A couple of months ago, WoW Insider reported on the immortalization of WarcraftPets.com founder/owner Breanni with an NPC in Wrath of the Lich King. In the expansion, Breanni of US Scarlet Crusade-A appears as a NPC selling pet supplies in Dalaran. Curious about the growing public enthusiasm ("Obsession"? We think Breanni might agree ...) with non-combat pets, we contacted Breanni for more perspectives into the vanity pet craze -- as well as what it's like to run into yourself in the game as an NPC.
15 Minutes of Fame: Vanity pets – who knew? How many vanity pets are out there now, and how can players get them?
Breanni: Vanity pets (also known as companions, small pets, non-combat pets and mini-pets) are those adorable little critters that follow your character around the game world, catching the eye and imagination of others. Currently, there are 98 vanity pets, and new ones are added to the game nearly every major content patch. However, not all of these pets are available in the United States - a few are region-specific.
There are six ways to obtain vanity pets. Vendors, drops and quests offer players some of the most familiar pets. Additionally, there are a handful of pets crafted by engineers. Some of the rarest pets are obtained through real-world promotions, such as loot cards from the WoW trading card game and trade show giveaways. Finally, a new source has emerged for collecting certain pets: they can be earned through various feats, such as battleground victories or collecting a certain number of pets with a single character.
One of the first features I constructed for WarcraftPets was a neat little pet filter that allows collectors to sort every available pet by source, rarity, faction or binding. It's very handy for isolating all of the vendored pets, dropped pets, quested pets, etc.
What was it like to find out that there was a pet NPC in the game named Breanni? How did you find out? Do you know any of the folks at Blizzard who might have influenced Breanni's creation?
I found out late on a Friday night, about a month ago. A screenshot turned up from the first day of the beta where a player was visiting my namesake to examine her wares. She had taken the screenshot to show off the new pet accessories. Others who viewed the screenie noticed the name and model of the vendor was a dead ringer for the host of WarcraftPets.com.
Within minutes of that screenshot going public, I began receiving messages through my site. When I saw the screenshot myself, I was absolutely floored! I couldn't believe that Breanni, the virtual host of a website I built, one of my very own characters, was made into an NPC! Hundreds of congratulatory messages followed throughout the weekend.
To be honest, I'm not sure who to thank at Blizzard. I didn't know any Blizzard employees at the time, so I can only assume there was a developer or two on staff that were fans of the site. So if you folks are reading this, I give you my wholehearted thanks! It's such a unique honor, and I couldn't be happier.
We see that Warcraftpets.com is recruiting two new site admins to help handle the increased traffic on the site. Do you think Wrath's changing vanity pets to become spells is behind the surge of interest?
I'm sure that plays a huge role. Without bag space limitations, many players are starting to take a second look at collecting companions and mounts. Additionally, the news of my NPC twin in Dalaran, along with the recent addition of the Chinese dragon pets (which caught everyone by surprise, including me), have both contributed to the rise in traffic. Word-of-mouth marketing is also having a profound impact.
I think the site's viewership has hit that pivotal point where it's going to keep snowballing, at least for a while. It seems like everyone is finally discovering the joy of collecting these cute little critters. For many people, pet collecting keeps the game fun and fresh, and WarcraftPets.com is an excellent resource for first-time collectors and experts alike.
What is the rarest (but still obtainable) vanity pet in the game right now?
I would probably go with Murky, the promotional pet released at the first BlizzCon in 2005. This adorable blue baby Murloc was produced in limited quantity, and the codes can still be redeemed in-game. Now, three years later, there are but a handful of unused codes left and each sells for around $800 to $1,000 on the secondary market.
Which pet is currently considered the most desirable vanity pet?
Currently? I'd say the Essence of Competition. This is one of the new pets added in the past two weeks for the event honoring the Olympic games in Beijing. Unlike its cousin, the more easily obtainable Spirit of Competition, this one is a code-based pet available in limited numbers -- but only on Asian servers. However, the NPCs to redeem the code inadvertently showed up on US and EU servers (likely a bug), and that really whet the appetite of thousands of hungry pet collectors. Unfortunately, it doesn't look as though the Essence will be crossing into Western territory anytime soon, but only Blizzard knows for sure.
So do you have any RL pets?
My wife and I adore our two furry kids: Kirby and The Fuzz (they sound like a morning radio duo, don't they?) The Fuzz, whose given name is Jezebel, is a Himalayan (part Siamese and part Persian). I've had her for nearly 12 years, and she's an absolute sweetie. I had mentioned her in the Who's Breanni? page of my site. In a patch released earlier this year, a Siamese cat with markings very much like our Fuzz's was added to the second floor bedroom of the Stormwind Inn. A lot of people suggested this might have been Blizzard's first in-game nod to the work I put into my site.
