Published on October 6th, 2013 | by Xalaga3
Wildstar: A Pax Prime 2013 Interview
Welcome to our Wildstar interview with Doug, the Lead Scripter. We talk about Scrabs, areas of effect, the different classes, and even how this is going to affect the players if they happen to be color blind. So much information! Let’s just get right to it…
D: We have brought to PAX a low level starting zone experience.
TGL: Which do you think better shows off the characteristics of how your game plays?
D: I’d probably start on the low level, get a nice early showing of it. We have locked you into playing dominion for this demo. Also, we have locked down which classes you can choose to just the few that have been shown off. We have our Mechari, our Chua, our Draken, and our Cassian.
TGL: So, I notice they all have a back-story Is there going to be a larger world designed around this?
D: All of their back-stories do play into it in some amount, some more than others. You can change between male and female, even for the demo. The best one is Chua.
TGL: We see a warrior. What is an Esper class?
D: An Esper class is a psychic kind of caster. Sort of like a DPS (Damage Per Second) caster and a Healing caster.
TGL: Sort of a cross-category class then?
D: Yes. There are lots of Mental Blades used and summoned monsters to attack.
TGL: You also have a Stalker and a Spellslinger. Is the Spellslinger a standard magician?
D: A Spellslinger is a spell casting dualist. They use dual pistols, they are very squishy, they do high damage, and they teleport all over the place.
TGL: One of those “get away, don’t touch me. I am very powerful as long as you don’t touch me.” types.
D: He’s a hop around, kind of brash, kind of trench coat-y, awkwardly placed goggles that dies in one hit.
TGL: Do you have a character that will have minions?
TGL: Those are my favorite types. I loved breaking out a swarm of like nine robots and letting loose.
D: No comment. (chuckles)
TGL: Fair enough.
D: Next you pick your path. Do you know much about the Path System?
TGL: Kind of. I played the demo yesterday. But I played as the Scientist and that seemed like it was mostly about exploring.
D: The Scientist is all about lore. If you want to know far more detail about every single aspect of the lore than the average player wants, then the Scientist is it. Explorer is if you like jumping and climbing and finding stuff on the hills. The Settlers like to collect resources and make public buildings that help other players. And finally, Soldier is if you like murdering more than the average player.
TGL: The soldier is what you, historically, have seen in MMO’s. So it is equivalent to breaking that up and making it more about the community?
D: Without the paths, I cannot put the quest in with a really difficult jumping puzzle. Because the second more than 50% of the population doesn’t like it, I can’t do it.
TGL: So it’s really about customizing the experience.
D: This lets me put in a hard mini-boss fight. This lets me put in a purely help others quest. This lets me put in a quest supported entirely on it’s lore. Because that is what matters in that specific event. This lets me put in an extremely difficult jumping puzzle that is way out of the way. Because in the end, the player said “I want more of that, please give me more of that.”
TGL: So how is that going to work for a group? Ideally you want a Soldier, Settler, Scientist, and Explorer in a group. Are there going to be quests that take advantage of all of those [simultaneously] or adjust if we don’t have some of them?
D: For every single one, the Soldier starts the event. The Soldier summons the mini-boss, you all fight him; the Settler builds the building, you can all take advantage of it; the Scientist gets the lore, they can let you know about it if they want to; the Explorer finds the secret area, you can all follow him up there. He spawns the platforms that everyone runs up. Whoever you are playing with, you have access to their skills too. We call it “Crossing Paths”.
TGL: Do you need all the paths on a per mission basis or is it more like a guild or a community where you want more diversity?
D: The way to think about it is, when you are leveling in a standard quest leveling game, we took 25-33% of the quests and threw them out and replaced them with Path Missions.
TGL: So, if you are a person who doesn’t want to go collect all of these things and kill 1,500 of these enemies, you just don’t choose that path?
D: You just don’t do it.
At this point, we started to play the demo with Doug…
D: So, all these cinematics are done by the same people who do our video cinematics, and they are all done in game with a really cool set of tools that they have that let them just put them out in high quality cinematic experiences in the game.
