WildStar: Locked and Reloaded

WildStar: Reloaded is here, and as to be expected, it’s a mixture of giddy highs and crushing lows.

Most of the lows are on the technical side of things: a crushing queue that sometimes reached into the hour-and-a-half range, server lag, and so many day-one maintenance patches and associated downtimes that playing was more of an occasional nicety than anything else. I expect most of these issues to be worked out soon, but it didn’t make for the best F2P opening I’ve ever seen.

In fact, at times even when I was in the game, it was virtually unplayable. That’s the thing about action combat — any lag pretty much shoots the experience in both feet. Two or three seconds of delay between hitting any key and seeing a result was unacceptable. I was not the only one I saw who got out of the game last night to wait and see when Carbine would iron all of this out.

On the upside, the excitement over WildStar is positively electric, both in the game and outside of it. It’s kind of a weird mixture of launch, expansion, and Christmas. The second I logged in, I rushed to check all of the loyalty goodies that I’d accumulated. While for some reason I have yet to be awarded the subscriber pet and housing item, my cosmic rewards shot into the fifth tier and spat out a ton of items and unlocks.


That Northern Lights dye is spectacular. And I’m not complaining about the mounts, costume pieces, and pets either.

Every long-term player was suffering from inventory bloating, myself included. Due to all of the rune changes and whatnot, Carbine mailed us SO MUCH STUFF that went on top of any cosmic rewards. Sorting all of that out took some time.

I poked around the new challenge interface as well. Instead of tying a set of randomized rewards to individual challenges, now you have a challenge reward track that lets you choose one of three goodies at certain intervals. It’s cool… I guess. I am saddened that my Thayd run will no longer spit out a string of decor boxes or that certain challenges I had been working on for pet rewards are no longer there. I really wanted that squirg pet, darn it!


In a spate of questing, I did start to accumulate omnibits — one here and there, including one from a challenge. It’s going to be slow going building up a bank account of those to spend on the store, but at least it’s an option. There’s one lawman outfit that I really want to get at some point.


Apart from that, I put together a couple of outfits from the sets that I was given (a cannibal one and a formal one — seen above). I jetted off to my housing plot and suffered agoraphobic shock at how much empty space there is now that the plot’s been quadrupled in size.

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about that. I can imagine that many intricately designed housing plots were ruined with this. For me, I’m struggling to think how I’m going to fill up all of this space. Eventually we’re supposed to get more housing plugs, but they’re not in yet. I just wish that my house wasn’t so far away from the teleportation pad.

Speaking of the house, the patch allowed me to buy an opposite faction pad, so I got the Cassian cozy house. I like it so much more than the Exile one, if that it contains straight angles, a floor grid, and enough space to make a second floor easy. Lots to do there, and I am mulling over options as to how I want to design the interior before moving in all of my stuff.

It’s a heady feeling to have so much to do and a largely improved game in which to do it. I still have to go through the Alpha Sanctum and start on crafting, so those are on the table for some time this week.

The three types of MMO winter zones


Winter’s been on my mind more lately, partially because the season has turned to fall here in Michigan and partially because I’ve been adventuring through Whitevale this past week on my Medic.

Generally, I like winter. I’m weird that way, but I think it’s important to find something that you love in all of the seasons instead of taking sides and preferring one at the expense of loathing another. After all, if I’m going to be saddled with three or four months of snow and ice, I should make peace with it. And I do: I love the look of snow, the whole lead-up to Christmas, the coziness of sitting inside somewhere warm while the wind is howling outside, wearing winter clothes and jackets, and having fun with my kids outside. There’s a simple pristine beauty that winter can demonstrate that the other seasons can’t.

So I’m also drawn to winter zones in MMOs. We make a lot of jokes about how MMOs have been using the same generic biomes that have been in video games since the days of the NES, but to be fair, many designers do come up with different twists and shades of those biomes that end up putting each in their own categories. So it is with winter areas.

