WildStar: The first MMO quest that almost made me throw up

ugh1After a decade-plus in MMOs, I feel like I’ve seen and experienced it all (of course, The Secret World likes to stomp all over that notion). But for all of my adventures to date, I’ve never had a quest that provoked such a physical reaction that I (seriously) nearly threw up. But now thanks to WildStar, I’ve had my barf reflex tested… TO THE MAX.

Carbine Studios, you have my permission to use the above quote in any promotional efforts.

This stomach-churning moment was sparked by doing the shiphand mission Deep Space Exploration. I had just arrived in Wilderrun and noticed the shiphand in the very first quest hub. Might as well knock it out of the way, ya?

The quest was billed as a multi-year scientific venture into deep space, so why they wanted a trigger-happy engineer to tag along is anyone’s guess. I had a vision of the game refusing to let players who take this quest to go back to Nexus until three real life years had elapsed. It’d be like a prison sentence. I’d laugh so hard.

Of course, bad stuff had to go down almost immediately — in this case, a shipwide abduction by the fish aliens. From there it was a prison break, a mass rescue, and a showdown with the alien captain. A little tough, but no sweat.

ugh2But then the mission refused to end. Like Return of the King’s ending, just when you thought it was over it kept going on… and on… and on. I started to get a little nervous, an hour into this mission, that somehow I’d fail, or the server would go down, or something would happen to reset my progress. I did not want to have to run this mission again, even though it was interesting.

It was during one of those fake-out endings that I was told to take the controls of a drone to navigate our life support-lacking ship and reboot everything. Now first, props to the idea and the floating debris/corpses. It looked hecka cool and I was all for flying around.

The problem — and the nausea — kicked in the second I started moving. Every time I moved the drone or the camera, the visuals would wildly careen left and right. There is no way during this portion to stabilize the camera, which was definitely intended to up the difficulty. But the effect is somewhat akin to being in the old Batman TV series where everything is at such extreme angles that vertigo is shoved right into your eyeballs.

By the time I was moving down the hallway, watching the camera shift back and forth, up and down, I felt my gorge rising. I had to stop, repeatedly, to let my innards settle before moving again.

Different? Sure. But different good? No. No it was not. And I’m not alone in getting a major motion sickness attack from this. Call me old fashioned, but MMO quests should not want to make the player bazooka-barf all over his or her keyboard.

WildStar: Drusera needs pants

dru3Drusera, honey, I know that you’re supposed to be a… what? Some sort of techno-god? Fine, we’ll go with that. But even all of the powers of randomly appearing, being vague and mysterious, and floating some three feet off of the ground aren’t a good substitute for a sturdy pair of pants.

Seriously, I feel a little bad for you. The draft situation in your undercarriage has to be terrible. And all of those boy players who are getting a free looky-loo must not be encouraging, especially as you’re trying to deliver crucial mission information. If you want, you can have one of my pants. I have plenty. They have tons of pockets too!

dru1Me dead, but this time it’s not my fault. Mostly.

Since last I talked about my return-to-WildStar adventures, I reconnected with my level 36 Engineer in a big way. I kind of missed her huge gun and bots, and so I logged in to say hi. Before I knew it, I had finished up Farside’s missions and scientist path missions, pushing further in the game than I have ever been before.

The last bit on Farside was neat, all dark and squirgy. I’ll tell you what, I’m going to miss that zone with its low gravity — it made for some awesome hang time while hoverboarding. Plus, if nothing else it wasn’t visually cluttered, which isn’t something I can say for Wilderrun (I am not the biggest fan of jungle zones).

I have been working on my skill build, tweaking my combat rotation to unload a lot of alpha strike damage and conditions. Last night I fooled around with Thresher as a resource consumer and ended up liking it an awful lot — strong AoE damage with a buff that lowers the cost of subsequent casts.

dru2I can’t believe that I had left the game several months ago right when I was on the verge of starting the world story arc. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but when I came back this past week I was informed that I could begin sorting out the secrets of Genesis Prime.

