No extra slots, no wardrobe, and plenty of whines: what we learned from Blizzcon Q+A

The question and answer sessions at Blizzcon are one of the great puzzlements of the event. Do people really want to go halfway around the world and get the chance to talk to the developers in real life just so they can repeat endless whines about paladins?

Why yes, yes they do.

WoW Insider liveblog of the Class Q&A panel

WoW Insider liveblog of the General Q&A panel

To me, the class Q&A in particular is a waste of an opportunity. If there’s really nothing new to say, then let the designers talk about class balancing and how they approach the challenge of making a class fun. Maybe we can all learn something (because this is something that Blizzard do very well.)

Larisa commented on Tobold’s blog that when she compared Blizzcon to fan-run SF conventions, the content seemed very weak. I cannot get that thought out of my mind when trying to think what the class Q&A could have been replaced with.

Where are the panels on gender or disability representation in WoW, or roleplaying different races? Where are the theorycrafting nuts talking about how they approach the task of modelling new mechanics? Where are the panels about blogging, about organising raid guilds, about crafting and items? Where are the panels about the economy? Where are the panels on raids and instances? Where are the panels that talk about MMOs in general?

They’re not there. And the reason they aren’t there is the same reason why SF conventions will always be more fun than gaming conventions. It’s because the organisers think we’re thick.

General Q&A hits some points home

I wish they’d monitor the questions better in this session, because half of them are class related and belonged in the other Q&A. Generally still a waste of time but it’s nice to know finally that they didn’t think it was worth adding extra character slots for Cataclysm. Or a wardrobe function.

  • Blizzard aren’t sure how well LFG will work when instances are harder. (They haven’t thought about this? No plans for cross-server friends lists for example?)
  • Jeers for the woman who asked if future female characters could not be dressed in underwear. All they had to say was that they agreed it was an issue and (in fact) that they’d been moving away from that in Wrath anyway. But nope.
  • More jokes for the person who asked for female druid forms. Take a moment, if you will, to imagine the outcry if the standard druid forms had been female …
  • No plans for achievements points to ever be useful (hurrah!).
  • Guild mounts in Cataclysm will be account bound. That means that you could send them cross faction.
  • No immediate plans for a wardrobe (somewhere to store gear that isn’t your general bag space.)
  • No immediate plans for more character slots – wait and see, it’s been discussed. Well, maybe they should have gone a bit further than discussions.
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43 thoughts on “No extra slots, no wardrobe, and plenty of whines: what we learned from Blizzcon Q+A

  1. Wow, seriously, they mocked people for asking about female druid forms? And less underwear. Kind of juvenile.

    As for achievement pts. If they’ll never be useful – why do they exist? Odd.

    • They didn’t really “mock” them. If you read the transcripts you’ll see that they were joking around quite a bit (some of it is really quite funny).

      That said, I find it interesting that Larisa at the Pink Pigtail Inn has a post about the Victoria’s Secret question – but she takes it as if it were a question about female body shape as opposed to female clothing, which I think confirms what my opinion that the questioner got a terrible, unclear answer because she asked a terrible, unclear question. I mean, we (collectively) aren’t sure what she was asking about, so certainly I don’t believe that the devs could be certain either. On top of which, it’s a question with only one answer, because the devs certainly couldn’t go “No, we’ll continue to make our female characters look as if they came out of the Victoria’s Secret catalog.” I hold that if she had asked the question in a more serious manner, be it “Could we have less idealized female forms in the future?” or “Could females stop wearing plate bikinis?” she would have gotten an answer that at the least would be significantly more worthy of blogging about.

      I’ll admit I’m a little baffled about the female druid forms answer, though. I imagine that the difficulties they’ve having are not technical difficulties but design difficulties, i.e. questions like which forms should get a female version. Obviously Tauren/Worgen Cat for starters, but should they also be worried about Bear for any race? If they only did a female Tauren/Worgen Cat, would female Night Elves and Troll druids feel left out? On top of which how would you design a feminine Tree or a distinctive lioness Cat? Let’s not forget they still need to give Moonkins a model revamp too, not to mention all eight original player races. So when they say “difficult to balance” I believe they’re talking about the time and attention necessary to design and make the female druid forms, especially considering, for example, that they knew they were revamping Tree of Life Form way back during those Cataclysm class previews but the model itself has only come out in the past couple of weeks.

