Wildstar AMA

There was an AMA by Jeremy Gaffney (Executive Producer) regarding Wildstar on Friday. Here were some of the interesting notes:

As someone who has left the MMO scene for quite some time now, do you think WildStar could pull me back in? (ex WoW player)

Our #1 market is probably ex-MMO players, truth be told. That’s many of us as well :) (source)

Subtle and straight-forward. I like it.

Your stand on “catch-up gear” content? Like if I want to get into raiding say about year after release and I of course need to get proper gear to get into raiding. So are you planning to do 5man dungeons with some godly gear or other catch-up mechanics?

We’ll want some catch-up mechanics that are also fair to the long-term raiders; I know the econ guys have thought but thank heavens that’s a ways out yet. (source)

Given the Wildstar team’s commitment to to anachronisms like attunements, I have to wonder about how exactly “catch-up gear mechanics” would even work. Blizzard is heading towards making all of Warlord’s LFR gear be non-tier, so I could see “ghetto-tier” gear as a means to help newer players catch up… but what about those attunements? Is it “fair to long-term raiders” for attunements to be relaxed after the content is no longer current? How is that any different than the traditional cry that content is being obsoleted?

By the way, attunements were dumb, are dumb, and will always be dumb.

Will it be possible to purchase high end gear or tier equivalent gear via the Auction House? In other words, given the existence of the CREDD system, will it be possible to buy power in this game with cash?

In general, nope. In practice, there may be a few BOE pieces of appropriate rarity/difficulty to acquire that spice up the mix, but buying power is a dangerous thing to systemize. (source)

 Fair enough.

The questing experience levels 1-6 is terrible (especially on Dominion side), why do your tutorials areas have so many quests that are not interactive for the player?

Mostly through focus testing with players of a variety of experience levels; you’ve probably played too many MMOs to want your hand held for long and don’t value the world and character introductions we do there (and why should you? You don’t know if those will pay off later and just want to check out the gameplay, which is rational).

We will likely add an option down the road for you to opt out. (source)

This is a subject that could almost be an entire series of blog posts by itself. Namely, the tension between clearly going after competitor’s subscribers (e.g. “Not in Azeroth anymore!”) and needing to be accessible for first-time MMO players. Because let’s be honest, the only real way you’re going to build word-of-mouth is by exciting the already-existing base, unless your base is already established via IP. Quite frankly, I’m a bit surprised that we haven’t seen more MMO companies come out with mid-range or even end-game gameplay in their beta right from the start. I mean, I guess even veterans will need a little bit of time to acclimate to the new environment, but you need them to be excited about the long-term future, not forcing them to spam-run tutorials every beta weekend.

Many people have had a really bad first impression of the game (usually first few hours of play), what would you say to these people to sway them into trying the game again?

Getting people back into the game is tricky (you form an impression and stick with it) – we change so much month to month that I don’t expect to re-earn the eyeballs of many folks who played in the past and left (even if we fixed some of what bothered them).

My plan personally is that you play what your friends are playing; the one thing more than any other email/ad/PR campaign we can do is get people liking the game itself and convincing their friends to come back in – thus Friend Passes, etc. (source)

That… is astonishingly honest and straight-forward. I have a few friends that pre-ordered Wildstar already, and they will pretty much be the only reason I purchase the game given my previous beta impressions.

Class balance is on going but their seems to be a mostly agreed tier list, with Spellslingers and Medics at the bottom in terms of DPS, and by a fair margin. What approach are you taking to get classes more in line with each other? Nerfing the top classes, or buffing the lower ones?

We err on the side of buffing rather than nerfing, but not to the point of insane mudflation. We’ll pretty regularly rebalance classes so that none is too gimped or OP (some drops are slated around this directly, while some will happen in each drop for higher priority stuff). (source)

I would say that erring on the side of buffing is the opposite of the WoW approach, but I don’t think classes ever got OP when someone else got nerfed, so… yeah.

Currently WildStars PVE Group Content ins linear, like in vanilla wow or tbc (the good times). With Wotlk and multilayer-content, problems like content skipping occured. Are you aware of that and are your gonna stick with the linear system? How will you ensure, that the linear system will work successfull on longterm for all different kind of raidguilds (casual, average, hardcore).

