With rare exception, creating multiple characters in MMOs is and has always been a standard practice for me. I can't play any single class for long without looking across the fence and thinking to myself, "Hm... I wonder what that plays like? Maybe I'd like it more! Maybe there are different or more efficient ways I could be leveling!"
Before I know it, an army of alts is born, each one clamoring for my attention, my approval, my love. Usually only a small handful ever make it to the level cap, although I never quite tire of starting over once more time. Perhaps it's chasing that "fresh character scent," but mostly it's the curiosity and desire to have a broad experience in the game.
So how alt-friendly is WildStar? While I've mained an Engineer to 50, I've dabbled in several Medics, one or two Espers, and a couple sly Spellslingers (I am not a melee fan, obviously). This past weekend I took advantage of the double-XP event to power-level an Esper, and all while I was doing so, I was thinking of what WildStar does right for alts and how it could be improved.
It's been over a month since WildStar kicked its game -- and business model -- into high gear with the Reloaded update. Since then we've had many highs and lows, from ecastatic waves of players returning to hardware issues of all kinds.
One thing I can say for certain: It's been the most interesting month to be a WildStar player since its original launch back in spring 2014. I have hope, real hope, that the game has a future now, and I'm mostly excited about everything I've seen and experienced since free-to-play happened.
I thought it would be a good time to look back over the month and touch on what Carbine did right, where it slipped, and what should happen as WildStar heads into 2016.
When the path system was first revealed close to WildStar's initial announcement, it was presented as a major tentpole of the game to set it apart from the rest of the MMO pack. Somewhat loosely based on Bartle's gaming types, paths were to add a customized dimension to a person's play experience.
Originally, you weren't going to be just a class but a class and a path said in the same breathless sentence. "I am a Warrior-Explorer" and the like. It was an intriguing hook that showed that the developers wanted the game to mold itself somewhat to the player instead of strictly vice-versa.
Yet something went wrong with paths along the way, even before WildStar released. Today it's quite rare to hear players discussing paths or getting excited about them. Even Carbine mentions them only reluctantly as part of a feature list on occasion before putting them back in the corner with Baby.
But now that the Reloaded patch is out, I think it's time that we look to fixing this system and raising it up to its true potential. Who's with me?
With the free-to-play launch calming down somewhat (look man, I can log onto the server!) and fall events kicking off in WildStar, I've been enjoying watching a new crowd come into the game and coo over all of the little details that make this game special.
While we can never get a completely fresh first look at any particular game after that initial run, there is the next best thing of looking at it through someone else's eyes. In all of the discussion and questions and excitement of the past few weeks, I've noted that this enthusiasm is having a revitalizing effect on the veteran community.
Of course, it's not as if we can't get out of our rut and take the effort to notice the small things that make WildStar a great place to be. Today I'm going to list, in no particular order, six little elements that I love about this game. Just because I'm that much of a fanboy.
While I can't decide if Halloween is my favorite real-life holiday (it's close, no matter what), I have no doubt that the spooky ooky season is the catalyst for some of my favorite MMORPG events. Developers go nuts around Halloween, with pretty much every game turning its world into a virtual haunted house while reveling in the ghastly, the ghoulish, and the grim.
I was heartbroken last year when WildStar was unwilling or unable to pull the trigger on its version of Halloween. We've waited an entire year for the game to get sorted out -- including switching over to a new business model later this month -- and now that we've swung back around on the calendar, it's time to see Shade's Eve at last.
Beta testers were treated to a few days of the event on the PTR, bringing back a flood of videos, reveals, and enthusiasm. So what are we in for when Shade's Eve kicks off this October? Quite a lot, actually.
WildStar's free-to-play transition -- with the accompanying massive feature patch -- hasn't gotten a set date yet, but with the update in closed beta testing I think it's a safe bet that we're looking at a September or early October launch. That puts WildStar in the middle of all of the fall MMO craziness, which is fine since I doubt that it will get overlooked. Carbine's putting a lot of work into making this do-over count, and that means a lot of press, player previews, and marketing.
So with a month or two until free-to-play, current, former, and potential players have to be asking themselves what they should be doing to prepare. It's always better to be ready than to be scrambling to catch up, in my opinion, which is why I've jotted down five things anyone interested in WildStar's F2P should be doing right now to get ready.
