Monday Wildstar Links

The holidays are almost over (woe is me) so I have spent the past week catching up on my gaming in Wildstar, making it all the way to level 47 from 40. I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed the new zones as much as the fabulous Farside, Wilderrun being a dreaded jungle zone and Malgrave a navigation nightmare despite some pretty Firefly vistas. Nonetheless progress has been fun and it’s been a most productive time all around this new MMO which I’m still enjoying. Who would’ve thought?

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Wildstar Wildstar Wildstaaaaar!

So, Wildstar updates. I’ve finally joined a guild on Lightspire EU, the jolly bunch of Venus Rising, and am very happy with my time there thus far. There’s the dedicated leadership every guild so desperately needs and from what I can see, a healthy mix between progress orientation and wanting to have a good time together without undue pressures. Despite Wildstar still being a freshman, the guild has already developed real community spirit while a respectable amount of people are already halfway into the atunement. I try not to worry too much about that and enjoy my last levels until 50. Endgame is forever but these early days of Wildstar will never come back.

Since RP servers feature some of the greatest housing plots and Lightspire is no different, I’ve taken many tours around my new guildmates’ sky maps these past few days. The creativity and effort put into some of the player creations is mindblowing, so I decided a video tour or two were definitely in order. Two of my favorite builds so far are the GM’s guild house and surroundings, as well as an astonishing clan home of five players who have worked on a fully decorated six-floor Draken home together, plus several more custom buildings. If you’re into player housing at all or looking for inspiration, these plots are not to be missed (the first video also features my own plot):

Having a thing for Wildstar’s unique charm and aesthetics, it was also high time to finally update the MMO screenshots gallery with my 48 favorite vistas taken during my travels so far. The last six pictures in the gallery are in high-res panorama format and due to popular demand, I have now added a Farside panorama shot as well for the dual-screeners out there:

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click for full-res

Other than that, I have a few more useful links to share before beaming back up into the Nexus – oh and as always, happy Monday to all ye space pilots out there!

Finding a Guild in Wildstar (and anywhere else)

I remember a time when this was easy: jumping into a new MMO, meeting random people questing or selling goods, partying up for quests or dungeon runs. Then, writing their names down when the company was particularly enjoyable or adding them to a friendlist if such was available. Soon enough, you would decide this was a promising bond, once personal plans had been examined and longterm intentions seemed to match. There was potential for a common venture here – a guild. Either they already had one you could join or you would found one together, after you managed to agree on a suitable guild name, that is.

It doesn’t work that way anymore. Or maybe it’s just me. I never seemed to struggle to find guilds the “natural way” in FFXI or Warcraft but ever since, it’s been a really rocky road and not for lack of trying. I was in two guilds in GW2 which both faded away quicker than a Skritt’s courage. In LOTRO, I resorted to creating my own LFGuild thread on the realm forums because the game was way past the stage of guilds spamming global chat. Early this spring, I finally joined a friend’s non-committal multi-game guild, only to realize they truly didn’t give a toss who came or went, not even the GM. There were also hardly any women which is a red flag in my book nowadays.

Now in Wildstar, I created a guild for myself and four old WoW buddies to hang out while leveling up. The plan has always been to sniff the air on our server first and actually find out if this MMO was for us. Being five people with different work schedules and real life commitments, we hardly ever manage to be online at the same time, so dungeons are pretty much off because PuGs are hard to find before max level (and even harder to go through with). Yeah, we need a bigger guild and soon. I’ve no intention to recruit myself – been there, done that.

Since dungeons aren’t happening and there’s also not much cooperation going on during questing (the odd 2-min silent quickie aside to kill an elite), nor is there any reliance on player crafted goods or services the AH couldn’t provide, meeting random people in Wildstar is kinda hard. Damn the solo friendly, self-sufficient times we live in or something. That only leaves me with following options:

  • Check the official guild forums or wildstar.guildex.org
  • Create my own LF thread
  • Pick a random guild spamming global chat
  • Ask on social media (oops, no global servers so scratch that!)
  • Sit in a prominent corner in Illium and sing “All by Myself” with a sad face

Not very appealing options all of them, not if you generally cringe at “blind guilding” the way I do. There needs to be a personal touch or buzz for me before I join a guild, a reason to choose a particular group of people. At the very least, a recommendation by someone I can trust. If I have to switch guilds several times over, my enthusiasm for an MMO is generally at an end.

