Blizzard has made the next expansion in the World of Warcraft official as Mists of Pandaria, and after conquering other planets, the Lich King, and a big bad dragon, the Horde and Alliance are headed to ... China. Well, not China per se, but Pandaria, a long-rumored, Eastern mysticism-influenced realm, where panda-based humanoids roam, brew and drink beer, and offer players the next five levels in their continuing progression.

As is often the case with this game, many players have revolted. The Pandaren have long been used as a joke in the world of Warcraft, either referred to on April Fool's Day, or showing up in the company's parodic Christmas cards. But lead quest designer Dave Kosak says players who scoff at Pandaria should think twice. "Maybe people, because they've only been portrayed as cameos or only April Fool's jokes, people think that there's nothing to this race, and that's not it at all," Kozak says to us during BlizzCon last week. "I think the Pandaren are kind of fascinating -- they work hard, they play hard, they eat hard, they drink hard, and they don't do anything half way."

The Pandaren, in addition to some of the other announced features of the new expansion, point to the next long arc of the World of Warcraft game. In the first few expansions of the title, Blizzard has cashed in on the earlier origins of the series. But with Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard seems to be setting up the world's most popular MMO for years of content to come.