There are the “Christmas” winter zones, as I like to call them. These are welcoming, bright, and full of fluffy snow. WildStar’s Whitevale is a great example of this. Plenty of cozy and inviting settlements with traditionally festive winter activities — building snowmen, for example — and lights and vivid pine trees. The sky is bright, the air is clear, and one wishes that one had a snowmobile to travel around on.

Alternatively and less rare are the “desolate” winter zones. Winter here isn’t a set dressing, it’s a nasty force of nature that’s out to oppress and kill. Lots of ice, mountins, howling snow, blizzards, frozen landscapes, and few if any settlements. LOTRO’s Misty Mountains could fit into this category, or perhaps SWTOR’s Hoth.

Then you have the “Scandanavian” zones, which can be a mix of the above two, but throw in the northern lights, more greenery, and some jagged fjords. There’s a different sort of beauty here, one that’s wild and breathtaking and bold. These areas have more moose and bears and other tundra/boreal forest fauna. World of Warcraft’s Howling Fjord is a prime example.

There are probably more divisions than these, but the above three are the ones that I commonly notice in MMOs. Which is your favorite?

WildStar: On the verge of free-to-play

There’s a weird atmosphere that’s coating WildStar these days. Everyone in the game can’t seem to stop referencing or talking about the big free-to-play switch that’s happening in just a week and a half now.

It’s not just the business model and the expected flood of new/returning people, but also the sweeping changes, improvements, and new features that are coming with the patch. It seems that WildStar is joining several other MMOs this fall in creating a dividing line between the old game and a “2.0” game:

  • ArcheAge just merged servers and did a whole bunch of new stuff  that reshaped and rebooted the worlds.
  • Destiny just entered “Year Two” with The Taken King and huge changes
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic is more or less pushing the current game to the way back and starting over with Knights of the Fallen Empire, going so far as to jump forward in the timeline and allow players to advance right to level 60 upon character creation.

Maybe WildStar’s changes won’t be as drastic as some of the above, but they will be significant. Exciting, to be sure, but the stat changes, rune changes, crafting changes, etc. have lots of folks scrambling to figure out what they need to do to prepare for the next stage of the game — placing them in a weird holding pattern right now until it happens.

I might end up riding out the transition more smoothly than most. I’m not big into the endgame right now and haven’t started crafting on my Medic (although I’m saving up mats, oh yes I am), so I’ll grow into the changes rather than have to quickly adjust to them.

One thing that works in WildStar’s favor is that — for a few weeks at least — it will be more in the spotlight in a positive fashion than it has been in a long time. Expect more discussion about it, more people returning to give it another look, and more articles covering it. My hope is that when this second honeymood period wears off, it’ll leave behind healthier population that’s more upbeat about the game as it is and its prospects for the future.

Plus, we’ll have a double event in October — the hoverboard grand prix and Shade’s Eve. If I do not get that DeLorean hoverboard, I will have to create a real one to mask my tears.

I have a checklist of things I’ll be wanting to do once free-to-play hits:

  1. Cancel my subscription and enjoy the four free months of sub-level access
  2. Comb through the cash shop, see what I’ll want to save up for
  3. Claim all of my loyalty (cosmic) rewards
  4. Buy a Cassian house for my housing plot and start fixing it up
  5. Check my challenge rewards on my older characters to see what I might have won
  6. Start on architecture crafting with my Medic
  7. Go back and do that new early Drusera dungeon (Alpha Sanctum)
  8. Continue to level up as normal with my Medic and earn that money!

I can’t wait. The patch sounds great from reports from the test server, but it could be undercut by a botched launch. Test that hardware and software like crazy, Carbine!

Picture of the Day: New WildStar outfit!

To celebrate my character’s entry into Whitevale, I created a new outfit for her last night. I really liked this chest piece, since it looks slightly mech-y and perfect for a high-tech medic. The chunky boots fit in well with this aesthetic, too. I played around a lot with dyes, going with Twilight for the darker and a light lavender for the light parts. Not going with a helmet for right now.

