State of the Game Interview - Part 2
Before reading this part of the interview, be sure to read the massive part one. Enjoy!
MMORPG.Com: By the same token, what’s the coolest thing you’ve seen a player make?
Wiesman: The coolest addon that I’ve seen is something not a lot of players will get a benefit from – it’s something for addon developers. It was called Addons Monitor, and what it does is it shows all of the addons that are installed, and then you click on one and it gives this really detailed graph of all the resource usage, the memory usage, how much time is being spent, and it breaks it down into all sorts of different ways using the Pixie system that I put it. It’s just the most amazing thing. We use it internally to debug our addons because it’s so effective and it was just done by a player during beta, it still exists and it’s great. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s probably only cool to nerds like me who like programming, but all the addon developers use it because it’s so useful.
One of the better non addon development addons is by Lemonking, Galaxy Library I think it’s called, it’s the one that basically allows you to try on any item in the game. You bring up your paper doll, and then you can see what your character would look like with any sword, any weapon, any piece of armor, any costume, so you can actually build what you want your costume to be and then go find those things. Which is actually something we should probably steal, because it’s so useful for players. We kind of knew people would be doing that sort of stuff, and yet still I was overwhelmed by the creativity and variations.
MMORPG.Com: Now that addons are out there, what are you currently doing within Carbine?
Wiesman: Oh, I’m just kicking back, it’s awesome! [laughs] It’s all gravy now!
Well, there are some bugs that still need to be fixed, and I’m still looking to add more functionality. One of the things that I’ve told the community that I’m going to work on is 3D nameplates, so the nameplates acre actually drawn in the 3D world instead of an overlay. A lot of people have asked for that, it would solve so many problems that are created by 2D nameplates. So if you see someone, and they’re standing behind a corner, you’d see half a nameplate. It won’t look like everything’s on top of you. That’ll make a big difference.
I’m also the client lead, not just with UI, so optimization falls under my purview. When I say that, I should say that I manage the people who are in charge of optimization, because it’s not my strongest suit. That’s something that we’re always looking to do, is squeeze every last ounce of performance out of whatever machine is out there. We concentrated more pre-launch on low-end machines, because we wanted as many people to play as possible, and what that actually means is that high-end machines aren’t getting as much performance as they can be, so we’re trying to fix that. If you’re on a high-end machine you expect to get pretty good framerate. You do still get pretty good framerate, but we want to make it even better, we can do better on these machines. So if you’ve got 8 cores, we should be able to use all 8 cores, so that’s something I’m concentrating on.
There are all sorts of little things coming down the pipe. I want to make Houston better. The engineer who works on Houston, named Helen, she’s awesome. She’s a great programmer. People need to understand something: that Houston is a product in and of itself, and usually something like this would have an entire team working on it. We have one engineer who is awesome and doing it all by herself. So all the addon developers out there: Helen Li should be a saint in the addon development community, because she basically does Houston almost entirely by herself.
One thing I can spoil is she just checked in the code (because I just did the code review on it) if you’re using Houston and typing a very long lua file, you’ll notice that it gets a little hitchy because it’s trying to do the color-coding and the context sensitive stuff. She just checked in the code to put all of that in a separate thread so it won’t slow you down when you’re typing, it does it in the background when it has a chance.
MMORPG.Com: Because performance is under your remit, could you give an update on where we are with AMD?
Wiesman: So AMD themselves just released a new driver, it’s in beta stage, that I heard was a pretty good improvement for people. I think people are still waiting for it to get final approval or to go into release. We’re working with AMD - when you reach a certain level as a game company the card manufacturers actually want to work with you. We’ve gotten to that point now where they’re saying ‘Hey, how can we help you make WildStar work on our cards better?’ Intel actually had done that even before launch, which is great, which is why we run better on Intel.
I don’t have an up-to-the-minute update on that, but it’s something we’re still going to be working on. We’re going to be working on performance and optimization till WildStar closes its doors on its last subscriber 30 years from now.
MMORPG.Com: Where we are with the Defile at the moment, it feels like the baton is being handed over from one section of the story to something else. Is that a fair assessment?
Starks: Yes, I think definitely what players have been experiencing in the game up till now has been this culmination of an introduction to the story of WildStar, what happened to the Eldan so many years ago, and who are these key players that we’ve met on our journey. Players are coming into the Defile with a lot of questions that are going to be answered at the end of it, but that’s the kick-off to the epic story of the game.
MMORPG.Com: So from there we move into evolving world story?
