MMORPG.com: Going forward, what direction are you hoping to take WildStar in? What areas will you be focusing your effort on, and which areas aren't as central to the game?
Moore: For my part, as Creative Director, the focus of our future content will be in reflecting the best parts of the WildStar IP – with a greater focus on storytelling and the continued development of game universe. I think we did a great job of getting players excited about our world before launch, and we have received a lot of player feedback about the kinds of content that they enjoyed (and didn’t enjoy) in the shipping game. We have already talked about some of the exciting content that is coming up soon – such as the first chapter of the Nexus Saga, Journey Into OMNICore-1 – and there’s more exciting content on the horizon. I think one of the strongest aspects of WildStar was the uniqueness of our IP, and we are going to continue to improve the ways that we reflect that IP in the game.
MMORPG.com: We constantly hear that 'the devs are listening', but are there any plans to increase developer interaction with the community on the official forums, particularly in the class and content subsections?
Moore: As a studio, we recognize that that there has been a lack of communication as of late, and we are actively working to change that. In the weeks following the launch of the game, we were hyper-focused on keeping the game stable and gathering feedback from the community, and I think that resulted in a communications lull that was frustrating for our players. It was a problem, and we are fixing it. Mike recently released a state of the game address, and both Mike and myself will be following that up with additional posts in the coming weeks. Our players should expect increased levels on interaction from Carbine in general – including the teams you list above. Our fans mean a lot to us, and we are going to make sure they know it.
MMORPG.com: What is your response to a number of people out there, perhaps players, perhaps not, who are demanding or maybe even simply expecting a shift to free-to-play like SWTOR did in its first year?
Donatelli: To be honest, we track all that chatter. You can’t say “The devs are listening” and then discount what people are saying. We’re not currently set up for F2P but we’re definitely paying attention to what the players are asking for.
MMORPG.com: What influenced your decision to go with separate servers at launch, yet move to megaservers some four months later?
Donatelli: Megaservers were on the plate prior to launch. Fact is, it was WAY too dangerous to try to get in online that close to launch so we decided to shelve it until we could get some real time to finish and test it before going live with it. And it’s obviously going to help us with the servers where population has dipped below healthy levels.
MMORPG.com: At launch, WildStar's performance on AMD hardware and GPUs was very poor when compared to Intel/NVidia. Do you have any client optimization in the pipeline for users with this hardware configuration?
Donatelli: I’m going to quote our technical director for this one: “We continue to make incremental improvements across the board. Many of these improvements are done and will be in the next drop. You can expect up to a 15 – 20% improvement on some machines.”
MMORPG.com: Carbine's patch QA process has been regularly and heavily criticized, and is one of the things you're hoping will be fixed in the quarterly patch schedule. What was the previous QA process like, why did so many bugs escape resolution, what changes have you brought in and why will this result in a better player experience?
Donatelli: We tried to do too much content too quickly. We staffed up a ton in dev but not an equal amount in QA and it stretched them really thin. Both the dev and QA teams have had a “come to Jesus” about the processes and testing plans and are making sweeping changes. We’ve also begun to staff up QA in the interim so we don’t have the same issues continue to plague us.
MMORPG.com: After promoting WildStar on the frequent update cycle, why do you feel players should continue subscribing when the cadence shifts to quarterly?
Donatelli: I myself was a big proponent of the frequent updates and I realize what it means to move to a quarterly update schedule. Overall, I feel WildStar is a quality game. I know we have a bunch of content waiting in the wings, it just needs to go through a more rigorous process so my hope is that players will hang in there so we can deliver that content polished and tested every 3 months instead of monthly.
MMORPG.com: Drop 4 was due to contain a number of class, itemization and balance fixes, particularly for support roles. With a 3-month cadence, that would put delivery in Feb 2015. Is this still the case?
Donatelli: We merged drop 3 and 4 together. So drop “3 and 4” or The Defile and Journey to Omnicore-1 still have weeks of testing to go but our target is early to mid-November.
MMORPG.com: Many of WildStar's flicks and devspeaks are funny and entertaining, but the in-game content can feel serious, dry and tedious. Are there any plans to lighten the mood on Nexus?
Moore: We heard that feedback from our players, and have already started to address that issue. In Journey Into OMNICore-1, players will get to experience in-game cinematics and gameplay with the same entertaining personality that they experienced in our WildStar Flicks. As I stated before, there is going to be a much greater focus in all our content to reflect the best parts of our IP – and humor and personality play a big part of that. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we are going to focus any less on making that content ridiculously epic, but players will definitely have a few laughs along the way.
MMORPG.com: Apart from the various gear and reputation grinds, are there any plans to offer endgame alternatives to players beyond the planned content updates?
Donatelli: Short answer, yes. We are working on some AA routes for players at cap.
MMORPG.com: Do you have any plans to introduce challenging content that requires less of a time commitment, for those that are unable to take part in raiding?
Donatelli: One of the biggest take-aways from the feedback and the metrics since launch was that we need to concentrate on what I refer to as “Short Session Gameplay”. If we want to let the player play the way they want to play, we have to give them the tools to do so. Short, repeatable gameplay is key in both the Elder game and in the leveling content. You’ll see some of that in the next update but we plan on having even more ready for the January timeframe.