Fresh from a visit to Nexus, Robert Gray interviewed executive producer Jeremy Gaffney about the Settler and Scientist paths
San Francisco. A beautiful city forever made famous by the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and its iconic cable cars. However, for me, it's shaping up to be remembered as the place where I first played WildStar. That's right, I was finally lucky enough to get my hands on what is one of the most highly anticipated MMOs to come across the ZAM news desk in quite some time.
Not only was I treated to an enjoyable frolic through Nexus, but our wonderful hosts from NCSoft and Carbine Studios also rolled out all sorts of fresh, never-before-seen, content and goodies for us to feast our eyes upon. I was pretty blown away by some of the things I saw and I assure you that I wanted nothing more than to tell the world about it. But, sadly, they kidnapped my first born in order to ensure that I wouldn't spill the beans, so I had no choice but to bite my tongue for the last two weeks. But at long last the time has come.
Intrigued? Well then by all means read on...
(Disclaimer: No first borns were harmed in the making of this article. In fact I made that whole part up in a shameless attempt to make this article seem more sensational. The PR staff at NCsoft is actually really nice. They bought me hot dogs.)
For starters, maybe you've seen the "Class Dismissed" teaser poster floating around. I know many people were secretly hoping that meant a new class was going to be announced.
However, it is actually a part of another fantastic personality video from Carbine that formed the back bone of the entire press event in San Francisco. That being the long awaited reveal of details on the Scientist and Settler paths, which up to this point have existed almost as placeholders.
The reveal wasn't restricted to just the video clip, however. Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney also gave us a live demo of the two new paths, as well as showing off a new zone called Whitevale.
We were shown a secret Eldan installation, accessible only when the Scientist unlocked and solved a puzzle built into the door. For starters, my ears perked up when Gaffney mentioned that all the puzzles in WildStar are randomly generated and are different every time, so you can't just go online and find the answers. The lore junkie in me got excited when he told us that the Scientist path would experience more storyline elements than any other.
Of course to me that begged the question: are Scientists the only ones that can experience the whole solving puzzles and unlocking secret Eldan lore side of the game, or can anyone solve these puzzles once they are discovered? Luckily I was able to catch up with Gaffney to get some clarification.
"We allow our designers to vary that on a per puzzle basis and so some probably work in different ways; the one that you're probably talking about is where you have this Eldan lock and what's behind it and can you align the elements [unlock it]. Once a scientist has scanned the levers anybody can come along and mess with them."
“And so the door stays open for a brief amount of time to let other people sneak in with you and then the puzzle stays enabled so that other people can try to solve it as well. Because we know that people play with people of other paths, we reward you for it. The goal is not to segregate everybody, it's actually to give you different stuff to do together and make you feel cool."
There was definitely a vibe throughout the event that the path system was meant to allow people with different play styles to work together in ways that make them feel unique and vital to a group. We saw some great examples of this in the latest Dev Speak video.
Of course the highlight of the event for me was when I sat down in front of a PC and got my hands dirty as a Settler. With few details available up to this point, I was excited to see just what the Settler could do.
I certainly appreciated the sandbox-like appeal of entering a new zone and physically building up the infrastructure. Where once there was only open plains I managed to build a small hub of activity which included several structures that provided combat and run speed buffs for myself and anyone else in the area. Proud of my achievements, I then built up some defenses and spawned some NPC guards to look after the place while I was gone.
Satisfied that my newly created settlement was in good hands, and that it would provide assistance to all my fellows in the area, I moved on to complete some quests and partake of the refreshing free-form telegraphed combat system. But eventually I found my way back to my settlement, only to discover that it was gone without a trace.
This had me scratching my head. Was my settlement destroyed or did it just decay over time? Can Settlers create permanent structures or are all my creations destined to disappear on me? With so many questions rattling around in my head it was a good thing Gaffney was there to once more fill me in.
"Our designers have the ability to vary that up depending on how they do it, but their standard answers tend to be that they make a first tier of stuff that even just a single Settler in the area can build most of that stuff, and it decays kind of slowly. The second tier of stuff, it takes a couple guys working together for it and it decays more rapidly. The third tier of stuff decays really fast and takes a bunch of guys working together.
“This means when you have that huge mass of players going through near launch the game is not trivial and when you are the only guy playing from Hungary in the middle of the night on the US servers, you're not gimped, you still have stuff to do. That's a balancing act that we play across those sorts of more group or more social things."
So is it a sandbox or a theme park, or something in between? How do you balance that?
"When are theme park elements best? It's when you're learning the game and you want to make sure you're not missing all the cool stuff. So the theme park elements we rely upon heavily in our newbie areas. And then we give you more sandboxy tools so that by the time you get to top level you're an experienced person and you know what's going on in the world. You're not scared by having to do things correctly but you can play the game in a more free form kind of fashion. That's our answer for it.”
“It's hard because people are so charged up on those kinds of questions, I'm sure we'll get people saying [insert crotchety old man voice] ‘it's a theme park, blah it sucks’ or ‘ahhh hybrid's never work, it should be all sandbox’. People are very charged on these things and we hear that. We're kind of charged on it too, truth be told, so we've tried to aim for a balance that we like and then hopefully a lot of players will like it. And if they don't they'll go play other games and if they love it they'll come play our game."
So are players from the opposite faction able to destroy stuff that Settlers build? According to Gaffney, players on PvP servers can do exactly that.
“Hell ya! We are already working on closed beta three where we unlock the open world PvP and then we start mucking with what happens when players start destroying each other's stuff and 'oh look, this guy can add new PvP guards to the area’ or this part of the settlers stuff. And all of that comes together in Whitevale. Inside of closed beta test three is where we start testing out all that kind of stuff.”
“And so we'll see what the right level is with having people muck with each other's stuff; what's fun and what is annoying because people are camping your spawns as you try to build new stuff. Where all that testing will first happen is the six weeks of closed beta test three in Whitevale.”