Monthly Archives: April 2011

How To Closet Your Dragon

Let’s face it: Blizzard has always had a bit of a problem with homosexuality. Early on in World of Warcraft, the company came under fire for restricting the recruitment of gay-only guilds in trade chat, even going so far as to threaten to ban a lesbian player who had been doing just that. This was another example of a game company trying to sweep gay issues under the rug with the misguided notion that it won’t be problem if it isn’t mentioned. At the time, Blizzard defended itself with this statement: “Topics related to sensitive real-world subjects—such as religious, sexual or political preference, for example—have had a tendency to result in communication between players that often breaks down into harassment.” Log into the game today and spend two seconds in trade chat and you can see how well that policy has worked out.

It’s not just recruitment for LGBT-friendly guilds that blizzard has tried to curtail. Late in the beta building up to the release of the Burning Crusade, Blizzard adjusted the size and shape of the male blood elf model. A CM stated that this was done “In response to concerns that the Blood Elf male appeared to be too feminine, and after reviewing the model from a visual and conceptual standpoint, the decision was made to increase the body mass to give them a more substantial, masculine feel. It was also important that as members of the Horde that the Blood Elves gave the impression of strength and a more menacing presence. Please be aware that all beta content is still subject to testing and can change at any time.” It never got changed back, of course, but the numerous instances in the game where male blood elves are equated with women, quests mistaking them for damsels in distress, to /sillies quoting the Pussycat Dolls, remained. The various jokes and phrases that blood elf males themselves say are doubly interesting considering that Cam Clarke, who is himself gay, provided their voices.

So we’ve got a history of trying to keep gay guilds out of the public eye, although the players on Proudmoore would find that laughable, and the attempted conversation therapy pointed at the blood elf males. There is one other instance in game where blizzard has tepidly dipped their toes into the world of rainbows and glitter only to go running away back into the arms of hyper machismo.

Youtube clip of Theralion’s old voice compared to his current

The second encounter of the bastion of twilight features twin drakes Valiona and Theralion. Theralion had a very distinct voice track in the beta. He appears to have a very (and I do mean very) stereotypical gay voice. His primary attacks are ‘Dazzling Destruction’ and ‘Fabulous Flames’. I’m pretty sure I’ve been to bars that have shared those names at various points in my life. This particular encounter even drops an item called Theralion’s Mirror. The names of these attacks, Theralion’s mother issues (if you listen to the youtube clip you’ll see what I mean) and the fact that he would be narcissistic enough to carry his own enchanted mirror around all seem to stereotypically point to the fact that he is a big ol’ flamer, and I’m not just talking about his breath. However, Blizzard changed his voice from the more effeminate beta version to a more masculine one. Just as they had with the blood elves in burning crusade, Blizzard nerfed Theralion’s queer stat by HALF, yet chose to keep all of the same voice over lines, attack names, and of course the mirror that, ironically enough, my male blood elf mage has equipped.

Blizzard has always been a bit shaky when it comes to LGBT content in WOW, and once again they went halfway with Theralion. Speaking as a gay gamer, I really enjoyed his old voice as it let me know that Azeroth isn’t 100% heterosexual. I can see where there may have been some objections that players were beating up a gay character and some people somewhere would no doubt have complained that we were, as players, bashing him. However, I know that my ten man raid wiped a lot to this encounter and Mary here is the tougher dragon of the two of them. So what if he lisps a bit? He can still crush you and your best friends into the ground.

Blizzard’s reaction to gay content in their game is starkly different from another vaunted RPG company: Bioware. Bioware has always gotten high marks from the LGBT community for incorporating same sex story lines into their RPGS. “Mass Effect” allowed for female Commander Shepard to have a mental heavy petting session with a same sex crew member. While getting applauded by some, this did generate some negative press from more conservative media outlets such as Fox News. Did this deter them from adding more gay friendly content? No not at all. In their next major game franchise, “Dragon Age: Origins”, characters could have a gay romance with members of their party who just happened to be bisexual (and why the male options couldn’t have been Alistair I’ll never get over, but I digress).

In their most recent release, Bioware allowed even more options for same sex pairings when they made a majority of the player’s companions bisexual (I DEMAND A PATCH TO DRAGON AGE 1 DOING THE SAME THING!). When a forum poster claiming to speak for all male gamers complained about being hit on by his male party members, David Gaider, lead writer for Dragon Age 2, slammed the poster, stating that “The romances in the game are not for ‘the straight male gamer’. They’re for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention.” He squashed the concerns of straight gamers being ignored saying, “You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance.”

