Wednesday, October 2, 2019

We All Love Our Pets: WoW Classic, EverQuest, GW2

SynCaine was singing the praises of WoW Classic's Hunter class the other day. He suggested it might represent "pet-class perfection" in the genre and I wouldn't disagree.

There are other contenders. Magicians in classic-era EverQuest had an equivalent range of options and requirements. They had to travel far and wide for some of their their pet spells, as well as having to craft most of the others (or else commission a crafter to do it for them).

Obtaining the essential focus items that empowered their pets was a far from easy task. Not to mention the perpetual buffing and keeping the pet supplied with appropriate weaponry and armor so they could function effectively.

Mages also had four very different "pets" to work with and you didn't always have access to the one you wanted at the level you'd reached. The line-up was the classic elemental quartet, Earth, Wind, Fire and Air. Don't ask me who played which instrument...

The Earth pet was a tarbaby tank that did next to no damage. The Air pet was often preferred as a tank at higher levels because of its ability to chain stun while evading attacks. It  also put out some decent damage.

Water I was never quite sure about. I  remember it as something of a jack-of-all-trades, possibly with the best dps output after Fire but able to take a lot more punishment. Despite playing several Mages over the years, occasionally to relatively advanced levels, I never really used my Water pets. 

The Fire pet, as you would expect, was all about the damage, which it dealt well and took badly. No Magician could reasonably expect to solo with a pet that had a caster's armor class and hit points, but Fire was often used, indeed generally preferred, in groups where the Mage's primary role was DPS.

Yes, that torch is right for your level. Stop questioning my decisions and don't wave those things at me. I am your master!

Elementals aren't very cuddly and neither do they easily develop a personality. I always thought of mine as tools more than entities in their own right. Hunters' pets, being animals or, as the game has it, "beasts", enjoy a considerable head start in the affection stakes.

That poses a problem for me. I tend to develop a peculiarly strong affection for my characters' starting pets in any MMORPG. In Guild Wars 2 each of my several rangers hung on to the pet they chose at character creation for far longer than made practical sense.

The question and answer session every character has to go through before being allowed to set foot in Tyria doesn't help. You're encouraged to build up an RP background for your character that includes picking best friends and favorite pets. The game then proceeds to forget about all that forever, leaving you wondering in the thirties just whatever did happen to that Charr who always had your back in the Warband or that childhood friend from whom you were once inseparable.

If you play a Ranger, your First Pet is always with you. Until you send them away. I always find it a notionally traumatic experience. I put it off for as long as possible but eventually you have to admit that pink Moa just isn't right for the job any more. It's time to send him to the farm.

The trauma is ameliorated by GW2's vast, user-friendly stable facility. You can have two pets active at any time, hot-swappable, and all the pets you've ever tamed remain permanently accessible as load-outs.

Best Friends Forever

Compare that to WoW Classic, where you get just three stable slots and can only have a single active pet available at any time. You want to tame new pets because part of being a Hunter is finding beasts with useful special abilities. But sacrifices have to be made. On a pre-Columbian scale.

You tame a beast and then, by hunting alongside them, transfer their abilities to you. That allows you to train your keeper pets to use those abilities in future. The beast that gave of its skills and knowledge is then duly discarded to make room so you can suck the next victim dry.

Or so the theory goes. I wouldn't know from experience because at level 39 my Hunter is still adventuring alongside his first and only pet, the Ice Claw Bear he tamed for his Level 10 Class quest.

Which was fine until the last couple of days. The bear (or Idiot Bear as I tend think of him, when he does the exact opposite of what I wanted him to do) has never been a stand-out tank. Compared to those EQ Magician superglue pets or the kind of bears favored by the infamous Bearbow Rangers in GW2, he's pretty hopeless at holding aggro.

Still, I've learned to work with him and most of the time he manages to keep the mob's attention well enough. Only not any more. I can't work out what changed but over the last couple of days, where I would previously have been able to send him in, give him four or five seconds to establish aggro, then DoT, stun, DD, DD, auto-attack until dead, throwing in a snare as necessary at the end if the mob turned and ran, suddenly I could barely DoT and Stun before the mob turned and ran - at me.

