Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Farewell To Pet Battle Forfeit?

Gaming has been derailed by various real life, and as a result I've been back at work on Pet Battles after a brief visit to actually playing World of Warcraft proper.  I've been focusing on an incentive which will be going away in patch 5.2, possibly next week - in this case, a seemingly technical change to forfeiting pet battles. 

Why Forfeit?
Pet Battle Auto Forfeit, my personal choice amongst add-ons for this purpose
There are three main reasons why you would forfeit a pet battle, in roughly increasing order of why they would not be considered desirable behavior:
  1. Your pets were obviously and catastrophically inappropriate for the battle.  This is moderately understandable, as it is an account-wide system, so you can enter a level 25 pet battle zone and forget that you had your level 6 pets on your active roster.
  2. To get an advantage over NPC tamers.  NPC's cannot alter their rosters - indeed, you are free and encouraged to catch and level pets to counter their teams - but they often have some  variability in which pet they start.  If they go out of the order you expected, you can either continue knowing your counters won't be ideal, sacrifice a turn and allow your foe a free hit on your incoming pet as you swap in the correct pet, or just forfeit.
  3. Because the wild pet/group you attacked does not contain anything you wish to tame.  You might still want to kill the pets to farm them for exp, but this will take time you could be spending looking for other pets to tame.  This being World of Warcraft, with its sometimes notoriously open scripting system, players have naturally coded UI add-ons to automate the process of determining whether the enemy team contains anything worth capturing.
Currently, there is no penalty for forfeiting, and therefore limited reason NOT to forfeit when these situations come up.  With the patch, all of the player's battle pets will take significant damage as a penalty to discourage the practice.

Better Design As Intended?
As with most places where players are acting in ways the developer did not intend, some responsibility for the situation can be blamed on the game design.  The NPC battle teams are tough - often higher quality than anything the player can obtain - and having to allow them a free hit on your group can be the cause of failure. 

As to grinding for wild pets, well, here's where there is good and bad.  Pets come in qualities - grey, white, green and blue - and, for those who really care about how those stats are distributed, in specific breeds as well.  Setting aside the question of breeds, personally I won't spend time leveling anything that isn't blue quality, and you're going to be battling many copies of each pet to meet this goal - some estimates run around a 1 in 12 chance of encountering a rare pet, and some of these pets are somewhat hard to find in the first place. 

If you know there is no way the pets you're fighting are the pets you want, and there's a good chance that someone else is going to come along and grab the other spawns while you spend the time on the fight, all of your incentives are in favor of throwing in the towel.  (Ironically, world pet spawns are about as heavily contested as non-instanced content gets in a game that doesn't come anywhere near this level of competition for anything else in the open world.) 

The changes may not solve the whole problem.  In an additional tweak, any pets that people do run away from will respawn in the world so that others can try their luck.  Thus, more considerate tamers can leave poor-quality pets in the world for those who just want to catch a copy of a pet they never intend to use, just to fill out their journals.  In principle, though, this could open the door to forfeiting, quickly healing your pets from all the forfeiting, and re-engaging the same pet at full health.

In any case, I can definitely see why the way the system was designed led to the epidemic of forfeiting.  Until the patch closes the door for good I'll be hard at work filling out as many slots in my journal as possible with the coveted rare pets (especially for any creatures I actually plan to use in combat).


Ysharros said...

Oh good, so now I'll actually have to waste even more time in the quest for rare pets. The whole pet thing, while fun, is ridiculously time-consuming and forfeiting out of battles (for reasons 1 and 3 - I take my lumps when it comes to NPC tamers, but I guess most probably don't) is one way to at least get some quality for time spent.

This is yet another change that's targeted at exploiters (and maybe there are more of them than I'm willing to believe) but that ends up making the game less fun for people who just play normally. That or the WoW design team genuinely believes time-wasting for no fun and no gain is a valid design choice, which I hope isn't the case. Devs aren't actually sadistic, on the whole. (Though the alteration to the cookie-sugar daily in Stormwind did make me wonder.)

PS: First! (Legitimate comment, anyway)

Green Armadillo said...

I have not heard any indication that the lack of penalty for forfeiting a battle was a bug/exploit. As you note, it's perfectly possible to forfeit hundreds of battles without the use of a mod, and they intentionally do not track your win/loss numbers. My guess is that Blizzard designed it that way, in part because this is supposed to be a mini-game system.

I wonder whether the PVP angle had something to do with it - obviously, it can't be fun to queue and have someone immediately forfeit because they don't like their chances. Then again, bandages are so common from all the dailies that we need to do if we want battle stones that I'm not sure this will be a serious deterrent.