WildStar: View from the end of the world

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After a long, drawn-out journey, it feels as though my WildStar Engineer Syppi Tsunami is nearing the end of her youth. Last night I went through the Lone Guardian instance and was treated to more backstory about the core world mystery, Drusara, the Entity, and the Elden.

The instance was horribly bugged, however. Apparently it’s been like that for quite some time and hasn’t been fixed yet. I had to restart it three times due to various glitches that left me unable to proceed. My favorite one, however, was when I was fighting the end boss and he knocked me up so far that my character was stuck inside the floor of an observation room. I had to do a /stuck suicide to get out and try that again.

I’m on the verge of level 50 and have since moved on from Malgrave to Southern Grimvault. By now I have a very fixed build that’s the most efficient in terms of pumping out good DPS on a smooth rotation, which is kind of a shame because I wish that there were other builds as good to have some variety.

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Gotta say, I love the Strain as a foe. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but the bizarre monstrosities, random eyeballs, mouths everywhere, and purple infections are quite memorable if nothing else. That giant maul up there has a mouth on the side of it, although I can’t imagine that being helpful in a fight.

Increasingly my goal is to continue to acquire as many costume pieces and housing items. I’m torn on my Engineer as to whether I’ll stick with her well-decorated but relatively tiny house or to expand to a bigger (but not huge) one. I have so many FABkits right now that I can’t plug a fourth of them in, but that should change with this fall’s patch.

Eventually I’ll pick back up my Spellslinger again (Syppi Widdershins). She’s doing a few challenges every day to accumulate dyes, housing decor, and money. I have a really cool Iron Man-like costume that I recently dyed bright purple and yellow. I might actually like fighting on her better than the Engie and she has the Settler path too, which I enjoy more.

It’s great to see more and more people both talking and playing WildStar out in the blogosphere. The excitement for this fall’s F2P transition is building and considering how far the game’s come in a year, it’s a good time to come back to give it another shot.

WildStar: Yes, I will take more free stuff please

cosI’ve always seen getting account freebies as unnecessary but delightful toppings in addition to the core game experience. I won’t lie; starting new characters in LOTRO, RIFT, or SWTOR and seeing the pile of extras they get right from the start is exciting. It’s like a mini-Christmas where I already know what the gifts contain but pretend I have no idea.

So today we learned a bit more about what players will get for their “loyalty” to WildStar (i.e. “having spent money on the game and might spend money in the future”). Since I already consider money spent to have already given me plenty (game time/experience plus digital goodies from the deluxe edition), I don’t feel that any of this is needed. But if you’re handing it out? I will not complain. I love swag as much as the next gamer guy or gal.

Since WildStar is pretty much borrowing any and all F2P systems from other MMOs, this is a reprise of the loyalty meter that you might have also seen in, say, RIFT. It’s not a terrible thing. On one hand, you could look at it as pressure/incentive to spend more to get these tiered rewards. On the other hand, you could look at it as freebies for money you spent/were going to spend anyway. I prefer the latter, because I am never going to blow money on a game just to make a meter go up.

There are some nice rewards hinted at here, including costumes, pets, and account boosts. There’s also the new Osun house, which is far too big and ostentatious for my tastes. Considering that I bought the deluxe edition and have several months subscription under my belt, I should be somewhere around tier 3 or 4.

I’ve seen on twitter that some people are irked that CREDD redeemers only get 1000 points versus 3000 for those who sub up a month, but considering that CREDD purchasers also get 4000 points, I don’t see the issue. They’re giving more loyalty points to those paying real money for the CREDD and some extra for those who cash the CREDD in, 5000 points total. Maybe I’m missing something.

From a marketing perspective, this should help F2P by getting old players to come back — “Hey, you got some free gifts here. Just gotta log in to get them! And while you’re here, why not see what’s what?” Slick.

WildStar: Breathlessly waiting for F2P

happy1I want those sunglasses.

