WildStar: Interview with Mike Donatelli

We got to check in with WildStar's Design Director on the progress of Winter Beta and upcoming feature reveals.

Hey WildStar fans. As many of you know, the game’s long-awaited “Winter Beta” is upon us and the beta servers are live and kicking with testers making their mark on Planet Nexus. Now, I know I know, not all of you are in the beta yet, but until that blessed day arrives I have some more news that may serve to quench your thirst for info about this upcoming sci-fi MMO.

While I was hanging in California to chat with some of the Carbine team and get some hands-on time with WildStar, I managed to snag an interview with the game’s Design Director, Mike Donatelli. He gave me the rundown on how Winter Beta is progressing, as well as a few tidbits on crafting and some of the social systems that are going into the game.

So while you’re patiently waiting for those beta keys sit back, relax and enjoy some Winter Beta news.

With the Winter Beta being such as big milestone in the eyes of the community, I started by asking Mike how this stage of beta was progressing and what the team was focused on this time around.

“We’re really looking for balance in this point in time [and] we’re trying to balance out the combat vs creature combat [so] you’re going to see a lot of changes to combat [and] a lot of changes to telegraphs. We’re also looking at economic feedback. We have a lot of metric hooks in and we’re just trying to get metric hooks on the way currency is getting into the game, the way it’s exiting the game and the speed of itemization.”

He goes on to explain that this is definitely a higher level beta in terms of what the team is looking at “polish wise” and what type of content is available to test.

“We’ve put in levels 1-36 on both sides, so you can pretty much play Dominion or Exile all the way through. What I wanted to make sure is that we had every aspect in the beta. So 1-36 has the Adventures, the Dungeons and everything you’re going to be playing in beta is accessible how we wanted it to be accessible up until level 36. We’ll roll out additional levels and additional zones as we move forward, but we wanted to make sure we had a good representation so we could see “time to level” and things like that.”

With press beta going on currently, I can say that all of the content, both PvE and PVP, is definitely there and could serve as a decent representation of what players gain access to and how they progress through the game come launch time.

Moving on to a topic that hasn’t really been touched on much, I decided to ask Mike a little about the crafting systems and what players could expect. The team is still waiting on a full crafting reveal to dish out all of the details, but Mike was able to touch on the basics of the crafting system and give us a few juicy tidbits of how it’ll all tie together.

“Well we have crafting and hobbies. Cooking would be a hobby and crafting (would be) like an Architect. The Architect is a crafter that makes housing stuff. He makes tables, chairs, Fab Kits, etc. We also have Technologist and a bunch of different things that make trinkets, armor crafting and weapon crafting.”

Currently players are able to learn all of the hobbies at once, but can only have two different crafting skills at a time. However, a player can switch out these crafting skills at any given point for a small fee without losing progress with the previously learned skill. So theoretically a player could max out each crafting profession on a single character as long as they were willing to pay some coin to swap around a bit.

Mike went on to talk a little bit about how the mechanics of crafting actually work as well as how the lore ties into the system as a whole. In a nutshell there are two types of crafting, Coordinate Crafting and Tiered Crafting. Tiered crafting is the closest thing you’ll get in WildStar to Traditional Crafting, where you find components for the items that you need to craft. Better components typically mean better quality items. Again this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Coordinate crafting is a bit different in the sense that when you pick an item to craft, you come to this coordinate grid interface where you can then choose other items to mix into the original. Different mixtures give the item additional properties, so it’ll be up to the player to find out what mixtures yield certain results.

Now originally during WildStar’s development, the game had a “Chip System” that allowed players to customize their Weapons and Armor. The team has since removed that system and replaced it with something entirely different. Mike Donatelli dove into this a little to get players prepared for this new system

“We pulled out the chip system because it wasn’t doing what we wanted it to do. We have a new system to replace that system that’s pretty much based on the “Primal Energy” in our game.  As you play through the game you’ll find Primal Elements, and I’m talking the lore part of it, where as our universe is made up of Primal Energy. Some of the races interpret it as magic, some interpret it as science. Again it’s just the way that these races manipulate it. We have a system that’s like chipping that is based on the Primal Energy in our game, but it would be its own thing.”

