Hati, we hardly knew ye

If we needed any additional confirmation that Blizz not only does not care about the hunter class, but that they have absolutely zero idea of what it means to be a hunter, it is this: Apparently Hati will just disappear when artifact weapons disappear in Battle for Azeroth.

Now, I admit I have not really been much of a fan of Hati, certainly not in the clumsy way Blizz implemented it. The intro quest to get him was, I thought, very well done, but unfortunately that was pretty much the highlight of the entire mechanic. It ended up promising something that Blizz never delivered on. BM hunters thought they were getting an awesome second pet, but it turned out to be nothing more than an unimaginative DoT visual, with worse pathing and attack speed than our regular pet, and far less control.

Hati could not be renamed, he had absolutely zero player-controlled special abilities, and he had (and still does) an annoying tendency to just disappear after portal events. For a while he could even rather easily die in combat and even after rezzing your regular pet, Hati would not rez for a very long time, leaving the hunter without a weapon. Blizz never really came to terms with the balance between the actual artifact gun damage and the damage done by Hati. BM hunters got the short end of the stick almost every time there was an artifact weapon upgrade, because Blizz for some reason cannot abide the thought of an ever-more powerful hunter pet. (In spite of the fact that they designed Hati to be the most important part of the BM hunter artifact!!)

Even the art model was sloppily (and apparently hastily) rendered, so that Hati looked like an animation from years ago. Only after BM hunters pitched a fit (because that is the only way to get Blizz’s attention — calm and logical comments will not do it) did Blizz give us a way to change his appearance. Even with that, though, Blizz deprived BM hunters of one of the fun aspects of Legion — the cool artifact appearance quests every other class had meant approximately zero to BM hunters, since they did not alter Hati’s color or other appearance in any noticeable way. The only way to really change his appearance was to make him look like a pet you already had in your stable.

So Hati in my opinion was a huge Blizz failure. Worse, it was one they appeared to not give a damn about.

But here’s the thing: as bad as Hati was, I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours with him. He is part of my posse. I feel unbalanced without two pets by my side everywhere I go. He has gone through every part of my Legion experience with me, from leveling to dungeons to progressive raids to world and emissary quests. I mean, he even went with me in my space travel to Argus, for crying out loud. For Blizz to now summarily dismiss him like he was vendor trash just seems wrong to me.

And the fact that Blizz does not recognize this goes to the very core of their approach to the hunter class: They simply do not understand the heart and soul of a hunter. A hunter pet is different from a mage’s water elemental or a warlock pet or a DK one, there is a far more personal level of engagement, a far greater degree of anthropomorphism. A BM hunter’s pet in many ways defines the player.

Unfortunately, I see nothing on the horizon that gives me hope Blizz will ever treat hunters better. Last week Bendak over at Eyes of the Beast posted a quick wrap up of some of his Blizzcon impressions and takeaways, including some reports he got about hunters from people playing the BfA demo. The BM hunter changes noted in the demo seem ok, but very minor and without an overall integrated purpose — more like a committee threw in some suggestions and voted on a few tweaks with no overall goal, just a requirement to “make some changes”. (Although Tranq Shot will be back, so that is exciting I suppose.)

MMO-C has been publishing various side interviews from Blizzcon for the last week. The one that got my attention was the one published today. An interviewer named Automatic Jak asked some pretty in depth questions of a class balance developer. Unfortunately AJ is, I guess, a healer, and the questions were therefore very healing-centric. But still there were a few interesting tidbits from the dev that I rather cavalierly interpreted in terms of hunter changes for BfA. It was actually the most informative interview I have seen regarding some of the team’s class balance philosophies.

  • The team went into Legion knowing that they might have to revisit some of the classes that received major changes once player feedback was collected
  • There most likely will not be complete class revamps again any time soon.

Here’s my interpretation of these two bullets from the hunter perspective:

  • The team made a deliberate decision to ignore all the insightful experienced hunter comments during the alpha/beta tests and figured they could wait to respond to the couple of things hunters howled the most about once Legion went live. Even then, they decided they could delay any response for several months. And even then, they decided they would merely respond to a couple of easy fixes, not do the hard work necessary to make the entire hunter experience smooth and fun again.
  • The whole SV hunter destruction was a mistake, and while it was fine to inflict it on the hunter class, no other class deserves such shabby treatment. Oh, and no real changes to the poor SV abomination that Blizz already created.
  • The team likes classes having unique abilities.
  • Going forward a big question is what unique abilities each class should have.
  • The team wants to spread out class strength and weaknesses more.
    Utility will be spread out and balanced more in the future.
  • Everyone should feel like they have some sort of cooldown to help them survive.

