In last week’s column, I asked what went wrong with WildStar. After an impressive launch, buggy updates and persistent problems have certainly taken the sheen off Carbine’s inaugural MMO. It’s an issue that the studio has also acknowledged, sharing plans over the last seven days to grapple with the helm and bring Nexus back on track. This week, I’ll be stepping through those plans in detail.
After releasing two major content updates, Carbine has admitted that more time needs to be spent on fixing bugs and applying polish, which is partly behind the shift to quarterly content updates. But rather than spending triple the amount of time on the same amount of changes, the studio seems to have merged two drops together. During Tuesday’s Nexus Report livestream, product director Mike Donatelli frequently referred to the upcoming patch as ‘Update 3-4.’ Indeed, some of the updates mentioned on the show would seem to support this. If you were worried that rune and stat changes would be pushed back to January, there’s good news ahead.
That said, the change in development speed isn’t without casualties. According to Donatelli, the earliest that this mega-patch could arrive is October 21, but admitted that it’s more likely to appear in early November. Because of this, Carbine has decided not to run the Shade’s Eve holiday event this year, despite it being nearly complete. Likewise, because of a studio-wide focus on the impending mega-update, Christmas-themed holiday content will also be absent. Although painful, these decisions show the lengths Carbine will go to for it to safeguard that bug-free patch.
Up Next on Nexus
Before Update 3-4 even gets here, WildStar’s Megaserver merger will be taking place. Sometime in the next two weeks, servers will be closed down and characters moved to four new homes. It’s a feature that Donatelli admitted wanting to have for launch, but didn’t get finished in time. He also added that Carbine is very focused on QA testing for this update to ensure that it all goes off without a hitch.
A handful of weeks later, Update 3-4 will hit live servers. This brings in the Defile content update, together with the beginning of the Nexus Saga world story. For lore hounds, this is where we’ll be wrapping up the prologue and moving into the main plot arc surrounding the Eldan, Nexus, Drusera and the Entity. There’s also a cargohold full of bug fixes in the update, with patch notes stretching over some 100 or so pages.
We’ll also see a number of system changes arrive. Runeslots are getting a pass, particularly adding runeslots and having new runes to put in them. Interlocking with that is stat rebalancing, particularly around assault and support power. All of these changes are likely to be fairly intricate, which is why Donatelli also agreed to share the details of these changes sometime later in the week. Also sneaking into the update are rental mounts to help lower level players get around, and a tweak to money sinks so that players no longer have a hard choice between buying skills and other character essentials.
Further ahead, Donatelli also revealed that the next update would arrive some time in January. The first patch of 2015 will bring in the Ultimate Protogames dungeon we’ve glimpsed previously, together with the Protogames Academy training experience for low level players. It will also being in the 2nd arena map, dungeon dailies, and provide greater XP rewards for participating in dungeons. There was also talk of a new level 6 shiphand mission, and adding this instance type to the group finder tool.
Bringing Players Back.
Carbine has admitted some home truths. In recent months, parts of the studio were working on content updates a year away from release, yet spread their QA team too thinly. Donatelli acknowledged that 8 to 9 days of testing simply wasn’t enough, and that the amount of QA time needed was underestimated. Player concerns are starting to be addressed – he also revealed that discussions had been taking place around raid sizes, although no further announcements were made at the time.
Will it be enough to pull players back, or even bring newcomers to Nexus? During the Nexus Report, several hints were dropped that some kind of free trial promotion would happen following the Megaserver update – a move I recommended roughly a month ago. There was also talk of new retention initiatives to reward regular subscribers, in a similar way to how Boom Boxes encouraged beta and PTR testing.
My big concern now is that the opportunity isn’t squandered, and that Carbine holds its nerve until Update 3-4 is released, so that both newcomers and returning players get a chance to experience all of the updates and fixes that the studio has been toiling away on. Even so, I’m worried that the capital cities may still feel empty without a holiday event to lure players away from their housing plots, despite the massive increase in player concentration. Time will tell how it all pans out, but the team at Orange County might want to have something up their sleeve, just in case.