It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything concrete about Wildstar – good to see it’s still chugging away. We didn’t have a chance to ask many questions back in 2011, so recently we pinned Stefan Frost, Design Producer from Carbine, to the roof of our newly constructed settler house on Nexus and asked him a couple of questions.
Strategy Informer: So, just a quick catch-up... we first saw this game a couple of years ago at GamesCom 2011, what have you guys been up to since then?
Stefan Frost: I don’t know that there’s been one focus, because it’s such a huge game, and we’ve been working on a lot of facets. One of the big things though is combat – since 2011 we’ve made a leap in the type of combat we have. It’s similar, except in the fact that our free-form technology really took a leap by comparison, as that’s something that we’ve really worked on. Our Paths have improved immensely – we took a lot of feedback actually, from GamesCom and Pax 2011, as that was our debut and we didn’t really know if people were going to like it or not. So, overwhelmingly it seemed pretty positive, but one critique was that people wanted more things to do with their paths, so we’ve included more there. We also worked on the Paths that were not shown that much, and we’ve got Dungeons, PvP, Housing... it’s all stuff we’ve been working on for years, but now it’s online and playing.
Strategy Informer: Do you think that, in the current ‘era’ of MMO’s, that locking people into a class from the beginning is still a valid design choice?
Stefan Frost: It’s interesting because you’re right – it IS a design ‘choice’, it’s not like there’s only one thing that works, or is ‘the best’ methodology of thinking. The reason we came to this conclusion is that we found that having a limited action set in a class, that you can modify, is the most interesting thing to us. For example, you are locked into a class, but that class can be modified into a role that’s different than what you’d expect. For example... over the course of the game you’ll probably get around fifty abilities, or so, and you have to pick 6-8 of those to use while you’re playing the game. So if I was a warrior I could be a tank, and choose those abilities, or I could switch those out and become a DPS instead. It’ll make things like, finding groups for Dungeons easier, because there won’t be anything like “oh, you’re not a tank, get out” or “oh, you’re not a DPS, get out” and stuff like that.
Strategy Informer: Looking at the Settler path, we noticed that even when you build something up, it despawns again after a certain period of time. How do you see this panning out? I worry that, if a player knows that despite all the effort they put in, that building is just going to disappear after a while. Do you think it’ll erode their sense of purpose?
Stefan Frost: I don’t think so – when you build up something, it’s great to spawn something in and it feels great to have done it, and over time I can collect resources and come back to it and keep it around. It’s not completely gone – I mean if you really wanted to stay there, I mean that’s the reason we have this Path, it’s for the social gamers who just hang around in Capital Cities and talk. So for those people, if they really want to do something to occupy their time, they can go out, find those resources, come back, build up these things and keep them built for a long period of time. Like you said, if I built a jail, and it’s going to despawn over time, but if it’s already built when a new settler comes a long, they can take these resources and still get credit for their Paths – we’re not going to block you there, and it keeps that building around for a longer period of time. We’ve been playing this stuff in beta – I can tell you, I mean I always play as the explorer, so when somebody does the Settler and they have all these things in the game... I went and talked to a quest vendor, who was on a Settler plug that had been spawned in, and I got that quest and it despawned three seconds later. And if I hadn’t of done that it would have gone away so I was like “Yes! I got it!”, so, I think there’s something cool about the fact that you have to depend on other people to put these things in, and even if it erodes, you can still come back and someone else can bring that in and they can make that players experience better as a result.
Strategy Informer: The Settler is the only path that doesn’t seem to immediately give incentive to players to move on to find other things – their ‘thing’, could be said that they actually have to stick around in an area and keep everything maintained. What do you guys think of that?
Stefan Frost: Yeah definitely – as you level up your path XP, you get a reward every time you hit a path level, but, once you complete a mission for a path you can’t grind it, so it’s not like... I mean with regular XP, I could grind on one creature for the entire game if I wanted to – It would be a giant waste of time, but whatever. But if I do path XP, I need to do new things, so it’s forcing you to go to new areas and find new missions etc... I mean if people want to do that, they totally can, that’s ok. But if they want to progress they’re going to have to go find new things. Players generally do what’s optimal, I mean sometimes they only do whatever they feel like doing at the time, but It also works out well that if you hit cap, you can go back to any area you want and just hang out and be social and just build that stuff up.
Strategy Informer: Wildstar seems more of a co-operative/PvE type of game, especially with the whole ‘Frontier’ theme – how does PvP fit into the context of your world? I mean there are the two opposing factions, but what do you do with it?
Stefan Frost: It depends on the PvP you’re talking about. If there’s open-world PvP, that’s just going to happen naturally in your questing environment. Somebody says “Go kill ten bears”, so I go “ok” and when I get to that field there’ll be a guy from the other side there as well. Now we both are flagged for PvP, we can totally just decimate each other, and that’s just how that rolls. Paths in PvP itself is something different – we wanted to make sure you could level up through doing dungeons, through doing PvE or even PvP. So to level up during PvP, we were faced with a conundrum that, well, unless we include something about Paths in there, you won’t get that Path XP and you won’t get those rewards. Paths in PvP are different, and we’ll talk about that in the coming weeks, but more-over, those paths will have something beneficial to do in PvP, and those systems will be a little bit different.
As far as only one path being combat orientated... as the scientist, you can scan planets, fauna etc... and sometimes, these will spawn monsters, so there’s fighting there, and by killing creatures in general you get more information on them, so there’s stuff for the scientist there. The Settlers have resources that spawn everywhere, sometimes on creatures. For the Explorer, they are going to be running through the content everywhere, and there are going to be creatures everywhere. Really, Combat is in everything, it’s just that the soldier is for players who literally just want to kill things.
Strategy Informer: The Paths are interesting because in some cases, like the Explorer and the Scientist, they seem on some level thematically interchangeable. You could argue that all players want to explore, yet you have an entire play style devoted to it – what made you set things up this way?
Stefan Frost: The reason we came up with those is from the Bartle-types. There was this guy who studied how people play games, and he said it basically boiled down to: Killers – people who just want to kill things, Explorers – people who like to go to every corner of the map, find every nook and cranny, and then there were people who care a lot about lore. The Settler, that’s not specifically based on a Bartle type, but it was something we noticed – there are people who are socialites and builders, and we just mixed them together. We wanted to give people rewards for the things that they like to do – yeah, one could argue that as a Scientist you’d explore things and find out things, but I think that as the Explorer, the motivation there is that you don’t want any fog of war anyway, but the scientist is like, I’m really interested about these creatures, or why this crystal is making me run faster. We wanted to reward that, but also create content that was suitable for those types of gameplay.
Sounds like there’s going to be a lot more interesting tid bits on this game in the weeks to come. Stay tuned to Strategy Informer as we keep you up to date on all the latest goings on, and don’t forget to check out our initial hands-on impressions. Wildstar is due out on PC later this year.