So far I’ve done two solo instances in this arc, one surrounding Drusera (which was slightly but not fully revealing) and one concerting the Strain. I love the Strain aesthetic, kind of like The Secret World’s filth just more purple and with more eyeball accessories. Even though it’s supposed to be super-deadly and all that, it’s so stylized and cute that I can’t muster up the proper fear for what it represents.

I did subscribe for a month following my free trial, because I really want to see the patch and I’m enjoying questing through these new areas. However, I hope we hear something official about the business model change within the month!

It’s high time for a WildStar business model shift

Signs and portents are starting to swirl around a shift in business model for WildStar. Over the night we heard that Australian retailers were told to pull the boxes off of the shelves, a move very similar to what happened to ESO a couple of months ago before ZeniMax announced the buy-to-play change.

I’ve been musing to guildies that I think there’s another sign, albeit one more subtle, with the upcoming patch. The focus on character customization and the addition of vanity pets feels like a path leading in and out of a cash shop.

No matter what these might indicate, it is time that WildStar ditches the sub-only (plus CREDD) model. Heck, it’s been time since about the second month of beta when many reasonable people were worried that this new IP title was going to have a heck of a time sticking to subscription guns against ESO, WoW, and a huge field of F2P/B2P titles. I honestly don’t know why NCsoft allowed it, nor that the publisher allowed the subscription-only model to go on as long as it has after WildStar started tanking in numbers.

There’s a core of players that have and will continue to hold on to the sub-only model as the only way that WildStar can remain “pure” and be the game that it needs to be. That mindset does not get a lot of sympathy from me these days, especially in light of a vastly diminished population and the abandonment of the monthly update schedule after a whopping two months. Like it or not, remaining sub-only will almost certainly doom WildStar to either extreme niche status or outright death (again, this is NCsoft we’re talking about — a studio that isn’t particularly attached to Western titles and has few compunctions against shutting down what it views as underperforming games).

And the “subscription is good, all else is bad” is a black-and-white argument that dismisses any possibility that business models can be mismatched with games, all business models have examples of games that have implimented them well and poorly, and that there are legitimate criticisms of the sub-only model (such as it repulsing players who don’t want to be locked down with a monthly payment). For those who continue to shout, “Well, we don’t want those players anyway!” I have to respond, yes you do. You do want those players if you want more revenue to come into your game, if you want your game’s potential lifespan to lengthen, and if you want to generate buzz and cultivate a larger community.

Anyway, back-and-forth with the sub-only crowd aside, I’m very excited about a business model shift, especially if the studio does it right (i.e., not SWTOR) by keeping the core content free and making money on optional subs, cosmetics, vanity pets, and housing purchases. Seriously, WildStar has one of the absolute best housing systems on the market that is ripe for monetizing.

Plus, as a gamer who’s recently returned to WildStar, I very much would welcome a drop of the subscription. I shuttle back and forth between several titles and won’t always be playing WildStar enough to justify the cost.

We’ll see. It could well be that Carbine is still a ways out from any such announcement, but the studio has the official go-ahead from me if nobody else. Let’s do it, WildStar.

WildStar Photo Phriday!

Ugh, I may have to hurt myself for that title. Anyway! Little time this morning, so here are a few photos and attached commentary from my return to WildStar:

w1This color palette is still ridiculously pretty. Such a treat after coming from more drab games like LOTRO.

w2I loved getting an old timey title card for the newest shiphand adventure. I’m pretty sure that’s the Indiana Jones font.

w3Wow, she really let herself go in her autumn years.

w4This guy’s gonna make me internet famous! He promised!

w5You ever have an out-of-body experience?

druDrusara sighting in Algaroc. She no want to talk to me.

taxiKicking it in a taxi cab. Wish there was a roof on this thing.

emoteI was having fun photographing all of the animated emotes.

larvaOne of my many Syp groupies.

metalIf I had a metal album, I would make this my cover.

velcroHis feet use new SnowVelcro(tm) technology.

