WildStar: In the mouth of space madness

m1Some nights you have such great gaming experiences that your finger goes sore from jamming on the screenshot key and you can’t wait to whip up a blog post to share the whole sordid tale.  Last night was exactly that for me in WildStar, as I did my first venture through the “Space Madness” shiphand mission.

Up to this point, shiphand missions have more or less been Alien knockoffs, but this one took… a different road.  My shuttle lands on a space station where — small spoilers — a science experiment’s gone a little wrong and released a ton of space LSD into the vents.

m2Everyone’s gone crazy already and I am next.  I started out with a “sanity meter” that slowly depleted, spawning more enemies as I grew increasingly insane.  Of course, these were all figments of my drugged-out imagination, but still.  By sucking on some fresh air tanks, I was able to get a little more sane.

But who wants to get MORE sane when you have the option to completely flip out?

m3Do… do those security cameras have eyeballs?  Why yes, yes they do.  And I’m not even completely crazy yet!

m4Thaaaaaat’s more like it.  SO MANY RAINBOWS.  I was laughing so dang hard into teamspeak at this point.  Whoever designed this mission must have had the best time ever.

m5Tiki spider shopkeeper was actually functional.  He also sold lemonade.

m6“And then, the furniture started attacking me like I was Gaston in Beauty and the Beast!   …no, I’m being totally serious.”

m7At this point, really nothing could surprise me in this mission.  Although, would punching someone with an eyeball hurt one’s opponent?  You’re picking one of the squishiest parts of the body to make into a weapon.  Next you’ll be beating me to death with a marshmallow baseball bat.

m8The big boss here is Exact Change 3.0, a mobile vending machine that throws drinks at you.  I swear I had a dream like this once.

After this, I found a hazmat suit and got sane again, which was far more dull.  It was still a heckuva mission and a great memory.  I love it when an MMO can make me laugh.

WildStar: Jem and the Holograms

After getting some TSW and RIFT time in yesterday, I had an hour or so before bed to check in with WildStar’s now-activated MEGASERVERS.  MEGASERVERS must always be typed in all caps.  Do not stare straight into the MEGASERVERS.  If the MEGASERVERS begin to leak, quickly back away and contact the nearest authorities.

In addition to taking away any old and unused names/characters, Carbine deemed it necessary that everyone on the new MEGASERVERS had to pick a last name to go with their first.  In a way, it was much like launch day, with folks scrambling to get their nomers.  I actually prefer MMOs that allow us two names — there’s less worry about naming conflicts, and it’s oddly easier to come up with good names when you have a pair of words.  After locking in Syp and Syppi Tsunami as well as Thursday Next, I decided to fiddle with the character creator for a bit.  Why not make an Aurin?  They’re silly, but I hadn’t really experimented with their looks all that much.

By the time that I discovered I could have large pink spikey hair and paired that up with the Esper class, I knew that I had to go for a concept.  I’d become Jem Hologram, based on the best 80s cartoon ever.

jem1OK, it’s not a perfect replica, but I’m pretty happy with it.  Jem’s a mishmash of three elements that I haven’t played in WildStar to date — an Aurin, an Esper, and a Soldier.  Figured why not.

About an hour later, I was yelling into our guild’s teamspeak, “WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME HOW AWESOME ESPERS ARE?”  I hold the world at large accountable for this oversight and certainly not my own ignorance.  I guess I had written off Espers early on because they looked a lot like floofy, nature-loving mages.  What didn’t click — but certainly did last night — is the “psychic attack” aspect of the class.  By around level 6, I had a set of incredibly fun abilities including a temporary pet (why did no one tell me they had pets?).

jem2The tail might drive me to distraction, but I was more fascinated with the hologram-like show that Jem put on.  I know that early on, every class in WildStar feels pretty overpowered as the mobs die quick, but even so I felt like a reaper carving my way through all of the opposition.  You look at me funny?  Here are a quick succession of psi-birds to peck off your FACE.

From my perspective, the whole MEGASERVER thing launched really smoothly.  Thayd was reportedly crowded and the channels were all hopping.  My guildies had a lot of fun chatting while we sorted out the new lay of the land, and I was entertained by all of the new two-name characters I encountered, like Matt Damon, Chocolate CHOCOLATE, and (of course) Theodore Roosevelt.

Merges made sense at this juncture in WildStar’s run, and I hope that getting this tech in will pave the way for a stronger future.  In the meanwhile, I’ll be truly, truly, truly outrageous.

