Monday, April 29, 2013

Thoughts On Spectate Mode In 5.3

Why do I pet battle? Why do I collect? Because it's fun for me. For. Me. What I collect, when, how, and so on is my own personal choice. This is my "me time" and I should be allowed to enjoy it as I please. It's a minigame that involves just me and my opponent (who's usually a NPC).

That being said, spectate mode virtually forces this individual minigame into a form of public display. If you enjoy battling in private and in peace, out of others' view, you can kiss that goodbye come 5.3. Whether battling in the wild or with friends, your match will invite an audience. Unintentionally. Even if the attention is unwanted.

As mentioned in a previous post where I previewed spectate mode on the 5.3 PTR, battling while hidden will no longer be possible if spectate mode is released as is. Stealth/shadowmeld battling will still be possible, but it will be useless as your entire pet team and NPC avatar will essentially shine a bright light over your pet battle encounter. Anyone that happens to travel by will see 6 little pets and either you or your stand-in, and know that a pet battle match is occurring.

Now, if you're on a PVE server, the main concern will be that it's invasive having random people walk by and stop to stare at your performance. But if you're on a PVP server, not only will it be weird having an audience, it just invites all sorts of harassment from the opposite faction. You're rendered completely powerless with spectate mode, as your option to battle in peace will be removed.

Many are probably excited for spectate mode, however not everyone will want to have an audience, even on a PVE server where the threat of PVP isn't big at all. Some may prefer to battle alone or might have anxiety when being watched. There are likely a few psychological factors that are being overlooked. The simple fact that player choice is being taken away will have some negative affects on a some players.

Spectate Mode and PVP
In the beginning, I grudgingly accepted that PVP was inevitable and it wouldn't be removed from Pet Battles. It's understandable that developers didn't want to make a system that players could exploit in PVP or to get out of PVP.

However, it was only acceptable to me because there was still a small option to battle while hidden. You may not be phased out like my idea of an ideal battle situation, but it gave me a slight chance to enjoy my minigame with fewer interruptions. I wasn't doing anything special, just using my class/race ability to my advantage. It's like a rogue who chooses to wander around the world stealthed while questing. They avoid being detected for the most part, but are still vulnerable to attacks at any time.

So I was not completely removed from PVP and I was entirely vulnerable the entire time. In fact, there were more than a few times where the opposing faction found me and decided to knock me out of my match. Still, there was a nice balance of player option/control, while still maintaining intended gameplay. I could choose to hide, but there was still a large chance I would be found. To me, that was balanced.

With the addition of spectate mode in 5.3, you won't even get a choice and that balance is all but removed. Everything will be out in the open. Battle while stealthed? Sure, but guess what? Your pet team and opposition will still be out there and in your place a randomly generated NPC. If that's not a signal to any and everyone passing by that someone is standing still, immersed in their battle, and ripe for the ganking, I don't know what is. Maybe a large "gank me" sign over their head?

Compromise, Please?
Don't get me wrong, though. I don't think spectate mode is a bad idea. It will be great for social events and just having fun when the player chooses to involve themselves in a multiplayer pet battle setting.

That probably makes it sound as if I want my cake and I want to eat it too, right? How can I dislike spectate mode on one hand, but praise it on the other? Much like many new features and aspects of this game, some compromise wouldn't hurt.

One way to give the player some control back is by allowing them to toggle spectate mode on and off. By default it could be on, and if a player doesn't desire an audience, they could turn it off. During guild contests or similar gatherings, spectate mode could be toggled back on. This would give players the option to play their own personal minigame in the fashion that they feel most comfortable with, while not removing the option to participate in a multiplayer setting.

Another suggestion that my guildmate recommended was implementing spectate mode to occur only in a party or raid group. In this situation, only players in your party or raid would be able to view your pet match. This would give the player more control over viewership (if desired). If you wanted someone to watch your wild pet battle, simply invite them to a group. Or perhaps you only want your friend to see your match. You would have the power to decide who can watch and who can't. Don't want the attention at all? That's ok too, and you would have the option to make that happen.

Both would be great compromises and would appease both gameplay and player option/control. Players that are excited for spectate mode and players who aren't will both have something to look forward to. Some really don't mind having others watch, and this new feature will be a great addition to the game for them. Those that do mind, though, shouldn't be punished for their desire to maintain a small sense of "me time", so an option for them should be included too.

Perhaps I'm in the minority in this, and as the label implies, the minority is but a minor factor when it comes to the ultimate decision. There are many excited for spectate mode, and I'm excited for them. However, I do hope that developers will keep in mind that there are those that do play a little differently than most, and sometimes even the majority may want to hop onto the minority wagon too. Allowing the option to choose (while still maintaining intended gameplay) empowers the player and generates an all around 'feel good' response. And at the very least, if not for the coming patch since it's already well on its way, some consideration for a future patch would definitely be appreciated.


  1. I'm that very rogue who stealthy ALL THE TIME and just spends most of his non-raid time alone pottering about, and pet battling. Like you say, it's at my pace, my own mini game and I can come and go as I like, with the little sense of achievement every single battle.

    Forced spectator mode sounds the silliest of ideas. Absolutely great for those of us who try guild tournaments and the like, but that's hardly very often.

    I can't imagine that outside of a multiplayer event I'd ever want to stop and watch someone battling either, other than sheer boredom. I'm with you on the enable spectator mode in party/raid group.

    1. @Rioriel: Unless I knew the player, I don't think I'd want to stop and stare at their battle either. If someone invites me to watch, sure. But other than that, I would feel awkward and almost as if I'm intruding/invading their personal space.

  2. Quite frankly, I don't really think watching others battle will be much fun and I'm worried about the visual clutter in popular areas.

    1. @Heartfruit: That's a really good point! Many people battling in a small area... could get messy quick.

      I don't know the technical details behind spectate mode, but I imagine having so many companions out and involved in battles all at once would be taxing on the server.

  3. I would be concerned about visual clutter in popular areas too. Any of the dailies could have multiple players all spawned in the same location. At the moment they aren't visible while battling but with this there will just be a big stack of them. Hopefully it won't cause any visibility for your own battle as at the moment anything that moves closes phases out.

    1. @Anonymous: I don't think spectate mode will affect you if you're actually in a battle. If there are a ton of others battling around you, though, it might cause some lag as you pick pet attacks/abilities. Could be frustrating =\

  4. I hadn't thought about the pvp angle, as I play on a pve server. My first thoughts when I heard about this were positive, as I've had nearby people try to recruit me for other activities when I was in the middle of a battle, as it looked like I was just standing around. At least in 5.3 it will be obvious what I'm doing!

    1. @Gorman: Overall, I think spectate mode deserves a spot in the game. But rather than making it all or nothing, I think players also deserve the ability to choose if and when they want to be seen battling.


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