The WildStar farewell tour, part 2

I finally got some more time to go on my self-appointed WildStar Farewell Tour a little while back, mostly thanks to Massively OP’s MJ, who dragged me along for a Halloween livestream on November 1st. Hey, Halloween isn’t over until the devs say it’s over, OK?

I fully expected us to be running the Shade’s Eve instances, and so I scooted my hoverboard over to the festival area and put on my bandage/mummy outfit. My character looked back at me with eyes that asked, “Can you take me out of this game and with you? Please?” Would if I could. Would if I could.

We had a bit of a two-person fashion show and dance party, since pretty much nobody else was around. I think WildStar’s remaining population has up and left already. I was in serious danger of delving into a lot of self-pity for the character, costume, and goodies I was about to lose when MJ suggested that we go check out random housing plots. Great idea!

We visited all sorts of bizarre homesteads, starting with this color-vomited pillowscape. I think part of my brain rebooted when I saw this.

This one player had created five absolutely incredible areas connected by a community plot. I really liked this little cafe that used the various magazine posters as kooky wall decorations.

We saw at least two plots with working (!) ferris wheels. Nothing delighted me more that night than riding these over and over again. I kept thinking that the creators of these plots had no idea that we were there or enjoying their handiwork. I really wish they did. At least I took screenshots to immortalize them.

Christmasland! With a giant Protostar gingerbread man!

The sheer density of this bar’s environment left us breathless. I can’t imagine how long it took to make this.

We also had a good time touring around a genuinely creepy horror-themed plot. The basement of this one house contained a room full of (a) stabbed voodoo characters, (b) eyeball children run through with spears, and (c) an upside down man hanging in chains. Brr!

Anyway, if you want to watch our full adventures, here is the stream:

The WildStar farewell tour, part 1

With WildStar on the way out, I wanted to say farewell in fashion. And if that mean putting myself through the torture of reinstalling the game and logging in, then so be it. There are screenshots to be taken and accomplishments to be preserved!

For this first excursion, I wanted to take pictures of my characters. In the end, I had two primary characters at level 50, both named Syppi: a Medic and an Engineer. But I also wanted to touch base with my lowbie Aurin, Jem Hologram:

She… she does not look happy about being consigned to the eternal void of doom. Poor girl. You deserved some actual play time from me.

At least she’ll be able to take her faithful party Rowsdower with her when it all goes down. Nice color matching, too!

Next up: Checking out all of my outfits for my Medic. The purple/aurora snow hat look was most definitely my favorite of the six, although that cowgirl one looks pretty tough…

My Medic’s housing plot. I didn’t do much with this after Carbine vastly expanded the available space on which to build, so this looks pretty empty. I really liked the little hedge maze plug over there.

I took lots of pictures of the insides of my houses, but for the most part, they aren’t that impressive (or finished).

I didn’t do a lot of actual play, but I quickly got refamiliarized with WildStar’s movement. And I have to say that it is still really fantastic. The animations, the feel, the double-jumping, the swooshy hoverboard — all slicker ‘n snot.

I didn’t regret buying this Halloween second house for my plot — but I did regret never actually finishing it as a fully-functional haunted house!

Making this tranquil little pond took me way, way too long. But I think it was worth it.

The WildStar nativity that I made for several Christmases ago. It’s adorbes!

My Engineer outfits. Top left was the coolest, top right was my everyday wear, and bottom middle was my funkiest.

Arcterra — a zone that I never got to explore. Looks winter-sharp though!

A requiem for WildStar

Life is slowly starting to settle back into something resembling normalcy after last week’s craziness in which we packed up our house and moved to a new state. It’s a lot to get used to, and I feel like most of my life has been upheaved. For a guy who craves stability and routine and comfortable surroundings, it’s pretty jarring.

So I didn’t need to hear that on the day of my move NCsoft announcing that it was going to shutter WildStar. I didn’t need that. I was so physically and emotionally exhausted that day that the news didn’t impact me much because there was nothing left, but now that I’ve had a few days to process this news, I find myself incredibly sad over this sunset.

