Hunter Q&A with Ghostcrawler and the World of Warcraft Community Team
Q: Where do hunters fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do we see them going from this point forward?
Community Team: We'd like start this Q&A off by asking a question that players of all classes often ask in regard to the very purpose of their class. In this case, we’re looking specifically at the hunter.
A: We solved a lot of perennial hunter problems in Wrath of the Lich King, from the shot clipping problems of Steady Shot, to bringing Survival back to life, and making pet choice and training a lot more meaningful and hopefully enjoyable. Going forward we have several objectives we still want to accomplish. We want to make sure hunters in PvP are as good in Arenas as they are in Battlegrounds. We think their damage is sufficient, so we want to focus on their survival and crowd control. We want to make sure their PvE utility is as good as their dps (especially making traps live up to their potential for crowd control). We want to resolve what a hunter is supposed to do in melee (Raptor Strike? Disengage?). We want to clean up some of the clunkiness that still exists around pet control (both the UI itself and what the pet does on the battlefield). We think hunters have a good niche as the only real ranged damage-dealer that focuses on (mostly) physical damage based on a weapon rather than cast-time based spells. We just want to make sure they live up to that niche.
Q: It was stated that we had intended to remove consumable ammunition from the game for patch 3.1.0, However, due to certain functionality not being ready in time, the change was put on hold. Is there any new information in regards to the functionality of non-consumable ammunition, and also a possible estimate as to when hunters may expect to see these changes implemented?
A: From a technical standpoint, what happened is that the quiver is considered a bag just like other bags on the character but also, most critically, those in the bank. In order to remove ammo we would have to move the location of all of a character’s bank slots on the database that stores all of the World of Warcraft characters, which would be a risky thing to do in the middle of an expansion, and could result in “missing stuff” issues if something went wrong. It was just one of those last-minute show-stoppers.
We still want to make ammo more of a gear choice than a consumable. We’re not sure if this would be as simple as getting the 125 dps arrows to upgrade your 120 dps arrows, or if you would do things like swap between your fire and poison arrows… but that kind of thing is definitely on the table.
I’m not sure when we can do it right. It’s not going to be for 3.2 unfortunately.
Q: On the topic of hunter ammunition, currently, it becomes quite expensive for hunters to purchase Mammoth Cutters and Saronite Razorheads, especially given how much many hunters use in a given week. Are there any plans to reduce the cost, by potentially looking into the materials required to craft both types of ammunition?
A: The problem with upgrading hunter ammo currently is how we work the progression. We don’t want to drop ammo on bosses for what I hope are obvious reasons so long as they are consumed. We need to have ammo improve as other gear improves, however, or the hunter overall starts to fall behind. Therefore there has to be some barrier that stops freshly leveled hunters from getting the best ammo while letting cutting-edge hunters procure it. In Burning Crusade, we handled this through a reputation grind, but it still wasn’t a very satisfying answer. In Wrath of the Lich King, we went with Engineer-crafted ammo and more recently changed the way ranged weapons scaled so that they would keep improving even if the ammo did not. For 3.2 we lowered the cost of the ammo quite a bit -- only 4 gold for a stack to manufacture. If you were paying 50 gold a night, that should drop to say 16 gold a night. Long-term this won’t be a problem because arrows won’t be consumed.
Q: While we had previously reduced the range of the hunter's dead zone, it's still brought up as a concern. Is it possible to remove the dead zone completely? If this is not something under current consideration, what are the current design philosophies and balance reasons behind keeping this particular mechanic in-game?
A: It’s possible to do so technically, but something we aren’t likely to do. Personally I think calling the current implementation a dead zone is just confusing and trying to sell the problem as worse than it is. Back in the day there was an actual distance at which neither ranged nor melee attacks would work – it was a dead zone. Currently there is just a minimum range for most ranged attacks. The way we want the hunter to work is that when you get into min range with the hunter, then the hunter needs to switch to melee, or more likely escape back to ranged distance again. We certainly don’t want the hunter to unload with both melee and ranged attacks at once – that might make them operate better at melee than range. Casters by contrast don’t have to do this, though it is often in their best interest to do so since their cast can get delayed or even interrupted by melee attacks. You can argue it’s goofy to be firing bows or rifles at point-blank range, but really it gets more into how we want the hunter (and all ranged weapon attacks) to work.
I’ll add that the melee attack issue for hunters themselves is something we keep discussing. While we are unlikely to go back to a melee-focused build for hunters, we might consider a model where hunters don’t run away most of the time but switch to melee attacks – perhaps even a single punishing attack on a cooldown before the hunter Disengaged or whatever. This would be one of those things that helped hunters feel more different than actual magic casters, and might make them care about melee weapons as more than stat sticks. Additional feedback from the community on this sort of thing would be appreciated.
Q: Would we consider allowing auto-shoot to work while moving? If there aren't plans for that specific change, is there anything in the works that will assist hunter dps in fights where a great deal of movement becomes necessary?
