Choose My Adventure: Reconsidering WildStar, from pre-launch to now

In order to talk about WildStar, we kind of have to talk about Firefly. And no, not in the obvious way where we talk about how dearly the game wants to be able to claim the heritage of Firefly for its own.

There’s a thing dubbed the Firefly Effect (I’m not linking TV Tropes here; y’all know where it is, look it up if you want to) that describes a kind of vicious cycle. You see something new and interesting previewed. However, you also see that it’s on a network that is unlikely to allow that interesting thing enough run time to really finish working itself out. So, to spare yourself any heartache when it gets cancelled, you don’t watch it. Later, it gets cancelled… because no one was watching it because everyone expected it would be cancelled.

The reason I bring that up is that WildStar is currently waist-deep in the Firefly Effect. Sure, it’s not a show, but the same operating principles are at work. People are afraid to commit for fear that it’ll be canned, and that makes any forward momentum for the game incredibly difficult.

When WildStar first hit the scene, it had a lot of people excited right out of the gate, including me, then went dark for years, causing a lot of gamers to write the studio off. Then the studio dropped a trailer for the game, followed by a few big early reveals about how the game would be designed. Players would choose not just between classes, but between paths, meaning that two characters of the same race, faction, and class could have wildly different experiences because one was a Scientist and the other was a Settler.

Through most of the pre-release demos, the game managed to keep delivering on that promise. People were still excited. It won multiple “most anticipated” awards. It was only when the game started to talk about its endgame model that eyebrows raised because rather than mirroring the innovation and the play-as-you-will attitude that the rest of the game had, the endgame setup was a resolutely joyless raiding trudge that everyone else had already begun walking away from in the years since vanilla World of Warcraft.

I wanted to love you, guys.

By the time the game was released, it seemed to be two games deeply at odds with one another. One game was a very innovative and fun sandpark experience with lots of different options about how to play, complete with housing, challenges, weird quests, quirky lore, fun design, and so forth. The other game was designed by the people who thought that 40-person raids didn’t go far enough in their sheer brutality. And while it’s easy to ignore that for a good chunk of time… well, realistically, you’re going to spend most of your time at the level cap. When everything is weighted toward raiding, you will feel it.

It was reflected in the subscriptions and reviews, too. Reviews and first impressions of the game were positive, but people finished leveling and just… left. It wasn’t even just the raiding; dungeons and other smaller activities were weighted toward brutal levels of difficulty, something most people weren’t willing to put up with.

There are, of course, buckets to be written about why this didn’t work at all, but none of that really matters right now. What’s important is that having faced this problem, the game put off walking things back with the stubborn resistance of “no, you’re just playing it wrong, play it our way and you’ll see.”

That has, I’m sad to say, been a recurring and regular issue within the game. As things finally started walking backward, it felt like too little too late, and the game has entered its current stage wherein… well, let’s just roll the clip.

All of the various changes made to the game to make it better, like the free-to-play shift and the (remarkably few) patches, have failed to really reinvigorate the game. Instead, it’s limping along, now getting rolled into a “generic” header for NCsoft’s earnings report, and trying to still attract players to avoid writing it off now.

I consider this something a shame. Sure, there are catastrophically bad decisions in place here, but there’s also a lot of stuff in the game that I actually liked when it launched. In fact, the only thing that caused me to stop playing the game in the first place was a need to save money at one point. After that, momentum took over, and thus it’s been quite some time since I actually played.

There’s a standing sentiment among those of us here on the writing staff that part of the game’s problem right now is simply that everyone feels that it’s in a limbo state created by a perpetual stay of execution, as if it could fold at any moment. If the game would just formally announce that it’s funded through the next year no matter what, it might get more players right away. The fact that no such announcement is forthcoming just lends more weight to the idea that it isn’t safe.

But rather than trying to go back to my old characters, I want to do something new. So here’s where we can make the most use of the polls. I’m going to be making a new character and going through the game completely fresh, and I want to see if all of its various changes have made for a better game all around. Is the game better to play now than it was when it launched? Does it deserve your affection after all? Or is it the story of sadly wasted potential and what happens when you launch with a backward-looking endgame and business model that can’t be solved by everything else in place?

More to the point, is anyone else sick of being called “cupcake?” It feels like an insult even when it really isn’t. Cupcakes are delicious. Not as delicious as muffins, but… I’m getting-off track. Let’s make with the polls.

CMA: Which faction should I play?

  • Dominion (51%, 171 Votes)
  • Exile (49%, 166 Votes)

Total Voters: 337

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CMA: What should my path be?

  • Settler (20%, 68 Votes)
  • Explorer (38%, 126 Votes)
  • Soldier (11%, 35 Votes)
  • Scientist (31%, 104 Votes)

Total Voters: 333

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CMA: Where should I focus my class choices?

