Reworking Pets

January 2, 2008 at 1:49 pm (Game Design, Hunter, Pets, World of Warcraft)

So, I’ve been thinking about pet redesign again. Here are issues with the game design of pets:

  1. Not balanced by families. There are good families, and there are bad families as opposed to good for some situations bad for others based on families. Players are also confused as to which families have which stats and whether elites have better stats, etc.
  2. Unintuitive training. No where in the game is it explained how to learn a pet ability to teach your pet. Nor is it intuitive that you need to keep upgrading that ability as your pet levels. This mechanic also requires hunters to either keep a stable slot empty or abandon a pet to learn a new ability.
  3. Unbalanced pet abilities and trainablity. Compare gore to shell shield. Twelve seconds of damage reduction with a DPS penalty every 3 minutes vs huge improvement to damage limited only by focus is not a balanced trade-off.
  4. Balancing abilities / families for future expansions. Several new families of beasts can be expected every expansion. Add in new abilities as well and keeping the expanded families new and interesting while balancing against old families will become increasingly difficult.
  5. Loyalty/training points. It is an unnecessary mechanic. There are already enough hoops to jump through to learn a new pet ability and tame a new pet.
  6. No reason to tame tanking pets. Tanking pets cannot generate enough threat to tank while DPS pets can take damage fairly-well. The exception here is if more than one mob is attacking HP drop fast, which means using mend pet, which means the hunter generates additional threat, which means he gains agro from the adds. I think that is well balanced but mention it to show that DPS pets were not meant to tank well.

My focus is on making every family viable. Now, I’m sure I’m not the first to think it, but I’m going to go with this two pronged idea:

  1. Every pet is identical when tamed. You heard me. A Ravager is just as good as a Crocolisk which is just as good as a Sporebat. I also mean that pets do not come with any abilities. It’s what any system aims for anyway so we’d better start there. Additionally, every pet can learn any skill. Don’t go all RP on me. My crab and owl can growl just as well as a lion already. If you want to know how he could learn to screech or use lightning breath: ‘A wizard did it.’
  2. We create 3 talent trees which are permanent to customize each pet as the hunter sees fit. Yes permanent. You want to respec, you abandon your pet and go retame. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks and all that. Each tree will focus on one aspect: Grouping, Soloing, and PvP. One for each stable slot. Pet talent points are earned at the rate of 1 every 10 levels, based on the hunter’s level. For clarity, at level 70 you will have 7 points for each pet, but at level 12 you only have 1. The trees will improve base stats and provide some pet abilities. The points are available as soon as the pet is tamed eliminating Loyalty.

Pet abilities could also be learned from simple quests. You’d get a taming rod as in the level 10 quests and when you return with your owl you learn the screech ability, or return with your gorilla to have learned thunder stomp. In fact, I’d design the level 10 quests so that with with the first 2 tames you learned the growl, and dash abilities.

So here’s what’s in each level of the tree: a stat boost, an instant ability, a second passive boost, a second ability, and last a really cool passive utility spell.

Since there’s nothing out there like this, I’m using the Warrior set to create the trees in the talent builder and since I’m not feeling creative with names at the moment Arms is the Group tree, Fury is the PvP tree, and Protection is the Soloing tree. Another way to put it is long-term survival and damage, burst damage and CC, and early threat with reduced damage.

There are lots of changes to skills. Bite is now instant, but costs more focus. This should help the pet establish agro early in the fight while soloing. Furious Howl has morphed into 2 versions granting haste instead of physical damage. Lightning Breath has an added chaining effect. Thunder and Shell Shield have had their cooldowns drastically reduced.

There are some pet skills that didn’t make it into the trees. I already mentioned that growl and dash would be learned during the level 10 quests. Dive is gone because dash does the same thing and we’re no longer concerned about reality. Charge will be part of a level 40 quest and obtained by summoning and taming some level 40 elite pig. Perhaps he’s Hogger’s pet? Cower is done, but who will miss that. Poison Spit didn’t make the cut. The advantage of ranged over Poison doesn’t make up for the loss of damage when compared to the new LB.

Warp just didn’t seem to fit anywhere. It’s basically another version of charge, but with damage reduction instead of a stun and +AP. Other than protecting a squishy in 5-man instances I can’t think of a use for it as it currently is. So the question is how to change it. Adding a stun or AP just makes it Charge. Chance to hit or crit still seems to similar. I was thinking of adding a full-on taunt effect, but then I think it would have to be 4th tier protection which was already crowded.

On the whole this allows for huge diversity in pets, and the hunter given the choice of any pet in the game to play as they choose. It eliminates the issues of balancing family stats and abilities. New abilities can easily be balanced across trees and the trees themselves are very modular. The tame-learn-abandon mechanic has been lost granting the ability to fill all 3 stable slots and easing new players learning of the class. It also makes adding new abilities and families extremely simple for future expansions.

The only downside I can see is that the damage abilities deal would have to be based on the pet’s base damage rather than a static value so that they could scale properly.

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  1. Mania said,

    Interesting! This is basically what I call the quick and dirty approach (make all pets the same at base, specialize with skills) but you’ve added so much detail that I don’t think it qualifies as quick anymore. *grin* (And to be clear, I mean neither quick nor dirty as a criticism in this case.)

    I like how you’ve laid out the trees, although I’m not as happy with the idea that tree choices are completely permanent. But they could certainly be as expensive as a player respec without a problem.

    And I may have missed this, but what happened to the resistances?

  2. Znodis said,

    I felt the need to elaborate quite a bit since normalize is such a dirty word in WoW. I was going for the approach that what ever reason made you tame your pet you can realize it without fear of missing out on some major stat or ability. What ever your pet does, it’s getting a buff. The other issue is I personally see most pet families as unfinished, but there’s no way for a new player to know that until they start looking around on the internet.

    The resistances are in with Avoidance in the Arms/Grouping tree. It may be a bit OP all together, but at tier 3, you’re either going all the way in the tree or giving up one of the tier 5 abilities.

    The reason I went with permanent spec is to make up for the loss of the loyalty mechanic, as well as give the pet a certain ‘feel.’ Right now the way a ravager plays feels different than a warp stalker. Without the permanence, that ravager can play like a warp stalker and a minute later like a cat, and then like a boar. There is no reason to tame a second pet. The pet looses all personality since its playstyle can change hourly. It’s too malleable.

    Now understandably every hunter is going to make a spec mistake at some point, but the RPer in me thinks of these as personality flaws. You either deal with them or you get a new pet. Leveling will be less of an issue in the next patch, loyalty would be gone, and you could instantly apply the talent points to it for leveling.

  3. Sellia said,

    Yeah, it’s a way to see this. But i prefer the way it this now. Sure it,s not perfect … but who want a perfect game. =P

    I like to think that I’m making a trip to study a creature to learn a new skill. But you’re right when you say that it should corrected. Too many pets don’t have viable special ability.

    Good work anyways ! :)

  4. Pet Balance « The Mystic Hunter said,

    […] more I think about it, the more normalizing pets looks like a good […]

  5. Gretadelle said,

    very interesting post. I definitly don’t like having to abandon one of my pets to learn a new skill. And the loyalty thing means that I don’t change pets very often. its a pain to level them up and wait for their loyalty so I can train them. with your system, it seems much easier to try out different pets.

  6. Moomaul said,

    Actually birds can growl. Or atleast my friends sisters bird can growl. Her bird is hell incarnate and if you really piss her off she growls.

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