While we weren’t able to take a full dive into some of the finer points of the Crafting and Primal Energy systems just yet, you can definitely expect to see me cover it during my adventures through the WildStar press beta; so keep an eye out for more details on those two systems right here on ZAM.

Now on to the social aspects of the game. Social systems in MMOs are things that I’d argue are just as important as “end game” content. After all, it’s the connections that players make in these games that keep them playing for years. In WildStar, along with all of the social aspects, perks and bonuses that come along with player housing, players are able to create two types of “social groups” that allow them to gain social currency and help keep track of all of their friends. These are “Circles” and “Guilds”.

“We have these things called circles where, as soon as you get in the game, you can make a Circle with your friends. A couple hundred can be in a circle and you can use it to gain renown, renown being used for upgrading guilds, buying things for your house etc. Again it’s a circle of friends, its “Guild light”. There are certain aspects of circles that are like guilds, but most of the big perks, guild perks and guild banks kind of stick to [actual] guilds.”

Guilds in WildStar will have guild specific bonuses and unlocks tied to them, but these won't not be things you could instantly unlock on day one; you'll  need to build your guild up. You have to purchase things such as a larger guild roster, as well as other guild buffs, banks and bonuses. The team is still playing around with how easy it should be to create a guild, but Mike says that players are able to test out the systems currently in the beta.

He went on to say that Carbine has a team that is completely dedicated to social systems that is also responsible for things such as player housing, guild systems and other systems in WildStar that help incentivize grouping and building player connections.

“If you group together with someone and then you guys just PuG and do your quests and then split off, the game will prompt you and ask if you want to be that guy’s friend. And it’s asking him the same question. And if you both agree to it, then all the sudden you’re both friends and you have that guy on your friends list. And you might not have made that friend if the game hadn’t quietly [asked].”

He also went on to add that the game doesn’t want to “force” grouping, but they want systems in place that subtly push players into being a bit more social.

With my time almost coming to an end I decided to ask Mike what the team is looking at in terms of the next steps for WildStar’s Winter Beta.

“There are several more Winter Beta phases. In previous betas, combat was super hard and people were forced to group up and it was never intended to be that hard. What it’s turning into now is we’ve toned down the white damage by a good healthy percentage. And the idea being that we were going to increase the frequency of telegraphs and the damage that they did, so again, if you were really good you wouldn’t take a ton of damage."

This isn't to say that they want the game to be easy. As I've mentioned before, it seems like the team wants combat to be rewarding for skilled players and to have it help encourage plenty of movement and good positioning. And from what I've experienced so far, WildStar isn't afraid to punish you for poor combat choices.

"Other than that it’s just quality of life changes. We’ve been taking in a lot of feedback. We took a two milestone hiatus and we’ve been working on nothing but feedback. AMPs would probably the [next] big thing. We put it in, but we put it in in such a basic format and some of the stuff was wildly just not balanced. We’re trying to get real numbers out of this, and it was making the numbers cloudy so we turned it off.  We’ve since then adjusted the AMP system to the percentages of where we want them to be. So it’s good now [and] you should see in the next phase of beta.”

I want to thank Mike Donatelli for taking the time to let me interview him, as well as the rest of the Carbine team for setting up this press event. With press beta under way, be sure to keep your browser locked to ZAM for Winter Beta coverage and all things WildStar.

See you on Nexus!

Corey "Cyglaive" Jenkins

Follow Corey on Twitter @Cyglaive


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# Dec 12 2013 at 9:21 AM Rating: Decent
2 posts
The more I hear the less I'm exited.

So it looks like we are going to end with MMO where other players can be effectively replaced with bots and a player will hardly notice.

We don't even need to rely on anyone else for crafting or even level additional character. We can just spend few coins and have every single profession.

Welcome the the age of MMOs for misanthropes.
# Dec 12 2013 at 9:26 PM Rating: Decent
3 posts
Funny thing, Everquest classic allowed you to take all the crafting to max level, leaving a few to certain classes. I really don't see the problem here. Not a new thing by far :P
# Dec 12 2013 at 12:11 PM Rating: Decent
19 posts
While you're definitely entitled to your opinion. I would wait for a full crafting reveal before passing judgment on the system. I plan on going over the system in depth at a future time, but I can say there is a lot of depth to what I'm seeing so far and reasons to trade with other players due to the fact that you can specialize in certain areas within a specific Tradeskill.
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