Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pet decision making

Playing WoW is all about decision making, isn’t it? Some are micro decisions, preferably taken in the split of a second. Which spell should I cast at what target? Where should I position myself? Other decisions are huge and will affect your gaming experience for months or even years. Which class should I play? Which server will be my home? And then there are all those mid-term decisions in between: talent builds, gear optimization, choice of guild, long-term goals and short-term goals.

Becoming a better WoW player is essentially about becoming better at decision making. As you get more experience and understand the game better you’ll know which decisions you should focus on, the ones that make a big difference, and which ones that are insignificant and not worth the effort.

It sure looks fine in theory, doesn’t it? But in reality I sometimes find myself scratching my head, bothering about the smallest, most silly details, which lack any kind of importance.

From easy to hard
The pet decision is a perfect example. There was a time when the decision was easy. I had my Bombay cat and that was it. She was my only companion for a long time. I had stumbled upon her exploring Elwynn Forest in my happy age of noobness. I bought her for a few silver coins, which was a fortune at that point. Later she had company with the Ancona Chicken from Shimmering Flats. But that was it. I could alter between the chicken and the cat and they were both happy, since they got equally attention from me.

Slowly my pet collection grew. I got some as quest rewards and some as gifts from friends, but it was self regulating. Since they required bag space I couldn’t afford to have a big menagerie. But as you all know this has changed. There’s nothing that stops you from hamstring pets, on the contrary, they’re trying to motivate you to do it by handing out achievements.

So my menagerie is steadily getting bigger, today consisting of some 49 pets, soon to be 50. (Yes, I admit it - I’m going for a totally pointless vanity achievement, /blush. I blame Zakesh who brought the infection to me). And this is where decisions are starting to get tough. Every time I log on I face the question: which pet should get the privilege of seeing the boss fights today and get the love and affection from his owner? There can only be one and there will be 48 other pets that will be doomed to dwell in darkness.

The rareness criteria
Every time we assemble for a raiding night I get an opportunity to study the pet choice of my fellow guildies. Many seem to pick either the one that is hardest to get. However, since several others think the same way, the effect will not always be quite as impressive that they had wished. One Kirin Tor Familiar (reward from the horrible achievement Higher learning) is really cool. But as soon as they duplicate they will fall into the inflation trap. Suddenly they’re pretty plain and you won’t get many of those admiring whispers as you got if you were the first one to get it.

A special case is the pets from the Collectors edition. I’ve got mixed feelings for them. On one hand I adore the older ones, like the murloc, but that’s probably because I’ll never be able to get it. On the other hand I don’t always show my own Frosty miniature dragon. It’s not that I don’t like it – I think it looks awesome, even though it’s unexpectedly big. But I feel a little bit ashamed of being so stupid that I waster real life money just to get a pet. People will probably think I’m a bit nuts.

The news criteria
Another natural choice is to display the pet you acquired most recently - the one you haven’t grown tired of yet. I got my spider from Blackrock Spire the other day, and I must admit that I’m tempted to bring her out, even though I’d beware of doing it in the Spiderwing of Naxx – I think it may become rather confusing. Then I’m likely to bring out my Tickbird Hatchling, which I found in an Oracle egg the other day.

The matching criteria
If you’ve got a sense for aesthetics and fashion maybe you prefer to show pets that go well with your appearance. The best matching pet I’ve ever had was my miniature Phoenix. I can’t possibly think of anything more beautiful to go with a fire mage.

The nostalgia criteria
Vanity pets make perfect gifts to fellow players. I have a few that I’ve got from people I’ve met, players I’ve left behind me on my former server or who have left the game. Through the pets I got from them they stay alive in my memory in a way. (Yeah, I know this sounds silly). The Snowshoe rabbit is one of those. It will never been looked upon as cool, but it reminds me of some fun and silly instance runs I had when I was new to the game.