The more that I look into the mega-patch coming with WildStar’s fall F2P switch, the more I genuinely can’t wait until it gets here. I was listening to a podcast last night last night while playing, and the hosts were detailing some of their discoveries on the PTR. After a long, dark night of dropping subscriptions and harsh criticism, it’s like seeing the first rays of a glorious dawn creep over the horizon. Can’t help but lift your spirits and give you hope.

What’s exciting me is just how much is being thrown in here: tons of new costumes, tons of new pets, daily rewards, attunement streamlining, AMP unlocks, challenge system overhaul, dungeon reorganizing, and loads more housing options. Heck, I’m even excited about the store, especially since WildStar is taking Trove’s approach of offering a second currency that can be obtained in-game to buy the same things in the shop.

happy2My attitude was also buoyed by a really good night of progress and loot. I spent a lot of my session exploring the uncovered bits of Malgrave and doing the odd quest, all while the RNG showered me with tons of great loot. I got a purple gun (with tanking stats, alas, but it was a nice gesture on behalf of the game), a really neat chest upgrade with a cool look, and an awesome punk headpiece. I made a new costume on the spot (right).

I’m level 48 and I think I’m getting to the end of Malgrave. I know I’ve overleveled it but I’m not going to leave until I’ve done everything.

I also continue to accumulate new decor for my house. Every time I log in I do my standard three Thayd challenges on two alts that I leave park there. I recently got a squicky totem and a cool chair (my house lacks comfy chairs), not to mention a few more dyes.

I keep looking wistfully at my Spellslinger, torn between wanting to keep pushing forward with my Engineer and playing an alt. Some day, I comfort myself.

Oh, here’s a weird thing I noticed last night: My Spellslinger’s pistols shrink in size when she holsters them on her butt. Like they go from these hand-cannons to dainty little pea-shooters. Weird.

WildStar: Happy trails and happy PTS

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I can’t see my car from here

I do a slightly weird thing whenever I’m out and about, which is to constantly be tracking (or estimating) how far away I am from my car — and by association, home. If I’m out hiking or at Disney or even taking an airplane ride across country, my mind will occasionaly be pinging my conscious with updates on just how long it would take to get back to my car and everything I know. So while I like to go venturing out to explore and on trips, I guess there’s a part of me that’s always anxious to be able to get back quickly.

Sometimes I feel this way in MMOs, such as WildStar, even when I have quick ports and the like. For instance, last night I was heading up Scourwind Peak (there’s that great adjective + noun naming convention at work), noting that there wasn’t any easy way to get back without slogging through a whole bunch of enemies on a fairly linear if spiral track. So I kept looking at the map and encouraging myself not to die, because the trek back would have been somewhat annoying (and I’m a total miser about spending gold to rez on the spot).

I actually ended up doing the entire peak journey twice because I missed a few quests going up the first time. The story around the peak had to do with a team-up between two Lopp and Freebot deputies trying to bring “justice” (straight-up executions) to the bird people and various elementals on the mountain. I actually got into a nice questing groove there, listening to a podcast while riding dust devils up, knocking out quests left and right, and ultimately doing the mother of all free-fall dives off the summit.

The end result was that I dinged level 48 — still taking tiny little baby steps to 50, but it’s looking very close now. I also got a few new housing items (I got three drops in a row) and some neat costume pieces, which made me all sorts of satisfied.

car2New patch in testing!

I really can’t wait for this fall’s big free-to-play patch — and not just for the F2P. There’s a TON of stuff that’s going into the patch, which began testing yesterday, and I’m drinking up the details like a man parched for water in the desert.

Of note, housing plots will DOUBLE in size with more plugs (woohoo!) and there are going to be well over a hundred new costume pieces, scads of new housing items, new dyes, and plenty of gameplay quality of life improvements. I’m not testing it out because I don’t generally waste my time on test servers when I can be playing for real, but I am following what others are reporting quite closely.

