News Bitwise and Packetdancer talk WildStar UI Add-ons

Bitwise and Packetdancer talk WildStar UI Add-ons

Written by Jon "Bitwise" Wiesman on July 03, 2013

Jon "Bitwise" Wiesman is the UI Architect of Apollo and the Lead Client Engineer for WildStar. He’s also the Nicest Guy at Carbine, and the Black Rowsdower of Carbine, titles which he has given himself while everyone else just smiles and nods.

Hello, WildStar fans! It’s been an exciting couple months here at Carbine as we are finally seeing actual players in our closed beta. But as fun as it is to make MMOs, the real excitement is seeing other people play them. All our hard work has finally been paying off as we watch our beta testers swarm all over Nexus.

Even so, two weeks ago was especially exciting for those of us on the UI team, because we were paid a visit by our very first beta Addon creator. For those of you who have been following WildStar, you know that UI customization/modification is one of the key features that we think is essential to WildStar’s success. We are so committed to this philosophy that we are including a fully-featured Addon development tool with every installation of WildStar. The UI engine, called Apollo, and that tool, called Houston, not only allow you to easily create your own Addons to extend WildStar’s UI, but it also gives players full access to all of the Carbine-authored source code, and even allows players to completely replace our UI with their own.

Development on Houston is still ongoing, and the documentation for it is sparse, but when it came time to release CBT1 to our first round of beta testers, it was important to me that we included what we had, so that we could get it out to our beta testers ASAP. We didn’t draw too much attention to it, but we suspected (and hoped) that at least some of our first beta testers would find it and start experimenting.

My hopes were confirmed (and surpassed) when, within about five hours of the release of CBT1, a tester named PacketDancer uploaded the very first WildStar user-created Addon to our forums. That first Addon was called YoGuRT, which stood for Your GRoup Tool, and it added a basic friends list to the game (at the time, ours was still very much a work-in-progress). PacketDancer has gone on to become one of our most prolific Addon developers, uploading Addons like Journalism, Eventuality, RocketPig, and even a role-playing library called RPCore. She has taken a leadership role on the forums, helping out other Addon developers with their questions and even documenting some of the less obvious API libraries in Apollo.

Because this feature is so important to us, we wanted to do more than just say nice things to PacketDancer on our forum, so we invited her to come down and spend a couple days with us here at the Carbine fun ranch. It was a real treat for me personally to meet someone who was as excited about making Addons as I was about making it possible. PacketDancer didn’t waste the opportunity, providing me with a long list of features and changes that she would like to see in Apollo, and even sharing some of her plans for future Addons.

Those of you who have read my previous WildStar Wednesday post or heard my interview on Mog Nation’s WildCast know how passionate I am about the idea of Addons for MMORPGs. What I’ve been telling anyone who will listen for the last seven years is that this idea of democratizing (that word's much easier to write than say!) the ability to modify the game, coupled with an active community of both modders and users, brings huge added value to the entire game experience. As Addon developers upload their Addons to the community, we will see all sorts of wild and crazy and brilliant ideas (some of which will be awful!) and eventually the best of those ideas will rise to the top and may even become integrated with the base UI. It will make the game better for everyone, even those who never want to bother with installing Addons themselves.

In just a few short weeks of our closed beta, we have already seen evidence that supports this theory. The community has been fantastic, not only uploading all sorts of great Addons, but vetting those Addons, listing them, and even supporting the other Addon authors in how to make their Addons better. It really is the realization of a vision for us here at Carbine, and for me personally. I am so excited and humbled by what the community has already done, and even more excited about what they will accomplish post-launch, which is coming up in [REDACTED]! (I tease!)

Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got to get back to making this game so even more people can play it and make cool Addons for it. If you'd like to chat more, you can follow me on twitter @jonwiesman.

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