WildStar: Can great MMOs come out of nowhere?

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.

7 thoughts on “WildStar: Can great MMOs come out of nowhere?

  1. I’m a little less curious about the game after PAX. The four different play paths really aren’t as innovative as I thought they could be — it seems not much different than picking out an agent type in Eve, only this game has each character stick to that type.

    But I did enjoy the visuals and the humor in the trailer. It reminded me, distantly, of the last few Space Quest games. Completely different genre, obviously, but a game is always on solid ground with me if it reminds me of a semi-forgotten classic. I might try to get in early just to reserve the name Roger Wilco.

    Or not. It all depends on pricing.

  2. The Bartlet Scale? Isn’t that how they rate pears?

    I saw a post way back on Bartle’s blog where he was rather dismissive of people trying to incorporate his types into a game. He was of the opinion that an explorer will try ALL tracks because they are, you know, explorers. And killers won’t all follow the killer track, a good chunk of them will figure out where they can be the most annoying and most effectively grief other players.

    Now maybe Carbine has figured that out and knows what they are doing… and then again, maybe not. Just saying they have it does not make it so.

  3. I find myself in agreement with Willy above me. I don’t think too highly of their path system now that they’ve laid it out. For example I think their Explorer idea takes most of the fun out of actual exploration. I don’t want the game telling me when and where exploration can take place. Half of the enjoyment comes from getting to places you aren’t supposed to be able to reach anyways. Rather defeats the purpose. On top of that, they even said that non-Explorers can still get to all the same places, they just don’t get the game alerting them to their existence. It all seems very ehhhhhhh.

    Also, I’d hardly say they’re “coming out of nowhere” Syp. Sure they have more than just a flashy trailer with no gameplay demo, but not much. Hopefully they’ll stay low key with the fanfare and then only pull the stopper off the marketing blitz only a few months before they launch like Rift did. It kills me when companies hype the hell out of things YEARS before they’re actually available.

  4. I’m starting to agree with you more and more about your theories about a “Post-WoW Era.” I think were going to see many more companies try to deviate and innovate as the next few years roll on. Heck, we may even see the sandbox reach new heights in popularity. I feel that is a MASSIVELY underdeveloped field in the MMO genre.

  5. I don’t believe that great MMOs can come from nowhere. The hype for them can arise very quickly though.

    Great MMOs need a lot of playtesting and a strong systems base that can still fall over depending on the direction that the devs take the game post-launch.

    I’m still waiting to see more about WildStar and to actually play it before making any decisions about it. Cute graphics and a ‘funny’ world mean nothing if the gameplay isn’t solid.

  6. Whyyy ruin games with this anime style art? Yuck! I want it dark, gritty and less-asian. Same with the Asura race in GW2. That is about enough for me too not play it.

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