Forecasting the Future - What 2016 Could Bring
For WildStar fans, December is the season to get busy. On top of the Protostar Winterfest Extravaganza, Carbine’s just started the Great Space Chase. Running until December 18, if you’ve ever wanted to get some spacey decorations on your housing plot, this is the perfect for you. And to top it all, the devs are getting in on the action as well!
All this talk about events has got me thinking. We’ve seen several events in WildStar since launch, including Shade’s Eve and the Hoverboard zPrix. Add in the lower-key bonuses such as double-XP weekends and PvP extravaganzas, and Carbine’s calendar is starting to get pretty packed. While it’s great to see a ton happening in the game, it’s made me curious – is this an unfurling of content that we’re seeing, or is it part of some wider strategy? Come to think of it, what is Carbine’s plan for WildStar in the year ahead?
Which is why, in this week’s column, I’ll be touching on two different elements – a quick recap on how you can help the Ekose and get some sweet swag; and how WildStar’s future direction looks a bit confusing at the moment. This isn’t taking guesses at the lore and story (I covered that previously), but more about the structure and strategy for the sci-fi MMO.
I’ll admit, I have a fondness for the Ekose. Their carefree attitude to interstellar travel presents this exterior of indomitable calm, even in the face of alien infestation and ship-wide malfunctions. When I heard there’d be an event featuring them, I was sold straight away. You betcha.
The premise of the event is simple enough – run expeditions (shiphand missions are a speciality) in order to collect Eko Particles, which you can then hand in with Exchanger Beno in your capital city, in return for Eko Chits. With these chits, you can then buy spaceship parts in order to build something spectacular on your housing plot. Sounds simple, right?
There are three different ships that you can collect parts for, but there’s no need to stick to the original Ekose blueprints. If you want to build some kind of franken-freighter, fill your boots. Likewise, if you want to turn your home into some kind of galactic junkyard, you now have everything you need to do it.
If you want to cut straight to the housing part, you can also buy décor crates direct from the NCoin store. These crates might also have some exclusive bonuses lurking inside, such as spacefaring NPCs and music tracks. The crates themselves are fairly cheap, and can be picked up for Omnibits as well as NCoin.
If you’re an expedition-aholic but don’t really care about housing, you can instead choose to sell your Eko Particles on the Commodities Exchange. Who said that salvaging doesn’t pay? Either way, you’re likely to be able to get something out of the event between now and December 18.
As I mentioned previously, WildStar’s had several in-game events since switching to free-to-play. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each of these so far, earning a healthy stack of unique rewards as a result. I’m also hoping to see more of these throughout the year, as it means there’s always something new to experience, talk about and enjoy with friends.
But it’s almost all we’ve heard about. During the Loremageddon livestream, Creative Director Chad Moore has teased that there’s more content coming – a new zone, new lore, and new raid are on the way. The Cryo-Plex arena has also opened for business, offering a multi-level amphitheatre for carnage. However, it feels as though these teasers have gone largely unnoticed, compared to the revolving door of new content that in-game events are currently offering.
Why is this a concern? In truth, I’m after a clarity from Carbine about where the studio plans to take WildStar in the year ahead, what types of content they intend to focus on, and what player feedback and metrics have been used to drive those decisions. I feel that it’s important to share this with players, as it helps manage our expectations. As an example, if flexible-group expeditions are a huge hit, I’d expect to see more of them in the future. If PvP isn’t very popular, I wouldn’t be surprised for it to land on the back burner. And if in-game events are encouraging significant numbers of players to log in, you can bet that there’ll be more.
All of this should lean to a strategy. Star Wars: The Old Republic has one – to introduce BioWare-quality storytelling to an MMO. It’s based on feedback from players about what they liked the most, and has become the defining focal point for their latest expansion. Anyone getting into SWTOR now knows that it’s less about raiding and PvP, and more about episodic stories and player strongholds. And the result? A 30% uptick in subscribers.
As we move into the new year, I’m hoping that Carbine considers a similar exercise, in order to clarify where they plan to take WildStar in the future. That way, players and fans would know where they stand, what they can look forward to, and what dead horses they should stop beating.
I don’t want to second-guess what these might indicate, but I imagine that Expeditions, Events, Housing and Lore would be near the top of popularity, with Instances and Raids being second on the list. If I had to pick my battles at Carbine, I’d focus on these elements, using development to really knock these out of the park.
We know that an MMO can’t be all things to all people but, in a crowded market and with limited resources, it’s more important than ever to understand what Carbine intends to focus on. That way, we can all feel confident about joining them on the journey.