'm fairly certain any given fight would see me taking no less than 5 elixirs as a tank - same for BC when it first launched. Elixirs for all your primary stats, plus any that might give you an edge. You'd take STR for the Block Value and Parry, AGI for the dodge, a flask, Attack Power for threat, STAM because you could stack flasks and elixirs, a food buff, plus anything else you could find that would give you just a fraction of a point somewhere. I gaurantee I spent more time farming mats and grinding out raiding materials than I spend doing dailies.
None of those things make for 'better' raiders, they just make for raiders with more time. If you really think the content is dumber now than it was then, I feel you're really mistaken. For example let's look at Lucifron (first real radi boss in MC) compared to say, Halfus (first boss in Cata). Lucifron saw you doing some tank swapping, cleansing curses and mind controls, and healing. Halfus has you dealing with variable abilities based on which adds are available, and oh by the way you aren't afforded the luxury of simply assigning all your mages to be on decurse duty becuase you have 35 other riaders to deal with the different mechanics.
When you take all the raid changes, added changes to the UI, and then toss on "Old World" flying - you can take your dreams for going back to Vanilla and toss them out the window. Of course there are those illegal private servers kicking around out there. You're willing to take your chances with those, after all, you're the one that has to look yourself in the mirror every day. And hey, there's loads of entertainment to be found in pirated/illegal games - even if they are just a few years old. Hit me up later and we'll play some M.U.L.E.
Some good, some bad
Like everything that changes, there's always going to be something that you think has changed for the worse. I'm sure that somewhere there's a whole passel of folks complaining that the assault class in Battlefield 3 is now the class that carries medkits - but damn if the graphics don't just blow BF2 right out of the water. I get that some cows are considered sacred, and that we should protect them at all costs - but really they're just another source of BBQ (hey Cloudpoofer, let's talk a trade - BBQ for Apple Spice). Even a mouse will eventually find the cheese you moved, or he'll just eat your shoes.
I'm also aware that not everything that gets announced at Blizzcon makes it to the live servers. From Dance Dance Revolution to Archeology - the changes might look one way, but be something considerably different by the time the final product comes around. Anyone remember the original LFG from BC, or the proposed guild paths from Blizzcon 2 years ago?
I don't know if Pokemon battles will actually go live, or how I'll actually feel about them till I see it in action (makes me REALLY wish I had the original collectors edition for that mini-Diablo) - but just like Arenas, I can choose to not participate in this activity. Hell, unless they add in gear or something like that, Arena's still at least provide me with something I can use. So why should I really get overly upset about someone's collectable game?
Panadas are right up there with the Karluk or whatever the walrus people are called. I thought those guys were really dumb looking, but I'd probably still take one of them over a gnome. I'm not concerned about them being cross factional, red is still dead - I don't need a shilouette to tell me what I'm going after. Besides there are so many avatar changing abilities out there now that it's tough to be 100% sure what you're looking at anyway "Is that a cow or a skeleton coming after me?". I'm sure I'll roll a Panda, and I'm sure I'll roll a monk - just as I'm sure I'll buy the game. I can't imagine the Pandas being any more silly than gnomes or goblins. Of course the goblin starting area WAS pretty bad IMO.
A lightbulb just went off
I just realized that my last sentence cemented in that I will definately pick up MoP, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it as a game. I rolled a Goblin (after letting a few months go by), and I even tried a few Worgen (still never finished the whole starting 20 levels or whatever), and while I hated those experiences, I still like Cata as a whole product. The Goblin starting zone was an abomination, and I'm actually not a fan of Goblins in general (they are better than Gnomes though), but their existance didn't ruin the game for me. I think the Worgen "Running Wild" animation is terrible, but that also doesn't end the game for me.
The things that WoW does right, at least for me, far outweigh the things that are done wrong. I still find the raids challenging, and apparantly I'm not in the minority here since only a handful of guilds have killed H-Ragnaros compared to normal Ragnaros (especially pre-nerfs to the rest of the heroics).
A final thought on the Annual pass with free D3
After my initial fears about this possibly resulting in the launch of MoP landing somewhere after next year's Blizzcon (I'm still not convinced that won't happen), I sat down with a calculator and did some quick math. Based off the 6 month billing cycle, which comes to $12.99/mo - a year of WoW runs me $155. I'm pretty sure D3 will run me $60, so that cuts my annual WoW bill down to $95. So even if I want to "quit" WoW, as long as I get 7 months of enjoyable playtime out of it, the whole deal is a wash. Even with ToR, D3, and SC2:HoTS coming out, I'm pretty sure I'll still get 7 months of enjoyment out of WoW.
After all is said and done, I'm still enjoying WoW, I'll certainly at least try MoP, and I'm still not convinced that ToR will take me away. Pandas won't ruin the game, and yes - I'm a fanboi.