Inevitable Normalization

April 18, 2008 at 10:52 am (Game Design, Hunter, Pets, Warcraft, World of Warcraft)

“Wouldn’t it be better to increase family distinction between classes then to just have arbitrary pets for asthetic reasons?

Bear with Sunder… awesome idea would be as good as a boar for leveling…”

This was a quote from TKAsomething, but I have seen it (and said it) before. It was written in a discussion started by a player that came back to the game after a long hiatus, and found to his despair that nothing had changed with regard to pets. I’d like to post my response here:

“There’s a big problem with maintaining diversity. Suppose they gave each family a unique ability. To keep it updated (if they did it right) they’d need to have at least one of each family every expansion. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a lot of work. Not only that but it builds each time a new expansion is released because they add new families: 17 vanilla, 23 BC, 28+? WotLK, etc. Now add in with every new family they also need to come up with a new skill, that is balanced against all the other skills. Something cool enough to get people to tame it, but not so much that it’s over-powered. Even if they were willing they’d be unable to keep up.

Blizzard has already demonstrated that they do not believe in putting development time into pets, when they could put it into classes. Caster stats, family abilities not getting new ranks/scaling, sporebats. “Good enough, is good enough” is their motto in this case.

At some point, we’re either going to see certain families become absolutely obsolete, or all pet families normalized for abilities (in some way). I’d rather see the 2nd happen than the first. I just can’t see them maintaining more than a few families without becoming too restrictive.

I would also like to point out the contradiction inherent in “I want diverse abilities pets for individual pet families but for non-aesthetic reasons.” Any person who says this (and I have been guilty) is really saying “I want to be able to justify my aesthetic choice of pets with some ability rather than looks.” I have a crab. I love my crab. I’ve had him since a week after launch, but the only reason I have him is aesthetic.

If he had a family ability that would be cool. I could then say I took a crab for ___, when someone asked me why I had him. However, that’s really all having a family ability would do. There’s very little chance that whatever ability would be better than anything else out there, and even if it was, that would mean there was now a different inferior pet family that people would only choose for aesthetic reasons.

If we normalize abilities (every pet can learn anything), THEN we will see a diversification in aesthetic choices. People can take whatever they want and it’s just as good as anything else. No longer will we see every hunter with a cat or ravager (or previously a windserpent, scorpid, or boar).

If you diversify abilities, you will maintain the current system of some pets always being better than others. Balance is an illusion that even if it were achieved, can never be maintained in an evolving MMO (just look at how many PvP changes they make even between patches). As stated earlier, Blizzard has demonstrated that they are unwilling to even attempt it for pets. You can try to balance a bear with sunder+claw against a boar’s charge+gore, but eventually, one of the two will be found to be better than the other leading to every hunter and his mother having that pet and the other being neglected.

Increasing distinction will not change anything other than which pets are superior to others. It will just perpetuate certain families being a tier above others, and make the normalization (which I think is inevitable since diversity is exponentially harder to maintain) even more painful and full of QQ drama.”

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7 Comments

  1. kyle said,

    it’s “aesthetic” not “ascetic”

  2. Znodis said,

    Indeed. Spell checker didn’t get me to the right one… I thought there was a ‘th’ in there somewhere.

  3. Bobo & SgtPork said,

    Although there is something ascetic about having a crab ;)

  4. Gretadelle said,

    when I first started reading about the “normalizing”- I wasn’t sure I agreed. Having different pets with different abilities is fun. But as I approach 70 and find myself keeping a cat that I’m not totally in love with but the only other choice is an ugly ravager… and I wish I could use my most favorite turtle but he doesn’t do much damage at all… and ooh look at those pretty flying guys, oh nevermind petopia says they have “caster” stats… yeah. I’m starting to agree with you. It would be fun to see all the hunters running around with DIFFERENT pets. (not to mention that I got what I thought would be a unique purple/white cat from winterspring but it turns out that every other hunter, including BRK, also has that same “unique” cat. I probably would have been more unique if I’d picked a common ugly one. *sigh*)

  5. Fearstalker said,

    It’s really about making more families viable. Any serious raiding guilds out there that will let you take a bear in-raid?.. I think not.

  6. Mania’s Arcania » Pet Normalization: The Middle Way (Part I) said,

    […] at the Mystic Hunter has written several very good posts about pet normalization. His latest, Inevitable Normalization, is another well-written and interesting read on the topic. But while I agree with much of what […]

  7. Mania’s Arcania » Pet Normalization: The Middle Way (Part II) said,

    […] Yesterday I posted a long article about distintive design vs. normalization in pet family design, prompting by a recent post on The Mysic Hunter called Inevitable Normalization. […]

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