But then housing chat happened. One of the seriously enjoyable features in Wildstar, players can globally converse with the neighbourhood when logged into their home instance. For no better reason than to be social and friendly, I usually say hello whenever beaming up to my plot and it appears all the nicer RP people of my server are hanging out in the housing channel more than anywhere else. After visiting a few people’s plots, one particularly awesome house by the GM of a popular guild on the server, we got into talking. It so happened that this was also Kadomi’s guild since the Wildstar beta which added instant extra credit, and after checking out the guild page and policies, it feels like my buddies and me might actually have a place to head next. I was told we would be most welcome.

Here’s to hoping it will turn into an extended stay. I won’t need to write a new introduction post on the guild forums, I have one stored away in a .doc file on the computer. If it was written on real paper, it would be a worn and wrinkly document full of coffee stains but in our virtual worlds, hope dies last and paper is patient.

Latecomers and MMO Citizenship

Back from a trip to the Adriatic coast in Italy which I spent idly hanging at the beach and enjoying their wonderful food, I have been catching up with blogging neighbours and my friends in Wildstar who have of course hit level 50 while I was away. My Esper is currently still at 40 without trying very hard, so I’m in no rush to get to any endgame or attunement questchain. I still haven’t done all the 5man dungeons in Wildstar and it generally seems difficult to find a group of people interested in running them before level cap. This strikes me as weird but is probably testament to Carbine not integrating the dungeons into the leveling process very well. I remember countless Stockades, Deadmines and Gnomeregan runs back as a WoW noob, then Maraudon, Sunken Temple and all the level 55-60 dungeons we would grind on our way to vanilla level cap.

Why are players nowadays skipping dungeons on their way to max level? I’ve experienced the same in GW2 too. Sure, these games will scale your toon and skills down to the appropriate level, still it never feels like the real deal to me running designated lowbie dungeons after hitting level cap. There’s that voice in the back of my head telling me I’m a dirty cheater.

On MMO Citizenship

Commenting on one of Wilhelm’s more recent articles on friends jumping into WoW almost 10 years into its life cycle, and remembering this tweet by Scarybooster, I realized (again) how important it is for me personally to get a chance to play MMOs at launch. I can live without alpha and beta “testing” honestly but I love the spirit and mass hysteria of launch week(-ends), no matter how plagued with bugs and annoyances. This is clearly the addictive phenomenon of shared collective experiences, as much as wishing to be among the first or being a member of the first hour. As clarified over at TAGN, I’d like to grow along with a game, I want to understand where it came from and where it’s going.

Every time Bhagpuss reminisces about the good old EQ times, which he does so well, I feel a bit sad having missed that particular train. A part of me briefly wonders if I should still visit today but no, I don’t think so. There’s simply no way to catch up, to acquire a reasonably deep understanding of EQ that I would personally seek as a player. It’s not just harder to connect to long established communities in MMOs – as someone interested in the design and mechanics of games, it’s an impossible amount of historical baggage to clear through. There is no ‘citizenship’ for someone jumping into EQ in 2014, not for a long time anyway.

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And then there’s the matter of dated graphics…(pcgamer.com)

This is something that I have experienced in LOTRO before and it’s partly a reason why I never made it to level cap (the other part being the mind numbing exp-grind which is daunting to solo). I was never a citizen of Middle Earth the way I would’ve been, automatically, as a launch player. I could’ve gotten there one day maybe, reaching a point where I felt comfortably established. All the same I would remain someone marveling at the veteran tales told in the Prancing Pony, never partaking in any.

