Tag Archives: warcraft

yet more speculations on warcraft

I spent the last week at a family reunion in the mountains of Colorado. It was an internet wasteland. There was almost no cell connectivity to speak of (much less 3g) and the best net connection I found was shared wifi to an eventual 640kbit DSL uplink. It’s the kind of place that gets a person thinking about completely unrelated topics. Like the future of WoW.

I’ve written a lot of rambling predictions and wishlists over the years. Some have turned out accurate (maybe 1 in 4 predictions), some have been rendered obsolete, and some have been explicitly shot down by Blizzard. No matter, it’s time for another round 🙂

So in no particular order, I present my latest wishful guessings for the future of Warcraft.

ideas

WoW will see TWO more expansions before being rendered obsolete.

  • The current level cap is 80. If they continue tradition, two more expansions will see levels hit a nice even 100.
  • Current lore tells us that there are two more major destinations we could go to: Maelstrom, Emerald Dream. I predict that the expansions will be just that. We will see the “end” of WoW in the Emerald Dream itself.
  • The effective life of popular MMO’s seems to be similar to that of video game consoles at about 5-6 years before they decline or are replaced (EQ launched in 1999, EQ2 came in 2004). WoW is turning five years old this November, two more expansions will be pushing it. BC was early 2007, WoTLK was late 2008. If Maelstrom is early 2010 and Emerald Dream is late 2011 and WoW2 is 2012, that still means 8 years…

Underwater mounts.

Mounts are already learning to swim along the surface. We need another tier of mount for Maelstrom content and subaquatic only makes sense. After all, new form of transport was released in expansion 1, it’s about time for another one by expansion 3.

Spirit mounts.

Normal mounts probably don’t function well in the Emerald Dream. Without this training, players might not be able to mount at all in the dream. It would be available shortly into their time in the dream (lvl 91-92?) and would be like “cold weather” flight in that it simply unlocks the ability to drive again.

Having the skill might also allow the acquisition and use of mounts original to the dream.

Speaking of mounts, flight should really be made possible in old Azeroth.

A step toward this would be allowing people to finally drive flying mounts along the ground in no-fly zones. But the real trick would be finishing and restitching the old world together to make flight between zones viable. They could do this as an event at the end of 4.x. Messing with the Maelstrom is bound to have an impact on the rest of the planet, no?

There will be new playable races.

I’m hopeful for goblins, mildly curious for worgen, and absolutely giddy with irrational anticipation at the idea of some sort of constructed humanoid race.

If we go to Undermine in WoW 4.0 and cannot play as goblins, there will be blood in the streets. Blood, I say. Players will revolt and will generally raise a big stink. But goblins are tricksy. They’re a neutral race with presence everywhere. It wouldn’t really be fair to give them to either Alliance or Horde exclusively. That would probably just result in more blood.

They are currently setting up a precedent for transferring characters between factions (likely altering the race in the process, of course). This gives me hope that it just might be possible to have goblin PC’s in both factions. Making Undermine a divided city ala the capitals from the last two expansions is hardly a stretch.

Worgen have been talked about for a long time, and I doubt we’ll get the werebeasts of the current game. But a less-corrupted version is certainly possible for an Emerald Dream expansion – just like we got Draenei that weren’t like the Sorrows swamp monsters from original. As far as what faction gets worgen… I’d expect it to be Alliance, what with the whole Elune connection and all.

This means that WoW 5.0 needs another Horde race to balance things out. I don’t see Naga as particularly playable (lack of legs really is an issue). In fact, I don’t see any of the current races in the game as viable alternatives.

Pandaren could work, but I suspect they’d be just as likely to join the Alliance as the Horde – despite the WC3:FT cooperation of the single playable Pandaren with Horde leadership. They really are too neutral. Though, giving pandas to Horde would be a major boost to their overall factional cuteness level and would be a suitable offset for giving werewolves to the Alliance. I discount Pandaren as a playable race if for no other reason than that it is kind of unpolitic and would seriously damage Blizzard’s relationship with China.

Centaur and Cenarions have good Emerald Dream connections, but are strongly Alliance connected. And, of course, there’s that whole quadrupedal issue that really throws a monkey into the whole wrench 😉 Furbies have strong Emerald Dream attachments as well too strong of Alliance ties to make sense as a Horde race.

Ethereals are way too neutral. Tuskarr are also probably too neutral and it would be weird to have them suddenly become playable for half of the population upon entering the Emerald Dream. Kobolds, Murlocs, Quillboars, and Gnolls are too dumb. Ogres are too big. Demons and dragons are too evil (and too oddly shaped).

There is also no real reason for a subrace of any of the existing races to join the Horde. Subraces of existing Horde options are all too similar to be worthwhile (Taunka are basically just another skin for Tauren f’rinstance). Humans and Gnomes don’t seem to have subraces to speak of (and are the heart of the Alliance anyway). Dark Iron Dwarves could work… but it doesn’t make much sense to give Horde what would essentially be a cheap copy of an existing core Alliance race. They already have Elves, that’s probably as close as it’s going to come.

The only viable option I see is something completely different and unheard of. Either, the race will be something native to the Emerald Dream or (and here’s my completely unfounded wishfulness talking) it will be some sort of tinkered construct.

