Fluff-lovers, rejoice! While we were given a hint during our interview at SDCC 2010, today NCsoft unveiled more concrete details about a highly anticipated new feature of the upcoming Aion 2.0 patch releasing next month -- pets! The new pet subsystem is sure to please many a Daeva; NCsoft is not relegating our newest companions to being only ornamental eye-candy -- it has given them true functionality.
Massively was able to chat with Sean Neil, Associate Producer of Aion -- and wearer of awesome t-shirts (that is a direct quote from his team!) -- who offered some juicy details about the furry, scaly, and... drum-wielding?!... friends coming our way.
Scamper on past the cut to get all of the latest details.
Fluff is often defined as an enjoyable extra in a game, an extra that really does not serve much of a purpose in regards to gameplay. However, by this definition, the new pets in Aion cannot technically be called fluff; as Sean Neil explained, "We are not putting in just trophy pets... the coolest part is that they will be a part of gameplay." Pets will have functionality and be able to respond to both the player and the environment in certain ways.
A unique feature of Aion pets will be their practical use. Although NCsoft indicates that the pet system will evolve over time, the Assault on Balauria free expansion will launch with five pet types: companion, signal, pack, fortune, and purebred.
Companion pets are those most similar to what is offered in many other games -- they follow you as you adventure.
Signal pets do just that -- they signal. Sean painted a picture of this by describing the warning: "The signal pets do an animation and make sounds, and run around to alert you when an enemy player is near you who doesn't even show on your screen." Do you try to gather in hostile territory, but grow weary of surprise attacks from an enemy in stealth? A signal pet might just be a wise investment. As an added bonus, pets cannot be killed by enemies, so even if you do not survive that surprise attack, your pet will!
Pack pets expand inventory space. Now, who couldn't stand to have a little pack mule or two? However, for those with starry-eyed dreams of hoarding a personal army of those precious pack-toting pandas to increase your warehouse space to astronomical numbers, forget it -- only one of each particular pet can be owned at any given time. You can own both a panda and a pack-toting donkey, but you cannot stock-up on multiple pandas.
Fortune pets have an interesting feature that can ultimately be rewarding -- Sean explains that "you feed them junk items, and you have a chance to get back something really cool, such as potions, green items, or manastones." Daevas will be eagerly anticipating their virtual pets' "surprise packages."
Purebred pets provide more than one function to their owners. Currently, these pets have two different functions, but there was an indication that some rare pets might have three.
Since I am a self-proclaimed pack-rat and pixel-pet lover, Sean's next words were music to my ears: "None of the pets take[s] up space." With cube space already at a premium, Daevas can breathe a sigh of relief as pets will have a separate 100-slot inventory window. Although pets can only be called out one at a time, there is no timer restricting when you can call pets, and no components necessary. If you are out gathering, you can quickly put away your signal pet, summon your pack pet, unload your materials, then re-summon the signal pet, all in short order.
They call it border daggie love
Now that we have our first inklings of which pets we might want, how do we get them? There will be a number of ways to acquire pets, including purchasing them from a special vendor in-game, finding them as drops while adventuring, buying them through the NCstore, receiving them as quest rewards, and even as acquiring them as rewards through different special events. We asked about pricing for pets in the NCsoft Store, and Sean explained, "Those details we are still working on right now. We hope to have more information soon."
The first step to enjoying the new pet feature is a quick quest that will be available as you first step into Pandaemonium or Sanctum. This quest will lead you to the petting zoo (Sean's description of where the pet vendors are standing) and will reward you with a "praise pet" emote. Each type of pet has unique animations. You can purchase an egg from the vendor, or bring one you acquired by other means. The NPC will then show you what your pet will look like when hatched, as well as offer options for naming and customization. When finished, your egg will leave your inventory and your new pet will appear in your pet window.
To satisfy those who are already eagerly anticipating your first pet, we asked Sean to give us an idea on pricing from the vendors (if you are like me, you will want to know how much you need to save up!). While prices are subject to change, on the test server they are currently running about 750,000 to a million kinah, depending on functionality. However, as these prices are based on testing, they might change by launch, scaling to the economy.
Hug him and squeeze him and call him George...
Or anything else you want to -- pet names in Aion will not be unique like character names, so players can name and rename their companions at will. Pets will also be customizable to a small extent; the same NPCs who hatch your egg allow you to first add some decorative features to your pet (if it takes me hours to customize my own avatar, I wonder how long it will take me to do my pet?).
Another important question on our minds was whether or not pets could be traded among friends, or if they could be placed on the broker. Sean explained that while some eggs could be, once a pet has been hatched and is in your pet inventory, the only way to remove it was to visit the pet NPC, who will have an abandon feature. If you decide that you no longer have room for or want a particular pet, you can remove it (let's see if they take yours truly's suggestion and call it "setting them free" instead of "abandoning"). However, there will be no way to sell a pet that has already hatched.
Players can acquire pets not only through gameplay, but through offline means as well. To celebrate the release of Assault on Balaurea, NCsoft is offering exclusive pets through select retailers for a limited time. Participating retailers and their corresponding exclusive pet reward include:
- All Retail SKUs -- Speckled Ailu (Panda)
- NCsoft Store -- Fuzzy Elroco
- Amazon.com -- Beluslan Kitter
- Best Buy/Best Buy Canada -- Heiron Kitter
- GameStop -- Grassy Drakie
- QVS -- Altgard Kitter
- Steam -- Skullabra Krall
- Wal-Mart -- Border Daggie
While the expansion is free to current subscribers, these exclusive offers are only available to those who purchase a new retail version of the game. Although this is a good deal for those who are just now coming to the game, we wondered what might be offered for current subscribers, and were told that NCsoft is "working on something for those who are already in game."
In closing, we asked if there were any plans for when 2.0 goes live, and Sean stated, "We are looking at anything we can right now." Perhaps NCsoft would consider putting on a pet show. Certainly, there will be many Daevas enjoying the companionship of their new best friends!