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September 26, 2018 / KingsIsle Community

10 Things You Might Not Know About the Making of Wizard101

The Spiral is a magical place with Wizard City at the center of all the worlds that are or could be. But, the Spiral had to come from somewhere. Who conjured Merle Ambrose? How did Ravenwood School come to be? What evil genius summoned the diabolical Malistaire and Morganthe? It all began with an idea, but that idea was brought to life by our talented KingsIsle team.

wizard

In the last KI Live, we brought in some members who have been with the team throughout Wizard101’s development to reminisce about their favorite moments and to reveal some interesting development trivia. To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we’re updating and expanding this post to bring you 10 things that you might not know about the creation of Wizard101!

  1. It started out as a real card game

Believe it or not, the premise behind the game didn’t magically appear. The team spent a long time physically playing with a deck of character cards, some dice, and beads that symbolized the power-up and other boosts. They scribbled down rules, ideas, and notes about what worked and didn’t. They knew that the core of any good game, no matter how amazing the graphics and effects, is that it is fun to play. Fun fact: our design team still uses this strategy today for designing new mini games! You can see more in this video:

  1. Wizard101 Wasn’t meant to fit in with other MMOs

When the heroes mentioned above came together, they thought about all the other games out there, like World of Warcraft, and realized there were not many games designed for parents and kids to play together. Quests in most MMOs are filled with violent battles and weapons that are not appropriate for children, so the creators wanted to come up with a game that was suitable for the whole family. In addition, the chat feature within the game is filtered to be safe for players of all ages.

  1. Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Wizard101

Turns out Pixar’s model played into the inspiration behind Wizard101. Like the team behind Pixar, the heads at KingsIsle wanted to create a world that would be engaging and safe for children, but still interesting and challenging for adults.

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  1. It was made in record time

The team of heroes had an ambitious goal: They wanted to launch their new game within three years, which is a pretty short video game development time in the gaming industry. By keeping the initial features compact and focused, they imagined, designed, tested and programmed the game on time!

  1. Built with Grandma’s computer in mind

The creators realized that many kids and families don’t have the latest technology, so the game was meticulously designed to run well and look great on any system, even the older systems. The specs that this game requires were actually thought out with a purpose. The designers knew casual users without huge gaming rigs and kids on hand-me-down computers would be playing Wizard101, so the focus needed to be on the game being easily accessible and able to run on minimal RAM and processing power.

  1. Wizard City’s design came from multiple concepts.

The team reached out to a variety of artists with the same ask: a floating city with a huge tree in the middle and a crystal incorporated somewhere within. Each artist came up with a unique piece of concept art, which we’ve compiled here:

There are details from each of these concepts that you’ll find in the final version of Wizard City. Which ones can you spot?

  1. The First Worlds Were Built With “Lego Pieces”

When building the first worlds, the design team used a system referred to internally as “Lego pieces.” Worlds like Krokotopia and Marleybone were built using a series of straight, corner and T-shaped modular pieces that they could snap together. Grizzleheim was the first world built without the “Lego pieces” where all the maps were custom built.

  1. The World Moves Around You

One landmark of Wizard101’s development was creating the boat ride in Krokotopia. The team wanted to give players the experience of being on a boat, being able to walk around on the boat, and actually seeing the world move as your boat moved. That task proved more difficult than expected, which led to a creative solution from the team. Instead of having the boat move, they kept the boat stationary and instead animated the world around the boat to simulate movement. You can see a similar effect with the balloon cars of Marleybone and the dragon ride in Dragonspyre!

krok ride

  1. Celestia Was the Biggest, Most Ambitious World (At the Time of Development)

Celestia’s introduced a new type of magic, 27 large zones, a ton of gameplay hours, and a high level of difficult that was eventually adjusted. The most ambitious part of building Celestia was creating underwater tech like light refracting and swimming mechanics.

  1. You Can Hear KingsIsle Employee Voices In-Game

KingsIsle doesn’t just bring in the pros for voice acting. While many of our main characters are voiced by professional voice actors, our sound department will often ask KingsIsle employees to voice background and smaller characters. Sometimes they even let us voice main characters! Mike Sears, a Senior Narrative Game Designer, voices a LOT of characters including Sparck, Empyrea’s highly logical Science Officer!

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Wizard101 is constantly evolving, bringing about new spells, characters, and technology. The creators of the game frequently refer to it as the best project they’ve ever worked on, and you can see why!

Were you surprised by any of these facts? Let us know in the comments section below!

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