This idea is inspired by the Followers you have in Diablo 3 and Skyrim.
In WoW, you often spend extensive amounts of time on your own:
- Levelling up characters.
- Performing daily quests.
- Grinding a reputation for a faction.
- Other tasks which are more single-player oriented than raiding, dungeons, or PvP.
I don't see any problems with this, even in an MMO. There are times when you simply want to play without other players, and not have to worry about the social aspect, or about going in divergent directions. There are also times when you simply cannot find other players to join you, as it might be late at night, or people may not be interested in the particular task you have set for yourself. It is the same for Diablo 3, really.
This inspired the concept of...
Companions are NPCs that can join you permanently on your adventures across Azeroth and beyond. Companions will fight for you, talk to you, share your burden of a heavy inventory, and assist you in different ways. Some may even allow you to marry them. You can only have 1 Companion active at a time (think Hunter Pets).
Companions are found on your adventures throughout Azeroth. They are NPCs designed by Blizzard to be deeper and more complex than other NPCs. They have the 'Friendship'-reputation system like the Tillers of Pandaria have. To make a Companion join you, you must first discover it at its original location (be it a home, an event in the wilderness, a quest, a dungeon, etc.); then you can ask them to join you once you have reached the 'Acquaintance' reputation. The way to go from 'Stranger' to 'Acquaintance' can vary between Companions, but will often include one or more of the following ways:
- Perform a quest for the Companion to help it out of a sticky situation.
- Reach a certain Reputation with a faction or Friendship with another NPC, to let the Companion know you are 'all right'.
- Acquire a certain level or ilvl to impress the Companion.
The game will contain a large number of possible Companions, but you only have so many available empty Companion Slots. These will be available in a list found in a user interface which looks like a combination of the Mount and Glyphs interface.
The three empty Companion slots are unlocked at level 30, 60, and 90.
Once you ask a Companion to join you, and if it accepts, it will take up one of your available empty Companion Slots in the interface.
If they are all full, you can clear one up by right-clicking it and permanently dismissing that Companion.
Summoning a Companion
Each of the Companion Slots in the Companion interface will contain the portrait of the Companion stored within. These can be right-clicked to Summon a Companion, or be dragged to the skill bar where you can activate them - much like skills.
Summing a Companion has a 1 hour cooldown, so you cannot keep swapping on the fly. Also, you cannot summon a Companion if you are already in a party or raid group with other players. They are exclusively available when you are alone.
Once a Companion has been summoned, they will stay with you until you Dismiss them or until you join a group with other players.
Companions cannot die. Instead, they can become defeated like player characters in Guild Wars 2. If you right-click them within 5 minutes of them being defeated, you will channel a spell to bring them back to normal. If you should die too, they will run away to avoid death, and de-spawn. You can summon them back once you are alive again.
Companions can perform a number of tasks for you, as well as join you in combat.
All Companions can:
ITEM STORAGE. This can be upgraded for large amounts of money. The initial space is 10 slots, then upgrades to 12, 16, 20, and 24.
RESURRECT YOU. If you died at a remote location, corpse-running can be annoying. Provided there are no enemies left alive, and the Companion survived whatever killed you, they will channel a resurrection spell over 20 seconds to bring you back. This has a cooldown of 5 minutes. If someone or something comes along to defeat the Companion at this stage, then you will have to run back and summon your Companion again.
CHAT. Like the Followers in Diablo 3 and Skyrim, these Companions will all have unique monologues as well as dialogues you can take part in. They will make comments on things, like when you enter caves, see a beautiful landscape, find a great treasure, or die. If you find this annoying, it can be disabled in the options menu.
NAVIGATION ASSISTANCE. By talking to a Companion, you can always receive some pointers for your current quest. They will give you a general direction of where to go, or alert you if there is an unusual objective people might generally miss (such as using an object in your inventory or clicking a book to proceed).
MARRIAGE. Companions of all sexes will be available for marriage, provided you have been with them long enough to gain each other's trust and affection. Once you've reached the 'Best Friend'-level of friendship reputation with a Companion, you can work towards one more level if you want to, called 'Romantic Interest', by giving romantic gifts and other things. Once 'Romantic Interest' has been achieved, a proposal dialogue option will appear when you talk to the Companion. Marrying a Companion includes a little scripted ceremony (like in Skyrim), and opens up a few additional dialogue options. There won't be any major rewards, otherwise people would feel it was a mandatory thing to do. But there will be small things; for instance if you use the /kiss emote to your Spouse or Wife, then it will do it back at you. Sometimes, your Spouse or Wife will also make infatuated comments about you.
MOUNT UP. You may assign one of your mounts for a Companion to use. They will have the same riding and flying skills as you have. Any mount you assign to a Companion will still be available for you to use. Companions can also board your 2-seater mounts.
EQUIP ITEMS. Companions can wear any item appropriate for their type (cloth, mail, plate, etc.) as well as cosmetic social gear. However, this is just a form of transmogrification. Companions are not affected by gear stats. Instead, their power scales up with levels.
Each Companion in the game will start out as a specific type of fighter. Some are DPS, some are tanks, and some are healers. It is important to note that while Companions have these roles, they cannot be compared to a skilled player. For example, a Companion tank will be roughly as good a tank as a Warlock Voidwalker; a Companion DPS will be about as good as a Hunter Beastmaster Pet, and a Companion Healer will only be about as good at healing as most non-healing-specced characters in the game are - it will relieve you of having to cast Rejuvenation as a Feral Druid, but it won't be able to match a Restoration Druid.
Companions are controlled in-game just like Hunter and Warlock pets, by a mini-action bar which includes options like 'Offensive', 'Defensive', and 'Follow'.
A Companion will always have your level, and its 'Specialization' can be changed just like yours.
A general pointer is that Companions aren't good enough to make you stop teaming up with real players when you can, but they are good enough to be valuable allies on the single-player battlefield. Besides, much of their value comes from their usefulness as a whole, not just combat.
All Companions have a simple Specialization talent tree with three tiers, branching off in three directions: Heal, DPS, and Tank. Each tier of talents is unlocked at different levels; 30, 60, and 90.
None of these talents are as powerful or build-changing as the ones us players have. But they can make notable differences on a Companion.
Examples include having faster resurrection channelling when they try to bring you back, being able to taunt enemies a bit more often, or adding a stacking de-buff to enemies with every attack.
If this idea is popular, I will flesh out this system some more.
The more you use one Companion as you play, the more your Friendship Reputation will increase with it. This progresses very slowly, and becoming 'Best Friends' is meant to take a considerable amount of time.
You gain reputation with your Companion from killing enemies, completing quests, taking part in holiday events, exploring, talking, and more, with it at your side.
A high reputation will lead to an improved Companion with increased bonuses and additional dialogue options, and so on.
Companions aren't there to replace players. You will still benefit more from having a good friend with you.
But they are there to enhance your solo experience a little bit. Whenever those long hours of grind become too exhausting or boring, the Companion will be there to liven up your gaming experience and provide you with a helpful hand.
Thoughts? I may flesh out this idea further, but I'd like to hear the initial reaction first.