6 things that bug me about MMOs that I like

bugmeI think we’re always loathe to outright criticize MMOs that we really like in fear that it will push players away from games that are otherwise terrific. But if you are too scared to do so, then you gain blinders and lose perspective.

Thus, this is my small Monday morning measure of attaining balance by admitting to six things that kind of really bug me about MMOs that I like.

WildStar: For a game that has made such a big, big deal about customization (and excels in this in many areas), the fact that classes can wield one and only one type of weapon (set) vastly annoys me. In most MMOs you can choose from different weapon types and experience different visual flair and animations, but here? What you got at level 1 is the same at level 50.

The Secret World: This game’s wonderful storytelling and nuanced body language is sometimes undercut by faces that are ugly and border on the uncanny valley. The facial art style doesn’t gel for me the way that it should and serves as an irritant when I’m trying to get into the tale.

Marvel Heroes: This game’s social tools are really lacking, I’ve found. There needs to be support to join multiple supergroups, better supergroup tools, and a proper LFG tool. Fast track these, Gazillion!

Star Wars: The Old Republic: I do love that the game has housing, but coming from other MMOs like RIFT and WildStar, it can’t help but fail to live up to the industry standard. I am not a fan of the clumsy hooks and placement interface that makes sorting through one’s decor far more tedious than it should be.

RIFT: Such ugly armor. Such ugly. It makes the awesome wardrobe system weep in frustration. What is up with the armor artists in this game? Why must we all look like first drafts of a ninth grader’s fantasy portfolio?

Neverwinter: Cryptic not only failed to live up to the insanely high standard it set for character creation in City of Heroes, but failed to live up to the industry medium in this respect. I am stunned how hard it is to make good or interesting-looking characters in this game with the sub-par customization options on display. Do they even know how hair looks?

WildStar: Political satire, stand, or story?

ecoI’ve always assumed that most game studios — like most of Silicon Valley and the entertainment sector — lean pretty heavy to the left politically. Usually it’s not an issue in-game (public statements on Twitter, in interviews, and elsewhere online is different), since I also get the feeling that most MMO devs aren’t out to stir up controversy by touching any sensitive topics as part of the game world and quests. I mean, you’ll always offend somehow, but no need to seek it out by grabbing hold of those political, social, or religious third rails.

I think that’s why MMO storylines and quests are fairly safe — and usually black (the mobs) and white (us). People of most walks of life can settle into gaming and agree to have fun together without dragging in the opinion section of a newspaper.

But once in a while I do see noteworthy quests and storylines that could be construed as a writer or studio pressing an agenda or viewpoint. Oddly enough, I am not opposed to these. I don’t need them all of the time, but I don’t want game designers flinching away from treating MMOs as they would “serious” video games, books, or other forms of literature. The RIFT: Storm Legion storyline that dealt with rape, animal abuse, murder, and willful ignorance of those in power stuck with me because while it was raw, it told an important story and allowed for some small measure of justice to be attained. Or back when an industry figure (I honestly forget who) was calling out a quest in World of Warcraft that had players needlessly torture a captive.

Anyway, the other night when I was playing WildStar I realized that the foes I had been attacking as part of challenges and quests were Aurin — and in fact eco-terrorists called the Thorns of Aboria or something. Considering that I was attacking them on behalf of the corporate Protostar, I found myself amused and curious as to whether any political statement was being made here. Making Captain Planet’s Planeteers the bad guys — even in a very light-hearted, run-of-the-mill sense — made me wonder if this was a sly conservative message, meta satire, or really just fluffy details that shouldn’t demand overthinking.

But at the least I like it when a game makes me notice the details and has me think. If you get past the stylized design and the goofy nature, WildStar is less afraid to weave a myriad of touchier topics into its world without grandstanding on any of them. I get the feeling that if you want to read into them, the devs wouldn’t mind, but they’re just as dismissable if you want to play the game. It’s an interesting approach.