FFS, you idiot bear! What are you doing? You think you can taunt him by waving your backside at his kneecaps?
Towards the end of yesterday's silk-farming session at the vast and barely-visited Ogre camp outside the Ruins of Alterac, there were frequent occasions where I couldn't even send the pet and just auto-attack. A couple of arrows were all it took to infuriate an Ogre and send him bumbling my way, waving the barrel on a stick that passes for a Mace where he comes from.

Given that I was also training up Bow, using a weapon with barely two-thirds the DPS of my regular gun, I found this behavior perplexing. It wasn't a problem in that I was also training four different Melee weapons so I was happy enough to go toe to toe with the ogres, all of whom were two or three levels below me, but it seemed obvious something was wrong.

It became much more of a problem when I finished my farming and weapons training and moved on to Swamp of Sorrows, where my targets were at-level and above. I began to wonder if I'd missed some training for the bear (I hadn't) or whether there was some link between his original level when tamed (he was Level 8) and his usefulness thirty levels later.

I still don't know and since I'm avoiding out-of-game information sources I'm not sure how I can find out. Other, that is, than by the tried and trusted method of trial and error. I'm going to have to park the underperforming ursine in the stables and go and tamed an at-level bear. Then I'll need to bring him to Level Six loyalty and run some comparison experiments.

Maybe it's time I went solo. I mean really solo.

If that bear does as badly then I guess I'll have to go find some non-bear alternative tanks and try those. Boars might be good. Maybe Raptors, although they look more like DPS to me.

Playing a Hunter does indeed involve "many different mechanics" as SynCaine says. Some of them, like what each pet eats, what skills it possesses and what are its stats can be seen clearly enough in-game. As always with WoW Classic, though, I get the very strong feeling that a lot is going on under the hood.

And that's the charm of it. I find it much more entertaining to suspect something is going on yet not be sure exactly what it is, let alone how it's happening, than I do to have everything laid out before me in neatly tabulated columns. I understand not everyone feels that way but it works exceptionally well for me.

If I do prove to my own satisfaction that my first pet has outlived his usefulness it's going to be hard to consign him to history but I'll do it. With only three stable slots available I can't let sentiment stand in the way of productivity. I'm not running a rest home for cast-off companion animals here.

I guess I'd better get out there and tame something. Here, kitty, kitty!


  1. While you have probably trained up your bear's growl skill, since you get that from the pet skill trainer, that might not be enough to hold aggro at higher levels when your own skills like Arcane Shot might be putting out a lot more damage. If you haven't found upgraded Bite and Claw skills from other pets he might not be putting out DPS to match what you're doing.

    Also, while I cannot see your pet skill bar, bears can learn the skill Cower which sheds aggro. Make sure you don't have that active.

    1. I think that's a big part of it. My bear hits like a three-week old kitten so if his Growl doesn't work he has nothing left to gain aggro with. I'm going to have to go and tame these other creatures to beef him up.

      I can't help feeling there's a lot more going on undocumented though. I've just spent two hours in Badlands killing mobs the same level as those Ogres plus a lot of higher levels. It was very clear that the animals - jaguars, coyotes, buzzards - stayed on the pet far longer than the Ogres had yesterday. At times those ogres would peel off the pet on a single aurto-atack arrow.

      But then I noticed that if I opened with auto-attack on the mobs in Badlands they would aggro on me in a couple of shots. If I cycled through Concussive Shot, Serpent Sting, Arcane Shot and Multi Shot I could get al four off before the mob came off the pet - and sometimes it wouldn;t come off even then.

      Too much going on for a comment but I am watching it very closely now.

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  3. Aww, I hope you manage to sort out your skills so that idiot bear can remain your faithful companion. :)

    1. He's in the stable right now, having a bit of a rest. I've collected four or five new skills so far and I have an Elder Crag Coyote that holds aggro better than the bear ever has as well as doing a huge amount more damage. It wil be interesting to see how the bear does once I teach him the new skills. I suspect bears in WoW may not actually be the go-to tank pet they are in other games.

  4. When I briefly dabbled in WoW Classic (and so had a sub) I logged into WoW Non-Classic to see my old characters. My level 60 hunter (cap at the time I quit) still had his Warg Companion. I still have fond memories of taming that warg pet. He was in one of the dungeons. My friends spent SIX HOURS with me that day, trying to get everything lined up so I could tame the warg pup without being eaten by any of the denizens of the dungeon (Blackrock Deep maybe?? Names elude me.) I would never give him up!!


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