Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shango, God of the Storm

   One of my favorite skins has always been the plain 'ol tiger skin: it's a vibrant orange pelt with a pale underside and black stripes.  There's nothing fantasy about this appearance--it's very true-to-life, and very beautiful (to me, at least!).  However, up until Cataclysm hit, it was only available on the old-world cat models, which I despise--they've got stranged pinched-in faces, and I just can't get along with that!

The basic "cat" model.

   So one of my biggest wishes, as a hunter, has always been for a Saber cat with that gorgeous tiger skin.

   Until the Shattering came, there were a great many pets that we didn't have access to--they gathered dust in the data files, viewable by ModelViewer and not much else.  All that changed when the world (of Warcraft) was torn asunder; a great many pets emerged from the woodwork--or changed color.  

Just look at that "pelt!"  (Lo-res image)
   Shango (whose name is that of an African diety of lightning and thunder) was one of those pets.  He's a level 76 quest mob (not a rare!) in Sholazar Basin.  He patrols the outer edges of the jungle there, where brave players under the orders of the evil king Nesingwary must track Shango down and slay him.

...And those eyes!
   Previously, Shango was a spotted Saber cat--which in itself was new to Wrath of the Lich King, and which the Dreadsabers still use.  With The Shattering, Shango suddenly became unique: the gorgeous tiger saber!

   I love the vibrant, realistic colors on this skin, and I love the huge muscular saber-toothed model, and with them combined I think he just comes out gorgeous.  The pattern his colors take are also very well-done, in my opinion, with natural sort of fur-texture etching--he's just really nice to look at!

Shango in the Molten Front.  He almost looks made of fire!
   Once you get him, the living experience is also great.  He's LARGE at your side, feeling like a big proper presence, but is at the same time low to the ground, thus not interfering with your targetting.  He's got beautiful movement and idle animations; if you don't like his *YAWN* noise, though, you might be turned off somewhat (this sound is a loud yawn and then jowl-shaking, sounding somewhat slobbery, and is shared by many cats).

Oh, and he's big!

   As a Cat, he has the strongest damage buff a solo hunter can get, plus he's Ferocity--meaning that for doing your dailies, he's very useful.  You don't need an excuse to break him out of the stable!  He's also, on the practical side, somewhat harder to lose track of in a fight than other, more dull-colored kitties; his very vibrant orange ensures you'll always know where exactly he is at a glance.

...And hungry!
   Overall, I have to say this is currently one of my favorite pets in-game.  Mine, which I've named Ochre, has been in my stables since the day he became available to us lucky hunters--and he's not going anywhere any time soon.

"Ochre" in his natural habitat of Awesomeland.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vicarious Hunting

   Part of the reason that the WoW hunter pet community is so active, I think, is that we hunters loooove the thrill of the hunt.  Matching a hunter with various pets, going to long and elaborate lengths for difficult tames--it's all so much fun.  Yet, we only have one hunter--at least those of us who haven't rolled multiple hunter alts--and only twenty-five stable slots to play with (although some may rotate!).

   This means that when we read about other hunters looking for their perfect pets or going to crazy lengths to tame pets, we really enjoy the tale. And--for me, at least--when a guildmate or friend decides they want something really bizarre for their hunter alt, I get quite a kick out of lending a hand!

   My guildmate, an indecisive fellow (let's call him Jim) who is constantly swapping between classes, recently rolled a hunter alt.  Then he deleted it.  But when he remade it again, he decided he wanted something special for his first tame.

   Bored and not doing much, I tailed around behind him as a Sandstone Drake, offering him a lift to and from quest hubs.  When he hit level 10, off we went to Teldrassil.  We picked up a couple flight paths en route for his future levelling, and then went off across the sea for his kitty.

Demons can ride dragons, too!  ...Sort of.
   It took a good five or ten minutes to fly there, and when we did get there, it took a bit of scouting to find the cat.  My orcish friend then had some issues with his UI, and instead of taming, he engaged in a staring contest with the patrolling saber.  Eventually he managed to sort his UI, and the tame commenced!

