Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Optional" = Not Really Optional

Disclaimer: The views in this post may not be reflected by those associated or affiliated with Quintessence or Perks N Peeves. Opinions are those solely of the author. Also, I highly recommend reading the comments that follow as there are a lot of good points and discussions. :)

I mentioned that I would dedicate an entire post to the topic of pet battles, but after reading a blue post response to pet battles... I just feel compelled to say this here and now. Maybe I'm just having a knee-jerk reaction, and with time I'll see a clearer and more logical side to this, but right now I just can't hold back my frustration and irritation.
"It's about giving people options in the game to play it how they want to." - Zarhym
I find this statement and the whole concept of pet battles contradictory. I'll explain why in a moment.
"...you're actually getting a use out of the pets you've collected over the years, in order to progress them in a fun mini-game, unlock countless more pets, and just generally give your character a new depth of style and flavor." - Zarhym
Note the bold portion of this statement.

Alright, so pet collectors. What do collectors desire? Namely classical pet collectors who really have no interest in putting their pets in battles. To acquire as many companions as they can, right? To complete their collection by adding to it all the pets that are currently available. What if there are pets that are available but ONLY if you participate in pet battling...?

Now, this pet battling feature is supposed to be "optional" yes? But in the end is it really? Especially for classic collectors?

Because pet battling will "unlock countless more pets", collectors are pretty much pressured into partaking in this new feature or they will not even have access to specific pets. Not even getting a chance at new and unique companions would be devastating for a classic collector, but what CHOICE will they have?

It's either participate, or get left out and left behind from my understanding.

I hope I'm making sense here. In the end, I really DON'T see this feature as being optional if you are a diehard pet collector. At least it's not optional if you want access to the new companions. And if you understand collecting, naturally you'd understand that not having access to ANY companion for whatever reason is simply devastating. Sometimes to the point where some players quit completely.

I have yet to hear of any other route or option that classic collectors may take to acquire the same pets that pet battlers will have access to, unless they get involved with the battles themselves. Perhaps this could be resolved if a secondary pet grouping was created specifically for just battle pets. In other words: one group would be standard companion pets while another group would be pets used purely in battles. That way classic collectors may not feel as pressured or forced into participating just to gain access to the "countless more pets".

I understand that many pet collectors will have no problem taking up pet battling and a large portion will even enjoy it. Then again there are those who aren't as excited or eager about this feature. What of them? They can either half-heartedly take up pet battling just to gain access to specific companions, or don't participate and be locked out from completing their collection to its fullest potential. The latter may seem like an easy choice, but it's actually very disheartening. Many collectors have spent years and a lot of time/energy/money on their collections, and suddenly they must give it all up or continue on knowing it will never truly be complete? How is this an option that anyone would want to take?

It would be like telling a pro-athlete that they can't play in that one last game that would complete their season unless they do XYZ. What choice does the pro-athlete have at that point? Throw their season and career out the window or fall in line and do XYZ (despite their lack of interest/desire in XYZ)? It's ultimately up to each individual to decide, but in the end many will simply feel they "have to" in order to keep up and to continue on. Can you honestly tell me that XYZ is still optional in this situation?

It may be "optional" purely by definition of the word, but when it comes down to the bottom line, the pro-athlete doesn't have a choice. Not if they want to keep their job. The same can be said for pet collectors; if they want access and they want to be able to continue striving to complete their collection, they MUST participate.

This whole "it's optional" concept really frustrates me because it really isn't optional for many collectors, and I really wish this idea would stop being thrown around so carelessly. Unless Blizzard has some other feature/system up their sleeves that they haven't announced yet, I can't agree with the statement that pet battling will be optional for collectors. From my point of view, it's not optional if you don't want a large, gaping hole in your collection. And that just doesn't sit well with me.

Just to make it clear, it's not the whole idea of pet battling that I have issue with right now. I'm still willing to hear Blizzard out and wait to find out more details and information about this new feature.

What DOES bother me is how Blizzard is presenting the pet battles. They claim it will be simply be an optional addition to the pet collecting gameplay when in reality, to a collector, it's NOT optional. To use the idea that it will be an easy choice to participate in or not to participate in to promote the feature is unfair to all collectors and rather shady on Blizzard's part in my opinion.


