Wizard101 from KingsIsle is a kid-friendly MMO that has opened up family gaming in a big way. Successfully launched two years ago, KingsIsle has been steadily adding to and improving Wizard101 in the intervening years. The game has shown a lot of innovation over its lifespan and seems to just get better with age. In fact, barely a month ago, the latest major expansion area, Celestia, opened its undersea doors with a higher level cap, new spells, two new schools of magic and more. Never content to sit back, the KingsIsle team looked at the year’s schedule and came to the conclusion that the game needed one more BIG feature before the end of the year. Enter the Gardening system.
As of this writing, the Gardening system is now live on the Wizard101 public test server for players to try out and, well, literally work through the bugs with the development team. When we asked KingIsle’s Fred Howard about what precipitated the decision to bring gardening into Wizard101 he indicated that the team had been looking into and talking about adding it to the game and, in fact, came to the conclusion that they wanted to do it before the end of 2010. With the rise of gardening and farming games on social media sites like Facebook, the fit seemed natural, although Howard is quick to point out that gardening had long been a popular MMO system before the advent of Facebook’s Farmville.
Howard said, “We felt strongly that the 3D Wizard101 universe with all of its depth and humor and magic would be a fantastic setting for a new Gardening system and could offer a brand new and different take on the genre.”
Players of at least Level 12 who are ready to start planting will need to head to Wizard City to talk with Moolinda Woo which will begin a storyline quest preparing students for the joy of gardening. Players will face off with a new race of Mole creatures introduced through the quest before heading off to actually begin the work.
Gardening can happen in any wizard’s private residence whether it’s a castle ready for an outdoor garden or a dorm room for container gardening. Either way, players will need seeds and equipment to begin the task. As with standard Wizard101 magic levels, player progress from Novice to Grand Master gardeners. Soil must be prepared and, once done, seeds are placed and the growth cycle begins.
Plants, as they do in real life, will progress through several stages: Seed, seedling, young plant, mature plant, and elder plant. Also, plants will need water, sunshine, pollination, music and magic to grow strong and healthy. The garden will also be challenged by critters like Moles and insects that scale level-wise right along with the plants. Garden denizens will rely on the gardener to keep them strong and well-tended. Luckily, plants that die due to being ignored or attacked by insects can be revived, though they start over again as seedlings.
What makes the new Gardening system so different from other games’ planting systems, is that for the first time outside of dueling, players will be able to directly affect the garden’s well-being by casting spells on the plants as wide-ranging as changing the weather to making music to taking out the critters that are hindering growth. On top of that is the fact that wizards will be able to interact with their plants in fun and humorous ways. Each plant has its own personality (there’s even a King Parsley that is evocative of Elvis!), its own facial expressions, sounds, animations and more. This ain’t your mama’s garden, folks. These guys have strong likes and dislikes too. Plant, for instance, a dragon plant next to another plant that it doesn’t ‘like’ and it will not do very well. Put it next to another plant it likes and it will flourish.
And flourish is what you want for your plants. The harvesting of garden plants once they reach adulthood or elder status is what it’s all about. Players who harvest their plants will gain loot in the form of treasure cards, seeds, gold, reagents, and pet snacks. Each plant has its particular treasure. The more difficult the plant is to raise and keep healthy, the greater the reward too. At this time, we don’t have a specific scale of how much better the rewards are but it’s sure to be well worth the time.
The gardening system seems like a lot of fun but a few questions did come to mind so we took a few more moments of KingsIsle’s Fred Howard to ask the following:
Will we ever be able to have plant pets?
Our plants have plenty of personality and in some ways share some characteristics of pets. However, there are no immediate plans to add “pet plants” to the game. That said, you never know what might be coming down the line in the future.
Are any of the plants or materials used in gardening going to be able to be sold in auction? What about the Crown shop?
Yes, Wizards will be able to sell some (but not all) gardening items in the Auction House. And, yes, there will be plant items (and seeds) available for purchase with Crowns. Such seeds might offer better rewards at harvest or require less care.
When do you anticipate the Gardening system to go ‘live’ on all servers (not just the PTS)?
It will be added to the live game when it’s ready. However, we anticipate that it will be ready for live service sometime before the end of the year.
Is the Gardening system any sort of a hint of content to come? Giant plant monsters or Creatures from the Black Lagoon and such?
We have a number of exciting things planned for 2011. More details will be coming soon!
If you’re ready to check out the Gardening system in Wizard101, be sure to head to the Update page for more information about how to get on to the Public Test Server.