Massively Exclusive: An interview with WildStar's Jeremy Gaffney

It's a nice enough town, if you don't mind the robots and floating rocks.
Big releases from the WildStar development team at Carbine Studios seem to be few and far between, which is why the recent footage from early testing was such a breath of fresh air. Aside from showing off some of the game's role-based content for Settlers and Scientists, it also displayed new environments, new combat elements, and the unique graphical flair that attracted fans even before anything had been said about gameplay.

We gamers are a curious bunch, though, and seeing a bunch of cool new stuff doesn't stop us from asking questions. Executive producer and design director Jeremy Gaffney recently hosted an AMA session on Reddit, but he was also kind enough to answer a few more questions from us here at Massively about combat flow, racial differentiation, and the usual character roles in MMOs. Take a look past the break at what the game will offer players when it finally goes live... which most WildStar fans agree can't be soon enough.

Being able to hurtle into the air is always satisfying.  In every game.  Ever.Massively: WildStar is clearly leaning more toward the action model of combat a la TERA and Guild Wars 2. What's different about the game's combat as it currently stands compared to those titles?

Jeremy Gaffney: For us, it's all about variety -- individual creatures have lots of different attacks and vulnerabilities plus different combinations of these. So one creature might knock you over with a pattern that effectively removes your ability to dodge side to side, another might have a vulnerable spot behind it that is exposed during a particularly powerful attack, and much much more.

Also, we try to have lots of different interactive things in the environment. Fighting a creature in a different area lets you try different tricks -- luring it into mines, near a carnivorous flower, etc.

The key is to reward skill during combat: The better you play, and the more you master an individual creature's attacks and use the environment, the more you get bonuses to XP or damage or otherwise.

Settlers will be able to place structures, but will they be able to make outposts away from existing hubs? Will there be player housing for Settlers?

Settlers will be able to place structures in quest hubs and also make outposts further afield. We're tuning these systems today, and as we get through testing and feedback, we'll dig deeply into these questions and explain exactly how they work in the game. So stay tuned!

The alpha footage showed what looked like a double-jump, which prompts the question -- how mobile will characters be? Will mobility vary based on race? (Obviously Granok aren't very stealthy; perhaps they're not very light on their feet either?)

All races can double-jump; it just felt too cruel to leave out the Granok. Double-jumping is strangely addictive; I have no clue why!

Many of the racial differences are in initial stat differences and then also in late-game systems, which are part of the elder game. In general, our philosophy is that all the races have access to the cool bits, but for some it's more expensive to acquire than others: Granok might have to pay more for access to agility-style powerups and less for strength-like ones, and vice versa for Aurin. This way you're not perma-gimped by a choice you made at character creation, but there is still flavor amongst the races. We'll talk a lot more about that as we dig into our elder game systems.

The AMA discussed solo story content as opposed to the "all story content in endgame raids" model. Will players have personal stories a la Star Wars: The Old Republic or just major overarching quest chains?

We're not talking a ton of details on this yet (in part we need much more implementation/iteration/testing).

Any thoughts or discussions happening about a business model at this point?

Lots of thoughts, lots of discussions, but no announcement at this time. We get asked this a ton, though, and we'll do what makes sense for our fans' wallets as well as our own.

Is it a robot attack, or just laser indigestion?  Or both?A lot of statements from developers indicate that WildStar is meant to be very distinct from other games. Does this extend to the "holy trinity" model of tank/DPS/healer? Is the game embracing that model or using a different setup for player roles?

I think the "holy trinity" is a bit tough to get away from, personally. We try to let you play the way you want to play. Classes generally have multiple roles they can spec for, and everyone has the option of being a primary damage dealer if he wants, which allows for a bit more group flexibility.

As we've been working on our battlefield-control style combat system, it's made the roles a bit more interesting. Healers can put down beacons that allow players to self-heal for instance so they can, if they're spec'ed correctly, focus more on other aspects of the fights. So there are original takes on some of the roles, or changes to the gameplay of the roles, moreso than an attempt to do away with the holy trinity entirely.

How important are the environmental effects seen in the alpha footage to combat?

In many areas, environmental effects are a way to min-max your XP or time per combat. In areas with particularly tough creatures, rare spawns, etc., our goal is to tune so that they may well be the difference between life and death if you use them well, and certainly part of maximizing the return on a given fight.

But they're often part of the complete package. In one zone, huntresses wander around, cheering you on and giving you reputation rewards based on the toughness of the creature you fight, with exploding mushrooms nearby and cages of creatures being dropped from the sky. This area is seeded for hunting: Flying ships are dropping cages with mobs hostile to both the player and the native creatures. If you don't get squished by a falling cage, you might get eaten by the contents...

As an advanced player, you'll find it's quite engaging to optimally use all of that at the same time. And that's just level 6... but not every area is quite as chock-full of that. The goal is variety, not monotony.

Last but not least, it has to be asked -- any idea when players can start expecting announcements on a wider testing base?

We don't have anything to announce yet, but I can say that our testing is going really well and that we are getting great ideas and feedback right now. As our large-scale systems move into testing mode, we're going to run out of literal friends and family at some point though -- more to come, for sure!

We'd like to thank Mr. Gaffney for taking the time to answer our questions!

This article was originally published on Massively.