WildStar wasn’t a perfect game made by a perfect studio — I think we can all agree on that. Carbine was a mess internally with too many forces pulling in too many directions, and the end result was an MMORPG that had ambitions but also misunderstood the market by being subscription-only with a hardcore endgame design. It hyped up paths only to give us this half-hearted system that failed to live up to its potential. It went a little over-the-top in some areas, like how the announcer would scream at you for challenges and level ups.

But it was a game that I loved, despite all that. There was so dang much to love about WildStar. The fusion of scifi and western with a touch of horror really worked. Nexus was a fascinating planet full of secrets that I genuinely wanted to uncover. There were abandoned laboratories, a ghost girl, a spreading infection known as the Strain, space pirates, amazonian natives, sentient veggies, and more.

Out of all of the MMOs that I’ve played, WildStar easily has the greatest collection of memorable NPC races assembled under its roof. From robot cowboys to the loot-obsessed Lopp to the clones of the Protostar Corporation, everywhere I turned I saw personality bursting at the seams. It was like the best Saturday morning cartoon had come to life and we got to play in it.

The graphics, the visuals — maybe not your cup of tea, but WildStar will always be one of the loveliest and most striking games that I’ve played. I adored the stylized and colorful graphics that didn’t make scifi this sleek and pristine thing. There were couches with busted springs and goofy-looking spaceships and hologram taxi drivers who would actually chat to you while you were en route to your next destination.

Undoubtedly, WildStar’s greatest legacy will be twofold: Its housing and its music.

My only quibble with the housing system was its slightly awkward placing tools, but past that, I adored it. Your own personal sky island where you could customize everything from the ground to the sky to your house outside and in? Functional plots that could be used to gather mats, take on challenges, and dive into pocket dungeons? It was amazing.

Because the art style of this game grooved with me so much, I really enjoyed setting up my home using parts of it. Being able to collect and even craft housing decor was the greatest carrot that this game dangled in front of me. I was never a master architect, but I had a blast putting together various homes and trying to figure out how to do fun things like give an unorthodox spaceship multiple interior levels or put a light source behind a window so it looked like sunshine was beaming in.

Jeff Kurtenacker’s score will be the only part of this game that will live on in a way that we can experience it, and for that, at least, I am glad. WildStar’s expansive score is flat-out stunning in its mastery, diversity, and enjoyability. It could be goofy, sad, creepy, stirring, and exciting in turns, and it lent a lot of personality to an MMO that already had a lot of it.

What else can I say? The holidays, the hidden secrets, the amount of stuff to do, double-jumping, hoverboarding, the crazy amount of pets and mounts, the fun of scenarios, that one dungeon where your party went insane and had to battle a giant vending machine, the zone where you had low gravity and could jump for miles, the joy of playing as a robot-toting Engineer, the tremendous costume system — it was all really, genuinely great.

It might seem hypocritical to say all this while not having played WildStar for well over a year now, but we all saw the writing on the wall. WildStar wasn’t going to make it, and there was little point putting in game time to an MMO that wasn’t being actively supported and developed. If we were living in an alternative universe where WildStar was reasonably popular, had a casual-friendly endgame, and had a studio that was pumping out regular updates — then yes, I’d still be playing. Heck yes, I’d be playing.

As it is, I feel heartsick over this shutdown. There’s a really good game here and so much work that’s being tossed into the trash. I don’t have any hope that NCsoft would sell or hand off this game, so that’s that unless we enter into emulator territory.

So I guess that there’s only this — thank you, WildStar, for a wonderful ride. You weren’t perfect, but you were far better than most people realized. You deserved much better than this.

6 of my favorite WildStar pets

It actually hurts to log into WildStar, to be reminded of how special this MMO is in so many ways while facing its vastly diminished population and uncertain future. Still, about five minutes in the game, roaming through my houses and double-jumping everywhere was enough to convince me that a return — perhaps a limited-scope one — was warranted for later this year. But for now, let’s look at six of my favorite pets! And boy was this a toughie, because there are so many unique, bizarre, and wonderfully animated pets in this game.

