WildStar: Meet the Mordesh

The WildStar Q&A is a follow-up to the two new races announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2013. This Q&A is with Dr. Victor Lazarin and makes me continue to wish I was in the closed beta!

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Q: Hello, Dr. Lazarin. Thanks for talking with us today. Is this for me?
A: It is.

Q: Oh. What am I supposed to do with it?
A: As it is a liquid, I would recommend you imbibe it.

Q: Hmmm. It has kind of a chalky undertaste. Is this a traditional Mordesh beverage?
A: Not exactly.

Q:  Well, it’s the thought that counts. So you’re a Mordesh. From what I hear, you guys are pretty skilled at alchemy.
A: Indeed.

Q: So you can do things like turn lead into gold?
A: Lead into gold? Laughable.

Q: I know! I can’t believe anyone’s stupid enough to still consider that possible…
A: We mastered such child’s play millennia ago. While the focus of my own labors is somewhat singular, my colleagues keep themselves diverted with decanting corporeity, the liquefaction of algorithmic adjacency, as well as more complex various concoctions far beyond your ability to comprehend.

Q: That’s probably an understatement.  So what’s it like being a space zombie?
A: “Space zombie” is a preposterous pejorative. Statistically we occupy far more time planetside.

Q: What about the zombie part?
A: Do I appear to you an abomination with an appetite for the living?

Q: Well…yes?
A: My proclivities do not run in that vein, I assure you. Any interests I have in removing your skull and applying my attentions to your brain are purely clinical.

Q: Whew! That’s a load off of my mind.  But just to be clear, you guys weren’t always this…hideous and disgusting? If you’ll pardon the expression.
A:  We are no longer quite as majestic as we once were.

Q: So what happened?
A: We were formerly a more visually advantageous race. But although we enjoyed long lifespans, we were fervently fascinated by the figure of death, flagrantly flaunting its finality. My goal was to forever free us from its yoke. To preserve those dear to us who might still be saved.

Q: And your solution?
A: I created the Everlife Elixir.

Q: Which was supposed to grant you eternal life?
A: Your power to perceive the obvious is truly impressive.

Q: Thanks! But it didn’t work out exactly as planned?
A: No. Instead it cursed us with the Contagion.

Q: And turned you all into space zombies?
A: Correct. Of course, it did technically cease the aging process. To that extent my experiment was a success.

Q: I guess there’s a silver lining in everything. Does looking corpselike make it hard to date?  Or do you just wear a lot of extra cologne?
A: The Contagion prevents procreation. I had hopes that the Vitalus Serum would have restored us in this capacity, but it did not.

Q: Vitalus Serum. That’s the blue goo in those segments of your limbs? What exactly does it do?
A: Vitalus moderates the madness and its attendant…appetites.

Q: What happens if you don’t have it?
A: I go mad and aggressively attack the nearest organism. Naturally.

Q: Oh. But interviewers don’t count, right?
A: You are an organism, are you not?

Q: Let’s move on. When your Elixir backfired, the Dominion quarantined your planet Grismara and left the survivors to die. Are you bitter?
A: The serious scientist does not allow sentiment to seep into his study. If a subject is infected, he simply and carefully slices the tumor free from the patient, freeing the rest of the organism from having to suffer its delusions of grandeur in the name of prophetic destiny.

Q: Noted. Thanks for your time, Dr. Lazarin. Good luck with finding your cure.
A: Your attentions are appreciated, as is your assistance.

Q: Thanks. Wait, what?
A: I took the liberty of testing my latest tincture on you.

Q: Uh. When was this?
A: Your beverage.

Q: What did you give me?
A: Assuming my proportions were correct, in moments you will be experiencing pan-dimensional synoptic enhancement, enabling you to simultaneously see in eight spectra and thirty-eight dimensions. I suggest exercising caution, however. The inhabitants can see you as well.

Q:  Ha, you had me going there for a sec – AAARRGGHHH!!!  The HORROR!  I CAN SEE TOO MUCH!!!!
A: Solvent successful.

WildStar: Meet the Chua

The WildStar devs certainly have been doing a stellar job conveying to the player community the sense of humor and fun they’re hoping the game actually delivers on at launch. Here’s the introduction Q&A for the Chua.

