Updated Thu, Mar 15, 2012 by Mem
The pandas are coming! The pandas are coming! This has been the cry heard throughout the World of Warcraft community since the Pandarens were officially announced as the next playable race in the upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion. As the first race available to both Horde and Alliance players, the Pandaren will not only blow the silhouette theory totally out of the water, but also have the potential to swing wide the doors for more neutral races to become playable in future expansion packs.
The silhouette theory was an idea put into place by Blizzard when that game was first launched with the basic premise that players would be able to recognize friends and enemies based solely on their aesthetic appearance. This is why up until now no Tauren like creatures have made an appearance on the Alliance side. Even in the case of the two playable Elvish races; the Blood and Night Elves, Blizzard has managed to make them appear different enough that players can easily discern which elf race they are dealing with at a glance. This theory also has, until recently, applied to gear as well, with players easily able to discern with the naked eye who is a PvPer, who raids, and how successful that player is at both.
While a seemingly great idea, the silhouette theory has been long outdated and has become the bane of players, like my wife, who love the look of one faction, but whose heart lies with the other. Never one to stay behind the times for long, Blizzard has come to terms with the fact that the silhouette theory must go and recently introduced Transmogrification, the ability to transform a players gear into almost any piece of gear in game, with certain limitations of course. However, if Transmogrification is the first nail in the coffin of the silhouette theory, the introduction of the Pandaren race is most assuredly the final one.
While each individual Pandaren will ultimately need to decide which WoW faction to join, for the first time ever Horde and Alliance will be able to experience the exact same character model and simultaneously play in the Pandaren starting zone. If all goes well, this new concept has the potential to unlock and become the norm for many of the future playable races introduced into WoW.
Thanks to the wealth of races in WoW affiliated with both the Horde and Alliance there are tons of possibilities to be found here. As long as the Pandaren are successful, this will turn out to be beneficial for both players and WoW developers. When a new race is introduced into the game under the banner of one faction, another race ultimately needs to be created, complete with starting zone and fleshed out storyline, for the opposing faction. Choosing future races that are playable by both factions will allow developers to focus their attention on one race and hopefully produce a playing experience superior to anything we have seen before, as well as spend more time and energy producing more compelling end game content which is sure to make more than a few WoW fans happy.
The best part of choosing from neutral factions, however, is the potential to unlock playable races that we WoW players have interacted with on a daily basis, and have been longing to play. Having difficulty imagining just what these new potential races may be? Player favorites based on forum discussions tend to include races such as the Furbolgs, Naga, Murlocs, Ethereals, and even High Elves. The probability of these races becoming the next WoW playable race varies depending on their individual storylines, but as seen with the Pandaren, no one can really predict what Blizzard’s next move will be. In the future we may see all of the above mentioned races come to life, or none at all, with developers instead leading us down paths we haven’t even dreamed of yet.
In my opinion, being able to choose your faction for your character will not only bring new interest to the game but will also help inspire players to choose a faction based on more than aesthetic values. I, for one, will be more than thrilled to see more races like the Pandaren be introduced into the game. Do you think neutral factions are the new face of the playable races in World of Warcraft? Which race would you like to see be made playable in future expansions? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!