Jeremy Gaffney talks about Combat Mounts, the Million Idiot March and more.
There are two sides to Gamescom. On the public side there are bright and colorful stands with big screens, loud music and precious stations demoing the latest games. When the expo gets going, there’s nothing that compares to the throng of people, all congregating in the Kolnmesse to celebrate the games. This is where you’d find people playing WildStar, either diving into the Chua lowbie experience, or beating each other to a pulp in Whitevale’s open-world PvP.
On the other side there’s the business center; a sanctuary away from the dull roar of the show floor. It’s here that Olivia Grace and I caught up with executive producer Jeremy Gaffney to talk about all things WildStar, from the business model announcement to the release window shift. That said, other incredible things also emerged in the conversation: Combat Mounts, the Million Idiot March and remote control raid bosses. Even though we’d covered a laundry list of topics over lunch last month, there was still plenty of new stuff to astound me.
The PvP Experiment
WildStar was brought to Gamescom with an experiment in mind – offer a choice between the low level experience, and open-world PvP in Whitevale. A few days into the show, I asked Gaffney how it had worked out. “There’s a queue of players going around our booth, so it seems to be working well.”
“Whitevale’s a cool zone because there’s a zombie invasion going on right now, where little squids are running around and attaching themselves to people’s heads, creating this big sort of zombie invasion. There’re giant robots stalking around that are not just interesting in their own right, but they’re actual mobile PvP bases. They’ll defend players nearby; they’ll attack other players that come near. And so on the show floor you just opt in for PvP, and start running around beating the crap out of the other faction.
“A lot of people are hugging the robots and helping them out, and a lot of people are trying to beat up others as they’re exiting the town hubs and fighting in the area around. Every zone after level 20 is shared and so, if you’re on a PvP server, there’s open world PvP. And rather than having PvP objectives like flags, we tend to put elements in the world that are interesting for PvP, like those giant robot bases.”
Gaffney’s plan is for WildStar to provide us with a whole planet-load of things for us to do, even after we’ve hit level cap and entered what Carbine call ‘Elder Game’. To recap, some of it includes 40v40 Warplot PvP, battleground PvP and arena PvP in the standard team sizes of 2v2, 3v3 and 5v5. With all this focus on PvP systems, is Carbine hoping to attract eSports players to WildStar?
“To an extent, yes. We have the elo [named after its creatorsystem already balancing our arenas, and we’ll probably do tournaments. Over time we’ll probably add a spectator mode, but I’m not sure if we’ll do that for launch.
“I’m eerie about hyping eSports, because it’s very easy to go ‘eSports! eSports! eSports!’ The game needs to be really compelling and easy to get into, to truly develop as an eSports title. And so, I don’t swear that we’ll hop on the eSports bandwagon, other than if players like it, awesome, we’ll give them the tools to do it. I think a game has to earn its eSport cred on its own, rather than it being a marketing point.”
Back in February, content director Mike Donatelli let me in on a little secret – we’d be able to capture raid bosses and haul them back to our Warplots. I was curious to know how the idea was developing, and asked Gaffney how this actually works. Apparently, we can also look forward to a big Warplot reveal toward the end of the year.
“You can capture bosses from either veteran dungeons or raids. You capture them either by doing a special challenge, like a skill challenge to bring them down, or they’re rare drops depending on what the boss is. If you do it enough, hopefully you get lucky and get a copy of some of the toughest raid bosses in the game.
“Once you’ve captured them, you can bring them back and put them on your Warplot. They usually give you some sort of an action bar so that you can control them when somebody in your group yells ‘go over and attack this area’, or it just wanders around your base and destroys anything that comes near it.
“I was not expecting this but, in our most recent Warplot test, the veteran version of Stormtalon was stomping around and doing electricity attacks and all that kind of stuff. It really adds an element to those fights. We changed the version of it for PvP—it uses a lot of the same attacks, but we rebalance the monster so it’s a fun PvP fight, as opposed to trying to do a raid boss while 40 people are trying to kill you. But they’re pretty damn cool. It depends on the raid boss as to how they’ve hooked it up to be semi-autonomous or not.”
Gaffney’s quite adamant that WildStar won’t include a Looking-for-Raid feature for top-tier content, describing it as “tough as hell.” For 5-player instances we’ll have a dungeon-finder tool but, with dungeon layouts changing regularly, what’s to stop players gaming the system? Gaffney explained that there are actually two mechanisms in play to stop this from happening.
“For instance, in Skullcano, you kill a boss and a different path opens up depending on when you’re in there. If you use dungeon finder, it’ll give you a different objective each time in the multi-area dungeon, so this time there’s a bigger reward heaped on this boss and then this boss.
“The problem with dungeon finder in a linear dungeon is it’s always the same damn thing, there’s no variation. And if it’s just ‘kill the end boss in a big sprawling dungeon’ nobody wants to do the secondary objectives. And so dungeon finder for our game basically encourages you to do a different path each time.
“If you opt out and are like ‘screw this, I quit!’ trying to bob for the best rewards, you get a debuff on you as a deserter, urging people not to drop out if they don’t like the playthrough. So we’re trying to do the right thing socially, to set up how the group does a different thing each time. And that applies to half of our group levelling.”
That’s not all. Gaffney also provided hints on what sounded like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’-style method for navigating dungeons. “We actually have a whole different system for group levelling that we haven’t revealed yet, which is all based on voting. The group as a whole votes on which path they want to take through the dungeon, and the conditions change so that it’s not always one optimal path of choosing the shortest one or the fewest bosses. We’ll reveal more about that over time. That’s actually quite a cool system as well.”
And then, as if to prove WildStar hasn’t run short of crazy ideas, Gaffney told me about his madcap scheme to allow more players to get a glimpse of their ultra-tough raids.
“What we’re considering doing is having weekends where we’ll open up the cap on the raid, so that larger groups can do it. 200 people can pour in and try to do it. Now, this actually gets interesting because, if you think it makes it easier, in some ways it does. But trying to coordinate that many people presents its own challenge. We actually call it ‘The Million Idiot March’, where we’re letting everybody in, and people flail around making horrible deaths, and Chua drop from the sky, and everything will go horribly, horribly wrong.
“But if people manage to flail away and kill a boss, cool items drop. If you’re never going to raid, you’ve got a shot at getting some of this cool loot and seeing some of these bosses that you might never be able to do. And so, when I play a game as a noob, I actually appreciate that. But the elitists amongst us are like ‘No, leave them out of our raid’. So we’ll debate it back and forth, and maybe experiment with it in beta.”
During a video presentation, we also caught a quick glimpse of the Datascape. Formed from mysterious Eldan technology, this raid is built around an artificial intelligence gone haywire. Eager to see more, I asked when we’d get a full raid reveal. The answer? Soon.
“The team demoed the state of Datascape to me a couple of days ago, and I was actually blown away by it. There’s some really frikkin’ cool elements in that stuff I have not seen before, and so if it’s knocking my socks off it’s getting ready and we should probably start revealing it. “