While Ive been a huge fan of the Diablo series for many years, Ive never really been able to sink my teeth and soul into an MMO game before. World of Warcraft never clicked with me, Guild Wars looked great but again eluded my enjoyment meter, even Star Wars The Old Republic failed to ignite my passions and I’m a huge Star Wars and Knights of The Old Republic fan!
There’s a lot of reasons that MMOs seem inherently able to exclude certain gamers, not necessarily out of a choice to segregate but simply as some mechanics attract those which fit into that group of ‘hardcore’ and to be honest, that scares me.
Now however, there’s a game on the horizon that while still managing to have all the features of a true die hard MMO, its also not ashamed to feel like a game that anyone can play. Currently in open BETA, I had a chance to play around with Wild Star, the new game from Carbine Studios and NCSOFT (whom you may remember as the brains behind Guild Wars, AION and Blade & Soul)
So whats it all about eh?
Well, set on the planet Nexus, an ancient home world of the hyper-advanced Eldan race, which for many years was nothing more than a myth. You must chose your side and claim this new planet for yourself. Will you fight for the Exiles, an alliance of refugees, outlaws and mercs or will you take up arms for the Dominion, a powerful empire that has ruled the galaxy through force for thousands of years.
Simple enough, but the more time you spend with Wild Star, the deeper you’ll dive into its rich lore and even with the short time I had with the game, I was highly impressed with just how much there was I could learn!
Trust me, coming from someone who read everything available from the Mass Effect universe, its no mean feat to keep me interested and while Wild Star feels like a typical MMO in many ways, I quickly felt at ease and comfortable with exploration in a way that normally only single player console experiences have achieved for me in the past!
After an initial character creation and tutorial mission or two onboard an Arc ship, Wild Star throws open its doors and allows you to go freely around the planet, zone from zone. While this may normally be slightly daunting, the rather refreshing path system, gives you some slight guidance and rewards you for playing the way you want.
You see, the path system asks you to choose between becoming a Solider, Scientist, Explorer and Settler, each with its own unique set of missions. For example, Soldiers may be asked to assist in destroying targets and if you’re the type to go in all guns blazing anyway, this is the class for you. Rewarding you for kills and such. Equally, if you love reading and finding all those hidden gems in a game, the Explorer path will again reward you for this, and highlight some great spots along the way.
This sense of allowing gamers to tailor their own experience is a theme that runs throughout Wild Star. No longer do those who simply dislike raids have to endure in the hopes of completing the story, instead raids are designed to please those who love them. They are simply the most difficult experience you can handle and aren’t for the faint of heart, allowing those who prefer to stick to main gameplay to do so with no penalty.
Wild Star offers a really unique combat system also, that requires you to play in a much more action orientated style, as opposed to standing still and mashing the left mouse button until your fingers blister and your enemies fall. Using a telegraph system that highlights the ground in which your attack will land, you need to consistently keep up the movement and refine your aim until each attack lands, while also keeping an eye out for your enemies line of attack. Being able to double jump and dash from side to side around your enemies may not be unheard of controls by any means, but within an MMO really make a huge difference.
Overall, I had a blast while I was on planet Nexus, I truly enjoyed the art style and world which was just bursting with personality and with so many unique ideas and mechanics, Wild Star is a game that felt truly welcoming to someone who hasn’t had the easiest time with the genre and I for one, cannot wait to jump back in.
Wild Star will be hitting store shelves on June 3rd, with early access on May 31st for anyone who pre orders the game. Head over to the official site here for more information and stay tuned below, for an exclusive interview with Chad Moore, the Creative Director of Wild Star.
Q – Have you always worked on MMO games or is this your first foray into the genre?
A – No, this is my first MMO and I can say, without question, that this is the most difficult project I’ve ever worked on. MMOs are just monsters in terms of the amount of content and number of systems that need to work together. So, its been an education, its been a lot of hard work. Its been pretty rewarding, now that its coming to an end and we’re just about to launch, all the hard work we’ve had is all sort of coming together now. [LAUGHS] so yeah, while its been the most difficult its also going to be the most rewarding of all the games I’ve launched.
Q – So you’ve mentioned before that you come from a more narrative background, having even moved from lead narrative designer on Wild Star to now being Creative Director, have you found it a challenge to bring strong narrative to an MMO game?
A – So yeah, for anyone thats played an MMO, they are inherently non linear, except for you know literally the first 15 minutes of our game where we know you’ll have to play through our starting experience, after that we don’t really limit players, where they go or what they do. They can go to any limit of zones, after they’ve played through the arc ships. Most of my RPG experience is old school isometric RPG and a 3D, more adventure driven, RPG, its hard to tell a linear story in an environment like that [an MMO]. What it means is that you sort of have to develop a lot of redundancies, so you know a number of different ways to learn the same sort of information.
We have a lot of opt in systems where you know, you’re venturing through the world and unlocking what we call the galactic archives, you know, lets say that you just fought a granock and you now have a galactic archive about the granock, now you’re fighting the granock because you’re from the dominion. If you’re from the exiles, you might get that same article, but instead of fighting one you just talk to one instead. So that has been a real challenge in saying that ‘ok, how can we make sure that we give players the freedom to play our game the way that they want to’ I mean thats what an MMO to us is all about, but at the same time be able to understand the story and to dig into the over arching themes and characters and story arches that they will need to understand once they get to the end. So you know its been really challenging but I think that we’ve come up with some rally elegant solutions in WildStar.
