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As a serial MMO vanity pet collector, I’m thrilled to have gotten a few minutes of lead systems designer Damion Schubert’s time to talk about SWTOR’s adorable mechanical vanity pets. Read on for some details on upcoming additional ways to obtain vanity pets beyond purchasing from a vendor, pet improvements we can expect to see in the next major content patch, and find out which of the current pets is his favorite.

IR: Vanity or companion pets were added to the game pretty close to the end after a significant amount of forum speculation as to whether or not they would be in-game. Were they always on the road map for inclusion?

DS: They were always on the road map for inclusion!  One of the things about project development of a massive MMO is that you have to prioritize features in the best way to ensure the project gets done.  Tops are features that have high content requirements (such as story) and/or have major impacts on testing the core gameplay and world flow (such as combat and worldbuilding), so features that impacted those elements were built first.  Features that were more auxiliary to that, such as vanity pets and the dressing room, were less central – not having them in wasn’t going to make the beta substantially worse or prevent other devs from doing their jobs — and so those features were prioritized downwards.  But we knew we wanted them in.

IR: Right now, the pets we are seeing are all purchasable, some with light/dark side alignment requirements. Any intentions of having some that are drops in the future?

DS: Absolutely!  In fact, some of these should show up in our next major patch!  I don’t want to give out too big a hint, but they smell kinda bad on the outside.

IR: Do any of the currently discovered pets interact with their environment? i.e. in reply to locations/activities or emotes?

DS: Not at this time.  It’s something we’d like to add, but there are higher code priority features in queue right now.

IR: Is there going to be any way for characters to obtain opposite-faction pets?

DS: We currently have LS/DS pets, not opposite faction pets.  That’s not to say this won’t change.  One of the things we want to do a lot more of is adding items that take a bit of communal exploration to discover – we’re well aware of how popular Datacrons and the Magenta Lightsaber crystal is – and minipets is one place where we’ve identified adding fun things like that could really pay off.

IR: Are there plans to add in more pets? I’ve seen some pretty swanky robots out there I’d love to have miniaturized and following me along on my journeys.

DS: We plan to add a steady stream of new vanity pets to most major patches.  Note: I didn’t say ‘all’, but we’re making a concerted effort to do this frequently.

IR: Will social level and eventually legacy level be key items pet collectors will want to focus on for access to more pets? Or do you think you will be finding additional ways such as random drops to spread around the pets?

DS: Yes, and yes!  We want to use the pets to reward as many kinds of gameplay as we can.

IR: Which is your favorite vanity pet in game currently and why?

DS: I gotta say, the little sandcrawler just cracks me up every time I see it.

IR: Any other improvements we can count on?

DS: Yep!  The abilities page just got restructured to improve usability, and one of the things that fell out of that was a dedicated ‘Pets’ section.  This will come in the next major patch.

A big THANK YOU! to Damion for taking the time to talk minipets with us!