Apr 5, 2013
Mike Donatelli, Content Director for Carbine Studios, sat down with us to talk about Carbine’s upcoming and highly anticipated MMO, WildStar!
Last month I had the opportunity to visit the Carbine Studios HQ located here in Southern California. During the first portion of my visit I received a tour of the studio from none other than David Bass, Senior Community Manager at Carbine. I got to meet some incredibly awesome people who were all hard at work on their upcoming MMORPG, WildStar. I was able to meet a lot of the team members – which is quickly approaching the 200 mark – I met people from the Community Team, QA, Audio, Content, Props, Lore, Economy, and more. It was a very cool experience to see behind the proverbial “curtain” and get a hands on view of what goes into making a AAA MMORPG title.
For the second half of my visit I sat down with Mike Donatelli, Content Director at Carbine Studios, and had an in-depth conversation about WildStar. I came in armed with over 100 questions – which was way too many to ask in an hour – and Mike was more than happy to answer all of them. We spoke for a long time, even continuing the conversation in the hallway once our allotted time was up. He answered quite a few of my questions (and quite a few that I was not allowed to post either).
You can read the full interview below! Enjoy!
Muchmore Gaming: First, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today! We’re very excited to be able to sit down and talk about WildStar with you. Before we jump in, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what your role is for Carbine Studios / WildStar.
Mike Donatelli: Sure, it’s my pleasure. I’m Mike Donatelli and I’m the Content Director at Carbine Studios. I wear a lot of different hats around here, but essentially I manage the Content Design Department, which covers: adventures, dungeons, economy, content systems, combat, PvP, housing, and more. I get to have my hands in a lot of different pies.
MMG: We’ve had a chance to go in depth with quite a few of the known races. What can you tell us about the remaining two playable races?
MD: Yes, we have two more races still to announce! Unfortunately, we’re not ready to talk about them just yet. But, I will say that they will be available to play in the beta.
MMG: In terms of classes, we know about the Warrior, Spellslinger, Stalker, and Esper classes. Can you shed any light on what players might expect from the two unknown classes?
MD: I can’t reveal the full details on those yet, but I can say that when they are available we will be adding them into the beta for people to play. However, they will not be available at the initial onset of the beta.
MMG: How about gear and more importantly the different types of gear specific classes can use? For example, Spellslingers are always shown using dual pistols, Warriors are always using giant swords etc. What different types of weapons and armor can we look forward to using?
MD: In terms of armor, you will see a lot of what you might consider to be standard fare – Light, Medium, Heavy, and things like that. Obviously, whatever class you choose will determine what types of armor you can or can’t use.
Weapons are completely and utterly tied to your class. Let’s take the Esper class – Esper’s use a psyblade and they will always use a psyblade. That’s their class’s weapon. Now, there are literally hundreds of different types of psyblades that your character might use – and all of them have different looks and wildly different utilities – but you won’t see Esper’s running around with a giant laser gun or something like that.
There is also big portion of this that ties directly into our crafting system, but we can’t get into that just yet.
MMG: On the topic of gear, will there be different gear / gear sets for different types of activities? For example, PvE vs. PvP vs. Raiding etc.?
MD: Well, first let me say that if you want to hit max level via a specific type of play you will have that option in WildStar. For example, if you wanted to only PvP, there is a path for you to go literally from level 1 all the way to level cap via PvP only. There are also PvE paths and even dungeon paths – well, I don’t want to just say just dungeons since we have a lot more than dungeons in the game. Let’s call it “group content” for now. Essentially, there is a path for players to level up to max via any play style they like. All of those things will have sets of armor and weapons that will absolutely compliment that style of play.
We’re definitely not doing the thing where if you want to PvP effectively than you will have to get some trinket out of a specific raid, or if you want to raid effectively you will have to PvP to earn a certain item that’s great for raiding. We made a conscious decision to make sure players are rewarded all the way up, while doing the kinds of things they want to be doing.