A: Moving should feel like a penalty. We don’t want ranged attackers constantly circle strafing FPS-style because it confers a defensive advantage without giving up an offensive one. Moving is supposed to be bad and how you handle it is a test of your skill. We do give instant cast spells to some classes, but it should always be a dps loss when they have to focus on these exclusively. We would consider giving hunters another way to pull off an instant shot or beef up their dots, but we would want to make sure these would only be used in true long-distance movement situations. What I mean by that is we think we’ve possibly already gone too far towards balancing the Arena around instant attacks that can’t be countered before they go off.
Q: Are there any long term plans to possibly removing the need for hunters to rely on a different resource system then mana?
A: I hate to do this to you, but this is a great BlizzCon question. For these Q&As, we’d like to keep the focus on each class’s current status and short-term plans, but at BlizzCon we’ll be happy to go into some more detail on our long-term vision for them.
Q: Are there any plans to increase the benefit hunters gain from haste?
A: There are two ways to answer this question. The more general one, which applies to all classes, is that we want haste to be a useful stat. Rogues, warriors, and some casters like it currently, and we need to get it there for everyone. As I have said in several of the Q&As, some stats have just fallen away from some specs even though they routinely appears on your gear. Sometimes this happens because talents prop up other stats so much that instead of being more attractive, they feel mandatory, and the ones that aren’t supported go from sub-optimal to junk status. We need the ability to put a variety of stats on your gear. We don’t want there to be an uber stat for anyone that trumps everything else to the point at which you don’t even look at the other stats. Gear is supposed to be a choice. I’ll say again that I think the online community sometimes focuses too much on the best-in-slot mentality, to the extent at which they consider everything except those BiS items to be worth skipping over. Remember, if it improves your dps, it’s an upgrade, even if another item would improve it more. That sounds so obvious, but I think there is a tendency for some players to stop thinking that way.
Now for hunters specifically, we think the class is just too cooldown limited, which creates problems with haste. We’ve driven in that direction in order to give hunters a more interesting rotation, and to be fair, we feel like we’ve done that. But being cooldown limited isn’t necessarily a fun way for the class to play and we think it’s one of those things that makes hunters feel more like casters than like ranged-weapon users. (Hunters are casters in the sense that they’re ranged dps, but we still want the emphasis to be on the gun or bow.) More on this at BlizzCon, too.
Q: How do we feel about the current state of stings? Are there any improvements planned for the way stings work, such as removing them from a shared global cooldown (GCD)? Are there current plans to improve individual stings?
A: The best way to describe stings is we want them to feel like warlock curses. They should be a meaningful part of your rotation and something you should want to keep up. We understand that some of the stings are much more attractive than others (though to be fair, curses have a similar problem) and we need to make the less-popular stings more useful or just end up cutting them. We aren’t likely to remove any damage-dealing ability from the GCD and we’ve even taken a second look at whether we have removed too many defensive abilities from the GCD. It’s there for a reason, particularly in a client-server based game with inherent Internet lag.
Q: Beast Mastery falls behind Marksmanship and Survival in regards to DPS, especially when the pet dies, due to how much damage comes from the pet when specialized in the Beast Mastery talent tree. Do we have plans to bring the potential damage the Beast Mastery tree offers to be more on par with what's currently possible with Survival and Marksmanship?
A: Ideally, we want Beast Mastery to be able to do competitive damage with Survival and Marksmanship. Realistically with dps classes, it’s a math problem, and one tree nearly always edges out the other ones in most situations. That doesn’t mean we stop trying, but it also means we have to be realistic about what it will take to really get the specs to within 1% dps of each other, which is sometimes the point I fear we’d need to hit.
The buffs to Catlike Reflexes and Wild Hunt were intended to boost Beast Mastery a little without causing every hunter in the game to swing back to Beast Mastery the way they all swung to Survival a few patches ago. We don’t necessarily like buffing Beast Mastery through the pet all the time. However, Beast Mastery also doesn’t have a signature attack like Chimera or Explosive Shot. At the same time, we don’t necessarily want to give them one because then Arcane Shot risks just vanishing from the hunter rotation. But, we can’t just buff Arcane Shot (unless it is very deep in Beast Mastery) because Survival and Marks use that too. See the problem? Ultimately the tree is supposed to be about pets, so we would rather make the pet easier to control and give the hunter ways to get the pet out of trouble so that they don’t face the profound dps loss of pet death. And even then, having a pet that is 50% or more of your dps is always going to have design problems, so we can’t go overboard. Beast Mastery and Demonology (and even the Unholy death knight) are going to be at a greater loss when their pet dies. That’s just the cost of having a more powerful pet.
Q: In regards to the survivability to hunter pets are there plans to make additional improvements? The resilience change should help somewhat in PvP, however in end-game PvE environments, the hunter's pet can die pretty easily, especially given the specific encounter. One suggestion made by many hunters was to add a passive ability that healed the hunter's pet when the hunter received a heal from a party or raid member.