I really like the idea of a race of animate constructs of metal and wood. Goblins and Scourge could easily manufacture something like in 4.0 and we could see their populations grow sufficiently to become playable in 5.0. Perhaps they learn to build themselves so they begin to reproduce w/o exterior help.

Of course, this is a wild stretch and there’s about a 1 in 1000 chance that Blizzard might do playable Clockwork, but I posit that it is still more likely than any of the other currently visible options 😉 Besides, Clockwork are cool enough to offset Worgen on the Alliance side.

Player/guild housing needs to happen.

I think housing is a good major feature for 4.0. Other than extended vault options and the whole dollhousing side of things, players should probably be able to set their hearths there. Players and guilds should be able to get crafting furniture and buff-providers (higher restedness rate for example). Obviously, houses should be instanced.

Houses should be available in many areas, with multiple housing options per capital city. Other large cities (Everlook, etc…) should probably have one option and some small towns and otherwise hearthless locations might also provide housing (Talonbranch Glade, etc…).

It should be possible for individuals to purchase not only the interior of a building but a building itself with an exterior and an interior. It should be possible for guilds to own larger pieces of land with multiple buildings – perhaps partially by linking individual player-owned plots of land together.

Houses should provide additional storage and should probably not be linked directly into the normal vault system. It should be possible to install portals in houses. It might be possible to own multiple houses or plots of land.

If the guild housing system is awesome enough, it might be possible to get guild shopkeeper NPC’s. And of course, there’s also always the option of guild wars or similar as an extension to the arena system.

There will be a new crafting profession in each expansion.

The only weapons that players can’t craft are staves, bows, and crossbows. To remedy this, we need a carpentry/fletching/woodworking sort of profession. We also probably need a way to gather the wood. It needn’t be a standalone profession, but it wouldn’t hurt if it was.

The pleas for woodworking have been coming for a long time. I think we’ll probably see it in the next expansion. It really is that whole “gathering” bit that’s kind of tricky and is probably the major reason we didn’t get woodcutting in BC.

In addition to bows, staves, and arrows, woodworkers should be able to make furniture for houses – and possibly whole buildings. The profession should also unlock the ability to make lower level shields out of wood and leather. Wood could also easily be added as an ingredient in recipes for other professions as well.

A profession appropriate for the final expansion might be botany/cultivation. It would only be possible in player/guild housing. Players could grow normal herbalism and woodcutting plants as well as new botany-only plants. Cultivators might be allowed to harvest wild plants but would not be able to track them and would gather only seeds (with a very minor chance of getting a usable common plant in the process perhaps).

Many botany plants would be consumable raw or might be improved via cooking and used by alchemy/inscription. Many botany plants would yield seeds when harvested, but not all. Botany plants would take time to grow and could only be harvested by a cultivator. Over the course of their growth, Cultivators would be able to add fertilizers and waters to the plants to improve the eventual yield. Botany recipes would allow the combination of multiple seeds to create hybrid plants or the extraction of seeds from plants that don’t normally produce them.

There will be new hero classes.

We’ve long been promised more hero classes – and not explicitly as expansion content. I sincerely hope we get another hero class before 4.0, but am only moderately hopeful.

I do not expect there to be any more base classes, that doesn’t make much sense. But there is still room for several more hero classes. I think three more before the game ends is reasonable. In keeping with the size of the previous expansions, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to expect two hero classes before WoW 5.0 and two more after. (Bringing the total number of classes to 9 regular, 5 hero).

It would be nice if they also increased the starting level of each hero class as they went along. Thus, the next hero class could start at 65, then 75, then 85 (and probably 85 again). Requirements for gaining access to the hero classes should be having a non-hero character in excess of the starting level for the class in question.

The classes I could (would like to) easily see (in order of release) happening are:

  • Mechanist – think engineeringly enhanced tanks.
  • Monk – cloth melee, maybe some self-healing and agility/resist-tanking.
  • Necromancer – leather ranged cold and non-elemental spell damage, melee poison, highly disposable pets.

As a fourth class… dunno. To balance out roles, it would probably have to be something with healing and cc. Perhaps some sort of Emerald Dreamwalker?

Speaking of WoW2… Yes, I think it probably will happen.

WoW will get stale and die in a few years, despite regular injections of expansion content. Unless Blizzard has a replacement product on hand, they will generate a gaping vacuum in their earnings as people bail for more modern products. I expect that they will release a non-Warcraft MMO soon (Diablo 3 doesn’t count, it’ll be more like Guild Wars) and will release WoW2 as WoW expansion 4 grinds to an end.

The ending will be awesome.

I want to see all kinds of stuff break near the end. Major content patches that change the map, not so much class tweaking (because if they can’t get it right by then…).

I think the Emerald Dream should be the largest expansion, with no planned followup other than WoW2. It should include content on a scale equal to the initial game release, covering most of the known game world and taking us back to visit places we’ve not seen in years.

