Monday, March 14, 2011

Hunter Pets

From the latest patch notes:
  • Tame Beast now tames pets to match the hunter's level, rather than 3 levels below.
  • Bloodthirsty no longer generates Happiness.
  • Carrion Feeder no longer restores Happiness.
  • The Feed Pet ability now instantly heals 50% of the pet's health. Cannot be used in combat. Requires diet-appropriate food.
  • Guard Dog no longer causes Growl to generate additional Happiness.
  • The Happiness/Pet Loyalty System has been removed. Hunters will no longer have to manage Happiness for their pets, and the previous damage bonus for pets being happy will now be baseline for all tamed pets.

I was rather dismayed when I saw these patch notes.

One of the things that Vanilla WoW did really well was emphasize the idea that a hunter pet was a separate entity from the hunter. You had to go out into the world and tame your pet from the wild, even the very first pet. The pet had it's own experience bar, and leveled separately. You had to keep your pet happy and feed it with the appropriate food. If your pet grew too unhappy, it would actually run away from you. The pet had a "loyalty" statistic that measured how attached it was to you.1 You had to train your pet with new skills that you learned by taming other beasts.

There was this whole "tamagotchi"/virtual pet aspect to hunter pets at the start of WoW that was very attractive. It was a small mini-game within the class that didn't really have anything to do with combat or raiding or pvp. In many ways, that mini-game has been bled out from the class in the name of streamlining, and I think that is a real shame. The hunter pet has, more and more, become a mere extension of the hunter, rather than something with its own personality.

Obviously, some parts of the old system, particularly training new skills, were a little excessive. The pet talent trees are much better. And your pet running away from you was harsh, because feeding your pet wasn't exactly intuitive at level 10. But I think that rather than going in the current direction with pets, Blizzard should reconsider, and go in the opposite direction and play up the virtual pet aspect more.

If it was up to me, I would keep pet happiness in the game. Indeed, I would remove pet happiness from the talent trees, so your pet wouldn't automatically stay happy. Instead there would be more emphasis on feeding your pet and using the Mend Pet glyph to keep it happy. The hunter should actively control her pet's happiness.

I would also keep the 3 level difference on taming, to emphasize the separate personalities.

I would also not have the hunter start with a pet. Instead, the level 3 hunter class quest should be to tame your first pet from the wild. Though it would still be a guardian, like it is now.

I think Blizzard needs to slow down with its streamlining of classes. Not all inconveniences need to be eliminated. Sometimes the inconvenience adds something. Having to deal with pet happiness is sometimes an inconvenience, but in the long run it makes the hunter class more interesting.

1. Infamously captured in the Loyalty Level 6 controversy. For those who weren't around at the time, Loyalty Level 6 was the highest rank of loyalty your pet could attain. It was also the name of a piece of fan art that depicted a scantily-clad female tauren hunter hugging her pet lion. The WoW community--never high-minded at the best of times--immediately jumped to the most salacious conclusion.


  1. And bring back ammo, and quivers, and channeled Mend Pet! And take quest-givers back off the minimap!

    The Glyph of Mend Pet was the writing on the wall. While pet happiness was something "unique" to hunters, it was unique in the way that Blind requiring Fadeleaf or bubble-hearthing was unique: inconsequentially. If you want tamagotchi, you can play tamagotchi; nothing is stopping the people that want to treat their hunters like that to continue doing so.

    Game design has grown up.

  2. I couldn't agree with you....less. On the one hand, it was FUN managing a pet, I LOVE the fact that my hunter has had the same cat since level 10 and the loyalty level especially. I also LOVED the weapon skills on my paladin, I took great pride in leveling each to max, even before achievements it was something I thought was cool to the character's story.

    Both of those; however, became rediculous when not the main focus of attention. Level a new character? Hope you enjoy spending hours leveling weapon skills on unkillable mobs just to be able to use that upgrade. Want a new pet? Enjoy grinding useless mobs just to get it up to your level, and keeping the right food in your bags for that specific pet, and going back to town evry time you wanted to switch pets before an instance, hope you remembered before you got there. Also hope you remmbered to respec it for that dungeon before you got there.

    No, while there will be aspects I will remember fondly, there is NOTHING from the old pet systems that I will miss, or think the game is degraded by. Other "streamlining" sure, but never the hunter's pets. Or ammo, thank GOD it went the way of the dead-zone!

