My WildStar crew, part 2

And here are my efforts to create fun-looking characters over on the Dominion side of things:

cass1It might just be me, but it seems as though Cassians get better options, especially in the hairstyle department.  Seriously, how could I *not* choose this ‘do?  She’s classy and bossy and has far longer arms than I do.

cass2Well there’s a face that only a mother could run screaming away from.  Since I almost never roll characters with horns, I don’t see myself playing a Draken.  So might as well have fun with the look, right?  In a weird way, I could see this growing on me.

cass3The Chua have some of the best character creation options, I have to say.  You can go super-cute, but you can also ugly/weird them up something fierce.  A chubby Chua with torn ears, a black eye, and snaggleteeth?  I’m kind of in love with him.

cass4Props to Carbine for allowing a few Mechari faces that look far more robotic than pseudo-humanoid.  I really like this “tennis racket” design and the color scheme that went with it.

Interestingly enough, after creating eight characters from all eight races, I must say that Dominion has more looks that appeal to me than Exile.  At least I have options depending on which side my guild rolls!

My WildStar crew, part 1

With the WildStar beta weekend and the new patch boasting additional body options and hairstyles, I knew I had to make it my goal to log in and work on my future characters’ looks.  Here’s the crew of possibles that I whipped up, one for each race of the Exile (I’ll do Dominion later on):

wild1Here’s my Exile Human.  Going with the darkest skin option + platinum hair look that I loved on my Draenei back in World of Warcraft.  Long, messy hair over the eyes and a more reserved face to give her an aura of shyness — but I envision her being extremely competant even so.  I chose the most realistic body type that was on the list.

wild2I might have flirted with the idea of rolling an Aurin in the past, but I think I’m well over that.  There are simply no good female Aurin looks — the faces are beyond bizarre and the body types now come in “anorexic, super-anorexic, and chunky monkey.”  So here’s my Fraggle Rock male Aurin instead.  I like how he looks so ticked off at the flowers in his hair.

wild3I’m willing to bet that female Granoks will be one of the least rolled race/gender combos in the game.  Yet I’m actually taking a shine to what I came up with here, kind of an 80s-inspired glam rocker made of rock.  I like lavender and the body type here is a good balance between too huge and too skinny.

wild4Lots of very off-putting options with Mordesh females.  I don’t mind making them weird, but too many of these are too grotesque instead of fun.  So I went with this psuedo-goth, relatively un-tubed look.  Maybe the guys have better options, that’s how it is sometimes.

WildStar: A new hope and a whole lotta patch notes

wildEven though the game is offline and in between beta weekends, WildStar dropped a motherlode of patch notes yesterday for its “UI 2.0″ update.  There was a lot in it, but probably the most notable for me was the expected implementation of the much sleeker UI and (surprise!) more character creation options, including new hair styles and other body types.

The last one caught a lot of people off-guard; I don’t think Carbine had even mentioned that it was going to do other body types in the game.  I’m very, very glad the studio made a point to do so, because the current proportions weren’t everyone’s cup of tea and in fact was irking some greatly.

Of course, we don’t know what or how many body types are going to be in the game until it boots back up for the next beta weekend, but I will certainly be logging in to check them out and probably come up with new saved templates for my characters’ looks.  Here’s hoping for somewhat more realistic proportions and death to wasp-waists in some of the options.

As of late, I’m definitely leaning toward playing a Medic as my main, although the race is still up for debate.  I will roll Mordesh if I can make one that looks good to me, but if not, Human it is.  Also ping-ponging between Settler and Scientist paths.

The one thing I really don’t like about WildStar’s player housing?

I am really not that comfortable being on a floating island so high up in the air.  It’s just a game, it’s silly, but as a guy who has a pretty severe fear of heights, there’s something unnerving about floating in the sky and trusting that gizmos won’t fail and drop you to your doom in the middle of the night.

I really do wish that there was an option for ground housing, or barring that, a solid backdrop for the perimeter of the housing island so that it looked as though it was on land.

Quote of the Day: Play together

“Wildstar uses two interesting systems to allow people to play together. Mentoring isn’t new, as GW2 has this as well. You can lower your level to play with friends. Unlike GW2′s automatic downleveling, it’s a toggle. Rallying will adjust everyone’s level to be the max for an area. In a dungeon this means everyone entering it will be the max level for this dungeon, so e.g. level 20 for Stormtalon’s Lair. This also affects people who haven’t reached this level yet. You’re level 17 but want to do Stormtalon’s Lair already? No problem, your stats will scale up. Being able to play with friends is a cool thing. I like.”

~ To Boldly Nerd (great WildStar overview, by the way)

Quotes of the Day: Body parts and heavy metal

“Contrary to the popular notion Wildstar isn’t WoW, more importantly does not feel like WoW. Much rather I would say this: Wildstar is heavy metal.”

~ MMO Gypsy

 

“More disturbing are the guys that want body parts. Tanners and butchers I can let slide, but when people start asking for paws or ears or eyeballs do you ever stop and wonder what they do with it? Or do you just go at face value of, I need the eyeballs to break a magic spell excuse?”

~ JVT Workshop

WildStar: Breaking down the launch date and pre-order

ws1

I love that the box art has a Granok drinking a beer.

Huzzah!  Not only is today a snow day for me, but it’s the day that Carbine Studios has finally released the last big batch of info that we’ve been waiting for on WildStar: the release date, pre-order details, and edition info.  Got a lot to talk about here, so let’s dig in!

For starters, June 3rd will be the release date.  I think that was in the window that many of us were expecting — still technically spring, but pushing into summer.  While I’d love for WildStar to launch tomorrow, I’m not going to gripe too hard here for the less-than-three-months wait.  I think it’s a good time for the game to launch, giving it a good space after ESO’s April launch but well before the fall’s major releases.  Personally, I’ll have more time (I think) come the summer to play in general, so awesome.

Carbine also abolished the NDA today, which certainly speaks to the studio’s confidence in its product.  It wasn’t as if it was super-enforcing the NDA up to this point (the press has been able to talk about it for the most part for a while now, and I know the devs weren’t very keen on the NDA at all).  For good or ill, the conversation about the game can fully open up and I’m looking forward to just discussing the game back and forth with players.

ws2All right, so how about the purchase options?  I was a little surprised here with some of the choices, mainly what was left out and the fact that the special edition didn’t try to go for a plus-$100 package.  In a nutshell:

  • Standard edition is $60, and includes 30 days, three 7-day passes for friends, and a housing item.
  • Digital Deluxe edition is $85, and includes the above as well as an Eldan hoverboard, a costume, a player title, and a dye set.
  • Pre-ordering either edition gives early access starting on May 31, a rocket house, a mini-ship housing decoration, 10-slot inventory bag, and the ability to reserve character and guild names prior to launch.

I’m really flummoxed that there isn’t a bigger collector’s edition, unless that’s something that Carbine is finalizing right now (although that wouldn’t be a good thing if people want it but pre-order one of the other ones).  I guess my biggest disappointment is a lack of a soundtrack — WildStar’s score is simply one of the best I’ve heard in an MMO and I must have it.  My next hope is that it’ll be made available on iTunes/Amazon at some point (or, hey, given away for free).

These packages aren’t blowing me away but they aren’t bad, either.  My initial impression is that the pre-order bonuses are actually better than what we’re getting as bonuses in the editions.  The inventory bag isn’t something to sneeze at, and I’m all over that rocket ship house.  Plus you know how I am with being able to reserve my names (although we don’t have info yet how this’ll work — how many names can we reserve?  Will they be held to a specific server or across all servers?).  And starting three days early on what is coincidentally my birthday?  That’s the cherry on the top.

ws3I see no reason not to go for the digital deluxe edition.  It’s not that much more and, hey, spiffy hoverboard.  I’m already getting a hoverboard from the beta program, but it’s nice to have options.  The other items are… fine, I guess.  It’ll be nice to have them for each new character.

In any event, I am pumped!  This is my most-anticipated MMO for 2014 and I’m glad to finally have specifics about the launch and to get my pre-order in.  Now I just need to figure out what class/race/path combo I’m going to go for as my main.  The safe pick is engineer/human/settler, but I may be pushing myself out of my comfort zone to do esper/aurin/scientist for my initial run.

Is WildStar really just “World of Warcraft in space?”

wildAs games approach, so do the rapidly gelling opinions of those looking at them, both in the pro and con camp (what, wait until a game is released to form an opinion?  What madness is this of which you speak?).  A lot of confirmation bias goes on — if you are inclined to like a game, you’re going to look for aspects that back that up, and if you don’t like it, you’re going to root out evidence that proves your viewpoint.  We all do this.  I’m inclined to like WildStar for many reasons, including having actually played a nice bit of it, but if you can’t acknowledge both the ups and downs then it’s going to be harder in the long run as a fan of the game.

So here’s the big question-slash-attack that I’ve seen levied at WildStar quite often — and I only expect it to be mentioned more once the release date comes out and we ramp up for launch.