Kirby is a Rat Terrier whom we recently adopted after my mother's passing. He's a great little guy, playful and full of spunk ... but he hogs the bed. Every night, my wife and I are repeatedly amazed that something so small can take up so much space! In that way, he is very much like our current mini-pets: small, cuddly space-hoggers. ;-)
What do you do IRL?
I work as the director of sales and marketing for a multi-million dollar chemical company. Sounds exciting, right? The company manufactures analytical standards, which are about as relevant to WoW players as an Azure Whelpling is to an inorganic chemist. ;-)
How long have you been playing WoW? What was your first character -- and now that you've played all the classes to 70, what's your favorite?
I began playing WoW in March of 2005. Believe it or not, Breanni was my first character and, for obvious reasons, she still holds a special place in my heart. Regarding favorite classes, I really don't have one. I thrive on variety. That's the main reason I decided to level all the classes. Every class has great appeal for me, including the new Death Knight. Rest assured I'll have 12 level 70s before long.
So you play female characters and your wife plays a male. Do you two play together?
Yes. I even staged an in-game wedding shot on our real-life wedding day last summer: Breanni and Frasier, perfect together! My wife and I grouped a lot in the beginning, and we still do on occasion. But her interest in the game has waned over time, and I've taken up dual-boxing. So we've sort of gone in different directions as far as WoW goes, but our real-life relationship couldn't be better. :-)
I choose my character companions in much the same way: a black cat for my Warlock, a snake for my Rogue, an owl for my Moonkin, etc. I also tend to color-coordinate my pets and characters. For example, the blue of my Jubling perfectly matches the skin of my Draenei. Similarly, the red of my Crimson Whelpling complements my Hunter's scarlet hair. And so on.
What pet in your collection was the most difficult to obtain?
The Firefly was one of the more tedious pets to grind for. In the end, after killing over 3,000 Bogflare Needlers, I opted to just buy the darn thing from the AH. Some collectors believe buying bind-on-pickup pets that you could get on a drop is akin to pet collecting blasphemy. But with 11 characters, a fulltime job, my loving wife and my website all competing for my attention, I have no qualms about buying pets outright when the farming isn't going my way.
I would also add that both the Sinister Squashing and the Scorchling are currently the most difficult pets for me to obtain. With so many things going on in my life, I prefer to farm for pets on a casual basis when time permits. These two pets are dropped by elites who are only available for 15 days each year. Plus, these elite mobs require a competent group of five to slay, and the drop rates for the pets are rather low. All of those limiting factors make these two pets virtually impossible for me to obtain. But I'll continue to try. ;-)
What pet in your collection gives you the most satisfaction at having?
I'd say both Murky and the Magical Crawdad. Murky brings a smile to my face every time he dances. Sometimes I'll even stop what I'm doing just to watch and applaud his little jig. And since he's so rare, it's nice to show him off. I'd say he's the crown jewel of my collection. :-) On the other hand, the Magical Crawdad provides a different sort of satisfaction. Traditionally, it's one of the most challenging pets to collect. But the amount of dumb luck I had in getting mine allowed me to claim him in less than an hour after my hunter hit 70. My story can be found in the Breanni Says portion of the pet's profile. Suffice it to say, I'm delighted every time I let him out.
Ok, so let's get right down to it: which pet in your collection is your outright favorite?
Variety is the spice of life, and that's how I feel about my characters and my companions. There isn't a single pet that I love more than any other. Depending on my mood, even the lowly Cockroach can make me smile. So I'll answer a different question: which pet inspired me to begin collecting them all? And that would be the Sprite Darter Hatchling.
"Dart" was the pet I kept seeing by the side of all the "high-level" characters when I first started playing. At that time, Breanni was in her mid-20s, and 60 seemed like a lifetime away. I never thought I'd be able to get such a high-level critter. So when I finally did, I decided that no pet was out of my reach.
A little piece of trivia: the Sprite Darter Hatchling was actually the original pet that graced the homepage of WarcraftPets.com next to the logo. I had the good sense to replace it with the Hippogryph Hatchling about a week before the site launched, concerned that an alliance-only pet might upset some Horde-only collectors.
Certainly when the expansion is released, I'll have my hands full. My top priority will be getting all the new pets on the site. I'm also planning to implement comments that can be posted within each pet's profile sometime in 2009. So my work on WarcraftPets.com will definitely continue, and hopefully the community will appreciate the direction it takes.
Additionally, I have every intention of creating and leveling a Death Knight in my spare time - a Tauren male this time. When he hits 70, I'll pair him up with my Tauren female for some dual-boxing action - and that wasn't an innuendo ;-). Speaking of dual-boxing, I have no doubt that I'll also begin the slow process of bringing all 12 of these characters up to 80, in six pairs of two. Dual-boxing is so much fun that it's hard for me to go back to playing only one character at a time. The synergistic combinations of talents and abilities create an almost limitless variety of game-play ... loads of fun!
In short, good times lie ahead. I know my 80+ companions will be joining me and my characters for the journey. :-)