Category Archives: Wildstar

Wildstar Light Armor Styles and Dye Customization

So you just hit 50 in Wildstar and wanna look fabulous, cupcake? You don’t have any of those shiny beta or early access sets to start off? Fret not, there are a few quick and cheap ways for the early light armor wearer to feel like a pro!

Before I get to recommendations, a few words about Wildstar’s current customization: the dye system and gear management are pretty bad. Not only is there no outfitter built into the game by default, the dye menu is fussy, buggy and will make you pay each time you apply a different shade of color to your outfit. Items can only be used once per set, so there’s no copying over the same headpiece to different styles.

On the upside: Wildstar lets you equip all armor classes as cosmetics! That means as a light armor wearer, you can still go for that heavy plate look even if personally, I choose not to. A guildie told me my character looks straight out of a fantasy MMO rather than a sci-fi one, which is probably true (a tiger can’t change its stripes?). I like pretty and magical things, what can I say!

Four awesome sets for the distinguished Esper (and anyone else)

Below you’ll find four of the light armor looks I’m currently using and which were all pretty easy to collect, either from zone reputation vendors and/or the auction house. Wildstar frequently recycles gear looks too, so better not cling to the one source/name I will be giving for every look. What you want to get right away however is the Item Preview addon which will make your life that much easier (it also previews decor items). Sets are numbered 1-4 from left to right and are mostly mix’n matches. Level requirements aside, none of them should be faction- or otherwise restricted.

wsstyles

1) The Quintessential Healer
My favorite set in the game, I got all the pieces for this look from the AH right after hitting level 50. The chestpiece, shoulderpads, pants and boots are all part of the “Fibermod Starloom” series, combined with “Hand of the Tumbling Torrent” and a bandana headpiece which exists all over the place. The Fibermod look can also be acquired through some rep vendors. I caution anyone not to trust the colors of item preview in this case(!): if you get these items straight from crafting or the AH, you’ll find the colors are buggy and the set needs to be re-dyed completely (which is totally worth it!).

2) The Starship Trooper
As close to a sci-fi look as I’m going, you’ll spot many color variations of this set from random drops and reputation vendors as you are leveling up. One quick way of obtaining all the pieces is visiting the rep vendors in your capital city, two of which will sell you the entire “Suede” set (lvl 45) for about 25 gold total. From there it’s up to you where to go with this and colors may vary from a shrill space look to much more delicate shades. This is a very transformable set!

3) The Galactic Explorer
A more recent acquisition, I love this set for both its royal and slightly goofy looks. All items bar the sunglasses (which are a soulbound epic boss drop called “Mindmender’s Mask”) are obtainable at the reputation vendors in Blighthaven (“Blighthaven” set items) for about 30 gold total (the original headpiece is this oriental looking facemask). As you can see, I rolled with my previous pants here instead.

4) The Classy Gentlewo/man
Not feeling the headpiece, I’m liking this set for its more low profile leather and velvety flair. The headpiece and gloves are part of the “Fibertronic” set items, chest and pants are part of the “Polaris” set (the chestpiece can also be acquired from the rep vendor in Grimvault and is called “Polaris Premiere Polyweave Hauberk”). My shoulderpads are called “Supply Master’s Burden” and the pretty awesome boots are “Crimson Crescent Slippers” – all of which were acquired through the AH.

Maybe even more than in other MMOs, dyes are everything in Wildstar and many sets will only shine once you applied better colors to them. While dye acquisition is harder leveling up and mostly up to lucky drops, housing challenges or the overpriced Commodity Vendor, you will be stacking up on dyes swiftly once you are eligible for the daily quests in Northern Wastes at level 50 (which can get you up to 5-6 dyes per day with several definite drops). With that, I’d say there’s no time to lose – tackle that max level already and enjoy playing around with different styles and colors! Happy customization – for science!

Your last MMO ever and the Troubles of Aging together

I am a 30+ MMO player with a history. I don’t speak for all 30+ MMO players with a history. This post is about many things at once.

Not too long ago I had an interesting discussion with an old gaming buddy reflecting much of the current MMO malaise that seems to have struck several bloggers around the blogosphere lately. The most memorable statement in our conversation was this: “Wildstar is going to be my last MMO” – something that I’ve heard several times now and keep reading on the official forums. Clearly MMO culture is in a phase of re-evaluation both on a personal level and otherwise.

On the surface, such final player declarations appear singularly odd and certainly unique to the genre; never would you hear anyone say “this is going to be my last RTS ever” or any variation thereof. Why would anyone make plans for their last MMO ever?

