Phillip Chan is a busy man. Known internally as the ‘High Priest of Tradeskills’, he is responsible for all crafting systems within WildStar, from gathering basic resources to producing finished items. Together with the rest of Carbine’s economy team, he’s entrusted with creating a thriving in-game marketplace.
I’ve dug into WildStar’s crafting systems before, but I was eager to find out more behind the design of this deep experience. During a recent roundtable discussion, I learned about how tradeskills had evolved during WildStar’s beta, and where Chan hopes to take them at endgame. I also discovered the lures that will encourage players to push further, from risk-reward choices to meaningful specialization.
Even though they chose to go with resource node harvesting, there’s nothing standard about Carbine’s implementation, as Chan explained. “We sat down and we said ‘hey, how do we make this WildStar? How do we put our twist into node harvesting?’” The results are multiple seeds that bloom when you’re farming plants, or giant worms that erupts when you’re mining ore, as just two examples of keeping it entertainingly chaotic.
After slaying that giant iron worm a cavern is left behind, but this might change once WildStar launches. “In the future, we actually plan on doing a little more with that. Right now, it’s just an empty cave with lots of nodes that you can harvest, but we’ve talked about other things. Maybe little communities of NPCs living inside the worm, or creatures that we think would be cool scurrying around.”
“That stuff would be post-launch. Right now we’re polishing what we’ve got, bug fixing and integrating forum feedback. We’re much more concerned with having a polished shipping product than we are about adding features. Although I think what we’ve got is pretty solid from the systems end.”
And yes, there are multiple crafting systems. “We’re actually really happy that we’ve been able to have our designs approved for two crafting systems. This is something that I think is actually pretty novel in the MMO space. These are two very separate systems that have different philosophies and different gameplay.”
The first of these – Circuit Board Crafting – is used for items like weapons, armor, features for your housing plot, and all other equipment. Although it was first introduced in April last year, it’s also changed significantly since those early days. “We really liked that crafting system, but we felt that it could be better. It wasn’t based on any particular feedback from players, but something we discussed internally.
“We decided that the amount of choice we were giving the player wasn’t actually choice at all. Then, when we were discussing that, we also talked about how we could give players a chance at making better items than people who don’t care very much, and that’s where we got the idea for overcharging. We felt that it was a small thing to give the players the ability to add a couple of item levels, for the chance to really separate themselves from anecdotal crafters.”
Since then, Chan’s mantra has been ‘Customize, Maximize, Specialize’, and the new version of circuit board crafting certainly provides it. “Every item in the game, whether it’s crafted or not, has a schematic, and that determines how the power in an item is distributed to different stats. In our circuit board crafting system you can change what stat goes into each of the nodes in a schematic. That gives players the ability to make items that are custom for their spec or the market place, but it also allows for a really neat combination on items.” Currently, that customization doesn’t extend to cosmetic appearance, but that doesn’t mean it won’t appear in the future. “That is something that we’ve talked about and are very interested in exploring.”
The new Overcharge mechanism is where we can maximize our items, by risking our materials in order to craft something truly special. The system’s currently got a hard cap of 30% chance to fail, in order to prevent us from risking too much to create something truly absurd, but it still provides significant differentiation. “This allows us to divide equipment crafters into two very distinct populations: one that crafts as a means to an end and doesn’t really care about making the best product, but rather about efficiency and quickness; and those that are interested in the system and try to maximize and eek out every single stat point below the 30% threshold. And those products, even though they’re the same item, will actually be different - one will have more stats than the other.”
Chan’s approach to specializing provides an appealing hook, as it’s through crafting talents that we’ll be able to differentiate ourselves further. By accumulating talent points (more on those later), a budding weaponsmith can choose to specialize in a niche like swords. With time and effort, they might eventually be able to overcharge them more, or get more options for customization. “It diversifies the players even more, and allows them to be special in some way, even if it’s in a small way.” It raises the prospect of becoming a recognized expert on the server, or a market where you’d shop around for the best version of the item.