To say that we here are Dealspwn have been keeping an eye on the development of Carbine Studio’s upcoming MMORPG WildStar would be something of an understatement – after all, I boldly made it my most anticipated game for 2013 during our 2012 Awards season. This is because to really set yourself apart from the rest of the MMO genre takes some doing, but from what we’ve seen so far from Carbine everything seems to be on track to make the online sci-fi-western experience a special one.
Up until recently we’ve only known about the Exile faction, but that changed with the unveiling of the Dominion – the other side that players will be able to choose from when the game (hopefully) goes live this year. We’ve already been given a taste of what sort of folk make up the Dominion in the personality video and the in-character interviews that were released (the third of which you'll be able to see this afternoon) but to get to know them a little better I decided to go straight to the source – lead narrative designer Chad Moore. A man who has over 18 years of industry experience under his belt, including work on classic RPGs Fallout 2 and Arcanum, he has been responsible with the conception and development of the story, the factions, the races, and the creatures that will inhabit the world of Nexus.
That’s a lot of information to keep under lock and key, but Carbine have slowly but surely giving the community meaty servings of information to digest, the Dominion reveal possibly being the largest yet. To that end, I asked Chad how he felt to finally be able to talk openly about dastardly yet rather stylish faction. “I couldn’t be happier,” he said, “I mean obviously we love the Exiles and we’ve talked a lot about them over the past year, but the Dominion is a really awesome and unique faction. We’ve got tons of lore about them, and obviously from their video they seem to have they own super unique personalities, and so it’s been liberating to say the least to actually be able to sit and talk about these guys and let the fans out there know “hey, there’s a whole other faction, and you’re going to love them for different reasons.”
While there has been plenty of coverage detailing them, I asked Moore to give us a brief rundown, in his own words, as to what the Dominion were about. “So the Dominion is a power intergalactic empire that’s steadily taking control of the galaxy for the past 1600 years. If you dig into the story of the Exiles, each one of those races has, in the past, had a conflict with the Dominion. Many of those races have been run off their homeworlds by the Dominion as they have grown in power and strength. In terms of planet Nexus, the Dominion has a very direct tie to the Eldan, which is the hyper-advanced race that once lived there, and because of that tie they consider Nexus to be their territory. And so they are not very happy about the fact that an Exile discovered it, nor are they happy that a bunch of these Exile races have now landed on Nexus and are starting to make their home there.” In other words, there’s no love lost between these two sides.
Back when the game was unveiled at Gamescom 2011 and I spoke to Mike Donatelli and Paul Mattson, there were many inspirations called out for influencing every aspect of the game – the popular Indiana Jones franchise, brilliant period TV series Deadwood, the anime/manga phenomenon that is Full Metal Alchemist, amongst others. The Exiles had seen a lot of influence from the Old West and, perhaps rather obviously, cult TV series Firefly, which Moore stated gave them the “grit and backbone” exuding from the previous coverage, but with this now being the Dominion’s time to shine, I asked about the sorts of influences that were drawn from in for their creation.
“We wanted to make sure the Dominion had completely different feel,” began Moore, “and that goes for everything from the way that they look, which is very clean, advanced, and beautiful almost elegant look in their architecture and armour. I think it would be fair to say that there’s definitely some Roman influence in the way that we have developed their look, [and] there’s a lot of different science fiction universes out there that have empires, and obviously we draw inspiration from any number of those, whether they’re movies or books or games.” Chad went on to say that the end goal of their development was to ensure they were “the opposite end of the spectrum from what we had already developed for the Exiles.”
The backstory that has been posted over on the official website goes into more detail about the races that make up intergalactic super-group, explaining that the Mechari, creations of the Eldan themselves, act as the intelligence gathers and watchers of the Dominion, and the blood-thirsty Draken do their part as the front line troops, but what of the human Cassians? “They are all about the actual ruling and government of the Dominion,” Chad explains, “so they often hold positions of political power. They also are highly involved in the military, [as] many Cassians serve in the Dominion Military. We haven’t talked a whole lot about it yet, but there will be more information coming that the Dominion have various strong religious aspects that ties to the planet Nexus, and the Cassians are very involved in that as well, so stay tuned as more information on that will be coming.” He went on to mention that at the end of the day, the Cassians provide “the strong foundation” for the faction, acting as the “brainwork” whilst taking a huge amount of pride in the fact “they were chosen to establish this empire, and have worked very hard to ensure that it continues to succeed.”
This naturally brought the topic onto the factions creation, and specifically the one who would found the Dominion – Dominus the Half-Blood, with Moore revealing that he is what is known as Luminai. “…all of the descendants from Dominus are considered to be Luminai, so all of the emperors that have ruled the Dominion have been Luminai, having been descended from Dominus. There a lot of interesting lore that we haven’t released yet but [will do eventually] about what it means to be a Luminai, whether the differences between the Luminai and regular Cassians and how does that affect the social structure of the Dominion, so there’s a lot of information that’s going to be coming that will really clue people into how all that works.”
But what about the current emperor, Myculas the Vindicator? I asked Moore what sort of plans he had to Nexus, should the Dominion prove victorious in driving away the Exiles. “Well… (laughs)…there are a number of things that they’re going to do. First and foremost the reigning emperor, and this is something we haven’t talked about but I’ll just go ahead and release it now ‘cos, you know, why not, right? The reigning emperor Mycalus, he wants to make Nexus the new capital world of the empire, so that’s one of the things that they have planned. Obviously, given all of the hyper-advanced technology and magic that exists on planet Nexus, and because of the cool things that we’re doing here, any powerful empire worth its salt is going to want to get their hands on that stuff, and make sure that no one else is going to be using it against them.”
