E3 2013: WildStar press briefing and Q&A with Jeremy Gaffney

When I was told I'd get to attend a media briefing with Jeremy Gaffney, I ran to my closet and busted out my old "STFU University" shirt! Good old South Tenkarrdum Foundry University! For those who don't know (or have forgotten), Gaffney was a founder of Turbine and worked on both Asheron's Call and Asheron's Call 2, my first two MMOs. Oh, and there's that WildStar game he was talking about. That sounds pretty cool too.

Sadly, about a week before E3, I was told that Carbine wouldn't be making any big announcement at the con. This would be a catch-up conference, and from what I saw, it was mainly aimed at Korean gamers who might not already be familar in the game. I love E3 because of its international setting, and truthfully, even from "old" news you can usually find some new information if you're careful... or a selfish reporter can snag the question-asking mic two times in one briefing. Don't worry; the second time was in a big batch of "raise your hand if you have a question" end-of-the-Q&A type deals. I'm not that selfish.

As I noted, this was a catch-up conference. Carbine showed a trailer that was released way back in March, except now with Korean subtitles. The combat was a high-level dev Spellslinger with awesome effects, but again, we've seen this class and its spells before. The questions from several of the media audience members of about 60 or 70 of us were the type that you'd probably groan about ("What is 'Wild" about the game and how does it make you a 'Star'?"). Because of the need for translations, the pace was slow, and the Korean execs with Gaffney kept moving him around for photo opportunities, including right in front of the gameplay screen. Again, it's an international audience, so it was fun to see and hear some of the differences in expectations.

For example, Gaffney noted that Carbine chose the game's current look in homage of Pixar and that high-performing Western games like World of Warcraft and Team Fortress 2 use similar styles. One press rep asked via the translator, "We don't know Pixar in China or Korea. Will the art be localized?" (Short answer: Yes, a little). Gaffney noted that there's no way Carbine can make everyone happy and that some things just don't translate well. For example, when testing the appearance of the Granok for various markets, westerners gave high approval of the art, while Koreans placed it very low because they felt the hulking race looked too much like a bad guy.

For the most part, the presentation was what we've seen before: lots of developer-controlled gameplay (usually on a super character that won't die and can literally fly). Lots of mobs paid dearly to entertain us, and a vendor was quickly erected to show us that there's more than just killing in the game (though most of it was limited to that and flying around). The Korean press members were furiously typing, so I think they enjoyed it in their own way, but the rest of us seemed more familiar with the game and just wanted the Q&A.

While most of what was said was stuff we'd heard before, Gaffney did say something interesting that was somewhat subsumed under all the PAX news by all but the hardest-core fans: Players can gain experience points from their house decorations. Now, for brevity's sake, this couldn't be shown, and he didn't go into detail, but I did ask for an explanation. As some of you know, you go to your house in order to gain rest experience. However, certain house decorations, such as if you have a garden or mine, can give you experience daily. This does make me worry a little bit about ArcheAge's men who stare at goats situation sneaking into WS, but I'm sure Gaffney already has his eye on it. Having the option there is pretty cool.

The idea of the paths allowing you to play the game as you like came up, and after my experience yesterday with the Explorer, I decided to ask about this as my final question: With three of the four paths seeming to be non-combat oriented, can people level up without fighting? Now, yes, paths have separate levels from your general character level. However, Gaffney said that each zone has about 25%-33% of the content. It's not a lot, but it's not supposed to be able to be the only way to play. This is primarily a combat-based game, which isn't too surprising, and Gaffney mentioned that while it may be possible to level up without combat, it's not supposed to be optimal. Also, I apparently have great (or terrible, depending on your view) luck, since Explorers shouldn't often be finding path kill quests.

Carbine's also looking at possibly adding some mobile options to the game, options that either help you play the game or simply add to the WS IP. The servers currently handle about 3.5k-7k players, but what the studio wants is for players to essentially feel as if they're living in small towns and know their communities. Future expansions may take place on the planets or moons around Nexus. The business model reveal is supposedly coming in a few months. And as we knew, there will be an open beta for before release.

One thing that stood out to me from Gaffney was his comment that while Carbine felt the game was fun when the team played it internally, it was more fun when the players joined in. This is related to one of my biggest issues with the current way the news has been revealed: only via the devs. We've seen Settlers in videos, but only when devs control it. Wouldn't it be far more impressive to actually show something players are doing? When we're flying around Nexus and showing off our crew housing, it's fine to hear about people being able to make mazes, but wouldn't it be better to show us one that a player actually made?

ArcheAge has done that since closed beta, and it generated a good amount of hype. I know WS doesn't need as much hype to begin with, but the reason some of us are skeptical is because, well, we've been promised a lot before. I've seen devs literally create mountains on live beta servers, which was cool, but it wasn't ever really utilized inside the launch game. The game had promised a lot in dev-led previews, but if and when that reached the players, they felt cheated that it wasn't quite like what they'd seen. When we see developers instantly build a town and then find that we, for example, actually need to farm stone for a month in order to build a single tavern, it obviously has a negative impact on people, especially when those players haven't experienced that before.

One final note about the interview, one for which I'm issuing a spoiler warning for lore people just in case: Something bad happened to the Eldan. They didn't just disappear, and the thing that got them is coming for the players.

Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 10-13, bringing you all the best news from E3 2013. We're covering everything from WildStar and Elder Scrolls Online and ArcheAge to FFXIV's inbound revamp and TERA's latest update, so stay tuned!
This article was originally published on Massively.