Which, I should say, ties back directly into our crafting system that we can’t talk about yet! *laughs*
MMG: Ok, now we have to ask, how does it tie into the crafting system?
MD: Well, I’m not saying anything, but let’s imagine for a minute – just for a minute.
Let’s imagine that you have three different paths, PvP, PvE, and then Group PvE. Now these paths will tie into crafting in a way that will allow you to do those activities but also get rewarded with items that compliment that style of play. We also had to come up with a system to allow you to move back and forth from one to the other. What we don’t want to do is say, ‘Oh you PvP? Well, then you can never raid.’, and vice versa.
So, if you’re level 40 and you’re decked out in PvP gear but you want to get into PvE content, we have a system in place that will allow you to essentially cross streams back and forth, without making you start over from zero.
MMG: What about a class’s skills & abilities? Are there different branches within each class that players can focus on? Similar to say a Talent Tree or Advanced Class that we have seen from other MMO’s.
MD: Again, I can’t get into a ton of detail here because we are pre-beta and things are changing a lot, but I can explain the thought process behind our Limited Action Sets.
We have a limited action set of abilities for each class. So, I’ll just pick a random number – let’s say every class gets 32 abilities over the life of their character. We had to design them and tier them so that everything is still worthwhile at the level cap. For example, the first ability you use at level 1 will still be available and worthwhile at the level cap. With the limited action set we allow players to pick and choose which abilities they want to use.
So out of ‘X’ number of abilities you can select the seven you want to use at that time. You can switch them out for different activities say PvP vs. Raiding and this allows players to not have to be constantly re-training. You will get access to more abilities than you can fit onto your toolbar. By level 10 you will already be having to make choices about which abilities you want to use to match your play style.
MMG: Across the two factions, the Exiles and the Dominion, it appears all of the classes and paths are shared. Are there plans to have any classes or paths that are faction specific?
MD: It’s been discussed for sure. There has been a lot of discussions around things becoming more “faction-esque” down the road. However, you won’t see anything like that in the game at launch.
MMG: We’ve heard a little bit about the Explorer and Soldier Paths, and we’ve been teased with the Scientist and Settler Paths. What else can you tell us about the Path System in WildStar?
MD: Well, based on feedback from play testers there have been a lot of improvements made to the Path System. A lot of players who say picked the Explorer Path have said, ‘You know the Soldier Path looks like a lot of fun, but I can’t experience it as an Explorer’. So what we ended up doing was sprinkling a lot of that functionality all across the game. This allows players to experience what we call “cross paths”.
In our example where you may be an Explorer, you will still be able to experience content from some of the other paths like the Soldier, Scientist, or the Settler. But, obviously, from the path you chose at character creation you will get an extra-large helping of that style of content.
Additionally, your Path will level completely independently of your character. Also, once you have selected your Path there is “currently” no way to change it, so be sure to choose wisely. With all that being said though, you pick your Path at character creation and the first quest you get in the game will be a Path quest, so you will know very quickly if a Path is not right for you.
MMG: Can you share a few more details on the Scientist and Settler Paths?
MD: With the Settler – well, let me clear something up in regards to the Settler Path first. If you think that by choosing the Settler Path you’re going to get a hammer and some boards and you’ll be able to start free-form building stuff out in the world Minecraft style, that’s just not happening.
A Settler will be able to build things that he or she chooses from a populated list of items. We give them tons and tons of different things they can build and as they build them we dynamically change how the hub they are at is structured. So, originally this hub may not have been able to do some specific task, but a Settler came along, and built something which added on to that hub and now it will have those capabilities. Additionally, groups of Settlers will be able to produce upgrades – so now what took, let’s say 24 hours in a major city to complete, can be done in half that time on the settlement or for much cheaper.
