Greetings Spiral inhabitants! We’ve got quite the treat for you here today as we sit down with Leah Ruben, the producer of Wizard101! You might know her as Professor Falmea, and today she’s going to be answering questions about the past, present, and future of your favorite gamed, Wizard101!
Lets start with an introduction please. Can you tell us your name, what you do and your favorite thing to do in Wizard101?
I’m Leah Ruben, and I’m the Producer of Wizard101. I go by Professor Falmea around here. My favorite thing to do right now in Wizard101 is fish! We added fishing this summer and it’s incredibly fun. I’ve got fish tanks lining the walkway to my house, and I’m incredibly excited about the new multi-fish aquariums to display my catches!
Wizard Blox is currently available for iOS, are there any plans to expand to other mobile devices?
We also have Grub Guardian for both iOS and Android, which helps you advance your Wizard101 pets when you’re out and about. We’re working on other fun mobile projects of all types, but we’re not ready to reveal them just yet!
One of the things that has always appealed to Wizard101 players is that it can run on even very old computers. Are there any plans for a graphical overhaul in the future which could change that?
It’s certainly not in the cards at this time. We’re always looking for ways to update the game and make it fresh, and very very old computers and operating systems fall off our minimum specs as it makes sense to do so, but I’m very proud of the fact that Wizard101 is playable on darn near anything made in the last decade. We have lots of families playing together, and we know a lot of people are playing on hand-me-down computers.
For the younger audiences the chat options are limited for the sake of security, does this in any way impact the rest of their play?
We have three levels of chat – menu chat, filtered chat, and 18+ chat. We do our best to make sure that menu chat has all the necessary phrases to get through the game (and we update over time), but it is finite by nature. Filtered chat invokes a “white list,” which means that every word said needs to be something that we have put in a list of approved words. 18+ chat has a robust black list, but for all intents and purposes is like most other MMO chat out there.
Are there any expansions planned for the future? If so can you tell us a bit about them?
Absolutely! We do about three large releases per year. Our most recent one added four new gauntlets to the Spiral, opening previously locked doors to Kembaalung Village, Barkingham Palace, the House of Scales, and Castle Darkmoor. The last one is only for the most hardy and talented of Wizards who have reached level 100 – but to the victor go the spoils. There are new shadow-infused spells to obtain and some of the best gear, pets, and mounts in game yet waiting under Malistaire’s lock and key - yes, he’s back, and REALLY ANGRY ABOUT IT. Speaking of lock and key, there are new skeleton key boss rooms in these dungeons that provide optional challenges.
Additionally, we’ve expanded our member benefits to include more inventory space, a larger friends list, new emotes, and some limited time benefits that will be turned on at points in the future including double pet experience and rewards, double gardening xp and rewards, free training point respecs, and free tournaments.
We’ve added an equipment manager so you can save and quickly change out full sets of gear on the fly. Combat AFK lets you bypass the countdown after a while if a Wizard who decides to go leave and make a sandwich mid-fight (how rude). There are tons of odds and ends that are too small to mention here, but let me direct you to our update notes for details.
Many child friendly MMOs aren't very popular with adults for a number of reasons. What do you do to appeal to more grown up audiences?
Making Wizard101, we wanted to make a game that was safe and fun for children, but ultimately a game that we wanted to play and were proud to put our names on as well. Our game and its systems are simple to jump in and start with, but are deep and have many levels to master.
Also, Wizard101 is incredibly story-driven, and have inside jokes for the adults. For example, we just did our B.O.X.E.S. event, starring the time travelling Professor. Any Sci-Fi nut can guess what we’re parodying here, but even if you’re not old enough to have watched the show, everyone can enjoy the alternate realities of some of our Ravenwood Professors and friends.
Having places where people can gather socially is important in MMOs, many choose to do so with a guild system, are there any plans to introduce a guild system or something similar in Wizard101?
