Carbine Studios is holding all of the cards for WildStar and those of us not in the beta just have to wait. Which is beyond frustrating. We have to sit back and let things slowly come out of the official PR machine, and no matter how fast we get new revelations, they’re never fast enough. The temptation to look for someone willing to peel back the veil is immense because it beats pressing against the glass and waiting to find out more.
But the NDA is there for a reason.
Speaking as someone who isn’t in the beta but is still talking about the game on a weekly basis, I will be the first to point out that waiting for official information is often like waiting for a solar eclipse before doing even the most basic tasks. It’s frustrating, slow, and irritating. The problem is that the alternative — wherein we just jump on every new piece of leaked information — isn’t good, and it comes out worse in the end.
Creating context before releasing information
The team behind WildStar has a pretty clear picture of how the game is going to work. There are, I assume, large binders with important-sounding names that have overall design goals outlined along with general targets. There are plans for crafting systems, plans for quests, plans for endgame encounters and so forth. If you don’t believe that, you at least probably have the presence of mind to accept that the game is not being developed by people coding blindly and hoping that the result makes a playable game.
You get the idea. There is a picture of what the game will look like as a whole — a picture that we as players currently do not have.
One of the problems I mentioned with dissecting last week’s patch notes is that without context, not everything makes sense. Not everything can make sense. I managed to majorly flub up the distinction between Circles and guilds (which are totally different things) because devoid of a larger context, it made sense. And it was completely wrong. I saw a picture of a hat and assumed I was looking at a haberdashery, then found out that when zoomed out it was a picture of a museum.
Context makes information more relevant. Without having a solid base of established information, I couldn’t have speculated on what the last two classes in the game would be because I couldn’t fit the existing information into a larger framework that made sense. And it still might be wrong.
So why not just tell us everything out of the starting gate, thereby creating plenty of additional context? Well…
Some stuff isn’t ready for prime time
Having a pretty clear picture of how the game is going to work does not always mean that it turns out to be a completely accurate picture. Maybe you finally get your full crafting system in place, and it turns out that players hate it. Maybe the customization system for classes is sub-par. Maybe it just turns out that nobody is all that interested in playing the game you thought was neat, but something else you threw in as a sideline is awesome.
This is why context is created piece by piece, starting with the big items that you know are going to be in place, like the fact that WildStar takes place on Nexus and not in downtown Philadelphia. Then you slowly filter down, showing smaller bits of the picture, pieces that fit into the established whole, changing some elements as some things don’t quite make it through development or don’t work as well as intended.
All of this is normal, but it’s not the way that we think of things working when we’re used to the finished product. You think of an article being written from beginning to end, but you don’t see the times when half the article needs to be rewritten or fixed because it’s just not interesting. We see the finished product of a game that works and we think that it was just a matter of sitting down and programming that game from start to finish, not an iterative process in which elements are added, removed, changed, tweaked, broken, relocated, and so forth.
We don’t see all of this stuff because that’s not for viewing to the general populace. Unless you’re George Lucas, you don’t show off your first draft and then work overtime to make sure the stupid early ideas still fit into the finished product. You don’t want to show off the early version because there’s stuff from the early version that won’t be in the finished version.
This beta may not be the sort that completely redoes the game once or twice; few are. But there’s still stuff that won’t be sticking around.
Giving an impression
When talking about a game, a development team’s goal is invariably to convey a sense of enthusiasm to potential players. That is, really, part of the reason we’re all here. We’re excited. The development team is excited. You can usually find the team almost bursting at the seams to share some piece of information not yet approved by the corporate team.
That’s because just as with birthday presents, if you know everything right away, there’s no thrill of discovery. You get something you might be happy with but that you won’t be excited over. Getting your information slowly teased out, having hints dropped here and there, keeps up the enthusiasm.
You might not like the dance. Speaking as someone frequently on the same side of said dance as everyone else, I certainly find it frustrating. But I think it’s ultimately better to have to wait than to try to find out what’s happening before it’s ready for my examination.