Granted, games today make it easier for the late player to catch up and get boosted. All MMO business models rely on a steady stream of players over several years, not just a few months. I wouldn’t say you can’t jump into Wildstar months after launch with any noteable difference. At the same time, I draw a line somewhere around the one-year mark where joining new games is concerned. This is a purely personal choice; you can absolutely enjoy older MMOs, maybe you can even commit to them in the same way as veteran players and be entirely happy with your time in that new world, the way it is right then. I just know from experience that I couldn’t be.

I’m fine missing out on certain content or events happening in MMOs, missing an entire era of gameplay (or several) however feels like skipping the first book in an otherwise excellent fantasy trilogy. MMOs do their best to appear non-linear: they’re always accessible, repeatable, resettable. Yet there are also milestones and caesuras in our virtual worlds, game changers and evolving stories. It’s not all one big broken record so as long as I enjoy the tune, I’d like to listen to all of it.

Second Skin: The perfect MMO Gear and Impact on Longterm Commitment

The other day, I had a bit of an argument with my significant other concerning folk who like to transform themselves with help of expressive or more unusual attire, often in their private time. The topic wasn’t so much cosplay but people generally wearing clothes that come with a certain message of affiliation or membership, to name more flamboyant members of the goth/black metal scene as one example. This type of expression isn’t limited to the rock’n rollers among us though; it can be found anywhere, even for more conservative interests such as golfing or hiking. Dressing up for the occasion plays an important role in many social activities and for some people it’s an integral part of who they really are.

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Probably not on their way to the golf course. (www.timeslive.co.za)

At a first glance, this might strike you as a very superficial approach to identity. Why do you need to wear a certain style to feel part of a social group or (in some cases) to communicate associated belief systems? Isn’t our heart the place of true identity? Strictly speaking that is true – it doesn’t make you any more or less of a “punk” whether you’re wearing torn jeans and a mohawk or not. Clothes and looks are deceptive and they should never be a requirement for someone to belong to whatever culture or creed they relate to. I can be committed to a set of beliefs without looking a certain way.

At the same time, clothes can be a powerful catalyst of self-expression, even self-discovery and confidence building. There’s a reason why many actors, especially method actors require authentic clothing that goes with the character they’re not just playing but becoming. Inner and outer transformation go together. There’s also a more common phenomenon of someone cutting their hair after ending a longterm relationship or getting tattooed after a great cesura in their lives. Our body is a reflection of the things that are happening to us. Some people, not all people, simply choose to include that part of themselves more actively.

Loving variety, I hold a torch for people who go for the so-called deviant styles in our society, be it a part-time thing or fulltime commitment. It takes guts to go against social conformity and nobody deserves to be written off on account of green hair or piercings. That’s one of the criteria I try to push as a recruiter too, by recommending clients keep an open mind to more colorful candidates rather than blindly trusting another picture in a grey suit and tie. At the same time, I’m trying not to fall prey to inverted snobbery; I admit I have a soft spot for people who don’t fit the corporate cookie cutter.

The perfect MMO gear

I’m neither the most imaginative nor boring dresser in real life but when it comes to my MMO avatars, I’ve always cared a great deal about customization options and cosmetics. I don’t know if this interest is more prevalent among players that treat their avatars like an alter ego but I am guessing most of us have preferences regarding their MMO character’(s) looks and have things that can throw them in/out of immersion. Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the sub-par customization options of some games and the often lackluster or ill-conceived gear choices. And so I wonder: how have my past avatars’ looks, more specifically gear approach of the MMOs I’ve played the most, affected my playing longevity? Where and when did I truly feel at home gearwise?

World of Warcraft

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I played WoW for over 6 years and would call my experiences with its gear a very mixed bag of hits and misses. WoW made me feel epic spellcaster and disco clown in equal amounts and even the better sets I collected over that time were more hyper-stylized than I would have wanted, glorified leotards with near-zero extra customization options. Transmogrification was added just after I left and to this day Blizzard haven’t added a dye system. I guess this means gear wasn’t an integral part of my character immersion in WoW despite a few definite favorites.

