I started writing this when the topic of Epic Battle Stones was still being discussed. Today Blizzard has responded to the feedback and decided not to go ahead with the Epic stones. So my post is probably a little useless.But here I am anyway.
I felt that the discussion around the epic stones was relatively polite and considered. The posts that I had read about this were passionate, yes, but they didn’t attack the devs as being “stupid” or the idea being “a waste of time”which a lot of other posts/changes have generated. It was refreshing to see actual discussion. I have noticed, however, that since a decision was made, people who thought the stones were a good idea are angry.
With that in mind, I’m going to still publish this post about my thoughts on the Epic stones (which is below), but I want to do another one in the near future about the “bitch away the changes” mentality that people seem to have, or seem to think is there in places it may not be.
So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on the future of pet battling…
The Epic Battle Stones discussion
There are arguments for both sides regarding adding Epic stones.
The thing I think that is most important about this “debate” all parties (who are interested in pet battles) would like to see new content added for Pet Battles. I am yet to see a comment from someone saying “don’t change anything! Don’t bring in anything new! Leave it exactly how it is and don’t add new content!”. It’s not there. Everyone who has an interest in pet battling would like to see some additions. With this in mind, Blizzard looked at ways to do this for Legion. One suggestion was to bring in Epic Battle Stones.
Adding Epic Battles stones would bring in another level of quality for pets, giving 5 rarities in total. No word was given on how often or how these stones would drop (i.e. could we farm these a get at least 1 per day? Or would they be super rare?) so it can be a bit difficult to comment in some areas. However, here are my initial thoughts about the stones.
Arguments for the epic stones
Gives pet battlers something to do
Pet battling in general is suffering the same fate as the rest of the game at the moment – that is, people have done most (if not all) they can do with pet battles (or what they are willing to do) and are left with nothing/little else to do with their pets. Many people have collected all of the pets they can from the wild, and some people have even upgraded them all to rare and levelled them all to 25. Which leaves them with nothing to currently do with their pets other than to farm, raise and sell them, which not something everyone enjoys.
Adding in a new level of quality would give people something else to do, even if that is just to grind out a new quality. This has been the general argument for having the stones brought in to the game.
It’s the next natural step
This is true, and is an point Rho argues very well in his recent episode of Realm Maintenance – just like it’s natural for players to have a level increase or gear increase every expansion, it should/could be expected for pets to do the same. Progression is expected in an MMO, and pets should experience that progression too.
I can understand this, and I don’t disagree with the mentality in general. But for battle pets it’s a bit different. In the rest of the game when you get higher level gear for your character, it’s for a purpose – it makes raiding easier, or world PVE easier. Where previously you may have needed a group to kill a rare, you can do it with 1 other person, or even on your own. Also, it looks different, so you can show off your hard earned super leet gear for all to see. There is a payoff for spending the time and energy to get the upgrades.
With pet battles, I query what that benefit would be. It may make your daily tamer battles a little easier, but that’s about it. Unless there was a cosmetic change too, your pets would look the same. So there isn’t an immediate sense that there would be a payoff for the “higher level”. Quintessence made a great point in one of her posts about this:
“It’s not like epic pets will make upgrading to rare any faster; it’s not the same as upgrading your gear, which then makes previous content faster. Epic pets may make trainer battles go a little smoother, but actually upgrading your pets to rare? It’s still a slow process as you collect battlestones and charms and continue hunting for rare quality pets. So there goes our grind to rare, long and now obsolete once epic pets are implemented.” (from “Epic Pet Idea – Epic Pet Slot” by Quintessence)
There is no “end game” benefit to having an epic level pet. The only content that it will make “easier” is pvp pet battles (which not a lot of people do) and the pet trainer dailies (which I feel haven’t been a huge challenge anyway). So the only additional gameplay coming out of this is more grinding with no real benefit at the end of it other than a menagerie of purple pets.