The fun-and-sweet criteria
Finally there are pets which aren’t rare, new, who don’t match anything and weren’t gifts from friends. They’re just fun and sweet to look at. I just adore my little Elekk. Every time I see him I’d like to give him a hug. The Spirit of Competition that you got at the Olympic games was another beauty. Not to speak of the Baby Blizzard Bear. I don’t care about if there’s a zillion of them out there, it still is the cutest pet in game.

Show them all
So where do I end up? Will I go for the unusual, the new, the matching, nostalgic or the fun and sweet pet? All of them, I think, I end up switching pets after every wipe (if there’s time for such trivial thing as to bring out pets, sometimes there isn’t.) So all in all I think most of them aren’t too disappointed. Sooner or later they’ll all have their time when they’re brought out to see the daylight.

But this indecisiveness is a little worrying. If I can’t make up my mind about a stupid pet, how am I supposed to find a position about things that really matter?


Shawndra said...

I am so totally in the same spot as you. Do I pull out the snake my druid friend bought me, or the hyacinth macaw noone else in the guild has? Or do I pull out my siamese cat that looks so much like my rl pet? Or perhaps I should parade around with Stinker? I need a /call randompet feature!

Syrana said...

I have 44 pets at the moment and can never decide... so I suggest GoGoPet. It's an addon that let's you bind a key to bring out a random pet.

So, that way... I get to spread the love of my collection every time I dismount! :)

DeftyJames said...

I like you, I really do. That was an awesome post. I actually only have two pets, they don't interest me. But there is something both impressive and amusing about someone taking the time to write a long post about pet decision making in such a logical and organized manner. It's bizarre in a very cool way.

"But this indecisiveness is a little worrying. If I can’t make up my mind about a stupid pet, how am I supposed to find a position about things that really matter?"

Ahh, but perhaps this decision making process just is the important thing to you. It may not seem like an important thing to others, but really who cares what they think. It's your values that need to be taking priority now.

Delbin said...

This is the most adorable post I've seen in a very long time.

I love pets. I'm a collector at heart so I get as many as possible, but I have a macro that summons my favorites.

/castrandom Ancona Chicken,Blue Moth,Proto-Drake Whelp,Firefly,Magical Crawdad,Miniwing,Muckbreath,Nether Ray Fry,Peanut,Hyacinth Macaw,Speedy,Tiny Sporebat,Willy,Wolpertinger,Baby Blizzard Bear,Cobra Hatchling,Snowshoe Rabbit,Mr. Wiggles,Vampiric Bat

I run the complete mix of ultra rare (Hyacinth Macaw,) to collectible (Vampire Bat,) to plain (Anacona Chicken.) I choose mine for personal aesthetic. One of my favorites is still the snowshoe hare. I just love the floppy feet as he tries desperately to catch up.

Another macro that might be helpful if you only learn the ones you like is this one. It'll summon any pet at random.

/run CallCompanion(”CRITTER”, random(GetNumCompanions(”CRITTER”) ) )

Ixobelle said...

As Syrana has said, there's an addon that let's you bind a keypress to being out a random, and you can make /castrandom macros (until you hit the 256 char limit), but for me I use Livestock.

It's an addon that doesn't even require a key press, if you MOVE, and don't have a pet out, it summons one, and you can choose from a dropdown list out of ones you "don't want seleceted at random" , so it's better than totally random.

It also has a cool mount option, where you gte similar treatment for your mount (obviously mounting requires a keypress), where you can filter your mounts (no AQ40 bug or non spic ground mounts, for example), and hitting the mount macro will summon one at random.

It also has an awesome "smart mount" feature... it will summon your flyer if you're in outlands / northrend (and have unlocked cold flying), otherwise a ground mount in the old world or dalaran. If my priest is floating at the top of a water surface and i "mount" it smartcasts levitate.


Anonymous said...

Another option is to pick a pet to match where you are going? I remember back when we used to 40 man Onyxia, one of my guildies always used to bring out his black drakeling pet for that fight and give it an IC talk about how we were going to kill its mother (and it was very very confusing because of the whelpling adds which looked identical!)

thedoctor said...