They also have the opportunity to end WoW1 with some kind of universe-altering event that just isn’t realistically possible without the kind of reboot a separate game allows. Like the complete dissolution of the factions and the fracturing of Azeroth into multiple little Outland-esque shards 😉

summary

  • WoW will die, eventually becoming a whithered husk like the previous generation of big MMO’s.
  • There will be two more expansions before this happens.
    • 4.0: Maelstrom
      • Level cap at 90.
      • Undermine, Maelstrom, lots of underwater action.
      • Playable goblins for both factions.
      • Underwater mounts.
      • Player housing, guild housing, guild wars.
      • Carpentry, Woodcutting professions.
      • One new hero class, revealed in 4.0; playable in 4.0.1.
    • 5.0: Emerald Dream
      • Level cap at 100.
      • Emerald Dream: An alternate view of most of Azeroth, portions on all four continents included.
      • New playable race for both factions: worgen, clockwork?
      • Botany/Cultivation profession.
      • Spirit mounts.
      • Two new hero classes, revealed in 5.0; playable in 5.1 and 5.2.
  • Blizzard will launch another MMO before WoW 5.0 is released.
  • Blizzard will launch WoW2 as a followup to cataclysmic universe-altering events at the end of WoW 5.x.

I’m gonna just click publish here and ramble some more about specific ideas for new class and race mechanics later.

wow torture quest

So… wow. Bartle‘s been getting a lot of press and/or flak for his stance against a quest in WoW that the creators coyly titled “The Art of Persuasion”. Basically, the quest NPC is too impatient to interrogate a prisoner but doesn’t want to dirty his hands with torture – it is against his organization’s rules of operation – so he gives you a cattle prod to fry him with a few times while he looks the other way (all of 3 feet away).

The fact that the quest exists isn’t wrong. The fact that you don’t really have much of a choice in the matter is. You can’t tell the quest-giver “no”. You either have to torture the prisoner or you have to bypass the remainder of the quest chain (which is fairly important if you want anything to do with the Kirin Tor mages).

I did the quest once – on my warlock, the character whose job it is to be a little dynamo of concentrated evil – and I remember standing there for 5 minutes debating before I finally decided to actually zap the guy. I’m not planning on doing the quest chain again on any other characters. Normally, my criteria for adding a quest to my blacklist is that it is boring or a terrible waste of time vs the reward. This is the first quest I’ve ever had to swear off on moral grounds.

So why has this particular quest been singled out? Why wait until now? By every definition in the book, we (players of WoW and numerous other MMORPG’s) have clearly been engaged in innumerable unsavory activities – including torture – for years now.

This is hardly the first time a quest in WoW expects you to use violence to extract information. There are quite a few quests that expect you to beat on people until they talk. There are several quests that ask you to kill couriers for information they are carrying. There are quests where you poison people and quests where you perform horrible experiments on people and quests where you don’t actually have to beat on the source of the information, you just have to prove that you’re willing to do so. It is, after all, a game whose fundamental action is killing.

We play a game where we are asked to role-play as soulless mercenaries who’ll kill anyone/anything for a few bucks – or more likely a shirt that we’re just going to turn around and pawn because it breaks our set bonus. We’ll dig through pig droppings and harvest organs and collect on debts owed to thieves and steal apples if we accept every job offer that comes our way.

The circumstances behind this particular quest, however, are much more obvious. This particular quest NPC says:

You see, the Kirin Tor code of conduct frowns upon our taking certain ‘extreme’ measures – even in desperate times such as these.

You, however, as an outsider, are not bound by such restrictions and could take any steps necessary in the retrieval of information.

He then hands you a “Neural Needler”, which “Inflicts incredible pain to target, but does no permanent damage.” You then have to walk 3 feet to a man chained into a chair and use the needler on him five times. The ‘conversation’ goes something like this:

  1. Pathetic fool! A servant of Malygos would sooner die than aid an emeny…
  2. Aargh! Do your worst, {class}! I’ll tell you NOTHING!
  3. Aahhhh! Release me! I am of no use to you. I swear it!
  4. Stop! I beg you, pleae stop. Please….
  5. Alright! I am beaten. {information you wanted goes here} Your mission is folly!

But you can keep zapping him a few times before turning in the quest…

  1. I’ve given you the information, {race}! You’re wasting your time….
  2. Noooo! This tortue is inhumane! You have what you want… why don’t you just kill me?

Even “better”… you can apparently get a fresh needler (I have not confirmed this) and continue frying the guy, just for fun…

  1. What more can you possibly want, {race}?
  2. Stop! Please…
  3. How can you possibly bring me lower?
  4. What more can you take away from me?
  5. You aren’t even asking me questions…
  6. Are you trying to meet the real me?
  7. You’ve got a darkness in you, {race}.

So, whether this is some kind of weird statement on current events or not, several people at Blizzard apparently think that torture can be useful and want to spread that opinion to their audience of millions. I mean, c’mon, it’s not like children play this game, right? …

Regardless of why the quest was written, why it was included in the game, and why it’s standing out above all of the other heinous things players have been asked to do in the game… it was a mistake and needs to be revised to avoid railroading players into a choice between being evil sadists and quitting the game. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.

seriously, burn the stables already

Back in the lead-up to Wrath, I’d suggested that one of the Hunter class’s biggest problems was the stable system. In my experiences over the last few days with Al, I hold this opinion more firmly than ever.

Every class has the option of carrying a second set of equipment around for different circumstances in instances. A cat druid might carry healing eq for certain boss fights where the extra hot is needed, any warrior worth two beans is going to have a shield somewhere on his person, etc…

Hunters and warlocks are both already heavily penalized in the inventory department, though to be fair they really don’t have much need to switch gear between fights. Hunters permanently sacrifice a bag slot to ammunition, and warlocks need to carry lots of shards – for which they can optionally choose to employ custom bags.

