Home Gaming Ghost MMORPG Q&A – Ex WoW Designer Opens Up on Every Aspect of the Game

Ghost MMORPG Q&A – Ex WoW Designer Opens Up on Every Aspect of the Game

by Contributor

Around a month and a half ago, former Age of Empires, World of Warcraft, and League of Legends designer Greg Street (also known as Ghostcrawler) announced he partnered with NetEase to make a new triple-A fantasy MMORPG codenamed Ghost.

Street leads a fully remote studio called Fantastic Pixel Castle, which was established earlier this year. Plenty of other industry veterans have been hired, including Gameplay Design Director Brian Holinka (Homefront, Transformers, World of Warcraft), Chief Technology Officer Cameron Dunn (L.A. Noire, Guild Wars 2), Content Design Director Candace Thomas (World of Warcraft, New World, Diablo IV), Principal Game Designer Graham Berger (World of Warcraft), and Art Director David Kubalak (Age of Empires, Halo Wars, Orcs Must Die!) to name a few.

Ghost is set in a brand new fantasy setting. Players will inhabit a world that was long ago hit by some kind of apocalypse. As a consequence of that, the sky is now filled with countless shards of broken worlds, which players will able to visit. That’s the narrative backdrop that fuels one of the game’s major twists on the MMO genre: the player’s ability to travel between the public Red Shards and the private survival-like Blue Shards, seamlessly switching between the two experiences to provide increased variety and replayability.

I talked about that and literally every single aspect of the game, from lore to combat in an hour-long conversation with Greg Street. You can find the full, albeit edited, transcript below.

‘We think Blue Shards add a lot of replayability because players can kind of try out different rules and see what’s fun for them.’

What was the reaction like from the community? Did you expect it to be bigger, or was it bigger than you expected? What kind of early feedback did you get from the reveal of Ghost?

It was honestly a little bigger than we expected. I was surprised that some of the gaming media were interested because, you know, new studios get announced all the time and sometimes they don’t carry that. I was excited that several of them carried out the news and I was really excited by the player reaction, particularly when we did the stream, because there were a lot of co-streamers and a lot of viewers watching.

We’ve got a lot of feedback since then that they were really shocked that we just answered questions plainly instead of dodging things. They all said that was refreshing and unexpected. So I’m glad we pulled it off.

I guess it’s very enticing from a community perspective to stay in touch with you so early on. Do you plan to keep this up throughout the game’s development, or will it perhaps have to be paused a bit at certain points?

We would like to keep it going. We are hiring a community manager right now to help with that. The risks are, number one, we have to make a game and that’s much more important. So if it ever becomes a distraction or we’re spending too much time talking to the community, then we’ll have to back off that.

There are risks. Can we keep the hype going? Because we have a long development cycle ahead and we don’t want players to start talking about, oh, we’re excited about Ghost, but it seems like it’s never gonna ship. That’s one of the reasons people usually wait until they can say you could download it now or so.

But we’ll see. We don’t have to do a stream every week. We do have a monthly podcast. We’ll do some other interviews. We’ll chat with players on social media. At some point, we’ll let them play the game and we’ll evaluate. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just be honest with players why we’re backing off.

Speaking of getting the game into players’ hands, are you planning to have playable alphas, betas, and the like for Ghost?

Absolutely, that’s really important. We’ll probably start as you might expect with smaller internal playtest teams. We bring players in and get initial testing. But once it’s in a pretty good state and shows pretty well, then we want to have pretty large access because part of the whole point is to make sure the game is good and that if there’s big problems, we wanna solve them before we ask players to pay for it.

That’s something MMO fans have been complaining about for a while. Most recent games tend to do marketing betas. It’s a beta that’s just a couple of months or even mere weeks before launch, but you can’t really change much of the game at that point.

Exactly. There is a particular problem there because often, these betas don’t go all the way to the endgame, and so the game might seem really good and then a few weeks later players get to endgame and they say, oh, this game doesn’t have enough endgame content or it’s frustrating or too challenging or something. So we definitely wanna make sure players can reach the end of our game and try it out as well.

One of the big features of Ghost is the existence of these Blue Shards. I’ve got lots of questions about this, but to start with, will these Blue Shards be completely different than Red Shards?

