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MMORPG | Genre:Sci-Fi | Status:Final  (rel 06/03/14)  | Pub:NCSoft
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WildStar Column: Through the Refinery

By Gareth Harmer on March 27, 2014

If the reams of patch notes are any indication, WildStar is now firmly in the polish phase. Almost all content and systems are now locked in, but they still need a final dose of testing for everything to shine at launch. Over the next few months, Carbine will be pushing as much through the MMO oil refinery as possible to get that sweet, sweet grade A gameplay.

It means that good quality feedback is now more important than ever, and the studio is certainly eager for players to log in and test. Instead of cake, Carbine is offering a number of Mystery Boxes at launch for every day we log in during this final phase of beta. These little loot troves could contain anything from XP boosts and housing items, to mounts and weapons, so they’re worth snagging if you’re on the preorder train.

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Last week I interviewed Carbine’s Jen Gordy and Kevin Lee about how WildStar’s PvP has evolved through beta, and it turns out that the studio isn’t done with digging into this, with a barrage of further info planned for this week. Yesterday, Reddit hosted an Ask-me-Anything on the latest updates to Warplots, Battlegrounds and Arenas, and Saturday 29 will bring a PvP Livestream on Twitch.

Arming the Gladiator

While on the subject of PvP, Systems Designer Jeff “J-Tal” Tallon took to the forums to explain a number of planned itemization changes.  PvP gear has always had gametype-specific offensive and defensive stats, but these have now been boosted to half the item’s overall budget. To accommodate this change, the non-PvP primary and secondary stats will go down, with those secondary stats being pummeled more. Capping things off, level 50 PvP gear will have both the offensive and defensive stat, swelling their overall item budget.

This is great news for PvP players, as it means that the gap between PvP and PvE gear is being widened into a gulf. Pesky raiders and dungeoneers won’t be waltzing into battlegrounds and stomping around in their shiny epics without some serious investment. But it also works the other way – raiders won’t feel obliged to PvP in order to fill gear gaps.

The rewards for PvP victories are also being improved, with loot bags getting a great addition: besides having a chance to contain PvP armour or potions, they’ll also contain something from the world loot table. This makes victories much more meaningful, as previously there was nothing worse than stomping your enemies into the ground only to be rewarded with a handful of temporary buffs. A win sill awards additional prestige points for spending on PvP gear, so the improved loot bags are a definite boost.

Runecrafting is also in for a change, with rune sets being radically overhauled. For a long time, this enchanting/modification-style system has been the way in which gear was customized to suit particular class roles, and also was the way in which set bonuses were applied. It was also cumbersome – each set of runes required the collection of individual rune fragments to craft. That’s now being replaced with a more general class-specific fragment, which should make gear tuning much less frustrating. Amongst other details, PvP rune sets are also being added for use with that re-itemized gear.

Thanks to an industrious dataminer on Reddit, we’ve also managed to get our first glimpse of WildStar’s endgame gear sets, and it’s fair to say that the reaction has been mixed. Some of them (particularly the Engineer) are glorious full on mech suits, while others are closer to an explosion in a tie-dye t-shirt factory. Personally, I’m hoping that some of the sets are unfinished prototypes, but it might be possible to use dyes to override the colors. And if all else fails, there’s always the costume system

If You Build It

If there’s one feature that’s surprised me about WildStar, it’s player housing. Geniuses have already managed to turn their plot into a hoverboard skate park, and dedicated fan sites are cropping up to cover this unique interest. That amazing creativity is about to get an unexpected shot in the arm, thanks to a recent forum announcement.

The eagle-eyed might have already noticed that housing plots have been bulldozed, with rock formations and other features being swept aside. The reason for this change is some fantastic news – we’ll soon be able to place housing items anywhere on our plot that isn’t occupied by an active plug. This frees up a lot more space to drop items, build unique layouts and come up with even more bizarre creations. It also means that players who tout their services as landscapers and interior designers are going to have much more freedom, and potentially be in much higher demand.

On a slightly grander scale, the Illium redesign is nearly complete, with the city feeling less like a summer garden for a stately manor and more like, well, a city. Flightpaths have also been updated, meaning that the friendly holographic taxi driver won’t slam you into two meters of solid electrogranite. There are still one or two places you can fall through the world if you’re really unlucky but, for the most part, the new look capital is ready for an empire.

Finally, those long-awaited performance improvements are starting to trickle in. Some users have noticed that their frame rates are creeping up, meaning that it shouldn’t be long before we all start seeing a boost. It’s not just graphics either – when input lag crept into the most recent build, Carbine immediately dug into the problem. Senior Ops Producer Craig “Cougar” Turner explained that it was all to do with the priority of player input versus NPC AI, and should be fixed by the next preorder weekend.

Depending on which way you look at it, launch day on June 3 is either an eternity away or just around the corner. In that time, Carbine needs to ensure that WildStar is packed full of entertaining content, engaging mechanics and intuitive systems.  To be fair, the game is mostly there, but the next two months are going to be critical in making sure it’s ready to go live.  

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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