   This is a neat pet, and not one you often see with Horde hunters--or hunters at all, for that matter.  He's one of the ones added in with the Shattering--being previously unavailable.  His skin's a bit low-res, but he's pretty striking... although a big orc with mutton-chops and a mohawk seems a bit strange next to a white cat!

   For me, helping other hunters tame their rares is very nearly as fulfilling as finally finding a hard-to-get pet myself.  Assisting with a camp, teaching a hunter about the Molten Front challenge tames, or flying a lowbie somewhere bizarre--these things are right up my alley, and I'm sure that many other hunters feel the same way! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pet Pathing Bug: Update

While we can only hope for a fix for the pet pathing issues during the overnight patch, I can say that at least a friendly neighborhood GM has replied to my forum post on the topic.

My question described the issue, and then asked:

I'm both reporting this as a bug and also asking if the devs are, as far as blues know, aware of it; also, was this an intended change?

The GM's reply:

Well, both actually. Our developers have been tweaking pet pathing in recent weeks to try to improve it in certain terrain. So, its current state is indeed intended, but our developers know that it is not in a great place right now and have re-entered it as a bug and will continue to work on it until they are happy with the way the mechanic functions.

It sounds like--on the first read-through, anyway--they tried to fix some bizarre pathing issues and screwed up, completely borking the way pet pathing works.  It's also possible, though, that they were trying to make pet pathing more user-unfriendly, as a way to make the class more challenging, and they went too far.  I am 90% sure that it's the former, and I certainly hope that I'm right.  Perhaps when the servers come up we will see!

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Random Pet Challenge:" Ashtail

   So, once upon a time ages ago, I created a thread on the Petopia forums.  The name--and theme--was the "Random Pet Challenge."  The idea basically involved me using a Random Number Generator website to assign interested people pets to tame.  The players would then tame the pets and review them.  I had a number of suggested "review criteria" they could cover, so that potential users of the same pets could get an idea of the pros and cons of any given pet.  It turned out to be extremely popular, running to a couple dozen pages pretty fast, and becoming quite overwhelming!  Other players picked up the idea once I stopped, and now the Random Pet Challenge is in its third incarnation.  Sometimes I myself go back and request one--out of boredom, or curiosity.  Today, my assigned pet was Ashtail, the rare blue-gray fox from Loch Modan.
Dancing delicately between Vrykul ankles.
The Tame

   Ashtail's a uniquely colored rare Fox placed in Loch Modan.  He's a Ferocity pet (being a Fox, though most would expect them to be Cunning!), Neutral, and is on a 30-90 minute respawn timer.  The fox family ability, Tail Spin, reduces the ranged/melee attack speed of enemies within 10 yards for 20 seconds.  In addition, he gets Trick, a cute little move that lets him dance for a few seconds!   When I first went to pick him up (I flew over from Twilight Highlands as a Horde), he actually wasn't spawned.  I did a double-check on Wowhead for his timer & spawnpoint, parked myself, entered him into NPC-Scan and waited.  About a half hour later, he spawned.

   When he's "wild," he's apparently a rogue--he'll use Shadowstep and Evasion on you while fighting.  Well, cunning devil!  Oh wait, I mean Ferocity.  I named him Smoke due to his color, and off we went.

Model & Animations

   The first thing I did was take him for a run around Orgrimmar and have a look at his idle animations, and at his Trick.  Blizzard still hasn't changed Trick in that the fox will carry on using it even when the player is moving, so you can have a fox out now racing at 100%+ speed along the ground on its two back legs!
Foxes are party animals!
   The animations are smooth, but the run looks somewhat awkward--the back bends in two different places depending on whether he's gathering up or flexing.  It's a bit hard to catch in a screenshot, but maybe this will give an idea.  (Notice also the way his front leg thins down oddly far when running.)

Oddly, perhaps because he shares the coyote model and animations, the fox also howls while idle--although he makes no sound:

He also has a noticeable overbite, which hard to "unsee" once you've noticed it.  Lastly, his ears move ludicrously far when he does his sniffing-the-ground idle animation--they actually cover his face!

