Let me say first that a ton of effort has gone into preparing this system for release. The RPG standard for pets is that they join their masters in a fight and can wield various melee attacks or spells while leveling up and becoming more powerful. This is common, and ultimately boring. We wanted to shake things up a bit and eliminate another source of tedious grinding, which I think we've managed to do.
With this in mind, we began designing the pets. Right off the bat we saw that providing interaction between pets and their masters without resorting to combat was going to be immensely difficult. Fighting seemed to be the only way to get them to talk! To resolve this problem we introduced the pets more into the storyline and made them part of random events. We went with the most basic of pet duties, Fetch. These events were loaded with items and treasure that pets would be able to pick up and add to their masters Exp and Talent points. All of the sudden, taking pets for a walk didn't seem like such a chore!
As nice as bunches of treasure and Exp is, it wasn't going to be enough to satisfy our players, so it was back to the drawing board to expand the pet's role in the game even further. We saw that we needed to make a distinction between pets as combat sidekicks and pets as helpful assistants. We wanted them to be there for players to help them, but not just as another source of damage. We settled on (nursing) helping players recover HP, (gofors) to submit quests, and possibly even to earn money. These looked good on paper, but they still lacked the necessary pizzazz to make them really unique. It was at this time, when were at a creative dead end and staring at blank computer screens, that the project director burst in and broke us out of our coffee deprived stupor. "Combine!" he kept shouting, "Put them together to make something even better!" At first we were at a loss, but as he explained it we could see he was on to something. Combine the pet's skills with the skills of their masters to make a sort of super skill. "Imagine the power that could be generated!" he said. We couldn't agree more, and suddenly Starbucks didn't seem so important. Brilliant, dazzling effects, upgraded appearances - the ideas came spilling out faster than we could jot them down. It seemed to be the real, unique breakthrough that we had been waiting for.
The last problem we had to overcome was how to raise these new kinds of pets, but it seemed the ghost of combat sidekicks wasn't going down without a fight. How could your pet obtain exp without actually doing something? We finally kicked exp to the curb and settled on a compound system that lets players combine weaker pets to make stronger ones. Although a little morbid, we feel that the pet's won't have much to say about it. We even have plans to incorporate a pet rebirth system so that their development can continue to match their masters.
I've also included a few screenshots of the new pets for you guys to gawk at! Check them out!