Guild Wars 2

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To this day I’ve never played an MMO with more beautiful, aesthetically pleasing gear than GW2′s, certainly none with a better dye system. While ArenaNet could’ve offered more variety in their initial character selection, there’s not much left today that you cannot do with cosmetic and town gear. And yet, despite loving the different looks of my Elementalist, I cannot exactly claim to have been immersed in my alter ego. This is tricky to explain: to me, GW2′s gear is almost too beautiful, like a painting or wonderful piece of art to admire from afar without wishing to take it home with you. I love looking at my character but she isn’t really me, not the way I think of myself as an adventurer. What can I say, it’s complicated!

LOTRO

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I’ve never written a post on LOTRO’s gear. Instead, I’ve praised it frequently as my personal winner of immersion in so many ways – from scale to atmosphere, scenery and sound effects. There’s an authentic quality to online Middle-Earth that’s never been reached in other games. It’s therefore probably no surprise that my favorite MMO gear too, is in fact my Lore-Master’s humble Ferrier’s Robe with its leather straps, stitched pieces of fur and merrily dangling satchels (I imagine they would dangle). Combined with a simple hood and backpack, I never felt better dressed or more ready for adventure than in LOTRO. There is countless lovingly detailed gear in the game like that, with the kind of commitment to practicality that may only be found in ESO right now. I love my character’s looks in LOTRO – more importantly, this could be me tomorrow!

Sometimes less is more, especially where immersion is concerned. However awesome gear or not, it’s probably fair to say that it’s not our character’s looks or customization options that decide over the longevity of our commitment. That doesn’t mean they do not add a lot of enjoyment to the games we’re playing though or that there aren’t certain breaking points. Playing Wildstar right now, I am back to hyper-stylized but also practical gear. Mostly, I am happy that the game doesn’t make me run around half-naked.

What was your perfect MMO gear of all time? Do you feel your character’s looks have any bearing on how much you can enjoy a title longterm? I wager more customization is always popular in MMOs, no matter how much we love cosmetics. There are limitations to what I can wear or get away with in real life, so it’s all the more important my online selves enjoy that unlimited freedom of self-expession.

The 150th CMP Round-Table and the Evergreens of MMO Discussion

For the illustrious 150th anniversary of their CMP podcast Roger and Brian invited a bunch of guests to discuss such trivial topics as hardcore vs. casual, sandbox vs. themepark, free-to-play and crowdfunding. It was a unique experience for me to join a podcast together with so many fellow bloggers and a pleasure to personally talk to some of my new MMO blogosphere buddies. Naturally, we never finished and could have gone on forever discussing substantial and divisive topics such as these.

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A while ago I started compiling what I call the list of ”big MMO Evergreens” as far as those topics go that have been the greatest cause of passionate debate (and strife) among lovers of the genre since forever. No doubt, they will be keeping us busy decades from now. Typically, these are questions that do not have one definite answer but boil down to personal preferences and opposing camps with an equally strong wish to well, enjoy the games they’re playing. I’m not always up for heated debate but then, I also believe it’s polarizing issues that are most interesting because they teach us the most about ourselves and others. I have always blogged for myself and a big part of that journey is defined by personal growth, formal and otherwise. Returning to posts I’ve written more than two years ago is often a bad idea. As for the greatest changes in my views, they have been brought upon by listening to you – to other gamers, being touched or educated by what they had to say. Of course a lot of that is timing too, maybe all of it is.

So, we should be thankful for the casual vs. hardcore debates, the holy trinity role discussions or never-ending payment model gripes; they make sure we’ll never run out of opportunities to butt some heads and more importantly, test our views and empathize with other people’s positions if nothing else. Advancing age, or rather time and opportunity to meet someone different from us, become quite the hindrance to extreme opinions (not to mistake for strong opinions). That’s why I also love to travel – international blogging is travelling in many ways and requires a similar attitude.

Where I am right now

As a personal summary of the evergreen topics we brushed in the 150th CMP episode and as reflection of where I am right now, I’ll make a few generalized statements until such a time as I feel they require revision on this here blog!