Q – One of the more elegant solutions you spoke of, which opened up the play style for a lot of gamers, is your Path System. Was this something that was developed from the start or a natural progression that happened later on in development?
A – In terms of the development of the game that you now know as Wild Star, it was pretty early on that, you know, a lot of the base systems that are in our game are something that we’ve developed over a number of years but once we actually began full production on WildStar, very early on in that prices we decided like, we want players to be able to customise their play experience. Theres lots of different players out there and each one of those players each has a different way that they look at experiencing content and so the path system was a way to allow those players to say ‘I really like this kind of an action’ and so, you know, give me more of that content. So you know, we all understand it was important early on, its been one of the pillars of our game for quite a long time.
Q – You guys pride yourself on the combat system being quite unique and it is defiantly something I’ve not seen in any other MMO before, when you were working on that mechanic, was there a demographic this was aimed at, to maybe open up the genre to newer players?
A – I think that you know, not just the combat system but a lot of the mechanics that you’ll experience in WildStar, were developed with the understanding that the game, game players in general but MMO players in particular, they have matured and evolved since lets say 10 or 15 years ago so you know, i think what MMOs have showed is that there are millions of people out there interested in playing them but those players also play tons of other games right? I mean MMOs aren’t the only games that they play. We just began to be ok with the idea that certain mechanics like double jump or dash left and dash right you know, which a lot of people would say those are console mechanics you know, that they were ok to put into an MMO, because the players that play MMOs also play console games and they play other games.
Q – It definitely broadens the experience and opens up new ideas
A – Yeah, and so I think it wasn’t that we thought this game would only be for players that were supered skilled, we thought that most of our players that play our games, whatever they are, wether they’re casual or hardcore, already played lots of games that required them to hav e a little bit more skill and a little bit more attention and I think that you know the feedback that we’ve gotten so far, we rarely hear that they don’t like it or they consider it to be too hard. Its just like ‘WOW! I finally have to pay attention to whats happening in a fight, you know’ I cant just stand there and hit the same 3 or 4 abilities in the same order, like now they have ti pay attention so I think that its been successful but you know at the beginning it was a little ‘how is this going ti play out’ but i think it was a really great decision and we have some really super talented system and combat designers and I think they’ve done a great job of teaching the players early the mechanics and sort of evolving those into the higher level content like dungeons and raids.
Q – The overall art style and narrative, like you mentioned they have a lot more personality and humour in them, considering your previous games such as Guild Wars which were quite serious titles, was it your initial idea to go for a completely different style and tone?
A – I think it evolved a little bit but we always knew that there was something about the art style that was unique and you know as we were developing the lore and the story that drove our characters and the way that our characters spoke, it just began to be apparent that, that was something. Having these larger than life characters that spoke, it was something that was really gaining traction. For me, I say it alot, but the best way to tell the story of your game is through the voices of the characters that are in it and when we started to release some of our videos about the dominion and the exhales and they were narrated by these sort of iconic characters that are from those factions it just became obvious right that like this was the thing that was super unique about our game. I think that if you look at the reaction to that, its something that people remember when they think about our game, that we’ve got this little bit of a different angle that we take when we tell the story of our game, all that being said. We released that story trailer a while ago, we just want people to know that hey our characters are fun and they have great personalities
Q – Its not just one dimensional
A – Yeah, when its like you dig into our story its like epic and scary and its on a save the universe kind of scale and so you know, i think its the combination of those two things that make the game really different.
Q – Yeah, I think it fits in with the current trend at the moment. With the current consoles leaning on, ultra realistic graphics, theres been a revival of those more classic styles like cel shading and 16-bit and 8 bit as people have begun to realise more and more that graphics don’t make the game.
A – And you know the thing about some graphics where people are really trying to represent reality, most of the time those dont age very well [laughs] so the thing i love, and we’ve talked a lot about our art style is that its kind of timeless. It will look the same to people in 10 years.
Q – Most MMOs hit the subscription model, but you’ve also chosen to go for the CREDD model as well, was that something you thought of straight away to accommodate everyone or something that came from fan feedback
A – That one evolved, we’ve been in development for quite a while, and I think when we saw the trend was going, with some games going free to play, it was important to us that we gave players an option to do that. You know, when you look at a game like eve lets say and they’re pled system, its successful! And we thought that was such a great model, so we sort of developed our own version of that model to allow players to play for free. If you’re a dedicated player and you’re in there, spending your time and making your money then,
Q – You can earn your way through
A – Yeah! and I think that, thats great, and for players that dont have the time and they still want that gold to buy a new piece of armour or whatever it is, then they can buy CREDD and sell it to others players and so, Im really excited to see how all of that plays out, you know its probably going to be a dynamic economy in the beginning, but again its just another way that we were like ok, heres the reality of the market and lets make sure that were taking that into account as we develop our systems.
Q – Its definitely an exciting concept, even console gaming is going into that free to play model but this way seems a lot more ethical, you’re actually earning your way through.
Q – If you could have been a part of any game, past or present, what would it have been?
A – Theres two of them, but they’re both from the same company, Ive just always thought that Valve does a great job with integrating story telling and gameplay. The things that they have achieved, they’re just mind blowing in some cases.
So, Half-Life 2 is one of my favourite games ever, so I would have loved to have been a part of that but I think Portal is actually the greatest example of having gameplay and story telling being almost, completely and totally in line. So, you know Ive played both of them, I enjoyed the second one almost as much as I enjoyed the first which was difficult.
So you know, If I could have picked, one of those two would have probably been my two choices
Q – [laughs] very good choices
A – [laughs] Yeah, great games!