With the Scientist Path, and I need to be vague here, but with the Scientist they are what you could call “the lore” Path. Personally, it’s my favorite Path. As any Class / Path combination you will be able to unlock all of the lore within the Galactic Archive, but as a Scientist you will be able to unlock and learn even more! Scientists can interact with all kinds of items and objects within the game. They can scan them down and learn a variety of secrets about Nexus and its inhabitants.
Some other cool things Scientists can do is, for example, scan down an enemy turret and reconfigure it to attack your enemies instead of attacking you. So, Scientists aren’t just running around the world scanning everything they can find looking for data – they have a lot of uses – they’re awesome!
MMG: Let’s talk about the world of Nexus and the zones players will be able to experience. How is Nexus broken down? Are there multiple continents for people to explore? How many zones will be in at launch?
MD: Well, that depends on what people consider a zone. For launch, to be safe, I would say there are 21 zones that players will be able to experience. But, there are a ton of other areas that players will be able to check out too. I suppose those would technically be considered a zone, but they are not your standard continental zone.
There are multiple continents, space stations, moons, asteroid belts – we have all kinds of cool zones and areas for players to explore. I think the in-game zones equate to about 400 square kilometers, so Nexus is massive in size and scope!
MMG: There has been a lot of talk about dynamic content in WildStar. What types of dynamic content will players be able to experience?
MD: Well, from a development-speak side of things, we have these things called “discoveries”. So, you can be running around killing bad guys, exploring, or whatever you might want to be doing and you’ll come across this glowing “thing” in the ground. In every zone there can be hundreds of locations where this “thing” can spawn and when you access it there are dozens upon dozens of combinations of what can potentially come out of it.
In certain level ranges you may end up with loot, like a killer item for crafting, or an “Adventurer’s Ruck Sack of Good’s”, that’s loaded with money or items. In other areas it may open up a hole in the ground that’s full of mobs and at the end of the cave there is a boss you can fight. Now, that cave may also be on a timer, say five minutes, so it will close up behind you and if you leave you won’t be able to get back to it. Discoveries allow for a lot of variety in the things that can happen. You won’t just be running around killing and skinning 10 rats all the time.
We will also have public events that are zone wide and they allow everybody to get in on the fun. They’re really cool and a lot of fun to play – and again those are just another way of letting players get some variety in terms of the content they experience and the rewards they will receive.
MMG: What can you tell us about the public events you mentioned?
MD: Well, we have public events scattered all over the game and in every zone. For example, in Deradune, we have a public event where players will be out killing animals on the savannah and collecting skulls which each kill. They can then add their skulls to the skull pile in the center of town. Everybody in the zone can take part in the event. When the skull pile is big enough there is big buff that everybody in the zone will get along with XP and other rewards. That’s just an example of a very low level event which takes place around level 5 or 6.
At higher levels the events become much more involved. You could, for instance, be a player running through an area and you come across a plot of dirt that has a sack of beans on it. By interacting with the sack of beans they now have started growing some plants. Eventually, that plot of dirt will become a full-fledged farm with farm houses, animals, and farm hands working on it. Now it’s become so big you and everybody else in the zone will have to protect it from the enemy mobs that are nearby.
So, when you hear us talk about “dynamic” content we are referring to how that content actually changes or alters the zone that you are in – like I mentioned about the Settler Path earlier. You might run through a plain one day and the next time you pass through there could be buildings and taxis and guards and all kinds of other goodies that have dynamically changed the layout of what you had previously seen and experienced.
MMG: Will there be world-wide or server-wide style events? If so, will they be there at launch?
MD: Absolutely, but most of those types of events will take place once you hit the level cap and begin to experience the Elder Game. There is a bunch of community and live team events that are on the plate, but if you’re talking faction wide, game wide, game changing events – those will take place at the level cap. We’ll also be doing holiday events and things of that nature too.
MMG: Lately we’ve seen a lot of the Deradune zone what other types of zones will players get to experience?
MD: Well, I alluded to this a little bit before when I mentioned the types of zones people will be able to experience. There’s space stations, deserts, mountains, jungles, asteroid belts, moons…I mean all kinds of different geographical types of zones.