  3. Wow! I entirely agree with Coriel and not with those other two posters.

    I also think the streamlining of ... basically everything ... quests, classes, well ... the entire game is going way too far. This is just another step down the road.

    In a role-playing game, there really should be a lot more focus on an immersive (game) world.

  4. Oh my, I haven't played my hunter in ages, and it is quit low level, so I obviously missed even the removal of channeled Mend Pet... so I am not exactly the hunter expert. But I do agree with Rohan on this, very much. I just rolled my first mage in years, and when I reached level 10 I was actually kinda shocked that I could get a combat pet. So it just felt like a hunter or warlock, basically. Damage from pet and mob trapped far away from me. Yay. Classes just feel the same indeed, and while the hunter never really appealed to me to play it as my main, I liked the pet system. It just added a lot of flavor to the class, just like the dangerous demons did for the warlock class. Removing these elements just makes the classes a lot blander... just like the rest of the game has gotten much blander lately. Streamlining in general is good, but to much of a good thing...

  5. They did the same with warlock pets. Back in vanilla you had a hard and long quest chain to obtain your pets. And that connected you with your pet. It wasn't just a minion, it was a pet you got for a real journey.

    And don't get me started on the amazing dreadstead quest chain.

    Same with druids. Whoever did the sea form quest in vanilla (without a mage buddy) either hated or loved it. But in any case you felt that you really deserved this form.

    Or the mage class quests where you had to visit Tabetha in the swamps which were crowded with animals 10 level higher then you. It was annoying as hell but when you reached her home it didn't feel like you've reached the next "quest hub on rail".

  6. I remember making my first WoW toon and it was a Night Elf Hunter. I thought the idea that at level 10 I could tame any pet I wanted, level it up if it was too low because I wanted a special pet, feeding it to make it happy and it having that companion meter on it, was pretty cool. I liked how if you had the pet long enough it was your "best friend". I remember loging in one time to find my pet was gone, and then I realized I didn't feed it for awhile. I got a laugh at the idea that a pet runs away if you mistreat it, which is quite realistic.

    As much as I liked how this worked because it made it unique, I remember spending countless hours getting a pet from level 12 to 60, I remember not having enough pet food in long instances and all the other stuff that became a hassle later on. I like the idea that with the new system with the patch, if I haven't used my pet in awhile, its not going to be 10 levels below me, or 5 whatever it is at or even more so if it was in Vanilla. Change is good. We can still remember Vanilla fondly, but yes indeed change is good.

  7. What you are missing is the point of view of a raiding hunter. What hunters now bring to the raid team as their contribution is the ability to bring with them whatever single buff the raid is missing... if they have the right pet with them. What this means, mechanically, is that a hunter really needs to have around 15 to 20 pets ready to go, leveled up and happy.

    As a hunter, I like the "raid buff" system that is there... it really gives me the ability to fill in nicely. What do we need, buff wise? We don't have a priest... OK, I can bring Fortitude, let me swap to beastmastery and grab my silithid! This really makes it possible for me to contribute. But the time commitment to level a dozen or more pets three levels is pretty painful compared to other classes.

    I'll miss the RP aspect, but I think the utility is fun as well, and not really a good match for the old design.

  8. I disagree. As a hunter who levels in PVP only I hated having to level a pet. Sure if you PVE all the time it might be "fun" but if you PVP I don't want to take a break from killing people to go level the dumb pet.

  9. @ Aggrazel - Yes that was a sacrifice pvp'rs had to go through but I think they wanted people to go into all aspects of combat. If you spend 100% of your time pvp'ing as enjoyable as it is, they still want you to PvE. To me though PvP as a hunter was to easy for my liking. PvE was more a challenge especially in recent years. PvE you have to think a little, I liked that rather than the oh Concus shot plus ability spam of pvp, if a target never reached me before they died, whats the challenge. PvE not is over PvP for me as a hunter.

  10. Must say that I don't miss ammo & quivers BUT, I rather enjoyed the Pet hapiness mechanic for similar reasons as listed above, primarily that it set us Hunters apart as more unique and gave our pets more personality of their own, which I liked.

    I even liked having to train a pet to learn its skill to teach to my other pets. Now, I LOVE having the bigger stable, but I still wouldn't mind needing to train my pet instead of just clicking in the Talent tree boxes.

