The Polish Patch
At this stage in an MMO beta, there’s a huge amount of effort in tuning content so that it’s fun and engaging, and crushing all those bugs that testers report on. All the fun new content is already in the production pipeline, leaving a long list of fixes for coders, developers and designers to work through. And it’s all so that we can enjoy a smooth, balanced experience at launch day.
The patch notes for Winter Beta 2 are full of balance updates – almost every single ability for every single class has been adjusted in some way. This is likely to be an ongoing process even beyond launch, but it shows that the various combat teams are closely looking at the feedback they’re getting.
One of the biggest combat changes was with shields – the blue bar of protection that would absorb damage before your green health pool would drop. That absorption has now changed, with only 50% of incoming damage being eaten by the shield. This represents an interesting change, particularly as shields can regenerate quickly in combat as long as you’re not being attacked. I’m interested to see how this plays out, both in PvP and solo PvE.
Multiple action sets have been added to the beta, allowing us to switch rapidly between sets of abilities when out of combat. It’s not clear if this will extend up to the AMP system and work as a character respect, but I’m hopeful. Overall, we’ll be able to have a total of four different action sets at our disposal, which should be plenty to cover a variety of roles.
I was surprised to find that the Chua now have undergarments at character creation, and wonder if this means that it was running around Commando-style earlier in the beta. Carbine has also responded to feedback from a variety of sources about some of the female character models by slightly reducing the bust on Aurin and Human (both Exile and Cassian). While it’s a minor change, I personally feel it’s an improvement that makes them more proportionally sensible. Besides, as Stephan Frost mentioned, body shape sliders might be added post-launch.
On the PvP side of things, Walatiki Temple had an interesting change that I’m eager to try out - each side now starts with one Moodie Mask in their possession. It means there’s a choice between waiting for a spawn in the center of the map, or blitzing to the enemy base to snatch theirs first. The spawn time between neutral masks has also been bumped up, which should result in more attempted snatches from each team’s stockpile.
While a number of fixes have poured into Housing, there’s one new feature that’s incredibly welcome – being able to preview new plugs before you drop them on to your plot. Crafters also get a perk with Tradeskill Work Orders, as they can now complete these quests by pulling finished items from their inventory instead of having to build them as part of the mission.
Besides these highlights, pretty much every zone has had quests tweaked, fixed or updated. The User Interface has had more love, with some components being de-cluttered to reduce their size on the screen. Audio has been added or updated, and I’m looking forward to finding out what voiceover has been added to the Transmat Terminals.
Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney previously told me that Carbine doesn’t do a mandatory crunch, although many choose to take advantage of the free food and other perks that are laid on for the night-owls and weekend workers. Either way, it’s clear that the studio is working hard to prepare WildStar for release during the Spring launch window.
Even so, it doesn’t end there. While I’m hoping that the army of developers gets a chance to take a post-launch vacation, there’s also the promise of a steady stream of regular updates. While the work they do now will help ensure a successful launch, it’s those frequent content patches that help to keep players in the game.
Gareth Harmer / Gareth Harmer has been blasting and fireballing his way through MMOs for over ten years. When he's not exploring an online world, he can usually be found enthusiastically dissecting and debating them. Follow him on Twitter at @Gazimoff.