Reach for the Sky in Our Exclusive Wild West Online Interview

By Jeff Francis
Wild West Online interview

The virtual worlds of online games offer plenty of choices for escaping the real world in order to have adventure. You can slay orcs by the thousands, cast powerful spells, or engage in epic space battles. Yet it's extremely rare to be able to face down a gang of desperadoes, take part in a saloon brawl, or walk down a street at high noon to engage in a gunfight. This is why we're really looking forward to Wild West Online, a sandbox mmo designed to allow us to become gunslingers, outlaws, or gritty frontier lawmen. We were fortunate to have Stephan Bugaj of 612 Games sit down and answer some of our questions on this upcoming western-themed mmo. Saddle up and hit the trail in our exclusive Wild West Online interview.

Westerns are our favorite movie genre (from Gary Cooper and John Wayne to the spaghetti westerns of Clint Eastwood), not to mention the fascinating real history of the Wild West. What influences are you drawing from to create Wild West Online?

We are drawing from all those same influences. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Unforgiven, Deadwood, The Magnificent Seven, True Grit, The Searchers, Once Upon a Time In the West, 3:10 to Yuma, The Wild Bunch, Django Unchained, Westworld, and The Dark Tower are but a few of our favorite western stories. The real life tales of folks like Bass Reeves, Wyatt Earp, Crazy Horse, Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, and so many others are all so fascinating. The idea behind Wild West Online is to allow players to role play all that and more.

Wild West Online lawmen

Will there be a special mechanic for players to engage in duels outside of the normal gunfight mechanic? Such as who can draw faster?

We’re considering duels, fast draw, ambushes, and a variety of combat mechanics, but haven’t settled on exactly which PvP combat mechanics will be a 1.0 release feature versus which we plan to roll out later. There will definitely be gunfights and brawls, but more specialized combat modes are still part of the plan sooner or later.

What character creation options will you have? Will Wild West Online players be able to create Native Americans, dudes from back East, soldiers, or even exotic choices like Toshirô Mifune from Red Sun (1971 western starring Charles Bronson)?

The plan is to allow for very diverse player customization. We definitely want you to be able to play as First Nations tribes people, Africans, Asians, women, dandies in suits with pearl handled pistols, drovers with whips, railway men swinging sledgehammers, and all that. However, which customization options are 1.0 versus DLC, and what is included versus what cosmetic items you will have to purchase, are decisions that are still being worked out.

Will players be able to use weapons like bows, lances, and swords in Wild West Online?

Bows may eventually be included, and edged weapons relevant to the Old West like Bowie knives and army cutlasses may also. There were lancers in the Civil War, but that didn’t lead to much jousting in the Old West after the war. So, yes, we’re considering a variety of weapons besides firearms but haven’t fully decided which will roll-out for 1.0 release, what will come in DLCs, and what seems too fringe to support.

Will there be customization options for weapons, such as having gold-plated revolvers? Can customized components, if you have them, for weapons increase their effectiveness?

There will be customizations, including items for purchase, but to be clear we are not supporting a pay-to-win approach for the mmo. Some weapons you can buy may have different statistics to model the real weapon they’re inspired by, but overall we want a balanced game where player skill is the most relevant factor in PvP combat – not how leveled-up your character is or how much you spent on fancy guns.

Is it possible for a player in Wild West Online to reduce their notoriety in order to get a bounty lifted?

We're looking into different ways for bandits to atone for their sins, including literally going to church to atone. Other ideas include performing good deeds and paying off your own bounty, but while we do want to allow some kind of "buy down" against notoriety, we haven't settled on an exact mechanism yet. Since there is a big role-playing component to notoriety, as well, part of it will simply be how you treat other players. And that element does make sense in a Wild West context where you have famous characters who were, say, the Gentleman Bandit or the Out-of-control Lawman.

Wild West Online farm

What gambling games will you have in the game, such as faro, poker, blackjack, or roulette? Will there be a gambling skill to give PC gamblers an advantage? Could a player cheat in Wild West Online? If so, what happens if they get caught?

We plan on having several major card games like poker and blackjack, as well as roulette. If all goes well, these will be playable in the Alpha version. Initially, players will only be able to gamble against the house, and we'll look into gambling against each other and balance the desire for that against security and community management concerns before we decide whether or not we'll open that up. There also isn't currently a "cheat and face the consequences" mechanic, but maybe we'll look into that for a later DLC.

What types of mini-games do you intend to include in the game? Some examples that come to mind for Wild West Online are bronco busting, prospecting, trapping, trick shooting, cattle rustling, using a lasso, and so on. Personally, I would love to see a saloon brawl game mode.

Right now we're focused on the design and tuning of core mechanics for Wild West Online, with mini-games being a backburner project for later development stages, most likely for post-1.0 DLC content. However, since we allow players to have fistfights they can go to a saloon, or anywhere else, and brawl to their heart's content.

Will players be able to eventually buy and use wagons? It would be incredible to have my very own War Wagon.

That's not something we'd planned for initial release, but we’re getting so many requests for it that we're going to move this fairly high up on the post-1.0 DLC content list.

What penalties will a player face for becoming a notorious outlaw outside of a bounty being placed on their head? Could they be imprisoned (a prison break scenario would really be awesome)? What benefits does a player gain from becoming a lawman in Wild West Online? Could a player be a lawman in one zone of the game but be wanted in another? (A good number of historical cowboys flirted back and forth between being on the side of law or against it.) Is notoriety server-wide?

Your notoriety (goodness/badness) level is game-wide, so even if you switch servers it will follow you. Our goal is to create a set of systems that will promote role-playing between players, allowing other players to easily punish or reward you for choosing one side or the other. There will be game mechanics that reward or punish players for certain actions, especially during server-wide events, but we especially want players to use things like reputation to bolster role-playing activities because Wild West Online is more about social play in a virtual Wild West world than about grinding and stats maintenance.

Wild West Online town

How many skills do you imagine having in the game? How will combat skills impact the player's ability in combat, such as for shooting?

We haven't yet finalized our plans for the skill tree, as this is something we want to receive community feedback about, especially during the Alpha test phase, so that it's more in line with what most people want.

However, we are currently not planning to have skills that significantly improve your chances in combat. For brawls and shootouts, we want players to rely on their actual gamer skills, not character or weapons stats. For example, you won't have skills that make your guns more accurate or deal more damage. We think those kinds of stats in an online multiplayer game alienate new and casual players, and we would like to find the right ways to reward hardcore players in ways that still allow the others to enjoy themselves.

What sort of mischief can an outlaw get up to? Can they rob a stage or rustle cattle?

Currently we're looking at starting with simple petty theft like stealing apples from the general store, and advancing all the way to bank robberies, safe cracking, and ambushes of gold prospectors. We’re always looking to add more activities for both bandits and lawmen in Wild West Online, so players can always submit ideas on the forums.

Is there anything else you wish to add concerning the development and features of Wild West Online?

Right now we're focused on the core features, but we're collecting requests and will consider them all and implement the ones that make sense over time. Hopefully, interested players will engage during Alpha and Beta phases and let us know what they like. We will also be looking at how people play, so it won't just be the most vocal folks that get what they want.

All in all, there's a lot of interesting features and scenarios for Wild West Online that really has us looking forward to the mmorpg, and its alpha and beta testing phases cannot come quick enough for us. We wish to thank Stephan Bugaj of 612 Games for taking the time to kindly answer our questions. What things are you hoping will be part of Wild West Online when it launches towards the end of the year? Let us know in the comments below.

Jun162017

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