Carbine Studios revealed two new character paths today for its massively-multiplayer role-playing game, WildStar: the scientist and the settler.
At a recent hands-on event, Carbine showed off the two paths in action: the scientist path is for players who are more interested in the game's story and the world's lore, while the settler path is more skewed toward those who are interested in building things, crafting objects and taming hostiles.
"What settlers do is they do things to improve the areas they're in," executive producer Jeremy Gaffney told Polygon. "They take chaos and make order out of it. So in this particular case, we give you some things to do around town, so if you see something that's broken, you can fix it and get a little reputation."
Gaffney said settlers can also build up the towns they visit by adding structures, building vendors and crafting bank boxes, mail boxes and outposts. The settler path can also be strategically used to build outposts near dangerous areas so other players — no matter what path they're on — can benefit from having a vendor near a battle zone.
"What settlers do is they do things to improve the areas they're in ... They take chaos and make order out of it."
Scientists are more focused on scanning areas to learn more about what things are and how they came to be. Equipped with a scanner, scientists can study objects within the world, which then unlock items and open up new routes and areas.
The scientist and settler are the last of the paths that Carbine has revealed. The explorer and soldier paths were detailed earlier this year.
WildStar's paths are different to character classes. When a player chooses a class for their character, it determines how they look, their abilities and how they level-up. In this respect, it follows the structure of a traditional MMO. The path system operates independent of the class system, and it has more to do with "a player's lifestyle" and personality.
Gaffney told Polygon that the basis of the path system was inspired by research done by Dr. Richard Bartle, who is best known for his work on video game psychology.
"We like incenting people gently to either play together or near each other."
"He broke players into four types," Gaffney said. "He said there are achievers — people who are motivated by getting stronger and completing things, socializers — they're motivated by finding new friends and interacting with people, explorers — people who like discovering things in the world and killers — they like griefing people.
"So those aren't actually our paths, but they're related. We took those concepts and then migrated them into our game."
Using Dr. Bartles research and the studio's own internal studies, Carbine formulated four classes that aim to give players a more customized experience.
Gaffney explained that the path system rewards players for doing the kinds of things they already enjoy doing. As players complete tasks that are related to their path, they're rewarded with path XP, which then makes them even better at that path. He used the scientist path as an example — scientists have an interest in discovery and story, so while they take part in exploration and combat like all other characters do, they also get to spend more time analyzing parts of the world and learning more about the lore. They can scan the flora and fauna, landmarks and monuments, and as they scan they unlock stories about the places they visit.
"So if you play the scientist path and you gain XP, you can use that XP to customize your little scanner bot, and now he can scan everything in the radius at once," Gaffney said. "Or now he's better at combat, so he has a longer time to scan the really tough monsters in a dungeon or raid."
Depending on what path a player chooses, certain content may be made available to a player that isn't available to those who chose other paths. For example, a soldier — whose interest is combat, and a settler — whose interest is building and taming things, may run through an area and not notice anything special. But if a scientist - whose skill is to analyze and scan areas — were to run through the same area, they might open up a series of subcaverns, which opens up a whole new area to explore. And within these caverns are hidden items and quests that players from other paths can access — they just need to be near a scientist in order to access it.
"What we tried to do was make it fun for you if you're alone finding the area, but also fun in a group, and fun when there's thousands of players around," he said. "So the combinations of grouping up in areas and playing together can lead to lots of surprises because we like hiding things. We like incenting people gently to either play together or near each other."
"By having a system around each player type, it actually lets us make custom content for each player."
Gaffney said about 75 percent of the game's content is for everyone, and players will be exploring the same areas, fighting the same monsters and undertaking the same quests. But 25 percent of the game is dedicated to the paths, which provide players with content specific to their play-styles.
"By having a system around each player type, it actually lets us make custom content for each player, so you're not forced to spend 75 percent of the time fighting and 3 percent of the time exploring.
"For us, what that means is you can be exploring or doing your favorite thing the bulk of the time. And this means that if you like games where you can explore and your friend likes games where they can fight all the time, you can play together."
WildStar will release later this year.