Monday, September 8, 2014

Gated Pet Battles In WoD

I think it's about time we talk about the giant elephant in the room (and I don't mean the Elekk Plushie). WoD pet battle content is shaping up quite nicely, however new gated content was recently implemented for beta testers to test out, and let's just say it doesn't seem very well received so far.

There are many pet-related activities that are locked behind a number of tasks, but this one might just be overkill.

To unlock the level 3 Menagerie blueprint, we'll have to battle one thousand (1000) pets. In Draenor. Not in Pandaria, not in Azeroth or Outland. Only in Draenor. And it's something you won't want to skip. Why? Because the level 3 Menagerie unlocks a new daily that rewards a bag which may contain one of a handful of pets each day. It's THE good stuff, and everything we've been and will be working for — new pets.

While I don't mind gated content or grinds, this achievement has a few issues. Nevermind the fact that many players will see 1k battles as excessive, but what exactly is there to battle one thousand times in Draenor?

There are only six Draenor trainers, which you can only battle once per day each. There's only one Menagerie challenge, that we'll likely be able to battle only once per day once WoD is released (despite being able to challenge it repeatedly on beta). That leaves wild battles to grind out that enormous number.

Granted, we'll be battling wild pets regardless if there are other, more interesting things to battle. We'll be hunting for all of the new wild pets in different breeds and qualities. But there are still limits to how many new wild pets there are, and eventually we'll reach our collecting goal long before the 1k mark is met.

After that, it will be just a straight grind. Which again, I don't mind. However, considering the state of wild battles on the beta at the moment, I'm not looking forward to it too much. As a disclaimer, beta is beta so content may not yet be finalized.

Currently many of the wild pets are still missing from the world, or at least one would hope. Draenor is largely devoid of any wandering pets, and they can only be found in large packs in Nagrand. Depending on the density and spawn rate once WoD is released, the competition for wild pets could be high. Not just for the new pets, but also for the achievement to unlock the next level of the Menagerie. That doesn't sound very fun.

Plus, wild battles on the beta are currently single pet fights. I'm unsure if this is intended or if two other pets will eventually join the wild teams, but I'm torn between rooting for one or three.

But let's give it the benefit of the doubt. WoD will have a plethora of wild pets, and the repsawn rate will be balanced enough so that collectors will have more than enough fill of new pets and wild pets for battle fodder. There are still concerns that surround this overwhelming achievement we have to complete.

"And, I have to do 1000 Draenor pet fights before I can actually start getting the most relevant reward from beating Draenor pet fights? This is akin to forcing people to get a "defeat Garrosh 10 times" achievement before they can get loot from Garrosh."

As Poofah mentions on WarcraftPets, other than for collecting the new pets, wild battles have no real value in terms of progression. It's not something that's new or will teach a seasoned battler anything. The level cap hasn't been increased, so the wild pets in Draenor are essentially the same as those in Pandaria. Minus a few new faces. The gating is a grind for the sake of a grind, it would seem.

Also unlike the Pandaria wild pets, Draenor ones are pretty undesirable for leveling too. If they remain single pet fights, Draenor wild battles will yield much less pet experience than a wild team of three. 319 experience for a level 1 pet in Draenor (with Safari Hat), compared to 798 experience for a level 1 pet in Pandaria (with Safari Hat). As long as Draenor pets are fighting solo, we lose any benefit to battling them.

But again, I'm torn between wanting teams of three as opposed to a team of one. With such a huge number as one thousand looming over me, a single pet fight goes much faster. However, I lose much of my motivation to battle wild pets in Draenor since my pets don't receive nearly as much pet experience from single pet fights. So it's a lose lose situation either way. Increase the teams to three pets for full pet experience, it takes longer to reach that 1k goal. Keep the teams as a one pet encounter, but lose the leveling benefits of Draenor wild battles.