Hot dog! This past week's stress test of the new fall patch for WildStar (it doesn't have a name yet, and Carbine is getting away from the "drop" moniker) got me all worked up over the many shinies coming our way. There's so much here that I would think that everyone would be pleased at least with something, although you never know.
From what we're seeing so far, Carbine's trying to get the game in as good a shape as possible to make the best first (and returning) impressions when the crowd streams in for free-to-play. So it's a lot of everything scattered all over WildStar's surface, from attunements to relics. But for me? There are four areas of the patch that stand out above the rest. Let's take a look.
This past week I got the opportunity to ask a few questions about WildStar's new "stat refactoring" patch that's coming this fall. There were several finer points that I wanted clarification on, but the big one was this: Why didn't the devs identify how confusing the stat names and applications were back before the game launched? The answer, to paraphrase, was that the team thought that the cute names added to the unique flavor to the game (at the unintended expense of being obtuse).
The stat confuzzlement has never been a deal-breaker to me, but it is indicative of the design and business flaws that have steered an otherwise exciting and fun MMO off-course. Being too cute and believing one's own hype -- especially about the mythological millions out there clamoring for "hardcore" endgame activities -- caused Carbine Studios to develop a blind spot as to where WildStar's true strengths lay.
No MMO launches smooth, but with enough time, dev effort, and community patience, even the most rickety ship can be righted. It is the beauty that MMOs offer that traditional video games don't. So what can be done to get the S.S. WildStar sailing straight?
Back when WildStar first launched, there was a rapid evolution of the general community opinion over challenges. Initially there was excitement over these on-the-spot timed quests, as players added them into the list of all of the things to do at any given moment. But players swarming over the same areas and competing for the same challenge resources soon caused a backlash, giving challenges a negative reputation that has persisted to this day.
Honestly, I don't even see people mentioning challenges any more. I guess that, like quests, they're accepted background noise of the game, but hardly a noteworthy feature. I felt much the same for a while too, ignoring them as I dutifully checked off my quest log.
But it was the big drop from earlier this year that changed my perspective on challenges and gave me a new lease on fun in WildStar. What happened to get me to rethink challenges?
Back on the old Massively-That-Was, we used to feature a sporadic series called "Why I Play." The idea was for each of the writers to share why he or she enjoyed playing an MMO, past or present. To discuss what was it about that game that appealed so strongly. To recount past favorite moments.
For my second turn at bat here with Nexus Telegraph, I wanted to do my own reprise of Why I Play, only with this particular title. I feel its slightly scandelous to state before the MMO community that you like WildStar these days, especially following all of the drama, fallout, and shaky state of the game from this past year. After all, isn't this just a hardcore-fest that bombed and deserves to be buried in the desert outside of Area 51?
As rough as a year as it's been, I still contend that there's a terrific game here that was crafted with artistry and fun in mind and has the potential for a bright future. It's a title I log into daily, eager to see where the next stage of my journey takes me. Why I play WildStar might not jibe with the bullet features on the back of the box, but I think that what I have to say speaks to the title's true strengths. Here we go!
So how about those anniversary gifts in WildStar, huh? A year ago I was tremendously excited that the early start to the game's launch just so happened to coincide with my own birthday, which I felt was the best present I could've gotten. But this year I get a rowsdower with a lollipop on its nose and a boombox that turns anywhere into a rockin' dance party, so I am equally delighted.
Yes, it's been a year for this quirky sci-fi title, and what a year it's been. From the heights of hype and launch to the lows of fleeing subscriptions and hardcore fatigue, WildStar's been anything but stable and drama-free. Yet what used to feel like a wildly capsizing ship has started to right itself again with more casual-friendly patches and a very cautiously optimistic community that's come to realize that there's a good game here, a game worth saving.
And while there have been those who have fought any notion of a business model change with kicking and screaming, in my opinion, triggering the end of subscriptions and the start of free-to-play was the only thing that could save the game, realistically. For me, I'm delighted. Eliot's already given his perspective on the switch, and so here are my five reasons I can't wait for F2P to hit.