Roth: If you’re trying to keep a story going with just a single secret mystery, you can only keep that going for so long before it’s just stretching it out, and so we’re able to tie up the prologue and then start exploring the entire universe.
MMORPG.Com: Are the Eldan still around? Did they all die at the hands of the Entity, or did some of them escape somewhere?
Starks: You’ll probably want to play the Defile to find out!
MMORPG.Com: Is the pace of new content where you want it to be?
Starks: Before the game came out, we knew that we wanted to continually update the game once it was released. That’s part of the subscription model – we feel like because you put your trust in us, we’re going to constantly provide new content, new areas of the game for you, in every area that you’re interested in. Not just new zones but new PvP arenas, battlegrounds, dungeons, raids, tradeskills, all those types of things.
We started working on a very aggressive post-launch schedule, about six months before the game came out, so we could have stuff ready to go. But we also, at the same time, as the game was closer and closer to coming out, we had to make sure that it was as polished as possible, so we diverted back to the live game near the end.
We want to do as much as possible, we want to continually update the game, but we also don’t want to rush it out the door. We want to put stuff up on the Public Test Realm, have time to get more player feedback on that, address issues, polish, add to what we’re putting out the door, so it can be the most polished, exciting experience possible.
MMORPG.Com: Questing – you can either take the quest or effectively say ‘Tell me more’. How has that worked out?
Starks: One of the key principles regarding quest text when we’re designing WildStar was we didn’t want to force it on anybody, but we also wanted to make sure the information was there for players who really care about the lore and want to immerse themselves in the story of Nexus.
I think that the current setup we have is actually really effective. We have got feedback from some players that say ‘hey, I want even more, it’s not quite enough for me personally,’ and for those players I think that we’ve tried to take it to an extra level with our world story, our Drusera instances that are in the game that are fully voiced, so you get a bit more of a cinematic, dramatic experience to that content.
Because that content is more story-heavy, it’s directly related to the story of Nexus; you’re interacting with our iconic characters such as Axis Pheydra, Dorian Walker, Drusera. We think in normal questing, you read what you like of it, and then in the more important moments in the game we devote more to that.
MMORPG.Com: What’s been the most challenging part of putting Nexus together?
Starks: Probably the fact that it’s an enormous world. There’s a lot of moving parts to keep track of and keep lining up, and we also have a lot of different teams that work on the world at once, and so you’re making sure that all the teams are coordinating and everything’s coming together. I think it’s part of what makes WildStar awesome, is that it does have a huge universe to it, and it’s very fleshed out and detailed, and it’s very deep in my opinion.
Nick: Layered content is the other thing, where we have these different layers of quests and paths and challenges, and making sure that the experience of boots-on-the-ground players, as they’re playing these quests and challenges, it all feels good, and they’re double-dippng on the credit. It’s not a trivial task.
MMORPG.Com: Do you feel that can be a double-edged sword though? You go to a town, you get two or three quests, one of which might be a story, another couple might be a task, and you go of and kill a mob and get ‘Challenge begins.’ I just want to focus on the shortest route through and you’re giving me all these things.
Starks: I think that we’ve heard it both ways from players. Some players absolutely love it, they drop everything and whatever the latest thing is, and they want to do it then. And some players are like ‘I’m going to go in the most efficient route, and do these three quests in the same area, and then I’m going to come back and do Challenges later, all at once.’ So I think it really depends on your play style.
MMORPG.Com: In terms of Farside itself, how did you cope with doing all the low-gravity stuff?
Starks: Low gravity is awesome and hilarious, and we just let it be what it is. We had a few moments that we thought were hilarious, like when we saw mounts interacting in low gravity, but we thought it’s really fun, so why not let it happen?
MMORPG.Com: Nexus is all very zoned off at the moment There are some parts where we we can go and explore, but there are other parts that are protected by giant walls or similar. Are those all places for future content?
Starks: Some of them potentially are. Not all of them. If you think about it, the Universe of WildStar is huge. You never know where we’re going to take you.
MMORPG.Com: Finally, Jon, How much do you hate the dominion?
Wiesman: So much! Oh man, so much! I really don’t like them at all.
Roth: Chua for life!
Starks: I just think it’s funny, I play mostly Exile, I just like playing Mordesh, but then my favorite iconic character is Artemis Zin.
Wiesman: When they first introduced it I was like ‘those guys are jerks, I don’t want anything to do with them.’ People think I’m joking, but it boggles my mind that people choose to play the Dominion. You’re doing it ironically, right?
MMORPG.Com: Part of the reason why I play dominion…
Wiesman: OK, interview’s over!