Of course the answer is simple for those among us who have been there – played MMOs, breathed MMOs, lived inside the same MMO for years. This genre is not like other genres and neither is its commitment. Players are passionate about their character progression, their guilds, their dramatic quitting gestures. And sure, there are exceptions to the rule, players content to solo and never invest in any type of cooperative endgame. Yet, there is still a consensus, spoken or unspoken by developers too, that the heart of the MMO experience lies in cooperative multiplay. A big chunk of content gets created entirely for this reason, for better or worse.

And multiplay takes extra time, in fact not just when you’re in the middle of it but way in advance. Looking for guilds, spending time getting to know a community, working around timezones and schedules in order to group up and advance together, that’s a type of effort that asks for special dedication. For the more fatalistic among us that don’t do casual solo even when they aren’t hardcore, this also means the decision to jump into a new MMO is one that must be carefully considered. There is no time to waste or something, it’s either all or nothing.

All of this resonates with me given my early WoW history. However, there are times when I wonder if it’s really such a good thing to make one’s own happiness so dependent on other people (it’s not like that ever works out in real life). I love the cooperative aspect of MMOs but they are also virtual worlds, canvases of beauty I’d like to travel and explore. The older I get, the more there is compromise to my own time spent in games. O tempora, o mores, I guess.

The Troubles of Aging together

That said, I’m a player who is still counting on social ties for longterm dedication and so many times since WoW have I been flustered about MMOs not bringing back the “good old times”. Of course there’s a pattern here; you’ll never hear an early player talk about the good old times because there are no such times (yet) to make flawed, subjective comparisons to.

The only reason I’m probably still playing Wildstar every night and enjoying it immensely is social environment. I’d still be paying a sub and exploring the maps of the Nexus but as a solo player or member of a dwindling group of peers, I would never have bothered to acquire the Genesis Key, step one of the attunement of doom. Wildstar might actually be another MMO on the shelf already, as it is for others that used to be more excited for launch than myself. I’m still in though and wondering about the reasons, knowing at least half of the answer:

I started playing Wildstar with three old WoW buddies of mine, all of which have drastically changed weekly schedules now that they’re in their 30ies rather than early 20ies. So do I, despite all of my personal time still being my own. I am not 23 anymore, I need more sleep than I used to (it’s true and I hate it), I don’t do rushed PC dinners any longer and I have no wish to be in charge of anything or anyone else than my virtual self when online. I’m still looking to be a regular in an efficient and fun guild though, one that manages to balance the hardcore casual for lack of a better word.

Facing the fact that a group of ex-WoW raiders now all in their early thirties don’t stand a chance lasting in Wildstar’s endgame (we’ve tried and failed before), I soon resolved that our small guild needed to move on and reinforce a bigger team run by fresh people full of “MMO-oomph”. It’s been the best decision possible both for my own enjoyment (and hopefully theirs too) and dedication to the game. More importantly maybe, hearing others talk about the game made me realize that MMOs are as new and wonderful as ever for players of another generation – the players we used to be ten years ago. In no way is Wildstar inferior to WoW when it comes to how it’s handling group content. Nothing has changed in that department – we have. The people around us, our original peers have.

Early MMO enthusiasm is contagious. So is dwindling enthusiasm.

Truthfully, every MMO since WoW was a game I tried to re-connect to together with my ever less active WoW buddies. You could say I’ve kept trying to recreate my old communities elsewhere, as so many of us do. A guild’s greatest virtue which is bonding with others, becomes it’s greatest peril in the long run when communities get so insular that there’s hardly room for new blood, not even across games.

Yet the more we kept to ourselves and didn’t mix, the faster we dwindled. It’s a downward spiral and it doesn’t work. Soon everyone’s frustrated that they can’t ever seem to get a full group for anything. Maybe somebody out there knows a critical mass of 35-year old MMO veterans that are mostly regulars but I do not – and you need a regular (slightly nutty) core to run a guild effectively. Now that I’m in a way more mixed guild with dedicated leadership, I feel completely boosted by their enthusiasm. Who are these people and why are they having so much fun? Oh wait, I used to!

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Luck and then some

There’s always an element of luck and timing involved when we start out in new games and looking for a new guild can be tough. I’d certainly call it a piece of luck to have chanced upon an active bunch of people with so similar a player ethos to my own. It would be amiss and incomplete however, not to try analyze things beyond luck.

Mingling with a wider age range aside, the choice of RP server and faction is probably crucial. On the only EU-RP server, Dominion side is a very calm and underpopulated place to be a Cassian, with dead zone chats and limited wares on the AH. My first instincts were calling it a bad choice when in fact, it’s the most beneficial thing to guild life. Players need their guild. Already this community feels tight-knit, the way it only happens in MMOs after launch rush is over and grasers have moved on. It’s the people who stay behind that you want to guild with.

