Right now, the devs are focused pretty much on iterative polish of all main zones in the huge seamless world, but also importantly the elder game, raids, warplots, and all of those high end systems. There’s a lot more work left, but Jeremy insists we won’t have to wait long into 2014 (even if the motto is still: it’s done when it’s done). In terms of the complaints they’ve seen in beta, Jeremy says there are two general classes of complaint. One is the player who thinks the content is sometimes too much “on rails”. The other? People who says there’s too much to do and not enough rails. As you can guess, this is a confusing problem for Carbine to have.
MMO gamers are a unique breed in that every game can attract several types of player. So their goal is to make sure that each zone and indeed the whole game’s leveling process has this storyline that arcs through the content... but you won’t have to adhere to it like you’re being guided along. It’s there, you won’t constantly be told to complete it by the UI or whatnot, but Jeremy calls it the “rails for people who want rails”. For everyone else, there’s a ton of other stuff to do throughout every zone and off the main route, especially with the Paths system and PVP.
I asked the Gaffer if their game would face a problem many quest-based designs do: a dead-zone of content in the middle. In reply, he was candid: “The best games have dead zones in the middle areas around launch, because the devs have been busy making sure the hooks are there for the beginning and at the level cap.” He can’t say they won’t have a few “gaps” of leveling content until they open the test for folks to go from 1-50 freely over consecutive days of testing, but they think they’ve done it. The middle zones traditionally get less iteration because by that time in your dev cycle, you’re working on the elder game stuff, but Jeremy knows that the altoholics are just as important to the game’s longevity as the top tier raid guilds. He remembers when City of Heroes players would run a character up to level 22 or so (the “middle”) and then just make alts endlessly. It’s a tough balancing act to make sure every single zone in the game gets enough polish, but it’s what they’ve been spending a lot of time doing, so he believes they’ll avoid the dreaded “content gap”, and have a healthy elder game waiting for the level 50 folks right at launch as well.
Finally, all prospective players are just sitting on their hands and waiting for the final two classes to be revealed. Next week they will be, but we tried to get Jeremy to spill the beans a bit early, or at least give us some hints. In Carbine’s offices, there’s actually a whiteboard tracking who has accidentally let out the most leaks. Gaffney is right in the top three with Stephan Frost and Mike Donatelli, so he was a bit worried he’d add another to his total. But he did mention that the two classes might or might not have something to do with proctology and information technology. Let the jokes about a healing class with latex gloves commence.
The buzz is beginning to really build around WildStar, and even the Carbine web developers are taking notice. A month ago, they had a few million visitors per month to the main site. In the past four weeks, that’s jumped right up to seven million views. They know players are getting anxious and amped to see the game for themselves, and they really can’t wait to let them in. The closed beta is about to seriously get an influx of players, and it’s been said via Twitter and other channels that the Open Beta will be about a month before launch. I’m just going to go out on a limb and guess that PAX East might be a pretty big show for Carbine. But until then, we’ll just have to settle with diving into the beta in December. I can make due with that.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.