Back in WildStar — and loving it!

wild1I’ve had a weird itch lately to return to the neon-colored lands of WildStar, which is weird because I haven’t really thought much about that game at all since I left last December. I certainly had no hard feelings about it, but was feeling a little burned out and pressured by the subscription and so I walked.

But with the new patch on its way — pets! — and another in the past, I felt as though it was a good time to at least take advantage of the free 10-day trial for new and returning players. See how everything’s changed and if there’s that old magic to draw me back. Long story short, I may just be tempted to stay after all.

It was greatly gratifying to see not only that my guild was still there, but was thriving. I rolled up a new character to get a fresh take on all of the changes: an Exile Human Medic taking the (why not) Explorer path. I see they nerfed my Nullifier, but the fact that I can throw it down right in front of me without having to ground-target makes me happy even so (I hate ground-targeting). So far, she’s been taking on groups like mad and having a blast doing it.

wild2There were a lot of low-level additions with the previous drop that deserved a look. I checked out the new shiphand, Fragment Zero, which was an insane romp across an asteroid blasting huge waves of low-health critters.

I also queued up and ran Protostar Academy, the lowbie dungeon that’s supposedly designed to teach players how to run dungeons in this game. It was surprisingly challenging for a tutorial dungeon, although we managed to win the day (and that with me healing with a sub-par build). Can’t say that it was the most exciting dungeon design, but it certainly did the trick.

I definitely appreciated the addition of a rent-a-mount vendor in Algaroc to help tide me over until I hit level 15. I was also finding all sorts of items that required “imbuements” — basically, you do little quests to unlock additional stats on the gear. Those are pretty nifty. Another cool change? An automated tour around Thayd on a motorcycle, which was a definite improvement over the old, find-it-yourself quest.

Otherwise, it’s been business as normal as I’ve been taking my time questing, leveling up my Explorer path (some of those missions are actually pretty interesting), and starting construction on a new house. Ah, I’ve missed WildStar’s housing. I’d really love to build an underground bunker, but I guess I depleted my funds before I left the last time, so it’s going to be a bit before I build up the 3 plat I need for that. Until then, the cheap spaceship will do!

wild3

Putting WildStar into cryogenic storage

lockSometimes when I stop playing an MMO, I feel a little bashful saying so on the blog lest it be turned against me (“Ha, you used to like this game!”) or wielded as a weapon in the “Proof This Game Sucks” Olympics (est. 1997).  But all of that is wrapped up in caring a little too much what other people think of me and my game time, which is weirdly narcissistic and not confident to tell the truth.

So my six-plus-one month subscription ran out on WildStar and I decided not to resub.

There’s a lot of factors that went into the decision, but I’m confident that it’s the right one for me right now.  Basically, I’m not playing it enough at the moment to justify a sub and I’m ready for a break from its exhausting combat system.  Really, I just about love everything in this game other than its combat, which I gradually realized when comparing my current experiences in WildStar to those in RIFT and SWTOR.  Too many telegraphs, too long of fights, too much hopping around.

But there will be a lot I’ll miss, starting with my guild and going on to the wonderful housing system, the delightfully wonky world, and not having seen any content past Farside.  The last is really my fault; I’m kicking myself that I had to be all “the grass is greener with this class” and rerolled too many times, as I could have seen most all of the solo game by now.

Of course, it’s never a goodbye (unless NCsoft shutters it, which that studio would never, ever do?  Right?).  It’s an “until later.”  Like most experienced MMO gamers, I fully expect to see a free- or buy-to-play transition announced within a few months.  NCsoft doesn’t run strong on sub-only games, especially in the west, and it’s invested too much not to try.  A switch to either business model would open up the possibility for continued play on my own time, not on a subscription’s, and I wouldn’t object to that.

For now, it feels like a good move.  I have enough to play as it is and there’s plenty more I want to try.  WildStar was a, erm, wild ride for 2014 — not necessarily the game I was hoping to get, but overall pretty engaging.  I will continue to root for its success and comeback, if so slightly hypocritically from the sidelines.