Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Winter Veil Pets - Too Soon to Say "It's a Nerf"

The pet collecting community is no stranger to changes and updates to vanity companions. We've seen pets go from actual items to trainable spells, farmable holiday boss-dropped pets becoming extra (and somewhat unreasonably) rare, new pets with old models, additional idle animations, etc.

While some of the changes were accepted fairly easily, other alterations were very hard to swallow, especially when coupled with what felt like something being taken away from players or a "nerf" (example: the unexpected removal of the Searing Scorchling back in 2010 ON TOP of the sudden implementation of the new holiday bag loot system).

That being said, there are those who object to the upcoming 4.3 change to the Winter Veil pets.

It is definitely understandable that such a change as this would meet an opposing force. I don't know about everyone else, but prior to the 4.3 PTR, I didn't foresee any update to these wintery pets on the horizon, so this change came as a bit of a shock. The companions seemed in good shape and other than the small annoying requirement of a snowball to summon, they didn't appear to NEED any update to how they worked.

So that begs the question: WHY are these companions being changed? What is the mentality behind it all?

It could be argued that the developers are leaning towards a more "logical" and lore-oriented game model for this expansion and onward. This would explain their desire to make the Winter Helper companions NOT unsummonable (you can still bring them out post-4.3 but they won't hang around for too long), just short lived outside of their designated holiday event.

But of course, does this mean ALL holiday pets will be receiving the same overhaul? If so, that's a lot of holiday pets that players won't get to enjoy as often. One could argue that the purpose of a holiday companion is so that a player can have a souvenir of that particular event so that they may enjoy it all year 'round. To me, this sounds a bit unreasonable, and not to mention not very fun or festive.

Another explanation is that the removal of the snowball requirement needed to summon the winter pets warrants a change of summoning mechanics for these companions (to some extent).

Originally, snowballs were harder to come by, meaning the Winter Veil pets weren't summoned as much outside of the X-mas event. If we look at the snowball as a limiting factor for these pets, and suddenly that limitation is removed, how else would developers balance the use of these companions?

Granted, the snowball factor isn't a huge deal anymore, since it's pretty easy to stock up on them for the year, and the persisting pets change also aids in having a helper or snowman pet out constantly. But in terms of the original design and intention of the Winter Veil pets, the removal of the snowball component would mean a new additional limitation would be required.

Developers could have EASILY taken the quick-fix (but very "Grinchy") route and just made it impossible to summon the Winter Veil pets at all during non-Winter Veil days. Instead, they went for a compromise; players can still use these companions without needing a reagent during the off season, but the pets won't have as long a life-span outside of their holiday.

Don't get me wrong, it DOES still worry me that all holiday pets may soon be following this trend of limitations and restrictions, and let's face it, no one likes their fun and gameplay to be cornered off. Being told that you can't do X when just a month ago X was completely fine is definitely a huge blow. However, I'd like to give the developers the benefit of the doubt that they do understand the pet collecting community enough so that unwarranted changes won't be added in the future. I'd like to think that the Winter Veil pets are being altered simply to comply with the original design goal behind the companions, while at the same time removing an outdated restriction (the snowball requirement).

At the very least, I commend developers for finding a compromise to the situation. I was never very fond of having that error message pop up "Reagent missing: Snowball" when my random pet macro attempted to summon a Winter Veil pet. The removal of the snowball component is a welcome change from my point of view, but because it's a compromise and I can't have my cake and eat it too, I too have to relinquish something.

Personally, though, I see it as somewhat of a win rather than a loss. The winter helpers never really DID anything, but after 4.3, they will be chatting up a storm (even if it's just them telling me off for taking them away from their workshops). Although I have to give up the ability to have these pets out for long periods of time, the new animations amuse me and are interesting enough. The only change to the Winter Veil pets that irks me a bit is the Tiny Snowman's sudden "death" shortly after it's brought out during non-Winter Veil days. (My poor snowman T_T)

One last thing to keep in mind: With these changes to the Winter Veil pets, we're only previewing what they do during the non-holiday time. There is still the mystery of what they do DURING the actual holiday. Who knows? Perhaps they have especially cool new animations during the actual event. I've always loved seeing gnomes flip over when struck by snowballs, so maybe the helper companions will engage in mini-snowball fights? The Tiny Snowman? Maybe he won't be so tiny. All in all, let's not jump the gun just yet. There are still many unknowns and questions, and we'll just have to wait and see to find out the final result and whether or not the change, however sudden and unexpected it may be, turns out for the better.

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