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The Gaffer Speaks - Part 2

Jean Prior Posted:
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Be sure to check out Part I of our interview with The Gaffer!

MMORPG.com:  You know of Econ PVPer Anhrez. He wants to know about crafting.  It's a popular metagame timesink that supports the community.  What are the plans to make it as engaging as regular PVP or PVE?

Gaffer:  We have a bunch of plans of what we're going to do around elder game crafting. It feels like there's a game in it now to an extent, but we really want to take that further.  I hate talking about stuff until I see it implemented, because it changes and it preserves the 'no bullshit' policy and keeps me from doing stuff like saying 'we can't do body sliders'.  It's good to have that right now because we can't do it, it's off the table, and then have it, because it was actually kind of fun.  And in our traditional understated announcement, it's like oh, one line out of 70 pages of patch notes, 'oh by the way, we added body sliders'. 

MMORPG.com:  Domichi of Mission:Nexus (http://www.mission-nexus.com) had a bit of a silly question after the big panel revealed that the text color for the highest level gear in the game is pink.  It's also become one of the memes of the entire weekend now after Arawulf had a picture himself and you where the booth's lighting had prophetically shaded your hair pink.  So, why pink?

Gaffer:  Ultimately, it was just arbitrary.  

MMORPG.com:  Another silly question, but Frost or Pappy?

Gaffer:  Oh god!  In almost anything else, Frost.  In drinking, Pappy.  

MMORPG.com:  And now a question near and dear to my own heart, I understand that Collector's Editions are not really your thing, but one of the things that the community has been clamoring for is an actual physical soundtrack of [Jeff] Kurtenacker's music.  What can we do about that?

Gaffer:  That's a good question.  We too would like to do a physical soundtrack, we do so much music, and if I can reveal one of the inefficiencies of development, it's that we spend most of our time, the really hard things to do in the game, is tuning, content especially.  If you're going to have a couple hundred hours of content, and then you're going to do dungeons, and do Adventures, and Veteran versions, and then you're going to have raids, and then Warplots, and you'll have battlegrounds and arenas.  Tuning all of that is non-trivial, that's why we've spent a couple of years in beta of various forms.  And so, all throughout that process and it's a variable process because you don't know necessarily how long it gonna take, all throughout that process, our music guys have been like 'and here's more music and here's more music and here's more music'.  So at this stage, I can say we have more orchestral and solid-ass music than any game has ever launched with, and that's because of our strict planning and the fact that they've just been sitting there churning it out quietly for the past couple of years of beta. 

MMORPG.com: Jeff said there's something like nine hours' worth of music.  With a Collector's Edition, there's that overhead of making the CE, but CDs aren't all that expensive to make. 

Gaffer:  It's actually not that bad making a Collector's Edition because of the cost, because let's suppose that the physical units that get sold, for your average box, it's probably about two bucks, something in that kind of range.  And then you do a Collector's Edition, and you have a statue in there, a cloth map, an art book would be awesome, and maybe the unit cost for all of that is thirty bucks.  You charge thirty bucks more, you'd make the same money off of it.  It's more of an initial investment, but you also have to distribute it.  Is it going to sit on shelves, is it going to piss off the retailers so it doesn't move?  So, as a new IP, the question really was damn, will people want it or was it going to sit on shelves, would it piss off retailers, so we made that decision a couple of years ago when buzz was slightly less than it is now.  Made the decision not to do a damned Collector's Edition.  The Deluxe Edition outsold the Standard Edition by a ton because people were like 'no, gimme!'  People want their rowsdower for god's sake.  If I had to do it today, I'd do a Collector's Edition, but we made the decision a couple of years ago, and with a new IP, you're not supposed to need a Collector's Edition.  

MMORPG.com:  From our very own Gareth 'Gazimoff' Harmer:  During the course of WildStar's development, were there any blind alleys that you went down, things that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn't work out?

Gaffer:  Oh yeah, like 400 of them.  Let's take an example that was a public one.  When we put in housing initially, we put it in so you just got plopped into your house and it didn't kind of feel cool enough.  You're sold it by Protostar, sort of used car salesmen, it's not like an adventure, it's just all 'okay!'.  That was me, I will fully take credit or blame for both halves of this.  So let's add some quests, make it feel like an adventure, you've got to clear off your land and you've got to fight all of the monsters, blow up the trees, make your housing plot cool.  The Protostar are like 'okay!'.  Now, the Protostar, they scooped up a pet cemetery when they scooped up your land, so you've got to fight all of these ghostly creatures, a big boss, and add all of these quests. 

So we put it in and it was actually cool! And then housing, we moved to level 6, and it felt like you just got out of Northern Wilds, got out of Levian Bay, and all this fighting, fighting, fighting, and now you've got another freaking series of quests. I just got done with doing a ton of stuff, just got done with doing all of that, I want to house now! Let me just go house! And so, I thought it was a great idea to have all of those quests, and a great idea to yank them out.  We moved housing to level 12, and some players were like 'No! We want the housing quests, bring back the housing quests!'  It may actually make more sense now at level 12, but then I'd have to admit I was an idiot to add them and an idiot to pull them out again. 

I don't know if I should admit to being quite that much of an idiot.  When you're a director of development, you just have to accept it.  It's frustrating some days because you might have just spent a year working on a zone that's not quite right, and you got through it and were 'yeah, a little too much density of killing quests, too grindy, but you know what?  We're gonna rip that out and add a cool mechanic and redo the zone'.  And the guy who did it's like 'oh Jesus Christ, I just spent a year tuning that up to make this as good as I could in the old mode'.  And that sucks as a dev sometimes.  Algoroc back in the day, it had so many handcrafted quests that you didn't do combat for huge stretches of time.  You'd just have a little zapper and you'd zap vin into the gas extraction machine and then you'd go up to a boulderback and they'd huff the gases coming off the boulderbacks, there's this dynamic behavior. 

I believe there was a huge ship that crashed into the middle of the zone, a dynamic event that would take up like four or five different plugs, little guards would come out and build up different areas, huge stuff to shift in the past.  Sometimes it moves, and there's always a reason why it changes, but there's always stuff I loved in those past efforts, some aspect of it, even if if the overall thing had a bad feel that needed to get going.  Sadly, we do that all the time.  

MMORPG.com:  Arawulf from WildStarFans.Net (http://www.wildstarfans.net) wanted to know: If you could get a do-over and step into a time machine, what piece of advice would you give yourself five years ago?

Gaffer:  Five years ago?  That's a grand question.  I don't know, I like what we have at the end of the day so I'm not sure I'd do a ton differently.  We certainly could have done some a bit more efficiently, so probably I would've just dropped off a design doc or two and be like 'hey, you know what?  After the next ten iterations, this is how combat's gonna end up, do that!'  That would've saved a lot of time.  'Oh hey, this is how you do spawning.  Oh hey, this is how you do good density of challenges versus quests versus path content versus scripted quests versus kill quests, use this density!'  Because we've learned a lot over time, we learned it by smacking our faces into a tree and go 'oh, now we know how to do it', so we go back and do it.  

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Jean Prior