We definitely see value in connecting Wizards with a common goal together, so over the last year we’ve worked towards that. We added “Team Up!”, which lets you sign up and find a group based on the dungeon you want to tackle. Also, we added Public Housing Games, which allows you to open your house to anyone that wants to play Tag, Scavenger Hunt, or the like.
We’ve discussed guilds, because they are definitely important in MMOs for the social aspect. However, if we did do guilds, we would have a lot more hurdles because of many things, but most notably, our different types of chat. We’d be looking at a very Wizard101-stylized guild system, which would be non-traditional. However, I’ll say that in the short term, we have no concrete plans to move forward with a guild system.
What steps does Wizard101 take in order to keep children safe while they're in the game?
I’ve already described the layered chat system, and to clarify – if you have menu chat, you CANNOT see the other types. As for harassment, we have a report system and a support staff that does not hesitate to warn, mute, suspend, or ban players who are being inappropriate.
Our trade system between players is limited to treasure cards, so you don’t see a lot of trade scamming. There are also extensive parental controls, and we also hope that we’ve made the game fun, so parents will play with their kids, because that’s the ultimate safeguard (and cool experience).
One of the biggest concerns I've heard about Wizard101 is the lack of content once you reach the max level. Are there any plans to expand on the endgame content?
Castle Darkmoor is the closest thing we’ve ever done to high-end raid content. Not in the sense that its multi-group, but this is the hardest thing we’ve ever put into game. This is where the truly hardcore are going to live for a while.
We’ve also taken the approach of making some really deep side systems that our dedicated players can spend some time. The PVP arena is hoppin’ at level 100. Breeding up the perfect pet takes a lot of time and care. Our best crafters have some challenging recipes to tackle. We’ve got some really cool updates planned in the future in this vein as well.
You've announced that you'll be making some changes to the player inventory system, such as multiple outfits, etc. Will there be any changes to the in-game store, such as the ability to directly purchase zones for Crowns?
At this time, nothing has recently changed with the way you can access different zones. You can purchase a subscription and get unlimited access, or you can pay by area as you encounter them.
In designing the world of Wizard101, have there been any big inspirations?
As for the initial world design, that’s probably a question for folks who were here a little earlier than I was (I came in about 2 years into the game’s development process in 2007). However, I can say that we wanted to take cool systems and themes from kid-friendly themes that WE liked. Some of them included Harry Potter, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokemon. Also, as I said before, we riff on pop culture all the time, so we draw inspiration from just about everywhere!
Could you elaborate a bit more on why Wizard names and schools can no longer be seen in PvP matches?
With the introduction of our Equipment Manager system, it became much easier to instantly switch gear – this was obviously by design. However, we discovered through testing that it created an unintended situation for PVP.
If Wizards were tricky enough to know who they were fighting against, they could now easily switch out full gear sets in just the click of a button. That was unacceptable to us, so we not only changed the names and schools, but we also have disabled access to switch gear at that time. We intend ranked PVP to be anonymous, and we want to keep it as fair as possible.
The new ability to select equipment sets is awesome, and I personally was wondering, are the slots separate from the player's inventory, or do inventory slots need to be set aside for gear sets?
Have you ever considered keeping the test realm open all year as many MMOs do?
We find that targeted testing works the best for us when there’s new and cool stuff to check out. The populations start dropping off after 2-3 weeks, and that’s generally been the right amount of time for things to marinate there for us to get the optimal amount of feedback and bug submissions before we bring the fun to the Live Servers.
We’ve occasionally had to bring up the Test server with very few changes and need to test stability, and we don’t see a lot of people gravitate there at those times. We just don’t think it would be that popular.
There you have it folks, the future is not only bright, it’s full of amazing changes for wizards old and young alike! The test server AND the live server have plenty of new things for you to try, so get your wands ready, mount your brooms, and get ready to explore the spiral anew! Thanks again to Leah Ruben for taking the time to sit down with us.