They’ll be different zones. They will probably have the same art sets in terms of, if we develop a boreal forest or a Mediterranean seashore art set, you might see it again, but they’re not just gonna be copied. The terrain itself, we plan to have randomly generated so that it can be very, very new and unpredictable every time you go into one.

In the Red Shards you’re going to have a big city, right?

Yeah, we’re gonna have a big city and then we’re going to have the Red Shards represent kind of standard MMO zones that players are familiar with that. More or less they are handpainted and don’t change over time, but offer really epic adventures.

So this city will not exist in Blue Shards, correct?

Right. You leave the city, travel to the Blue Shards, and then go back to the city whenever you want.

The lore or in-world excuse is that there are different worlds. What can you tell me about that?

Yeah, exactly. The way we describe it is that you, the players, live in the city. When you’re standing in the city, you look up into the sky and you can see all these broken shards of the world.

You don’t even necessarily know, as a player, why or what happened. Why are all these worlds broken? Why are all these shards up in the sky? But the fiction is that you can go visit them all and if you see one that’s covered with ocean, you can say, oh, I really want to go to a shard that’s mostly covered with ocean and see what that’s like. That’s a way we’re hoping it feels like the whole world is connected rather than just constantly loading up new zones all the time.

‘The Red Shard world could be as small as, like, a really large endgame zone from World of Warcraft’.

You’ve also said there will be some way to control what kind of Blue Shards you go into, right?

Yeah, absolutely. We have this concept of rules. The way the rules will get applied, we don’t want it to feel like a menu where you’re going down and just checking options. Early on, the only rules you’ll have access to are things like how big do I want the shard to be? Because if it’s a really big shard, it’ll take a long time to explore. If it’s a small shard, maybe it’s something I can finish relatively quickly. You’ll also have control over things like who you want to invite into your shard. Do you wanna invite just close friends? Do you wanna invite the guild? Do you wanna make it a free-for-all? There might be some other basic rules, like PvP. Is it on or off? Then maybe how dangerous it is in terms of creatures.

Over time, we introduce new rules and might even introduce those rules by things like, those could be rare drops or things you earn as rewards and then you can apply these rewards to a new shard as well. You might have a rule that says fire damage is doubled for both players and monsters, or you might have a rule that says, this is a hardcore shard. There’s permadeath, so if you die, that’s it. You can’t zone into the shard anymore.

This way, we think it adds a lot of replayability because players can kind of try out different rules and see what’s fun for them. We will also learn what’s fun for them. In the future, we can add more rules to Ghost that really deliver the experience that players are enjoying.

What if players really like a specific Blue Shard and want to keep modifying that one?

Right now, we’re not thinking a lot about that. We kind of want the idea to be that you create a shard and then you experience it and then you finish it and you create another.

But we’ll see what the demand is. If players say they really like the idea of finding a good shard and then applying it over time, then that might be something we look into.

Blue Shards in Ghost look a lot like a survival game or a sandbox game versus the theme parks Red Shards. I think you even mentioned in one of the examples that Blue Shards could focus on Guild versus Guild PvP. Could such a world feature player loot in PvP?

Absolutely. We think that because you go to the Blue Shards to gather resources, the Guild versus Guild PvP might work out really well because you can do things like fight over who has access to the silver mine. Maybe one guild claims the mine and then the other guild doesn’t have access to it. Maybe they pay you to use the mine or maybe you block off access and you don’t let them in at all. We think there’s a lot of interesting player stories that will come out of that situation.

Will any player be able to create a Blue Shard in Ghost?

That’s the idea. We haven’t decided how many shards you can create at a given time. The problem we’re worried about is we don’t want every player to have infinite numbers of shards that we then have to store on the server, so there’ll probably be some kind of limit. You can decide, oh, I wanna delete this old charge because I wanna make a new one or something like that. Or maybe that’s something players pay for if they want to have even more shards to play with.

In terms of size, are Blue Shards going to be more like a survival game with 100 to 150 players at the most, or larger and more MMO-like?