After spending only 17 points in demonology, a warlock can cycle through 3 different pets in ~6 seconds. They can adapt for different fights as necessary. To them, changing pets is roughly as difficult as changing weapons. A warlock’s pet (or often their lack thereof) is simply a buff like that granted by another class’s stances and auras.

If a hunter wants to switch pets, they have to run to the nearest town. No switching gear or rebuffing between fights for them.

Aspects aren’t big enough to warrant this discrepancy. They are essentially:

  1. I am shooting things
  2. I am out of mana because I was shooting things
  3. I am corpse running after my group just wiped
  4. I am fighting a boss that does nature damage
  5. I am not running out of melee range for some bizarre reason

So in normal practice, a hunter has two states – killing and in-combat downtime. Aspect of the viper is a complete joke since 3.0. Requiring players to alternate between the two is a big design flaw, IMO.

So if aspects aren’t a hunter’s “stances”, pets are the big candidate for the role.

Just like a paladin can strap on his shield to tank or put on a dress to heal, a hunter can use a gorilla to tank or a chimera to crowd control or a dinosaur to eat things… as long as he returns to town first.

Please, Blizzard. Just put hunter pets in the spellbook already.

Of course, my nefarious reasoning behind ALL of this is just so I can carry a set of 5 pets into a boss fight and resummon a new one when the old ones melt under his AoE aura – allowing me to actually have a pet out for the entire fight and waiting until after the fight to rez them 😉

three weeks of wrath

So… I’ve had some time to goof around with WoW’s second expansion (goof being the operative word). I officially have four lvl 70+ characters now:

  • Allaryin – 70 dwarf hunter (52/8/1)
  • Chokuretsu – 71 gnome warlock (0/54/8)
  • Kikichikki – 70 draenei priest (0/61/0)
  • Juvu – 70 orc death knight (55/0/5)

Most of the reason I don’t have anyone in the mid-high 70’s yet is because of time spent getting Choku and Juvu up to speed.

Choku was 67 when the expansion came out, so after a very bad Utgarde Keep attempt, I took her back to Netherstorm until 68, when I moved to Borean Tundra – which is completely soloable in crummy outland greens. Choku is planned to be my main in Wrath (just as Kiki was my main for most of BC, and Al was my main in classic). I dropped tailoring for inscription and am slowly leveling that up, just buying flowers whenever I feel the urge. I won’t obsess about inscription until Choku’s approaching 80.

Juvu is my big experiment in death knights… and in high level horde content… and in playing on a different server without my normal support structure (created on Terenas and then payed-transfered to Malfurion to join coworkers). On the road from 55 to 70, he’s respecced 5 times now, and I’ve got some very strong opinions on what works for “low” level solo grinding as a DK. /played from rolling char to dinging 70 = 32 hours (spread out over 14 days RL time, so mostly unrested).

Kiki hasn’t done anything since the expansion landed. I’m waiting for dual specs to start leveling her – It’s been a while since I’ve engaged in any serious face melting 😉

Al… has gone fishing, and exploring, and pet collecting. The only quests I’ve done with him so far have been the gem perfection quest, Dalaran cooking dailies and stuff for Kalu’ak rep. I think this is Al’s new calling in life. I’ve become so rusty at grouping with a hunter that I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that he’ll never really group again.

The remainder of the reason why I haven’t done any Dragonblight quests yet is because I’m doing the recruit-a-friend thing with a new account for my wife. At the end of our first 1-hour play session, we were level 8. After our second, we were lvl 12. If she retains sufficient interest to play a few hours a week for the duration of the bonus xp period, I fully expect that I’ll finally have lvl 60’s in every class as a result 😛

The reason I’ve not written anything in over a month should be fairly obvious. Mind, it wasn’t all WoW. Leading up to Wrath’s release, I passed the time by playing a good bit of EVE (and have since canceled my account again).

I’m planning on writing some reviews of the viability of the new hunter pets in a pve solo environment as well as a few posts on death knight specs and spell rotations. I’ve also got a big technical (very unrelated) post in the works that might be out this weekend, we’ll see.

wrath of the hunter king

Well, it’s about that time again. WoW’s second expansion is in beta, and will be bringing with it an absolutely staggering number of changes. So far, I am very pleased with the way things are going.

Today, I am going to try to confine my ramblings to the subject of the hunter talent tree upgrades. Pet changes, new spells, and upgrades to old spells will have to wait until a future post or two. And of course, I’ve also got to write about the priest changes. Hmm… And I’m trying to get my warlock to 70 before the expansion as well… Anyway. Hunters. Talents. Go.