Very fun post!

I like all of my pets, but I always rock my baby elephant or my siamese cat.

I have two cats of my own in real life, so that is probably why I like my siamese cat pet.

However, there is no reason why I like my baby elephant. He is just awesome =D

Esdras said...

My RL partner who playes a holy priest in my guild has collected them for ages and even before you could learn them and the achievemnts.

When she learned them she had 37 hahaha.

I have never been one for pets and although i have them i very rearly take them out.

I usually only take them out if for were doing a 25 man run and EVERONE else has the bear out or something as it just looks cool.

Carra said...

I wrote a "Minipet" addon just for that scenario myself a year ago. It's still around, someone else took over updating it.

However, I found an even better addon, you just start walking and it summons a pet! I always have a pet out that way, don't even have to think about it.

Full list of addons at:

Captain The First said...

I used to use /run CallCompanion("CRITTER", random(GetNumCompanions("CRITTER")))

which is just a random summon like was said before.
not sure if this still works after 3.0.8

These days I mostly run around with my squashling but random is good enough :P

Larísa said...

@Shawndra: actually there seem to be such a thing. Read the comments further down. We get a lot of good ideas there.

@Syrana: Sounds like a great idea. I may take that one, or perhaps the one they suggest further down which summons a pet when you start walking. Or I'll make a macro (sounds cooler than having a addon, doesn't it?

@DeftyJames: awww thank you. I'm glad if my, as you say, rather bizarre indecisiveness can give a little piece of entertainment to others!

@Delbin: I like that idea, that you can pick a few of your favourites in that macro. If you have it completely random I guess you'll end up with a cat or a moth of different colour a little bit too often in comparsion to how often you'll get the elephant, where there only is one.

@Ixobelle: that addon really sounds awesome. I actually don't always sum pets, even though I'd like to. That makes it so much easier. I just hope it doesn't eat too much memory. I'm always trying to limit my addons due to heavy lag.

@Spinksvill: that definitly would make another criteria. But it IS a little confusing to bring a spider into Spider wing. I bet people would end up trying to kill it.

@Thedoctor: oh yes, Peanut is one of my favourites. He's rather big to be a gnome pet. Almost like a mount.

@Esdras: I agree, I like the mass effect too. The baby bear is really great from that aspect.

@Carra: You WROTE an addon yourself? Now, that's cool!

@CaptainTheFirst: ah, you've got the Squishling... I never got that on Larísa. :( Hope I'll get it next year. My alt Arisal has got it, and I can't help wishing there was a way to trade pets between your own characters.

thedoctor said...

"@Thedoctor: oh yes, Peanut is one of my favourites. He's rather big to be a gnome pet. Almost like a mount."


Swordchucks said...

I like a little variety, but always go for a rarer or hard to get pet. Even today, throwing out a Magical Crawdad is likely to get a comment or two.

I'm really partial to my Proto-Drake Whelp since it's quite rare, as well, and looks cool. The same reason I ride my green proto-drake around instead of just using flight form like a good druid...

Darraxus said...

It really depends I suppose, but I find that the one I most commonly take out is the baby alligator from the fishing quest. He is my favorite.

My fiance chooses her pets based on what she is doing. She only picks flying pets if she is riding a long distance because she "Doesnt want their legs to get tired".

Sophie said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes to observe other player's pet choices. For the longest time, I always called out Snarly - not because of his rarity, but because I just LOVE how cute he is and the noises he makes. The only reason I don't continue to pull him out is because I feel like ppl in my guild get tired of seeing him. LOL

Elleiras said...

I -always- summon my Smolderweb Hatchling in Naxx and AN. He goes with the decor. :D

Stoico aka Impadin said...

That was a post that made me smile. Thanks.