A: Honestly, we aren’t happy with some of the current solutions to keeping pets alive. In particular, the area damage avoidance mechanics just don’t work well. They are frustrating for other players in a PvP setting when Bladestorm or Arcane Explosion can’t really hurt pets, and they don’t keep pets alive on a 5 million damage Mimiron missile. What we really need is a system where certain PvE attacks just don’t hurt the pet (maybe they can’t set off Mimiron mines for instance). We don’t want players to have to pay the price because the pet AI is in fact just an AI. This is something we’re working on.
We’d rather not have to come up with additional mechanics needed to heal pets or keep them alive. We’d rather just the pet didn’t die in situations where a player that can make intelligent choices wouldn’t have died. Hunters do have abilities to heal or rez pets, and those ideally should be sufficient.
Q: As a follow-up to the previous question, do we have plans to make it easier for the hunter to bring a dead pet back to life, such as reducing the casting time of the base ability?
A: We talk about this a lot, but the trade off would be a much more fragile pet. In some ways we think a system might work better where the pets were easy to kill, especially in PvP, but the hunter (or warlock) could bring them back say every 30 seconds or so without a huge loss to personal dps. But in that situation, we would reduce pet health quite a bit so that the pets would crumple quickly when focused. The death knight (especially with an unglyphed Ghoul) works a little more like this currently – they have like 12K health without the glyph. But to make this change we would have to solve the PvE pet-gibbing mechanics referenced above.
To be clear, this is a hypothetical different model than I’ve been talking about in the rest of this Q&A. I don’t want to confuse anyone by saying pets should both be hard to kill and hard to rez, and easy to kill and easy to rez.
Q: The Cunning pet-type was originally designed to be optimal for PvP use, however, most hunters feel that the Cunning pet-type falls short. How do we feel about the current state of what Cunning pets are offering, and are there any current plans to make improvements?
A: We made an effort in 3.1 to get the Cunning pets up to speed by giving them talents like Roar of Sacrifice, and normalizing all of the pet stats so that Cunning pets had the same stats as the other two types, modified by pet talents. Crabs are still fairly popular and they probably should be a Cunning pet given their crowd control ability, but the carapace also made them feel like they should be able tanks. And selfishly, I had no problem with seeing a lot of crab pets. (No, I’m not serious.)
This is something we would love to see more feedback on. Hunters in the online community tend to focus a lot on overall PvE dps or overall PvP survival and not get too much into pet comparisons. Someone theorycrafts the best pet and then hunters just go and get it instead of discussing what the other pets would need to be more competitive. To be fair, there is some of that discussion, but it’s not always easy to find, and I have looked. It’s not super high priority given some of the other hunter design issues we’re looking at, but we do want pets to be a choice.
Q: Due to the number of abilities available to hunters, many level 80 players have expressed concerns in regards to placing all necessary abilities on their action bars. Are there any improvements coming that will assist hunters with this particular issue?
A: We recognize this as a problem. We need to get more buttons off of the bar. We made some progress with streamlining say tracking and aspects, but we’re not there yet.
Q: Additionally, do we plan to expand upon the number of pet action bar slots? Due to the current number of slots available for pets, hunters frequently have to swap pet abilities in and out of their spell/ability book.
A: Yes, we definitely want to do this. The whole pet bar needs a little work. There are still some bugs relating to which abilities can be moved on or off the bar and whether they default to autocast or not. We want the bar to work much more like character action bars.
Q: Are there any plans to allow Tranquilizing Shot to play a larger role in the hunter's arsenal?
A: Consider that on the one hand this ability just used to be for Magmadar, and on the other hand I just acknowledged above that hunters have a lot of abilities to manage. Given that, we don’t really want Tranquilizing Shot to be in your rotation like Steady Shot or even Kill Shot. It’s a bit situational, and we’re fine with that. We did make some recent efforts to make Enrages feel more like a major mechanic that you’d want to dispel the way you dispel magic and other effects. Enrages aren’t fully realized that way yet, but we like the way that overall design could potentially work.
Q: Do we have plans to increase the number of stable slots available to hunters?
A: Obviously we increased it a lot in Wrath of the Lich King. We want to try and keep the pet as some kind of decision -- they aren’t supposed to be like mounts or titles where you just collect as many as you want. We expanded the size so that players could have say a Tenacity pet for soloing and a Ferocity pet for raiding, but we don’t want every hunter to have every family available here. Now one potential problem are the Spirit Beasts, which are collected by hunters and not trivial to replace. We have also discussed expanding the Spirit Beast concept to have rare skins of other pet families (that otherwise don’t convey a combat bonus). If we do that, we’d probably have to expand the stable slots.
We’ve also considered a model where the hunter doesn’t even need a stable and can work more like a warlock where they can just summon their pets whenever they want -- with the remote stable ability from the dual-spec feature, we’re pretty close to that already. If we went this route then maybe the stable could just become pet storage in the same way your bank has all those Invader’s Scourgestones and Zul’Gurub bijous that you don’t use often but can’t bear to part with.