    Our Hunter pets are becoming more like tools and extentions of our weapons and less companions and loyal friends.

  11. I'm not a hunter, so I have minimal experience with hunter pets, but I think I disagree with you on principle.

    You see, I've been arguing that in the stripped down, streamlined experience that most classes have in Cataclysm, Shaman totem management is a bit cumbersome. I don't understand why in order to use a cooldown I have to sacrifice a raid buff. For example, when spirit link totem arrives I'll have to destroy my wrath of air totem to use it. The moment I need a cooldown is *exactly* the right moment to deprive the whole raid of 5% spell haste, don't you think?

    Anyway, before I go off the deep end with shamans, I suspect that Hunters are in a similar position with their pets, and yeah, if it's unwieldy it ought to go. I don't mind a certain level of complexity with my class as long as all classes share a similar degree of involvement, but when I have mechanics that are sufficiently more complex than my guildmates/raidmates or require a lot of micromanagement, it becomes a penalty, and I'm not sure what we're being penalized FOR.

    Gogo Blizzard, remove pet happiness!

  12. I'd say most people wouldn't care to take the extra time/effort to maange a pet even if they want to play a hunter.

    It's about time they did this, imo.

    All you people who want a mini-game with a virtual pet, go buy one.

  13. I confess that I don't really understand the comments to play a different virtual pet game.

    I want hunter pet design to stay as it is or push back to the way it was. I have a hunter because I wanted to play the virtual pet game.

    If feeding a virtual pet and keeping it happy is too complex for you, there are 3 other pet classes (warlock, unholy deathknight, frost mage) you can play.

    Why change hunters to be the exact same?

    Every single player who has rolled a hunter has rolled it in a time when it was a virtual pet. They all had the choice to roll warlock instead if they didn't want to deal with the pet.

  14. @Rohan
    And I have a hunter DESPITE the pet mini-game! To me, there's so much more to hunters than just the pets. It's the closest wow gets to the D&D elven ranger role, to the old Legolas archetype.

    Mages are interesting in their own right, but they're a completely differant character theme (even if they're both ranged dps) and a very differant playstyle mechanically. Same for all the ranged dps classes, and for me the story behind how they exist in their world and how they do damage is just as important as how much damage they do.

    I don't want my avatar to toil away in a library reading books, or make shady demonic pacts in exchange for power, or to plead with the elements for their aid. I want to shoot people. In the face. With an arrow. Pets have always been a minor focus for me, something I managed just becuase I had to, but that hardly means I want to trade in my MQOSRDPS for a wand and a dress.

  15. Yeah I dont really like this change to hunters :( While I don't actually play one, I think that's the kinda thing that you have as a hunter. A bond with your pet. You feed him! You give him huggles! And he is loyal because of it. Removing this just makes it too easy and casual (but thats IMHO).

    I remember the first time I tried to level a hunter and got up to 30, as a bit of a wow nub this was before I had any high level toons. And my pet ran away. I really was like "wth just happened?!" it is part of learning your class, it should be a key mechanic that stays. :/

  16. What they are doing with the hunter pets is what they have been doing with the whole game. They are emphasizing that WoW is an MMO, not an MMORPG. Less immersion, more simplicity. Blizzard can go screw.

  17. Having played a hunter as a main since Vanilla and throughout much of WotLK, I can only /salute Blizzard for this. Losing 25% of pet dmg just because it got hungry while fighting a raid boss was idd absurd...

    Maybe you forgot how raids were going in TBC era, when you wanted your Locks to go farm 'RPG/lore' soulshards just to be able to cast stuff, the hunters go to a remote town to switch pet, your warriors go to old world and re-spec to be able to tank for you (remember when there was no dual-spec, and you Palas had to respec 2-3 times a day to do your quests, your PvP fix and then get going for a raid?), and so on, and so forth.

    Don't even get me started on raid attunements (which I really liked and enjoyed back then) and other now-unnecessary burdens.

    It has been too long now that all of us RPGers grew tired of the micromanagement and stuff. They did offer a great depth to the game. I really loved the idea that you could pick a rock that dropped from some demon here and actually have to store it because it would later allow you to access some boss half the world away. It did however got to a point where you needed a browser open and alt-tabbing every time you stumbled upon a rock with flavour text.