On top of that, this achievement basically locks us in Draenor. Battles elsewhere won't count. They must be completed within the new zones in the expansion. But outside of new pets to capture, there's very little appeal to staying in Draenor for wild battles. Why stick around when I can earn more levels (AND rewards) battling previously implemented trainers? Because I'm forced to participate in Draenor-only battles for the sake of "progression", despite there being no new/additional benefits. As things stand, it's actually more of a disadvantage.

I don't think I need to mention travel time, do I? Well, I'll touch on that. Nevermind getting from zone to zone, just running around on a ground mount was tedious. Without flying in Draenor, finding pets could eat up the majority of our time. Playing on my level 100 on the beta, it was a chore to find wild pets that weren't guarded by high level mobs (because clearing out an area of mobs means MORE time spent doing something other than pet battling). It was tough to just battle without having to waste time traveling or dodging other things.

What will this mean for collectors who can't spend many hours a day looking for battles? I spent a good 3-4+ hours a day over the course of 2-2.5 days just to earn 500 Draenor battles under my belt. Not everyone has that kind of time. I even got lucky and there were multiple restarts throughout my play time, which reset the wild pets and spawned them all back in fairly quickly.

It could take weeks or months for the average collector to finally unlock the level 3 Menagerie and reach that last step of Draenor pet battle "progression". But by then, who knows? Will newer content be out and will those players feel left behind? It's discouraging to think about and may put off some collectors.

To play devil's advocate, completing this 1k achievement will go to those that truly immerse themselves into pet battling in Draenor. It's not a task that involves a lot of skill or knowledge, but it is something that not every player can accomplish right away. It will mark a very dedicated collector (or someone with a ton of free time on their hands), and perhaps it should initially be reserved for only such persons. They will likely collect the new pets from the level 3 Menagerie daily quest before others, and they'll have a small window in which parade their new pets around and to shine as a special snowflake.

If that's really the intent behind it all, I guess the one thousand goal is...acceptable? (Errr, but I'm not really one for special this would bother me somewhat.)

The Solution? Is There One?
Should the gated content be removed entirely? My opinion is no. Having a long-term goal is good not only for us as players, but also for the game. It gives the gameplay longevity and something for us to look forward to. As it is now, though, 1k Draenor battles is NOT something many will look forward to.

Taking into consideration all factors mentioned above, perhaps simply lowering the number required to unlock that last, more desirable step in pet battles progression, would be the best course of action. 500 Draenor battles? I managed to achieve that in 2-2.5 days. 750? That could be doable over the course of a week for your average collector/battler.

Compared to the majority of other garrison achievements that unlock other level 3 building blueprints, the Menagerie one just seems out of place. 500 Draenic Stone for Mines level 3 and 500 Draenic Seeds for the Herb Garden level 3.

Admittedly, the Fishing Shack achievement that unlocks its upgrade does sound extreme (100 of 7 different fish, 700 fish total), but keep in mind that while working towards that achievement, you're gathering NEW resources that you can and will use to further other professions. You're not grinding for the sake of grinding; you're progressing forward and are rewarded for your efforts. The wild battles in Draenor really don't offer much in the same way.

Perhaps awarding more pet experience for completing a wild battle in Draenor is another option. It would certainly make the grind more appealing, but some would still contend that 1k is just too much to be fun. For some veteran collectors, there are only so many new pets that need to be leveled. And with the implementation of the leveling stones, that process will go even faster. It's only one pet level per stone, but that takes away the need to grind experience out.

In the end, my impression thus far is that one thousand Draenor pet battles is too much. Gating is fine, but it should be more logical. Wild battles are so yesterday, and there are no new or additional benefits. How does it prepare us for the next step? It doesn't, really. Perhaps the level 3 Menagerie should be gated behind defeat X trainers X number of times. Or defeat X trainers with X pets. Or defeat X trainers within X number of rounds.

The simplest and most straightforward change I can think of, though, would be to reduce the number of Draenor battles required to unlock the level 3 Menagerie.

