Last week Carbine Studios announced the final two races rounding out their cast of colorful characters in WildStar. I had the chance to sit in on a conference call with Creative Director Matt Mocarski, and Lead Narrative Designer Chad Moore to hear about the influences, origins, and design choices that went into the two new races.
As with any interview discussing an upcoming title, this interview contains spoilerific information. Readers enter at your own risk.
First of all, before we get to the interview proper, here's the nitty gritty about the two races:
Cyborg Zombies searching for a cure
When we looked at the factions and the races, we asked "what do we need," and looking at the Dominion -- the Cassians are very snobby and stuck up, the Bakari and the Drakken are pretty serious. Specifically we want to throw something into the mix for a different kind of player and be something opposite from the other races in the faction.
The Chua are like the dirty little rodent guys, they're maniacal and a little nutty.
And they are a little cute too and that's something that we're missing on the dominion side. And we want them to be outliers, dirty little secrets. So we noticed in the lore that the Chua have built all the technology for the Dominion and the Dominion need them, but they’re embarrassed by them so they don’t put them in the limelight or anything. They don’t want to admit that they rely on the Chua.
On the other side, the Exiles are the characters that you want to hang out with; they’re friendly, they party, they like to have a good time. We wanted the Mordesh to be the people who show up at the party but don’t really want to be at the party. And no one wants to really say anything about it.
The Mordesh used to be this beautiful race, the most beautiful race in the universe. Through tampering with Alchemy they unleashed this disease that affected their whole race. The only way they could stop the disease was by literally tapping into science and creating this Vitalus Serum. They hack off their limbs and replace them with whole vials of life serum. This kind of preserves them in a way. They are really our space vampires/space zombies type of feel. This is a stark contrast to the other characters in the Exiles.
We wanted to give players something darker on the Exile side. From a lore standpoint they are the dark scientists of the group. Nobody really likes them, and they make people uneasy since they are so dark and brooding. We felt like that gave our players a nice well-rounded character build when they are playing the game. They will do the things that no one else wants to do. They are the spies, and the scientists and no one really trusts them. But with the Exiles they way they are formed they accept anyone so they couldn’t turn down the Mordesh when they reached out for help.
Since these are the final two races we were designing for the game, the first thing we like to look at is variety. We don’t want them stepping in the toes of any of the other races. So with the Dominion we have this cold, calculating, super serious race -- the Mechari -- and we have this reptilian badass race -- the Drakken -- so we needed something that would complement that really well.
With the Chua we have Gremlins, a little bit of Stitch from Lilo and Stitch and a bit of Tuck and Roll from A Bug’s Life. We mixed that together and that’s how we came up with the look of them. Some of the features you have access to in character selection are a little cuter than others, some of them are a little more grotesque...they are kind of these Gremlins of the universe.
On the Mordesh side we wanted something that was a little bit darker. First we started them as more vampiric, but as we wrote their story we had an opportunity because we’re a Sci-Fi game, so let’s do something cyborg. Most of their features very cybernetic, and it fit in perfectly with their lore that they’re this race that enhances themselves. So you’ll see a lot of cybernetic jaws, and their hair is wiring. This is really a dark cyberpunk looking character. That’s really it. There wasn’t much inspiration other than some kind of dark vampiric race and they went from that into cyborg.
With the Chua we’ll see Spellslingers, Espers, and there will be a class that we have not announced yet. The Mordesh will be Stalkers, Spellslingers, Warriors as well as the unannounced classes.
None of the classes are exclusive to any of the races. Each of the races has anywhere between four and six classes.
Each race as a reason for coming to Nexus besides the overall reasoning from the factions. With the Mordesh, they are looking for a cure. So when you run into Mordesh on planets, their storylines will be filled with stealth or some kind of really dark science. Looking into the technology to try and find the cure. And what’s interesting is that in the game you’ll see what actually happens to a Mordesh if they don’t have their serum. They become something like a zombie, like the zombies from 28 days later. So you kind of see what you’re trying to protect them from becoming and it’s actually a pretty dramatic storyline.