      • The question wasn’t ideally put, but that doesn’t justify such a crap answer. They could have grabbed the opportonity to say something intelligent about how they regard the issues with stereotyping vs players wanting good-looking characters, they could have talked about mail bikinis and the alternatives, about the development of how female characters are presented in video games, about their visions for the future… There are so many perspectives on this that they could have brought up if they wanted to.

        I’m far from impressed by this punchline attitude to anwering questions from the audience. But yeah, as Spinks says, it probably says something about how they look at their audience. Which I think is bullshit. There’s no reason why gamers couldn’t be as intelligent and intellectual as SF readers.

    • As Ming says, the cat forms for tauren (also trolls and worgen) are male lions. Also I find tree form looks quite masculine, they could have done a more girly one.

      I don’t see any balance issues with making some female cat forms for the races which currently have strongly gendered ones. Night elves have a perfectly nice cat form and nothing to complain about.

  2. Funny how men don’t seem to care that our forms are idealized just as much as the female ones, with every significant male NPC being hugely musclebound and dominantly authoritarian.

    I don’t see many shy, retiring, physically weak male NPCs of significant note.

    I wonder why men don’t care.

    **note – This isn’t a sarcastic comment, or at least I’m not intending it as such. I can’t find a way to phrase it that doesn’t sound sarcastic. I am genuinely curious as to why women care how they are physically represented in a game while in the same game the men, while being equally unrealistically portrayed, couldn’t give two shits.

      • That’s true, yet it is a surprisingly small percentage of men who would do more than say “Yes I agree” to that post, however well-written it may be.

        I agree with that post from Righteous Orbs yet that doesn’t mean I get worked up over it, or really care all that much.

        And I ask again, why is that?

        It just doesn’t seem to make sense.

      • Chris, I think that’s an interesting question and definitely one worth asking.

        Would it really kill Blizzard to offer some more scholarly type frames for the casters? Would people use them if they were available?

        As to why (some) women care so much — to me the big boobed underwear model character is just another indication that the game is aimed directly at guys and my presence is not welcome. I just want them to throw me a bone and acknowledge that a lot of women play their games too, and that it wouldn’t kill them to offer stuff to us too.

        But I agree totally with Sukugaru that they honestly have been much better with the costuming in Wrath, and I don’t understand why they’re so shy of admitting it in public.

      • > Would it really kill Blizzard to offer some more scholarly
        > type frames for the casters?

        I can only assume that if they would offer different kind body sizes, they would also have to offer every piece of gear for different sizes. And we all know how “good” most pieces scale to every race besides humans. I think that’s where the additional work (and maybe even load for the client) would come from.

      • It has a lot to do with the fact that male characters often represent male fantasies, while female characters…also represent male fantasies. There are definitely men who are upset that their options are limited and unrealistic, just as there are female players who don’t see a problem with female NPCs and PCs running around in armored bras, but at the very least, the male character models are designed with men in mind. “Here!” Blizzard is saying, every time they design some hulking brute with spikes jutting out of his groin, “we made these for you!” It may not be what every guy wants, but it’s made for him.

        On the other hand, when a female player’s plate outfit often has a midriff top, or her character’s best option for a certain level range is a couple of pasties, panties, and thigh-high stockings, it becomes obvious that her character was not designed for her. Her avatar, the thing that represents her in the game, was made for male players too, and the female heroes were not made for her to identify with, but to be attractive to straight men. It’s fine by Blizzard that she wants to play the boys’ game, made for boys (and give them her money), but there are few if any places where she can point out something that was made for her, and that reflects the fact that women have fantasies of heroism and supercompetence and great deeds just like men and aren’t solely concerned with collecting cute little pets.