And so maybe, it all comes down to this: staying behind and choosing to be part of a new, active community rather than maintaining an old one. Rolling on a cosy low-pop server. Sticking with that choice past launch rush. Not so different from ten years ago. We blame design a lot of the time when it comes down to frustrating social factors that ultimately, we’re both in control of and aren’t. Even if an MMO facilitates group play, and I believe Wildstar does, commitment remains a choice and unfortunately it’s not enough to make that decision yourself, you need others to make it with you. So maybe new blood is where the aging MMO player needs to start focusing his or her attention, if future gameplay experiences are meant to outlast a brief visit. I am guilty of having lived in the proverbial past.

For the Record

I love MMOs and I intend to play them for the foreseeable future. I believe that my generation of gamers especially, born in the 70ies and early 80ies, have an important and unique opportunity to be rolemodels for everyone else to come, doing away with gaming misconceptions and stigma. Yes, you can be an older gamer! No, gaming doesn’t have to stop at 30! If we can embrace ourselves and let go of the good old days in favor of new ones, new people and new experiences, there’s nothing to stop us from becoming the first gamers to happily make it to retirement (just think of all the free time!). Loving this place that is the MMO blogosphere, I hope to see you there.

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:

farsided

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.

[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.

puzzledsyl

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.

squirg

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!

[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.

Identity Crisis and a Wildstar Avatar

It is the weirdest thing when our plans go topsy-turvy, when the things we thought we were looking forward to fail us miserably and the ones we never even considered, take us by surprise. What do we even know? Nothing.

Sometimes we think we want one thing only to discover that we really didn’t. Something looks just right and suitable in our mind but in truth it never was or will be. In the end, what we want and what we need are two different things and that’s something I have learned before, at a time when I thought I knew exactly what (and whom) to pursue in my life. And then seemingly out of the blue, someone came along and told me he was all I needed.

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Right now, I should be playing Guild Wars 2 or The Elder Scrolls Online because they look like everything I want in MMOs. Instead, I am playing Wildstar – a game with traditional questing, a holy trinity and cartoony graphics. Not just that, I am enjoying myself. A lot.

How did it come to this?? ………

Anyway. Happy Wildstar weekend everybody! The Nexus awaits and my olde healer muscles are aching for practice. Never say never.

Fun and Games in Wildstar: The Launch Recap

Few hiccups aside during hour one, this past Wildstar headstart weekend marks one of the smoothest MMO launches I have ever been part of. Having settled for the only PVE-RP server on EU side due to (hopefully) better community, everything from claiming my name to creating my character and jumping into a mostly lag-free game was easy and carefree. Adding friends? Grouping right away? No problem either! And even if you can’t afford 10 gold for a guild just yet, Wildstar lets you create custom channels for better communication with your buddies. That is extra points right there for minding the MMO core-virtue that is (or should be) playing with friends.

A few players experienced rather troublesome queues this weekend which was mostly due to Carbine’s somewhat baffling miscalculation for PVP realms. There was….one. However, it took a few hours only until the login screen already informed about further realms being added both on the PVE and PVP side of things. In general Carbine seemed quick on the ball responding to players which is not something that can be said for every developer during a launch weekend.

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Meet Syl and Kirby!

Having played my Dominion Esper up to level 17 now and fresh out of her first group adventure, let’s have a more in-depth look at Wildstar’s week one, shall we?

The Gameplay – Or how it all comes together
The single most important aspect for MMO longevity, the gameplay in Wildstar is the true winner. Everyone who paid attention to Carbine these past few years was ready for a lot of polish and yet, they have taken it up three notches since the beta. Wildstar plays intuitively from level 1, the pacing is just right and takes comprehensive steps in preparing the player for higher difficulty. There are quests, challenges and points of interest in abundance, flowing naturally into one another. Rewards are interesting and varied with bigger, more satisfying upgrades ever so often. The game is responsive when interacting with the environment as well as with various interface commands. Combat has that tangible “oomph” so many MMOs struggle to create, animations are excellent and visual aids have improved loads since the beta.

In summary: Wildstar is playable in the best sense of the word; very very playable.

Questing and combat
There are more quest hubs around than anyone can handle and that’s not such a bad thing. While there are other sources for good EXP, such as PVP, the numerous and carefully laid-out questing opportunities give players a sense of direction and make for a satisfying and reasonably fast leveling experience thus far. Down the road we might worry about the leveling game ending too soon but at least this here MMO has some endgame ready.

The quests are standard fare but vary frequently between kill ten rats, fedex or escort which can be shared with others. For some undefinable reason some of them still require backtracking while many will spare you the walk thanks to NPC voice communication. These tend to be longer questlines tying into an overarching storyline (some class related too) while others are just your old farmer looking for a hand. The public events seem somewhat sparsely peppered over the first few zones and come with disturbing reset timers compared to what you’d be used to from GW2 or Rift.