We'll see what the end result is, but I'm hoping for a compromise. Collecting takes dedication, and we are more than willing to devote ourselves. But everything needs to have a balance. Besides, at this point I don't think many of us really need to prove our commitment to collecting, anyway. ;P


  1. In regard to time, the Draenor Angler achievements takes about 5-8 hours, depending on (fishing) gear. A couple of hundred pet battles is surely the maximum for pure time/effort balance, so I'm inclined to agree the thousand battle criteria is excessive.

    Note that while it is true that the Enormous fish catches are useful, the main aim of the Level 3 Shack is to unlock Pagle and start catching Lunkers. So if one is aiming for Lunkers, a similar argument can be applied to fishing as pet battles - that to unlock the Lunkers, one is fishing from waters which will eventually contain Lunker catches, but do not yet. The serious collector of all the Lunker-related goods has got about 20,000 catches ahead of them, so 1,000-or-so on the unlock can almost be seen as a warm-up ;) . I'm not sure how the Menagerie rewards compare, but I get the impression there are some similarities.

    1. @El: The Menagerie doesn't really have any equivalent to Lunkers, so it's difficult to accurately compare the two.

      The main goal of upgrading to the Level 3 Menagerie is to unlock the new daily quest (which is also locked behind an achievement to defeat the 6 Draenor trainers). Unlike fishing for Lunkers, perseverance and time/energy spent doesn't really matter at that point because collecting the new Menagerie pets depends on an account-wide, once per day, RNG drop from the reward bag. A 1000 "warm-up" probably isn't necessary for that. :P

      Everything else from the Menagerie can be purchased as soon as you unlock the plot (at level 98) and start earning Pet Charms (defeating the Draenor trainers).

  2. Whilst I'm not in beta myself, 1000 does seem very daunting. Maybe 500 as you've suggested would be the way to go. Leaving aside the 'grindy' aspect, I'm not too keen on the idea of competing for battle pets with other collectors, only to kill them to bump a statistic.

    The other thing I'd be interested in would be an article on the need to have both Horde & Alliance characters to collect all pets in WoD - perhaps a spotlight on the faction-specific WoD pets? :D

    1. @Kintarah: Good idea! I don't think there are many faction-specific pets in WoD, but there are a few. If you're like me and don't really want to trade/buy the pets from the other faction, one toon from both sides will be necessary.

  3. As a person who mostly uses pet battles to simply collect more pets, it's seems excessive. I'll have little use to ever level up pets in Draenor, considering I have 75+ pets leveled already for various purposes and specific fights. In order for me to simply collect more pets, I'll have to do something excessive that isn't my favorite part of the pet collecting experience.

    Don't get me wrong, I'll do it, but I'll be grunting and crying the entire time.

    1. @Mirage: That's been the issue with Pet Battles from the beginning. It's a different style of gameplay that often supplements and/or gates other gameplay, specifically collecting. I know a few collectors who have simply given up because battling just doesn't interest them in the slightest. It's disheartening but I can't see any way around it tbh. =\

      I agree, though. I'll complete the 1k battles because pets, but I'll be doing it grudgingly.

  4. I am wondering if they inflated the beta amount to unlock because they dont want people getting those pets yet. I feel like they changed similar achievements between PTR / beta and live before.

    1. @Anonymous: That's entirely possible, but I can't see why they don't want people to get the pets yet. It's not as if the pet rewards are a secret or anything. They're listed right in the Pet Journal.

      I'm sure Blizzard *wants* us to test the content, too. So I don't think it's a matter of keeping it under wraps and out of testers' hands.

      That being said, they could still change it prior to WoD going live.

  5. You have been heard! 500 pet battles:

    1. @Adal: I'm glad and very grateful! I would have certainly undergone the 1k grind, but I'm probably part of a minority. 500 is a wonderful change, is less intimidating, and will appeal to a wider audience. Yay :D


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