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KingsIsle discusses Wizard101, pet upgrades, PvP, and pirates


If you've found yourself going crazy over raising pets in the hugely successful Wizard101, worry no longer! We called up Fred Howard, KingsIsle VP of Marketing, to discuss some of the upcoming changes en route to one of the most popular activities in Wizard101. These pet changes are underway thanks in large part to a very passionate, informed community of players who have been asking for specific tweaks for quite a while. Pets aren't just for looks in Wizard101; they can level, aid in combat, and be hatched from eggs. There's even a fan-made Petnome Project to break down each pet and its abilities.

We also virtually twisted Fred's arm and got a few comments about Pirate101, KingsIsle's next MMO. Fans of PvP will also be pleased at what he had to say. Just click past the cut and we'll break it down for you.

Wizard101 screenshot
First, the pets. With a new level cap (called Mega) comes a new combat talent and a fifth Derby ability. The Derby is a competition through which a player puts her pet in order to raise the pet's level. Now eager players can feed pets twice after the Derby is over. Once the player's pet has reached new levels, she'll have a chance to receive a new combat talent, including new options like Critical, Crit Block, Armor Piercing, Healing Boosts, and Stun Resistance. Some players have expressed concern about the very issues this patch will fix, but the team doesn't mean to derail the efforts of players who have worked hard to analyze and understand every nuance of the pet system, according to Howard.

Players have been asking for a shorter incubation time for quite a while, so now, hatching a pet will now be speedier thanks in large part to optional cash-shop potions. There will also be some new pet games to play with and even some enhancements to the player-vs.-player Derby races. And now PvP is about to receive some long-awaited love from developers. The system that matches players against each other is going to become more accurate so that a lower- or higher-level player can't throw the fight. Getting into those fights should soon become much faster, as well. Howard told us that once again, player concerns drove much of these changes.

"This means that a player can enjoy both games for $13.90. Not only that, but crowns (the virtual currency of the game) will be account-bound and usable in both games."

What about that news about Pirate101? While launch is still officially "later this year," we did get some great news about pricing. Sister-game Wizard101 has always maintained a freemium model. Essentially, players can enjoy the game and some free activities and can subscribe to the game or buy other areas of the world. While Pirate101 will continue that tradition, family pricing will be available for individuals. This means that a player can enjoy both games for $13.90. Not only that, but crowns (the virtual currency of the game) will be account-bound and usable in both games. If you want to move from one game to the other, you can even give your friends a code to make sure that they follow you. The friend-code system has worked well for the safety of KingsIsle's younger players in the past; even if they are allowed to use only safe, predetermined chat, they will be able to share these codes to ensure they stick together.

While Howard admits splitting the playerbase is "always a fear," he tends to think that most players will enjoy both products as part of a larger package. "Pirate101 is going to be seen as another great KingsIsle property," he told us. Judging by the success of Wizard101, we have no problem believing him.

Expect to see only a closed beta for Pirate101, followed later by launch. You can sign up for the beta on the official site. Many thanks to Fred Howard chatting with us!

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

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