WildStar is a new MMO-RPG currently under development by Carbine Studios. I met with Mike Donatello, Lead Quest Designer from Carbine, to take a closer look at WildStar and what we can expect from this game.
Mike started out with out with a bold statement, that “they wanted to make the world’s deepest, richest MMO-RPG”. Certainly no mean feat given the competition in this genre, yet they are investing heavily in market research to delve into what gamers really want out of their MMO-RPG experience. Even during gamescom there were surveys being done on iPads at the WildStar booth. Let’s hope the survey yields some great insights and Carbine continue to build on what looks like a solid base.
We started out watching a video that had me interested within the first minute. What you’ll come to notice about WildStar is the not too serious tongue-in-cheek type humour which is so refreshing. MMO-RPG’s can quickly become very dark and serious, yet with WildStar the setting, plot, colour pallet and characters really deliver an upbeat experience. I think Carbine could be on to something, however, it is a slippery slope and only time will tell if Carbine got the balance right.
The story is set on the planet Nexus. The original inhabitants were an advanced race called the Eldan, with lots of super cool technology, yet suddenly disappeared from the planet for reasons unknown. Now you are rushing to Nexus, along with everyone else in the galaxy, to claim your share of the alien technology and rise to fame and fortune. The small problem is that Nexus is not a tamed planet and, apart from the encounters you will have with other technology plunderers, the environment itself is going to put your skills to the test.
Mike went to great lengths to point out that WildStar is being made by gamers for gamers. Carbine is committed to crafting an experience that is fun and allows gamers to play how they want to play. This is a fundamental design principle for them and is realized through their momentum mechanic systems, layered designs and inclusion of gameplay mechanics not traditionally found in MMO-RPG’s.
Planet Nexus is an evocative setting filled with danger and intrigue, willing you to explore it. It is a land made for heroes and, above all, it shouts ‘come have fun and stop taking life so seriously.’ In tackling this challenge you have one of four play-styles you can choose from: explorers are rewarded for climbing mountains and seeking out hidden caverns; soldiers rank up through dispatching the hordes of enemies; scientists endeavour to unlock the mystery of the Eldan disappearance by collecting secrets; and settlers build on the planet. It is designed this way so you can play how you want to play and still get a personal experience filled with secrets and adventure. Regardless of your choice, there is a mysterious power threatening to destroy all life on planet Nexus and it is up to you to stop it.
The design approach is to challenge the player yet make it clear what they need to achieve. In short allow players to recognize a goal, react to it and then reward them in a worthwhile way. For example, as a solider you may need to engage in combat and defeat a certain number of opponents. Once you have done that you could be prompted with an additional challenge to take out ten enemies in sixty seconds. Alternatively, now that you’ve taken out the minions you need to seek out their leader and fight him and so on. To any scenario there will be many layers offering players a deep experience of what they can do, with the ability to leave challenges for later.
The combat system provides a threat indication and rumble warnings. If you are watching for the hints this will give you the opportunity to dash in order to avoid an attack and then counter-attack. You can just attack and eventually win, however, if you play smart you will get skill-kills and level up faster. The combat is layered as are the quests to provide an easy entry point for new players and depth for veterans.
Naturally there is deep character creation feature to allow you to craft your perfect online character. You will be able to choose from a number of races and classes, which you can then tweak the gender along with many, many more settings.
No concrete details were shared, however, the current plan is to have episodic content released for WildStar. This certainly makes sense to me given the look and a feel of WildStar, and should work out well to keep gamers engaged in the environment in the long run.
Whilst I didn’t get the opportunity for a hands-on experience, I was able to see twenty minutes of gameplay from WildStar. The section of play showed a ship crashing during a snowstorm which yielded a rather nice mix of snow and fire in the environment. The quest was a simple one of placing a beacon on top of a hill to call the rescue ship to your aid. Along the way we experienced an avalanche which is just one of the environmental affects you’ll encounter on planet Nexus. Getting past the recurring avalanche was done with a mix of well-timed running and using the environment for cover. Further up the hill we rescued another fellow who had been stuck in the snow and then placed the rescue beacon. Unfortunately for us there was an energy tower in the area distorting our rescue signal and we set off to turn the tower off. What ensued was some light combat as we defended a control point and turned off the energy tower. The rescue ship arrived and … you’ll just have to wait to experience the rest for yourself.
Most notably during this combat section I saw the use of the double-jump mechanic, stun and blink abilities which all were encouraging. Carbine seem comfortable mixing none traditional elements into WildStar and it should make for a fresh experience.
Overall I was impressed with WildStar and I am looking forward to exploring Planet Nexus. WildStar will be released on the PC, although a release date is yet to be announced. You can delve further into the world here.
Check out the debut trailer and the first gameplay video below.