For someone about to launch a completely new MMO, Chad Moore didn’t seem to be tense or anxious. As we talked about a range of topics, from the origins of Nexus to where the story might take us, WildStar’s Creative Director instead had an air of quiet confidence and pride in the game Carbine Studios had developed.
Right now though, with early access starting at the end of the week, Moore tells me that he feels a great sense of relief and anticipation. “When you work on something for this long, at a certain point you forget that there’s a launch in the future. But, now that were getting close to the end, it’s ‘Oh my goodness, people are playing, we just had an open beta, we’re getting all this feedback, launch is real, it’s coming, it’s right around the corner.’”
“As relieved as I am that we’ve made it, because we’ve had some tough times along the way, I think that there’s also an anticipation and trepidation like ‘how’s it all going to play out, have we done everything we can to make it the best launch possible? I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also holding my breath a little bit.”
After all, you only get one launch. Carbine’s live operations team has been working around the clock to make sure that the studio’s first title goes live as smoothly as possible. Stress tests, closed and open betas, and a week of scenario testing have all helped to put the hardware through its paces. While every online game has its fair share of launch day issues, the team are making sure they’re prepared to handle any issues as they crop up.
The Origins of Nexus
Earlier this month, Moore shared the news that he was switching gears from Lead Narrative Designer to Creative Director on WildStar. I was curious to know: was this simply an updated title to reflect what he’s already doing? “Some of it is that. My role with the company has been sort-of interesting. Obviously my team has been focused on lore, which is just like ‘set the stage, and write the stories about Nexus, the Eldan, the player races and the world groups.’ So that was the big focus at the beginning.”
“Over time, as we’ve developed as a studio, we’ve also developed a certain personality. Not just a personality in the content, but a personality in our marketing, in our web designs, in our brand. And I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in creating that personality, whether it’s writing the scripts for the flicks, doing the copy for the revamped website – not just doing the copy but being involved in the overall presentation, what sorts of imagery we should use, and those sorts of things. As a result of that, I have been very central to defining the overall IP, both of Carbine and WildStar. So it was just a natural progression, since I was involved with those sorts of things anyway, which weren’t really necessarily tied in with the role of Lead Narrative Designer, but were just as important. Matt Mocarski [Development Director], who was once both Creative Director and Art Director, he now has a different role now too. So as he moved to his new role, we have a new Art Director, but the Creative Director position was kind of open and free, and since I was kind of doing that job already, here we are today.”
So when did the idea of WildStar start coming together? Although Moore joined Carbine Studios in 2007, it wasn’t until two years later that the ideas around Nexus started to form. “We had worked on a number of prototypes - at that point we had most of the player races worked out - we had sort of been through developing different stories, why these races were together and what the overarching story of the game was, and had a few false starts. But really, 2009 is when we really came across this overarching story of planet Nexus, this mysterious planet that everyone knew about, but whose location was a mystery. And once we came on to that, everything kind of fell in place.”
“Some things that came before – player races and those sorts of things – survived. A lot of design elements, story elements from previous versions, didn’t. But, once we had that central story about Nexus, it became very easy, relatively, to craft the overarching story of the planet, and why the factions and races cared about it.”
From there, WildStar’s story has grown into a comprehensive beast, with distinct player races and factions that have their own drives and motivations, NPC groups itching for a piece of the prize, a burgeoning ecosystem, and indigenous populations trying to protect their home. Just how do Moore and his team keep track of it all? Although keeping notes and playing the content is part of it, communication is the key part.
“The reality is that it’s extremely hard to be involved in every aspect of the design of the game. There’re a lot of teams – we have six teams that just create zone content alone. All of those teams are invested in the game, they’re creative people, they understand the kinds of stories that we’re telling. But making sure that nobody treads on each other’s toes, or that we’re not telling the same stories, or that we’re not telling stories that can no longer be told because we’ve done something else - its an ongoing process. There’s been a couple of times actually, just in the past few months, where we’ve had to go back and make adjustments, because one team developed some content not knowing that another team in another zone had done something different, and those two things couldn’t jive any more.”
“What’s good about our process, as far as that is concerned, is that most of the teams are now used to saying ‘if I’m working with an iconic character, or there’s a big story with a world group that I’m thinking about getting across’, they’ll come and talk to us about that before they do the hard work, before implementing it, because we’ve run into these other situations. But all of those are imperfect processes, and you’ve just got to hope that you’ve been keeping track of it as much as possible along the way.”