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To Pre-Order or Not?

Gareth Harmer Posted:
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The big news is finally out: WildStar will be launching on June 3 this year. For those eager to throw money at Carbine’s feet, picking up a rocket full of perks at the same time, pre-orders open next week on March 19. If, however, you’re still making up your mind about catching a flight to Nexus, is pre-ordering the best way to go?

The news also brings to an end WildStar’s Winter Beta. After three patches to add further content, fix bugs and lift the level cap entirely, Carbine clearly feels that it’s on the home stretch. With less than three months before Nexus opens up to the masses, does the studio have enough time to prepare? In this week’s column, I’ll be digging into both these questions.

Inspecting the Package

According to the announcement, WildStar will come in two flavors. The Standard Edition gets you a ticket to Nexus with 30 days of game time and 3 week-long passes with which to tempt your friends. A Digital Deluxe Edition includes all of the above, plus some Eldan-themed digital swag; a hoverboard, costume, title and dye kit. If you’re hunting for a buffed physical box, Europeans will find limited quantities of special Steelbook deluxe editions at selected retailers.

You can further boost your launch-day loot significantly by pre-ordering. A rocket-house, 3-day head-start, beta weekend access and more are available for signing up early, regardless of which edition you buy. As offers go, it’s very controversy-free considering some other deals we’ve seen recently.

Surprisingly though, there are no plans for a Collector's Edition. These shelf-devouring boxes have become almost traditional for AAA launches, so Carbine’s decision to pass on it seems unusual at face value. Then again, why put together a soundtrack CD when many tracks are on SoundCloud, or an artbook when stunning concept images can be found on Tumblr? Even before WildStar’s unveiling, the studio has always been eager to give back to the fans, and I feel that by sharing these things openly, it’s one more way they’re doing it.

Then there’s the price; $59.99 is fairly typical in the US, but £34.99 in the UK and €44.99 for the rest of Europe are both very positive conversions. The step up to Digital deluxe is the same throughout however, weighing in at 15 units of either currency. Even so, this is more about buying icing for the cake rather than a ticket for entry.

There is one aspect that I’m mildly disappointed about, and that’s the lack of cross-region play. If you want to play with friends on both sides of the Atlantic, you’ll need to buy two boxes and maintain two subscriptions.

Setting the Date

June might seem like a strange time to release an MMO - the sun is shining, holidays are starting, and many of us are thinking about heading Outside. On the other hand, the timing should help with college students looking to finish up their exams before diving heavily into an online game. And on a personal note, it also gives me ample time to pick up a copy of another upcoming MMO, chew through the content and churn out without feeling rushed.

That said, WildStar’s launch is less than three months away. In that time, Carbine has to process through all the remaining feedback from Winter Beta, polish the game to a shine and finish preparing both servers and support ready for launch. Even though they have the support of NCSoft and years of experience as individuals, this is still the studio’s first game. A healthy number of stress tests have helped to prepare for a deluge of players, but it’s those high-population beta weekends that will be the real acid test.

The large-scale closed beta will also be winding down next week, to be replaced with a series of beta weekends between then and launch. In many respects this is a sensible idea, as it helps with avoiding player burnout before the game even launches. But there’s also a flip-side – reduced testing time can result in less feedback. It’s a subject that Senior Community Manager David “Scooter” Bass wrote about on the beta forums, explaining how the team was striving to find a balance between meaningful testing and a successful launch. The key message is that high-end content will continue to be tested, ensuring that we get a polished experience once we hit level cap after WildStar goes live.

From my own experience in beta, most early content is nicely polished, with some areas still needing a little love here and there. All core systems work well, with balance and tuning still ongoing, and there are no catastrophic gripes or clunks that I’d single out. Later-stage content that I’ve experienced still needs some rough edges smoothed off, but this is entirely possible to achieve with the time available. The question remains around Warplots and Raids that, after opening up a month ago, now require extensive testing and feedback from seasoned veterans.

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Gareth Harmer

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.