A New Form of Combat
Weekly raids are one thing, but Carbine also needs to mesh old-school concepts with new-school combat. WildStar uses an active combat system that’s heavy on movement, and this needs to be felt as part of our raiding experience. Pivoting on the spot and occasionally moving out of the bad stuff just won’t cut it.
So far, our only glimpses of WildStar’s raids have been some exterior footage at Gamescom and a six second Vine video shot on a smartphone. Neither gives us a true flavor of what the fights will feel like, but there are some definite pointers.
There’s a large amount of anxiety that WildStar’s telegraph-heavy combat system will make raiding easy. My own experience, both of open-world combat and early dungeons like Stormtalon’s Lair, indicate that it’s just not the case. Instead, telegraphs allow combat to become even more fluid and fast-moving, working well with dodge and sprint abilities to encourage agile play. A telegraphed move doesn’t necessarily mean you have plenty of time to react to it, or that you can ignore mob animations or cast bars as a precursor or addition to it.
Instead, I was concerned that raiding would become awash with color, as telegraphs and spell effects combine to make some fevered seventies disco nightmare. From what I’ve seen it looks like the dungeon floor will be kept clean, with just your own, helpful and harmful effects actually shown. As long as spell effects and telegraphs look cool and interesting rather than chaotic and messy, I’m all for it.
As an extension of active combat, the limited action set will also have an impact on how we raid. Each class will be able to swap between playing DPS and one other role in the trinity, although this is likely to have an out-of-combat restriction. There’s also the possibility, depending on how well the abilities synergize, for adding a bit of utility. A strong DPS player might want more survivability for a particularly tough encounter. A tank or healer might be over-geared for the fight and throw in some more damage-dealing options. And, even though every class is likely to have some form of long-cooldown self-heal, an “oh crap” button might be essential when learning a new fight.
In a frame-by-frame analysis of the Raid Vine, the Nexus Weekly podcast also discovered the raid boss had Interrupt Armor. I’m reliably told that this concept came from City of heroes, where an enemy could potentially be stunned if players coordinated their attacks to land a volley of stuns and silences at the same time. If this carries over into WildStar, we could see raid teams use a mix of tactics; some may use interrupt abilities to stun the boss into submission, while others may prefer to heal through any bursts of damage. There’s certainly a potential for varied fight tactics, but it remains to be seen just how much that happens.
It’s been a while since we looked at another core part of WildStar, but character paths will also likely have a role to play in raiding. Carbine has been fairly quiet on this element, but it will probably involve harnessing the environment in some way. Scientists might be able to bring a weapon system online temporarily. Explorers might be able to open up hidden paths through an instance or around a room. Soldiers might be able to tool up with exotic explosives caches, and Settlers could deploy safe zones to shield members from incoming fire. We’ve seen similar interaction-based mechanics in other MMOs and they’ve felt like a bit of a gimmick, but there’s the potential for Carbine to make them an integral part of WildStar raiding.
A Modern Mindset
As it stands, WildStar’s raiding will probably demand a greater change in approach than we’ve seen in other MMOs. It changes competitive PvE from being a sprint to the finish, to being a long-distance endurance race, with the new philosophy likely to have the biggest impact on raid groups. Will they grow to regularly rotate players, or will they move to a tight but relentlessly dedicated team?
There’s also a question around collaboration and team culture. We already know that Carbine is investing heavily in addon support for WildStar but, with fewer predictable elements, what purpose will these serve in raids? Are they likely to become a closely guarded secret, with bedroom coders fiercely scripting to support their guild? WildStar’s raiding is intended to be challenging but, at this rate, it’s possible that teams will need skills beyond mastery of their chosen class.
Ultimately, the long term success of Carbine’s raiding plans rest on those three pillars: keep us entertained with fresh challenges every week, give us worthwhile rewards and accolades to motivate us into being part of the team, and provide a compelling evolution on MMO gameplay that’s fun to experience. That’s not going to be easy to deliver. Then again, I can’t help but thing that a shift to weekly raiding might demand a similar evolution in ourselves.