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Q: Thanks for finding the time to speak with us today, Mondo Zax. I know you don’t usually do interviews.
A: Don’t like interviews. Questions annoy Mondo. Things die when Mondo gets annoyed.

Q: Good to know. You’re a Chua, right? Tell me about that.
A: Chua best inventors in galaxy. Make stuff to make empire more powerful. Using science!

Q: You Chua are also quite notorious for your… sense of humor?
A: Yes! Chua like making people laugh.

Q: Really? I’ve heard that victims of your pranks suffer a 68% fatality rate.
A: Lies! Fatality rates for pranks NEVER less than 79%!

Q: Didn’t mean to sell you short. Can you give me an example of one of your pranks?
A: Certainly. Reporter asks nosy questions. Mondo straps reporter with explosives. Mondo laughs.

Q: Let’s talk more about you specifically. What was your childhood like?
A: Mondo’s childhood very difficult. Smallest of twelve siblings. Siblings treated Mondo badly.

Q: I see. You weren’t on good terms with them?
A: Excellent terms! Once they were gone…

Q: Right. Rumor has it they all disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
A: “Unexplained.” Not “mysterious.”

Q: Care to comment further?
A: Sure. You remind Mondo of his siblings. Gives Mondo ideas…

Q: Ahem. Moving on. You, um, overcame all these…obstacles…and became renowned for your mechanical ingenuity. And then the Dominion decided to give you a job?
A: Yes! Made Mondo Chief Technologist of DRED.

Q: DRED? What’s that?
A: Hmmm. Mondo could tell you. But much more efficient to kill you and forget you asked question.

Q: Err, that sounds rather extreme…
A: Mondo only kidding! About the forgetting part.

Q: Is DRED, uh, short for something?
A: Dominion Research and Experimentation Division. Top secret. Unlimited funding. Makes deadly technology for empire.

Q: So basically you sit around and dream up new and exciting ways to blow stuff up?
A: Not always. Only some things explode.

Q: What else do you make?
A: Skeletal vaporizers. Defoliant sprinklers. Tank melters. Death beds. Human cannons. Attack-o-lanterns. And many, many more.

Q: Like the Planet Reapers you designed to ravage Arboria?
A: Arboria? Arboria…ah, yes! Planet 45658b. High mineral content. Mildly useful.

Q: Did you feel bad about the populace you dispossessed?
A: Populace?

Q: The Aurin? They lived there.
A: You mean Treegazers? Barely sentient. Extinction best solution.

Q: Some say the Planet Reapers are the most horrifying machines ever invented.
A: Flattery appreciated! But those just prototypes. Working on bigger model. More fuel-efficient. Runs on prisoners of war.

Q: Hm. Well, hope that works out for you. Tragically, looks like we’re out of time. Thanks again for speaking with us, Mondo. Wait…what’s that thing in your hand?
A: Organ Immolator.

Q: Really? Awesome! What does it do?
A: Superheats internal organs of victims.

Q: Hold on…why are you pointing it at me?
A: Field test.

Q: Actually, being subjected to scientific experiments is no longer in my contract…
A: Hold still. Might hurt a bit.

Q: Uh. No, wait…please…ARRRGGGHHHHH! MY PANCREAS! IT BUUURRRNNNSSS!
A: Interviews fun! Can’t wait for next time.

Elder Scrolls Online: Interview with Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konkle (TenTonHammer.com)

This is a nice article that covers first person view, alliance wars, endgame theorycrafting, and next-gen consoles.

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ESO Interview with Nick Konkle

We recently sat down for a candid discussion about the unstoppable MMO juggernaut in the making, Elder Scrolls Online, with lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle. Topics of discussion included the implementation of first-person view, cross-platform gameplay considerations, and the ways character builds will be a constantly shifting component of Alliance Wars PvP.


First-Person View in ESO

For a lot of gamers, the seminal Elder Scrolls experience involves playing in first-person view. While plenty of MMOs give players the option to zoom the camera into first-person, few really factor in the visual aspects of seeing equipped weapons and the sizable impact it can have on feeling truly engaged in combat. In other words, it’s kind of like playing an FPS, only without seeing the assault rifle you have equipped so the bullets just magically appear from somewhere off-screen each time you pull the trigger.