1. Anniverserowsdower

You simply have to have a rowsdower in your collection if you’re a WildStar fan, and there is no better model than the one you get from the anniversary celebration. The combination of the party colors, the little hat, and the giant lolly on the nose contrasts so well with the rowsdower’s perpetual depressed state that it always makes me laugh.

2. Lopp Deputy

All hail the Lopp, the best race in this game! Nothing puts a smile on my face like an overenthusiastic Lopp, and while I have a few varieties as pets, I prefer this cowboy-styled one. Fits in well with the “space western” theme of the game, that’s for sure.

3. Disco Snoglug

A snail that’s a mobile party? Sign me up! It’s hard to know where the creature ends and the disco ball and music levels begin. It’s so sparkly and weird that I have to keep him out to throw my enemies for a loop.

4. Augmented Skeech

I’m not the biggest Skeech fan — they’re a little too one-note for my tastes — but I cannot deny the appeal of this cyborged-out critter. He just looks too cool, and I like to imagine that he’s my plucky sidekick who is growing into his powers.

5. Pell Probebot

Sometimes you need a robot buddy, y’know? And as an Engineer on the Scientist Path, I could get out two robot combat companions, the science bot, and this guy at the same time to have my own little robotic troupe.

6. Shadeling

WildStar has a pretty awesome Halloween event, and I adored these shadelings when I encountered them in the special instance. Sure, he looks a little ghastly, but the green glow and unique look reminds me a little of Ghostbuster’s Slimer. I’m down for that.

Does WildStar have a chance?

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about WildStar. It’s been a while since I’ve THOUGHT about WildStar. That’s not willful ignorance; WildStar simply doesn’t come up much these days in the news or among MMO bloggers. I think the game got out two or three patches last year and keeps faithfully turning on and off events, but it’s relatively quiet for a relatively newer MMORPG.

If WildStar comes up in conversation, honestly, it’s because everyone is collectively amazed it’s still running. NCsoft is not known for its long patience with underperforming western MMOs, and yet it’s kept the lights on at Carbine far longer than we would have assumed. Free-to-play helped, but it wasn’t that much of a sustained bump to really send it rocketing up in the charts… and it’s been trailing downward ever since. Quarter after quarter, it was bringing less money, which no doubt meant fewer players, until NCsoft finally lumped WildStar in with their “other games” category and stopped reporting on it separately.

So what’s going on behind the scenes? Carbine had a lot of layoffs, and that coupled with the much slower patch cadence, I think it’s safe to assume that WildStar is operating with a skeletal crew at the helm. Maybe small enough operating costs that it keeps Carbine in the black, somewhat justifies the game’s existence. But why NCsoft doesn’t just kill it? I have a few theories, but nothing strong. Maybe the studio is waiting for a specific time, maybe there’s a license or agreement or timed something involved. Maybe NCsoft doesn’t want the PR black eye of shutting down a game right now. Maybe WildStar is actually doing better than what we assume. Maybe there are secret plans to bring the game to a new region or NCsoft is looking to sell it. All of that seems flimsy to me.

But the net result is there’s a real lack of gamer confidence in WildStar. If I’ve seen this conversation on Reddit once, I’ve seen it a hundred times — someone asking about the game, if it’s good, if it’s still worth playing, and others responding that it’s surprisingly solid and entertaining but has a diminished population and an irreperably tarnished reputation among the MMORPG community. F2P or no, it doesn’t seem like people are flocking back, and WildStar doesn’t have the luxury of a large pool of nostalgic veterans primed for a return one day.

It pains me to think of this. It pains me to write it. There are so many wonderful things about WildStar that it’s a shame that it ended up so disgraced and ignored. It’s brimming with personality, with an original setting, with great music, with some of the best player housing that this genre has ever seen, with some terrific alien races. But the failure in overall design and mismanagement from the studio during its development and first two years of operation pummeled any hope this game had.

