TheGrumpyElf is talking about the Hunter class today and is kind of reminiscing about some of the mechanics that made the Hunter class stand apart from the others. He is also curious as to whether or not players new to the class bond with their pet(s) or not.
Sadly, I cannot offer any insight to his curiosity...but can do a little bit of reminiscing with him.
The first Hunter I ever created was Thelandira, somewhere around Jan/Feb of 2007. I had only been playing WoW for a few months and she was the third character I created.
I can't say that I instantly fell in love with the class...but it didn't take long to do so.
Back when Thela was created Hunters were on their own until level 10. We were pretty much a melee class until then...unless we took the time to learn how to "kite" stuff we were attacking.
At level 10 we had a small quest chain we had to do to learn how to tame pets. We had to tame three different types of beasts (I think it was three) before the quest giver, which was also the Hunter Trainer, taught us the ability to tame beasts. From then on we were allowed to tame any beast that we came across...with some restrictions.
- Side thought - I think we had to wait until around level 15 to learn how to heal our pet.
Restriction number one: The beast had to actually BE a beast. We couldn't go out and just tame any old thing. The prospective new pet had to be of the 'beast' family. (Which still holds true today.)
Restriction number two: The beast had to be the same level, or lower, that we were. (This has changed a few times over the years.)
Restriction number three: You could only have one pet with you at a time. If you wanted to go tame a new pet you would have to put your current pet in the stable or abandon it right there on the spot. (This has changed immensely but still kind of holds true. If we don't have room in our stable for a new pet we have to still get rid of one.)
Restriction number four: Your stable could only hold three pets. If you came across a pet you wanted and your stable was full you had to abandon a pet to make room for the new one. (We now have 20 stable slots along with 5 slots on us for pets.)
Often times this was extremely frustrating. There were many cool looking animals out in the world of Azeroth. However, you would find quite often that some of the coolest looking animals could not be tamed (hydras and thunder lizards I'm looking at you).
Or you would find that cool animal that could be tamed only to realize that your stable was full. You had to either abandon the pet you had with you or travel to the nearest Stable Master to abandon one from the stable.
This was just the tip of the iceberg on the many things we had to do as Hunters with our pets.
Back then pets had ranks to their abilities. And, not all pets had the same abilities. For example, some pets had Bite as their main attack. Some had Claw. If you had a pet that didn't "know" Claw you would have to go out and find one that did, tame it, fight stuff with it until you, the Hunter, learned it and then had to "teach" it to your normal pet.
You had to do the exact same thing for the ranks of abilities. At low levels, when you would tame a pet, its abilities (we'll use Bite as an example) would be Rank 1. In order to learn a higher rank of Bite you would have to tame a pet that had Bite 2, or higher. This meant that both you, and your pet, had to be of a certain level to tame a pet with a rank 2, or higher, of Bite.
The ability ranks went up to 5. This meant that you were taming new pets a lot as you leveled to make sure your normal pet stayed as strong as it could be and always had the highest ranks of its abilities for its level.
Keep in mind, this meant you did a lot of traveling back and forth to the Stable Master to store your normal pet so you could tame a new pet to learn its abilities, or higher ranks of abilities.
On top of this, you would have to keep your pet happy by feeding it. If your pet remained at an unhappy state with you for too long it would run away, or abandon you. You had to keep an ample supply of food in your bags to keep your pet happy.
Also, different pets ate different types of food. Some would only eat fish, some meat, some bread, some fungus and some fruit. There were pets that would eat a few types of food, but most of them preferred only one type. You had to make sure you had the right type of food on you depending on what pet you were using.
As you traveled around questing, and killing stuff, your pet would stay pretty happy...pets really like killing stuff. If you remained still for too long, like hanging out in a major city, your pet's happiness would start to diminish. I think the levels of a pet's "mood meter" were Happy, Unhappy, Angry. You didn't want your pet in an Angry mood for long. Not only did it risk your pet running away from you, it also meant that your pet wouldn't do as much damage as it would if it were Happy.
If your pet died while you were fighting something it would come back to life in an Angry mood when you resurrected it. You would have to feed your pet a few times to get it back into a Happy mood.
As if this isn't enough to do already, you had to level your pet. If you were level 20 and found a cool animal to tame that was level 5 you would have to level that new pet from level 5 to 20 after taming it...as well as go and learn higher ranks of its abilities, you might not know, along the way. And, heaven forbid, if you were at max level and tamed a low level animal. This was a VERY tedious task...and often a very long grind.
All of this might be a bit overwhelming, but it is what made me fall in love with the class. That I had to maintain anything, and everything, about my pet just screamed, "I AM A HUNTER AND THIS IS WHAT I DO". It cemented my bond with my pet(s) and made me enjoy the class more than I have any other class in the game.
At one point I was even leveling three Hunters so I could know, and play, all three talent trees they came in. I loved this class that much to put myself through all of the above on three different characters.
So, I'm sorry Grumpy that I couldn't enlighten you on what it is to be a "new" Hunter in today's WoW...but I can say the class will never be what it was...and I miss that tremendously. Yes, there were some aspects of the Hunter class that have been improved over the years for the good....but it's everything I've described above I'd like to see come back...well...except for maybe having to level pets. :o)
Oh, I also forgot to mention that back then animals in the wild, at your character's level, hit harder than they do now while you were taming them...and the act of taming a pet took longer. If you started to tame an animal and your health wasn't full you would most likely die. You learned right away to drop a Freezing Trap, once you were high enough level to know Freezing Trap, before starting to tame something. Or you asked another Hunter, that knew Freezing Trap, to join you so they could trap what you wanted to tame.