Just as a disclaimer, this idea isn't completely original. I didn't come up with the core of it. I don't remember who it was, but someone in the official feedback thread mentioned an idea that I felt was interesting and wanted to build upon.
Upgrading pets - it's a long grind. Whether you're new or old to Pet Battles, upgrading your entire collection to rare takes time. With the possibility of epic pet upgrades, not only would it be another grind, it devalues the previous one.
It's not like epic pets will make upgrading to rare any faster; it's not the same as upgrading your gear, which then makes previous content faster. Epic pets may make trainer battles go a little smoother, but actually upgrading your pets to rare? It's still a slow process as you collect battlestones and charms and continue hunting for rare quality pets. So there goes our grind to rare, long and now obsolete once epic pets are implemented.
Collectors also don't want to contend with having to upgrade hundreds of pets. Nevermind the meaningfulness of the grind to rare quality. The grind to epic quality (assuming the way we will get epic battlestones is through the system in place on Alpha now) will be just as tedious, if not more.
On top of that, if epic pets are going to receive a stat upgrade along with their purple-y name, many collectors and battlers will probably feel it mandatory to upgrade everything. Why handicap yourself by NOT upgrading a pet? What if you one day need that pet as part of a trainer strategy? In PVP, using max level, fully upgraded pets is pretty much a must too.
There are other valid concerns about epic pets that you can read through on the official feedback thread. I won't go into all of them since the whole point of this post has already gone a little sidetracked.
So IF (and I stress the if) we have no choice or say in the matter, and epic pets will be making a debut in Legion, what would be a good way to implement them that doesn't completely turn away a large portion of the collecting/battling community?
Again, not my idea, but I wanted to expand upon it: Epic pet slot.
After completing X achievements, quests, upgrading your entire collection to rare, etc., or what have you, you receive the ability to "epic-fy" upgrade one of your Pet Battle slots in the Pet Journal.
Upon doing so, any RARE quality pet (the pet must first be rare before it can go in the epic slot) placed in that slot will be automatically upgraded to epic with stat boosts and everything. Temporarily. Remove the pet from the slot, and it returns to rare.
This will ensure that the quality cap is still technically rare, keeping our previous efforts meaningful and somewhat avoiding the grind to epic.
It also doesn't negatively impact those who are compelled to have their entire collection a certain way, as much as upgrading every single pet to epic would.
It allows us ONE epic pet to use in PVE, not three. A full team of epic pets would impact battles, as proven by my tests and comparisons between battles using epic pets and using rare pets. Three would mean future trainer and PVE content would need to be even harder to be challenging. Three epic pets is a bit much, so let's compromise: one epic pet would give you less of an advantage, but still gives you the feeling of being a bit stronger than you were previously.
And who knows, there's always the option of allowing us to unlock the other two epic slots in future patches or expansions.
In PVP, the epic pet slot would be turned off. Again, going back to the idea that rare quality is technically still the cap. This gives veteran and newcomers more even footing; everyone would still be focusing on upgrading to rare anyway, since the epic pet slot can only be used by rare quality pets. It's not like someone newer to the scene can go out and capture a wild epic pet, but they CAN go out and catch a rare one. And if they get the right one for PVP, they'll still have a fighting chance.
Don't want the slot to be epic-fied because you want to use a specific strat? The slot could be moved. Let's say slot one was your original choice for epic, but now you want to use a carry pet strat and would prefer your epic be the pet that carries the team. You can move the upgraded pet slot to effect pet #2 in your lineup instead. Or pet #3. This gives us options and doesn't lock us into something we will likely want to change later.
Worried that this won't give us enough fresh content, whether artificial or real? Perhaps gate the epic pet slot behind a long quest chain, or a certain number or specific achievements that only long-time and/or dedicated collectors/battlers would have completed. It also still requires rare pets to use, so those that have yet to upgrade their entire collection and are still in the process of doing so will still be right on track.
TLDR; Epic pet slot idea in detail:
- A Pet Journal team slot (of your choosing) that automatically upgrades any pet placed in that slot to epic (stat boosts and all).
- Only rare quality pets can be placed in the epic slot.
- The upgrade to epic is only temporary and only applies to pets in that slot. Remove the pet from it and it drops back down to rare.
- One epic slot (to start with?); possibly the other two can be unlocked at a later date.
- Epic pet slot is turned off in PVP.
- You can move which slot is epic, giving you options for strats.
- Epic pet slot acquired after completing a long quest chain, or many achievements, or getting your entire collection to rare, or all of the above. Something that requires determination and dedication to complete.
This idea not only introduces epic pets into our collections, it doesn't drastically disrupt the status quo.
Again, original idea can be credited to someone in the feedback thread. This is just my own detailed version of it.
I realize that this idea may still alienate some collectors/battlers. Not everyone feels the need to upgrade their entire collection to rare quality. The only way around this would be to remove the rare prerequisite for the epic slot. But then any pet would work, meaning any previous effort to upgrade to rare would be devalued.
I don't know what the tech or resource limitations on implementing an idea like this would be, so I can't say how viable this solution is. Maybe it's not feasible at all. Or maybe it will just take some time. Who knows?
This idea, like all others, has its share of issues and problems. But if developers have already decided that epic pets will be a thing, I would prefer this type of system over the current battlestone mechanic.