Is WildStar really just “World of Warcraft in space?”

I’m not a fan of this question, not because I don’t think that there’s merit in it (as we’ll examine in a second) but because most people asking it or stating it aren’t looking for an answer, they’re just spitting out a good-sounding quip that allows them to be as dismissive as possible using an economy of words.  Compare game A to game B while the context takes the job of insulting it (as in “Anything World of Warcraft-like is derivative and undesirable and unoriginal,” which is what is really being implied), and there you go.  You’ve delivered a crushing blow to its fans!  So amazing.

Even so, it’s a topic that needs to be addressed because, like it or not, WildStar is going to get those comparisons.  The biggest reason is that it bears more than a striking resemblance to WoW’s well-known look: WildStar has a very colorful palette and cartoonish, stylized art.  I think that WS is perhaps even more stylized and colorful than WoW, but it’s a fair observation.

Pressing the point of similarities, WildStar is a theme park MMO with many familiar elements that, yes, World of Warcraft has as well: leveling, dungeons, raids, talents, PvP, quest hubs, achievements, and a transition between a leveling game and the “elder” game.

Sometimes people ask that question because the comparison to WoW is very unfavorable due to burnout — they’ve been there, they’ve done that, and they don’t want to do it again “just in space.”  I think it’s important to note two additional factors, however: Carbine hasn’t made any direct comparisons or claims to WoW, and that for others, similarities to WoW might be very desirable.

For example, ever since seeing the first WildStar screenshots, I was in love with the visual world.  I love bright colors and stylized designs — much the way I was initially attracted to WoW when I first saw it in 2003.  It’s a matter of personal taste, and so here it’s a plus for me, not a minus.

As for theme park elements, well, again it depends on what you like.  I’m not against sandbox design by any means, but I vastly prefer theme park MMOs.  They’re comfortable, fun, and enjoyable to me.  That WildStar is about 80% familiar design with 20% different ideas is a good mix (asking for 100% new is something players love to do but is completely unfeasible).

So there are three ways that you can make something really entertaining, in my opinion.  The first is to come up with a new idea.  The second is to combine two previous ideas to form a hybrid that functions as a new idea or to give a new take on an old idea.  And the third is to take an old idea but do it very, very well.  This goes for books, games, movies, etc., and as long as the end product is engaging, then I am not picky.  There are very boring ways to charge players with quests and really exciting ones, and a world of difference can lie between them — even though they’re both quests doing more or less the same thing.  One thing that WoW did teach us is the lesson of “polish” — taking a working idea but making it elegant, attractive, and far more user-friendly is a huge boon for a game and gets a lot more respect from players.  This is what I feel WildStar is doing.

Is that wrong?  Should WildStar have been trying very hard to divorce itself from any hint of  WoW-ness?  I honestly can’t make that call.  We’ve seen games similar to WoW do well and ones do poorly.  We’ve seen MMOs that try hard to differentiate themselves from WoW fare both good and bad.  It could indeed push potential players away, but it could also attrack new ones (and even ones tired of WoW but not looking to make a huge change).

Maybe it’s even time we get past constantly comparing games to other games as equally or more important as examining the game on its own merit.  Easier said than done, of course.

For me, no, WildStar is not “just” WoW in space.  It has similarities, but it’s also shaping up to be more.  The other thing that irritates me about that question is that it’s very dismissive of anything that WS is doing different from WoW, which there is.  The path system isn’t just a frill, it’s a genuine sub-class that offers a lot of replayability and interesting combinations.  WS’ “limited action set” is more like GW2/RIFT in space than WoW.  Its housing system is really stunning and is not what WoW is looking to do with garrisons in any case.  Then there are adventures, challenges, shiphand missions, mount customization, PvP customized bases, hoverboards, and an attitude from the game and devs that feels far more fresh to me that what I’ve experienced from Blizzard.  Ths isn’t even to mention the unique world setting with its own races, lore, culture, and backstory.  Now, is it doing *enough* for those that don’t like WoW to be happy?  Probably not.

And maybe, just maybe, the “in space” part of that question matters too.  We moan about fantasy taking over the genre but are so quick to dismiss a scifi alternative when it comes?  Not I.  Scifi > fantasy any day of the week for me.

My advice is to check the game out to see for yourself without buying into the “just” comparisons.  I’ve seen people who weren’t on board fall in love with it, and I’ve seen people grow lukewarm or cold to it who were originally nuts about it.

Y’know, like all MMOs.