  1. I agree with you. I don't like to much this new feature but if there are more pets, well, I'll do it...

  2. I understand what you're saying, but it is optional nonetheless. It's not like your pets will become unsummonable unless you participate in pet battles. All I can keep thinking here is that this line of reasoning can be used for everything. A lot of pet collectors really dislike archaeology, but they do it anyhow to get pets. Others don't, and I don't consider them any less a pet collector. Is Archaeology optional? Yes. What about Murkimus? A lot of players really dislike PvP and on top of that, they don't even have the money to pay the fee for the Arena Pass. Some go for Murkimus anyhow while others do not. Is the Arena Pass optional? Yes. For the record, I happen to dislike both PvP and Archaeology, but I'm happy I have the memories and experiences of participating in those activities, even if I complained and moaned about it the whole time.

  3. @Cleophis: Many will feel the same way. Although they would rather not participate, in the end they will feel they have to in order to continue on.

    @Anonymous: I wouldn't count out a collector who doesn't participate in pet battling, and I wouldn't think any less of them either.

    Both Archaeology and PVP'ing are great examples and are similar situations. I've spoken with players who absolutely detest both, but have felt compelled to do it nonetheless. To me, this ultimately sounds as if they don't have an option. They have to do it in order to continue playing the game in the style they've chosen; pet collecting. Or they can continue on with a hole in their gameplay. While most collectors don't take this as hard as others and can press on just fine, others find it unacceptable and may quit over it altogether.

    That's what bothers me the most about this situation and many situations like it; Blizzard is promoting the feature by using the idea that it will be optional when it isn't from some collectors' POV.

    Many will continue to undergo whatever Blizzard throws at them, but is that right? To feel like you have to bear with an activity for the sake of continuing with what you enjoy? Especially when it's something that's supposed to be lighthearted and fun? Blizzard has mentioned numerous times that they strive to move away from putting players in situations where they feel "forced" to act or do something just to keep up with the game.

  4. I understand the frustation, but I don't understand the reasoning, sorry. It's like saying that I really, really like to have T12 gear, but I dislike raiding. If I was an RPer and I loved that shaman T12 gear... does that mean that Blizzard is keeping it away from me? Or that Blizzard should give me the same set through other means?

    This argument can apply to anything in the game and I don't think it's valid. I LOVE the PvP mount you can get from rated battlegrounds, but it's not Blizzard's fault that I can't win x amount of RBGs...

  5. @Jen: I was thinking about this, and it did make me take a step back to rethink my stance on the situation. I can't fault Blizzard for the implementation of something that some simply will not enjoy or will feel they have to endure to continue playing. Does it justify the new systems/features entirely? No. But on the other hand, does it make the new system/features wrong? No.

    It's just upsetting that Blizzard is seemingly overlooking and not acknowledging that small sub-group of players who do genuinely feel forced into tight spots where it's either get on board or get out. The idea of it being optional isn't necessarily 100% true and I hope that Blizzard at least understands that mentality and shows some empathy/compassion for those who feel that way.

  6. I can understand the mentality and it is very frustrating to want something and not be able to get it... but I don't think Blizzard should do anything about it. These things are meant to be rewards, not taken as a given. I despise dailies, so I won't get a starry pony from TB... and it's OK, it's indeed optional and it's not like Blizzard is preventing me from getting it.

    (What I *would* get pissed off about is things like Murkimus, since my country wasn't even eligible for the tournament, so no amount of money or PvP could get me the pet. Thank God I don't like it :P)

  7. @Jen: I think what it boils down to is on one hand, Blizzard doesn't want anyone to feel forced to do anything. On the other hand, they feel it's necessary for players to get involved to some extent in certain content and activities in order to reap the rewards. It's a very fine line they're walking and when it comes to some features such as pet battling, Blizzard often comes off as contradictory. Perhaps that's what initially bothered me the most.

    Still, I'd rather Blizzard not use "optional" so casually and as if many people will find it easy to just accept it as optional (because many players will feel as though they don't have a choice if they don't want to miss out). Like I said before, some players feel they simply have to endure and I empathize with them. In an ideal world, they wouldn't have to feel that way, and everyone would enjoy the gameplay as is. Alas, it's not an ideal world. :(

    Maybe it's just me, but I'd prefer Blizzard be up-front about this and acknowledge that they're pretty much changing the nature of pet collecting, and in order to not limit yourself in the gameplay, you really do have to take part in this activity.

