Coming out of left field, Wild West Online has had a strange trajectory over the past couple of weeks.
A recent screenshot of the MMO leaked online showing a figure resting on a deck to the backdrop of an old-time western town and the internet lost its collective mind, leading many to believe they were looking at new footage from Rockstar’s long overdue follow up to 2010 western shooter Red Dead Redemption. The true originators, a studio called 612 Games, stepped forward to claim ownership of the content. It was not, in fact, Red Dead Redemption 2, but rather an upcoming, at the time unannounced, Wild West MMO aptly named Wild West Online.
The buzz created around this incident was so great that 612, who had originally planned to head to Kickstarter to fund development for WWO, almost immediately managed to secure investments toward their work. 612 Games boasts industry veterans with over a decade of work in the open-world, MMO field as well as experienced individuals that have worked in other entertainment fields such as TV and film. We recently caught up with 612’s Stephan Bugaj, whose previous work credits include a stint as Creative Development Director with Telltale Games to try and find out more about their upcoming game.
PA2J: WWO garnered a lot of attention a couple weeks back after a screenshot posted in the GTA forums led many to believe they were looking at Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2. Did this initial buzz make its way to your team? How did the news land?
Stephan Bugaj: The initial buzz definitely made its way to us, and we were thrilled that people were so excited by the beautiful work of our artists, but we also realized we had to make sure everyone knew what was really going on.
With a 2017 release date scheduled for Wild West Online, how does the studio feel about sharing a possible release window with another Western title? [RDR2 has since been delayed until 2018]
Since we’re an online multiplayer game built to serve a PC multiplayer community and the other western title isn’t as far as we know, we weren’t concerned about it. Now that reports are coming in that they may push back, we are relieved that this topic can become less important and folks can focus on each game for what it is.
Judging by the current information, WWO will have a heavy focus on roleplay, with multiple professions and activities being available to the player. Additionally, there are some hints of survival elements present. Would you say WWO will lean more heavily on exploration and role play or a traditional grind and loot-based progression?
We intend to lean more heavily on exploration and roleplay, as well as PVP combat opportunities for those who want them, though there will be some opportunities to grind and resource farm. And given that the game is designed to live for several years, there will be opportunities for us to tune and rebalance as needed. First and foremost we want players to have a good time, and bring their friends.
How do you plan to reconcile the realistic setting of the wild west with classic MMO staple mechanics such as high-level damage-sponge enemies?
PVE missions at this time are not combat oriented, but when it comes to it we feel that gamers have already “willingly suspended disbelief” for a variety of different unrealistic mechanics in a realistic setting by playing WWII, modern crime, and similar genres that aren’t SF or High Fantasy. We’re looking for that balance between fun and realism, not creating a simulator.
I’d like to talk about scale for a minute. Wild West Online is set in a dynamic open world, how large a map are we talking? What types of regions can we expect?
While we don’t want to reveal too much right now I can say that it is comparable in size to other western open world games and it’s large enough that players won’t feel cramped.
Will Wild West Online be playable predominantly in first-person or third-person, or possibly a mixture of both?
The game will have both first and third person cameras that you can switch on the fly. You can also adjust the FOV for the first person camera.
On your website, you talk about future expansions, including one that introduces server-wide events where all the players can get involved in either robbing or defending a train. Are there any other such activities planned, such as instanced raids?
There are other activities planned, but we’re not ready to share all the details, not the least reason being that these will evolve over time based on how people play and what fans are most excited about.
You mention Westworld as an influence and we’ve already speculated on the role playing and profession component, so we’d like to know if WWO will feature anything along the lines of a player-driven economy, such as what we can see in games like EVE Online?
Just to clarify, WWO doesn’t have defined classes, professions and roles; it does, however, have gameplay systems in place that allow players to role-play as different roles. Regarding the in-game economy, we’re not focusing much on a simulating economy that EVE Online does. There will be NPC traders, who sell and buy from players, and we will allow players to exchange items between each other, but right now we don’t plan on running a complex real world economy simulation.
Let’s talk finances. More specifically, subscription model. Anything you’d like to disclose at this time? Monthly subscription? One-time payment? What about microtransactions?
The plan is for a one-time payment, and players will be able to support the ongoing life of the game by purchasing additional in-game items like outfits and gear. We do not have a P2W philosophy, so what you can buy in the shop is intended to have neutral gameplay impact.
Do you aim for WWO to be the fabled WoW killer or do you think it can comfortably find its niche elsewhere?
We don’t think one game needs to die for another to survive, and a Western-themed multiplayer game doesn’t necessarily compete against a High Fantasy setting, anyway. Of course, we do hope it’ll find an audience that is as devoted to it as WoW players are to their game.
You recently confirmed full investment for WWO and will now forgo Kickstarter with all original Stretch Goals included. From a financial standpoint was it a big relief to avoid a crowdfunding campaign entirely?
Absolutely. And we’re also happy we can focus on making the game, rather than trying to secure additional funding via crowdfunding. We’ve put in so much time, energy and money into the title already, so it’s a huge relief when you don’t have to worry about raising a final investment.
Clearly, your primary focus right now is PC, but is there a possibility you could bring WWO to consoles at some point further down the line?
Right now we are 100% focused on and dedicated to making a great PC game, with no console plans. But as they say, the only thing that is impossible to predict is the future.
Wild West Online is slated for a 2017 release on PC.