  • All future MMOs, whether subscription based, F2P or B2P, should come with a free trial/guest month (or free first 20 levels) at launch, so players can try the new game before making final purchasing decisions.
  • Sandboxes and themeparks may exist at either end of the casual-hardcore spectrum. Many sandboxes are as casual or hardcore as players make them (and as game design allows) but it’s probably also true that the big majority of not-so imaginative competetive players prefer linear games with defined progression aka themeparks. “Winning a sandbox” is a great deal more work than winning a themepark.
  • I can’t be the MMO player I was 10 years ago when WoW came out. There is a sacred magic to early MMO gaming that cannot be reproduced, no matter our longing and despite the best design efforts. Maybe it’s time we gave up the search for a “second home” and accepted new games for what they are – which is not our first MMO. We’ve grown older and better at everything at the price of blissful collective naïveté.
  • Crowdfunding is scary when it encourages every vocal player and their distant cousin to think they just bought their share of “co-developer rights”.

The future is welcome to change my views on any or all of these matters at hand. I can’t wait.

[Wildstar] Unforseen Questing Highlights

In her recent blogpost on questing, Jewel (by the way now co-host of brand new MMO/gaming podcast Podtato together with Izlain!), ponders the way MMO questing has changed and developed over time, from a more forced group-centric activity to an either instanced or collective experience for soloers. It’s evident that our questing and leveling game has become a more solo-friendly affair in recent years, sometimes to the detriment of social dynamics. On the other hand, Bhagpuss speaks level-headed truth in his related comment on soloability being a popular request of many gamers ever since the dawn of the genre -

[...]Consequently we have a powerful received wisdom, promulgated by a very particular interest-group, that states that the be-all and end-all of Massively Multiple Roleplaying Games is social interaction and the true worth of those games is the friendships they foster. I don’t buy that. It doesn’t match my experience and I don’t believe it jibes with the way we’ve seen the genre develop over the last 15 or 20 years.

If solo-play is a playstyle, then soloability furthers playstyle variety and a more inclusive community from there (which of course you can totally not care for). One reason why WoW made it this big was because it embraced a much wider audience than its oldschool, hardcore predecessors. That’s right, the vanilla kids were mocked by vocal then-MMO veterans for being dirty casuals. With my 16hrs per week (net) raiding schedule, I was among the mocked which is all the more ironic seen from 2014.

It doesn’t matter what side you’re on and I certainly concur with the notion that a degree of hardship and purpose in games create cooperation by pushing our primal human buttons (for reference) – however, there are several ways to further group play in MMOs. I will always hold a torch for GW2 not trying to incentivize grouping via setup restrictions or tiresome, traditional grouping formulas. The game tore mental walls down for me when it first came out, walls that can never be reconstructed.

Incentivizing grouping is therefore a most interesting topic and preferably, developers will go for a bonus-approach rather than a malus one. This is what Wildstar is doing right now and I dare say to pretty positive effect: not only is grouping a must to gain coveted guild renown currency (few housing challenges aside that will let you collect very little renown at a time), it is a considerable boost to your experience gain while leveling. There is a clear advantage to coop play in Wildstar without crippling the casual solo player.

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You have many questions!

That brings me to another point about Wildstar’s questing game that is quite enjoyable. Yes, I’m managing to have fun while leveling up despite a very straightforward, traditional approach to questing! What ever is the meaning of this?

Wildstar’s questing highlights

Even the most fervent Wildstar advocates will probably agree that questing overall is one of this new MMO’s biggest shortcomings (besides the pretty abysmal UI and menu functionalities). There is not much in terms of innovative mechanics – there’s your standard fedex and kill quests with way too many markers, your escort and timed challenges as well as the odd special mission in which you control vehicles or get to memorize a sequence of XY (for the TBC players: Ogri’la bombing quests and Simon Says are back!). So far, so blah.

But…

If you are opting for WoW-type questing in 2014, then at least do it right! To me, traditional questing is all about the pacing and fine touches; there is potential here for designers who can keep a steady and rewarding progression going, with an engaging storyline leading from place to place in comprehensive manner and some refreshing humor peppered across. Now, Wildstar is 50% tedious kill quests, it ain’t no lie – yet, there’s also great pacing and lots of variety for everything else.

