Out of all of the news that’s been bubbling out of Gamescom and PAX, probably the most interesting is just how much attention and love WildStar is getting. I don’t think anyone expected it, which is somewhat unusual in this industry — we usually see games coming from a long ways off, announced early on in the development cycle, to allow for the maximum amount of hype and anticipation to snowball.
Yet more and more devs are saying things like “We need to hold off showing you anything until we’re much later in the development cycle and have it nearly finished.” It might not help with the hype train, but it does wonders with consumer confidence in a genre that’s so brutally quick to judge, slam, and storm off before the game’s out and it’s been given a chance to prove itself.
I remember a while back I asked the question — either here or on Massively — whether it was possible for great MMOs to come out of the blue and bowl us over. Lots of people said no, because we’re a 24/7 news cycle kind of world and big (or decently-made) MMOs don’t appear every day. But I harbored a suspicion that, given the right circumstances, shrewd studio planning, and personal awareness, that, yes, it could indeed happen.
I felt it happen with Fallen Earth prior to launch, mostly because I didn’t give it the time of day nor listen to anyone talk about it — and then I got my hands on it and fell in love. I saw it happen with RIFT, which went from low-profile to mega-profile within the space of a month as it ramped up beta testing weekends and people went, “Whoa! We weren’t even following this game but holy crud is it polished and fun!” And I think it’s happening here with WildStar.
It’s to NCsoft’s credit that the company waited until Carbine had something solid to show instead of just a trailer and a fairy wish list of ideas. Announcing your game for the first time while you let people see it in action or get to play it themselves makes a big, big impression, as if to say that this company really has it together. It’s like a dash of cold water to the face that makes you sit up and really pay attention.
And it’s to WildStar’s credit that the title genuinely looks fun. I’m hearing a lot of love for the art style, the scifi-ish setting, the action-packed environment, and especially the way the game will cater to your personal playstyle along the Bartle scale. For people who say that we’re in an MMO rut, I want to point at games like WildStar to say that devs do hear, do understand, and are trying to innovate without taking too far of a risk that they could lose the whole project. I think that in this post-WoW era we’re going to be seeing more interesting MMO ideas and features than we have in the past couple years, and that the genre is going to be primed for a different kind of revolution. But that’s just my opinion.