The Changing Tide
After much anticipation, WildStar’s Megaservers have finally gone live. Characters from numerous disparate realms have been brought together in four new locations, with both US and EU regions each sporting a single PvP and PvP server. The results have been instantaneous: even at 2am, my new playground was packed with players.
This marks the start of a changing tide for Carbine. As problems with previous content drops grew, it felt like WildStar was slipping through the studio’s fingers. I’ve talked in the past about how a ship needs a captain, and how it felt rudderless after former Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney stepped down. Following an illuminating interview last week, it’s clear that Product Director Mike Donatelli has stepped up to the wheel and pulled hard.
Will it be enough? Currently, all our eyes are on Drop 3-4, which is slated to arrive sometime in early-to-mid November-ish. The reason for the flexible date is likely down to the extra QA and bug fixing being poured in – if there’s one message that we’ve hammered home, it’s that we’re fed up of patches that arrive with as many new problems as they solve. If anything, the November update will be an acid test for bug-free content and client optimization.
No Plain Sailing
What Drop 3-4 won’t be, however, is some kind of panacea. We know from previous discussions with Carbine that it’ll open up the new zone of Defile, bring in the Journey to Omnicore-1, and kick off the Nexus Saga. There are also numerous changes behind the scenes, including ability and stat updates, and changes to the runecrafting system. But it won’t contain the endgame itemization changes that raiders were holding out for, as the revamp involved starting from scratch. Itemization lead Jeff “J-Tal” Tallon provided more details on the official forums.
“We're coordinating with the Combat/Class team much more closely to try to get some changes to how stats affect your actual character (Grit comes to mind immediately). We're reorganizing loot tables so you don't get the same mini boss drops 4 times in a row. We're adding a new currency to Veteran Dungeons and Raids so that upgrades are no longer locked behind time-gated Elder Gems (Elder Gem gear rewards will be moving to either this new currency or Renown). We're adding a new vendor system that allows you to trade non-currency items (i.e. slot tokens) to a vendor for gear upgrades.”
These updates will dovetail in with other system changes planned for January, such as Renown, Reputation, world loot, and rewards from Challenges. The New Year Patch is also where other content we’ve previously glimpsed, such as the Protostar Games and Ice Box Arena. Veteran shiphand missions for level 50 players are currently in development, and should also arrive in this update,
Setting a Course
If anything’s come out of the recent interviews with Carbine, it’s that the studio is responding to player criticism, even though it’s going to take some time to get there. Content Director Chad Moore has specifically said that he will be responding to WildStar’s ‘hardcore’ perception, with more details promised in the coming weeks.
But what will that look like? When WildStar first broke cover, Jeremy Gaffney described it as an MMO we could play how we wanted to, whether we were a hardcore raiding fanatic or a solo explorer. It’s this mantra that Carbine seems to be returning to, emphasizing the range of content that’s available, and improving areas that fall short.
For raiders, that might involve making them more accessible, although it’s unlikely that Genetic Archives, Datascape, or existing dungeons will be nerfed. Brett Scheinert, WildStar’s Dungeon and Raid Lead Designer, highlighted that “Based upon our metrics, players who did any dungeon were significantly more likely to stick around.” That said, Mike Donatelli has hinted that the studio is looking at ways to make raiding more accessible, which might mean simplifying attuments or dropping from 40-player to 20 player raids. Either way, guilds are likely to embrace anything that makes it easier to defeat the roster boss.
The bigger challenge is going to be providing entertaining end-game content for those who don’t raid or PvP, but still want to be a part of Nexus. Donatelli has suggested that Carbine is working on ‘short session gameplay’ content, but it’s unclear what that term means. Personally, I’m hoping it doesn’t mean daily quests and reputation grinds.
Instead, I think it’s a reference to a mix of features, some that WildStar already has. The Nexus Saga will contain story instances that are repeatable, and flexible endgame shiphand missions would be a great way to have fun without looking for a group or facing the challenge of a veteran dungeon. For those who want raid-style content, I’m hoping that the two 20-player encounters in Blighthaven and The Defile become more accessible, with looking-for-raid style access to this open world content. Again, the difficulty doesn’t have to change, but just be made more accessible.
I also think that community events – both those led by players and those organized by the community team – can have a much bigger impact now that Megaservers have arrived. Even though roleplay servers have disappeared, I think that housing plots have huge potential for themed encounters, and dedicated roleplay chat tools should help to keep potential disruption down.