TGL: That is what I have noticed, even back to City of Villains’ cinematics. It looked like the same world, the same quality of cinematics when you play the game. Unlike World of Warcraft, where you have a beautiful cinematic and then get dropped into a low texture world.
D: Later they did similar ones, but initially they only did big ones and in game. So, the first thing you’re going to want to do to get used to the game is get used to the movement. So, you are walking around. Things are great. Double tap forward. Aha! Now you are using up your resources for those dashes. Now you have one and it will build up to a second. You can have two at any given time. Right next to it is your sprint bar. So, if you hold forward and you hold shift you will run faster and you will lose some sprint. And finally, you can, of course, jump and double jump. So, lots of movement. Ah, push 1 right now. That’s where you hit. 80-90% of your attacks are un-targeted AOE’s (Area of Attacks) called free-form targeting. Everything is being drawn with telegraphs. Also, run forward while pushing 1. Isn’t it fun? So many buttons. Most of them can be used while moving. The game is all about moving. You will do one hundred times better if you are just going and moving and shooting because your enemies are going to have those exact same things except they’re going to be red. No, don’t be in the red. So, alright, if you look around I believe you have a quest right behind you. I made you run past it, I apologize. Oh, it was way at the beginning. I have totally doomed you. So, if you right click on him. There you go. So, we want to disarm mines and kill Scrabs, which are giant scorpions. Also, right here inside this little doorway, if you look left, is a bit of lore right there. So, there you go. And if you click on that there’s a journal.
TGL: So it gives you more of the story of the area?
D: Exactly. And I would like to point out that you did not pick out the Scientist path. This is lore that you just get. If you were a Scientist, there would be even more as you finish your Scientist missions.
TGL: For the Scientist, will they (lore) be highlighted or easier to see?
D: No, they will be about the same. It’s just that we give you extra. We give you more ways to get additional lore that others won’t get.
TGL: So there is additional quantity that you are finding, not just that they are longer.
D: Exactly. It would be separate pieces. This is all of this. It’s just we will give you more in depth separate pieces. So, if you understand we can close that out. Let’s move on and fight some Scrabs. Let’s teach ‘em a lesson.
TGL: So I noticed while playing that you don’t stay locked on in that sort of way, you have to have it within your specific weapons Area of Effect. Is that intentional, to make sure that they (players) are always moving around?
D: Exactly. Also, it gives you the advantage that if you are fighting two of them you could be doing equally as well, right? Things are doing AOE damage at all times. So when you get adds, which by the way is much easier to do, because everything is an AOE it is much easier to deal with them because everything is an AOE. Uh oh, watch out for that. We give you a lot of extra time on these early ones. Although, if you want to do something fun, the next one you find, step on it.
Continues to play game…
TGL: Apparently something fun is about to happen.
D: No, no, no. It will be fine, trust me. Look, you got out of the area. Oh, look. So, now it finished. When that bar turned purple it took double damage, because you avoided it’s telegraph. I’m color blind and just learned yesterday that the bar was purple. I’ve been calling it blue for quite some time.
TGL: As someone who is color blind, are the colors separated enough to tell (the difference)?
D: Right here they are not. But we are working on a solution, and I am our chief color blind tester. I am being used as a guinea pig to make sure we have got that covered.
TGL: So, in your Area of Effect, does it have equal damage or is there a distance component?
D: Equal effectiveness. Now I can’t say there aren’t abilities that don’t act like that. I am not sure about all our high end abilities. But at least these, these are all just even.
TGL: As long as they are at least partially in the circle they are affected?
TGL: Of, course you’re just dashing and walking backwards.
D: Now wait for your shields to recharge.
Clearly, at this point, we figured out that Doug was setting us up for a trap….
TGL:Yeah, I have to make sure not to take any damage so I can heal.
D: OK, run straight onto that mine there. Ahahaha!
We had a feeling…
TGL: It doesn’t kill you? So I suppose you could use it in some scenarios to jump really high.
D: I’d like to point out that if you disarm the mines and they go off slowly, those mines do damage to the mobs. So, you can kill your mobs with the mines.