One can only hope that Blizzard would have such an open minded and, more importantly, brave stance on this subject. With the number of players in this game dwarfing the sizes of several nations, there are a lot of gay people playing, myself included. It would be nice if, in the lore, character creation, encounters, and other aspects of this game world, we could feel more included instead of being sidelined, altered, or, in this particular case, one very sad dragon forced to go back into a very large, very ineffective closet.

What ways would you like to see Blizzard improve their approach to LGBT issues? Is there any way they can do this without causing a major uproar from the other end of the spectrum? Maybe it’s time they have a Glee-like moment where we see Varian Wrynn dealing with the fact that his far more delicate, Power Word: Shield-spamming son won’t be following in his Conanesque shoes?

-Essex

Episode Twenty-One : Grapefruit in a Can

Longest. News Segment. Ever! Okay maybe not, but it does seem like there is a lot of big news that has dropped this week. Not just big news, but controversial news such as the new Call To Arms: Dungeon system and the goodie bags that it offers. Also, Honor points can soon be converted to Justice points and vice versa. Is this a good thing, or do the PvP and PvE Wow games need to stay separated.

Who better to bring back for a little WoW debate than a little bit of Sunshine, the micro-transaction loving guildie of Rob’s. We get an updated amount of money spent so far… it’s crossed a milestone! All this and MORE including your e-mails, tweets, and even a cameo phone call tonight!

Episode 21 taped April 7th, 2011

Welcome back to the show!
Welcome back, Sunshine
* Spent any more money lately?
* Which Alt have you been focusing on these days
* You said you had a surprise for Rob?
How was your week in Azeroth?
XTOFER WITH THE NEWS
* Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms and what it means for tanks, healers and dps
* Remote guild chat coming to an iPhone, iPod, iPad or Android device near you.
* Using the random dungeon finder and hitting “need” on a BoE item will make it soulbound in a future patch
* New legendary weapon will take 2 to 2.5 times longer for 10man raiding groups than it will for 25mans.
* Honor for Justice
Topic of the week: If I could ask anyone at Blizzard just one question…
E-mails and tweets
Final Thoughts
End of Show / BYE!

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Dev Chat 4 Armor and Items: Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Earlier this week, Blizzard offered responses to some of the questions posted in their most recent Dev chat Q&A regarding armor and items. The Q&A has been posted over at Blizzard’s community website at http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/2353015977.
The questions and answers were mostly unique (though I’m boggled by how a question regarding tabards always manages to sneak its way in no matter the topic), but one answer in particular rang hollow:

Q:” Is there any chance we could have caster weapons involved in casting animations? It would look cool to be holding a staff and casting a spell through it, at least as a customization option.” – Dromanthis (NA/ANZ)

A: “This is something we would dearly love to do. We agree that melee specs get to see their weapons a lot more often in combat while it’s easy for casters to forget about them. It’s definitely on the list, but understand that we have so many races now (and two sexes for all existing races) that the animations take more time to do right/well.”

Why would that answer ring hollow? It seems like a legitimate concern that a lot of race and gender options would make it difficult to do such a task. I’m ticked off by this answer because it’s not the original one they gave. The original answer did not end with an explanation regarding time. Instead, it gave the true answer.

“This is something we would dearly love to do. We agree that melee specs get to see their weapons a lot more often in combat while it’s easy for casters to forget about them. It’s definitely on the list, but understand that we have so many races now (and two sexes for all existing races) that the animations get expensive to produce” (this unedited response is still viewable on MMO-Champion at the time this article was published).

That’s the real reason why Blizzard is so hesitant to make the cosmetic changes that many of us have longed for since the game began. Money. Considering that World of Warcraft is the closest thing any of us will get to a golden goose, someone in the PR department must have realized that explaining away such a desire from the community by citing financial concerns would leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.

Of course, the fact that they announced a new feature the next day for their remote armory app on the iPhone, a service that requires an additional $2.99 a month and allows you to chat with you guild mates online, only adds fuel to my sad, angry gamer fire.Blizzard not only gets the basic subscription cost from all of us, but, as guests on Horde House have shown, they also make a killing off of the items purchased from their digital store along with race, faction, and server transfers.

Short of buying all of the executives their very own money pits to swim in, what is Blizzard using all those funds for? When their true intentions get revealed like they did in the response above, it makes you wonder. Is it going towards work on Titan? It’s obviously not for content in WoW if the molasses-like drip of content we’re currently getting is any indication. Either way, all I know is that I can’t pretend to wiggle around a wand while /yelling Incendio and blast critters in Orgrimmar on my mage, and Blizz’s bottom line is to blame.

What do you all think? Are you ok with Blizzard being cost effective? Are you more excited by the upcoming 4.2 change mentioned in the Q & A that makes Need-rolled BOE items automatically soulbound? Let us know on the forums or the comment section below!

-Essex