Carbine Studios’ WildStar is gaining more and more steam in the hearts and minds of expectant MMO gamers as it drives through Closed Beta on its way to launching later this year. Mixing the traditions of theme-park MMOs with the sensibilities of play-how-you want sandbox MMOs, WildStar seems like it’s poised to please a lot of gamers when it finally does launch. That is, if they can make good on all of the design principles and promises they hold so dearly... because lordy, if they do pull it all off? Carbine’s flagship title is going to be a world rife with fun for just about every MMO player out there. We caught up with Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney to find out how Closed Beta 1 has gone, and what’s coming up in Closed Beta 2 and beyond.
WHAT’D WE DO IN CBT1?
Jeremy began by telling us all how their first Closed Beta phase went. They had two thousand people invited to the test, running around the game world alongside the friends and family testers for the first time. Testers only had access to the Exile ("Good Guys") races, with three early zones opened up, and a level cap of 22.
The goal of this test from a gameplay standpoint was to see if the game stuck with people, if the newbie experience was compelling. The resounding answer was YES, and that combat was hitting all the right notes. The housing system was also in-game during this stage, and people responded very well to how in depth you can design them, how much freedom you had to make big or small houses, and how "housing" doesn't just mean a place to store your stuff, but also a place to play and entertain your friends. But more on that later.
They also had some PVP in the game, and the team organized fights against the players... Jeremy was quick to admit that the devs were destroyed by the players. Apparently, they picked the right testers. They'll be raising the cap to 30 in the nest test, and more PVP options will be available, but again... more on that in a moment!
In terms of tech, they really used this test to see how the servers would handle that many people at once. How optimized was the client in crowded areas, how was the performance over all? They even set up a live "Rapid Response Team" that met from week to week and day to day to recount the issues in beta and how to get them fixed.
One such bug? There was a wrong flag in the game data that had taxi drivers giving out gold instead of taking it from players. It got fixed quickly, but not before some guy repeated this process for five hours and earned a ton of free gold. Jeremy's not sure why this one guy would waste five hours collecting gold during the beta, but well... There you have it.
But what does all this mean for the next phase of beta? We are thrilled you asked, because Jeremy went off on a massive wall-o-words about just that. Prepare to be blinded by information.
ONWARD INTO CLOSED BETA 2
Like stated above, the CBT2 cap will be raised to 30, and the focus will be shifted from the Exiles to the "Bad" Dominion races. The Cassians, Mechari, and Draken will all be available to play. Four zones are also going to be open, including Auroria (a really cool zone with some giant alien bees, honey, rocket-packs and more), and the first cross-faction zone of Whitevale (a snowy region that’ll play host to some epic world PvP). They’re wiping the Exile characters and only enabling the Dominion, but this all leads into CBT3 about six weeks or so later, when both factions will be enabled and the first open-world PVP zone (Whitevale) will be opened up then as well.
There will also be a new dungeon opened up. In CBT1, there was just Stormtalon: a level 17 newbie dungeon. But in CBT2, the Ruins of Kel Voreth are opened up, exploring the Osun race and more on the lore of Nexus and the Eldan themselves. Like all the dungeons in WildStar, it’s a changing and dynamic experience that’s different each time you go into the place. Hard content is for the groups, is the Carbine philosophy. They want the solo and open world game to be approachable by just about anyone, but they have made a firm decision for group and raid content to be the toughest content in the game. These first dungeons, while for lower levels, reflect that.
There’s also going to be the first Battleground in-game: Smash and Grab. Let me just pull the info from the patch notes:
“The objective of the Battleground is to capture 5 Moodie Masks at your faction’s base camp. At the start of the match, a Moodie Mask will spawn in a random location at the center of the map. You must take the mask to your camp’s totem to capture it. Once captured, another mask will spawn in the center after a short delay. Protect your captured masks! The enemy team can steal a mask from your camp.
A total of 3 masks can be in play at any one time (a neutral mask, a stolen Exile mask, and a stolen Dominion mask). If a mask is dropped, players have 30 seconds to pick it up before it is either recovered (if it is a stolen mask, see the below note) or despawned (neutral mask). If a neutral mask is despawned due to a drop, it will respawn in the center (after a short delay). Once a stolen mask is dropped, the recovering team only needs to protect the mask from being picked up. After the drop timer has expired, the mask is teleported back to the camp totem.”
It’s a nice blend of both capture the flag, and defend and hold. With lots of different paths, levels of terrain, and so forth to make things interesting. The first team to five masks wins, and the team-size is 10v10. What’s important to note about Battlegrounds, and other content in the game, is the Rallying System. If you’re level 3, or anything below the level 30 cap, you’ll be rallied up to level 30 and given stats, and even gear appropriate for that level for the PVP match. It sounds similar to Guild Wars 2’s system. Your gear won’t be on par exactly with a level 30 player if you’re level 3, but it’ll be close enough to keep you competitive. And this mechanic is also usable in dungeons. Discover Kel Voreth at 15, but don’t want to wait until 20 to do it? Rally up! It’ll be tougher for you, but you can at least do the thing.