Earlier this year we were given a sneak peak at how this aspect of ESO was shaping up, but at that point it wasn’t a playable option in the press demo builds. It certainly looked badass, but we were curious about how has that aspect of the game’s development been progressing, and if there were any unexpected hurdles in the implementation process.

Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konlke explained, “It came together much faster and better than I was expecting. Sometimes when you go from prototype to playable, it’s pretty good but then once you get to mass production it can introduce 75 new issues. It didn’t go that way this time. Instead, it was suddenly two months later and it’s in and we’re done, so that was good.

A thing that did surprise me is that I’m not really a first-person gamer, though I do play Elder Scrolls interchangeably. For example, I played Skyrim in first, and Oblivion in third-person. So when first-person went in our game I was expecting it to be similar, like I could play it this way, but I probably won’t. But I do. It’s absolutely my preferred way to play now. It’s just super immersive and cool, and it’s the only way I play now. We’ve noticed with MMO purists, they start liking first-person with a ranged weapon like a bow or staff, and then after they get used to the basics of the perspective change they take the whole thing on that way.”

Alliance Wars and the Character Build Metagame

While I’m more inclined to stick to third-person in most MMOs, it’s rarely a matter of immersion for me so much as the heightened spatial and situational awareness. Even having gone through a fairly hardcore period playing first-person shooters, I want as much visual feedback as possible in competitive situations. This will no doubt hold doubly true when it comes to the size and scope of Alliance Wars PvP in ESO.

Speaking of Alliance Wars, we were really interested in learning more about how that slice of the game is progressing given it’s a major component of the long-tail gameplay and endgame for Elder Scrolls Online.

Nick explained, “All the testing is still internal, but we’re pretty excited to get that part of the game into the beta. We just had a big office-wide PvP test that was quite a bit of fun, and there are any number of anecdotes that I could share from that experience. But let’s just say it’s pretty big; there are some epic battles going on with 50 on 50 groups meeting on the open field.

The main thing that I’m really happy about as a result of this is that we’re getting a lot of builds tested. We’re in the middle of a lot of balancing and adjustments in development, and a lot of times even a small balance tweak will lead to whole shifts in the metagame around the office in terms of what build is now the popular one.

The three or four builds that are really popular changes every couple of months, and they don’t always align with what you’d expect. So what’s the coolest to me is that people will have their weird random builds that they make out of their Elder Scrolls characters and they go into PvP and they make them work. That’s my dream.”

One of the signs of a great elder game competitive system is that you never reach a point where things feel static. As new flavor-of-the-month builds rise to prominence, the system needs to offer enough flexibility for proper counters to those builds to be formulated.

Nick was quick to agree. “Any particular build needs to have a counter. Similarly, with any ability that’s more powerful or possibly sets up a sequence for a style of play, you need to make sure that there’s something you can do when you fight against that. As long as I don’t think the counter system comes down to A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A and that’s the metagame. You want a really big wheel that no one can actually map all the way out so that it constantly shifts. You don’t want it to be cookie-cutter at any level.”

Simple rock-paper-scissors systems definitely don’t cut it when it comes to metagame balance. With the three factions present in ESO there is potential for that layer to be present, but that’s on a much grander and more tactical scale as opposed to the drilled-down character build level. In ESO there will no doubt be certain builds that are considered a bit more iconic. A pure healer build where you focus on the healing staff and full light armor would be one such example.

We were also curious if there were any team-level build concepts that have come into play so far in the office play sessions that were either unexpected, or have in some way helped influence how different counters have been introduced. A perfect example here would be in any MMO that has PBAoE abilities, you’re bound to see character stacking occur; the idea being you stack a bunch of DPS and healer builds in one big clump and they can be extremely difficult to take down unless proper counters exist.

Nick noted, “It’s funny you should mention that, because early on that was a very common thing where people would essentially create a giant PBAoE bomb. That was actually super popular in Dark Age of Camelot.