  • Heavy armor (Warrior or Engineer) (42%, 140 Votes)
  • Medium armor (Medic or Stalker (58%, 193 Votes)

Total Voters: 333

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Yes, I’m aware I left off the light options; that’s intentional. I actually enjoy Spellslingers more than I usually enjoy caster-type characters (and even Espers, to a point), but I’m taking aim at the classes that I’ve generally enjoyed the most. You understand, I’m sure.

As always, the polls are up until Friday at noon, at which point I’ll start playing and regale you all with stories both wondrous and astonishing. Until then, you can feel free to leave your opinions and thoughts down in the comments, or you can mail them along to eliot@massivelyop.com. I’ll be over here hoping that each new announcement isn’t a shutdown announcement.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. You really do get to decide it, since if it was up to him it would just be robots. See, you actually have non-robot options up there. This is a real sign of dedication, you guys.
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24 Comments on "Choose My Adventure: Reconsidering WildStar, from pre-launch to now"

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deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

if you want to see other players in the first 20 hours or so you definitely want to roll exiles. they absolutely dominate the faction balance ratio.

anyways gl with the adventure. i’d think just focusing on the post f2p endgame changes would be more interesting than leveling a new toon really but w/e you do you eliot.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

reading the comments below i feel like people commenting on things that suck about it seem to have not played it since well before f2p let alone after if they think some of those things are still the case.

the end game is very inclusive and friendly to different play styles group sizes and so on with a fair bit of variety to it compared to at launch. it hasn’t been raid or die arena or gtfo HARDCORE CUPCAKE island for years now.

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Pedge Jameson

Offtopic but I remember iZombie almost went Firefly until the network realized they were idiots and brought it back mid season. April can’t come soon enough. Team Blane!!

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Fair Mores

Thank you for choosing this game to play in. In my opinion I believe what we need today is not a new mmo, but a renewed interest in the mmos that already exist.

Also we need to do away with this idea that we can only ever be invested in one mmo at a time. Just as several bloggers whom i read daily do, today I have a balanced diet of several mmos I make time for (setting and completing goals in each of them). I currently have 26 mmos installed on my PC. I don’t play them all but I do have this natural rotation system where out of the 26 I’m always playing 3, just depends what I’m in the mood for. I’ve never been happier playing mmos than right now.

As for people who have never played wildstar…go download the game right now for free and play!
1. Make a chua engineer
2. Spend $10 on a jumpstart pack that will unlock housing at lvl 1 as opposed to lvl 15 and will give you a free hover board mount for ALL your character past present or future forever while at the same time rewarding you cosmic points! (What are cosmic points? Look it up!) plus you get a bag and some gold.
3. Start shooting your way to level cap and always do the world story quest.
Enjoy!

dixa
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dixa

This. ESO is amazing now, but so many who ran into a single bug on day one won’t give it another shot. Same with wildstar and others.

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BalsBigBrother

I have nothing about Wildstar just wanted to say Yay Monty Python :-)

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Paragon Lost

There are mornings when I feel like the old man over the guy’s shoulder. heh.

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Etharion Ethie

I’m one of those folks that generally liked what I saw of the game leading up to launch and enjoyed the playstyles of the Esper and Stalker, but as soon as the devs went hard on raids and difficulty, I walked and never looked back. I don’t like raiding to begin with and won’t do it in games where it is considered easy; you can’t make me care about a game whose sole reason for existence is to teach you how to be part of a cat herd or, failing that, learn how to herd cats, and then teach those cats to write Shakespeare’s various written works.

So! While you are certainly welcome to play whatever game you wish, this is a game that literally cannot get me as a player in any fashion due to their early design decisions into what they wanted the game to be at ‘the end’. Wherever the votes go, I hope you have a good time all the same!

dixa
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dixa

The problem with your reply is that for years before this game launched it was never hidden that they were going after the 40 man raiders mainly, that it would be their main focus.

Honestly anyone who went into Wildstar thinking it wasn’t going to be as atrocious for the casual player as vanilla WoW was just kidding themselves.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

actually the raid or die paradigm was literally just over a year before launch when the founding and original lead devs left and it took a left turn.

before that the marketting and interviews made it sound alot like what it would become by f2p for years ahead of launch rather than the raid or die arena pvp or gtfo mentality it launched with and died on.

Richard de Leon III
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Richard de Leon III

I still play the game on occassion, but I’ll have to agree with the article. I have a great fear of the game closing down so I avoid making major progress and spending any more money, which makes the situation worse im sure. I don’t know if there is anything they can do at this point to convince me to spend money on the game.

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Vexia

I just voted, and now both factions are at a 50/50 split with exactly 69 votes each. You may now stifle your giggles.

Not gonna lie, I really want to break into WS’s housing specifically, but I’ve just never been able to gain enough traction to stick with the game. I’ve seen some amazing creations that people have built; I just have less time to play MMOs than there are MMOs that I want to play, it seems.