Beast Mastery Talents – 53 points

  • Improved Aspect of the Hawk – rank 5/5
  • Endurance Training – rank 3/5
  • Focused Fire – rank 2/2
  • Aspect Mastery – rank 1/1
  • Unleashed Fury – rank 5/5
  • Ferocity – rank 5/5
  • Spirit Bond – rank 2/2
  • Intimidation – rank 1/1
  • Bestial Discipline – rank 2/2
  • Frenzy – rank 5/5
  • Ferocious Inspiration – rank 3/3
  • Bestial Wrath – rank 1/1
  • Catlike Reflexes – rank 3/3
  • Invigoration – rank 2/2
  • Serpent’s Swiftness – rank 5/5
  • Longevity – rank 3/3
  • The Beast Within – rank 1/1
  • Cobra Strikes – rank 3/3
  • Beast Mastery – rank 1/1

Marksmanship Talents – 5 points

  • Lethal Shots – rank 5/5

Survival Talents – 3 points

  • Hawk Eye – rank 3/3

Beastier Mastery

At present, my hunter is a pretty heavy beast mastery spec. If things remain largely unchanged, he will likely become even heavier beast spec immediately upon getting the expansion. Of course… there is so much goodness in the pending changes that I might not actually stick with beast spec much past 70, but this is my current plan for day one in Northrend.

First, let’s discuss what I’m planning on giving up (initially). In order to get 53 points in beast mastery, I will have to give up 11 points from marksmanship and survival. The talents that are going byebye:

  • Humanoid Slaying (3 points, T1 survival) – No real pain here. This reduces my damage & crit damage caused to Humanoids by +3% each. Of course… this talent is gone in the expansion anyway. It’s being replaced by the 5 point Improved Tracking ability which gives you +5% base damage to whatever you’re tracking. It’s nominally an upgrade, but it’s not worth the points.
  • Improved Hunter’s Mark (5 points, T2 marks) – Shrug. This talent causes my mark’s +AP bonus to apply to melee damage as well (ie, my pet’s). That means -110 AP that my pet would normally enjoy against a target I’ve marked. That’s roughly 8 dps + whatever specials might gain from AP. In the expansion… the talent gets a major buff. Cost is reduced to 3 points and it also gains +30% to resist dispel. I like the improvement, but it’s still not earthshaking.
  • Go for the Throat (2 points, T3 marks) – This one makes me cry. Go for the Throat causes my pet to regenerate 50 focus every time I score a ranged critical hit. Getting this talent back will probably be my first major focus – with the planned build, I’ll be able to get this back at level 77.
  • Aimed Shot (1 point, T3 marks) – This one also makes me cry. I refuse to explain aimed shot. Anyone who’s read this far knows exactly what it does. I might pick this back up, but it will take some careful juggling.

But oh… oh what am I going to get in exchange 🙂 It’s gonna rock.

Aspect Mastery is a new T3 beast talent. For one point, it buffs your 3 basic aspects. Viper gets +10% to its mana regen rate. Monkey gets 10% damage reduction – that’s right, flat out absorption when the dodge fails. This also means monkey now helps when you’re getting hit by spells. Hawk gets +50% to its AP bonus. At level 70, hawk is worth +155 AP, so this talent is worth +77 AP. At level 80, hawk will be worth +300 AP… 😉

While I’m going this deep in the tree (and since I don’t need the point for Aimed Shot any more), I’ll also be picking up a 3rd point in Catlike Reflexes for an additional +1% to my dodge and +3% to my pet’s dodge.

Invigoration is a new T8 beast talent that for two points causes you to instantly regenerate 2% of your mana every time your pet scores a crit with a special. My pre-existing talents already give my pet +10% crit chance and double focus regen. I’m losing the focus regen from Go for the Throat but am also picking up both of the new T9 talents…

Longevity costs 3 points at T9 beast and reduces cooldowns on Bestial Wrath, Intimidation, and all pet special abilities by 30%. Intimidate’s cooldown goes down from 60 seconds to 40; Bestial Wrath is down from 120 seconds to 84. These cooldowns were already short enough that I have macros that ensure I am able to burn them almost every time they’re up. The buff makes me giddy.

Reducing the cooldown on pet specials by 30% means I don’t have to rely on my pet’s focus dump ability any more. 30% more frequent crits from specials means 30% more frequent procs of Invigoration and happy joyful mana regeneration.

Cobra Strikes costs 3 points at T9 beast and gives me a 60% chance when I crit with Arcane, Steady, or Kill shot to cause my pet’s next 3 specials to crit… In conjunction with Invigoration, this effectively reduces the mana cost for my Steady shots into the realm of the microscopic.

And of course, then there’s Beast Mastery, the new T11 talent. This will allow me to tame exotic pets (devilsaur, chimera, silithid, etc…) and effectively gives all of my pets +20 levels worth of talent points.

The only new beast talents that I’m not actually picking up with this build are:

  • Animal Handler (T6, 2 points), which gives my pet +4% to hit (that’s never been a problem) and reduces the cooldown on the new Master’s Call ability by 10 seconds (from 60 to 50). I don’t think I’ll be using Master’s Call much. I’ve already got 84 second Bestial Wrath.
  • Separation Anxiety (T10, 5 points), which is quite probably very cool, really. Fully trained, it gives your pet +10% movement speed when <=20 yards from you and then turns the speed bonus into +10% dps once it gets 20 yards away. This makes interception time even faster and generally translates into an almost permanent +10% pet damage (since 20+ yards is a quite normal range for hunters to shoot from).

I’m vaguely torn by Separation Anxiety. Insert pun here. To pick it up immediately upon WotLK launch would mean foregoing +5% crit chance, and my crits already give my pet huge bonuses that I wouldn’t want to go without.

