Showing posts with label pet class. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pet class. Show all posts

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Gotta Keep 'Em All: GW2, EQ2, WoW

Y'know one thing that always annoyed me when I was playing WoW?  The Stable. That place you stash your spare pets. It just never seemed right.

Pet taming was the class-defining feature for Hunters, the class I spent most time with during my three-month visit to Azeroth. Also my favorite. Blizzard had clearly looked at everything that was wrong with the Everquest Ranger and thought "Surely we can do a bit better than that". So they did.
Then after a while they decided, what with Hunters famously being adventurers of very little brain and even less patience, they might have gone a tad too far with the whole full-feature pet-taming mini-game, so that had to go. By the time I arrived, fashionably late by about five years, Pet Taming was down to the bare bones but those bones still looked tasty to me. I set out to make the most of what was left, only to run slap-bang into the Stable door.

You want me to swap you for the Jungle Cat? He's not scared of heights.

I'm loyal to my pets in MMOs. I like to give them a name, watch them develop a personality and then create a shared history of adventure with them. On the other hand, I want to collect as many as I can because collecting is fun and pets are fun so collecting pets is funfun.

At first the Stable didn't sound so bad. Tame a pet, train him up then park him in a nice, safe Stable where I can convince myself he'll be well looked-after while I swan around having adventures with my New Best Friend? Sounds just dandy. Until I found out the size of the Stable, that was.

Twenty pets? Plus, if I work up the Call Pets skill, another five? So, twenty-five? When there are in excess of 300 possible pets? (I'm getting all this information from Petopia, by the way, which was my go-to for Pet info back when I was playing. I haven't played WoW in three years so about all I can remember is Not Enough Pets!!!).

Like I'm taking advice from a Necromancer on responsible pet ownership

Twenty-five wasn't just not enough pets. It was insultingly, tauntingly, derisorily not enough pets. It took all the fun out of pet collecting. Well, some of the fun. Not possible to take ALL the fun, there's just too much fun there. But still...

I read recently at That Was An Accident, one of my very favorite blogs and one I rarely get a chance to link to because it's the only WoW blog I read and, well, I don't play WoW (I think I mentioned that earlier...) that the Stable is going to double in size. Confirmed here. So, fifty pets.

Still not enough. Tempting though. I have been getting a weird, almost subliminal urge, not strong enough to call a desire or even a whim, more a background hum, to take another look at WoW. Purely as a tourist. Just for an evening. People keep going on about it and three years may be just long enough to ripen nostalgia even in someone who didn't think they'd had that much of an emotional engagement with the damn game in the first place. (Me, in other words.)

A Reindeer is for life, not just for Frostfell

Anyway, annoying though the Stable is, it's one hell of a lot better than EQ2's infuriating Beastlord bait&switch. In EQ2 you can have all kinds of pets, just so long as you stick to one of each kind at a time. For example, my Beastlord picked up the red-nosed Reindeer at Frostfell. Deer are members of the Bovine Family in Norrath's anarchic biosystem along with cows, sheep and camels. If I ever tame a sheep, bang goes Rudolph. Not that I call him Rudolph. That would be a daft name for a deer. And not that I want to tame a sheep...

EQ2's strict one in, one out policy on Pet Families pretty much put paid to any interest I had in collecting pets there at all. I just got one decent exemplar of each kind and that was that. What a waste.

They understand every word you say, you know

And what a joy, what a relief then to come at last to Tyria. In Guild Wars 2 you really can collect them all. There just aren't as many. Where WoW has 300 and EQ2 170, GW2 can muster only around 50 pets so far, but once you get those 50 they are yours to keep. They're not on loan. When you get a new cat you don't have to give the old one back. You don't have to park your polar bear in a Stable, worry whether she's getting enough seal-meat, if she's missing you, pawing at the straw and whimpering herself to sleep...


