WildStar’s Gambit and the Community’s Power
WildStar is going through a time of transition. There’s no way around it. Server populations have been on the decline. Key Carbine team members like Jeremy Gaffney, Chris Lynch, and Stephan Frost left for various reasons and that was before NC Soft let roughly 70 people go. The update timeline was officially stretched. About a month ago, the Shade’s Eve Halloween event and the Christmas event, Winterfest, would not be held at all. Megaservers were announced and implemented. For a game that is not even six months old yet, there have been plenty of changes, but with a paying community in the middle, will it be enough to win over current players and woo others (back)?
Recently, I discussed how The Elder Scrolls Online is rebounding after launch problems and some harsh initial reviews. WildStar is another interesting case since we’re seeing an effort to right the ship at the same time as the team must do what it can with fewer hands. The holiday events’ cancellation was what really got me thinking about the community again. WildStar is built in many ways as group-oriented if you want ultimate success. It has plenty of solo features like most MMOs, but when it comes to its marquee features like raids, arenas, and Warplots, there are reasons to play with a good group you know how to work well with. It’s easy for things to become chaos at times otherwise, in this game more than in others.
Holiday events are fun and they usually draw inactive or even former players back into a game, giving developers a chance to show off content added for the event and since those players left last time. There are usually offers for a few free days or some sort of bonus for resubbing. These marketing tricks work hand in hand with the event to provide opportunities for players to get a real taste of what they’ve been missing out on. Events can feel special and bring the community together to cooperate and accomplish tasks or battle together, which adds a layer of life to games that might have been somewhat dormant a week before. With the population problems and the beginning of megaservers, the intuitive thing would be Carbine wanting to produce something that brings people back. That’s why the holiday events’ cancellation is a bold move.
As bold as it is, part of the reason for that is it’s a gamble. There won’t be events to anchor the sneak peeks and capitalize upon players’ free time to come check out what they’ve been missing and enjoy the surge of life on the servers again. The game’s next update, Drop 3, Mystery of the Genesis Prime, will include numerous fixes, have a central public event, new quests and story content, and a new zone. With the pace of updates having gone quarterly, it will be some time before we see more content for WildStar. It will fall upon the shoulders of the community to decide whether or not all of this succeeds. How? The holiday events offer a possible peek.
With no official Halloween event, some guilds decided to organize some of their own. One of them, Veritas, held an open community Halloween event to consist of competition in Warplots, intermission party, a costume contest, and more PvP competition. There were gatherings for those less PvP-inclined from the game’s roleplaying community. Others were putting together spooky playlists for the community events. In essence, the players pulled it together for the rest. This is going to be even more vital now that the holiday events don’t provide an anchor between drops three and four.
For many games, the ongoing efforts out of the community help keep the game going and keep people playing even when there aren’t any official events scheduled. While some games have decided that automated public events were a way to handle some players’ desires for more things to do and more rewards, the old fashioned way is still alive. This is another reason to encourage roleplayers, since it’s often the roleplay guilds and PvP guilds that organize most of the community events. A game like Lord of the Rings Online, even amidst a smaller general population seven years after release, is still one that attracts community-based events that supplement the game’s own seasonal festivals. Certainly, the IP helps a lot, but that’s not the only reason.
When it comes to WildStar, I just wonder if it will come together enough. I admit that I have not played much WildStar out of beta, so my current speculation is based upon word of mouth and looking into community discussion. Yet, the game is sitting there with not six months under its belt. Halloween events did happen, but I went back through both the General and Community forums until days before Halloween to see what other events there might have been promoted. There were a handful, which is promising.
Yet if the community comes together now and starts putting enough effort into helping keep players busy and entertained, it can work out well. There are many fun elements in WildStar, and Carbine is clearly committing to some heavy changes to make the game into something that feels more inclusive and welcoming. It’s going to take some time and the team needs patience, so who better to help cohesiveness than the dedicated players who love the game?