[WS] Arkship 2013

We have visited Carbine Studios and chatted with pleasant folks. The build we saw was a few milestones old, most of what was said was already covered in their recent info dump, and things said after a few drinks are under NDA, so I am mostly going to be working from links here. They have started releasing their “personality videos” (trailers/previews), and I am hoping they release some of the “making of” footage they have, because it’s fun; we saw the voice actor mugging through the Dominion video and met the winsome lass who acted out the Exiles video for the animators.

The surprise hit of the event? The prop room. That is the shared office space for the artists working on “everything that doesn’t breathe or move,” all the items and buildings. There was great enthusiasm from and about the half-dozen artists who came in to show their stuff. When meeting zone designers, there was at least as much oohing and ahing about their (proprietary) design software as the zones being worked on.

Over the weekend, two of our favorite sites independently cited some major challenges for WildStar, so I will give them the floor. Keen recommends finding your niche because competing head-on with WoW, Rift, EQ(s), FF(s), GW2, LotRO, SW:TOR, and all the smaller games already in that design space is very red ocean thinking. A game would do well to have 1% of WoW’s peak playerbase, but there is a big fight for that scrap, and are you budgeted for that? It is a crowded design space, and so far the big selling point for WildStar is “layering,” which you could somewhat cynically cash out as “stack as many systems and implementations as you can and bank on emergent gameplay.” New combinations of existing elements is in a strict sense what we are all doing, but it may not be the strongest selling point. Spinks calls it a smorgasbord approach, give the players everything and let them pick their own paths. She specifically cites the oddity that WildStar has a game design element explicitly called “paths” but restricts characters to picking one of four, so not all the layers are always available (although you could group to share in path content).

My summary view of their challenge in designing and selling the game is “don’t be ‘Rift in space,’” especially if you multiply the relative subscription numbers of WoW:Rift and WoW:WoW with lightsabers. The available details do not put a lot of daylight between them and the competition unless that layering leads to some awesome emergent gameplay. We did see a bit of that, the build we saw was months old, and what they were allowed to hint at has some prospects, so this has promise. Surprisingly, given my preferences, the combat and PvP panel was the one I found most interesting, informative, and innovative. They have found new areas in both design spaces (warplots have already been mentioned, and you get a combat hint in the “demolition” section of the Soldier video).

They are taking a more recent version of what we saw to PAX East, so attendees can preview it there.

: Zubon

9 thoughts on “[WS] Arkship 2013

  1. Patrician

    Isn’t their housing system alone a gigantic plus for a market where housing is rare, and if it’s in, it’s always something tacked on post launch that ends up instanced?

    Then again, if you guys didn’t get to see any of it, not like you could really report on it I suppose. But still, the video we’ve seen on housing looks amazing and not something any of the other MMOs out there have really offered us.

    Sometimes I think people discount housing too much just because WoW didn’t have it, but a gamer like me has been looking for a great housing system since EQ2 and has yet to find it.

    1. Zubon Post author

      P.T. Rotostar did appear at Arkship.

      Housing is definitely a plus, particularly when compared to the implementations in Asheron’s Call, LotRO, or (ahem) WoW. Carbine has yet to announce anything completely new for housing, not to be found in say EQ2 or Istaria (to say nothing of ATitD), although it goes beyond cosmetics and those cosmetic assets are nice.

      1. Patrician

        That’s great to hear! I think it’s also important to note that the only real competition they might have in terms of games with housing right now is Rift, and I don’t think Rift does anything exceptionally better than them right now, right?

        Last time I played the game I stopped fairly early just because of how small the world felt, for example.

        I also find their graphic design rather unique, as it feels like the evolution of WoW’s cartoony aspects. More in-line with TF2 and Pixar. I think that could potentially be a major draw for consumers.

        The buzz one can generate from easy to create fan Machinima alone can be pretty large.

  2. Mekhios

    I think it’s great you guys got to see an early build but I don’t see anything that really distinguishes this from yet another over-hyped MMO in an already crowded and tired MMO market. Are we forever destined to receive tourist MMO’s?

  3. bhagpuss

    Am I imagining it or do you sound distinctly underwhelmed in that write-up? Although what with only seeing an outdated build, only hearing repeats of stuff that had already been announced and not being able to report anything that may have slipped out “off the record” in the bar afterwards, I guess it’s hardly surprising.

    I’m looking forward to WildStar but I’m not getting any hopes up. A bit of fun for a while is all I’m expecting.

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