So, pets. Yes, I want to collect them. Lots of them. And once I've got them I want to keep them. I will feed them and walk them and take care of them. All of them. I promise. Trust me. Now, please let me keep them.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Never Coming Back: Beastlords in EQ2

I know the Very Thing to go here. And no, they're never coming back.

According to Smokejumper's somewhat garbled interview, helpfully summarized by Feldon at EQ2Wire, both the expansion that brings back Beastlords and the Game Update that ruins revamps Freeport will go to closed Beta (from Friends and Family Beta presumably) on Tuesday November 8th. I'm as excited about one as I'm nervous about the other.

I have an affinity for pet classes that long pre-dates MMOs. The first time I ran into the idea was back in the very early '80s in a tabletop RPG called Dragonquest, a quirky ruleset that offered an unusual choice of career paths. I didn't much fancy Military Scientist, Astrologer or Courtesan but I liked the sound of Beast Master. It reminded me of Daniel P Mannix with attitude (if Mannix didn't already have more than enough attitude to be going on with).

Oh sorry! Was he yours?
I loved the catching and taming part but almost immediately I ran into a fundamental design flaw. Should have spotted it earlier, really, given that it was quite literally part of the Beast Master's job description: "A Beast Master will, in almost all cases, become very fond of animals". All too true as I found out when I was repeatedly required to bury the dead after ordering my furry friends to fight monsters much bigger and tougher than they were.

Several dead pets into our group's campaign it became apparent that a Beast Master who was a) rapidly running out of beasts that took months to train and b) increasingly reluctant to allow any of the few he had left to take any risks whatsoever in case "something bad" happened to them, was going to be of limited use outside of a petting zoo. I re-rolled as something less emo and that was about the last I thought of pet classes until I stepped into Norrath some fifteen years later.

We don't do "cute"
For a good while "pet class" in Everquest meant someone who raised the dead or animated rocks. This had two big advantages over the Beast Master, namely that skeletons and earth elementals cannot strictly be called "cuddly" and that if they "die" you just raise or animate a new one. Nothing to bury, nothing to mourn.

Shamans did have a pet that looked like a wolf, but it turned out to be a spirit. It looked cuddly but your hand would just go right through. You couldn't rest a pint on his back like I used to do with the landlord's labrador in a pub where I used to drink. We were close, but we weren't quite there. We'd dealt with the downside but something was still missing. Then came the beastlord.

I arrived late on Luclin, Norrath's doomed moon. We were off playing something else at the time, Dark Age of Camelot probably, so I missed the birth of the Beastlord. When we returned, though, I made a Vah Shir Beastlord immediately. A tiger-girl with a tiger pet? Come on!

I took to the class right away. It had all the things I'd always wanted in a pet class: a really powerful pet that would fight beside me, not a weak creature I'd need to protect nor a living wall I'd hide behind. My warder and I stood hip to shoulder as we fought, falling back or surging forward to support and sustain each other as Shissars hissed or Akhevans made that weird chittering noise they make before they fell to our claws.

What have I told you about claws in town?
My beastlord ended up being the Everquest character I played most over the years. She's my highest level still, beached at 84th. I could understand, though, why Beastlords were lost when Luclin exploded. In many ways they were too powerful, too versatile. Just too damn good. Once you've played a beastlord it's hard to settle for less. The balancing issues that beastlords brought had ripped through Everquest for years and since EQ2 seemed to have "avoiding anything that gave us trouble in EQ1" as its core design brief it must have been an opportunity too tempting to resist. Although Blizzard seemed willing to take the risk when they added the Hunter class to WoW. Wonder how that worked out for them...

For many years Beastlord became the class that dare not say its name. They all died on Luclin. Every last one. They're never coming back. Except they are. Next Tuesday in beta and, with luck and a following wind, by the end of the month for the rest of us. There'll probably be five thousand new beastlords in Freeport on the first day and I'll be one of them. And I'll be keeping a diary.

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