Raids. They’re the hardcorest of the hardcorest parts of WildStar. The team at Carbine is in the final stretch to launch, with an Open Beta ongoing until the 18th of May, and head start launch at the end of the month. But Mike Donatelli, Design Director at the studio, took some time out late last week to give us the lowdown on one of WildStar’s biggest flagship features: the raiding elder game. Read on to find out why Mike thinks Carbine’s raids will make raiding something people actually enjoy again.
Bill Murphy: You lot once said you were OK if only so many people got to ever see this content. Is that still the case? Will there ever be a time when you might released a “Noob Version” for PUGs and smaller groups to at least see them, with lesser rewards of course?
Mike Donatelli: They are the hardest of hardcore, for PVE group oriented play. Our Warplots are for PVP hardcore players. The PCPs (Post Cap Playspaces) and World Story Stuff will be for the hardcore solo players that like to progress at their own pace. Those, by the way, feed into the story and we will even have instances and the like for solo players. We want elder game content for everyone, but the raids? Those are are just for raiders. We have no intention to dumb it down, no LFR here.
Bill: You’ve mentioned that WildStar’s raids will be hard...core. How long are you expecting it will take for Genetic Archives and Datascape to be cleared?
Mike: For the Galactic Archives, we expect people will clear them in three to four hours if they have it on farm status. It’ll take about 6 hours to clear the 40 man raid. Like we said, they’re long experiences, and not to be taken lightly. We want progression through each of them to take some time, and not be something you’re guild is clearing on the first time through.
Bill: Will you put any artificial gating in place to roadblock groups?
Mike: There’s an attunement process in-game. It’s a sort of fun process with world-wide traversing quests, it’ll involve the 40-man world boss fights, and other sorts of epic questing. This will get you the basic gear and skill sets ready for the 20, and the 20-man raid will prep you for the 40 man. This sort of Attunement is meant to make players feel accomplished just getting to the point to be raiding. We don’t want you to hit 50 and be like, “OK... no what?” There will be a very story-driven approach to getting into the raiding game. The idea is to sort of lead you into them.
Bill: What are your plans for future post-launch raids? Will there be further 20 and 40 man content, or will you focus on a specific size? Or is it a moving target?
Mike: We can turn on a dime. We didn’t have to give up a ton of other design content to focus on raiders, we just brought on a team specifically for raiders. There are teams for every part of the game, we didn’t take people off of housing to focus on raiders, or just solo, or just groups, or just PVP-ers. It’s about value. There are a ton of MMOs out there, and we want to have the sort of post-launch and at launch value that no other game has. We have an additional 3-4 dungeons over the next year, and that’s also 20-man, 40-man and veteran dungeons. These won’t be rehashed content, but entirely new stuff. And that’s on top of world bosses, solo quest lines, and so forth. In fact, as we said in the livestream, we have the first content patch done. We’re ready to go, and we’ll be having more every month thereafter.
Yes, Stephan (Frost) mistakenly said 28 days was our cadence, but it’s true. We’re not supposed to talk more about that... but that first one is done. With tons of content in there. We planned on it from development, this sort of fast schedule. Most MMOs don’t really plan like this... but we did. We designed the game to have a huge breadth of scope, not just some artificial long leveling curve. We didn’t build the 1-50 to gate you, but we made sure there’s always and already an elder game there waiting for when you do hit the cap. There’s more elder game every month coming. Not just a boss, or a dungeon... there’s more than that. Frost said 28 days, but we say we’re “aggressively” updating. It could be 6 weeks, or so forth. Bugs are, after all, still are something we have to fight. But there will be live bug fixes and tweaks between these big content updates too so it all depends on how soon we’re ready to give you new zones, new quests, and new stuff to do.
We want that monthly fee to deliver you an expansion’s worth of content in the first year, for that singular monthly fee. We’re not charging a sub just to keep the server lights on. There’s no MMO out there that will launch with as much stuff to do as our game has, and we’re coming right out with new stuff every month after. The tools and way we’ve got and how we’ve set up our pipeline make it possible.
Bill: Back to raids: How are you planning to handle raid tiering and rewards?
Mike: We have specific PVP and PVE defense ratings. PVP levelers have great gear, but you can’t just buy the PVE stuff with PVP rewards. The same could be said of PVE players. They can’t just go in with their dungeon gear and be the best. In raids, there will be the set of Purple gear in 20-mans, Legendary (orange) items in 40-mans. There’s a chase within the chase to get items, to get the best slotted gear with runes, which have randomly selected stats, and can be augmented from crafting as well. It’s like Diablo’s system in a way... how can you slot your items out to get the most for your build? It’s sort of our elder game gear metagame.
So yes, there’s going to be gear progression, but there’s a catch up mechanism we have in place that we’ll keep as the gear game grows over time. Once you hit 50, your XP bar becomes an “Elder Gem” bar. XP becomes Elder Points, and elder gems buy all kind of end-game gear, mounts, housing stuff. There’s even going to be sub-optimal raid gear that you can get with the gems, to help flesh out your gear to get set for raids too. PVP guys can’t just use PVP currency to get PVE gear, they’ll still have to do the raids to get it or spend some Elder Points to get the sub-optimal stuff to start raiding. There are separate rewards for all groups. Both parties get comparable items, and there will be no edge given to either.
Raid footage from PAX East
We’ll even track who has the best set with runes on the server. There’s a mini game to unlock them, and they will be random when unlocked All bonuses are good, and weighted to your class. But the idea is to plug in runes to make them even better. Crafted runes or bought from the AH, if you can find the super-ultimate rune sets and socket them together... you’re even more powerful. It’s a min-maxer’s dream (or nightmare).
We’re not ignoring any group of people. Even solo players can get geared up, get runes, socket them, see new zones, new islands, new shiphand missions, and slot their gear too to be powerful.
Bill: That sounds like a ton of content to keep up with on a monthly basis.
Mike: Well, our plan is not to go F2P, we’re in it for the long haul, and to make sure we are worth the $15 a month. We’ll see if the players agree, based on what we offer, but we expect they will.
Bill: Last one then, as we’re almost out of time. What level of testing have the raids had? How many groups, variety of skill levels? How far have they progressed?
Mike: I’m not sure how much of this is legal to say, but we’ll say it anyway. We have a server, internally, running 24/7, for over a year. We’ve been testing with handpicked guilds, they tested the raids and other content for us nonstop the entire time. And even in all that time, only one guild has gotten through three of the bosses in the 40 man. See, they’re hard. Every playthrough is different... you won’t just say “don’t stand in the fire.” It changes each time. No one has yet said they’re not fun. Similarly, no one has said it’s too frustrating... they’re hard, but they’re fun. Every event and boss, and mini boss gives rewards. I think we’ve hit the perfect mixture of fun and frustration. There are hazards in trash rooms which make trash mobs fun, and you get rewards for beating that event too. Events between bosses mean they’re more fun than regular boring rooms between bosses. Mechanics make these fun... and well, I got off track, but yes. They’ve been tested for months. Of course, the live server will make all the difference, but we’ve been running the raids internally and with guilds for a while now. They’re ready.
Bill: Thanks, Mike, for your time... good luck with the sleep schedule leading up until launch!
Mike: Thanks, Bill! I’ve got tape on my eyelids right now... (Snores audibly.)