That’s a great question. I think it will determine mostly on what’s a good game experience. If you get too many players in a shard, it may be hard to find enough resources or you may kill the monsters too quickly or something. So that’s just something we have to experiment with how big can it go.

You’ve said that people can collect resources from a Blue Shard and bring them back to a Red Shard. I’ve also heard in another interview that player trading will be featured in Ghost. How do you plan to address the potential imbalance that could come from players finding a particularly resource-heavy Blue Shard, bringing the resources back to Red Shards and flooding the market?

Yeah, there are concerns. We think the Blue Shards won’t give you access to the best gear in the game. That’s probably still gonna come from Red Shards or even from late-game dungeons and raids and things like that. In World of Warcraft terms, it’s okay with us if you get a lot of green items and even a couple of blue items from the Blue Shards. But when you’re really looking for the epic items, that’s gonna be in the Red Shards.

The resource one is a valid concern. We hope that players aren’t going to be able to set up shards that are just like, oh, come here to farm easy. There’s gold everywhere all over the map. That doesn’t sound like an adventure. That’s not really what we’re going for with Ghost.

And there may be some restrictions to how many resources you can move in and out of the shard.  Valheim, the survival game, doesn’t let you take resources through a portal because they want there to be some gameplay around transporting them, putting you on your boat and sailing long distances and things like that. So it may not be as simple as just going through a blue shard, grabbing a bunch of wood that coming back into the city and flooding the market.

Probably a good rule would be that you can only take so many resources back to the Red Shards every day or so.

Exactly. That’s the kind of stuff we need to explore.

Switching a bit to the Red Shards. In terms of world size, what’s your goal for Ghost? Of course, World of Warcraft was enormous at launch and I’m not really expecting it to be that large. Could we compare it to maybe a single continent of WoW, or is it going to be smaller?

Probably smaller than that. It could be as small as, like, a really large zone, if you think of some of the endgame zones in World of Warcraft. I’m struggling to remember the names of some of those Cataclysm zones, but the endgame zones tend to be pretty big compared to the starting zones, but they still might only have like a couple hundred players in them.

I think if we wanted the diversity of a World of Warcraft continent, those would just be different Red Shards and you could go from the desert Red Shard to the forest Red Shard or something like that, because we do want them to concentrate players. The whole point of going to a red chart is to interact with other players. We don’t want them to get so far away that it feels like you’re out in the wilderness because then you might as well be on a Blue Shard, right? Because then we can really guarantee lots of wilderness to the Blue Shards.

Since I guess World of Warcraft has been a pretty big inspiration, one of the issues that has persisted throughout much of its life is perhaps the fact that a lot of the content quickly became obsolete with every new expansion. It felt kind of a waste, even for the developers who put so much into content that’s only going to be played for a couple of years. Are you going to address that in Ghost?

We’re trying to build that in from the very beginning. Like, we have one city and the city is the same city. We’re not gonna add more cities in future expansions or anything. Then, because the blue shards are randomly generated for the most part, it’s kind of not wasted work and players will be able to go back to them.

This is a very simplistic example, but imagine that for launch, everything is kind of like a frozen tundra art set. For the first expansion, it’s now like a desert art set. I don’t think we’d actually do that, but for the sake of argument, you could still go back. Even when you’re in the desert expansion, you could go back to the frozen Blue Shards and apply new rules to them so that the content is scalable and you may get the kind of items you need.

We don’t view them as the older content going away. That may be more true of the Red Shards, but we don’t need to make as many of them in Ghost as they do in World of Warcraft. If those kind of become outdated, we’re a little more okay with it. But we also could go back over time and fix them up. They don’t have to stay static either. We could update them as things move along.

‘We talk a lot about Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online for having what is still MMO-based combat’.

A key feature of several games that came after World of Warcraft, such as Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online, is that they have scaling. As such, players never truly out-level the content in a way that makes it trivial. What do you think about that?

The advantage of a design like that is that, as you said, you never trivialize content by getting stronger. The risk of that design is when players kind of see through it and realize they are not actually getting more powerful. Everything is staying the same.

I think part of the fantasy of an RPG is you get more powerful and that the monsters and the enemies that you used to fight are now much easier for you. That’s really satisfying to be like, I went away, I came back more powerful and now I can crush you. When everything scales, I think you run into that problem of, I’m just kind of standing still. I’m not really making progress.

