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A Pet Class That Isn't a Pet Class

Tim Eisen Posted:
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How do you make a pet class for a game that is being built for large scale open world PvP battles? As much as I love them (and have loved them since I first dabbled in “Creature Handler” way back in Star Wars galaxies) pets in any game are hard to get right and in a PVP game they can be downright game breaking! When I heard CU was going to have a “pet class” stretch goal my skeptical pager started buzzing! The grizzled old MMO vet in me squinted at my e-paper as I leaned forward in my rocker and scoffed “pets have no place in a PVP MMO, never been done right, likely never will be” I thought to myself “unless they can figure out how to solve the pathing and pixel issues”.

CSE thinks they might have those problems solved with their pet class concept. As I understand it the pets aren’t “pets” in the traditional sense. These pets are more like summoned ghost pets that work sort of like a spell, but more, and sort of like a pet, but less. Sounds like a fine line to walk!

The most important question I ask about a concept that walks this line is, does it please the pet class players? Could this concept do enough to make them happy while ensuring their class doesn’t feel like a mage’s country cousin? I also wonder what they could do to separate this class from the pack of pet classes that we’ve all seen before.

Two words, siege pets! Imagine summoning a giant beastly pet that fills the role of a piece of siege equipment or a turret! Maybe you spot a raven, cast a spell on it, turn it into a ghostly pet and use it to do some skin changer “bird’s eye” scouting? Maybe you transform another bird, let’s go with a pigeon since we all know they are the rats of the sky, and maybe that ghostly pigeon dive bombs into a fort killing itself and spreading a plague in the process!

I’ve played other games where I had a few different pets for different roles but I don’t think I’ve seen one since UO that could have so much applicable diversity. I have a feeling this pet class might just make you want to catch em’ all!

“But how can you even begin to balance pets that range from siege level to messengers! Pets in MMOs are always either demonically over powered or pathetically worthless!”

Good question but the answer lies in where they come from and how they work. These pets use resources that are already in the game! CSE plans to use tech and art that is already within the game then adjust the mechanics to take something that already is to another level. If that approach applies to balance then it should already be worked in when they balance spells and things like actual siege equipment. I don’t think it will be “easy” but I think this makes it much easier than if they were built as a stand-a-lone mechanic that wasn’t rooted in previously developed and balanced mechanics and I hope they are creating the entire game with this “grow from the roots” mindset.

That brings me to the “pet portal” mechanic. I find the “portal” concept to be a fascinating mechanic that could be used sort of like a typical mage blink combined with rogue stealth to make a hybrid (stink?). What I’m having trouble with is how the CU pet class would set up a few of these portals then use them to jump their pet around as seen in the image below. I think it has great potential for pet traps (which have been sorely missing from MMOs since UO). Imagine you leave a pet portal hidden in a keep, abandon it, hide in the trees, then call a siege pet through it to wreak havoc on the poor souls that thought they ran you off! In could be incredibly interesting. As much as I loved proximity mines in GoldenEye 64 from what we know right now (which is still uber early and concept) I’m just not quite sure how a pet class could set these things up and make them work on the open battlefield. Maybe they all spring forth at once and the enemy is unsure of which portal the pet will come from? Maybe it plays out like that mirror scene in Enter the Dragon? Maybe pets can jump between friendly players pet portals? While I’m pretty much ecstatic about the rest of the class concept, until we know more on this aspect of the class I have to keep my skeptical pager on just in case.

Um…you still haven’t answered “the most important question”, is this concept “pet class” enough for “pet classers”?

If you haven’t decided that one for yourself by the time you got to this point in the column then your likely not a true “pet classer” because I believe an idea like this is one that will quickly be decided upon by the people that love pet classes, they will either love it or hate it and they will make that decision very quickly. My hope is they at least entertain the idea because it’s not very often in MMORPGs we see a class taken apart and rebuilt in such a drastic way. It takes a lot of guts and creativity to change something people have been loving for over 15 years. That doesn’t meant it will be great, or even work, but based on what we know now this concept sounds like it has enough potential and sound design behind it to be something I’d like to give a try. Besides, who doesn’t like ghost wolves? 


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry