Vague Patch Notes: WildStar deserves its shutdown, even though we loved it

    
28
Sorry, guy.

Last week, when we heard that WildStar was being shut down, I penned a truthful, heartfelt eulogy for the game as it could’ve been. I talked about how its loss is a shame, a tragedy that could have been avoided. There’s so much imagination on display in the game, so many elements of it that I love, so much of the game that deserves to be memorialized and held up as worthy of emulation.

You’ll note that none of those statements implies that the shutdown is wrong.

There’s an interesting perspective that crops up when things like this happen, as we see in the petition urging a stay of execution for the game – the idea that this is a conflict in which we (the players) are on the side of Good, and the company shutting the game down is on the side of Evil. More than most similar scenarios, though, WildStar provides a clear illustration of the reality. It’s a sad fact, but it’s not an unexpected one, and it’s not something that comes out of nowhere.

NOW I robot.Let’s start with a statement that should not, at face value, be controversial: NCsoft gave WildStar more chances than the game had actually earned. It had a huge number of opportunities to take off, despite the fact that it only had one period of success, and that was when it launched.

The game did, in fact, have a solid launch! But nothing else worked out well. It didn’t retain players well. It didn’t age well. Leveling up did not result in more people singing its praises but in more people leaving. Its updates weren’t well-received. The general consensus over time was that it just kept doing worse, not better. And when changes finally did come around, to the subscription model and to mechanics, all of that was a result of NCsoft giving the team more space and time to find a working formula.

Compare this with a hypothetical indie version of Carbine. There wouldn’t have been anything left by the time the game finally went free-to-play. It wouldn’t have even been able to try that approach amidst declining revenue.

For two years now, we’ve been collectively wondering when the game was going to shut down, for reasons I actually touched upon in the aforementioned eulogy. NCsoft may be shutting it down, but the fact of the matter is that the game wouldn’t have had so many chances at life if it hadn’t been getting that backing in the first place.

It’s why the odds of the petition to save the game are pretty much zero. Fans already supported the game. Enthusiasm for the game from the people who already like it is a known fact. And as cold as it sounds, in this particular case, that doesn’t much matter. Everyone already knows that the people who like this game like this game; the problem is that Carbine isn’t going to make another game, and the existing one doesn’t have the revenue to justify keeping people around.

Yes, some games can keep running in maintenance mode on a skeleton crew, like Guild Wars and Final Fantasy XI. These are also titles that both succeeded in making money and have parent studios working on other successful titles. That isn’t the case for every configuration.

No gamers really want to hear that a game they enjoy is being shut down because it doesn’t make enough money. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to be eulogizing WildStar. But I also spent the past two years not being in a position where I already had half of the eulogy written out in my head – because I liked what the game had on display!

In other words, I’m biased in favor of this game. And when you look at the actual facts, yeah, this makes sense. It’s a title we all knew was living on borrowed time, and most of the hope for the future came from the idea that Carbine still had something in the works. Once that fell apart, so did this idea.

It’s comforting to paint NCsoft as a villain for the decision, just because it’s comfortable to paint it as a villain for another title I loved that the publisher shut down. The closure of City of Heroes did, in fact, come as a huge surprise to pretty much everyone. [Editor’s note: When the first tip about CoH came in, our news team honestly thought it was a troll. Then the second one arrived.] I wrote a eulogy for that, too. Yes, the game was still making a profit, it was still a good game, it still had a respectable playerbase, all of that. But was it making enough money to justify the costs of Paragon’s second game? And was NCsoft justified in axing the whole studio for being in the red, even if the game was in the black?

The meta discussion about the rationale (ranging from shoring up costs on a macro level for ArenaNet’s development to other corporate antics) is shot through with a whole lot of rumors and speculation and anonymous sources from Paragon, and it’s not worth dredging it all up again. But what I do know is that it wasn’t a decision made on a whim just because NCsoft hadn’t shut down a game for a few months and the company’s trigger finger was itchy. The company made a decision, and while it might have been a bad long-term investment (something I also wrote about at the time) it wasn’t done out of malice. You may not agree with the corporate reason, but it did exist.

If someone's goal here is to say that I must not have been a real CoH fan, we will all laugh at you.“Oh, so you’re saying we shouldn’t be sad these things are gone?” Heck no! That’d be ridiculous. But there’s a difference between being sad that something is happening (WildStar is shutting down) and feeling that it’s wrong. It’s not just someone running through a server farm and switching things off whilst cackling with glee.

Instead, the questions to be asked here are whether or not the game had its chances to shine. Whether or not it was given the backing, the resources, and the marketing necessary to catch people. It’s important to ask if people knew this game existed and if it had a real chance to take off. And looking at WildStar? It did.

Why didn’t it take off? Hey, I wrote a whole eulogy about why it didn’t take off. But it had its support and all the chances and time in the world. Failing to do so is not exactly a shock under the circumstances, and it doesn’t make the company which packed it through all of its fumbles leading up to that point a villain. I’m sure we can all think of at least one company that would have shut it down long before the free-to-play conversion without ever giving it marketing or development support.

That’s important for every game, I think. Asking about the reasons and the surrounding motivations are important. There are always reasons going into a shutdown, and while you may disagree with them, it’s also because your perspective is not that of someone on the corporate side. There’s always a reason why things shut down, and they may be bad reasons, but they’re still there.

So rather than demonizing the people responsible for the shutdown, ask about why it’s happening. Ask about why this game – which, as previously discussed, had lots of things worth admiring – reached a point wherein we have to have this discussion. For that matter, ask about whether or not that part could have been prevented.

Yes, it’s sad WildStar is shutting down. It’s a tragedy. It’s also not exactly surprising, and it comes after the game had every chance in the world to survive.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
donvweel

I agree they dropped the ball. I played the beta but there was not enough there to hook me. They had a unique thing but did not run with it.

Reader
Kenji Takeda

not sure if this is going to offend the fanbase but the game couldn’t catch the targeted audience nor it could catch the rest of the audience with their revamps.

one of the key elements in a mmo was pretty trash , which was combat . in PvP it’s it looks like a damn dance floor . Nothing fun about it!

though it had good elements but nothing enough to power wildstar into the stars , graphically it looked nice with the humor injected but then again it had a huge performance issues

everyone should have seen the closure coming , NCsoft let it survive longer then it was supposed to.

Reader
John Mynard

Wildstar’s biggest strength was its world. That Space/Western/50s “B” Movie/traditional fantasy vibe was unique and interesting. That’s the tragedy of it all. Nexus was vibrant and interesting and it’s a shame to see it fall to poor decision making and “too big to fail” mentality from the management team at Carbine.

seculaparsec
Reader
seculaparsec

Alot of people including me couldnt even take the name “Wildstar” seriously…

Reader
Hikari Kenzaki

First, I agree. The counter that I’m seeing is that Wildstar didn’t give the shot(s) it deserved.

It may have not gotten the chance it deserved, but it got the chance it wanted.

It spent almost its entire lifecycle telling me (and a huge section of MMO players) I wasn’t the type of player they wanted playing it.

So I obliged them.

Reader
Arsin Halfmoon

We all knew it was going to die, so people didnt log on and invest time because they felt it was going to die soon. Interesting thing about MMOs is that you need more momentum than a typical game or itll die like wildstar. Once that momentum was gone, it was gonnnnnnnnne

Reader
Hravik

This right here for me. Wildstar was that MMO that was in the back of my mind. It looked interesting, but I never pulled the trigger on diving in because it also looked on the verge of having the plug pulled at any moment.

Reader
Kip Braunstader

i never tried wild star for the style of art just didn’t speak to me ..and i regret not giving it a try..there are many things that happen in entertainment (movies, books) that corporations make calls on that are not to my liking, but as i get older i am staring to understand why.
the go fund type of grassroots thing is a very promising prospect for games, music ect. that may put product that people want …since we are probably not ever gonna see any kind of AAA mmo again

Reader
Fair Mores

It deserved more chances, more time, and certainly a better pool of MMO players. The game has so many features, it is not just a raiding game. There is so much to collect and complete and build outside of dungeons and raids.
The story was interesting because it was bitter sweet. From the start you are hearing the story of Nexus told by the actors themselves and you learn not only what they were doing but who they were and how different they were from each other. I cant believe that story will never reach the resolution it should have.
The housing, the character customization, the humor, art, music, the way when your character eats food you see “nom nom nom” above their head lol is it the best joke in the world? No, but it shows there was heart in this project.

Losing wildstar is a loss for the entire genre. It just shows investors, companies, devs, that collectively after all these decades we still do not know what we want from a massively multiplayer online game.

SPOILER (does this warning even matter?)

Why did Omechron betray the Eldan for the focus of logic??? He forsook everyone for what purpose??

Reader
Bruno Brito

It deserved more chances, more time, and certainly a better pool of MMO players. The game has so many features, it is not just a raiding game. There is so much to collect and complete and build outside of dungeons and raids.

Not the player’s fault. The game was marketed at a specific group, and that group went there. That’s on Carbine.

The story was interesting because it was bitter sweet. From the start you are hearing the story of Nexus told by the actors themselves and you learn not only what they were doing but who they were and how different they were from each other. I cant believe that story will never reach the resolution it should have.

Which, while good, it’s terrible brought out because of the tweet format the game had, offering you really small bits of story and you had to read through all the questlogs with that awful UI. Wildstar had great stuff, but it was badly conveyed.

The housing, the character customization, the humor, art, music, the way when your character eats food you see “nom nom nom” above their head lol is it the best joke in the world? No, but it shows there was heart in this project.

Which was then followed by a weak leveling experience, weak combat, great raiding, but gated, awful optimization and by consequence, awful pvp experience, and a terrible crafting system. Yeah. Again, Wildstar had cool stuff, but the CORE game had flaws. Huge flaws.

Losing wildstar is a loss for the entire genre. It just shows investors, companies, devs, that collectively after all these decades we still do not know what we want from a massively multiplayer online game.

Altho losing Wildstar is a loss, Wildstar wasn’t lost now. The game died when it failed to be realized as the game it should be. Nexus was sold to us as a breathing world, it was pretty much a semi-sandboxy game, with then ended up being a weak themepark with good casual content, but targeted at hardcore players.

You’re overestimating how great Wildstar was. It was a game without a working LFG function, that was never fixed. It had great raiding, and housing, but other than that, the game was extremely weak. It was a ok game, and it should be way better considering it’s budget.

Reader
angrakhan

Guys, it’s really simple… This game was a big time AAA budget game built solely for the hardcore player. There simply aren’t enough hardcore players to support a game that costs that much. The proof is in the pudding. Either build a big budget game for everyone, or build a niche hardcore game within a appropriate niche sized budget. Lesson learned. Pay your respects to W* and move on.

Andrew Ross
Staff
Andrew Ross

This is basically it. I won’t dig up all the links, but I remember going into my first demo of the game super excited, especially since there was an Asheron’s Call team member in a high position. I loved the advertising, but noticed mixed signals between that and the planned content. I remember hoping for the best and trying to cover up the demo’s shortcomings by blaming the controls (first and last time I’ve done that). It was just… boring.

MMOs are terrible to demo, but I remember the fandom reacted badly. I remember being (from what I remember) the lone voice in the industry saying, “This isn’t looking as good as it’s being hyped,” and having a “conversation that never happened” about my content with people who mattered. I felt reaffirmed in my position, and when NDAs lifted and beta came out, my initial reaction was being echoed by (in some cases, former) fans.

I’d really hoped something would change. That all that free feedback would lead to something, but Eliot hit the all the basic points in his eulogy. The team behind Wildstar’s marketing/creative ads did well, but it didn’t match what the developers were doing. I’d love to see Wildstar live on somehow, but the MMO’s potential was murdered by people who simply couldn’t be bothered with understanding its fans.

Reader
dinwitt

On the other hand, if the stories are correct and NCSoft forced Wildstar to launch early, then NCSoft doesn’t get credit for additional chances because it ruined the only one that matters. I think there’s a good case to be made that another three to six months would have seen Wildstar in a much better state for launch (megaservers implemented, database bug squashed, itemization fixed after feedback from lengthy max level beta test), and releasing after Destiny and Warlords instead of before might have changed the story.

hurbster
Reader
hurbster

Not really, still would have had the ‘hardcore cupcake’ ethos that drove most players away.

Reader
athiev

I mean, “early” in this case means after one of the longest MMO development cycles ever, so it’s hard to really blame NCSOFT on this one.