I can live with slaying another twenty Snoglugs if my EXP bar shows satisfying progress or if there’s a serious chance for shinies or some unexpected encounter, which brings me to the important point: there are some increasingly enjoyable and epic moments with a fresh spin in Wildstar’s leveling curriculum! This game is full of surprises and good laughs, so this is where I’d like to give you just two examples (spoiler warning: if you’re sensitive to quest spoilers up to level 35ish, you should probably stop reading now):

Whitevale: The Odd Squirg Hat!
At some point on your journey through the beautiful snowy lands of Whitevale, you will encounter the Squirg, weird alien race of squid-heads having Cthulhu written all over them. The Squirg questline includes a variety of activities from running over them in hovercrafts, to impersonating one and finally attempting to throw squid hats on enemy faction players (for PvP realms) or NPCs. This marks the conclusion of a pretty insane run, rewarding the player with the Odd Squirg Hat item that doesn’t only cover half a Chua’s body but…speaks to the player in literal possession! I don’t know about you – but small stuff like that goes a long way with this here MMO player.

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lol!

Farside: Low gravity high!
Having left Whitevale with some fuzzy feels (two words: lopp weddings!), the next map of Farside has quickly become one of my favorite MMO zones of all time as far as gameplay and atmosphere go. That’s quite the accolade so early into the game but no less deserved. As if the whole spacesuit and moon gravity simulation-thing (yay for moon jumps!) wasn’t enough, there are meteorites showering the landscape as you travel along until at some point sooner or later, your screen will go black with a message prompt, asking you to save the moon from impending disaster. Off you go, thrown into a chance scenario with random players running a drill into a huge meteor (and killing a mini-boss), so the good NPCs of Farside can enjoy another moon day. Of course there are goodies for the winning team!

Later on, as you explore the north-eastern parts of Farside, you discover Ravenous Ravine which is where the fun really starts. Pitch black part of the map, you will navigate by the light of your torchlight, fending off some of the spookiest deep sea-style creatures in the game thus far. The analogy of low gravity vs. underwater isn’t just fitting and smart, it is by far one of the most atmospheric places I’ve traversed in any MMO. So simple, such a small thing and yet to such great effect. More of that, please?

ravine
Did you just touch me??

And there’s more, a lot more in Farside until you’ve lost your mind completely in one big acid trip with rainbows and vending machines attacking you, while your still-sane party members can’t see the mobs you’re fighting.

…I don’t know about you but to me, these are traditional quests worth having. My next 15 levels in Wildstar have a lot to live up to all of a sudden – fingers crossed!

[Wildstar] Dipping a Toe into Housing

After spending some time visiting different player houses and plots in Wildstar these past few days and fiddling with my own island in the sky, here’s a couple of things I am starting to like about Wildstar’s housing:

  • Rather than being a full sandbox with the gathering and construction bits of Landmark, Wildstar takes the fun part of combining existing decor items, letting players go completely wild with the possibilities. If you’re not much of a crafter from scratch, you will love this approach to housing and customization. I do.
  • The amount of decor items is already nuts. Also: plushies! I need them all.
  • The home port every player gets is the perfect answer to unwelcome wait and down times; is your group taking a 10mins biobreak you don’t care for? Off you go visit your house for some mini-games, selling trash or gear repairs (once you have the vending machine). Porting back allows you to return to original location.
  • Exploring public plots with ease or making new neighbours while chatting in the housing zone channel is casual fun and takes some of that instanced sting away.

Housing is its own mini-game within Wildstar and a nice contrast to an otherwise linear progression. Carbine put a lot of thought into this, creating overall themes that reach as far as including matching light or weather effects. Different decor themes should make collectors very happy (and poor). As for the more progression and raid-oriented players, it’s a way to display trophies and battle tokens. Carbine have also already confirmed guild housing further down the line.

