It’s just over a month since I started playing WildStar ‘for real’, and I’m still having a blast. With a well-aimed push, this weekend will see me hit level cap and move on to Elder Game content. To be honest, I’d probably have managed it sooner if I weren’t messing with my housing plot all the time.
These last few zones have been made even more enjoyable by the inclusion of Drusera instances. Instead of pushing all of WildStar’s lore into the open world, Creative Director Chad Moore took the decision to showcase some of the important turning points in single player experiences, and it pays off in droves. The fourth one (and I promise: no spoilers) is particularly moving, especially with this amazing track playing in the background. None of these were accessible during beta, which makes their post-launch discovery all the more satisfying.
Marry that with some of the later zones, and you’ve got a lorehound’s feast. As a Dominion player to the core, I loved exploring Wilderrun and discovering some of the secrets behind the Luminai project – and its aftermath. It’s been interesting to observe the gradual descent of the Eldan, from benevolent creators to malicious and narcissistic glory-hunters. Even though I’m yet to discover the final chapters of the Nexus Project, I’m both dreading and eagerly anticipating the conclusion.
The Good and the Bad
So, how has WildStar’s first month progressed? If I were filling out a report card, I’d probably describe it as good, but not perfect. The launch itself was marked with a DDoS attack and crammed servers, with Carbine’s Ops Team rapidly moving to alleviate both of those problems. Since then, the service has been mostly stable, although the EU authentication server would briefly wander off for a stiff drink every now and again.
It’s also fair to say that the experience hasn’t been completely bug-free either. Craig ‘Cougar’ Turner’s Live Ops team has been triaging the issues into three categories – game-breaking problems that need to be crushed quickly with a hotfix, those that can be fixed in a weekly patch update, or those that need to be rolled into one of the Ultra Drops. Even though the latest Strain update included some 1100 fixes, a number of minor bugs are still present. In order to help with testing, the studio has also resurrected the old Nexus server from beta as a Public Test Realm, and will hopefully be loaded with next month’s content soon.
But if there’s something I wasn’t ready for, it was the bots. WildStar (and, to be fair, other recent MMOs) has been hit heavily by two groups: gold farmers looking to make a quick profit, and cheats looking to snooze their way through the game. Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney announced that the studio had banned some 7300 accounts in the last three days alone, based on internal sweeps and player reports. That reporting process is also getting a shot in the arm, with an automated reporting feature arriving in the next few weeks. In the interim, players have even put together a couple of addons to streamline the process. Gaffney’s announcement was also combined with a plea to use 2-factor authentication, as between 50% and 70% of banned accounts were previously compromised.
Powering Through the Pain
Overall though, things are getting better. Framerate-sapping performance issues have largely been lifted, thanks largely due to some significant engine improvements and new graphics card drivers (if you’re using AMD, go grab the new beta ones). Tweaks for AMD processors are in the pipe, and should hopefully land with us soon. Considering that WildStar uses a custom-made engine, it’s refreshing to see the studio move to get on top of the issue.
And to put it all in context, none of these problems have stopped players from getting in and enjoying what Nexus has to offer. Some of us are chewing through the questing content and taking our time, while others have raced to level cap and are already raiding through Genetic Archives, WildStar’s 20-player instance. Reviews have been landing throughout the month, with the general consensus being both positive and encouraging. The CREDD subscription model has kicked in, and I’ve even paid cash for one and listed it on the exchange for a pile of platinum pieces. After all, housing items aren’t cheap!
The Strain update landed on schedule, adding a new level 50 story questing zone, the Northern Wastes daily quest hub, and the 20-player Drusera Tree public event. For those already at cap it’s more content to play through, but it’s also another carrot for those of us still leveling. And the story isn’t ending here either – Chad Moore has also been teasing on Twitter that voice actors have been coming back in the booth to record more lines.
However, there is a ‘but’, and it’s something that Carbine’s already aware of. My PvP-playing brethren tell me that changes are desperately needed that would support competitive PvP, such as boosting the viability of PvP gear over high-end PvE gear, and resolving some outstanding problems with class skills. The next Ultra-Drop, probably arriving in early August, will hopefully address many of these, while also introducing a new Sabotage-themed battleground. It should be arriving on the PTR any day now, and I’d encourage the hardcore PvP crowd to hit it hard and provide heavy-duty constructive feedback.
Do I have faith that Carbine can deliver? Undoubtedly. It’s abundantly clear, from the announcements at the top of the studio, to the ops team leaping on livestreams, that they’re being transparent and honest with both players and fans alike. I’ve seen them handle criticism and feedback before launch, and I’ve no doubt they’ll manage it again as further content is rolled out. Whether it’s crushing bugs, destroying bots, or improving battlegrounds, I’m confident that we’ll get there.
Gareth Harmer / Gareth “Gazimoff” 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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