    Every single one of these changes are now MUCH NEEDED, because the game grew too much, WE grew to the point where we don't have the time to log in and manage bags all day, and the younger playerbase isn't really hooked into D&D anymore. As much fun as having a 'best friend' pet was when I was 12 level, feeding my pet, standing next to it to be able to learn new skills to train my other pets (remember that?), or 'beast-loreing' to check if I was missing any pet skills, it felt like a choire to constantly feed my pet while idle in Shatrath, or occationally going just outside the walls for a fresh kill just to get some loyalty on my newly aquired pet.

    BTW, I spent SO much time leveling my 12 level White rare bear I got in Kharanos all the way to 70, while she was unable to fight those mobs, while also carrying all the different level foods in my pockets, because she would not eat what I had for my other pet, actually playing petless, on a PvP server, grinding mobs for days (while they offered me no XP or rewards since I was already topped) and praying that none will jump on me -which just happened all the time-.

    I could go on for pages, but I don't feel I have to. It has been since patch 2.4 -if memory serves- that the old tired mechanic of hunter pets began to change, and everyone who played since vanilla knew it was about time.....

  18. Arguably, they took the "RP" elements out of everything when they offered race/faction changes. Should they get rid of these features because it undermines your bond with your character?
    As a hunter, I won't miss pet happiness at all. I can still remember having to solo mobs as a lowbie hunter trying to get meat to drop so that I could feed my increasingly disgusted pet. It was my first character, so I couldn't buy pet food or send some from an alt.

  19. Reading what Olaffjelltop and Gina wrote really drives it home for me in the current game. I had said that it was raid and dungeon buffs that's driving this, and Olaffjelltop's experience of hours and hours of pet leveling - for just one pet - shows the problem.

    This post from Warcraft Hunter's Union shows the buff situation for hunters these days:

    Note the "short list" at the bottom. That shows the minimum list of pets you can have to bring any buff you might need to in order to help your raid or dungeon party... 12 pets. Times how many hours of pet leveling? Add that to the risk of a leveled pet running away... throwing all that time investment out the window?

    Yes, the old system, where you were a "team" had some RP fun. Many of my friends liked it. But since Blizzard has chosen to go to a raid / dungeon balance system, and a hunter really is required to have at least a dozen pets "ready to go," even three levels of leveling is too much. And if there is a single glyph in the game more universally in use than the Minor Glyph of Mend Pet... making pet happiness irrelevant, I can't name it.

    Folks that are not current hunters think that this is a current loss. The actual, currently playing hunter community is generally pretty positive. I'm very down on WoW:Cata, and very down on the "B-team" in general. But if this is their direction, then this is a change I'm very happy to see.

  20. What about somewhere in the middle? If the pet loyalty and happiness systems are such an onerous thing to raiders, why not just turn those systems off at max level? Surely by then a Hunter can control his pets more efficiently than a newbie?

    ..OK, so maybe that's not such a great idea, but I do find it slightly offputting that the whole of game design game hinges around the "endgame". That never struck me as good overall design. Of course, I'm of a mind that trying to balance PvP and PvE with the same skillset is a fool's errand, too. You'll just never make everyone happy.

  21. My solution to this would be to make one of the trees, perhaps Survival, not have a pet. Then, the people who like the pet mechanics can have them, and those who abhor them don't have to bother. But to me, just having a pet that is in essence only a way to break down your damage sources into more parts is silly.

    I guess it really is simply a judgement call on what is "engaging and complex" versus "onerous". Where do you draw the line?

    Incidentally, I don't believe that hunter pets are the same thing as soul shards. Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't soul shards originally only used during battle if you wanted to summon a new demon or soulstone someone? So they really had no effect on your damage and you only "had" to farm them if your raid needed summons. Pets, on the other hand, (currently) provide raid buffs in the case of missing classes/specs, so leveling one to 85 actually is quite the burden (impossible?) to accomplish on raid night.

    I agree with the sentiment that this change is treading on the ground of oversimplifying the game. But we've had these kind of changes coming pretty much since launch, haven't we? The latest and greatest of these are the Dungeon Finder and the heroic/raid currencies. I can't really blame Blizzard for this -anything that keeps people playing alts is good business sense- but it does mean that there is a lack of depth attached to any single character.

    C'est la vie.