Of course… the other two talent trees have gotten an even bigger upgrade. Beast was already terribly overpowered, so it is only fair. If it weren’t for the lure of exotic pets, I’d be all over the other trees. As it is, I’m having a hard time deciding what I want out of their first 3 tiers.

Marksmanship

The changes to the marks tree mean major improvements to hunter shots, reliable improvements to baseline DPS, and absolute gobs of bonus mana efficiency.

One of my longstanding gripes has been Improved Concussive Shot. In BC, it was a 5 point talent that gave the dubious benefit of a 20% chance of proccing a 3 second stun in addition to the daze effect. There are numerous problems with this that I really don’t want to get into since the bad talent is finally going away. In return, we get a sleek new 2 point talent that increases the duration of the daze by 2 seconds. This is pure awesome. If I were leveling a newbie hunter, this would be my first talent, hands down.

T1 marks also gets the 3 point Focused Aim talent, which gives hunters the same sort of 70% interruption resistance (while charging Aimed & Steady) that other mana-using classes have traditionally been able to buy for low tier talents. I find this to be of questionable usefulness, however – especially since it’s a T1 talent that buffs abilities that aren’t available at level 10. Aimed shot is a T3 talent, so it is first available at level 20. Steady shot rank 1 is level 62…

T2 marks gets some amazing changes, I’ve already mentioned the buff to Improved Mark.

Careful Aim makes an appearance at T2. All the way down from T7. Yup. They moved a tier seven talent down to tier two. And then they buffed it 3x. In stead of a puny +45% of your int converted into RAP, it now gives a full +100%. Epic win.

They have also switched the locations of Mortal Shots (+crit damage) and Efficiency (-mana cost). Mortal Shots is now T2 and becomes Aimed Shot’s pre-req (in stead of the other way around). Efficiency wasn’t very important at low levels, so moving it up to T4 makes more sense (when it’s saving you more than 1 or 2 mana per spell).

In stead of Careful Aim at T7, marks hunters now get Piercing Shots for 3 points. This gives Steady and Aimed shots the ability to ignore 6% of target armour. Very unshabby.

Rapid Recuperation is a new 3 point T8 ability that helps mana efficiency. While using Rapid Fire, both the hunter’s and pet’s abilities are 60% cheaper. This makes for a lot of focus dump happiness for your pet. Additionally, Rapid Killing (which already reduces Rapid Fire’s cooldown) is improved by giving you a mana regen tick that heals you for 150% of the damage dealt by the +20% damage shot you fire to use the Rapid Killing charge. This is quite probably enough to keep high level hunters at full mana forever, so long as things keep dying.

Wild Quiver is a new T9 (3 point) talent that gives you a 10% chance to fire an additional auto shot at 60% damage. Combine this with the fact that heavy marks hunters will likely be using Improved Hawk in stead of Viper (since the marks tree is really taking care of the hunter’s mana needs without it now)… and you have a LOT of extra arrows flying.

T9 also gets Improved Steady Shot (3 points). This gives your steady shots 15% chance to increase the damage of your next aimed/arcane/kill shot by 15% while reducing its mana cost by 40%. See? I told you. Mana efficiency.

The new T10 marks talent is Marked for Death (5 points). It gives your already improved hunter’s mark an additional +10% damage dealt by the hunter & pet and increases your critical strike damage bonus of all shot spells by a further 10%. This really encourages the hunter to mark their targets but I wonder how it plays out with multiple hunters firing on the same target. Do they all get the bonus, or does only the hunter who placed the mark?

And Chimera Shot is the new T11 talent. It’s a 10 second cooldown shot for 125% damage that refreshes your current sting and procs an additional bonus depending on which sting was active. Serpent deals 40% of the sting’s normal damage instantly. Viper heals you for 60% of the amount it drains (mana efficiency). Scorpid procs a 10 second disarm attempt that can only occur once a minute. All told, way cool.

Survival

The big change at T1 for the survival tree is that the former pair of 3 point talents Monster Slaying and Humanoid Slaying have been replaced with the 5 point Improved Tracking. I’ve already discussed this above, but just to reiterate:

  • Only costs 5 talent points in stead of 6.
  • +5% damage in stead of +3% damage and +3% crit damage.
  • Works on whatever you’re tracking in stead of just 4 different creature types.

T2 gets a new talent called T.N.T.. Hehe. This gives your fire traps 15% chance to deal a 2 second stun when they do damage (I assume this means 15% each time the dot procs…). It also increases the crit chance of your explosive trap by 15%. And… the talent also extends these bonuses to your Explosive Shot (which is the new T11 talent that effectively acts as a ranged explosive trap). I could live with this.

Tier 2 also gets Survival Instincts. Yup, another high tier talent moving down into cherry picking range. They didn’t even nerf it in the process (but they didn’t buff it like they did Careful Aim). This formerly 5th tier talent gives you a whopping 4% damage reduction and 4% AP for 2 points.

T3 sees an upgraded version of Deflection. This talent previously cost 5 T2 points for +5% parry bonus. Now it costs 3 T4 points for +6% bonus. Deflection also becomes Counterattack’s new pre-req (since the old pre-req, Deterrence is becoming a baseline ability now). Win.

T3 also gets Trap Mastery, which is currently unimplemented. But I believe it is supposed to be a combination of the previous T3 Clever Traps talent and the previous T4 Trap Mastery talent.

