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WildStar Column: Here Comes the Spring

By Gareth Harmer on March 06, 2014

Changes are coming to the WildStar beta. Tweets and posts from the community team on Reddit seem to indicate that the Winter Beta is coming to an end, with something else following shortly afterwards. Is it a Spring Beta with a new UI, or will Carbine Studios fling the doors open to Open Beta?

Back when WildStar’s Winter Beta entered Phase 3, I felt like we were entering the final stages of development. That’s feeling more even more likely now, particularly with Carbine unveiling a new UI. Even so, there is still plenty of testing and polish to be done before that launch date sometime in the spring. But for those itching to get a place in beta, the word is that it’s about to get a whole lot easier.

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Soak Test

It’s now been over a year since we enjoyed our first hands-on time with WildStar away from the convention floor, following it up with a visit to the Arkship fan event.  It was also our first real look at the Dominion faction and Stalker class, adding to the Spellslinger, Esper and Warrior. From these early experiences, our appetite was left hungering for more.

Both of these, however, were a prelude though for what followed: the start of full closed beta in April. As spring moved into summer, Carbine switched from testing the early Exile content in Phase 1, to the equivalent Dominion zones in Phase 2, and receiving valuable feedback on both. Faction-on-faction combat was introduced in Phase 3, with griefers and gankers making their first arrival on Nexus. We even managed to grab Content Director Mike Donatelli for a while to share his thoughts on how summer beta was progressing.

All this ended in August, when Carbine published their State of the Beta. Amongst other concerns, testers felt that the closed combat tagging system and ‘kill ten rats’ quests were outdated concepts, and that ability customization just wasn’t meaningful. As a result, Carbine made the decision to close down beta so that it could focus on responding to player feedback. That didn’t stop further WildStar news from emerging; after showing off dungeons at both Gamescom and PAX Prime, the upcoming MMO walked away with our Best In Show award.

That summer break also provided us with news on WildStar’s business model and, as we moved into autumn, an update on changes to those core systems. Soon afterwards, the legion of summer beta testers was invited back to try out all the changes, including the newly announced Medic and Engineer classes.

And then, to top it all off, we got our own chance to check out the Winter Beta. I personally took a closer look at the Walatiki Temple PvP battleground and dug into crafting. As I progressed deeper into WildStar, I also looked at one of the later Dominion zones and the Ruins of Kel Voreth dungeon. Winter Beta patch 2 brought in further updates to combat and character models, while Patch 3 signaled the start of endgame testing as raids and Warplots were opened.

Spring is Coming

WildStar has certainly come a long way in the last twelve months. Two beta phases, masses of content and system updates, and a new UI have all left their mark on Carbine’s nascent game. But change is in the air; stress tests have given way to special access weekends, while fansites and streamers have been handing out beta keys in competitions of their own. If the rumblings on Twitter and Reddit are any indication, even this is set to change.

The first hint was on Twitter. In the past, Carbine has usually invited a few thousand new testers every week from its pool of beta registrations, but that has now closed. When clarifying later on Reddit, Community Manager Mark Hulmes explained that it specifically referenced this phase of beta. In a separate thread, he also mentioned that potential players would soon have a “much easier time of getting in”. 

What could this mean? Hulmes also confirmed that Open Beta would be starting soon, with further details to come ‘soon-ish’. That doesn’t mean we should start preparing our hard drives just yet, as it’s likely that we’ll be having another period of closed beta first. There’s that new UI to test out first, plus any updates from the Winter Beta that need to be put through the wringer. But once the new updates get a clean bill of health, I can imagine that Carbine will open the floodgates.

It doesn’t mean that WildStar is ready today. Far from it – balance changes, zone updates and content tweaks all need to happen before the MMO is ready for prime time. Just as with other MMO betas, I’m also expecting a performance boost as the custom-made game engine is locked down. But just as with that revamped UI, Carbine might have many of those fixes in the pipe already, just waiting to show us in a brand new beta build.

As a result, next week could be an important one for WildStar watchers. As Winter Beta winds down and another phase starts up, we might finally learn Carbine’s final secret: that elusive release date. Announcing that, the preorder details and when open beta will start – it’d be one heck of a way to step into spring. After almost a year in front of beta testers, this next phase of patches and polish might be the only thing remaining before launch.

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.


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