Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Necessary Action Is Better Than NO Action

The announcement that wild pets will not be cageable, tradeable, or sellable until further notice hasn't exactly been well-received by many players. That isn't to say the change doesn't have its share of supporters, though.

Personally, I do not support the idea of flat out removing the ability to cage and trade wild pets. It removes so much from the minigame, and puts collectors at a large disadvantage. Without this ability (and if wild pets cannot be released), collecting wild pets will be a counterproductive activity for pet collectors since duplicates will quickly fill up pet slots, and there won't be a way to remove them from Pet Journals. This will ultimately leave very little room to collect other non-wild companions, since the number of total unique pets is slowly inching closer and closer to the 500 cap.

But I digress. Instead of arguing for the ability to trade and sell wild pets (with limitations, mind you), I want to discuss why Blizzard's "knee-jerk reaction" is necessary, and faulting them for it is just as much a "knee-jerk reaction" as the action of removing the trade/sell ability.

It's been painfully clear since day one of Pet Battles testing that there were exploits, bugs, and ways to bypass much of the new minigame content. Players will always look for ways to "break" the system in order to "win". Even for those not intentionally trying, situations will come up where they find a super effective and efficient way to do things that developers couldn't have foreseen or predicted.

In some cases, it isn't a game-breaking problem and can be easily resolved. In other situations, such as the current controversy over the trade and sale of wild pets leading to player skipping much of the new minigame, it's not as black and white.

Developers have worked hard to create a fun, evolved version of pet collecting with new and interesting mechanics. The intent is to give players what they've been asking for, a style of gameplay that is fun, has re-playability - all without being too grindy. Not to mention that it also includes our beloved minipets.

To suddenly find reports that players are (intentionally and unintentionally) finding ways that essentially voids all of their efforts and bypasses the new content, it's pretty discouraging. Why create the content at all then?

Put yourself in their shoes. You create an awesome new system that you can't wait to share with others and for them to enjoy. Except you discover that someone has found a way to completely destroy the intended flow of gameplay and circumvent all the content and hardwork you've put into creating it. In the end, you'd ask yourself why you even bothered, right? If someone is just going to go and poo-poo on your work, you could have taken less time and energy and instead flung random things together and be done with it. It would be disappointing, discouraging, and neither player nor developer would feel any sense of satisfaction.

This reason (and other issues, I'm sure) led them to their "knee-jerk reaction" to remove the ability to trade and sell wild pets until further notice.

Granted, this doesn't "solve" anything, and the issues/problems that Blizzard is trying to prevent still exist, and there are many great suggestions that would be much better compromises to the situation. However, discussing, planning, developing, and implementing new mechanics and systems for a feature that was likely nearing a state of "almost" completion, takes time. Time isn't on Blizzard's side, though, as deadlines need to be met, and players grow restless waiting and waiting for the expansion.

Ok, so Blizzard needs time to come up with and insert a new system of compromise where players can trade and sell wild pets without rendering all the new stuff pointless. Does that justify their plan to remove the trade/sell ability? Why not just let players do as they please, but acknowledge that there might be changes due to the issues at hand?

Because NOT doing anything about this situation, even though they are aware of it, would be even more harmful to both Blizzard's efforts AND players' experiences.

Take the entire Diablo 3 situation, for example. It was clear that people were pretty much exploiting mechanics and breaking the game very early on. This led to a lot of outrage in the community because it pretty much ruined the game for many. Not only did it mess up the market(s), it also gave players a sense of "what's the point, this isn't fun anymore".

Keep in mind that I'm not saying exploitation is the ONLY reason behind D3's gameplay problems, but it does add to the issues of the game significantly.

Had Blizzard caught onto these methods of breaking the mechanics earlier on (like say in beta, such as the current situation with Pet Battles), and done something about it (like turning off X or Y ability BEFORE the final version was even released), much of the fun and flow of the intended gameplay might have been preserved. Instead, Blizzard had to backpeddle after the release, which caused even more problems for both developers and players. Backpeddling is generally a lot worse than pre-emptive intervention.

Players easily grow accustomed to doing things a certain way, even if it's not the intended style. Backpeddling and changing things after the fact is then viewed as "nerfing" and it feels like something is being taken away rather than an issue being resolved. And as I've mentioned before, no one likes having something taken away from them.

Example: The ability to "farm" holiday bosses for the vanity items being replaced with the holiday boss daily and loot bag. This method of obtaining items was seen as acceptable and a common practice for the longest time. Until Blizzard dropped the bomb on us that it was NOT how they intended the holiday bosses to work. Yet the practice had been going on since the inception of the holiday vanity items, and there was no indication that "farming" the bosses was "wrong" in Blizzard's eyes. So when the change was made to the "intended" style of gameplay (once per day farming), it felt like a huge blow for players. Blizzard had to deal with the backlash, not to mention use extra time and resources to implement the change. That time and energy could have been applied elsewhere.

It's ultimately a lose/lose situation.

At least with Pet Battles, Blizzard is taking a stance early on, which may potentially result in a more favorable outcome for both sides.

Again, I'm not arguing that taking away the option of caging and selling/trading wild pets is a "fix" or in any way, shape or form a good thing. What I'm saying is that it's a necessary move on Blizzard's part, one that might be reverted in the future with a better compromise. Hopefully something that satisfies their criteria while also giving us the ability back.

This is something I hope the pet collecting community keeps an open mind about, since a knee-jerk reaction to a knee-jerk reaction does absolutely nothing but frustrate both sides.

I don't always see eye-to-eye with Blizzard decisions. At the same time I do recognize that there is always room for change and improvement. While unfavorable, sometimes a decision has to be made, and if possible the lesser of two evils.

The end result will be mainly up to developers. All we can do as a community is continue to provide feedback and suggestions, and hope that developers will hear us out. I'm going to give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt that they want to provide us with a game that we can thoroughly enjoy, while maintaining the integrity of the game.

I will continue to maintain my viewpoints on this matter, but I remain hopeful that something better is in the works. "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst" - it's a great motto to live by.


  1. I'm pretty sure there will still be the "Release" option for pets so that we can get rid of the grey quality, common and even uncommon pets while hunting for that rare one.

    1. @Anonymous: I certainly hope so. If I can't trade or sell those extra wild pets that I don't want to hold onto, keeping the release option available is the least they could do.


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