   As for his model and appearance, he's looking good!  His colors are a soft blue-gray, very pretty to look at and shading into a dark navy blue and then black on the legs.  His tail has a pale tip, and his underbelly and throat, along with his face, has pale gray-white markings.  His eyes actually glow, a very bright and pale aqua blue.  His model and skin are both advanced Cataclysm tech, so they're very smooth and pretty to look at.

   One odd thing that I noticed, though, is that from the front he always looks either startled or completely blank--his eyes are really widely spaced, and very round.

   He makes no idle sounds; his in-combat noises are quiet, but I personally find them somewhat irritating.  Mind you that's a personal thing; many people might find them endearing!

   His overall size is pleasant; he's about the same size as a coyote-model wolf pet, perhaps a bit smaller.  He is large enough to feel like a solid presence at your side without becoming overly large or obtrusive, or detrimental to targetting.


   This pet seems pretty useless in PvP.  Maybe it's just me, but I'd think non-BM hunters would want a root and likely a Cunning or even Tenacity pet, and that BM would want something with a damage boost or more adaptable utility.  The AoE debuff is okay in huge groups, like Tol Barad, but it doesn't affect casters and doesn't buff you at all.

   In group PvE, tanks will cover the fox's debuff.  In solo PvE, though, this guy's pretty nifty--his AoE debuff will both help him keep aggro on multiple mobs and will allow him to take a bit less damage from physically-attacking enemies.  If you like the look of a fox and want somewhere to use it, I'd think that questing and grinding is his place to shine!

   All in all, this is a fun pet to play with, and overall he's pretty to look at.  For me, though, some of the animation quirks put me off, and his relative uselessness probably means I won't keep him around (a Spirit Beast's damage buff + aggro generated by Spirit Mend, along with the utility of Spirit Mend itself, leaves little competition for me!).  He's fun, though, and he's pretty, and I'm guessing a great many folks really love this guy to death!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pet Pathing / AI Issues

   One thing I've always loved about my pets, particularly as a BM hunter, is that they seemed to have pretty good "intelligence."  You could pop a pet onto Defensive, and it'd do things like switch to a healer if one began to heal (having an aggro table, I assume), or in solo PvE, swap target repeatedly to make sure nothing switched to you.  You could put a pet on Aggressive, and if it "sensed" a rogue stealthing too close, it would turn and stare in that direction, alerting you to his presence--or downright attack them and break them out of stealth if they became visible to the pet.  However, if your pet was set to Defensive and you commanded it to Follow, it would drop target and obey.

   In addition to that, a pet would path intelligently--they would use the same type of routes that a player would.  So if you sent your pet after something standing at the bottom of a tower, the pet would run down through the tower and attack; if you sent pet on something in the next room, the pet would go to the nearest doorway and run in.

   Since this last patch, I've been learning the hard way, pet AI is pretty broken.  A pet no longer knows how to go down a tower or around a wall, and will instead simply stand motionless, staring at the target--and will not obey commands most of the time, leaving a BM PvPer like myself completely alone.

   To add to these new issues, the design intent for the new stances has also become a bit more clearer, and it's not a pretty picture.  Whereas the old Defensive stance had the pet attacking anything you attacked, or which attacked you, the new one ONLY attacks mobs or players which attack you first.  This is completely useless, and I honestly can't ever imagine a situation where you'd want to be hit before sending your pet.  The Assist stance is also quite buggy, overwriting manual commands--so if you try to send your pet to a new target, but have a DoT on your old or if another player is hitting you, the pet will ignore your command and go to the player which is DoTted or hitting you instead.  You literally cannot control it.

   I could set it to Passive, and use only manual commands, but there's a few things for which I value the old Defensive stance--for example, the pet streaking off into the bushes in WSG and alerting me that there's a healer behind that tree stump forty yards away healing my target.

