Wizard101: Interview with KingsIsle's Fred Howard and Ben Conrad

On August 20th, KingsIsle’s Fred Howard (VP of Marketing) and Ben Conrad (Public Relations) sat down with me and answered all of my fan-boyish questions regarding the Wizard101 MMO.  This family-oriented game is currently coming up to its second year anniversary and a massive expansion release as well.

I was able to badger the both of them into giving up lots of information about the upcoming content as well as what could be expected of the game in the future.  The news of the up and coming content was exciting and very informative.  Browse at your leisure.

Everyone playing Wizard101 was thrilled about the revelation about the existence of Celestia.  Is there any word on the final release date of the expansion?

Fred Howard:  Well, we’ve not released the final word but late summer / early fall is when it’s going to come out, so not too far away.

Is there anything new about the three new magic schools you can tell me?

FH: Unfortunately no, we have a lot of information that is coming out in a very short amount of time so I can’t pre-release anything beyond what we’ve already said right now.

No problem.  Based on this, would you be able to give me any specifics about the new spells we’re all looking forward to?

Ben Conrad: Not yet.
FH: Not beyond the fact that they will be tied to the Celestian stars, the moon and the sun.

Will there be any new additions to content for lower-level players?

FH:  There will be.

Is there any sort of additional information you can give me about it?

FH:  What I -can- tell you is that Celestia is primarily targeting the Grandmasters with a level-cap increase, but there will be new content for lower level players. One of the big things in Celestia will be swimming.  There will be zones in which players will be able to swim and adventure in.  There will also be underwater mounts and a number of items that low-level characters will be able to enjoy as well.

Will any of the existing pay-to-play content be released as free-to-play once the newer areas open up?

FH:  While there are no plans to change designations of areas that are currently considered premium content in the game, we will be adding some new content that will be open to free-to-play players.

The pet system is a great recent addition.  Will there be new content released for it with the new expansion or will that be further down the road?

FH:  There will be new pet content.  There will be new pets that are being released as a part of this, there will also be new talents we’re going to release as a part of this.  Part of the pet system is the new talents that manifest and we have new talents that are being released as part of the expansion.

How difficult has the raising of the level cap proven to be so far?

FH:  That is a great question, but difficult to answer as a marketing professional.  While I jokingly call myself an assistant to the junior designer intern (laughs), I don’t really have the background in design to speak to that.  What I can say is that with any level cap increase, there is always the challenge of ensuring that the balance of the game in PvP remains intact.  I know that is a challenge, but I don’t know if its necessarily more of a challenge for us than any other game that has gone through a level cap increase.

In relation to that, what in your opinion seems to be the biggest challenge with the Celestia expansion to date?

FH:  The Celestia expansion will be the largest release since the launch of the game and will actually be the largest world in-game.  There is an immense amount of content.  Celestia is also the beginning of a new story arc, so as you complete Dragonspyre and the first six worlds, you have completed the initial main story arc of Wizard101 and Celestia is actually launching a whole new storyline beyond the defeat of Malistaire.  I wouldn’t call that a challenge but it has also been very exciting for us as we craft a whole new story.  This is very important to us because one of Wizard101’s main strengths is that we are a very story-driven property as well as a very story driven company.  It is exciting for us to create a new storyline for our players.

Is there anything on tap for after Celestia?

FH: There is.  I can’t give a lot of detail but Celestia is starting a new story arc so while it is the beginning of a major expansion and level cap increase, it begins a new story arc that does not end with Celestia. There are six worlds in Wizard101 currently with Celestia becoming the seventh; you can look forward to new worlds and new content continuing to come out as we bring more online for our player base.

It seems I’m out of questions, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me about Celestia and the future of Wizard101.

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While Ben Conrad did not say much during the actual question and answer process, he did assure me afterwards that while the world of Dragonspyre is considered very cool by a lot of the player base, it is also referred to as dark and somber.

BC: “With Celestia, I think people will find areas that are visually gorgeous, but that also get back to the more whimsical themes that we saw in earlier worlds.”

There you have it, brand new story, brand new lands to explore and new magic to master.  The next three months of Wizard101 will certainly not be something a MMO player would want to miss.  With a bright, intuitive interface and energetic and helpful player base, Wizard101 will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the MMO genre.



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