        That’s why dismissive responses like the one mentioned hurt badly, even if they weren’t meant to. It’s like being told that we’re not real, valued community members, we’re just playing in the boys’ sandbox because they let us, and if we don’t like it, they don’t care if we leave.

    • @ Chris

      Some men do, in fact, care. (I really hate 50% of the male models in the game.)

      However, please realise that whining, “But what about men’s issues,” in a discussion about women’s issues, is really annoying. It is Standard Male Diversionary Tactic #4, that works by diverting all attention away from discussing the women’s issues at hand. Please note that right now, in this comment, I am spending time talking about why the “What about the menz?!?” line is so reviled, when I could be discussing the absolutely horrendous reply given to the Victoria’s Secret question.

      • Please realize that whining about people wondering why the discussion is only about female issues when the issue at hand affects both genders significantly, is really annoying. It is Standard Female Diversionary Tactic #1, that works by diverting all attention away from discussing the fact that people always frame issues as if only women are affected by these changes. Please note that right now, in this comment, I am spending time talking about why the “We can’t talk about men’s issues, every issue must be looked it only from our feminist perspective only” line is so reviled, when I could be discussing the absolutely horrendous lack of attention to male issues here.

    • There is a difference between being idealized and being idealized in underwear.

      I’m don’t believe that an old and wise dragon would really dress itself like Alexstrasza, if she could choose.

  3. If you want a more effete looking male, you have to roll a blood elf :D

    I was always dissatisfied with all the human males looking like farmhands. I mean, how many warlocks would you expect to see with bulging muscles?!

    • From what I remember there WAS an uproar about the male blood elves being too effeminate way back in beta for “The Burning Crusade”. They actually buffed up the character models to be more acceptable. If you google” blood elf males” the second link that came up for me was a kotaku article about Blizzards statement on it along with a picture of the before and after models.

      I remembered thinking how moronic some thinking was behind how they design their models. Nice to see nothing much has changed.

  4. @ming, I watched the Q&A, and they did mock her.

    They really really did. She did not look happy at all, and they did look like what they where: middleaged, white, overweight males, who where not into any sort of people-job, because they have no people skills, they where game developers.

    I guess I should be happy. Everything they make circles around my needs. I am a (soon to be) 30 year old white male. But I was not.
    Those two questions (and Blizzards answers) made me ashamed to be the GEEK that Metzen sold to us at the opening.

  5. The two BIG ones on that list for me are:
    1/ No more character slots. I’m maxxed on my main realm so I’m not going to see much of the new content there. Which means getting bored and quiting earlier.
    2/ The wardobe. My bags are so full of “non gear” stuff that I want to keep. Its not just the bag space but also some organisation that frustrates me. Best way to get them to act on this one is to delete stuff and keep raising tickets to get it back. That will leave hole in the support budget and start them on the path to fixing it.

    I’m also pretty concerned about the skill level of random pugs but we can always go back to the guild like in BC to avoid those, might be a good thing. I think we’re seeing a return to the importance of guild in Cata, which I see as both a plus and a minus.

  6. I haven’t been following any of the Blizzcon news. All I’ve seen is Larisa’s post about it.

    I was absolutely floored when I read Larisa’s account of the Victoria’s Secret question. While perhaps the question was very loaded and not asked very well, it is definitely an extremely valid point.

    Even if the Q&A had been giving very flippant non-answers, the developers should have realised this question deserved a bit more thought and care. They could have even pointed to female armor designs in Wrath, which are a lot better than previous armor designs! But instead they came out with that ridiculous non-answer.

    Not happy, Blizz!

  7. i wonder if the organizers and developers and inside people pushed the event in this particular direction because it’s what THEY think it’s about, or because they think that it what their PLAYERS want it to be about?

    If people did come half way around with the world with the same questions from the forums (which at this point have probably been answered several times) then I really don’t have a lot of faith in the capacity of the attendees.

    On the other hand, I don’t necessarily trust in the maturity or outward focus that the panelests had. Something about this whole thing strikes me as a very awkward and inappropriate joke told by the more socially inept party attendee. People may chuckle, but they’re not really confortable being in the same room as this person.