Adventures are intended to be heavily NON-linear, and raids are intended to have a fair amount of weekly variation (room ordering, sub-bosses, etc.) for just such reasons – if what we have is well received at launch, we’ll add more. (source)

I’m pretty sure they were talking about two different things here. I’m not sure about anyone else’s guild, but I absolutely hated the random variables in boss ordering (e.g. which drakes were in the cage, which bosses activated first, etc) as it required explaining the entire fight and every variation every time to everyone.

Q: In most MMO’s the crafted gear/items don’t have any real impact on endgame… What’s WildStar’s stance on this?

Our goal is that crafted items are competitive with the best items, but usually need to be earned through those same activities (either by the wearer or by the crafter) to keep things balanced. (source)

I have a difficult time trying to determine if this sort of thing would work for me. If I can’t craft the epic sword before being able to kill the guy who drops an epic sword, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to crafting (beyond playing the AH). On the other hand, I could sorta see this working if the raid boss had a much higher chance to drop the crafting component necessary to craft the epic sword, such that my profession had value in reducing the randomness of drops. This would require the crafting component to be personal loot though, I think.

I currently play GW2. what’s one good reason I should stop and start playing your game?

Don’t! Guild Wars 2 is an excellent game as well; respect to MO and the other arena.net devs. (source)

If I was less of a cynical bastard, I would be pretty impressed with this response. Alas, both MMOs are from NCSoft, so…

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Posted on May 12, 2014, in Wildstar and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. That bit about “the good times” isn’t the first thing to give me the impression about a big target market for Wildstar: people who played WoW until that one expansion when Blizzard totally ruined it. I didn’t play WoW, so I’m curious- do people agree on which expansion that was?

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    • Yes. It was TBC. Except for those who think it was WotLK. Or Cataclysm. Or Pandaria.

      Come to think of it, I haven’t heard many cries of “Pandaria ruined WoW!”. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention?

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    • I think if you end up polling people, most would likely point to Wrath of the Lich King as a sort of turning point in design philosophy – away from “hardcore” and more towards accessibility. Of course, if you were a casual player or enjoyed 10m raiding, this was a good turning point.

      Your question is interesting though, as it could be argued many different ways as other commentors have mentioned. Hmm.

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    • I’d say that Cata is the definitive cutoff point for a lot of players, although many could and would argue that it was WotLK, although I think the reputation of Wrath has suffered as time went on. Despite the perjorative “Wrath baby” being pretty common back then, Wrath was pretty well recieved at first. Ulduar, especially, was (and still is) regarded as the best raid Blizzard ever released.

      Fromy my perspective, 3.2 is the patch where you see the fundamental design shift away from linear progression and the current paradigm of “there is only one tier”, although at this point the game was still salvagable if the experiment had failed. 3.3 introduces the cross-realm Dungeon Finder, and at that point you can kiss any trace of classic WoW goodbye. Even then, I really enjoyed both ToC and ICC, but the game at that point had undeniably set a course for the future that I fundamentally disagreed with.

      Of course, the playerbase has also changed these days.

      Although lacking empirical evidence, I daresay that a large portion, if not a majority of WoW’s current playerbase has never experienced a level cap below 80. Anecdotally, I’d suggets that at this point most pre-Cata raiders have either quit or barely play the game anymore (and a lot of the old harcore guilds have died with the exodus) and most of today’s players would probably never have grouped (or indeed played the game) were it not for all the randomised queueing nowadays. The “Wrath babies”, as it were, have become the driving force within the playerbase, whereas the ideas that align with their desires were pretty much mocked for most of the expac from which they draw their name.

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      • As always, I like to point out that the seeds of Wrath were well planted and taking root in TBC, e.g. Badge farming, T6 gear from 5m dungeons, cross-realm BGs (remember when it was server-only?), farming Kara, Daily grinds, etc, etc etc.

        I agree though, that Cata was the most visible fracturing point. Blizzard tried to undo a lot of what they did in Wrath via hardcore 5m dungeons and the result was an unmitigated disaster.

        Although lacking empirical evidence, I daresay that a large portion, if not a majority of WoW’s current playerbase has never experienced a level cap below 80.

        Pretty much confirmed back in 2011. Also from 2011 was a quote from Chilton that there were more ex-WoW players out there than WoW players, circa 4.3 even.

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  2. “MoP ruined WoW” can be heard from tanks who dislike the direction Blizzard is taking for tanking (BTW I love it instead), since many of them have trouble moving away from the “DPS from the front” mentality. But overall I agree, all expansions have ruined WoW, which is probably why it’s sitting only ay 7M+ paying subscribers. If they hadn’t ruined it then there would be only one MMO in existence: WoW :P

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  3. I don’t like the point about buffing and nerfing. If 5 of the classes are clustered at one level, and one is significantly higher, you should nerf the one, rather than buffing the other five.