TGL: You can just, kind of lead them to it?
D: Yeah, you can make your fights go faster.
TGL: You should go hit that Scrab then go arm that bomb as it is running towards you.
D: Alright, now it will interrupt your disarm. Uh oh…
And we derped….
TGL: Or you know, hit yourself with it.
D: She used it to jump over. It was a skilled maneuver. Alright, boy you took some damage there. It’s alright, you took almost no damage in the previous fight. If you push it again… So on that charge shot one, you stand still and… push it again. BAM!
TGL: You can let it go as soon as you want, but the longer you hold it the more powerful it is.
D: And that is one of those abilities you have to stand still for. There is some strategy there about when you want to stay and when you want to keep running.
TGL: I just want to recharge.
D: hahaha Yeah, you are good. You are out of his range. He can’t even hit you. Now these telegraphs are relatively simple. Early in the game you see a lot of circles, a lot of lines, and a lot of cones. At some point, if you have the chance, check out the dungeon demo. It’s only a level 20 dungeon. But one of the bosses has a telegraph that is circles of squares, like teeth on gears.
TGL: So a much more complex shape.
D: Their second tier, third tier, fourth tier, all offset each other. The main boss in that dungeon has one that is a circle that shrinks on you.
TGL: So, at any point in the game does it get rid of the guides of where your AOE hits?
TGL: So it is consistent throughout the game, it just gets more complex with the shapes that is provided?
D: Yes. Although hiding those would, technically, make the game harder, would add an element of skill. It’s easy to make any game take more skill. I could say that any time you push one of those buttons you had to solve a Sudoku puzzle to attack. I guarantee you the game would be much harder and require more skill. What it really comes down to is picking which skill you think is really important for the players to learn. And honestly, having to remember exactly where your attacks are going to hit is not something we want to encourage. We can make the game harder in other ways to offset the fact that we show that information. Hiding information is often not the best way to make something more interesting.
TGL: You would rather make better missions in the first place?
D: Exactly. So, let’s just charge up through here. You have killed enough Scrabs for now. Let’s head up the hill. There is another one of our players disarming mines. I would not get stuck in there. So, if you look up a little bit, we are going up that hill. Those spotlights are kind of… I wouldn’t stand in one. Actually, that’s not true you can get out easily. You have your dashes. Go into that spotlight. These are like much easier to use mines. Because of that.
Once you have touched one of the spotlights, it will follow you around. Making it easier to use it against an enemy, but you have to be fast.
D: So, now you don’t have to click on one of the mines, you can attack one of the Scrabs and just slowly drag it backwards into that. And as we head up the hill to those power generators. Uh oh.
TGL: I got it.
D: Your good. You got it. You got your dashes. Alright, as we go into this base, you should get a communicator call. So let’s head on in a bit. Uh oh, let’s kill the robot quick. The robot will have slightly different telegraphs than you are used to. There you go, aww well. you still damaged him badly. Uh oh.
The robot had a much more menacing shape than the Scrabs did. It clearly represented that perhaps, we were about to be taken down and no much help I could bring. But still, we tried.
TGL: I see what you mean about the different shapes.
D: They start to get a little bit more complex. And by the way, that is very, very important. I have been doing playdates for years, and everytime I jump into the middle it is very difficult. We just started doing continuous playthroughs, because it is getting polished and you play from 1 to whatever where you need to make sure the whole experience is good. And all of a sudden the game became one hundred times easier because I was being properly trained through the system.
TGL: It gives you a little bit more explanation instead of just throwing you in.
TGL: I noticed that A and D (on the keyboard) are set to move the camera, is that something you can change?
D: Absolutely. Just not on these demo stations. I rebound both of those to my straffes, which actually right now are E and Q. Which by the way, if you double tap E or Q. Weee.
TGL: I was wondering about that, because usually these two are your straffes.
D: Yeah, the whole system is setup for people who want to keyboard turn. And, although it is a little bit harder, especially with the telegraphs and the fact that you need to have all this fast movement. By the way, the fact that all this is up and running. That is a soldier, no, yeah that is a soldier and you are an explorer. He started this public even. You will get path XP for helping. So now you can see this is switched over to the soldier UI.