    I like your panel suggestions though. That they opted to tackle “community favorite” topics and not push the envelope should tell us something..I’m just not sure what.

  8. @Chris
    It makes a lot of sense actually. for men even today, their looks are not nearly such a big deal as they are for women. the industry is slowly catching up with the male fashion and beauty products, but you are still not nearly under the same beauty and body stereotypes pressure that women have been under and been measured by for centuries.

    so even if you are being idealized in games too, you do not perceive it as the same issue because for you it is not a real issue the same way it is for women and you don’t suffer the same way from it in the real world. i’m not saying there’s no pressure at all for men, but you don’t grow up with the beauty mania from early age on like women do and you don’t get scrutinized like we do, even when trying to pursue your professional career.

    so it’s natural that women are a lot more fed up with the whole issue and are opposed to having to go with it in games (which should be an escapism for them too).

    that said, I don’t think WoW is doing a bad job on the female models – I don’t agree that they look like big-boobed models, in fact you have a lot of variety and choice in body types. and there’s nothing wrong with choosing the pretty races/chars either if that’s what you like, many gamers (female ones too) actually DO want to play pretty characters in fantasy games and that’s perfectly ok.
    as long as you can choose and the industry doesn’t send one-sided messages about what’s agreeable and what is not.

    • “in fact you have a lot of variety and choice in body types”

      …sorta. You can’t make a short, ugly Human woman, you have to go to a Dwarf for that. If you want to play a Human, you’re stuck with Barbie.

  9. I think it would be great to have female druid form models, the problem is really just the time it takes to animate them. I model used by a player has to be able to do a lot more actions than one that wanders around the barrens and occasionally attacks a passerby. But I would like to see them do this. Female lions shouldn’t be hard. The bear, cheetah and sealion could stay generic. Not sure how to make a Boomchicken look feminine but they definitely need to do something about Dr. Funky the Tree of Life.

    As for the question on how women are clothed I wasn’t sure what she was getting at either. WoW is pretty tame. I haven’t seen plate bikini armor for characters since vanilla. So was she talking about NPCs? Was this about Alexstraza? Maybe it’s just because I haven’t played recently and haven’t been keeping up. But if she was really looking for a serious answer then she should have probably should not have launched straight into shaming language, ala Victoria Secret what ever.

      • True, or they could take one of the many female lions of the barrens and lay the model over the animations for the male. I am sure your solution would be easier but I couldn’t imagine either would take too long.

        Other than the lions however, and the tree of life, can you think of any other forms that could use a female version?

  10. In practice, there’s a definite divide between people saying they want these things and actually using them. If, for example, there were any female dwarves. Or anyone had actually wanted to play the original troll female model for anything other than shock value. The options have been there and no one’s used them.

    The non-sexy lady thing would have a bit more weight if ther had been any female players on the Horde end of things prior to the inclusion of the Blood Elves.

    Which actually ties into the horde females tend to conform to ‘non-white’ female body types.

    While people make a big deal about it, no one wants to actually play the ‘fat girl’ unless they want to go out of their way to make a big deal about playing the fat girl.

  11. Spinks:

    “As to why (some) women care so much — to me the big boobed underwear model character is just another indication that the game is aimed directly at guys and my presence is not welcome. I just want them to throw me a bone and acknowledge that a lot of women play their games too, and that it wouldn’t kill them to offer stuff to us too.”

    I don’t think its being specifically targeted at guys though. Thats my point.

    I think all Blizzard is doing is conforming pretty much completely to standards of beauty, for both male and female forms. All of the men are muscle bound or at least attractive in the sense of their race (we’ll leave out the unattractive races for the purposes of this discussion and focus on the more human looking ones). All of the women are relatively slim with large busts and nice figures. Those are the standards of beauty that our society today holds to be true.

    Both male and female models are being designed to conform to standards of beauty.