WildStar: Saying goodbye to Evindra

Last night was our guild’s — and our server’s — last night on Evindra before today’s megaservers happened, so being the fun-loving group that we are, we threw a huge party to mark the occasion!

party1I had never been to our guild home before, so I was in for a treat when I arrived to see an absolutely mammoth structure that took up most all of the plot.  Our designers didn’t opt for one of those pre-fab homes, oh no.  They built everything from the ground up to create a sprawling multi-level fortress with a dance room, a control room, a courtyard, and this impressive lobby.

party2I hung out and danced for a little while before taking laps around the place with my hoverboard.  Again I was reminded of just how robust WildStar’s housing system is and how creative players can get with it.  I’m doing good if I get a wall up at a 90-degree angle.

party3As for the megaserver, I’m fine with it.  It’ll be nice to have more folks around, and I can adjust with not playing today (WildStar wasn’t on the schedule anyway) and having a last name.  I like two-name characters in MMOs anyway.  Plus, Carbine did good with giving out 30 boomboxes and a day of game time to everyone — that will be appreciated.

Now on to drop 3!

What should WildStar do with its business model?

squirgDue to recent developer comments that they’re “watching” player discussions as to the business model and the general state of the game, it’s safe to say that the business model of WildStar has come under scrutiny not only in the community but most definitely inside Carbine/NCsoft as well.

My general feeling on business models is that there’s no one best one, but the right one for each game.  With a small-to-modest player population, we must ask, is the subscription model the right one for WildStar?  Undoubtedly, the execs at NCsoft and Carbine were hoping for a World of Warcraft-like success with a top-notch product.  And while I’ll agree that WildStar is a great game, it’s no longer 2004 and subscription-only MMOs are in the vast minority.  Players have far more options that don’t demand a monthly fee, and they are exercising those options.

So going forward, what should WildStar do with its business model?  There are three main options:

1. Stick to their sub guns and do nothing

I see sites like WildStar Core in a mild panic as of late that Carbine might indeed be changing its business model, because for some folks subscription-only offers a perceived level of quality that’s “untainted” by free-to-play options.

“Baffles me how people so down-trodden on #WildStar’s quarterly dev cycle think going F2P will give studio funds for same quality content,” they retweeted, apparently ignorant of everything else in the MMO industry.  But that right there is the key argument for keeping it sub — that any other option will result in an income decrease and that the game’s quality will suffer.

It was foolhardy for WildStar to launch with a sub as a brand-new IP in a crowded field and up against much bigger names in 2014, and I maintain that today.  If WildStar does stay sub, it’s going to become even more niche than it is today, CREDD or no.  But… if they do stick with it, at the very least they need to implement a permanent trial (say, to level 10 or 15) to allow folks non-pressure time to get to know the game before buying into it.

2. Go free-to-play/hybrid

In my opinion, WildStar actually does have a good setup for a potential free-to-play conversion.  Whether or not this was being discussed at Carbine, it’s not as if we haven’t seen sub-only MMOs make the switch from 2009 on.

I would look to games like RIFT for inspiration for this model and continue to offer a premium subscription that includes bonuses and currency.  I would give away all of the gameplay content for free with no artificial gates, but instead focus on selling some of that much-ballyhooed customization.  Costumes, mount pimping, housing items — players love these sorts of things and they have little impact on power levels or competition.  Sell those.  Sell boosts if you must.  The upside is that this would encourage more development of cool customization options, which the game needs anyway.

The biggest advantage to this path is that it would completely eliminate an initial financial barrier with no initial or ongoing fee.  The biggest disadvantage is the perceived stigma of free-to-play and the “this game is dying” PR hit that sometimes comes with the transition.

3. Go buy-to-play

I think that WildStar would greatly benefit from looking at its cousin Guild Wars 2 and taking a cue from it.  Continue to sell the boxes, but make the rest of the game free with very optional microtransactions and sales.  The whole premium currency market could be translated into WildStar thanks to its CREDD system.

Otherwise, a lot of the same free-to-play pros and cons and ideas would stay the same.  Lockboxes would be a definite drawback, as it seems that B2P and F2P games can’t resist them (although different MMOs emphasize them differently).

So if you were in charge of WildStar and wanted to ensure its financial and operational future, what business model would you pick?

Evaluating WildStar’s scientist path

sciProbably my biggest regret in WildStar is that I ended up comitting to the scientist path for my main character.  It’s far too late to reroll, so I’m stuck with it.  Sure, I could just ignore it, but I have a hard time doing that since the rewards are decent and it would drive the completionist part of me crazy.  But if I could go back in time, I’d try to convince myself that the settler was far more for me… or anything else, really.

So let’s write up a report card for the scientist to see what I like and dislike about this path!  At least that way I’m getting a post out of my bad choice.

Path aim

The big selling point for the scientist path is to be treated to more of the game’s lore and get a fuller sense of the world.  Since I was planning on this character being the first to go all the way through the game, that made sense to me that I’d want to really get to know more about it.