I do think we would want things like, if you want a harder Blue Shard experience, we probably would increase all the power of all the monsters to make sure it’s still challenging for you at high level. But I don’t think we would just auto-level the whole world of Ghost around you the way some recent games did.

When it comes to character progression, something I really enjoyed is Elder Scrolls Online’s Champion Points, as they give players a way to keep leveling up and get passive perks even after they’ve technically reached the level up. You still feel like you’re getting more powerful. How do you feel about post-level cap character progression?

I think overall, it’s just helpful to have lots of different means of progression. When the only thing is character level and then you hit max level and that stops, then it’s just items, it could feel a little shallow and it’s hard to get the pacing right. The items are typically coming in really fast at first and then really, really slowly after that so that the cycles are too long.

Ideally, we would like to have lots of different ways to progress in Ghost that aren’t just about items. Again, I’m hoping that we can do some of the stuff with being able to unlock harder and harder Blue Shards that have more and more powerful rewards. Even if those aren’t all just item rewards, maybe there are new abilities for your character, maybe they are stronger abilities or replacement abilities or things like that.

And of course, there are paths of progression that aren’t strictly about gaining power, like having new rules that you can throw at a Blue Shard or the ability to make different kinds of buildings. That’s just an avenue that a lot of MMOs don’t have and if they have player housing at all, it tends to be very cosmetic, something you show off rather than functional.

Since you mentioned it, one of the things that historically has been missing from World of Warcraft is housing. Will there be any in Ghost’s Red Shards?

Probably not, because the whole idea behind the Blue Shards is you can set up whatever kind of player housing you want. You and your friends can each have a small cottage and make it like a little village. You could build a big fortress, you could do a lot of different things and then you don’t have to worry about the effect that has on other players.

If you decide to wall off the roads because you don’t want the monsters to come, that’s hard to do in a multiplayer game and partially why we wanted to do the Blue Shard and Red Shard split in Ghost. Then, in the Red Shards, we don’t have to worry about players putting up buildings everywhere. If we really like the mechanic, we can use it in some places.

Maybe we allow you to repair a bridge and over time, the bridge collapses again, so some other player has to repair it. But that would be specific to one area. You couldn’t just go around building bridges everywhere because that potentially ruins the experience for any player, but in your own Blue Shard, go nuts.

What about instanced player housing in the Red Shards, though? Can you have a home in the city?

If we think we need it. Right now, we’re hoping that the Blue Shards serve that purpose because there’ll be so much clearer flexibility. At the end of the day, everything is instant, but rather than just being an instanced area, you can invite friends to visit your Blue Shard. And not only will they see your house, they might see the lake and the ship that you built because space isn’t limited the way it sometimes is when player housing is integrated into a game world.

I think you’ve briefly mentioned in an interview that you want crafting to be a bit more meaningful than, for example, in World of Warcraft. What are you thinking for crafting in terms of progression and how it’s going to factor in the average player’s play time?

We think that you will still get some items from killing monsters or finding treasure chests or that sort of thing. But because the Blue Shards have a bit of survival experience, we want you to do a lot of making your own armor and weapons and oceans and food and things like that because that’s part of that loop of ‘I build a forge and that lets me get better armor, which lets me go farther from home into more dangerous air areas’. It also ties in really nicely with the loop.

Players from the Blue Shards may be trying to complete an item they’re crafting and have to go to a Red Shard to get a special reagent that they can then bring back to the Blue Shard and complete their item. So we think it’ll be a lot more crafting and generally, it’ll be a lot more of you crafting for yourself. There could still be a player economy where you buy items for other players and things like that, but I think it’ll be a lot of self-crafting.

We discussed the potential for Guild versus Guild PvP in Ghost’s Blue Shards, but what about structured PvP, like arenas/battlegrounds?

Right now, we’re leaning against really structured PvP. We could do it with Blue Shards. We could say, hey, this is a special Blue Shard, but you’re not building here. We know that like five players are coming in on each side so we know it’s a little more fair, but we’re worried about that kind of getting out of control. It is a feature like once you start having battlegrounds and arenas and you set the expectation of players that they can progress just through that content, like they don’t have to do a lot of the other content. That may just be too big for Ghost at this point.