To counter that, there’s a skill called Anti-Magic Field that drops down a bubble where anyone who tries to cast a spell will get zapped: they’ll be silenced and take a bunch of damage. So if you’re an opposing sorcerer and you’ve got that on your bar, and see a group getting ready to do a PBAoE bomb, you drop that down and all they do is stun and silence themselves.

Anti-Magic Field is interesting in that it provides a strong counter for that, but it’s also an Ultimate, so it takes a pretty long time to charge. But then there’s kind of that risk vs. reward layer about using it. So you can potentially bait it and get a player to use it too early and then do the bomb immediately after.”

ESO and Next Gen Consoles

The launch delay announcement for ESO during E3 2013 caught a lot of people’s attention, and became one of the biggest news stories out of the event for MMO gamers. What’s interesting is that there hadn’t necessarily been any specific dates previously announced, other than a loose target window for the latter part of 2013.

That said, the other major part of that announcement involved Elder Scrolls Online being developed for the upcoming PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, keeping with the cross-platform release model that helped both Oblivion and Skyrim become such huge commercial successes. While that announcement obviously needed to be held back until after Sony and Microsoft had their grand reveals, we couldn’t help but ask Nick how development on the new consoles had been going so far.

“I think the main thing we discovered was that we were already headed in a certain direction with the style of game we were making in terms of a lot of things that are in common with modern console RPGs. So the technology just happens to line up really well with where we are in our schedule. So the technology is there and we can do it, and the design of the game didn’t have to change. It was more a case of making a few tweaks here and there, but fundamentally the game is identical. That allows us to present the same game across all platforms.”

In terms of any special considerations that needed to be made for things like the pacing of combat or the active dodging mechanic, Nick went on to note, “For someone like me who is into the nitty gritty details of it sure, but for the majority of players, not so much. There are some things like locomotion or run animations where you have to make those a bit smoother to account for joysticks. Then you also have to make sure the keybindings work across everything.

So there are some minor things here and there, but we haven’t had to adjust any major mechanic as we intended it to work in the PC version of the game.”

Still no word on whether a special netbook client for ESO will be made available, but we’ll keep you posted on any new developments in that department.

Original TenTonHammer Article

Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade – Exclusive Interview (TenTonHammer.com)

Wow! What a score for TenTonHammer! Warhammer 40k has been a long-awaited MMO and this exclusive interview gives us the inside scoop on how long conflicts can last (weeks to months!), that it’s being developed more as a sandbox MMO, and that Warhammer 40k will be FREE TO PLAY. Oh, by the way, you can combine your ships with others forming one massive ship (e.g. guild halls). Uh, hell yeah!

Head below the asterisks to read the original article.

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In a week full of surprise announcements, few have had MMO gamers more excited than the unexpected rebirth of the Warhammer 40k MMO. While the game wasn’t officially being shown at E3, Miguel Caron, Head of the Online Studio at Behaviour Interactive was awesome enough to sit down with Ten Ton Hammer to discuss the design concepts behind the game, expected to launch sometime in 2015.

Our discussion touched on a typical day in the life of a 40k player, the player run chain of command, playable races, and plenty of other interesting tidbits. As I listened to Miguel’s impassioned descriptions of the game, it became readily apparent that he’s just as excited about making the game as fans of the 40k universe are to play it.

WH4K Battle

Space Marines like to come in large numbers.

From a stormbird’s eye view, Warhammer 40k will be somewhat of a sandbox game along the lines of EVE Online, only given a bit more structure in terms of how large-scale conflicts play out. The scale of these conflicts is said to be absolutely massive, or about double that of any other multiplayer game currently on the market.

As Miguel explained, “In terms of technology, we’re currently aiming to double the amount of players on the same battlefield over the biggest game right now. I want to give the visceral feeling of what it is to be part of the war. And it’s not an easy war, but a very dirty war.”

Another thing Miguel was quick to point out is that gamers do tend to like having some form of win condition involved, no matter the type of game they happen to be playing. As such, conflicts in the Warhammer 40k MMO will last anywhere from two weeks up to a few months in duration.

“One of the things I hate in massive warfare games is that there is no winner; they never finish. So what we’re aiming for is campaigns that run from two weeks to three months. The reason why I’m saying from two weeks to three months is because I don’t know who’s going to win, and how fast they’re going to win.

