Gaming Interviews

Published on December 12th, 2022 | by gareth

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Talking Wizard101 With KingsIsle

Recently I got to speak with KingsIsle about Wizard101.

What is the background and setting of the game?

With some very unique aspects: turn-based CCG combat, a family-friendly tone, and a deep narrative, Wizard101 is the MMORPG that has stood the test of time. All these elements were designed to appeal to wider audiences.

In Wizard 101, you play as a young Wizard who has just arrived at the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts. The main characters, Headmaster Merle Ambrose and the Cosmic Tree Bartleby will guide you to adventures, magical knowledge, and more importantly, fun. These characters and the Seven Schools of Magic, one of which your Wizard chooses to specialize in, are the key access points to the rest of the game.

The first five-world story arc introduces you to an array of colorful characters including Egyptian reptiles, British cats and dogs (living together!), and Eastern farm animals, and ultimately ends in a battle with the former Death School Professor in a world full of dragon people.

Another thing that sets Wizard101 apart is its longevity: the game recently celebrated its 14th birthday, and there are now more than 20 worlds with unique stories to explore. Wizards always come back to Wizard City to meet other Wizards, show off their latest pet, or peacock the shiny new gear they’ve acquired.

We have entire families who’ve played together since the game launched back in 2008, and with Wizard101’s rich array of gameplay and side systems appeal to both hardcore and casual gamers, the game is blessed with a loyal community of content creators and fan sites.

For anyone new to Wizard101 – the first five worlds are free for everyone through December!

 

What is Novus and what can veteran players expect?

Novus is the latest world in Wizard101 that players can explore once they have completed all previous worlds. Unlike the other worlds Wizards have previously been to, this world is new – a clean slate, as it were! A brand-new beginning.

But sadly, it’s not that simple… The other residents of the Spiral have also arrived, and where they’ve left their mark on Novus, the world is changing to match their desires and outlooks.

Instead of being based on a specific culture or mythology, Novus is based on surrealist art – it’s born of someone’s mind and imagination. Figuring out whose mind, and how to communicate with it, is a crucial part of the story.

This is a world of giant banana trees, places where geometry turns inside out, and where an island that looks like two cupped hands has a massive all-seeing eye. Players will see all this and even stranger things!

There’s a third new aspect of Novus, and that’s the narrative. Instead of a more simplistic “The Bad Guy’s up to no good – stop them!” plot, we’re aiming to go a lot deeper. We don’t want players to just laugh at the references or wonder at the visual strangeness, we want them to think.

Things are getting surreal, but the Wizard will have to take a hard look at reality and all its flaws. We went out of our way to push the limits of Wizard101’s narrative in Novus, and we’re very proud of the result.

How is level progression handled?

Leveling in Wizard101 is like other MMORPGs: players progress through the main quest line, gaining experience for their Wizard as they complete the various objectives and quests of the Main Line Story. Experience can also be gained through some side activities.

Where Wizard101 is particularly unique in this progression style, is the many world genres the player encounters as they go through the storyline. For example, Novus is a strange world of mismatched characters, whereas the previous world, Karamelle, was all about sweet treats and candy-themed characters and areas.

The reward for progressing through the worlds and leveling your character is power, prestige, and variety – you’ll find hundreds of cool cinematic spells, tens of thousands of pieces of unique gear, cute companions to train to support you in battle, and much more!

 

What are the biggest challenges with the game and the greatest triumphs?

Probably one of the greatest triumphs is seeing how the game started out to be a kid’s game. It launched as a family-friendly game with great success, and now our strongest audience is older teens, young adults, and some not-so-young adults. Some of those players even work at KingsIsle now!

It’s been an amazing experience for us to grow alongside the community that has been built since the initial release of Wizard101 so many years ago. There are dozens of fan sites, content creators, and a wonderful community that contributes so much to sharing tips and tricks and other useful information with new players.

We also incorporate player feedback with each new world and content update, which in our mind is a triumph on its own.

An MMORPG can’t succeed without its community, and I’m happy to say that our community has helped us to meet each challenge of game development that comes along. New systems like Beastmoon events, and how we integrated Guilds and Raids into the game, wouldn’t have been possible without their contributions.

The biggest challenge might be keeping up with the community’s demand for new content, which certainly keeps us busy!

What can you tell us about the music in the game?

The talent on our audio team is out of this world! The gifted composer, Nelson Everhart, created much of the game’s soundtrack. Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers also took part in composing the game’s Wintertusk expansion.

Back in late 2019, we released a video of our team chatting with Nelson about his work on Wizard101, which you can watch on KingsIsle’s YouTube channel here. Nelson also creates videos discussing the process behind his compositions. You can find all his videos on his YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/@neverhart19741/videos.

The audio, writing, and art teams work closely with Nelson during pre-production to hammer out the sonic narrative of each world. It is critical that the compositions support the world and story, and we are mindful that the game has evolved and matured through the years, alongside our player-base, and we have tried to reflect that in the music through the years.

Regarding Novus, much of the world is manufactured by the character Dasein and remixed through his filter. We tried to reflect that with the unique music of the world, and by mixing in familiar music from past worlds, Nelson was able to go ahead with a remix approach, in whichhe executed this wonderfully.

All the additional music cues and supplemental music is composed in-house.

What is the plan for expansion and future content?

Novus is our 50th large update in 14 years! We typically have spring, summer, and fall updates. This year we introduced new systems and features like Guilds and Raids, and completely revamped PvP and PvE combat.

On top of that, we also launched our 20th world! We’re hard at work on some great content set for release in 2023 and are excited for players to see what’s in store. Here’s a hint for you… if you listen carefully while exploring Novus, you’ll hear the next world’s name mentioned.

We’re also working on some awesome systems and content, including something that our community has been requesting for years, so there’s still a lot more to come!

 

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About the Author

Syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. His work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site and publication “Skewed and Reviewed”. He has three books of film, game reviews and interviews published and is a well-received and in demand speaker on the convention circuit. Gareth has appeared in movies and is a regular guest on a top-rated Seattle morning show. He has also appeared briefly in films such as “Prefountaine”, “Postal”. “Far Cry”. and others. Gareth is also an in-demand speaker at several conventions and has conducted popular panels for over two decades.



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