With each specific zone we try to invoke an overall theme. Deradune is the “desert” zone so to speak and it’s relatively familiar, or at least it will have a somewhat familiar feel to it if you’ve come from other MMOs. As you progress deeper into Nexus though, things will become weirder and weirder and distinctly more alien. Nexus is after all a completely alien planet.
When you hit the level cap you will gain access to solo story instances as well. These are very cool and they will really begin to tie in a lot of the lore and clues you’ve gotten while leveling up about what is actually happening on Nexus.
MMG: Now, I’d like to get into some questions from Muchmore Gaming community members. From Twitter both @Leonic19 and @thebartlomiej want to know about the subscription model and how it will work. Will WildStar be subscription based, free-to-play, buy-to-play, some form of hybrid?
MD: We’re not prepared to speak about that just yet. However, we do take bribes for access to the beta! *laughs*
MMG: Another Twitter question came in from @Mr_Fester. He wants to know if he can “have an NPC take care of my front lawn, guard it, and make me dinner at my house”.
MD: Ok, so he wants to know if he can have butlers? *laughs* Yes, that is the plan right now. The plan is to have NPCs that you can acquire through various means and have them take care of needs on your housing plot.
MMG: @Mr_Fester also asked another question on the topic of housing. He wants to know if housing assets will have a different look and feel based on race, faction, or other factors.
MD: There are options for all of the races to have their own style of house. So, yes.
However, there are still some conversations happening around who can have access to what. It’s possible that your race or faction will be limited to housing items only available to that race or faction. It will end up being either all or nothing, but the final decision has yet to be made on that topic. Right now, it’s looking like it will be more of the “all” and less of the “nothing”.
MMG: From Facebook Lee Adams asked, “At launch will WildStar have a dungeon queue system or some sort of Looking for Group tool?”
MMG: Muchmore Gaming Community member Goulak wants to know “if there are any plans to advance your character’s actual capabilities beyond gear acquisition at the level cap. EverQuest’s AA system would be a good example of what I’m talking about.”
MD: Yes. At Elder Game, once you get there, almost all of the systems that you enjoyed while leveling up will scale with your character in the Elder Game System. It’s definitely not just about gear progression. Your character will not just stop progressing – they will just get moved into an entirely different curve so to speak.
Without revealing too much right now, I can say this…we’ve designed the Elder Game System keeping in mind that WildStar will have to go 12, 18 even 24 months past launch and still give level capped players multiple ways to progress their characters. We don’t just want to sit back and say, ‘Ok, let’s just raise the level cap’, to allow capped players continued progression.
A lot of it has to do with the Limited Action Sets I spoke about earlier and your combat abilities among other things. The Elder Game is very fun and it will definitely allow your characters to continue to progress in ways beyond gear.
I can’t wait until we can talk more about it publically, but I will end with this. There is so much stuff to do at cap in the Elder Game it will definitely keep you coming back for more!
I would like to extend a huge thank you to Mike Donatelli, David Bass, and the rest of the Carbine Studios Team. They really are a great bunch of people there and they have a phenomenal game on their hands! I was able to learn a lot more about WildStar during my visit – which I can’t speak about publically – and all I can say is I am VERY excited for it!
Now…let’s hope for a beta announcement soon!
Have thoughts on Mike’s interview? Let us know in the comments below or talk about it on our forums!
Tags: abilities, Advanced Class, beta, Carbine Studios, class, classes, crafting, Crafting System, David Bass, Deradune, Dominion, dungeons, Elder Game, Esper, Exiles, Explorer Path, F2P, free to play, Housing System, interview, LFG Tool, Lore, Mike Donatelli, MMO, MMORPG, NC Soft, Nexus, NPC, Path System, PC, psyblade, PvE, PvP, raid, raids, Scientist Path, Settler Path, skills, Soldier Path, Spellslinger, Stalker, Talent Tree, Warrior, WildStar, world event