Great moments in gaming buffoonery


We all have those “d’oh!” moments in gaming where we make a stupid and immediately regrettable decision. I seem to bump into these quite often.

For example, a week or so ago in SWTOR I was on Voss, merrily questing along when I saw a clickable lore object. Now, I’m not one to collect codex entries, but it wasn’t out of my way, so why not? And I clicked it without a second thought.

Well, that wasn’t a lore object; it was a world boss summon stone. Cue Syp flailing about in panic as an unstoppable bad guy descended to beat the living stuffing out of him. Even better, this happened just as a small group of players passed by, so they saw my humiliation and warned my corpse that it’s not a good idea to summon world bosses solo. Thanks.

Or take last night, as I was fighting my way into a fortress on Makeb. I made it all of the way to the boss and died, so I resurrected and prepared to regroup. I went to click on my character’s buff ability, but not paying full attention, I accidentally selected a port back to my starship. You could hear my “NOOOOOOOOO!” across the galaxy.

Cue Syp running back through the orbital station, taking the shuttle down to the surface, more running, a flight path, more running, more fighting back through the fortress, and my guild laughing at my pain.

Last night again, I logged into WildStar and was questing in the opening bits of Whitevale. My wife called me away from the computer for a few minutes, so I got to a safe spot and walked away.

Unbeknownst to me but knownst to my character, I had accidentally hit the auto-run key, so my character began an unpiloted solo adventure through the zone of Whitevale. I came back to find her incredibly far away from my starting point, somehow miraculously alive but in a dangerous spot. And since I hadn’t bound to a transmat terminal yet, I had to run all of the way back. Really, my gaming session last night was all about pointless re-running

This is your hero, MMOs. This is the person you’ve chosen to save your worlds.

WildStar: Chasing my carrots


Despite suffering through Galeras for a second time in the past month (I had JUST done all of this on my Spellslinger before rerolling), I’m increasingly happy with my decision to get back to the Medic. I think it comes down with satisfaction about combat style — if I’m not feeling it with a class, I can only force myself so much to like it. WildStar’s Engineer and SWTOR’s Bounty Hunter are good personal examples of decent classes that weren’t thrilling me with their combat styles.

Meanwhile, I continue to chase my three primary carrots in this game: housing decor, costume pieces, and pets.

Housing Decor

Every time I log in I run my set of three Thayd dailies with two other characters. That takes me a little under 10 minutes total and nets me six chances at decor, tints, money (scavenged items), and crafting mats. It’s quite satisfying to mail a ton of housing stuff to my Medic.

I’ve gotten a few neat items as of late, too. Laundry line, which I’ve never gotten before. Giant eye — there’s always a hundred purposes for a giant eye.

I’m holding off on setting up a new house, however. When F2P comes, we’ll be able to buy houses of the opposing faction, and I think I want a Cassian house on my property (right angles instead of curves, yes please).

Costume Pieces

Having a wardrobe in the game means that any gear that drops — even if I can’t wear it for stats — is a possible acquisition to my virtual closet. I love getting a new design that I haven’t seen before.

What really sent me over the moon was getting a rare Twilight dye — very dark blue — in a recent challenge. That’s going to be great for an upcoming outfit.

On the downside, last night I realized that I had completely capped out my 350 stored costume pieces and could no longer put any new ones in. So I’m going to need to carve out a little time to go into the wardrobe and cull duplicate and duller items from the mix.



My Anniversarowsdower remains both my and my kids’ favorite pet, because who can resist a depressed sheep with a lollipop on its nose? Giddyup, rowsdower, we’ve got mysteries to solve!

However, I am on a streak of incredibly good fortune this past week, having gotten not one but two pet drops from randomly killing mobs. The one is a floating glowy bug thing that my son absolutely adores, while the other is a bird that dropped in Galeras last night. It’s a small thing, but getting a pet drop really makes my night and fuels my interest in fighting even more.