It’s always something we could have in the future if there’s a big demand for it. But right now, we really wanna focus more on World PvP than super organized PvP.

I’m guessing there’s also no faction PvP in Ghost, right?

Correct, there’s no factions. We really want players to be able to play with their friends and not have these barriers. I should correct myself. We do have factions, but they’re more role-playing-themed and don’t dictate who you can group with and you’re not enemies with players of other factions. These are just different things. They’re progression points where you can try to gain favor with these factions.

Just reading through your website. You mention here that the city will evolve over time based on players’ actions. How will that work? Maybe players complete enough dungeons or raids, and there is a turn in the story?

Something like that. We’re really thinking of this more in terms of story, that we want the city to feel like a real place that grows and changes over time. Maybe a new neighborhood opens up within the city or maybe even just a shopkeeper retired and a new shopkeeper comes in with different items. I say this all the time and it’s kind of silly, but maybe your favorite restaurant closes and you’re like, that’s sad because I really liked that restaurant. Things like that just make the city feel like a real place. Maybe when an expansion to Ghost comes out, we’ll change the city in some ways, rather than the World of Warcraft approach where Stormwind and Orgrimmar were very static and then there would be new cities we would make. Instead, we’re thinking this city is always there.

If the story is that players go out and recruit a new faction to join the city, then in future chapters of the game, you’ll see that faction in the city because it was recruited.

I definitely agree with that. That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed Cataclysm: it finally changed the otherwise static world of Azeroth. Interestingly, it was also one of the most controversial features, as some people disliked it. On another note, will you have some kind of dynamic events as we’ve seen in other recent games? Or perhaps just some Gates of Ahn’Quiraj-like stuff. That was memorable in World of Warcraft.

Yeah, players remember it very fondly. You got the sense that inevitably these gates are gonna open, but the players were driving it and kind of the more engaged players are, the more efficient they are, the sooner the event would happen. I think stuff like that’s really cool.

Definitely. For the game’s combat, you’ve said it will be kind of a hybrid between regular tab targeting and action combat. I’m hoping it will be able to give the feeling of action combat, even if it’s not fully directional. I don’t know if you’ve played The Elder Scrolls Online or Guild Wars 2, but those are perhaps the best examples where you feel like it’s different from World of Warcraft, but at the same time, it’s not full action combat as you see in Black Desert, for example.

You have it exactly right. We talk a lot about Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online for having what is still MMO-based combat. What we want to avoid in action combat is a couple of things. One, we don’t want it to be so twitch-based that people with low reflexes or people with wrist pain have trouble with combat.

We also don’t want it to be the kind of thing where very skilled players who are really good at dodging can take no damage because that means well, they don’t really need armor and that works in a game like Dark Souls, but it doesn’t really work in an MMORPG.

So we need to make sure that players still take damage and that they can still do damage to the enemy. The action part of Ghost will come more from movement and positioning. It’s very hard in World of Warcraft to backstab an enemy because they’re always turning to face you unless someone else is tanking them. We also think it’s a big opportunity to do things like simple attack combos. A lot of console games do this, from Marvel’s Spiderman to the Jedi Knight series, where doing three attacks in a row causes a different attack and things like that.

We think that will feel more actiony but can still have the ‘you select a target and then you hit a button to damage the target’ rather than a lot of action games where you swing your sword and then you try to get close enough that the sword hits.

You mentioned dodge as a big part of this feeling of action movement. Do you envision that every class in Ghost will have a dodge button, or will it be exclusive to some classes?

I think the right way to do dodge is to make sure that it’s almost like a cooldown and you can’t use it constantly. You’re not going to use it every attack, but when you see a big hit coming, that’s when you hit dodge. You can actually see your player moving to the side, but it’s not about like in Call of Duty or something where you’re constantly in motion so that no one could get a hit on you.

I think that’s probably going too far and would look a little silly and not really be the spirit of what people are looking for in an MMO. And maybe you’re right. Maybe not every class gets a dodge; maybe some classes get a parry instead.

