Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pet Battles Criticisms and Suggestions

I want to give many kudos to Blizzard devs for the Pet Battles feature. It's just what this game needs imo. This is a fresh, new way of enjoying the game, and it gives pet collecting a lot more depth and meaning. Of course the Pet Battles system is not perfect and probably won't appeal to everyone, and improvements/changes could be made, but overall this feature seems like it's captured people's attention even if they're not active pet collectors. Maybe Pet Battles will turn them into companion-lovers? :P

A lot of questions and concerns about Pet Battles are answered in Mumper's FAQ post. I would read through that first before actually trying out the feature in-game.

Now, where should I start? The good? The bad? The ugly? There's not much in the latter category tbh, but I'm probably biased about pets in general lol.

The way Pet Battles is set up is that you can participate in either a PVE or PVP fashion:
PVP Pet Battles is where you engage in pet combat with an actual player in either a duel or the match-making queue.

PVE Pet Battles is where you engage in pet combat with an NPC or a wild critter that you can choose to kill or capture.

But both generally rely on the PVE aspect of leveling up your pet team and unlocking certain aspects of the pet journal and pet abilities. The higher level your team is, the higher their stats, and the more abilities you have to choose from.
For those that enjoy solo'ing content and participating in more of an individualistic gameplay, PVE Pet Battles should be right up your ally. There's a quest chain to defeat the Pet Tamer NPCs, and although there are some NPCs that seem to be off the beaten track, the flow of winning each encounter will generally lead you to the next step.

I'm quite fond of some Pet Tamers not being directly linked into the quest chain, actually. It encourages me to go exploring into different zones. I'm not sure what triggers each auto-generated quest to fight so-and-so tamer, but I've run into at least one where I just happened to beat a wild critter in a new zone that I hadn't captured a pet in yet. It will be a challenge to engage, defeat and capture the wild pets of every zone to see if I've missed a chance to challenge a Pet Tamer within that area!

The Pet Tamers award a sizable chunk of experience, which is a nice bonus! It helps cut down on the monotony of finding a critter, battle it, rinse and repeat.

I haven't tried queuing for a PVP battle yet, but I hear it only awards a small bit of experience for your companions. For someone like me, who's not interested in PVP so much, even for my minipets, this is acceptable. It fits in with the PVP vs. PVE progression for your character, where PVE should award more experience gain than PVP. That isn't to say PVP is completely removed from aiding in leveling, though.

Earning only a small portion of exp from a PVP Pet Battle also makes it feel less necessary to grind. Players will naturally gravitate towards what is most efficient for leveling, and if that involves having to engage in both PVP and PVE to max out the exp gain, they will do it. But I'm glad this is not the case. PVP feels more optional than anything, which is a good thing imo, especially for an activity that's generally more of an individualistic style of gameplay.

At first the idea of a pet team didn't make sense since you start out battling just one critter. Why have three on your team when you could probably beat the one wild pet with just one companion? Wouldn't that make it seem like you have to tunnel vision to level each pet individually?

Well to my surprise, as you progress and level through the zones, a second and third wild pet can join the battle! It's a critter gang up! I guess wild pets have to stick together and fight for their right to stay wild? :P

This mechanic made the team aspect make more sense. I was worried that experience gain wouldn't be balanced while using a team, however, despite starting out with a much higher level pet and then two lower level pets on my team, they're all about the same level now.

Having to fight multiple opponents on a team also forces me to switch out companions on some turns, use certain abilities when favorable, and make choices that will actually affect the result of the battle.

It's not just spam one ability and go. Sometimes you need to plan ahead and I find myself having to put some actual thought behind each turn, but not to the point where I'm agonizing over what ability to use.

If you've ever played a trading card game, I would say it's comparable. Pet Battles is a much simpler and tamer version, but it looks and feels very similar.

So far I've had mainly positive things to say about Pet Battles, right? Well there are some things that I think could be changed, improved, or added.

The heal after an encounter - I think many players agree that either the cooldown on the revive/heal spell needs to be shortened (maybe 5 - 7 minutes), or an actual item you can use while out in the world needs to be available.

