When WildStar comes out, it is going to have raiding. It’s going to have the sort of raiding and group content that is meant to be challenging. No facerolls intended here; you’d better bring your A-game on raid night, or you will be facedown in the dirt so often that people will think you’re doing a performance piece on the Kennedy family tree.
I am not a lover of raiding. This is not difficult to find evidence of on this site because I’ve talked about the issues with group-only endgame antics on more than one occasion. Heck, I wrote about how raiding turns you into a horrible person. So you would think I’d look at what we know about WildStar’s endgame and start facepalming, possibly whilst shaking my head and muttering obscenities.
But I’m not. I’m totally cool with what we’ve been told so far about the endgame because there’s much more than just the raiding aspect in the game, and I’m intrigued by how it’s working out.
Here’s the core of the issue: It’s not that raiding is inherently an evil activity. In the piece I linked above I pointed out that this starts off as being something fun, and it’s the cycle of repeated content and personal obligation that really kills that joy. But for some people these things are still fun, and the content should exist for those people.
Over the past several years we’ve seen the idea introduced that everyone should get to raid, especially in World of Warcraft. It’s a well-meaning sentiment that also completely misses the point. By making the whole endgame raid content more approachable, you make everyone less happy.
People who genuinely enjoy raiding are less happy because content gets easier and easier. The challenge of it is part of what you enjoyed. You wanted having a boss on farm status to really be an accomplishment, something you worked hard to achieve; now it’s just a rote thing. You didn’t mind complicated processes to get into raids, requirements for certain players and classes, all of the parts that non-raiders found tedious. That was stuff you enjoyed.
Meanwhile, people who don’t naturally like raiding are less happy because you’re being told to like something. The inaccessibility and all that was just a part of the puzzle; at the end of the day, you just aren’t fond of that particular style of play. Except now you’re more and more expected to raid, and not doing so means you’re stuck in the cold with nothing more to do. This is the endgame, and it’s so easy, why aren’t you doing it?
Is this functional? At times. A lot of people wind up being not entirely unhappy. But it also isn’t a good idea because it’s based on several archaic notions all rolled into one.
First of all, not wanting to take part in big group endgame content does not mean you aren’t social or engaged with other players. I joked for a long while that I’ve been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic since launch and hadn’t clocked in a single Operation achievement. This didn’t mean I wasn’t social or invested with other players; anyone who has seen me roleplay knows how much I juggle varied character relationships and find time to quest with friends or otherwise hang out. Disliking the raiding formula does not mean I’m not invested in a community.
Games also don’t need to stymie your progress to encourage you to keep playing. There’s a delicate balance, always, between making sure you can’t see all of the game in a single day and ensuring that you’re not bored, and part of that comes through slowing down progress. But slow it down enough and the game starts becoming an exercise in boring repetition. If you find fighting bosses over and over to optimize strategy fun, that’s great. If you don’t, however, the need to do so should not be the only thing keeping you in the game because otherwise you are going to leave at the first opportunity.
Perhaps most importantly, there are other ways to make an endgame. There are ways to make solo content interesting, to provide nifty new challenges to PvP and PvE players without trivializing what raiding players are doing for fun. (In fairness to Star Wars: The Old Republic, the game does a better job than many titles of giving me something to do without big group content.) If you remove the carrot of “all the stuff worth doing is locked behind a raid wall,” some people will still raid, but you can give that carrot to people who like doing other things just as easily.
These lessons are things that WildStar seems to have taken to heart. I say “seems” only because the game is still in testing, and it remains to be seen how all of the promises we’ve been given will play out in the long run. But we know what the design goals are. We know that the developers want us playing the game however we find fun, and we’ve been told that there will be an endgame there no matter what we think is fun.
Like PvP? There’s stuff in place for epic PvP of several varieties. Like to solo? There’s an ongoing story, there are path activities, and there will be new things to explore. Like to craft? I can only assume we’ll have some crafting carrots. Like raiding? Then you will be greeted by raids that are hard, and intense, and built for people who want to be there, not the people who have nothing else to do.
Now, if we can just avoid the trap of having all the gear worth having locked behind the raid wall, we’ll be golden.