There are four different races that you’ll be able to play. The first will be the Dark Angels from the Space Marines, the Iron Warriors for Chaos, and then the Eldar and the Orks. Then I control the Tyranid – they can’t really be controlled by players because it’s a hive mind.

For example, if I see a huge population of Space Marines playing in the US for a new campaign and they outnumber everyone else to the point they’re about to wipe out the entire planet within days, suddenly the Tyranid would be a lot more interested in them. We’re not going to try and counter that kind of imbalance too much, but enough to help campaigns last for those two weeks.”

A Day in the Life

A typical day in the life of your character might play out something like this. You log on and create your character. From there you load into the game, and will spawn on your ship, which serves both as a form of player housing and flying trophy case all in one. If you decide to permanently join a squad with other players, the group of you will even be able to combine your ships into one massive vessel. If that happens, you’ll each retain your own individual compartments, but will effectively have a guild hall for your squad, making it easier to connect and dive into the action together.

In the GRIM DARKNESS of the future, there is additional grim darkness.

With that squad, you might get voted by your friends to become squad leader. As such, you’ll have the ability to issue objectives for the rest of your squad, in effect creating content for them.

In terms of the overarching chain of command and how it fits into the game, Miguel explained, “When you start the game, the objectives that you have are not given by us, they’re given by other players. We have three ranks of hierarchy: squad leaders, chapter leaders, and then the war council for the whole race. There will be requirements you’ll need to meet to become a squad leader and above, but the players will vote for you to become one of them.

We have a whole system where players can nominate their friends as their squad leader. And then all the squad leaders will nominate someone to be chapter leader. Finally, all the chapter leaders will nominate and vote on who they want to be part of the war council for the whole race.

So when you start as a new player, the objectives that you’ll have will be coming from that war council, chapter leaders, and squad. If you decide to follow these objectives, you’ll gain an XP bonus. So you don’t have to do those objectives, only if you want to get the bonus XP. But the purpose of the game is to make sure your race wins; you’re there playing to win the war. But what this system does is it allows players to invent gameplay for their race.”

Welcome to the Machine

The game will be free-to-play, but if there were any two things that Miguel stressed above all others, it would be his insistence that the 40k MMO be the most immersive game it possibly can be, and that he does not want the game to have any pay to win elements.

An example of items players might be able to purchase that would help fulfill both of those needs would be additional, unique executions for each faction. When you fall on the battlefield, your squad or other members of your faction have the opportunity to revive you rather than immediately forcing you to respawn at another location. However, an enemy still has the opportunity to ‘execute’ you, Think of this almost like finishing downed players in Guild Wars 2 PvP.

Tyranid vs. Eldar

Eldar vs. Tyranids will be happening. The above screen is from Dawn of War II.

In the Warhammer 40k MMO, you’ll be able to do some standard executions, or there could be more interesting or elaborate executions you can purchase. These will be faction-specific, so imagine seeing an Ork Boy run up to a defeated Space Marine and dancing around a bit before sitting down on and squashing his head.

In terms of server structure, the game is going to be one massive game world. Different instances of specific areas might spawn, but Miguel is conscious of the need to keep players connected with this type of setup. The idea here is that you should be able to click on your friend or squad member’s name and it will instantly summon them to the same version of the world that you’re in.

Before we wrap things up (don’t worry, we have loads more info on the 40k MMO to follow soon!), another of the comments made by Miguel about what sets this game apart from other MMOs out there certainly struck a chord with me.

“The game has very simple gameplay, yet is also very, very deep. The premise is that there is only war; it’s total warfare. Now, there’s a lot of depth to it, but I’m not going to hold your hand and tell you a story. I’m not going to have you playing a Space Marine mining ore or things like that, because they don’t do that. You’re not going to care about delivering some package to Ms. Smith. This is a game about total warfare. It’s impossible to please everybody, but I can guarantee I will please the core fans amassed around the 40k universe.”

From what we’ve heard about the game so far, it’s definitely piqued our interest to say the least. Stay tuned for more details and info on the Warhammer 40k MMO from our discussions with Miguel Caron. In the meantime, be sure to let us know your thoughts about the announcement and info revealed about the game so far!

Original TenTonHammer.com Article

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