   As a BM hunter, these are pretty crippling changes.  To fix them, I suggest the following:

* Remove Defensive stance entirely or repeal the changes; add back the old Aggressive stance.
* Change Assist stance so that manual commands overwrite stance behavior until the command has been executed.
* Return pet pathing AI to the previous state; there was nothing wrong with it, and now it's broken.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kindness & Cruelty

   So, one of the big topics right now in the pet community is basically help versus harm during the camping and taming of all of the new Molten Front / Hyjal pets.  Tales abound of people getting mobs stolen or killed mid-tame, or being harassed, griefed or camped by other players--whether that be killing, emote-spamming, or deliberately tripping NPC Scan repeatedly.

   The taunting of pets mid-tame was so bad that Blizzard actually hotfixed them, making it so they are immune to Taunt and Distracting Shot.

   I personally had a couple interesting experiences, but they were happily on the other side of that coin.

   I myself found a night elf hunter roaming about in Widow's Clutch, and led her to (and helped her tame) Solix.  I've talked to her since, and she seems quite nice!

Who says Night Elves and Orcs can't get along?
   While taming Kirix, I found another hunter up there who'd died--but he told me to go ahead and tame Kirix, and despite my dying twice in the attempts, he sat by and let me try again and again.  He was there mainly for Skarr, I think, but regardless, he could have easily taken Kirix for himself.

   Best of all, though, was Deth'tilac's tame.  The kite was intense as hell, taking somewhere between five and ten minutes of disengaging through her while she used Deth Strike on my pets, then reviving them while she was stuck in Entrapment and sending pet once more.  That wasn't the stressful bit, though.

Kiting Deth'tilac, with friendly bystanders!
   No less than seven other players were standing there, milling about (and this before she was immune to taunts).  ALL of them were Alliance players, and yet, I tamed her in the end.  The majority of them simply watched, despite two being hunters who could have attempted to steal the tame.  One warrior got himself killed by her twice--but whether he was trying to help or harm I will never know, as he didn't answer me later on in whispers.  The other players, though--some despite urging from friends to "KILL IT"--kindly allowed me to carry on without trouble!  That's at least six people who allowed a member of the opposite faction to take something--slowly--that they could have taken for themselves or killed.


   My point is that there are good people out there as well as bad.  People that will help you and cheer you on, or alert you to spawns, or avoid using their rares near the spawnpoints so they won't trigger fellow hunters' NPC Scans.  These people will tell you about spawn timers, give you a heads' up if they've seen a lot of competition in a specific place, and most of them will happily exchange war stories while you wait.  I've even heard about hunters basically standing in line, politely taking turns to attempt to tame a particular rare!

   So if you're getting down, or you're afraid of going into this--remember, there are nice people out there too!

Friday, July 1, 2011


   So, the waves of hunters streaming into the Molten Front are beginning to trickle out with their chosen pets.  One of the more common pets we're going to be seeing a lot of, at least for awhile, are the lovely fire spiders.

   While there's plenty of common ones, there are a few that are only available as rares--and only in the super hard-to-tame format.  Placed as a challenge to the skilled, as well as a preventative measure against random killings, these spiders are definitely a prize for the rare-hunters among us.

  We're still learning a few new things about them, too.  Hunters had initially believed, for example, that the only green tameable fire spider was Kirix, a vicious rare elite.  A few enterprising folks, though, found another source for this pet: a strange pack of randomly patrolling, tiny spiders with ~7k hp apiece. 

   These spiders, called Cinderweb Broodlings, spawn in the Widow's Clutch--but don't mix them up with the completely identical spiders that spawn from the dead Hyjal Scout.  The latter, which spawn, mill about and then despawn 30 seconds or so later, are not tameable.  They also have a different NPC ID.  The completely identical spiders which can be tamed spawn randomly and race through the Widow's Clutch to the center before despawning.  Incidentally, if you want to search for the tameable ones yourself, their ID for NPC Scan is 53753.

  Wowhead and Petopia members are still trying to figure out exactly what triggers these spawns--sometimes a day or more goes by without a spawn, and sometimes they seem to swarm.  The current theories revolve around daily quests somehow being related.

   Oh, and one final note: as of today's hotfix, the Firelands & Molten Front tameables will be immune to Distracting Shot and Taunt, preventing hunters from losing their precious, hard-to-get pets mid-tame!  Yey!