And… T3 also gets an improved version of the formerly T4 Improved Feign Death. Survival Tactics (2 points) is Improved Feign Death (+4% to difficulty to resist feign) plus a 4 second reduction to Disengage’s cooldown.

At T4, Surefooted is slightly changed to cut the duration of snares in half. Previously it supposedly gave you a +15% chance to resist them, but I’m not the only one who’s noticed that a lot of CC/snare/etc… type effects are, well, simply irresistible. So this is a nice improvement. They’re actually doing this sort of thing all across the board (changing chance to resist effects that weren’t ever actually resistible to a reduction in that effect’s duration).

Lock and Load is a new 3 point T4 survival talent that gives you a crazy weird clearcasting type effect that procs whenever you trap a target or 15% of the time you sting something. The proc is that your next 3 arcane and explosive shots are free to cast and have no cooldown (they normally both have a 6 second cooldown). I really wonder if successive explosive shot dots stack… because explosive trap + 3x explosive shot = actual big boy aoe dps. This would actually make hunters vaguely useful in situations where previously only mages & warlocks would do.

Hunter vs Wild is a new T5 talent for 3 points that increases you and your pet’s AP by 30% of your total stamina. 5 points in Survivalist are the nominal pre-req, but when considering taking a talent like this, who’d pass up a +10% stamina bonus anyway?

Noxious Stings is new at T8 and has Wyvern as a pre-req and gives your wyvern sting a backlash effect that hits the dispeller for 50% of the remaining sting duration. In addition, it also increases all damage dealt to victims of your serpent sting by 3%. This really improves the usefulness of wyvern in pvp and makes serpent a nice addition to an improved mark in group situations. I don’t think this should be a T8 talent with a pre-req… but there really isn’t room to put it anywhere else 😉

Point of No Escape is a new T9 survival talent that costs 3 points and increases the crit chance of all attacks on victims of your ice traps (and possibly bear trap, but I think they’re doing away with that one). This is very nice for frost trap and potentially very very fun with the rumored changes to freeze trap (it won’t break on any old damage now). This means you might get to cycle off two big crit shots into something when breaking its freeze now.

Sniper Training is another new T9 talent (3 points). This increases the damage dealt by steady, aimed, and explosive shots by 6% when you are >30 yards away from the target. It also (possibly more importantly) improves your chance to crit by 15% when executing with Kill Shot. It’s kind of a shame this is so mutually exclusive with Separation Anxiety (+pet dps at long range).

The new T10 survival talent is Hunting Party (5 points) and serves as an awesome hunter version of Vampiric Touch (shadow priest spell that dots an enemy and turns the damage into mana for the party). Hunting Party has Thrill of the Hunt as a pre-req (regen 40% of shot costs when you crit) and heals your whole party’s mana/energy/rage/runic power slightly whenever you crit with an arcane/explosive/steady shot. Hehehe. Oh, and remember, TNT gives explosive shots +15% to crit while Lock and Load makes them subject to chain clearcasting 🙂

And of course then there’s Explosive Shot at T11. We’ve already seen numerous other talents that improve it, but what is it? It’s a ranged explosive trap on a 6 second cooldown. It hits the primary target for a good chunk of fire damage and then splashes everything within 5 yards with a dot for half of the base damage again over 2 seconds.

And so… with so many wonderful options, I am really starting to wish for the first time that they will let us dual spec somehow. It would mean I can keep my insanely heavy beast spec for soloing and take something from marks and/or survival for groups/pvp. Mmm. Happy ideas.

Anyhow, I’ve spent entirely too long on this, and now I’m less sure than ever of what I’ll be doing with my 10 shiny new lvl 71-80 talent points. Oh well. Respecs aren’t really that expensive after all.

burn down the stables (or: the bland pet conundrum)

Two and a half months ago, I started writing a post on the topic of WoW hunter pets. In their present incarnation, they are boring and unbalanced. They’re difficult to learn how to use effectively and make tremendous time sinks.

In the time since I started this post WotLK has gone into beta and a lot of things have changed. They seem to be making similar choices to those I was guessing at, only much cooler 😉

However, since I hate to waste a good rant, I’m going to dust this thing off before it goes entirely stale. Let’s see what I can salvage.

<original-post>
Lately, there seems to have been a lot of discussion on the topic of hunter pets – especially in the wake of recent patches that have broken longstanding aggro mechanics.

Znodis seems to think that sweeping normalization of pets is inevitable – ie, all pets will eventually have identical stats and have access to the exact same set of skills. Mania agrees in part, but is hoping for a middle ground solution – where all pets become viable not by giving all pets access to all abilities, but by guaranteeing that all pets have access to at least one ability of a given variety.

I think that any sort of large scale normalization that negates Blizzard’s (now long-standing) trend of slowly releasing unique abilities for individual races of pets… would be a mistake.

The core of the argument seems to be thus:

  1. Some pets are useless.
  2. Because of this, people tend to gravitate toward 2 or 3 distinct sets of pets – even though there are some 20+ varieties available.

You don’t see warlocks rioting in the streets because they have never had even the illusion of choice in their pets. Warlocks get a handful of pets, each of which is completely identical to any other comparably leveled and specced warlock’s version of the pet. They have a few novelty pets that come out for parties… but they generally stick to 2 or 3 different pets for 99% of all situations.