‘Customization is important and we wanna make sure that players feel like my Swashbuckler is different from your Swash Buckler. But probably not to the point where I could have a healing Swashbuckler.’

You’ve mentioned classes. You plan to create a lot of them, which is interesting. Aren’t you kind of worried, though, that will sacrifice user customization to a degree? For example, in World of Warcraft, you can specialize yourself in various talent trees, but if you have 50 classes, it might be harder for you to find a way to allow various specializations for each class.

Earlier on, in vanilla World of Warcraft, the talent trees I think mattered more. The players would go down multiple talent trees. They would dip a little bit into one talent tree and we’d get builds like 31 5 15 for the Warrior where they went, mostly down one tree, but then a little bit down a couple of others.

Over time, and certainly by Cataclysm, it really felt like players were just identified by their spec. They were Arms Warriors or Retribution Paladins. What we’re going for is let’s just have a class like a Retribution Paladin rather than having a generic Paladin and they can spec in these different ways.

I think that lets the classes be more unique. They can have different abilities rather than having these abilities that overlap. We can have so many classes that players can really find one that they’re excited about where they like the play style and they like the way combat works, or they like the theme of the character.

A lot of this was inspired by our work on League of Legends, which now has like 160 characters. Even though they don’t have many abilities, they have a ton of depth and that game has a lot of interest in combat.

We probably won’t go that far as to only have like four abilities in Ghost, but we think there’s a great direction there and you can make great characters without requiring rows and rows of buttons.

It’s an interesting approach, for sure. In another interview, you mentioned the Swashbuckler as a potential class. So is it the goal that you can still build out the Swashbuckler in a couple of different ways, or would it be just a singular playstyle per class?

Yeah. We think that customization is important and we wanna make sure that players feel like my Swashbuckler is different from your Swash Buckler. But probably not to the point at which I could have a healing Swashbuckler or something like that.

That makes sense. Maybe a couple of lore-related questions. What is the level of technology in the world of Ghost? Do people have rifles?

It’s probably like 1500 Earth technology. A lot of fights are still fought with steel weapons. We will have firearms but we won’t have mass-produced firearms. So someone who has a rifle is probably a very, very carefully crafted, very expensive, very valuable item.

You’re not just outfitting hundreds and hundreds of musketeers with firearms. It’s kind of early Renaissance. A lot of fantasy worlds have firearms.

So, no automatic rifles.

No automatic rifles, no complicated machines, no electricity or things like that. We’ll replicate some of that with magic. We won’t have robots, but maybe we have magical golem, and things like that.

As far as races go, you said you don’t want to have classic Elves or Orcs in Ghost. Can you talk about that? Also, do you have a rough number of races in mind for launch?

We don’t know. That’s something we’re still exploring because the more races you have the less customization and animation you could do for each race.

Unlike classes where we’re like, let’s have lots and lots of classes, we worry about having too many races. It also might be the kind of thing where we start very small, like two or three races, and then add more over time. One idea we had was that maybe there’s a lot of interesting NPC races that you see, particularly in the city. If players are really excited about one of those, they could be a great inspiration for us to turn into player characters.

Are you going to give races unique perks or abilities?

Probably not. I like that what a character looks like is really up to the player because that’s their vision for the character and not dictated by them trying to get the best race/class combo like in World of Warcraft. Those racial abilities were a real challenge for us because everyone wanted to be a human in PvP because they had such a great ability, and everyone wanted to be an Orc in raiding because they had such a great ability. We would rather just let players pick what they want to look like and then put all of the actual min-maxing in the class.

I know that rubs some people the wrong way where they feel like there should be racial bonuses, like, elves should be good at bows and things like that. But I worry it gets in the way of really creating characters that you like.

It’s a fair point and like you said, it’s just more trouble for you on the balancing side.

Yeah.

‘We would love to be on PlayStation, Xbox, maybe Switch. We’ll have to see what the game gives up to make that happen. We don’t want to compromise the PC game too much to make it work on consoles.’

I also wanted to ask a few things regarding the technology you’re using to make Ghost. You’ve said that the goal is to make the game a bit faster than your average triple MMO. First of all, are you going to use Unreal Engine 5?