  22. 100% agree with your assessment of hunters pets. I started in TBC and lost my first pet due to unhappy, it was an eye opener. I learned to care for my pet and I hate now when pet is anything but green and happy.
    The only thing I've like about hunters pets in the past the level going to 5 below (or 2 below when cata hit).
    They have taken away most of the special abilitys with pets and now made them no more than what a lock, DK or mages ele bring to the game. Hunters are now arrow casters instead of physical damage dealing ranged class.

  23. I haven't leveled a hunter to cap yet so I'm hardly an expert but I wasn't aware of pet happiness being a huge problem in the game. Hunters have tons of very legitimate issues (I find this thread fascinating but Blizz spends time overhauling something that wasn't being complained about? Add that to the way classes are losing flavor and yeah. . . Not thrilled.

  24. Blizz has access to an enormous database of playerbase metrics that I don't. Blizz also seems to be succeeding beyond most people's wildest dreams. Thus, I can't criticize them too confidently. But it seems to me that discarding the characteristic feel of hunters and warlocks is a bad idea.

    It's good to fix inconveniences that are purely unfun and annoying. E.g., people here have mentioned annoyances for PVP hunters and for pets getting hungry in long raid fights. (As soon as the raid problem was noticed, why didn't Blizz tweak the hunger mechanic so the timer stopped rolling in combat?) And dropping the ammo mechanic seems reasonable; as far as I know, that was purely a nuisance that no one found that satisfying in any way. But there seemed to be a significant fraction of hunters and warlocks who got significant synthetic jollies from caring for their pets or preparing for fights by accumulating meat or fish or sucking souls from defeated victims. Not all the hunters and warlocks felt that way, but I support The Noob's general idea: a better way would have been to localize the petcare and soulsucking mechanics in some but not all hunter and warlock talent trees, rather than discarding them across the board. E.g., discard soul shards from the destruction tree, leave them slightly important for demonology, and leave them a significant part of affliction.

    There were also various details about the old mechanics that just seemed annoying rather than immersive. E.g., how many types of food were there? And keeping track of the level of a food item? I don't know why that ever made it into the game, and streamlining it later seems very reasonable.

    I would also say that one problem with the old pet and hunger mechanic was how it was only discovered at level 10+. For a casual player that probably led to several days of play shooting mobs in the face before having a chance to appreciate how as a hunter you were committed to a Tamagotchi play mechanic. I expect that that switch was misleading both for players who like taking care of a pet and for players who don't.

  25. If feeding a virtual pet and keeping it happy is too complex for you, there are 3 other pet classes (warlock, unholy deathknight, frost mage) you can play.

    Why change hunters to be the exact same?

    They aren't the same, though. All those other classes come with fixed pet lists. One of the things that attracted me to playing a hunter was the idea that I could go out and tame a unique collection of odd beasts.

    In practice, though, the old system made it hard to really take advantage of this variety. The maintenance requirements, the need to go back to a city to change pets, plus the fact that some pets (like the ankle-biting croc) just weren't that useful, meant that I ended up gravitating to just one main pet, not out of a desire to bond with a digital creature, but because doing what I really wanted to do was too much of a hassle.

    With the new stabling system, I can finally play my hunter the way I always wanted to -- keep a "good" pet on tap for tough fights, but swap out easily to goofy pets, like a seagull, when I'm just messing around. But while I consider this a vast improvement, the fiddly remnants of the old system, like the need to keep different foods (or pick happiness regenerating talents, or spam mend pet) strike me as pointless -- complexity that doesn't add fun. I won't be sorry to see them go.

  26. Unrelated to the main post, but relevant to the footnote: That's a NAKED Tauren hugging her pet cat. Even those whose minds don't automatically run into the dark could be excused for making that particular jump...

    As to the changes to pet mechanics, I'm inclined to argue that Blizz should simplify it by Talent tree, not just ezmode the whole thing.

    Make Marksman the PvP tree and remove the pet thing entirely from their damage mechanics. Give Survival a talent that removes Happiness from the equation, but also eliminates the "Happy" damage bonus. And give the pet managers Beast Mastery and let us feed them and level them and all that fun stuff.

    Marksmen pets are a Totem for all practical purposes, a static source of a useful buff, but largely irrelevant to the Hunter's DPS.

    Survival pets are much the same.

    Beast Master pets bring (with the right Talents) buffs equivalent to missing Class buffs, they have access to the Exotics and they remain "old school"