WildStar: Raiding For the Hardcore

The latest DevSpeak is revealed and Cyglaive sits down with Mike Donatelli to talk about these huge WildStar raids.

WildStar Wednesday came around a day early this week in order to reveal the game’s latest DevSpeak video, which details Eldergame Raiding. Unlike other games, raids in WildStar are not for the faint of heart and will take a multitude of skill, coordination and teamwork in order to pull these things off. So grab 20 or 40 of your closest guildies, gear up and be sure to bring your A-game, because these Raids are for the hardcore!

If that four minute action-packed trailer wasn’t enough for you, I received the chance to talk to Mike Donatelli, Product Director for Carbine Studios, about none other than what awaits players in WildStar’s raids. From the sound of it, these things will be massive and even the rooms themselves will be out to kill you and your group as you work your way through these giant labyrinths of death. WildStar will be launching with the 20-person raid of “Genetic Archives”, which includes six bosses, ten mini bosses and five events. Alongside it, the game will also have its 40-person raid, “Datascape”, which includes seven bosses, sixteen mini bosses and two event rooms. Additionally, each of these raids will have an associated "attunement quest" that a player must complete in order to gain access to the instance.

After getting a clear picture of how big these raids actually were, I asked Mike what the design process was like for these massive instances.

“Well the funny thing is, it always starts off with a little dash of lore right? Where we’re heading, and the kind of spiritual sense behind the thing. I don’t believe we [ever] sat down and said we want this, this, this and this. It ended up being six bosses, for example, because we’re pretty fluid with the design. Our combat designers and dungeon designers work right alongside the artists, and it kind of comes into being. We [do however] want to make sure that every raid has a certain number of things. We want to make sure they have giant big bosses that have a suite of telegraphs and things that are going to be interesting to fight, but we also want to have event rooms, places where the room actually [comes into play]. Where the floor falls away, or something that interacts in a giant scale. We want to make sure we have special environmental hazards that kind of make even the trash areas interesting.

“At one point in time we had a room [where] you’re fighting your way through the trash, but it’s this molten room that has this hazard that will kill you if you get ‘too hot’. The issue is that you go and fight these trash mobs and when they die, they put out this protective shield and then you have to fight within it. [So] you’re looking to where you can pull monsters next in this kind of maze-like area to turn on [the protective shield] and get across the map.

“So again, interesting boss mechanics, event rooms, certain environmental hazards, challenges and even some randomization of mini bosses; because you’re running these things a lot to get the gear you want, so you want there to be a little bit of a twist, but you don’t want to be like “where’s that big boss?” because that’s the guy you came in there to camp.”

We’ll talk about how randomization comes into play with certain mini bosses a bit later, but first I asked Mike if there were any mechanics from other MMOs that they absolutely wanted to steer clear of or wanted to embrace for WildStar.

“We have Brett Scheinert, our dungeon lead, and I think he brought in this experience [from other games], but we definitely kind of came at it from a different angle. When we talked about it originally, the thing I wanted to concentrate on personally was that pretty much old 40-man raids were: get everybody in a room and do things in that room. We’re all together, we’re all starring at each other, because you have this one giant UI and you’re trying to do this stuff.

“I wanted to kind of break that up.

“I wanted to have more—like you have ‘squads’ of guys that you send off to different wings and different areas to do things and then make it way more tactical. You as the raid leader have to control this chaos. It’s not just ‘oh hey, people on a screen’, It’s like ‘I have to control a group that is in another room, that [they] had to use a teleporter to get to and is now trying to do a different part of this pubic event in order to make the boss easier to kill.’

“So we definitely wanted to add a different style of 40-man mechanics to it and then pretty much at every turn, because we have telegraphs, it allows us to be way more strategic about where you want to be and what you’re doing. On top of that, again going back to that kind of level design, we wanted to make sure we were utilizing the three dimensional space. So you’ll find jumping puzzles [and] you’ll find these things in the 3D-space that you just don’t see a lot of in old 40-mans.”

Now if you’re a raider, or have been in previous games, then you’re probably well aware of old-school “enrage” mechanics where, if your group is severely under geared and can’t bring enough damage to kill the boss in time, he enrages and starts prancing around the room one-shotting each member of your party. While this mechanic serves its purpose of making it clear for groups that they aren’t geared enough, in terms of design it was always a bit bland compared to more interesting mechanics with clear fail or win conditions.

On that note, it seems Carbine has—so far, at least—stayed away from using hard enrage timers in either of their raids, and is relying on complex mechanics and player skill in order to determine the outcome of each fight.

“I hate to say ‘never say never’. I would hate to say that we’re never going to do that and then find a really cool way to utilize that mechanic, but we do things slightly different than that. The perfect example is in that one room where the floor falls away. A guy [in your raid group] gets a debuff, and it’s anti what you’d want to do, but your purpose [at that point] is to run to the edge, leap off and do some repelling jump back onto the platform so that it explodes off the floor, rather than on it. Because if you’re on it, you’re going to take out all of the plates and you’re going to make the raid ten times harder immediately. So really there, it’s back to skill. It’s not really ‘hey you didn’t bring the DPS, or you guys aren’t geared enough to do a thing so now we’re just gonna wipe you.’ I would say we don’t really utilize that stuff as a gate, per say.”

Piggy-backing off of our boss mechanics discussion, I asked Mike to explain how the team approaches balancing for these fights and if they were also balancing around the possibility of player-created “hybrid builds.”

“We have been tuning the fights for all kinds of wacky [compositions], so we have been turning for the idea that there’s going to be people trying these gimmick builds and bringing a whole bunch of people. But, I think we’ve nailed it down where has a role. We still have the trinity, but you have a lot of utility where you might be able to make it; instead of having a Medic, you might be able to do it with a hybrid Esper. So I would say yes, we have taken it into account, and I think we’ve balanced it with both ends of the spectrum in mind.”

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