So once I finished sobbing tears of joy over the new bear art that debuted last week (and looking up pictures of Bull Terriers after seeing the new version of Tauren cat form), I started tabulating reactions online, and held the following conversation with myself:
Me: Is there an unusually high level of stupidity in the forums over this issue?
Myself: Can the level of stupidity in the forums ever be correctly described as "unusually high?"
While forced to admit that my good bifurcated self had a point, it remains that the sheer amount of dumb in the forums threatens to explode from its containment area and slosh down the hallway carrying off screaming bystanders. This is Bad. Some of those bystanders might be the artists working on making sure the new version of Tauren cat form goes live without bugs, and I don't want that. I worked hard to ensure that this site is ranked #1 by Google for the search phrase "I hate Tauren cat form," but I'd like to be able to retire that tag permanently.
Anyway. Let's take some time here and address some frequently asked questions, common misconceptions, and whether Blizzard owes the American Kennel Club a kickback:
OH NOES THE BEAR STILL CAN'T CLOSE ITS MOUTH!
Yes, it can. What we're seeing here (per Nethaera) is a single screenshot in which each new model has been posed roaring. I assume the basic look is going to be somewhat like the closed mouth you sometimes see with the Black War Bear, which seems okay, but does raise some questions concerning the quality of orthodontic care in Azeroth given the proliferation of underbites.
DO WE STILL GET THE SEIZURE!!!BEAR EFFECT FROM CONSTANT SAVAGE DEFENSE PROCS?
I assume so, because current information indicates that the animations remain the same. I really hope they fix this, or add a different animation, or even eliminate the animation effect altogether given that it's such a constant proc. I can understand the need to give the player a visual clue that the effect has triggered, but as of now the result is a hilarious "Hello, raid boss! As a means of increasing my mitigation, I will be exposing my vulnerable midsection to you every 1.54 seconds on average!"
Seriously. This is poor technique, and makes us look bad in front of the other tanks.
IT'S JUST A NEW SKIN ON AN OLD MODEL!
EDIT: Thank God for WoW.com commenters. Brian and Carrie corrected and expanded my explanation here.
People are tossing around the terms model, texture, and skin a lot without differentiating between the three. Now, while I could be entirely wrong about how Blizzard chooses to use these terms, and they sometimes confuse me by using them interchangeably, a model describes the external frame (what turns an NPC or player character into a recognizable 3-dimensional form) applied over a skeleton. The skeleton itself is given its own set of animations, but model differences account for the variety of different NPC's who move the same way but don't look alike. All bears in the game share the same skeleton (and thus most of the same animations), but Druids do not share the same model with NPC bears.
Skins and textures are generally used interchangeably. They provide the cosmetic exterior changes that distinguish between versions of the same model. Textures also interact with the game engine to change what skin, fur, or gear look like in different environments.
The new Bear forms are demonstrably not the same model as the older Bear form, nor do they use the same textures. However, it is likely that they share the same skeleton as the older Bear form, and that is all they share.
WHEN ARE THE NEW FORMS GOING LIVE?
They'll be live in the sense that they should be reaching a player server when the 3.2 PTR goes up. Otherwise, they'll become usable when 3.2 hits the live servers, whenever that's going to be.
WHEN ARE THE NEW CAT FORMS GOING TO BE RELEASED?
The correct answer as of April 13th, 2004 when Tauren cat form went live in WoW's beta was (and remains) "Not fast enough." The more likely answer is this week. The answer per Blizzard is Soon.®
Soon® is a registered trademark of Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Activision Blizzard, MMIX. All rights reserved. Used here with permission as enumerated in the terms of service.
...Actually, I'm hoping they go live today.
Edit: And they did.
SO...NEW TAUREN CAT FORM? RIGHT. YEAH.
I want to like it. I genuinely want to like it, and I think it'll eventually grow on me. It's a huge improvement over the present form, although to be perfectly fair the same could have been said of a happy face, or an animated Richard Simmons.
I'm still disappointed that Blizzard, which usually does such a beautifully thorough art and animation job on everything that goes in the game, allowed the original Tauren cat form to go live. We can quibble over the aesthetics if you like, but to this day the model continues to have animation issues (ever try sitting down or, before patch 2.3, rotating?) that I can only assume were the result of a copy-paste gone horribly wrong. Between that and the Rake animation, which was obviously built for a lynx (read: Night Elf) model, it sucks to be reminded at every turn that you are playing something that was probably rushed or, at the very least, not their best effort.
Irritating, but understandable. Less understandable and far more irritating was allowing it to remain that way for more than 5 years.
Yeah, I know. /rubs temples. I need to get the number of Ghostcrawler's gin supplier.
First impression; the elongation of the face and the disproportionately small eyes result in an unfortunate resemblance to the astoundingly ugly Bull Terrier. I assume this is an effort to keep the model visually suggestive of the male Tauren's facial option of a pinched muzzle, but the transition is an awkward one at best. Otherwise, the paws are similar to the present model in that they're somewhat chunky and sock-like, with no visual distinction between toes save that implied by the individual claws. Like the eyes, they don't seem proportionate to the size of the body and head. That's kind of disappointing, but I also get the sense that the finer detail down there might be lost by their pose against a black background. I'll reserve judgment until I see it in motion on the PTR.
Second impression: Andreas Deja called and wants his character model for Scar back, although he suggests that Blizzard takes the "expressive eyes" theme from the new Tauren bear form and run with it.
Otherwise, by any metric you could name, this model is massively better than its current incarnation. Interestingly, it has different horn colors as well (not an option we've seen on the new Tauren bear forms). The overall shape and level of detail, particularly in the sense of the cat's weight and musculature, is significantly better. I'd love to see them do something about the eyes -- possibly making them larger, or just adding shading to make them a bit more realistically deep-set -- but again, still a vast improvement, and I'd like to see them in motion on the PTR before harping on that point. Again, a screenshot against a black background isn't the ideal way to experience these.
Like many players (female or otherwise), I'm not wildly enthusiastic over having to play what is very obviously a male lion while my main is just as obviously a female Tauren, but...meh. Most gamers are male, and I don't expect Blizzard to put a lot of time and effort into creating a female form when so few people play a female Tauren anyway. And no, I'm not being sarcastic; it's a waste of resources. It would just be a very welcome waste of resources.
Verdict: 5,000,000x better than the present Tauren cat form, but given how hideous the current form is, this is not a ringing endorsement. Still, in the celebrated manner of a fungus or malignant tumor, it is likely to grow on me. I like it more now than I did when I first saw it.
ARE YOU NOSTALGIC NOW THAT THE OLD TAUREN CAT FORM'S GOING AWAY, OR DO YOU STILL HATE IT?
With the fire and passion of a thousand dying suns reaching the apex of their fading existence, soon to collapse into an endless, timeless void consuming the souls of the surrounding galaxy over a millennia's tortuous process, with each entity involved agreeing on their way to mortal oblivion that this end is a blessed relief from the cruelty of the god who bestowed Tauren cat form upon the universe.
Short answer: yes.
BUT WAIT! I'M AN AUTUMN! HOW DO I GET THE COLOR BEST SUITED TO MY DELICATE COMPLEXION?
Hit the barbershop. Tauren will be able to change the general color of their shapeshift forms by altering the color of their caster-form fur, which will become a barbershop option in 3.2. Night Elves can change theirs by toying around with the color of their hair. You can reasonably expect that each hair/fur color will directly (or at least roughly) correspond to the resulting color of your bear/cat forms.