There are times I both love and hate being a journalist. Case in point: the recent WildStar hands-on that Bree got to play with. I knew about it a while ago, and got a peek at most of the reveals, which was great. But I had to sit on that knowledge, which was not so great. Also I couldn’t go myself, which comes down less to the job of a journalist and more to the fact that I live on the other coast, but I still didn’t like that.
But we aren’t here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about a groundswell of new information that we got from that experience, and while I don’t want to step on Bree’s toes at all, there’s a lot of stuff that deserves further discussion. And we know that the developers want this game to launch in 2013, which means that as of right now we are looking at a ticking clock. I’ll talk about that later.
Competitive raiding and the endgame focus
Those of you who read my articles on a regular basis know the sort of player I am. I’ve outright written an article on how raiding turns you into a horrible person, and I’ve stated many times that my love of big group content in the endgame is only matched by my love of eating live hornets for breakfast. So it may seem baffling that when I saw details about the game’s upcoming 40-man competitive raids, my first reaction was, “Yes!”
Why? Because there are other endgames.
Here’s the problem that several games traditionally have with the whole raiding model. A lot of people (me) don’t like to raid. Over time, the raids get smaller and more accessible for people to complete them. The problem is that it’s trying to lead a horse to water; no matter how small you make the raids, I’m always going to prefer solo and small-group content, and high-end raiders are always going to prefer high-end challenging content. The net result is that no one ends up fully happy.
By contrast, if you give me high-end goals to pursue as a solo player, with progression and everything, then I say make raiding as hard as you want. Instead of trying to make one system serve many masters, make your raiding game the best raiding game it can be and let those of us who don’t want to raid just not take part.
I will be very irked if it turns out that the game is locking all of the cool equipment and what-not behind a raid wall, which is often what happens. But I’m not assuming that will be the case right now. Instead, it looks as if there’s going to be a system in place that will reward people who like to be at the cutting edge of raid progression and a system for those who would rather do stuff in a smaller group. I’d repeat the maxim of “play how you want to play” once again, but at this point, it’s already becoming cliche, so I won’t.
Paths and content
Before I talk about what we’ve seen so far of how paths, quests, and the like will interact in WildStar, I want to talk about World of Warcraft. Specifically, I want to praise the game for refining a model until it worked: the quest hub.
Some of you don’t remember, either because you’re too young or because you’ve voluntarily put memory blinders in place, but the quest hub was an innovation. It was revolutionary. Instead of walking to random spots in the world to get quests that didn’t link together in any meaningful way, you could actually see quests, do them, and then advance on to new ones in something resembling an actual flow. Over time, this has been refined to the well-tuned rail-like experience you get today. This is the result of several designers cleverly improving the model to its current efficiency, and my hat is off to all of that hard work.
Now let’s all praise the idea of smashing that baby to pieces. While WildStar will indeed feature hubs, it’s sounding more and more like those hubs are just options. You can go hit the quest hub and follow that course, or you can go off the beaten path or explore. Or build. Or just focus on getting into fights. You get the idea.
In other words, the paths don’t dictate what you do; they offer you options. Instead of having a tight, rail-like experience, you have something structured more like a path. There are branches, and there are deviations, and while you might wind up in several of the same ending points, the way you get there can differ wildly from character to character.
All right. This game wants to release in 2013. I’m going to hold off on my first reaction of wanting to play it yesterday to be a bit more sedate and look at what that date means.
The game is clearly fairly far in development, but does it have enough in place? 2013 means launching in December at the latest, which means that the game’s fundamentals have to be in place much earlier. Most of the game needs to be ready before testing begins, even if the early tests are restricted from higher-level areas that are still being finished.
Is it possible? Vaguely… but I would hold on to your rockets, folks. I’m honestly not expecting the game to launch for real until 2014. Early 2014, but still 2014. That’s my prediction, and I’m hoping that I get proven wrong.