I flew in to WildStar’s Arkship 2013 with a preconceived notion that had been implemented by Guild Wars 2 Fan Day. Fan Day was an event where there was no NDA, and we were asked to discuss/ Tweet/ blog/ soapbox-on-an-NYC-street-corner just about everything we had seen. Arkship was different. We weren’t there to advertise anything to the community. We were there because Carbine wanted to get to know us, they wanted us to network with each other, and they wanted our constructive, helpful, and brutal feedback on systems that might not be ready for public consumption. It took me most of Friday night to realize this.
After all the panels on Saturday, I sat down with veteran MMO dev Jen Gordy (of Mythic and Turbine fame). She is on Carbine’s PvP team, and of all the available seats at dinner time I made sure to sit with her right away. The discussion centered mostly on PvP, but there were some issues regarding general gameplay that she was really receptive to. It was great talking to her because WildStar is going to have some great PvP support. I can’t wait to talk about news on that end when it goes public. One thing I really appreciated was her openness in discussion with other games, especially games she had worked on. It provided a good foundation to drive our WildStar PvP discussion.
Zubon already mentioned the prop room being a complete hit. It was surprising. I was enjoying the tour altogether, but stepping in to the prop artists’ room really infused a flux of energy in to the tour. The greatsword art especially was fantastic, and I mentioned that to a few prop artists. It seemed like they had actually recently started doing more weapon design, which they were all very excited to do. During my playthrough of Deradune (with the draken starting area), I made many stops to look at props. Draken props centered around humorous displays of animals in various states of butcherment and trophy-display. I really liked the thought and wit that went in to many of those props, such as a bloated creature stuck through with multiple spears to hold it in place or a crocodile-rug with a sword through its head.
Later that night I talked with two prop artists, Angie Ricci and Andrew Klimas, and they were asking me for a lot of feedback. Not just about props, their questions concerned everything we had seen. I half-deflected the “what I didn’t like” issues as I coat-tailed Zubon’s answer, and the Andrew pursued me on a unique dislike of my own. He honestly wanted to know. The NDA was in place so that both sides could be very honest. There were times that both sides pressed, with the reminder that communication should be open. WildStar placed a lot of trust in Arkship participants to that degree.
Things were finally winding down after another swath of panels on Sunday. I was sitting down waiting for the van to the airport, and Justin Bartlett, content lead, came down to sit with a few of us. He was also a hardened veteran of the MMO industry, and had a unique rhythm in his questions for us. He spoke slowly with certainty, but I felt it was because he was incorporating our feedback on the fly and likely designing content at the same time. This was a man that contained multitudes. Like Andrew, Justin really pressed us for feedback, and I found how he construed each question very interesting because there was such apparent purpose behind them. It wasn’t just small-talk, make-the-fan-feel-welcome questions. Justin wasn’t there for chit-chat; he really wanted to know what we thought, good and bad. He excused himself on that Sunday afternoon to get back to the office very likely with every Arkship attendee’s feedback in mind.
While I can’t disclose very much information that was passed back and forth between attendees and devs, I can say that all the devs I saw were passionate about Wildstar. Some had left pretty lucrative positions at other companies because of the headmaster Gaffney’s vision of WildStar. I know a lot of Wildstar fans will be disappointed with the amount of information coming out of Arkship, but it was never meant to be an info dump. Carbine intends to make Arkship a repeating event, perhaps not as rigid as EVE’s council gatherings, but they want these events to be productive for both sides. Later this week I’ll be discussing my playthrough on Deradune and how I feel about their content delivery systems from my play experience.