We’re using UE5 for Ghost, yes. It is not a great MMO engine. It does some things really well, but we’re going to have to augment it a lot with some of our own technology. One of the advantages we have by working with NetEase is they have a lot of experience with MMOs and we might be able to use some of that code. That’s the kind of thing we’re exploring right now.

Something else that’s exploding throughout every industry, but especially the gaming industry, is the use of AI and generative AI specifically. Just a few weeks ago, Xbox announced a partnership with Inworld AI to make an AI toolset for developers with a built-in character engine that allows dynamically generated quests and NPCs. What do you think about something like that?

It’s exciting stuff. I think it’s hard to predict where the industry is gonna go because the technology is evolving so rapidly. We really like AI for things like making the terrain look beautiful.

Dressing NPCs in World of Warcraft, you had to manually place every model and kind of decide what clothing or armor they had on. That was very laborious. I’d much rather just say, create a character that looks like a fisherman and we’ll take it from there.

I think things like dialogue are harder because there’s this expectation that if you dig down and talk to an N PC about their hopes and dreams that that will lead to new stories or new quests or things like that. Generally, the AI probably isn’t doing that. It’s just making the character sound like ‘I really love pie’, like randomly, the AI decided this character would really love pie.

I think that’s the challenge with leveraging AI too much. For NPC creation, for art, like making up monsters, it’s useful early on when you’re exploring ideas and trying to say like, if I want a creature with six arms, how does that work? Where would the arms attach?

The AI will generally do a terrible job at it, but it’ll give you an idea of where the boundaries are. Then you hand that to a concept artist and they can make something that looks great, matches your art style and really identifies with your work.

I like to say we’re not one of those studios that says, oh, we don’t need any artists or any writers because AI will do it all. I don’t think that would be a very good outcome.

Definitely. I personally love that you want to support gamepads in Ghost. I guess that also perhaps speaks to a goal to port the game on consoles as well at some point.

Yes, we would love to be on PlayStation, Xbox, maybe Switch particularly. We’ll have to see what the game gives up to make that happen. We don’t want to compromise the PC game too much to make it work on consoles. But we’d love to have both. We think it would open up to different players, different ways of playing. You don’t have to worry so much about all the hardware specs, whether you have enough RAM or the right video card.

If you do end up releasing Ghost on consoles, it may be the case that the game would launch right at the crossroads of a new generation. If so, would you rather ship on all consoles and be a cross-gen game, or perhaps just focus on the newer consoles and take advantage of their more powerful hardware?

I don’t know when the PlayStation 6 is gonna come out yet, but it depends a lot on when we launch Ghost and what is state of the art at that point. I think you’re right, it is a good way to tap into younger people and different generations. Another exciting area for us is Japan, which historically has been hard for Western developers to break into; they play a lot of console games there.

Interesting. Anyway, you have no current plan to launch Ghost on mobile platforms, correct?

Yeah, that’s correct. We actually looked at that, but we just felt like we would be compromising the game design too much. It’s hard to even do a lot of voice-over on mobile because it just gives you these really large files to download. So we’re not gonna do that today. Again, if the game is a huge hit and NetEase wants to partner with us and make a mobile version of the game, maybe it would be a separate, standalone SKU without crossplay. We could look at that if the game is successful.

You just mentioned voice-over. Are you going to have that for quest dialogues in Ghost?

We would like to. We think that feels modern and state-of-the-art. I think reading a lot of quest text feels outdated.

One of the challenges is whether or not you voice the player character because, again, that really can get into the player’s vision for the character. But if there aren’t enough voices, then that starts to get in the way of their vision. I play games where I go, that’s not exactly what I think my character should sound like, but I only have four male voices to choose from.

That’s a problem that might happen. And you always have things like, well, I named my character something, but the NPCs will never be able to say the name. Though maybe AI will get to the point where they can. But those are some of the challenges with VO.

I think a lot of players accept that the player character may not be voiced. For example, Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t have a voiced main character, and neither does Starfield (unlike Fallout 4).

Yeah. It works; players are kind of used to the main character not always speaking.

I’d have a thousand more questions, but this must do for now. Thank you for your time.

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