Of course, this isn't virgin territory for the game series. Final Fantasy XI featured four different pet classes, which have had differing levels of success over time. And even though Final Fantasy XIV isn't meant to be Final Fantasy XI in a new skin, the game can certainly take some inspiration from its predecessor even while forging a unique legacy. And hey, we've got at least three of the four pets from the previous game in Eorzea at this point. So let's talk about the past set of pets, where we are in the present game, and how those systems might make it into the main game.
First of all, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that pets won't be tied to classes or jobs. We've seen the preliminary screenshot of the second version, which includes a chocobo fighting alongside its owner, but that's the sort of ability that can really go with any class. There's no reason to make it unique to one specific class, even if we overlook the issues of fitting in the abilities necessary in the current ability layout.
I'd even say it's a distinct possibility that pets will be tied to discipline, meaning (for example) Disciples of Magic will have access to summons but no one else can use them... but that remains to be seen. Bottom line: I think every character can expect to have the option of a pet even if you don't take that option.
Of course, pets also raise a noteworthy problem in that they split one character in two. You have to create some form of balance between the characters who fight with a pet and those who fight without one. All of the four classes in FFXI addressed this in different ways, some of which will work in FFXIV, some of which won't.
Beastmasters made up for their full-strength solo-friendly monsters by giving up a portion of their experience when the conditions were right. You either charmed a weaker monster, used a weaker jug pet, or dealt with a slight experience penalty. Of course, Beastmasters also couldn't do much beyond charm and control monsters, which means that this sort of penalty really won't work in FFXIV at all. Experience is generally quite easy to come by solo, and no one is going to give up most of his or her abilities to charm weaker monsters.
Puppetmasters took this to the next level: Your automaton was a little party member all its own, complete with equipment and abilities to taste, while the main Puppetmaster was essentially a weakened Monk with more sub options. The result was that you could make yourself a little two-person party with ease, but you were crippled without the puppet. Unfortunately, since you've got full control over character abilities anyway, making a mammet into an ersatz party member seems like a lot more trouble than just slapping Cure and Second Wind on your bar. It worked with the previous game's structure, but not in FFXIV.
Dragoons work a little bit better on their own. Rather than seeming like less than a whole class, Dragoons just get a lot of extra weight added on to their abilities when they've got a wyvern out. In the early days, this resulted in Dragoons' having a lot of other issues since it was hard to recover a dead wyvern and difficult to keep wyverns alive in the first place. It's still not trivial, but it's far better than it used to be. It's also a nicely moderate penalty for a pet class as it keeps you from being at full strength but not crippled if something goes wrong.
Summoners are last but most certainly not least. They also had the simplest and simultaneously most-crippling penalty in that they had to keep spending MP as long as their summoned pet was active. In FFXI, this led to making most summons hi-then-bye buff pets, since the MP cost for maintaining a pet for a longer stretch was prohibitive. FFXIV has more universal MP pools, however, and the out-of-battle regeneration helps ensure that you can keep an MP-draining pet out for a reasonable length of time. Of course, you'd also need to make some of the pet effects less overpowered in the process.
Looking backward, I think crippling the main class in favor of the pet worked for the normally party-heavy nature of the game, but characters in FFXIV have a lot more baseline capability to begin with. Dragoons and Summoners thereby make great models to start from; they use pets as boosts with restrictions rather than as a constant presence to bring them up to normal. Instead of having a persistent companion, you have one as it's called for.
Considering that the only pet we've seen so far has been a chocobo going into battle alongside its rider, I'd say this does appear to be the route we're going. I'd imagine there will be some noteworthy restrictions to keep pets from being constant, perhaps along the lines of Final Fantasy XII's Espers. It would keep things relevant while also giving you something less than a perpetual leveling buddy.
Or maybe the devs will just introduce one-handed axes and Beastmasters with 2.0. Anything's possible, really.
As always, feedback is welcome down in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to talk about the Legacy program and what it means for players and the game as well as what it says about Square-Enix as a developer -- the good and the bad.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.