The Chua are just the type of characters that will do anything to advance their science and technology. They’ll take a resource from a planet and do what they will with them. For instance there is mission on one planet where they take a creature and they strap them with explosives. You do a mating call, and you are trying to either attract poachers to blow them up or you’re trying to avoid the advances of the opposite sex creature. There’s a lot of different content for them in the game.
There’s an area called Churrasic Park, which is literally this huge park where they have all sorts of different animals. You’ll see that from the Chua. The Chua will be taking something, they’re gonna hook it up to their machines and that’s what happens without morals.
The Chua actually destroyed the Aurin’s planet and raided it for resources. Because of the Chua the Aurin -- the Exile race -- have no homeworld since they ate it all to death in order to weaponize their technology for the Dominion. So there’s a big reason the Aurin are not fans of these cute little bastards.
What we’re trying to do here is create a really rich environment for PvPers, so if you are an Aurin, most likely you’re going to hate the Chua and want to kill the Chua players.
That extends to how we decided on the visuals on the races. Someone who picks a race that’s really badass will be in immediate conflict with someone who picks an Aurin because they like different things -- they like to role play with those kinds of creatures. Hopefully that creates rivalry.
In the office when we play the game or when we talk about stuff, there are people that are super passionate about the Chua, they love the Chua. Then there are others that hate the Chua. Rather than taking the Chua and watering them down we like the fact that we have characters that are polarizing. We’re creating a very rich world if people are going to want to fight each other.
In WildStar there isn’t an evil faction or a good one. On the surface the Exiles seem like they might be the good guys simply because they are more jovial, and the Dominion are more serious. But those that look into the lore will see that the Dominion have a greater claim to be on Nexus than the Exiles do.
As a bit of background, the planet of Nexus was once inhabited by this hyper advanced race known as the Elven. They had all these crazy experiments and all this scientific mystery and lots of fun inventions and they guarded the planet heavily and no one could get close to it until one day when they disappeared and the Exiles discovered it.
Well the Dominion actually have ties to the Elven and want to know what happened to them and feel it is their right to have the planet, while the Exiles have had most of their planets destroyed and want to find a new one.
To put it in layman's terms, if your ancestors left you some land over in Europe or something like that and you say “Hey, I better go get the land that is rightfully mine,” and you go there and you find a bunch of people that you’ve never seen saying, “Well, no one was using this land, so sorry.” And you’re like “No!” The Dominion have actual claim to the land.
What we try to do with the backstory of these characters we try to tackle the content from the point of view of the character you are actually playing. So you are going to be in it. The Exiles are so foreign even though they are cute and fluffy and have tails. There are factions of the Aurin, for instance, that are ecoterrorists. They will do whatever it takes to protect the land.
We have these grey stories all over throughout the game. There’s a particularly interesting area. I mean I love the Exiles -- I am a Granok. But the designers came up with this story with the Mordesh where they threw all these Mordesh into this sort of area in town like a leper colony. It felt weird doing this as an Exile because they are okay with it. They just have this Mordesh leper colony in the city. I think it makes it more interesting because you have to ask yourself, “Am I really okay with this? Do I see it from their point of view?” I was playing as a human but each race on a different faction will see different sides of the story.
So when designing the Chua or the Mordesh or any of the other races, we thought about how it was going to work in the lore. We didn’t just say “Hey what would be cool to do?” That’s one of the great things of developing a new IP for an MMO -- which doesn’t happen often nowadays. It gives you the opportunity to really develop your game and to really develop it with the systems in mind.
Conflict in the sense of actual physical confrontation, but also in the sense of character motivation. Iron Man and Thor in The Avengers are two completely different characters, and their dialog together makes for an interesting story. It’s the same with our factions. We had to have differences within the factions because those differences are what makes things interesting, but also makes the faction rivalries interesting.