    Since this feature has the potential to introduce MANY new pets, my hope is that Blizzard will provide other ways in which collectors can gain access to the new pets without having to undergo the pet battles and "training". Much like how over time a player can slowly get better gear even if they don't raid, yenno? They have choices of grinding points and purchasing the gear, crafting items, or waiting until the content becomes easier.

    It wouldn't be instant gratification, and in the end players would still have to work for their new and shiny companions, but not through battling if they decided to not participate. Then pet battling would truly be optional. I can see how some would claim this would be catering to the casuals, but if Blizzard wants to stay true to the whole "optional" idea, different forms of accessibility need to be provided.

    To me, pet battling being optional would mean different routes a player could take that would offer the same or very similar rewards at the end. Right now, though, the only way for pet collectors to gain access to the new companions is to participate in pet battling (to "unlock countless more pets" as Zar stated). I guess this is something we're going to have to wait on, since they haven't announced the new system in its entirety yet.

  8. I think they key phrase that bothers me is 'countless more pets'. In any particular thing in WoW that I don't want to do, it never impacts my collecting by much, be it mounts or pets. I think the worst would be archaeology, and that's only 5 pets. Daily grinds never affect more than 1-2 pets.

    I get that no one is forcing me to do anything. That everything is truly optional, etc. But as a fairly serious collector, if there's more than 5 pets that are ONLY available via this, then to some extent I do feel like I have to do something (there's plenty of mount and pet things I haven't done, but never when its more than 2). I'm aware that's my problem and not Blizzards... but I guess I just don't like it. And that's coming from a person who will be doing battles and is excited about it (though honestly I'm just excited about the customization and not the 'fighting' part).

    I think my real problem is just that I like being a special snowflake in a small group on the server obsessed with pets and don't want to see pet collecting become the next fad that everyone's doing because it's Pokemon 2.0. Selfish? Yep. But I'm being honest ;)

  9. @Diana: That's a good point! How many pets is "countless" and how big of a dent will it make on a collection should a player choose to refrain from participating? The answers to these questions will affect how well-received this feature will be, and whether or not some collectors will see this as optional.

    Personally, I don't mind if more people get interested in collecting for whatever reason. It's when the community starts to become vitriol and full of comments like "L2P N00B! I have a higher pet battle win ratio than you, so you fail. You suck at battling so you shouldn't be talking"... then I'll be bothered.

    Pet collecting has always been a pretty laid back, friendly and mostly non-competitive style of gameplay. All that could change with pet battles. But I'm going to save that topic for my next post :P

  10. I wasn't happy when I read Zarhym's comment either.

    The reason I agree with Quintessence about this being not really optional is that Blizzard is changing their "primary purpose" of pet collecting to be battles.

    Blizz is going to put all their "companion pet" energy into the battles and making new pets available via this system.

    I don't really want to do battles but I will participate in order to get new pets.

  11. @Kintarah: You've summed it up quite well! Rather than dancing around this and conveniently stating it's all "optional", I wish Blizzard had been a bit more honest and admitted that this new feature really will alter how pet collecting gameplay will ultimately work. It's not exactly a bad/good thing, but to present this whole idea that collectors will be able to continue collecting as they have been and may simply choose to ignore the pet battling system should they have no desire to participate... well that just seems like Blizzard's avoiding touching on the topic.

    It's something that concerns me, but after some thought, I'm going to try and give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt. I hope that they will realize that not every collector will be excited and for the pet battle system, and I hope that Blizzard will remember to find balance/compromise and give players other avenues in which they can take to achieve their pet collecting goals. In other words: other ways to access the new pets without necessarily having to battle. Then the pet battling will truly be "optional". So far there's no sign or hint that the new companions will be available through any other means other than this new feature, though. :\

  12. Am I the only one questioning the ethics and morals behind this pet battle-system? Imagine RL dogfights and roosterfights and bullfights, where animals get killed purely for the pleasure of the crowds. Of course, most of us enjoying WoW are adults and not that easily influenced, but what about youngsters? I just find the idea of allowing my minipets, I have 131 now, participating in what my overactive imagination decides is a bloody and ruthless battle to the death - so horrible! I gather companions for vanity. Cute, cuddly or a feat to boast about - it's for show, for decorative purposes. Also, that way they're out of harms way... I just find this idea of pet battles repulsive. Am I the only one thinking like this??


  13. To be honest, when pet battles were announced I kept thinking "it's a joke, it has to be. They're non-combat pets..." but it wasnt. Part of me really hopes this isnt implemented and becomes just another "Path of the Titans" thing, but I get the feeling it's not, and it will come out.