As for combat, I have always liked the concept of Wildstar’s doubly-active telegraph system and challenges increase significantly there as you level up. One inattentive pull of an elite mob (which are part of every area’s monster mix) can result in a quick and painful death unless you know your moves and WASD buttons. On a slightly different note, I am somewhat missing ticking things like buffs, procs and hots/dots on my character and target frames. I’d like to see more in terms of timing with procs and using synergies but maybe that’s just the impatient newb in me.

Paths
A while back I decided that Wildstar’s Explorer path was probably not for me because jumping puzzles – and rightly so. I love the Scientist challenges for every map which require you to scan various flora and fauna, as well as to learn more about the world (I has “Bookworm” title!). My merry scanbot companion comes with a custom name as well as booster and vanity options, so paths are hardly just a gimmick in Wildstar but seem reasonably flashed out instead and different from one another while not being game-breaking, either. There is replay value here for alts.

Gold and other currencies
There’s a steady flow of cash in this game and as long as you heed the MMO newbie’s cardinal rules of starting out poor, which are a) sell everything -and- b) stay the fuck away from the auction house, you will be just fine in the long run even if buying all class abilities as you unlock them seems impossible at first. Having bought a mount at level 15 already and being close to affording that guild fee too (do check out these amazing guild holomarks!), I am not worried about unlocking all of my skills in time. In a way, it’s not a bad thing having to concentrate on one set of skills and one playstyle first before accessing too many options – we don’t want to exhaust it all by next week, do we?

As for C.R.E.D.D., I’ve inspected the ingame currency converter just a little so far and can’t say I am really interested. With Wildstar being item shop-less (which is rather uncommon under NCSoft’s wing) and me being more than happy to pay for this sub, I can’t see myself messing with C.R.E.D.D. unless there’s another reason (like sparkling ponies).

Housing
Acquiring a house in Wildstar isn’t a real feat, it’s more of a birthright. Your little airborne acre waits patiently for your arrival and the standard housing option costs a mere gold to start with. Decoration items drop from special quests or challenges ever so often but seriously personalizing your home seems to be this game’s true goldsink. All I can say is stay the hell away from those customization tabs for as long as you have more essential things to invest in!

As a homebase for storage and buffs, Wildstar’s housing seems a fair enough deal. I’m just sad they went down the instanced route rather than outdoor. I can’t see myself spending an awful lot of time up there, just the way it never happened in LOTRO or Rift. Ah well.

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Skills / Talents System and UI
The action set builder is one of my biggest qualms right now. Instead of simple drag and drop, assigning or re-ordering different skills on your action bar is fairly tedious and the AMP window is a complete eye-sore for anyone attempting to manage their playstyle stats at a glance. Hovering over tiny dots to check what they do is a big nono and so is a fairly inflexible UI that won’t let you move essentials around without addons. No pass from me here Carbine, this is not 2004! At least the overall look of the UI has improved vastly since the black bar of doom early beta players got to experience.

Cosmetics and Dye System
While we should probably be grateful that Wildstar has both, neither its cosmetic tab nor dye system are making me particularly happy at the moment. Managing your look has been re-delegated to NPC visits and the system is fairly clunky and limited in the sense that single items can only ever be assigned to one outfit and need to remain with the NPC when saved. The dye system allows for up to 3 layers of color per piece but seems slightly buggy still and umm, final because no un-dyeing, so careful with that!

The Music
While one can argue about degrees of cartoony graphics for Wildstar vs. other MMOs, its music leaves no room for debate: this title comes with an amazingly accomplished, varied and memorable high-quality OST that is a true joy to uncover as you are traveling from zone to zone, taking in different vistas that each come with their own theme and mood in return. Jeff Kurtenacker has done a stellar job and as always, I urge you to turn those speakers up and have a good listen before deciding that MMO music is not for you. This one might surprise you yet!

The Overall Feel – A not so final word
Well-rounded and here to stay are the two thoughts at the forefront of my mind when recapping my Wildstar adventures since the headstart. I don’t know precisely what magic Carbine have worked in those two months before release but it’s clearly made an impact and increased my personal enjoyment of the game considerably. I am positively surprised and eager to see more high-level content and hopefully some properly challenging group dungeons.

As preached before, Wildstar holds its own within the landscape of MMOs; however to the WoW veteran’s heart, it echoes many of the standards we have gotten used to by Blizzard. The familiarity of Wildstar’s early game experience fills me with the warmth of a cosy blanket and yet, it is still different enough to keep me going. I will see where I end up further down the road – for now, I am all in for the ride.