#Wildstar – Class Design Interview

Oddly enough, TenTonHammer is one of my go-to places for Wildstar news.  Massively’s staff cuts have cut that bugger off my reading list.  Recently, TTH had the chance to interview the lead class designer, as well as the Medic and Esper leads.  There are three main things I get from this interview.

  1. Carbine is being rather forthright and honest about their design intentions.
  2. There are fundamental issues with balance that need to be sorted before they look at skills
  3. TTH’s interview skills are “unique”

For 1, this is somewhat novel to me. I know Blizzard is seen as open about their design intents but that took 4 years to start. And the tenure/legacy of GC is always a debated topic. Compared to other MMOs mind you, ESO, TSW, FF14, SWTOR and RIFT, this is a drastically different approach. Now the flipside to honesty is that people are going to dissect every word. A 2 month lock on class design before launch may seem crazy to some but from my experience, that’s a rather short lock on release windows outside of bug fixes. Plus, if you look at the patch notes WS puts out, Carbine is putting a ridiculous amount of effort in fixing their game.

For 2, this is disconcerting while at the same time NORMAL. When you build operational models, you use normalized data. So assume everyone is at the same power level, and what do you get – that’s the baseline of testing. Sure, you can test some outliers but core builds are based around design principles you need to adhere. And as with all massively multiplayer games, people will find optimizations that the developers did not consider. Absolute scaling is tough to predict.

If you play WS, you’ll notice that the tank players have lower Assault Power compared to the healing players, assuming the same item level. It’s rather drastic actually, where a level 30 tank weapon as 200 AP and a level 30 healing weapon has 350 AP. Now, for a level 30 tank and healer to have parity, it means that damage has to scale differently between the classes.   Let’s say they each need 1000 power. A tank would scale at 5 power / AP and a healer would scale a 2.85 power /AP. Good so far?

Well once you reach max level and start optimizing, those options are class agnostic. While your equipment may be optimized for tanks (lower stats, better scaling) runes and imbuements are not. A 50 AP rune can be used by anyone. So what you have is players stacking AP runes (and imbuements) in parallel with healing classes, but they scale at a much better rate, giving them a very aggressive power curve.

There are a few fixes for this but it’s really a core design flaw that needs to be addressed. Either you change base scaling of the class, or you apply the scale to all stat inputs. And that’s aside from skill/AMP balancing.

Skill/AMP balancing is an interesting topic since Carbine can clearly analyze existing patterns. Some classes have decent diversity, others less so – Espers in particular, with only 2 skills per role that matter. Nice to see they’re trying to fix that.

Finally for 3, TTH’s rather aggressive and subjective interview style comes off as being childish. Or perhaps extremely passionate about the topic rather than objective. There were no softballs in the interview – again, a significant difference when compared to Massively. It’s fresh but at the same time dangerous.

Overall, I’m happy with the interview. The lead designer is clearly a lead (correcting a class designer in an interview is rare) and the class designers have a solid plan to resolve issues they freely admit exist. And if we follow the current patch timeline, most of the changes should be in September/October, which is a very acceptable timeframe for a big rebalance. WoW didn’t touch Rogues at all until BC, if you recall. It’s encouraging to see that type of attitude.

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