I’d love to say that I was tempted to go back, but I’m not. I’m just too worried about WildStar’s continued existence to divest my time and effort into playing a character. If I think its likely that a game could get its plug pulled any day now, then it really hampers my interest.

I don’t know what could happen to bring WildStar back from the brink. If it has the luxury of time — and who really knows right now — then solid patches, positive word-of-mouth recommendations, and maybe a splashy event or expansion in the future might be the long-term path to survival and to flourish. But if Steam and F2P couldn’t really change the course, I don’t know what will. Only the fact that NCsoft hasn’t canned it yet makes me think that there’s a glimmer of a chance that there’s something in the works for its future.

I wish it hadn’t gone down this way. I had a great time in WildStar and if it ever went under, it will be a blow. I also wish it had been better managed from the start and that it erred to be more casual than hardcore, but here we are. And there it is.

7 MMO cosmetic wardrobe systems, ranked

Here’s a little thought exercise I’ve been going through lately after having a discussion about cosmetic systems on the MOP podcast. We had been asked which was the best MMO wardrobe system, which I initially thought was an easy answer… and then, long after the podcast was done, started to revise my response. Ultimately, I asked myself how I would rank the systems present in the MMOs I’ve played the most in the last, oh, five years or so, and this is what I came up with going from best to worst.


There’s a lot of factors that go into a truly great cosmetic wardrobe system, and believe it or not, WildStar checks off most of those boxes. It’s got great armor design, plenty of cosmetic pieces, a system that remembers loot you’ve collected, multiple outfit slots, two dye channels, fun dyes, and an accessible system (which is a change from launch, which required you to talk to a specific NPC). I adored being able to create and wear different outfits based on my mood, and I was often torn on which one I liked the best because they were all pretty awesome. WildStar usually get a lot of props for its housing, but I think its wardrobe deserves praise too.

Guild Wars 2

Initially I had put Guild Wars 2 at the top, but upon further reflection, I had to acknowledge that there are two big flaws with its wardrobe system: It makes you pay to change individual slots (via transmutation charges) and it doesn’t allow for multiple saved outfits. Apart from that, it’s pretty brilliant, with several dye channels, loads of colors, expressive pieces, and all the buttflaps you can stomach. Finding and obtaining skins is an enjoyable metagame for GW2, that’s for sure.


On paper, RIFT has almost the full package. It remembers skins, has multiple outfit slots, is ridiculously easy to use, involves weird cosmetics, and so on. Other than the dye cash shop and the smaller color range, I’d say it was almost perfect… except that I just don’t like about 90% of RIFT’s armor designs. They’re not bad, per se, just not what I want to be trouncing around in, and there are strangely few store outfits that even slightly tempt me to purchase. Probably shouldn’t complain; better armor art and I might have gone broke.

The Secret World

TSW’s strength in cosmetics is that it’s a rare MMO that uses modern outfits rather than fantasy/sci-fi ones (for the most part) and is thus a fashion that is more identifiable to players. People in TSW just adore dressing up their characters, sometimes the more outrageous, the better. Wonderful array of choices are offset only by a lack of dyeable outfits (although some pieces come in multiple colors) and no multiple outfit saves. It’s nice that there is a convoluted fashion to even equip cosmetic weapons, but it really should’ve been more like the regular outfits in accessibility.

Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO sits squat in the middle of this list with plenty of strengths but plenty of weaknesses as well. On the plus side, it’s another MMO with a community that does a lot of dressing up, and the game has done a lot to make this as robust as possible. Dyes, multiple outfits, varied designs, cosmetic weapons, etc. But on the minus side, the wardrobe itself is a little creaky and unfriendly, especially when compared to how many MMOs these days are saving EVERY new design whereas LOTRO has a hard limit. And you have to manage it by hand. Plus, the dyes aren’t that great, with only one color channel for (most) pieces and the dyeable area often being small.