    Since facing that this may actually happen, I also felt I had to prepare for the pet collecting community to change, and the entire atmosphere of pets as just being something fun and cute. But at the same time, I appreciate this change might be fun - I'll give it a go anyway. If it comes out and I hate it, I'll weigh up how much I want the new pets compared to how much I hate pet battles - pretty much the same as my hunt for the crawling claw and my hate for archeology.

    Each to their own, and there will be people who love pet battles I'm sure, but really, I dont understand why they needed to fix something I felt (and I'm sure others did to) was not broken - pet collecting is fun and engaing as it is, and if I wanted to fight them, there is already many games I can play where I can do that.

  14. @Eileen D: I've read a few posts on the forums about this new system promoting violence against animals IRL, and I think they're valid concerns. Whether or not Blizzard will listen, it's hard to say.

    It's one thing to go on a quest and hunt down a wild animal to retrieve an item, or to be a hunter with your loyal pet defending you and helping you fight against the "bad guy". But it does seem a bit strange and wrong to send something that would be the equivalent of a hamster in real life out to battle another hamster, neither of which can be classified as the "bad guy".

    Perhaps many consider it harmless fun because of Pokemon and how that was accepted quite easily. Unlike Pokemon, though, the mini-pets have always been classified as "non-combat" companions, whereas the creatures in the Pokemon universe were portrayed as fighters right off the bat.

    @Lynara: I thought it was a very late April's Fool joke as well. It just seemed so out of place and out of character, but Blizzard seems very intent on coming out with this (especially since its meant to take the place of a new profession).

    "I dont understand why they needed to fix something I felt (and I'm sure others did to) was not broken - pet collecting is fun and engaing as it is, and if I wanted to fight them, there is already many games I can play where I can do that." - THIS x100!

    I think many in the community will at least try out the pet battling, but there are some who have already expressed their absolute dislike for the feature and plan on either quitting pet collecting or WoW altogether. It's really disheartening to see collectors leave behind something they've adored for so long over something that really didn't NEED to be implemented.

  15. I'll also agree 1000x... pet collecting was not broken and didn't need any changes. There are SO many pet collectors, especially with the new achievements, and none of us were going 'Oh man, I sure love obsessively collecting pets, but I wish there was something more engaging I could do with them- I know, lets pit my cute adorable Bananas in a fight to the death with a Hyacinth Macaw! Yeah, that's the ticket!' I think the pet fighting might be fun, but I'm going to be a little disturbed when the super cute pets are in battle. Snarly, Personal World Destroyer, Core Hound Pup... those ones I can visualize fighting. Bananas, Spring Rabbit, Argent Squire? That will probably be weird.

    I don't see why they couldn't have added all the other features- the pet customization, naming, etc- and left out the fighting part. Oh well.

  16. To be honest, I find it a little hard to believe that people can have valid concerns over friendly pet battles, when they'll happily go and slaughter scores of what are effectively, according to lore, sentient species, without batting an eyelid.

    If, as some assume, pet stats will be randomised for wild catches, and normalised for other pets, the people who are just in it for battling will probably just grind out a powerful team and roll with it.

    It's important to remember that, at this point, we have only the slimmest of details about the system, and getting all het up about it is unproductive.

  17. @Sunscorch: To each their own, especially in a situation such as this. It involves a rather large change that not only changes the gameplay but also the nature and reasoning behind it. Blizzard has been promoting that pet battles will be entirely optional, but it's looking less and less optional from a pet collector's point of view with the idea that "countless new pets" are unlocked exclusively (unless Blizzard proves otherwise) through battling and experience gains.

    I can't speak for everyone else, but to me there's a slight difference between hunting down mobs for quests, professions, and other activities and pitting your non-combat pet against another non-combat pet. For years the companions have served no other purpose other than to be harmless followers that players could have by their side for fun. This is changing entirely, which feels out of character. It can also be argued that some players actually do have issue with going out and killing innocent, sentient species, and will avoid quests that involve doing so. Also, most killing quests involve a hostile mob, and we are rarely tasked with killing baby turtles, bear cubs, etc. More likely than not, players are sent out to save and rescue them.

    I do agree that we do need more information and details about the system before any firm conclusion can be made, but until Blizzard gives us more, I think people have reason to be concerned and shaken up.


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