The announcement that WildStar developers Carbine Studios plan to make the MMO the latest addition to our ever-growing free-to-play piles happened a while ago now, and superfans have been waiting patiently since then to see how the transition would affect the game. The wait is officially over as the F2P version of WildStar is in closed beta right now. Players who have been granted access to the beta will now be able to see for themselves the changes that were presented to me by Product Director Mike Donatelli and Lead Designer Mike Barr during Gamescom. Stick with me to read more about the closed beta and the changes you can expect for the F2P version of WildStar, or if you prefer, check out the new trailer below.
First things first: You should probably get up to speed by watching the new teaser trailer so that we’re all on the same page!
Now that we’re all aboard the hype train together, let’s look at what we can expect from the upcoming F2P build of WildStar. The most fundamental change is that the game’s main world story commences much earlier with the introduction of the new Alpha Sanctum instance. The intention is to hold new players’ attention by increasing the emotional impact of WildStar by employing the use of an excellent narrative and creative gameplay within a unique environment.
Donatelli freely admitted that players have continually pointed out that the story introduction happened too late, and he said that players didn’t really start engaging with the main heart of the narrative until level 35, which isn’t great by any MMO standard, but would be especially damaging to a free-to-play game in which newbies have made no real financial or time commitment and can easily uninstall and walk away.
Immediately obvious to newbies who will play the game for the first time upon its F2P debut is the new starting tutorial instance. It has three specific settings that will tailor the experience to the experience and comfortability of the new player. I got to try out the middle-of-the-road tutorial option, dubbed “New to WildStar” after the presentation, and I found it laugh-out-loud funny and highly immersive and not at all patronising or pandering. Result!
It was exactly the kind of impactful storytelling that made me fall in love with the genre in the first place, so I was really very encouraged by how gripping I found the short tutorial. I definitely felt that there was enough enough context and instruction to get me started without leaving me feeling overburdened with the amount of information given. It eased me in gently but still managed to keep the action rolling so that it didn’t lose my attention.
I also got to tinker around with the new-and-improved character creation options, which now feature ever-so-shiny playstyle hints that spell out clearly what each choice made during creation will actually mean in-game. No more dropping a character, and perhaps the entire game, because the playstyle wasn’t to your liking and wasting all that playtime. I think all MMO players can get behind that! The descriptions are very punchy and give me just enough of a hint without totally spoiling the context before I set foot in the game world, so I was very impressed yet again with the balance that was struck between helping players make an informed decision and giving too much too soon and overwhelming people.
Lopp fortune-teller Madame Fay will help players to turn modest investments into fantastic all-new treasures that are ready and waiting to be discovered in the new random reward system called Madame Fay’s Fortunes. Quality of life improvements also feature heavily in the F2P build, and pretty soon you’ll be sprinting through cities without needing to stop for air. Navpoints are in to make objective tracking a doddle too, and daily login rewards will be of great benefit to regular players while they’ll also encourage newbies to keep on logging. This improvement list is just the beginning for the F2P build, with a full list that’s around a mile long shared on the official website for your perusal.
All of these features are very much still in development, and Donatelli was very eager to state that player feedback is absolutely crucial to a smooth F2P transition:
We can’t wait to have players get into beta and check out all the new content. Inviting plyers to test all these systems is key to our success. We’re looking to them to provide critical feedback that will enable us to launch free-to-play this fall. — Donatelli
The dedication of WildStar’s community despite a hard first year is a testament to their believe in Carbine Studios, and the team want to reward that dedication by introducing a loyalty scheme for the existing playerbase. Anyone who has subbed to the game, redeemed C.R.E.D.D., or purchased MTX items will earn loyalty points retroactively, which will be a big boost for veteran players. The points will be used to get some very cool new gear, pets, and items, to name just a few purchasables.
Those who have been enjoying the game since its launch will also receive more perks than I can say without taking a huge breath, not least of which being the Ikthian Crawler mount and four months of Signature service, which is a paid-for service that complements and enhances the free account type with a big raft of added perks that you can explore in the F2P FAQ. Don’t panic if you were there from launch but let your sub slip along the way: if you signed up again before June 15th and maintain a sub until the F2P release, you’re entitled to the same pile of goodies. If you missed launch but maintain an active sub until launch, you’ll get a smaller but no less cool bonus that includes the DJ Caretaker housing décor item, the Disco Snoglug companion pet, the new housing music track, four months of Signature service, and the “Nexus Loyalist” title.
I was glad to see that some sort of reward was put in place for the people who have supported the game with their hard-earned subscriptions, especially since those players have given a phenomenal amount of feedback to Carbine in order to make the F2P launch successful and ultimately to create the product that they dream of. MMOs are always better with company, so it’s in fans’ best interests to make their voices heard whenever a dev team calls for it. The WildStar community has gone above and beyond with this opportunity to change the game for the better, however, and that’s exactly why Carbine wanted to announce F2P long before it was ready to be implemented.
Between the new loyalty scheme and the sizable revamp of so many features (definitely check out the full list on the official WildStar forum because I’ve only just scratched the surface), I’m sure many of you are rather curious and wouldn’t mind signing up for future beta access. You can do so at the game’s website by clicking the relevant beta sign-up button. I’m more than a little curious myself after I lost myself in the opening scenes and tutorial during Gamescom, and I’d love to hear your feedback on the beta if you’re playing yourself. Whatever you think, I know that Carbine Studios really wants to hear it, so don’t forget to give your feedback. Let me know in the comments too!
Oh, and I’ll leave you with a nice little gallery of juicy new screenshots to tide you over!