In reality, this “extra lore” angle has boiled down to three things: forcing me to get every datacube (which is annoying but fun to hear), the very occasional pop-up that elaborates on a species, and unlocking text files that I’ll never take the effort to open up and read.  So for its aim, I think it fails.  I don’t get much more of a sense of the world than I would have otherwise.

I would have liked to have been treated to cutscenes or more audio logs for completing scientist missions, or even been given special pointers as to how to manipulate the world and use scientific knowledge to my advantage.

World interaction

Occasionally but not frequently the scientist path will offer some additional interactions with the world that can be benificial.  These include opening otherwise-locked doors, triggering plants for heals, fixing up broken patrol bots, and making some things explode to hurt enemies.  I’d love to see a LOT more of that, to be honest.

Difficulty

The scientist is not the easiest path to pursue.  While I’ve not gone the explorer route, I’ve heard it said that the scientist is actually tougher to locate places in the world because it’s not spelled out for you with giant floating neon arrows.

I’ve had a few scientist missions that were challenging to complete, mostly because I couldn’t find the last clicky in a region.  But probably the toughest part is finding every darn datacube in a zone.  I’ve mentioned before how I have to pull up a website to help me do this after I finish a zone and do a lot of cross-referencing to find the handful of cubes that I missed.

Rewards

First of all, in a game without vanity pets, having a floating scanbot (that’s customizable!) is a decent substitute.  It goes really well with the image of an Engineer and the class’ bots.  I’m not a fan of how you have to resummon the scanbot and other bots after every mount ride, but still it’s nice to have.

I’ve been pleased with the rewards from the path, particularly the group summon skill that’s come in handy to get folks together for a project.  The port to the capital city is certainly nice to have if the standard port is still on cooldown.  And the outfit (especially the headpiece) is spiffy.

Identity

While I certainly identify with my class choice of Engineer, I can’t say that I see my character as a scientist in any way.  It’s another set of mission objectives to fulfill, but it’s mostly observation with no experiments or scientific breakthroughs.

It has potential to be an interesting path, and it’s my sincere hope that Carbine decides to devote an upcoming drop to giving all of the paths a huge revamp in order to fulfill this potential.

Friday Fluff: WildStar, RIFT, and TSW

mordeshMy new graphics card should be arriving today, and not a moment too soon!  I’m not overly thrilled having to use my laptop for everything, although it’s performed admirably well in the meantime.  If I can get it up and running today, I can continue with my Secret World series, which has sadly languished due to real life this week.

RIFT

After hinting heavily about it during the livestream earlier this week, Trion announced yesterday that RIFT’s Nightmare Tide expansion is not quite ready for prime time and will be pushed from October 8th to the 22nd.  While that should be a downer, I’m fairly okay with the news.  For one thing, I’m nowhere near the level cap nor through all of the content (at my pace, it’ll probably be at least two more months), so the expansion wasn’t going to be a major game-changer for me in what I’m doing.  For another thing, it did sound like the beta’s been rough and that it needed some more work.  Trion does not need another rocky launch so soon after ArcheAge.

Last night I plowed through a large chunk of Iron Pines Peak.  Some of my quests there have to do with the Cult Saga, of which I’m largely ignorant.  I vaguely know that there are these large mission chains with the “saga” label, but past that I haven’t done much research.  Actually, I feel as though there is so much about RIFT that I don’t know, especially with all of its changes and additions since I left it during the early Storm Legion period.  I’m going to need to carve out some time to read up, I guess.

WildStar

My laptop ran WildStar surprisingly well, and last night was the first time this week I was able to get in some time.  I didn’t do anything super-special, just chatted with guildies, tended to my garden, and worked on a few quests in Bio-Dome 3.  I’m actually toying with the idea of pulling my spellslinger out of retirement for another go, just for some class variety sake.  Perhaps my subconscious is plotting against my ever hitting the level cap.  Oh well, no rush nor reason to rush — it’s not as if I’m going to be attuning for raids or anything.

I do want to be better about engaging in more guild activities.  We’ve got an active leadership that has several events planned each week, and I haven’t been the best at participating in those.  That should change.

The Secret World

Now that we’re in October, we’re starting to head into the best MMO holiday season there is: Halloween!  And this is where The Secret World shines, since it’s already a very Halloweeny game (especially in Kingsmouth, where it’s always October).

It was great to get the new TSW newsletter yesterday and hear about a new mission being added to the two existing ones for Halloween.  My goal is to do all of these missions with my new playthrough character, so I’m going to have to work hard to get her to the point that she can at least run through Blue Mountain without being insta-gibbed.  At least there’s a double-AP weekend next week, so maybe a marathon should be planned.  Yes.  Yes, that will do nicely.