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Asterei Starcaller

I played Wildstar when it launched, and even though I liked the setting, the art, the gameplay…something about it just rubbed me wrong and I couldnt get into it. I tried it again when it went F2P and I had way more fun. In the levelling phase, wildstar has to be my favourite mmo.

But once I hit cap…well that was another story. I had a guild, but I just didnt know where to start, other than do dailies over and over and over. It was difficult to get into the endgame options. Eventually I just sort of, stopped playing, it wasnt a choice, I just stopped logging in each day. It’s a shame, because I look into the game once in a while to see what new content there is, and it feels like there’s been remarkably little

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angrakhan

Wildstar’s primary problem is they built a game that catered to hardcore players and then reaped the reward of catering to 1% of the MMO population which in of itself is a niche of the total gaming population. I honestly smile at their failure because of the pure hubris of the leadership of the game that talked so much crap about other MMO’s and then they fell flat on their faces. Maybe have some humility and respect next go ’round?

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Mr. E.™

I absolutely adore this game, although I readily agree with most of the criticisms lodged against it. The end game is pants. The currency system can be a little confusing. It is a little too twitchy.

But I still play it, mainly because it’s a neat IP with a great tone (I actually love the spastic humor) and it’s at least somewhat original in its concept.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i’m with you. even with all the improvements i generally don’t begrudge people for disliking it due to past and even present dislikes of it. in particular i totally see why people don’t like the light stick rave battle combat even tho i absolutely love it and it’s my favourite action combat mmo combat style.

the endgame is vastly improved since just before f2p btw. raiding is still there but it hasn’t been raid or gtfo for a long while now. and the alternatives are a lot of fun for at least a few weeks.

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Oyjord Hansen

There’s a very fun game in Wildstar, but it’s hidden behind a lot of garbage which overshadows the fun.

1) It’s too “brah cool.” I like some humor, sure, but they’re trying too hard. Frat culture is nothing to aspire to.

2) There are too many currencies which are confusing (how do I get what currency, and where can I exchange such currencies, sigh).

3) The combat is a tad too twitchy which doesn’t appeal to core MMORPGers (which tend to casuals, since more hardcore gravitate towards FPSs in the first place).

4) The UI is just a horrendous cluter.

Etc.

Every time I fire WS up, I just become overwhelmed with the above and log right back out.

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neil shelton

I didnt bother to try it honestly, neat IP wrapped up in a pure clone of grind style MMOs.

wandris
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wandris

Wildstar is a sorry tale. I personally think their mistake was not making it brutal from level one. There are many people who enjoy that kind of thing, but it was jarring even for me going from super easy to slamming into the vet dungeon wall. Then there is NCSOFTs track record with canning underperforming MMO’s. Tabula rasa for one but there were about 6 others as well. That kind of thing undermines overall confidence in all of their products even years later. That is something other publishers should take note. If NCsoft was smart they would release unambiguous statement that Wildstar and their other games will remain open for a minimum of at least 5-10 years, past active development. If I knew that was the case I would be far less hesitant of spending time or money on a game like Wildstar. Realistically games cannot be developed forever, but they are designed with a great deal of replayability, so it is very short sighted to leave such uncertainty. I do not believe these kinds of online games will always need to be actively developed in order to keep people interested. Just keep the lights on and give people confidence their time will not be wasted and you will keep a player base.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Unfortunately for Wildstar, the Firefly effect is about 80 percent of why I don’t try it.

And that is NCSoft’s fault. Pure and simple. Nothing against Carbine for that.

Before anyone says ‘But you are missing out on a great game.’, I agree, I miss City of Heroes too.

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Denice J. Cook

I’m with you, Camren. I don’t do NCSoft, period, because they’re game killers. I played Tabula Rasa, then City of Heroes, and watched many of NC’s other MMOs get unceremoniously shuttered before their time as well. (And Tabula Rasa’s closure was downright sleazy, what with the forging of Garriott’s signatures on the closing paperwork while he was away on vacation, etc. At least he finally won millions in a lawsuit against them, but I digress.)

However, I *do* blame Carbine both for their Rock Star attitude going in, and for their stupidity in signing with said publisher. There’s no way they didn’t know they were making a deal with the devil. They had to step over way too many dead bodies in the front courtyard outside NCSoft’s door not to realize that NC are game killers.

deekay_plus
Reader
deekay_plus

deal with teh devil? ncsoft let them spend NINE years developing the game and then has kept the game open and funding new development for how many years now despite weaker quarter after weaker quarter.

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Lights and Music

Nothing against Carbine for that.

Strange logic to read Faust and only blame the devil.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Faust was so totally framed but he wins in the sequel, Faust 2, Hellectric Boogaloo.

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