    Where I think the disconnect is coming from, however, is the fact that, as a gender, men tend to appreciate, or at least notice, attractive visual stimulus more than women do, so its more noticeable that the female models *seem* to be targeted at men, while the male models being targeted at female players goes largely unnoticed. And I think what this comes down to is Blizzard (as mentioned seemingly mostly composed of men) not realising properly that females just don’t care as much about the physical appearance of male characters to find them attractive.

  12. I had this huge big comment all typed up but thought I was hijacking Spinks’ blog a bit too much. Sorry Spinks!

    I’ve shortened it a bit.

    Male models in the game are not necessarily made with female players in mind. They are idealised, yes, but their *physical strength* is being idealised. This is usually done because males don’t want to play male characters that have their sexual attributes idealised in the same way female characters are idealised.

    However this is going a lot deeper than a video game and is really reflecting the broader culture.

    Thank you and good night.

    • Don’t worry about hijacking topics :) One of the reasons I like threaded replies is that it’s easy for people to reply further to a tangent if they’re interested without disturbing the flow of the rest of the comments (err, not sure how well that reads but you get my drift.)

  13. I can’t think of many sexual attributes of a man that can be displayed without incurring an adult rating besides physical strength.

    A beautiful physique for a man is muscly, or at least toned.

    • No, not really. Look at the guys in Twilight. High-cheek boned mournful poet look is a staple of romantic novels. Very few romantic novel male characters are described as being as muscular as WoW characters.

      • They still have more than adequate muscalature.

        Isn’t there one of them who spends most of the movie with his shirt off?

    • There are several beautiful physiques for men — even allowing for subjective opinions. Honestly, not everyone finds bodybuilder types attractive. There’s room for more androgynous builds also.

      Even assuming that most people want to look at fit models, there’s scope for some variation.

      As far as sexier guys go, how many times do our (male) characters get to go shirtless or have most of their chest showing? What WoW really needs is more orc chests – I could even get behind Garrosh if he stripped off more often …

      • What has Garrosh got left to strip off?

        He’s wearing leather pants apparently made from pieces of other leather pants, a giant belt and a pair of spiky tusks he stole from a war memorial.

        Anything else and we’re dealing with naked Garrosh. And frankly, waving around Gorehowl will probably have an effect on the game rating.

  14. Pingback: BlizzCon 2010: Little Ado About Nothing « Bio Break

  15. Spinks asks:

    “Where are the panels on gender or disability representation in WoW, or roleplaying different races? Where are the theorycrafting nuts talking about how they approach the task of modelling new mechanics? Where are the panels about blogging, about organising raid guilds, about crafting and items? Where are the panels about the economy? Where are the panels on raids and instances? Where are the panels that talk about MMOs in general?”

    This is an excellent question. From my brief scan of the Blizzcon schedule, the opportunities for interesting talks or any sort of discussion seemed very thin. That was honestly a huge surprise to me. I regularly attend a homebuilt aircraft convention every year and at those there are usually more opportunities to learn and discuss than you could ever hope to attend. People go to learn more about airfoil design, fuel mixture, the hazards of bad weather, and so on. Others present talks on what they have learned. I think having opportunities to share expertise is one of the big things that attracts people to conventions of this sort and it is something missing from Blizzcon. The topics listed above would be very interesting, I think, and would make excellent topics for face-to-face discussion (unlike, say, “how to set up macros”).

  16. Did no one notice that everything in WoW is highly stylized? Its not only the women, its also the men, all objects and critters, basically the whole world has an unrealistic and comically overdriven feeling. Ever notice how much muscles those male avatars have? They would put most bodybuilders to shame.

    Wouldnt it be sexist to make an exception to the rule, just for the females? That would be like saying “Ok, we like our game to be vibrant and over the top, but we cant do this to the female models, because someone might complain.” That sounds just wrong.

    Besides… the human, dwarf or gnome female avatars dont strike me to be too sexy, they look rather plain (and i would like to not even talk about the tauren and undead here. To just assume they would be model material is really really weird). Just put them next to a belf and see. So there definitely is variety, even though everything is a hyperbole in this gameworld.

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