Even though my pet love have gone down for now, I still have some favorites.
Its either my murloc, when he starts to sing and dance, most of the raids response to it. A real humor spreader.
Other is the rabbit from the Brew festival, lovely as a bunny. But still very its own... :)

Birdfall said...

At least you don't have a bevy of alts you can't decide on. My friend uses the /castrandom for pets but I find that I like assigning one main pet per character. :) I have an ultra-rare Hippogryph Hatchling for my tauren druid, a Phoenix Hatchling for my sexy red-haired priest, and a Netherwhelp for my rogue. Though I collect other pets for my priest and rogue, they have their regular pet and stick to it.

Anonymous said...

I am going to interrupt the love-in here and hope this doesn't get deleted.

The post started out with something about WoW being all about decision making. What activity, except something completely passive, like watching a movie, is not all about decision making? This is not particularly insightful.

Here is a decision I am regretting. Ever playing this game. This game gets into your head and does not let go. Does anyone else ever have this problem?

Now, I do not obsess about vanity pets. I don't care that others have them, but there is no way I am even spending an ounce of thought on these things. But boy, do I think about other aspects of WoW, and spend gobs of time doing so. Mostly character min/max stuff, what item to get next, and so forth.

I have recently quit cold turkey, and slowly, slowly, I think about the game less. The fact that I am on here tells you I am not done thinking about it.

Talk about a poor decision. Even when I am not playing, I think about aspects of it. This game is so destructive, but so fun. Anyone else feel this way? Is it even possible to play this game casually?


Larísa said...

@Swordchucks: only problem is that rare... gets less rare as time passes. (With the exception for pets handed out at conventions and such). Just wait and see. I will get to a point in the game when I'll have time to fish for that Crawdad. Trust me!

@Darraxus: Oh, I never thought about that, the risk for them to get tired. Poor little creatures!

@Sophie: I've got the game sound set very low so I don't miss what is said on TS. So I often miss the sounds from the pet. Their barking and such is pretty discrete imo.

@Stoico aka Impadin: thanks!

@Birdfall: I can understand the reasons for the one-pet-strategy as well. To let the pet become sort of a signature, a part of your character that makes you special. But how to decide which one to pick?

@Ron: I've never claimed my posts to be very insightful or cleaver. To write about decisions was just a way for me to start this post and introduce the topic. If you don't like my way of writing, there's really nothing that forces you to come here in the first place.

This said (sorry if I sounded a bit harsh there) of course I won't delete your post. I don't only want people to discuss cheerful things at The Pink Pigtail Inn. You can come here with your sorrows and worries and I assure you there will be someone listening.

I know there are a lot of people out there who do have a problem with their gaming. They want to cut down but don't have the willpower or the ability to make it come true. And the game has a way of occupying your mind more than you really would want it to. It doesn't happen to every player, but it's a problem that exist. I have written about it before in a blog post, so I don't deny this.

All credit to you who have taken a decision to quit since the game didn't work for you, and gone through with it, even though it's painful.

Don't hate or despice yourself for reading wow blogs. Perhaps it's a little bit like having nicotine straps or chewing gum as a substitute while you're quitting to smoothen it out a bit?

Yes, I think it's possible to play WoW very casual. It's possible for many people, but not for everyone. For some people I think it boils down to a decision - to play a lot or not at all, since the thing "between" is too painful and frustrating.

Wow, this was a long comment-on-a-comment. I may write a post about it another day. It's just that I found those issues so hard to discuss. I don't know why. Perhaps it's because I'm afraid that I've got an unhealthy attitude to the game myself?

hugs and good luck on your venture to get WoW out of your head. I really wish you'll succeed. This is indeed an epic quest and you have my admiration.

Dw-redux said...

"I found those issues so hard to discuss. I don't know why. Perhaps it's because I'm afraid that I've got an unhealthy attitude to the game myself? "
judging from the amount of replies to this post id have to say that you arent the only one.... And im worse!
I got myself the 'cool-angel-looking-thing-from-diablo' pet (Tyrael), so that once wrath hit i could use that with my rerolled death knight and keep telling myself that my abandoned priest main was still with me. :)
-Now thats silly.