    Also, if you are aiming at a target level, and 5 of 6 classes come in below that level so that you buff all five, that says a lot about your balancing processes.

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  4. The Guilty Party

    “the random variables in boss ordering (e.g. which drakes were in the cage, which bosses activated first, etc) as it required explaining the entire fight and every variation every time to everyone.”

    This is because raiding is an essentially flawed activity. It’s multiplayer pacman. Everyone has to memorize the exact dance to do and then practice their reflexes and then you win. Their solution is to say ‘ok, now we’ll make you memorize more things! Fun!’ This is not the right solution.

    The actual problem is that a real fight should be partially about reflexes and how big a weapon you brought, but also about thinking and responding to dynamically changing conditions. Video games have taught us that ‘just do it over and over until you get it right because computers do the same thing always’. This is fun for small children and people with OCD. It would never, ever work in anything real, ever. The better thing to do would be to have us match wits with actual AI (or something approximating it) and not punish us with instant-defeat when we make a mistake.

    I don’t know that we can do that at our current state of technology, but I do know that rolling a 1d6 and choosing which boss behavior you get that way isn’t a worthwhile improvement.

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    • I dunno, there is something to be said about coordinated activities and developing strategies based on your group’s strengths and weaknesses. Battling an AI might sound more fun and engaging, but I don’t think fights like Faction Champions were particularly good; I’d rather fail and be able to identify what went wrong than have to shrug and tell everyone to simply play better. In this sense, dynamic AI would be worse than the 1d6 dice rolls because you’d have to explain every single thing the raid boss(es) could do on the fly.

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      • That kind of “raiding” already exists in WoW: it’s called Rated Battlegrounds or Arena Matches.

        The whole point of raiding is that it’s NOT random: you learn how to do it and then you can do it. In order to succeed, you need to master the execution and adapt your approach to your group, then it’s move on to the next level. Add randomness and then the world first race becomes a race to the first one rolling 12 on 2D6. Add a “real” AI (assuming they exist) and then Blizzard needs to loan some supercomputers to run those AIs, only to return them back after a couple of weeks when the entire PvE crowd has moved to another game where PvE does not look like PvP.

        Ah, and thanks for insulting the entire raiding community (WoW and non-WoW).

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      • One of the reasons I checked out Hearthstone was in anticipation of their single-player Adventure mode. Now that I’ve played a bit, I’m curious where it falls on this spectrum.

        There’s an existing single-player mode where you can play against an AI with a prebuilt deck, but the AI is really really bad, even on “Expert” mode. For instance, it’ll attack with a creature, then play a card that gives the creature +1 Attack- if it had done those things in the opposite order, I would’ve taken one more damage.

        So will the Adventure bosses be a fixed-up AI with a pretty solid deck, a super-gimmicky deck that’s easy to beat once you know how to counter the tricks (or look them up online), or something in between?

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    • ” Video games have taught us that ‘just do it over and over until you get it right because computers do the same thing always’. This is fun for small children and people with OCD. It would never, ever work in anything real, ever.”

      An odd, and slightly inconsiderate statement. Drilling, training and clean execution of set-piece manoeuvres have a great many applications in real life.

      Which is not to say that everything you suggest is wrong, or that memorise-the-dance is not a dated and tiresome model. I would like to see, for example, raid fights similar to RTS matches (or, say, the AI Director in Left 4 Dead levels) where the AI is given a particular quantity of ‘encounter resources’ and uses them to react dynamically to your raid’s actions, perceived strengths and current status.

      This would not take the form of a Faction Champions PvP simulator, but instead various combinations of familiar PvE elements with enough on-the-fly variability (type, buffs, hp-pools, spells) that you could never explain it all away, no more than you can easily foresee a Starcraft game. It would also be necessary to keep the fight’s pace slow enough that such raid adaptation can realistically take place.

      Just one example, and one technically easily within reach. There are undoubtedly other, better ones. Count me among those who refuse to believe that the dance is the pinnacle of large-group MMO PvE content.

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  5. Good description of WoW raiding. That’s one of the reasons (the primary reason) I hate it so much. I was optimistic about Wildstar raiding until they kept emphasizing how hard the raids are, plus you still have to memorize certain “dancy” moves. Now I’m just not sure how into the game I’ll get as I have my doubts about their non-raiding content.

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