I agree that there should be a limit on the use of the heals and revive spell, but as some have pointed out on the Beta Pet Battles feedback forum, for some of the larger zones it's just not reasonable to rely on the Stable Master or waiting for your ability to come off cooldown. Travel time doesn't equal fun!

On the other hand, I haven't had too much trouble maintaining an acceptable health level for my pets after each PVE encounter. With some smart moves and usage of pet abilities, I've been able to keep my pets at around 80%+ for the most part.

I can currently go about 3-4 rounds of battling before my pets need an actual heal. This requires the use of a companion that is a healer, though, and not all players will choose to use a pet that has a group heal.

So I think the best compromise would be to shorten the heal/revive cooldown and/or implement the pet bandage item (but not in massive and endless quantities). Just enough so that the player has something to fall back on if they find themselves in a bind in an awkward area. Perhaps stick a few BoP bandages in the Sack of Pet Rewards since those are only awarded once per defeat of a Pet Tamer.

At the moment, that's my biggest criticism about this new feature. Here are some changes and additions that I would like to see, but wouldn't be game breaking (I'll add more as I continue to play through Pet Battles):
- Ability to filter by pet level range in the Pet Journal. Level 1 - 5, 6 - 10, etc. It would help sort out which pets need more experience grinding and which ones can sit on the bench for the time being.

- Ability to filter by quality in the Pet Journal. Only wild pets have rare qualities ranging from Poor to Legendary, yet the list is so large that it's quite inconvenient to rely on eyesight alone to pick out those green, blue, purple and orange colored boxes.

- Pet color changers. Implement wild companions (with different coloring variations) to change color each time it's summoned and dismissed. Currently only one other pet has this awesome ability, and that's the Worg Pup. When you bring it out, it can spawn either a black/grey version or a brown colored pup. Hunters have a few combat pets that also share this color swapping ability upon summon.

This is something I'm actually very passionate about and I think it would help certain players feel less pressure and anxiety about collecting.
There are many pets that come in different colors and/or share the same model as other companions. Too many to fit in your Pet Journal, especially if you take into consideration the rare qualities too. With the total cap at 500 and a max of 3 per same pet, it's just not possible to literally "catch them all". Note: There are enough pet slots where you can catch at least one of each pet, though.

Implementing color changers for the companions that come in different color variations might alleviate the need to catch more than 3 of that particular pet since you can get all of them in one version. Attach this unique color-swapping ability to only rare quality pets and BAM! An extra incentive to search for and capture higher quality wild pets too.

It gives collectors more freedom since they won't feel forced to choose just one color or one quality. This sentiment might only be held by actual pet collectors; those who are interested in only the PVP or progression of Pet Battles could probably careless. But remember that vanity pets started out with collectors. Please don't forget us and the mechanics we enjoy/would appreciate! ;)
- Wild pets should be able to interact with pet toys/items, other pets, and the environment too. Currently pet leashes and toys don't work with captured wild critters, and I have yet to come across a captured wild companion that has an interesting idle animation. This probably wouldn't be a top priority for developers, but if they someday had some extra time/resources to give wild pets more of a desire to interact with items, other pets, or the environment... I wouldn't be against that. ;)
Anyway, giant wall of text! If you've managed to read through all of that without passing out, congrats lol. This is all just my initial thoughts on Pet Battles. Depending on more testing and how things go from here, I might end up changing my opinion about the stuff written above.

Overall, I enjoy this evolved version of pet collecting. I know it won't be for everyone and it might be hard to accept that collecting won't be as simple as collect X pet in MoP, but I think this is what WoW needs.

As I've mentioned before, the game was never meant to stay static. Players change, time moves forward and an older classic style of gampeplay needs to evolve to keep up with everything else. I'm glad to see that classic aspects of pet collecting haven't been forgotten or overlooked, though. There are still companions to hunt and work for, and although there's more emphasis on Pet Battles being a crucial component of collecting, there's a delicate balance between the old and the new. I'm all for compromise and balancing, so this is something that I think I can get behind! :)


  1. I like your comment, downloading the patch right now!

    1. @Anonymous: It's pretty addicting and fun! Don't get too frustrated if Pet Battles is too buggy to test, though. Pet teams dying as soon as you engage in battle seems to be occurring quite often, but I'm sure Blizzard is working on a fix for that.


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