What is WildStar: Raids
By David "Scooter" Bass - 20 March, 2013
We have a IMO awesome new video that’s come out, talking about what exactly makes WildStar well…WildStar. Why awesome? Well, I’ve been making games for 20 years now (sheesh) and it’s the first time I’ve seen us have to throw out takes from a professional VO actor because he started laughing in the middle of his audio takes. Or say after certain takes: “what the eff did I just say?? And what the hell game are you making?” So, win.
Let’s start digging in a little deeper on what’s in that puppy.
We’ll start with Elder Games – and specifically Raids (though solo elder games and PVP elder games get love from us too). For us, we think that a solid raiding game is critically important, because coordinated elder game group gameplay is both (done right) fun as hell and super challenging, which is exactly the kind of thing we like to attach great rewards too.
And to hell with just having a raid system for the sake of it – we want one cool enough where the best raiding guilds come to WildStar. Which means we need to both do the regular stuff well and have some cool new stuff to take things to the next level.
So we’re a bit old-school. Big ass raids. Tough raids. Raids you have to earn your way into beating, and raids that aren’t made so your grandma can make it through. Sure, we can make things easier over time - but only if there are new challenges to give a tough time to the hardest of the hardcore.
And we want to be new-school, and then graduate from that and use the learning to design a yet newer school. Dynamic content. Competitive weekly challenges based on the dynamic changes during the week. Epic rewards weekly for being the best or the fastest on your server or worldwide.
But here’s the trick: as we’re prototyping and doing final implementation on all this, we need you the player in there telling us when we’ve nailed it and what doesn’t work. So closed beta (soon, by the way) is going to be a critical time to gather a ton of feedback not about what we hype up in words and videos, nor what gets batted about on the forums…but about where the rubber meets the road as we actually have systems fully in game and get real players in a dialogue with us about what works and what doesn’t.
We’re getting pretty damn close to kicking beta off because systems and content are coming online on a weekly basis and this is exactly the kind of feedback we need (and thrive on). So comment away, opinions are welcome! And we’ll do our best to get things kicked off where y’all can gauge it for yourself. With that, here’s our esteemed dungeon lead Timetravel to talk about his area of expertise.
Jeremy asked me to put together a few words describing what raids mean to us in WildStar. A few short sentences cannot hope to delve into the topic enough, but I'll try to give an (all-too-brief) overview of some of the things that drive our creativity and design philosophies on the dungeon team.
Three things stand out (well, four, but I'm not allowed to talk about itemization yet…):
Adapting to WildStar Combat
WildStar's combat is heavily focused on free-form targeting, telegraphs, and player movement. While familiar to most, this is a new approach to combat in many ways and has both forced and allowed us to structure our encounter design around it. The encounters will often be familiar to players - we're not shying away from the idea of tanks and healers, for instance - but the encounters will also play out in fresh and exciting ways. The telegraph system, both for players and NPCs, creates an exciting amount of movement and positioning throughout. This, to me, makes the fights exceptionally engaging - I love fights that keep me on my toes, no matter what role I'm filling.
These mechanics also scale well from solo to group all the way up to raid combat, as an increasing number of players also increases the number of varied (and devilishly punishing) obstacles that we can implement. With our amazing artists and programmers, even the room you're standing in can become a part of the epic nature of some of the encounters.
Week to Week (and Fight to Fight) Variance
Raids are never intended to be one-shot content. Our goal, and the goal of most raid content, is provide extremely challenging repeatable content for players to enjoy and battle against over an extended period of days, weeks, or months. One of the design goals we've had since the beginning, which Jeremy and Mike Donatelli have both talked about in interviews, is to work our hardest to keep that content fresh. The zone and encounters should remain familiar from week to week but also offer enough variance to feel fresh as well. We've worked hard to incorporate that in many ways within our instances, from 5-man dungeons all the way up through the biggest 40-man raids. We want players to look forward to the instance each week, not dread a slog through 'repetitive' content just to improve their +2 Sword of Boss-slaying to +3.
Dungeon layouts, encounter composition, individual abilities, inherently random events, progression paths within an instance…we've really tried to push the number of ways to keep things fresh as much as possible. Our class system also allows us to create encounters with a very different raid composition required to face it without crippling the raids--our players will be able to modify their roles and abilities quickly and easily while not in combat, giving each encounter the freedom to be different from each other.
I touched on this briefly in the last section, but some of the big draws raid content has for many of our employees are the sheer challenges they present, the achievement felt upon defeating an extremely difficult encounter, and feeling of progression through such hard instances. (Also, totally off topic, but "many of our employees" is no exaggeration. We set up a brainstorming meeting a long time ago with the basic premise of "What do y'all want to see in our Raid content?" and asked for only folks who considered themselves experienced raiders to attend. I, uh, I'm pretty sure half the company signed up and attended - opinions in tow - for the meeting.) Challenging content and the joy it can bring is something that many folks here are very passionate about, and we really want to bring that sort of meta gameplay to all of our players. Jeremy has talked about rankings and weekly challenges before as something we'll have - on top of the difficult and rewarding content for our PvE-focused players.
The last point on this topic, is to not assume that raids will be "the endgame" as is the case in many MMOs. It is simply "an endgame." For players who don't love this sort of content, there will be many other avenues and heaps of other Elder game content that will not require a player to set a foot inside a 20- or 40-man instance. But I'm a raider at heart, so I'm really looking forward to gifting you all with the most enjoyable wipes I can manage!
Hopefully this gives y'all a taste of some of the philosophies behind our PvE group content. Sign up for beta, I'll see you in there!
May the repair bills be ever in your favor =)