Translation: Blizz is proud of the fact that they have destroyed the whole super-utility role of hunters and wants to ensure they play no such special role in the future. Instead, everyone should be special. 🙄

So yeah, it seems Hati will be gone, hunters will get some scattered non-unified set of restored abilities, and “all classes will be above average”…. I am underwhelmed. And I will miss Hati.

Timewalking + Beastmastery = Fun

I had quite a lot of fun in WoW last night for the first time in several weeks, thanks to a combination of running a Beastmastery hunter and Timewalking dungeons. I relearned a lesson that for some reason I can never seem to remember — when I play the game my way, it is huge fun, and when I let the game dictate to me, I hate it. I should take notes and pull a finals-type all-nighter to burn this fact into my sieve-prone brain once and for all.

As I have mentioned before, I have two hunters, both level 100. Until recently, my night elf was my main and my worgen was an alt. For several complicated reasons not important to explain, somewhere around January of this year their positions switched, giving me a worgen main and a very strong night elf alt.

The worgen — even though my guild has not been raiding much — is my raid hunter, the one that got to T2 first, the one that got the legendary ring, etc. Most importantly, it is the hunter that I felt duty bound to maximize for DPS and raid utility, so she is specced MM main spec and BM off spec. This means I have spent a lot of gold and time trying to configure secondary stats, gems, and enchants to optimize for MM. Her equipped ilevel is currently something like 698, not great, but not bad considering our abbreviated raid schedule.

My night elf meanwhile has been languishing, getting further and further behind in gear, the legendary quest, apexis accumulation, almost everything. She is SV main spec, BM off spec, but of course the SV main spec no longer counts. Her ilevel was in the low 680’s. So yesterday I decided to pull out all the stops to gear her up and optimize for BM. Even without the final stage of the ring, I managed to pull her up to 694 ilevel. It cost me a ton of gold for the 270 felblight to max out her crafted gear, and my apexis crystals got spent at an alarming rate, but it felt downright exhilarating to be a wanton spendthrift for a change, since I am normally a real tightwad with all currency — virtual or real.

Having gussied her all up, I looked around for a way to test drive the new gear and spec. Even though she still needs 32 tomes for the final part of the legendary, I couldn’t face LFR. I hadn’t ever done any of the Timewalking dungeons, so the new bonus event last night seemed like something I should try. I knew it would not really test the new gear, but still it would be an opportunity to play BM in a group setting. Even if it’s as bad as LFR, I thought, at least it will be less time consuming.

I was expecting the dungeons to be very difficult, made more so by players accustomed to inelegantly blasting through everything and paying no attention to what they were standing in. Imagine my surprise when they turned out to be really fun and relatively quick. I found them to be marginally challenging, but nowhere near what they were when they were current. Any challenge was really only the result of not knowing critical fight mechanics, or tanks getting completely wild with pulls, or healers not paying attention or having to unnecessarily heal idiot damage dealers. I did a lot of cc-ing, not because I really had to but more for the practice. Same with misdirecting. Had a tank die about halfway through one boss, and I set my pet on growl and we finished it that way. That was fun. I ended up doing four, some with a couple of guildies, before I just had to get some sleep. I’ll do a fifth one tonight to finish up the weekly quest for the bag of goodies, and maybe run some more on other alts.

I can see where they might get old after a while, but to me they seemed kind of like a slightly longer version of the scenarios that were so popular in Mists. I know lots of people are criticizing them for their “welfare gear” but I found them to be fun. The three suggestions I would have to improve them would be:

  1. Make them a permanent feature, not a bonus event.
  2. Let people queue for several at once, like you can for LFR, to minimize the maddening 30-45 minute dps wait in between them.
  3. Make the badges account-wide to help players get max alt benefit while also accumulating them for higher cost items.

The best part of the evening was that for the first time in weeks I actually enjoyed playing a hunter again. BM was never my spec of choice, but with the demise of SV and the clunkiness of MM without tier gear, it felt positively liberating to play like a real hunter again. Unlimited mobility. A pet. Ranged. Physical damage. WOOHOO!