Dark or Light

PAX – The Deepest MMORPG Ever

William Murphy Posted:
General Articles 0

The first thing Jeremy Gaffney, Executive Producer for Carbine Studios’ WildStar Online said to us press during our meeting with him last weekend was a pretty bold statement.  Carbine wants WSO to be “the deepest MMORPG ever made.”  Given the sheer amount of talent and experience on their staff, it’s a claim that might just be possible if all hands are on deck and working towards the same goal.  Carbine is comprised of developers from WoW, Warhammer, DAoC, CoH, FreeRealms, EQ and EQ2, Guild Wars… the list goes on and on.  It’s a virtual cornucopia of the industry’s best.  The founders helped make WoW into the beast it was, and in Jeremy’s own words “left after the first bonus checks came in to form Carbine.”  But how will they deliver the deepest MMO ever? 

By listening to the players and by remembering to make the game they want to play.  As a part of that, WildStar was on the show floor for everyone to gets hands-on with and it’s still only in an alpha state.  They want to hear what players think work and what they don’t think will fly.  They want that feedback, they have metrics in place tracking everything the folks at PAX did, and they’re ready and willing to change some of their designs based on that feedback. Additionally, there are three key facets to the game they’re focusing on.  The first is its art-style.  Like something out of a Pixar film, it has to be agile and able to portray drama, danger, and fun when necessary.  It has to be whimsical and light-hearted to keep things from being too serious all the time. 

Then there’s the setting.  Created specifically for WSO, the game is a hybrid between fantasy and science fiction (and will remind folks of Titan A.E. and Firefly perhaps on purpose).  The planet is Nexus, home to Eldan: the universe’s eldest and most powerful race of beings.  But out of nowhere they vanished, and now the entire galaxy is swarming to Nexus to pillage it, reap the benefits of that ancient power… and no one is wondering just why the Eldan have disappeared.  That will be up to the players to help uncover.  It’s a mystery the entire playerbase will help solve.

Lastly, and quite simply the biggest part of WildStar Online achieving its goals is for Carbine to make the game that plays how they want it to play.  They’re gamers of all different types, and just like the rest of us, they know from years of experience what works and what simply doesn’t.  It’s their goal to make sure that all the “suck” is gone in WSO and we’re left only with the bits that really are captivating and meaningful.

The big feature touted at PAX Prime was the Path System Carbine is working into their flagship title.  Essentially, this is taking the styles of game known to MMO gamers (explorer, socializer, killer, achiever) and building the entire game around each of them.  Sure you’ll still have your basic classes too, but your Path is a secondary “class” as it were, and it mandates the sort of activities you’ll be doing throughout the world of Nexus.

  • Explorer: This one’s for the players who love to chase down everything shiny in the game world.  If you often get yelled at in groups for spending half an hour trying to climb a mountain, then playing an Explorer in WSO will be right up your alley… and even reward you for it and give you quests and missions around just that.  A lot of the challenges based around being an Explorer will be to find hidden parts of the world, or surmount environmental hazards that only you may be able to (avalanches being a good one from our earlier demo impressions). 
  • Soldier: This Path is for the many killers out there. Their chief function (at least on the show floor) was to provoke and engage the public quests in the area.  This Path is for the folks whose main joy in MMO life is fighting things and taking on big or many monsters.  What’s cool about the PQs is that they can only be enabled by the Soldiers, and they also scale each wave depending on how many folks are present.  So if it’s just you, it’ll be solo-able and give solo rewards, but with a full group or dozens even it’ll scale up in both difficulty and rewards.
  • Scientist: Not on the show floor, Jeremy told us that this Path is for the people who love story and lore in their MMOs.  Everything they do is about scanning relics, exploring ruins, and diving into the story of Nexus.  It’s also for the “gotta catch ‘em all” mentality, where you just have to find every last detail or piece of a puzzle.
  • Settler: Also not available during PAX, this one sounds the perhaps the most intriguing of them all.  This Path is for the social butterflies among us, those who like to organize and get people to work together, or plan and enact events.  The entire path is built around social spaces and construction of them.  An example Jeremy gave is a town’s security: the Settlers will take a broken droid and build it up into an entire force-field with roving robots to defend it, even turrets.  More peacefully, they might help build shops and hospitals or even homes for players to inhabit.  But they’ll do it all by engaging their fellow players as well.

This innovation alone seemed strong enough to build a game around, but Carbine doesn’t seem content to just let the Path mechanic stop there.  As mentioned before, it’s built into every facet of the game to give each area of the world unprecedented depth.  With the classes of your characters and the paths they’ve chosen working together in tandem, Carbine hopes to create an entire societal system while seamlessly blending the sandbox and the theme-park mentality. 

An example Jeremy gave of how WildStar will get players lost in the game more than ever before came from his own personal experience.  He talked about a starter town, around level six that has you find a quest giver, much like any other game and he sends you off to fight these saber-tooth cat type alien things in the wild.  You know, just like any other game… but when you get out there you then see these warrior huntresses: they’re attractive and they want you to impress them.  So you do, you start fighting two or three saber-tooth things at a time and you gain more and more favor with these huntresses.  Then you get a challenge quest from your cell phone saying you’ve done a great job and that you should try to kill them even faster.  So you do. 

If you’re an explorer, you may see an object high up in a tree and find yourself opening up a brand new chain of quests tied to that object that you first have to get to by climbing up there.  If you’re a scientist, you might find that some of the saber-tooth beasts look different or mutated from the rest.  Only you see this, and by delving more into their bodies and mutations you may uncover more story and open new quest hubs for the players in the world.  If you’re a settler, you may take the hides from these beasts, and realize they would be perfect for use as clothing and shelter back in town.  If you’re a soldier, well you just might track down the cause of these encroaching beasts and destroy it thereby saving the town from the threat they posed.  The next thing you know, what seemed like a simple “go kill this” turns into a three hour excursion in one of many different paths.  But the kicker, says Gaffney, is that you always will be able to play at your pace.  You won’t ever feel rushed, and instead you’ll find out that there’s simply a never-ending supply of things to do or discover. 

And that’s basically the idea behind WildStar Online: take all that normal stuff and do it in a new and interesting way.  The Paths, the classes, the momentum based combat, the world, the lore, and the mechanics are all working together to create the richest, deepest MMO available.  From what we saw later on the show floor, which was only level 3 content, we feel inclined to believe in Carbine Studios and their goals. 


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.