I feel like the whole pet battle system is a bit backwards to MMO gameplay. Where in your MMO you level up by questing in different zones and having a story line then doing raids/dunegons to get your gear, pet battles don’t have that. With pet battles we kind of skip straight to that “boss kill for better gear” mentality by simply finding a pet in the wild, defeating it, and hoping for a better quality drop pet. To argue there should be progression in the pet battles isn’t wrong, but I would argue that perhaps, given pet battling is already a bit backwards, could we look at ways of bringing in “questing” in to pet battles?
Arguments against epic stones
Too much grinding to do/not interesting game play
This is an argument that has people divided – Completionists will feel they must get all their pets to epic, so would be looking at grinding out stones for over 700 pets – ouch! Others argue that you don’t need to do that – just make a few key pets epic and let that be that.
I tend to fall on the “completionist” side of the fence, mostly because I’d be worried that I would upgrade the “wrong” pet. I can avoid that by just upgrading them all!! My bigger concern with this approach is that, which pet battling in general is well suited to players who don’t mind the super long grind, it’s not interesting game play, and perhaps there are better alternatives here. Or perhaps a better reward for the work it would require.
Difference between casual and “hardcore” pet battlers will increase
This is actually my biggest concern with having epic stones. For epic stones to be worthwhile, there will need to be pet battles where they are needed for a player to defeat the fight. If someone decides they want to start getting in to pet battles, there is a huge gap there for them that would make it immensely difficult to get involved. It would also be terribly daunting. So I’m concerned that adding this new level of difficulty would be a hindrance to getting more people involved in pet battles.
The flip side to this argument is that this mentality already exists within WoW – there are different levels of raiding suited to the different play styles of players. Some players are casual and would prefer an LFR/Normal level difficulty. Others want to go all out in to Mythic difficulty. So why not a similar approach with pet battles? I don’t disagree, but there would need to be a way for players to play at the level suited to them. At the moment there’s no option to set a difficulty level on a pet battle or a pvp pet battle. I don’t know how difficult that would be to implement, but that could be one way to address this.
Alternatives to the epic stones
I don’t disagree that there is a lack of things for pet battlers to do, but I personally don’t feel adding a new level of quality for pets alone is the answer to that problem. If epic level pets are to be brought in to the game, I feel it needs to more than just “here’s a purple pet”. So what are some other options?
Unlock skins/spell effects etc. for the pet
This is purely cosmetic, but could be a lot of fun. I know some pets already have loads of skins available for the various types. So how about unlocking different spell effects? Or how about unlocking a “trick” that your pet could do? e.g. if you have a pet spider out, when you AFK it will start building a web on you. Silly fun things like that.
Unlock a 4th spell slot
This could be complicated, but interesting. The 4th slot could have new abilities, or better yet, lets you choose one of the existing abilities your pet already has. This may change the game a bit too much, but is an interesting idea anyway.
Have a quest line for collecting/battling pets
This is my favourite idea and I hope that it’s something that Blizzard will look at doing at some point down the line. I mentioned above that pet battles work a bit backwards to the normal MMO experience. What’s missing is a story line to go along with collecting pets or completing pet battles.
I’d really love to see an interesting story line where players need to work their way through a series of pet battles in different regions with some “hard bosses”. Hell, maybe we could have a Legendary Pet quest line that means we need to fight a whole bunch of pets and collect tokens and things from them and catch a certain pet to help you on your way so that it can save a legendary pet that you get to keep. It doesn’t even need to be a combat pet – just a super unique, completely awesome and amazing pet. Something that will take some time and creativity in pet choices to get through.
Gives a small buffs
This was a suggestion Rho made on the previously mentioned Realm Maintenance podcast, and it’d definitely my favourite idea that I’ve seen. It’s not to boost raids/dungeons etc, but to give buffs like a small XP boost for example.
Other people have also suggested that it could buff your pet battle team to give extra experience gains, or increase your chance of getting other levelling stones.
All in all…
… there are quite a few alternatives available to a simple stat increase for epic pets. Part of me thinks that Blizzard knew this, but made the suggestion on the forums to get people thinking about what they do want for pet battles in general. It’s a great strategy if that’s what they did, because I really think people have come up with some great thoughts.
Can’t wait to see what’s to come in Legion for pets!!