Naturally, there’s a few things I do not like about Wildstar’s housing so much – the fact that it’s too “apart” from the rest of the world (yes, I prefer non-instanced housing and always will), the oversized scale of everything, the LOTRO style socketing mechanic for your six main plots and the rather heavyweight and at times glitchy advanced interface. That’s generally something Carbine aren’t very good at apparently, creating functional and simple interfaces: the AH, commodities broker, dye system and skill/AMP windows all need a lot of work still. That said, after reading through the developer commentary in this interesting overview of Wildstar’s different customization options, everyone should be very grateful they decided not to go full LOTRO socketing mode as was originally intended. That would’ve put a quick stop to the unleashed creativity that’s currently on display on the forums.

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Syl’s Home on Lightspire EU
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Now with a cosy second floor!

As Mac said elsewhere, browsing other people’s places is motivating (that’s my word for it) and so I invested just a little yesterday to get my Cassian shack into shape and create a second floor. That hadn’t even occurred to me until I visited some of my neighbors, so yay for community inspiration! It’s still a humble abode but hey, it’s all mine!

Weekend Wildstar Wrap-up: It’s all Blizzard’s Fault

If there is just one observation or rule that, after almost four years of meta blogging, I may declare applies without fail when there are two sides to a passionate debate, it’s the following:

Both sides of the argument want exactly the same. That’s been the case each and every time I’ve experienced engaged and complex discussions on this here blog or elsewhere; two or more people arguing for the same thing but believing in opposite ways of achieving it. Your prime example for this is the ‘grouping and facilitation’ debate where some will argue pro enforced grouping for more community while others believe grouping, in order to be the real thing, needs to happen naturally and dynamically. It’s important to understand that on the most basic level, these players all want the same thing.

Quite an entertaining phenomenon in retrospective, it usually takes a moment to sink in. Once you’ve distanced yourself from a topic, you’ll detect such patterns a lot more clearly even if that won’t bring you any closer to a satisfying solution.

In which Blizzard gets all the blame

In what has proven to be a universally divisive topic for Wildstar this week and probably for a while to come, I argued that the 12step attunement needs toning down in order to accommodate a wider variety of both casual and hardcore players. While my argument in favor of inclusion wasn’t my only point, it’s as important to me as it is obviously to others. Liore followed-up disagreeing with pretty much most of my logic, explaining why to her the attunement chain adds direction, content and more playstyle variety. Bottom line: we both argued in favor of diversity/freedom, albeit for different target audiences that are sadly all too often mutually exclusive in MMOs.

That brings me to a second, more vexing matter: World of Warcraft’s continued influence on our perception of design dynamics and as a consequence, its impact on our not-so carefree experiences of new games such as Wildstar. Liore makes an explicit WoW reference in her article, in which she equates not having hard attunements with “being just… like… WoW” because well, like me she’s played and seen a lot of WoW. Just like that, I referred to WoW attunements in my own post and ended up responding (guilty..):

Funny enough unlike for you, to me this [read: the current status of the attunement] is all exactly like WoW and not unlike WoW. I raided in vanilla and it was considered hardcore, the way WS raiding seems right now.

And today, in an interesting update over at Tobold’s, the comment section is full of arguments, speculations and assumptions inspired by past experiences in – you guessed it – WoW. All the while, somewhere else an anti-Wildstar brigade is forming within WoW’s disgruntled and bored community as we speak, because apparently Wildstar is appealing to many of that same demography. Shocker.

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Our WoW glasses need to be smashed.

….It’s all WoW. WoW, wow, wow. Whether we’re for something or against it, whether it’s totally cool because different from WoW or dangerously close to being like WoW, WoW is the all-encompassing factor and ultimate perspective. Apparently we cannot free ourselves from the mind print that this MMO has left in our collective memory. If something happened in WoW, well it’s probably gonna happen in Wildstar, right? Wrong!

To close a week of intense feels: it’s clearly all Blizzard’s fault. Happy weekend everybody – to the Nexus as well as Azeroth! Stay classy!

Remembering Life

Last night the news of MMO blogger River’s passing (A High Latency Life) rolled over my twitter feed like a dark cloud, wrapping up a large portion of the blogosphere in shock and grief. River had been on twitter just a day before.