Dorgol said...

I've always been a fan of mini-pets since release. Now that they don't take up bag space, I have 52 or 54 (don't remember the exact number).

How I pick a pet:

If I'm solo I'll probably hit my randomizer until I get something I like. I've never been a fan of flying mini-pets (the Phoenix being the only exception), and I don't really like the Snake. So I'll just hit it a few times to get something I like and then move on.

If I'm in a group I'll either randomize it, or pull out a pet based on what other players have. If someone pulls out a semi-rare pet I HAVE to counter with my original CE pets (Zergling / Mini-Diablo / Panda).

If I had to pick a pet as my favorite I would have to say the Disgusting Oozeling is high on my list... sadly, I can't use him if I'm tanking or if I'm in an instance with lots of poison due to his aura. :|

Goshon said...

For me its always been and always be my cockroach. I got this pet the same day that I created my warrior a little over 4-years ago from a Horde friend, and its the only pet that I'm willing to display of the 14 or so that I've collected. I guess that falls in the Nostalgic category.

Ron said...

Thanks for your support, Larisa, and I am still holding strong and not playing. My life is getting better and I am getting more things done.

What really hurt me about this game was not just the time playing, but the time not playing, when I would be thinking about getting home and playing and what things I would do in game to further my character.

I don't know you, but to be honest, I suspect you devote more of your time to this game than is healthy. Cold turkey is the only thing that works. Deleting characters is even better, but I have not done that yet. I would have to resubscribe to do that, and I don't even trust myself to do that.

In the end, when you spend too much time on this, the game ends up a black hole. Nothing you do in this game matters in the end, and it is even worse than most hobbies, where you might get healthier, or make connections, or create works of art, or learn a musical skill, anything that stays with you past the next expansion.

In WoW, all you hard work, all your effort, equates to nearly zero when the next expansion comes out. And it is not like a 2 hour per day TV habit. You don't think and blog and research stuff about TV shows when you are not watching them.

When I think of the time I gave to this game, I get scared inside, thinking of the opportunity costs.

Anyway, good luck to all of you addicts, and to those not addicted too.


Larísa said...

Oh, that’s brilliant. If I ever would abandon Larísa as a main I could remember her bringing one of those little Christmas helpers!

@Dorgol: oh, that oozling is one that remains to be collected by me. I haven’t yet got to the point that I’m farming areas for rare pet drops, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ll end up there sooner or later.

@Goshon: it’s a reason as good as any else. You DO get attached to pets you’ve received from friends.

@Ron: I don’t deny that the game is a bit of a black hole when it comes to time consumption. It’s hard to say enough is enough. There’s always another “must do”. I respect the problems the game has caused you and how you feel about it now - sort of robbed of your life. Personally I don’t feel that WoW had been a waste of time. Yes, the gear and characters will be gone in the wind, but I still have the memories of friendships, of struggles, of victories. I’ve learned a lot about myself, how I act in a group and under pressure. I’ve had a ton of fun. Through my blogging I’ve got my lust for writing back and (hopefully) improved my English a bit. I’ve freed myself from the stereotypes of what a 40-year old woman is supposed to do in her free time. I’ve overcome my own prejudices - about myself and about the gaming community. I know you’ll probably dismiss this, thinking that I’m in denial, but I really don’t regret that I stumbled upon this game. About the TV show analogy: actually some people DO research and blog about it. Just think about the Star Trek fan community! There are subcultures about anything you can think of.

Still I’m humble about this issue. Maybe the day will come when I find that my addiction is harmful to myself and other people around me. Who knows? I’m not there yet though. I really wish you all the best Ron in your own struggles to get free. This blogpost really was about something different and probably isn’t the best place to continue this discussion. But you’re always welcome to send me an e-mail (you’ll find the address up to the right) if you need a listening ear.