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Scattered Shots: Grandpappy Frostheim on pet happiness

Brian Wood

Scattered Shots is brought to you by Grandpappy Frostheim, who spends his evenings in an Ironforge tavern telling young hunters how much harder things were in his day, when they had to kite mobs uphill, both ways ... back when men were men, and women were men too, and pets were next to useless -- but they were also men. You can ask him questions on Google+.

All right, all right, settle down. Everyone take a seat, and someone bring me my ale -- then I'll tell you a little something about what being a hunter was like in my day, back when men were men, and women were men too, and pets were next to useless but they were also men.

The latest hunter news includes the removal of the pet happiness system, and by Magni's beard, I have to say the negative response I'm hearing surprises me -- and here I thought that nothing you youngsters jabber about could surprise me anymore.

But you kids these days have it so good that you're actually complaining about how good you have it!

Well, let me tell you a little something about what pets were like back in my day. You think you know what the pet happiness system is, but you kids have no idea.

Pet happiness was really removed in Wrath

First off, let's get one thing clear: The pet happiness system went away at the beginning of Wrath. Right now, all Blizzard's doing is cleaning up the bits and pieces left behind from that.

You see, before Wrath, our pets had a happiness system. If they were happy, they did more damage. If they were really unhappy, they did less damage. In order to make them more happy, we had to feed them level-appropriate food that also matched the pet's diet. And I can tell you this: Every hunter had at one point or another -- or more likely, many times -- had their pet drop from the 125% damage happy point in the middle of a boss fight. I don't think I have to tell you how frustrating that was.

But then in Wrath, Blizzard made some significant changes. It added in automatic pet happiness gains to the Bloodthirsty and Guard Dog pet talents. So as long as your pet was fighting, it was always gaining happiness. Then just to top it off, Blizzard added the minor Glyph of Mend Pet that increased your pet's happiness every time you hit the Mend Pet button. All it cost you was a wee bit of mana (and even that cost went away with Cataclysm).

So with Wrath, 98% of the happiness system went away. As long as you were fighting, your pet was always happy. If you weren't fighting -- if you were just standing around town, dancing on mail boxes or camping the AH or fishing with your pet out -- then you had to hit Mend Pet every 5 minutes or so.

That, kiddos, is the happiness system that you're complaining about losing.

This is not dumbing down the game

The biggest complaint I'm hearing is that Blizzard is dumbing down the game, and I'll tell you straight out that this complaint is pure elf waste product (which, really, is a redundant turn of phrase).

Pet happiness is not an integral part of the game. Managing it is not something that takes skill or thought or optimization or planning or strategy. A change to the game so that when you're standing around in town you don't have to push a button every 5 minutes is not dumbing things down. If you think it is, then you are really missing out on what this game is all about.

Don't get me wrong -- you could probably design an interesting pet interaction system, something in which you have to feed your pet regularly, give it attention, take it on walks and to the vet. You could have an actual whole system for micromanaging your pet. I'm sure a game like that would have its fans, but that game is not WoW. That is not what WoW is about. I would argue that the pet happiness system -- not what we have now, but the real one from back in my day -- did not enhance the game experience but was a distraction from it.

Pets in my day had happiness, and loyalty, and other horrible things

You see, back in my day, we had pet happiness. Not only that, but we had pet loyalty, too. The only way to make your pet more happy was to feed it level-appropriate and diet-appropriate food. We hunters had to carry around an assortment of food in our bags so that we had the right food for all three of our pets.

Oh yeah, because we only had three stable slots back then. Not only that, but the only way to get your pet out of the stable was to go to an actual stable master and switch 'em. Not like you kids these days with your 25 pets and your ability to switch between any five of them whenever you bloody well want.

Our pets also had loyalty. The better we treated them and happier we kept them, the more loyalty they would have. But if you went AFK in Ironforge -- say, because your house was burning down -- then your pet would lose happiness until it became unhappy. Then it would start losing loyalty. Once it lost enough loyalty, your pet would run away.

This system was the cause of many houses burning down during vanilla days. I mean, come on ... That pet was hard to come by -- we couldn't risk losing it.

And of course, this was back when finding pets and leveling pets was hard. There was none of this pets automatically leveling up when you tame them. If you tamed a level 13 pet, then that pet was level 13, regardless of what level you were. It got experience at darned near the same rate you did, and leveling it up was a serious investment of time.

Not to mention the fact that you had to go tame other pets just to learn the talents to teach to your pet. Yeah, we didn't know them until we tamed a pet that already had them (and that goes for each rank of each ability, including basic attacks). Thus, one of our three stable slots was usually kept open so we could go tame a pet, feed it to happy, wait for it to become loyal so we could learn the Claw rank 3 ability to teach to our main pets.

So while a rogue or a warrior or a mage would gain a bunch of levels and get a bunch of new abilities, we'd have to spend hours running around managing our pets before we could bring our new levels of firepower to our raids.

Oh yeah, here's another fun one: Back in my day, pets didn't go away when you mounted. They stayed out and ran alongside you. Except ... the pets couldn't run quite as fast as your mount, so they'd gradually fall behind. If they fell too far behind, they despawned (and lost happiness, which mattered then), so we were forever pausing to wait for our pets to catch up whenever we had to run across the continent -- on our land mounts, because we didn't have none of these newfangled flying mounts and portals to zap you within a stone's throw of where you need to be. Heck no; we trudged across the entirety of the landscape. We waited and waited for boats, and when we took those boats, it was entirely possible that they'd sink and dump us in the ocean to drown, and then we'd have to start all over again. When we leveled in my day, we spent more time traveling than we did questing.

Quit complaining about how good your life is

So don't tell me that you're going to miss the pet happiness system, and don't tell me that it's dumbing down the game. Unless you played with the nightmare that was pet management (and the nightmare that was the pet AI) back in vanilla days, you have no idea what you're talking about. You don't know how good you kids got it today.

I swear, you just keep complaining just out of habit, or some perverse need to annoy your elders.

All specs raidable, hunters topping the charts, specs more balanced than ever before in the history of WoW, no paying for ammo, no taming pets just to learn abilities, 25 pets in your stable, switching pets on the fly, pets doing thousands of DPS, no danger of pets abandoning you, and now you also don't have to hit Mend Pet every 5 minutes while in town ... Back in my day, we'd consider that some kind of delusional pipe dream. Nowadays, you complain about it.

Sheesh. Kids these days.

A final note

As a final note, because there appears to be some confusion: Removing the pet happiness system is not impacting us in any way at all, except for the removal of the pet happiness system. Our pets are not losing the other benefits of those talents. We are not having our soloing ability nerfed (that was Glyph of Mending, not the Glyph of Mend Pet).

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter in Cataclysm. From leveling your hunter to optimizing for heroics to gearing up with pre-heroic loot and pre-raid loot, we've got you covered.

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