Thursday, December 22, 2011

Anticipated Changes to Pet Buffs

*This is reposted from the WHH forums.

The recent live developer Q and A contained one comment that has significant implications to pets and their buff/debuff system. Only one debuff provided by pets (+bleed damage) was mentioned, but the implication is that the entire buff/debuff system is under review. From the Q and A:

Comment From Spinner:
What will happen to passive abilities like trueshot aura, arcane tactics, improved icy talons and unleashed rage? Where will they go in the new talent system?

Ghostcrawler: Many of those become passive abilities you get for your spec. We are removing some of the less interesting buffs and debuffs (+bleed damage, armor, 3% damage, resists are all on the chopping block at the moment).

Now, just because they are on the chopping block doesn't mean the specific examples given are going away for sure. Also, I do want to point out that GC didn't say unimportant or underused buffs/debuffs would be cut, but "less interesting" ones. This begs the question: "What defines an interesting buff?"

I think a better question is: "What is it's purpose?" In the case of 3% increased damage, it doesn't discriminate between any source of DPS. It can be made baseline without any real balance issues. Sure, Ret Pallys, Arcane Mages, and BM Hunters might want something to replace it, as Hunting Party replaced Replenishment for SV Hunters, but if the damage boost were made baseline, what would it matter? In the case of 10% physical haste, it provides a tool to tweak DPS. I mention this one specifically, as it will soon be changed to favor melee DPS. These are just two examples, and a case by case analysis would be a lengthy and ultimately futile effort. More important are the concepts in question: Buffs and debuffs serve as a tool for balancing DPS, but more fundamentally, to create player choice.

In Wrath, we did not have real choice when it came to pets. Wolf or GTFO. In Cata, we had an explosion of pet choices that could bring an amazing variety of buffs/debuffs. Of course, it always comes down to what will benefit the team best, but it offers flexibility in team composition. It's fun and interesting. Perhaps this preliminary statement that the buff/debuff system will be changed is just indicating a further trimming of the fat, so to speak, intended to further the philosophy of "Bring the player, not the class" that led to the Cata overhaul; however, if the system were to be trimmed anywhere near as much as the talent system has been, we would have another major paradigm shift of what the purpose of pets are.

I argue that a better focus for pet abilities would be to keep the ones that don't get cut, but replace the ones that do with a non-DPS increasing ability from another source, e.g. Hyena's Tendon Rip +bleed damage replaced with a slow, like Ankle Crack from a crocolisk. This would maintain value in a player's choice between pets while effectively increasing these choices, in the way that dragonhawks and wind serpents bring the same debuff but have a different appeal to different players.

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