Some people say that Blizzard is lazy. Players tend to start voicing this sort of opinion when it seems like Blizzard hasn't done something they think should have been done a long time earlier, such as adding new dungeons they won't visit, or new features they won't use. Sometimes there's just one particular thing that grates and grates on the players' nerves so much that they simply cannot understand why Blizzard hasn't done anything about it yet.
Even I have been guilty of this sort of thinking now and then. But ultimately, it becomes apparent that, whatever the status of Blizzard's list of flaws -- laziness is not one of them. Indeed, we simply do not realize the massive extent of work that is required to achieve some things, especially the things we don't personally desire, and therefore fail to give credit for hard work done where we don't realize such credit is due.
The topic at hand today is a prime example of such a problem, a druid pet peeve which has gone on for a long long time. Exhibit A, above, is the Tauren Cat Form, or rather, what some of us might wish the Tauren Cat Form looked like -- a player's own suggestion submitted in Blizzard's own art contest of 2007. The Tauren Cat Form that Horde druids have been seeing since 2004 is pictured to the left here in Exhibit B [Update: Tauren cat form has been slightly updated in patch 2.3]. Whether or not Exhibit A is the perfect replacement for Exhibit B can be left up to the good judgment of the reader, but for the purposes of this article, it is sufficient for us if we all agree that something must eventually be done about the feral druid's monotonous appearance problem. That's to say -- we tire of staring at the Same Old Animal Posterior (or SOAP).
Certainly, when we received an animal form for the first time at level 10 (see Exhibit C, the Night Elf and Tauren "Bear Form" respectively), we thought that it was quite impressive. We may have even played through 10 more levels without wishing for any variety to spice up our druidic lives.
Indeed, upon arrival at level 20, we were granted another animal form (see Exhibit D, the Night Elf "Cat Form") which seemed much cooler even than the previous one. The "Travel Form" (Exhibit E) at level 30 may not have thrilled the aesthetic eye to such an extent, but many of us had heard that the great and powerful "Dire Bear Form" was on its way at level 40, and we hoped that this indeed would be a dire sight to behold!
Alas, such hopes were in vain. The "Dire Bear Form" (pictured below in Exhibit F) was exactly the same as the previous "Bear Form" except for significant statistical improvements in the way of armor and health. The statistically inclined among us were greatly pleased, while the aesthetically inclined were rather disappointed. This is when the SOAP problem first reared its ugly rear end.
We patiently played on for 30 more levels. Some of us opted to largely forego the animal forms and opt to shapeshift into moonkins or trees instead -- these talented abilities were not available to all druids, and therefore provided some added amusement. However, for feral druids still in either Cat or Dire Bear form much of the time, we found ourselves staring at the SOAP for most of our gaming experience.
Now, we know that Blizzard is good at art. We have seen their varied designs on countless armor sets, as well as modifications for each set to make them look good on any player, regardless of their character's race and size. We have also seen Blizzard transform the pleasant but comparatively ho-hum Flight Forms (Exhibit G, below) into the slightly armored and infinitely more stylish Swift Flight Forms (Exhibit H, farther below). Could not something be done for the feral forms as well?
Art, in his /silly comic, had a funny idea a few weeks ago -- a true bear tank, you might say -- but the question of what our feral forms should look like is actually a rather complex and problematic one. Should the armor we wear somehow morph from humanoid to animal shape when we shapeshift? Should only certain armor such as shoulders and chestpieces, helmets and cloaks be adapted for feral forms (as well as moonkins and trees, perhaps), or would this just leave them looking absurd and rather stupid? Would it not be better to have an upgrade similar to the Swift Flight Form, which could be tailored to each form and made to look especially cool? Or would this just lead to more and more monotony as we gradually got used to it and wanted something even better-looking?
What, after all, is the true purpose behind the way our character looks? Do we want our character to look cool simply for the sake of aesthetic beauty? Or do we want to look cool to distinguish ourselves from other players? Should changes to feral druids' appearance merely make them look better than they do now, or should our feral forms showcase the quality of our gear the same way that our caster forms do? How much work do we have a right to expect from blizzard when it comes to designing how our feral forms look, especially at the cost of features and content that may be more important to a larger percentage of the player base?
After considering the question in some depth, it is clear that answers that satisfy all around are not easy to come by. It makes sense that Blizzard would put this off for as long as it takes to come up with a satisfactory solution.... But will there ever be a solution, or will Blizzard just keep developing other things instead? If a solution is underway, what form should it take? In the meantime, feral druids will undoubtedly continue to stare at their SOAPs, enjoying the gameplay, and possibly rotating their camera around to the front of their character whenever possible.