WildStar's Jeremy Gaffney on progression, tradeskills, and endgame

Interview Wildstar's Jeremy Gaffney on Progression, Tradeskills, and Endgame
In the first part of our interview with Carbine Studios executive producer Jeremy Gaffney, we discussed everything we could about the Settler path. In this followup interview, he divulges the beautiful details on essential parts of the game: progression, tradeskills, and the elder game.

WildStar has been setting a fun tone with each new video that's released. As it turns out, that same philosophy extends to nearly every corner of the game.

Massively: How does progression work? Specifically, how do I differentiate myself from people of the same class and path?

Jeremy Gaffney:
This is in flux right now. We are in beta, and this is exactly the kinda stuff we are trying to tune right now. This will probably change, but I'll give you a snapshot of the current form. One of the ways you differentiate yourself is stats, like your brutality level or your moxie. As you raise these to pick up levels, they will unlock things for you. Some things are like more critical hit chance or special powers that unlock talent-ish things or raise your brutality high enough that now when you kill a monster, it drops a healing glob, so you can kill a bunch of littler things and give yourself a healing pool for the big guy.

We want cooler perks attached to raising your stats. Sure, getting crit chance is awesome, but unless you're a spreadsheet wizard, you never really notice. We want things that help change how you play your character.

So are these tree-like designs?

At the moment they're not. Down the line, our combat guys might tweak things so that there are more distinct paths, but we don't plan on using a talent tree structure. That's kinda been done before. A lot. But then again, it's much too early to say. It might turn out down the road to be the best visual presentation for our system.

Will differentiation continue beyond level cap?

At the high end, we have an elder game system in which you'll encounter advancement that isn't level-based. You'll see skills and perks that unlock via achievements, some of which are easy and some very difficult. Some of your early game decisions will determine the difficulty of those challenges. If you're a Granok, then you'll have more strength, which will make the strength-based unlocks easier to attain. If you're on the Soldier path, combat unlocks become easier. You won't cripple yourself by making the wrong decision, but certain achievements will be easier depending on those choices.

Interview Wildstar's Jeremy Gaffney on Progression, Tradeskills, and Endgame
How about gear?

We think it's funny that you end up seeing lots of people standing around town with the same gear on in the endgame. The greatest differentiation should be at the high level. For us that means randomized elements on equipment, customized gear, and points that unlock powers to make you different than the guy next to you.

What can you tell us about tradeskills?

Tradeskills aren't actually on our reveal schedule yet, but let me leak a little bit. We believe that tradeskills should be an intimate part of the game. By that I mean, as you walk around, surrounded by interesting things, we don't believe that you should click a node and watch a bar fill up. That's boring.

For example, when you run around in the game, you'll notice rocks that you can hit. We have lots of interesting base metals in the game, such as Explodium. It's a temp name, but it might stick because we're a little over the top. If you didn't guess, Explodium blows up when you hit it. If you're fighting a monster near it and hit it with your spells, it will damage you and the monster. Another example is when you're picking at a small rock and it turns out that the mineral is attached to the back of a large bug that runs away. Now you have to chase it down, knocking materials off it. Or perhaps a creature made from the material swallows you and then you have to knock through the creature's stomach to escape while harvesting.

We believe in variance. We don't like things that get boring. We also think that this type of system makes it harder for bot farmers to exploit. I mean, try to make a bot that chases ore nodes that run away or actually swallow you. Good luck with that. Part of this is because we want to make people play the game, not macro it.

Is the crafting advancement something we're used to? Make 10 pairs of cotton space pants?

We're trying to avoid things like make 17 bronze hammers and 12 golden swords. We have questing, but we want it to be more like achievement-type advancement. I can't go into it too deep, but we think it's a fun system.

Let me put it like this: You're growing a garden of plants on the grounds of your housing plot. Maybe sometimes you wake up and you get some rare blooms, or maybe you've managed to grow a creature that tries to kill you. We want tradeskills to involve you more than just sitting in an auction house doing the same thing over and over again.

Interview Wildstar's Jeremy Gaffney on Progression, Tradeskills, and Endgame
Do you take a similar approach with your endgame?

Elder games are even more important to us. There are several ways to set fire to a hundred-million dollars and lose it. Probably the best way is not spending time developing your endgame. Leveling is awesome, but it goes by quickly and then people leave. It's even worse if your hardcore players report back to the general public that there is nothing to do and that the game sucks. It's about what you get to as much as it is about getting there.

Right now, 50 to 70% of our team is dedicated to elder content. We need a lot of it, and it has to be replayable. A huge chunk of the coolest stuff is happening in the elder content because that's when it has to pay off. That's why we have things like War Plots, 40v40 destructible fortress PvP with captured raid bosses that you can use to fight the enemy.

We want stuff that you look forward to, and we want experiences that are hard -- content that you have to invest in and work toward.

Interview Wildstar's Jeremy Gaffney on Progression, Tradeskills, and Endgame
War Plots feel like guild PvP challenges. How about PvE stuff?

We wanted to make raiding something that more people can compete in. We love world firsts, but that is something that only 1% of the 1% can compete in. We decided a good fix was to make lots of the elements inside the raid dynamic. Make them random. Like one week there is a health-increasing spot that pops up here or extra AoE damage spread in different patterns.

We don't want raiding to be something that you go look up on Wowhead [WildStarhead?] for a solution the top guilds found four weeks ago. Guilds should have to put on their thinking caps and work together in the week before the configuration goes away. And maybe this week your guild finds a better solution and beats one of the top guilds. We want people to work together toward goals like fastest raid time. I say fastest by time in the raid, not first of the week. You shouldn't have to stay up till four in the morning to be competitive. We want to reward fun behavior and competition.

Is speed the only challenge?

Right now, it's the easy one to test, but we want to work on more like defeating bosses without armor or some of those other Fable-like challenges. We'll know more on it in the future.

Thanks again, Jeremy! And readers, don't forget to check out the rest of our articles from the recent WildStar media event!
Hands-on with WildStar's Scientist path and Esper class
WildStar's Jeremy Gaffney on the Settler path
This article was originally published on Massively.