Hunters at least have a choice. They can use monkeys and flamingos and crabs if they want to. Not that there is any compelling reason to do so, other than the fact that staring at an endless array of cats, bears, pigs, and birds over the course of one’s entire hunter career gets a bit boring.

This is apparently a bad thing.

I think the only bad thing here is that Blizzard is wasting effort releasing pets that almost nobody uses. Why bother making spore bats tamable in the first place? No hunter big enough to tame one is going to waste his limited pet slots on… well, a complete waste of a slot. Not when there are pets out there that can hold aggro and eat conveniently available food and maybe do some damage while they’re at it…

The proposals I’ve seen from other hunters:

  1. Do away with useless pets forever.
  2. Make all pets the same.
  3. Make all pets mostly the same.
  4. Take the time to balance each pet type and encourage people to use them.

Nobody’ll bite the first option. They’re in game, it doesn’t do any real harm to leave them in.

Two and three are really the same thing. Turn pets into pretty skins around an otherwise identical blob of function. We’re already frighteningly close to this. Different attack speeds were done away with. Different travel speeds were done away with. Large pools of shared trainable abilities were added to allow hunters to respec around a pet’s natural deficiencies.

And nobody thinks that option 4 will fly either – nobody seems to think that Blizzard cares enough to dedicate the resources. And while I’m loathe to agree… I’d like to think that a compromise will be made. Blizzard clearly wants us to use different pets, they just don’t want to make them very interesting.

I’d like to suggest my own wacky solution.

burn down the stables

Stables are a pain, and they’re an unnecessary restriction on the class. Who else has to run back to an inn (or even more inconvenient location in some towns) to change their equipment? I mean, if a feral druid knows they might need to switch into a healing role for part of an instance run, they can always just carry a change of clothes.

This restriction becomes even more arbitrary feeling in the face of Death Knights possibly being able to perform little ‘mini-respecs’ in the field. Warlocks can cycle through pets during combat – they can even spec to improve this process, why does a hunter have to run all the way to the back corner of Orgrimmar to trade their bear in for an owl?

But even worse than the arbitrariness of the stable system is the simple fact that it’s had a glaring bug since beta that nobody’s bothered fixing. Non-hunters can buy stable slots. They can’t use them for anything. So unlike a mage portal trainer who refuses to talk to non-mages, the stable master is more than happy to talk to and steal money from non-hunters.

And the stables don’t even always work. I’ve had pets get stuck in the stable and require GM assistance to extricate. And then there’s the elusive virtual pet slot that sometimes exists and sometimes doesn’t, depending on how you juggle things…

The system was clearly a rushed job that hasn’t had an ounce of polish in over three years. I say get rid of it, and replace it with something that works.

so now what?

Well, now we let hunters switch pets in the field. Just like mini-pets take up a player’s inventory, I’m willing to sacrifice some inventory room for the ability to take 3 or 4 pets adventuring with me.

This could be justified by giving the hunters a number of ‘whistles’ that are associated with new pets as they’re captured. If they abandon a pet, the whistle becomes disassociated.

Allow hunters to capture pets even when they don’t have a free whistle slot (similar to a warlock’s enslave). Pets captured in this way do not gain loyalty and cannot be fed, so they’ll run away after a while. They do not persist through a logout, and they cannot be raised if they die. Since they have no training points and do -25% damage, they’re not useful as permanent pets – but they are useful to learn abilities and as a means of crowd control.
</original-post>

Well, that wasn’t terribly outdated after all. Most of the changes (beta changes, so not entirely guaranteed to go live, of course) that obsolete some of my opinions are:

  1. Mini-pets are going into your spellbook.
  2. The stable might have been increased in size by 2 slots.
  3. All pet races have a unique ability.
  4. Bite has been nerfed to act as simply another name for claw (a focus dump). Every race gets one or the other.
  5. Pets now magically learn new abilities as they level, thus eliminating the need to go out and tame a lvl 63 ravager to teach your level 64 boar rank 9 gore…
  6. Pets automatically level up to a minimum of 5 below their owner when tamed.
  7. Loyalty is quite probably going away, so that’s no longer a concern for the ‘enslaved’ pets I was pondering.
  8. Along with loyalty, the often confusing training point system is gone and has been replaced with a much nicer and more familiar talent system. Each pet family falls into one of 3 trees.

So what does this all mean? It means that Blizzard is normalizing pets in the best possible way. It means that there will finally be a real reason (other than aesthetics) to choose weird pet races. It means that I’m absolutely going to maintain a minimum of 3 pets now, and will have an easier time of doing it.

It also means that we have a slim chance that they will actually burn the stables down (by making pets into spells, just like mini-pets and mounts). I’m guessing that they’ll try to live with the broken stable system for a bit longer (as evidenced by their expanding it to 5 slots from 3), but I’m hoping that this is just a temporary mechanism that will be done away with when the expansion goes final (or in the patch immediately following).

I mean… they’re already getting rid of the pet trainers… and they’ve already written most of the systems we’d need for it… so why not get rid of the stables as well? Here’s to hoping.

Because encouraging us to keep more pets around without similarly increasing our access to said pets is just plain mean 😛