The one thing that stood out for me when initially comparing the Dominion to the Exiles was how it did appear rather black and while in terms of roles – The Exiles being the rag-tag good guys, and the Dominion as the oppressive bad guys. This led to me asking whether the Dominion had any morally redeeming features. The comparison I came up with for Moore was the Horde from the Warcraft franchise, being that they were often brutal in their execution, but actually had a backstory that saw them just a civilised away from the front line as their Alliance rivals. Moore responded by once again insisting that it was important that the personalities of each race shined through in this regard, “So a little bit of that darker side of the Dominion is what I think you’re sort of latching onto when you see the Dominion video, but I think in terms of their motivation, you know, the reasons why the Dominion do the things they do whether that is trying to assimilate other races and bring them into their philosophical view or whether the reasons why they consider planet Nexus their inheritance and the legacy, I don’t think those motivations actually paint them as being necessarily evil or dark. I do think that there is some grey area or even full justification as to why they happen to feel the way they do, which I think gives them a certain ambiguity where it’s not just about “hey, these guys are powerful and therefore are going to take what they want regardless of the reason,” I think they’ve got pretty decent reasons and those sort of good strong motivations, I think they lead to interesting stories which people will experience when they play our game.”
I switched the topic over to the recently held Arcship 2013 event, where Carbine invited a select bunch of fans to get hands-on with the game, including the Dominion start zone of Deradune. Many of the details behind what was seen are still buried beneath a layer of NDAs, but I asked Moore what sort of feedback they received regarding the Dominion’s handling in the game. “Overall the people that played through Deradune, which is the zone that we just recently announced, [gave] some really good feedback that they really liked the way that the races were represented. We have a pretty unique and robust voice-over system, so not only are you seeing the visual differences between the races and the kind of content that you do for them, but you also get to hear their different voices and hear that personality that we establish in those videos reflected.” Because of the feedback being “super, super positive,” Chad revealed that the team at Carbine felt they were “on the right track in terms of representing the flavour of each of the factions” in-game.
It would have been irresponsible of me as a video games writer to not try and pry some new information directly from the source, so I brought up the Meet The Dominion video once again… more specifically, I brought up the unannounced fourth race, represented in the video by a blaster. I conceded that I realised Carbine were not ready to make a full-on announcement to who they were, but I did ask if Chad could drop an extra hint, or at least elaborate on the weapon that was shown. I may have been hearing things, but I’m fairly sure I heard a gun being cocked in the background at that point, followed by Chad’s laughter (which might have been nerves… allegedly.) “I love to be able to give you specifics, but I absolutely will not if I want to continue working with Carbine!” which I felt was fair enough, “but I can tell you this - that the choices that we made for all of races, whether it’s for the once we’ve revealed now or the ones we haven’t revealed yet, each and every one of them has served a particular purpose and was very unique in comparison with the other races in the factions. So, I can tell you without a doubt that once we do reveal these other races that they will be extremely unique when compared to their counterparts, both from a visual perspective and from a story perspective.”
This led me to ask about coming up with that balance in both style and personality to create the races, and whether it was a challenge for the team to ensure they had got it right for the races that had been revealed or had yet to be. A refreshingly honest “Yeah” was said by Chad, before we went into specifics. “it is so important to us here at Carbine that we reflect unique and accessible and compelling personalities for our races, making sure that we did that in eight cases, at least the eight that we’ve talked or hinted at, is very hard, you know? But when you do it, when you’re successful at it, I just think when you watch our videos it really resonates with people.” He went on to point out that getting it right was so vital to complement having solid gameplay, and while it had been a great challenge, it was “really awesome” to see they had succeed in finding that balance.
It was at this point that I fired out the community question (submitted by user FateFlyer) who asked, “Are the Mechari created in the Eldan’s own image? And if not, can you give us some insight into what the Eldan may have looked like?” Moore began the laugh for a moment before pointing out that he had been asked that question by a few people over the last few weeks. “What I will say is that… “what the Eldan look like, along with obviously the location of the planet and what they were doing on that planet, that is perhaps one of the deepest, darkest secrets in the entire universe of WildStar! So I would love to be able to tell you that “yes, look at the Mechari and you’ll see what the Eldan look like,” but unfortunately that information has yet to be revealed, and when it is revealed I think will be something that’s pretty exciting and cool for the players.” Sorry, FateFlyer, I did the best I could!
To end the interview, I asked what is something of a traditional question here at Dealspwn, which is simply this – In your opinion, what is the most badass thing about the Dominion in WildStar? After a few moments of contemplation, and laughing at how it was actually a tough question to answer, he gave me his answer. “What I would say is for me, from a story standpoint, the most badass thing about the Dominion is that it was founded by the most hyper-advanced race in the history of the galaxy, that the purpose for that and their motivation as an empire is so cool… the story of the Dominion really resonates with me. Why I think they’re so badass is because the Eldan themselves established it and guided it for many centuries.”
And when you’ve got races such as deadly Mechari, brutally savage Draken, and stylishly suave Cassians among them, you’ll not hear any arguments from me on that one.
With Carbine declaring this “the Year of WildStar,” we expect to see more information being revealed about the game in the run up to its release, which, if all goes according to plan, will be this year, with the closed beta happening in the very near future. As we have done ever since its Gamescom 2011 unveiling, we’ll be sure to keep you up to date with the latest developments as they occur.
A huge thank you to Chad More at Carbine Studios for taking the time out to chat to us!