World of Warcraft

For a major MMORPG, World of Warcraft suffers from a kind of lackluster system. Admittedly, the fact that it has one and it’s gradually improved is far better than launch, but seriously, transmog is pretty sad when you compare it to the field. No dyes, no multiple outfits (I’m not really that keen on just changing gear’s appearance rather than having a separate and toggleable cosmetic outfit), no way to do it on the fly, new gear overriding older transmog looks and requiring more money for new transmogs, and no quick check boxes to turn off helms and capes is all in dire need of addressing. To its credit, WoW has fabulous and fun armor design, which goes a long way to smoothing over the issues presented here.

Star Trek Online

Let’s throw in a couple of Cryptic efforts to be well-rounded. STO never really impressed me with its outfits. Sure, you could mix-and-match uniform elements, there were some (but not many) colors, and you had a small handful of outfit slots. But generally you aren’t collecting new looks while you play (most uniforms are simply bought through the store), and the interface is a little unwieldy. Sometimes it’s just more interesting to let your gear do the visuals for you, since they can be more detailed and futuristic.


At the bottom of the barrel, Neverwinter does the absolute bare minimum to qualify as an MMO with a cosmetic system while making it as unfun as possible. Two cosmetic-only slots for specific items, no thank you. It’s a system that you learn about in the tutorial and then promptly forget going forward.

Now I know that there are plenty of other MMOs out there with great wardrobe systems, like EverQuest II, but I wanted to rank ones from games that I was most familiar.

6 major MMORPG launch days revisited

wildstar plans

One of the neat things about having a long-running blog is that it inadvertently turns into a historical document chronicling major events. In this case, Bio Break has been around since 2008, and I’ve gone through several major MMO launches since then. I thought it might be fun to look up the day one (or day two) posts talking about those experiences to reshare them with you.

Guild Wars 2 (August 2012)

“Guild Wars 2.  Is incredible.

“Playing it live feels so much different than beta, and I’m so glad I have a character to actually invest in.  But even more than that, this is just a game that exists to wow you left and right.  I’m sure that there are those who have become immune to in-game beauty and details, and only see the numbers and min-maxing, but that’s missing the point here.  It’s a game where I felt fully justified to spend the first hour just gawking around like a tourist instead of killing things, and I’m forever going off the beaten track to explore.”

WildStar (June 2014)

“As you may have heard/experienced, it was anything but a smooth beginning.  Due to a purported DDoS attack and a kajillion people trying to cram through the login servers at the same time, we simply could not log into the game.  We got to know the little running hamster, the theme music, and our account passwords very well, however.  It was 4:15 before I could log in, and by then going back to sleep wasn’t much of an option.”

RIFT (February 2011)

“All in all, I’m pretty impressed with the game performance.  No crashes for me, and everything flowed just smoothly.  I did roll a Dwarf Bard, and I’m pretty pleased with the choice.  I’m a Medieval Guitar Hero and proud of it, baby!  I splashed in a bit of Riftstalker for the teleportation spell — being able to jump ahead 25 feet every so often is a ton of fun, as well as a helpful escape button if I got over my head.”

Star Wars: The Old Republic (December 2011)

“On a lark I tried to see if I could log in at 6:30, and lo and behold I could.  Servers were up about ten minutes after that, and I began the process of reserving the eight character names I picked out.  When I finally logged in, it was to a ghost town — not a single soul in the zone, not a single voice on the chat screen, nothing.  I’m not saying I was the first in game, but it almost felt like it.”

Champions Online (September 2009)

“Framerate issues notwithstanding, I had a great time last night.  It was fun to see a lot of friends in the game (and the @name system is growing on me, for sure).  I even spent a bit of time learning the ropes of the crafting system, which is pretty useful — you can make your own inventory bags, which is certainly useful.”

Neverwinter (April 2013)

“While the character creator is really skimpy and the Foundry reportedly in shambles, the core game itself looks fantastic and is pretty fun to play.  It’s more action/arcade-like than a traditional MMO, but for some reason it works here.”