Syp suggested to post a picture of a scantily-clad “being” (thanks for that leeway, Syp!) on one’s blog today, in honor of a blogger with a particularly high appreciation of the female form. Over the years, I only had one or maybe three fleeting encounters with River; I wasn’t a close follower of his blog but our paths crossed nonetheless as is bound to happen in a neighborhood as cosy as ours. Hearing about his sudden death was both unreal and saddening.

(There was a bunch of naked people just behind that rock to the right)

Death is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we came from and no matter our differences. In death we are all the same. Losing a member of this community that in many ways is less of a happenstance than the communities we are born into in our real lives, cuts deep. The blogosphere is full of opinionated and also polarizing individuals – yet on a very basic level I have always believed that many of us, maybe most of us have ended up in this corner of the internet for similar reasons. We’re gathered here from different timezones and even hemispheres, having so much more in common than with the person next door.

All the reactions since yesterday’s news are a testimony of how strong the bonds among us can become; internet friends and online buddies, fellow bloggers who we’ve never met in real life but who have run with us and alongside us for years. Sharing daily quips, putting a smile on our face, making us angry or thoughtful. When they leave so suddenly, they leave an empty spot behind.

Death is utterly futile unless we claim something of it. I believe the only value in death is to honor life. I value this little corner of the internet. The thought of the daily voices being silenced tomorrow fills me with dread.

But not today. Today, I am happy and glad the blogosphere exists. Mach’s gut, River.

[Wildstar] Oh wow, that raid attunement

So I like attunements. I missed them a little when WoW made away with them entirely, mostly because it’s always an all-or-nothing approach with some developers. I like attunements for their symbolic value: they’re a rite of passage and as such an opportunity to add meaning to the event of unlocking a raid dungeon for your character. Perfect time to have a special quest chain with the obligatory lore tidbits before you send your players off to the abyss or city above the clouds, or wherever it is they are going. Think the personal storyline in GW2 for instance, doable enough for any player on his way to level-cap, plus one Arah run on normal mode. Fair enough.

What attunements absolutely shouldn’t be is a way to divide your playerbase and essentially make it excruciatingly frustrating to nigh impossible for the more casual crowd, which constitutes the majority of your paying customers, to ever experience endgame or raid content. It makes no sense to create content for your top 1% or even top 5% and that’s a lesson Blizzard learned down the line, to a point where even flex raids have become a reality.

After seeing Carbine’s excessive 12-step attunement to 40man raid entry in Wildstar (thanks Jeromai!) which makes a 100 jailbreaks look decent, I am trying very hard to stay cool and understand what they were thinking and cui bono? Not the l33t kids and top guilds either, surely – anyone who has ever run a raid guild in WoW (or elsewhere) and been in charge of recruitment, shudders at the prospect of finding suitable recruits or getting new people attuned over and over just to access raiding in Wildstar. And we’re talking 40man. Good luck with that roster, the competition is on!

While reserving ultimate judgement is probably the way to go while the game is new and we’re all newbies still, it’s hard to stay positive when reading through the same old vitriolic forum discussions of “casual versus hardcore” that 12-step attunement infographic has sparked in Wildstar’s early community. An infographic which by the by, is brought to us not by Carbine but your self-proclaimed staple elitist guild, sporting core values such as “If you want to bring your shitty girlfriend along, I will personally show you where to shove it” on their about-page.

That’s my main issue right there, the fact that Carbine consciously or not, are catering to this type of demographic rather than their core playerbase. I’m not sure they realize it yet, just as they clearly didn’t foresee what one PvP realm per region would do to launch day. Yeah, sometimes developers don’t have the ultimate foresight. That’s also why I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and 6 months at most before they nerf Wildstar’s raid entry requirements considerably. They seem at odds with everything else I’ve seen of the game so far and Carbine have proven they’re in touch with community feedback before.

It would be a great shame to see this game go down a similar road as GW2; no endgame or inaccessible endgame is all the same to me. That said, early days friends, early days.