TGL: You are not trying to attack that, you are trying to defend it.
D: Oh no, that’s a Granock. That’s an Exile. It’s good, you are out of his thing. You’ll notice you have switched your path UI over from an Explorer UI to a Soldier UI. You should dodge forward through them and head back. There you go. You have got another friend helping you out. We switched it over to the Soldier UI because we are helping the soldier out with their path mission. And when you’ve completed it, you will actually get path XP for your Explorer Path just because you’re helping. And we really, really want to encourage people helping.
TGL: So, last year you guys were in Alpha, and now you are on to Beta. When is this going to be released?
D: Spring 2014.
TGL: So another partial year of Beta.
TGL: Is this on a standard calendar, or is it financial calendar?
D: I don’t know.
TGL: Those are different.
D: I know. I agree with you, but I don’t know. I am relatively sure it is standard calendar, because I don’t think we would announce a date based on the business calendar. But I don’t know.
TGL: So, how many levels are planned for release?
D: We are going to launch with a level cap at 50.
TGL: Is there already work being done on expansions, or is it still just trying to polish the core game?
D: There are plans, it is irresponsible to run a subscription game without a subscription level of service. We have 100% planned that, we have it all laid out. I am sure those plans are going to change constantly which is why we haven’t announced anything specific, but honestly, right now, we are working on the game. It is, I would say, almost equally irresponsible to work on something this close to ship that isn’t going to come in the box. People are going to buy the box, the box needs to be as good as possible.
TGL: That’s a fine balance.
D: Yes, so that is our focus until we are ready.
TGL: What about the game’s economy? Is that isolated to each server or does that go from server to server?
TGL: Is there some sort of auction house or crafting?
D: There are auction houses and there is crafting.
TGL: Real money, or in-game only?
D: In-game only except for the business model we just announced. So we are standard subscription right? You buy the box, you get 30 days with the box.
TGL: And the price of the subscription is?
D: $15 if you are buying month to month. I think it goes down to $12 if you get 6 months. Very standard, very traditional subscription model. In addition to that, we have announced something called C.R.E.D.D.. So, C.R.E.D.D. is a $20 in-game item and when you use it, it gives you a month of subscription. Which seems weird as it is more expensive. Why wouldn’t you buy the subscription? But it isn’t for subscription, it is for people that want to buy gold. So you buy the C.R.E.D.D. if you don’t have the extra gold you need and sell it in the in-game auction house. Other players in our game that maybe don’t want to pay every single month, or maybe don’t want to pay this month and have a lot of extra gold, they buy C.R.E.D.D. from those other players through the auction house. They use it and they can basically play for free.
TGL: So it’s internal trading for extended subscription time?
D: Exactly. It’s very good, because in the end it’s player-to-player gold. You’re not creating gold, infact you’re destroying a bit with auction house fees. So it’s not going to accidentally inflate the economy with gold selling, which is a common problem when you just sell gold.
TGL: Any inside perspective on the seeming shift going from prepaid subscription based to free-to-play and now Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar are both moving back to a more traditional subscription base?
D: I would say the market for free-to-play was always there up until the last few years. On that same note, the second a new market is discovered, and let’s be honest here this market has always existed, people just weren’t properly giving them what they wanted, I think there is a large rush into it. And I think there is a blowback, where there is a lot of free-to-play games, perhaps more than there is an audience to support. And perhaps people that are willing to pay a subscription and expect the amount of quality and content you expect from a subscription, Maybe they are a little underserved. So that is why I think we are heading back a little bit.
TGL: That does seem to be what is happening with both PC and with mobile with Pay-to-Win model.
D: Very much so. There is plenty of good ways to set that up, but we would prefer to do a subscription and do the amount of content that requires.
With that, our interview with Doug ended and we were sad to leave the demo behind. The game looks fantastic and very well polished. It can only mean that by Spring of 2014, this game will be, most likely, on our list of “need to purchase.” We would like to thank Doug as well as the team behind Wildstar for their time, and we hope you all go sign up for the beta!