Let’s Talk About Wildstar’s Elder Game

Originally posted on Gamebreaker April 15th, 2014.

When it comes to max level content the Carbine team has been relatively quiet except to say there will be things for everyone to do. Some of these things are raids, events, PvP, dailies & events; and yes it’s called Elder Game not endgame. However, many of the specifics with these systems have been left undisclosed aside from superficial information (like the size of raids). Thankfully the Wildstar panel at PAX East was all about Elder Game content and I was able to talk with Stephan Frost, design producer, for a bit on Saturday and gleaned even more details from him.

Raids Are Hard

No really Carbine’s design philosophy when it comes to raiding is, raiding should be some of the most challenging content in the game. I have seen a number of people claim telegraphs make avoiding damage too easy. Unfortunately this perspective seems based on low level content which is easier because leveling is designed to teach players to deal with these mechanics throughout the process. When it comes to raiding Carbine is taking full advantage of the telegraphs to really challenge players.

Not only are there some pretty wickedly shaped telegraphs used, but when combined with other mechanics (like the floor dropping away) there is little room for error. With a limited amount of dodging allowed reacting at the wrong moment or in the wrong direction can seriously ruin a boss attempt.

One of the examples shown during the panel is a rotating weirdly shaped telegraph. Which doesn’t sound horrible, but with the rate the telegraph is rotating dodges have to be used. If a player happens to misjudge which direction they should go… well it’ll hurt a whole bunch. Or in Frost’s words “these telegraphs will melt your face.”

One of my favorite mechanics shown during the panel was a raid group fighting a boss on a bunch of interlocking platforms. There’s a mechanic where a player gets targeted with a “bomb” type effect. The way it seemed to be meant to work, is the player should jump off the platform… which in general is the last thing most people would think of doing. If done wrong however, well the guys in the stream wiped half their raid in one hit. Though it looked like there is potential if it’s done really wrong, a player could take out their entire raid team at once.

In addition the Carbine team is redefining trash mobs as “base population” and it’s not just a name change. Trash mobs will actually drop real loot and will have real mechanics to defeating them. As someone who generally hates trash mobs I am actually happy about this change. Most of the reason I hate trash, is because trash always seems pointless and just there to slow the group down. If the trash actually has some real mechanics and real loot it’ll be a huge improvement on the current state of things!

wildstar mmorpg features 2 featured     Lets Talk About Wildstars Elder GameImbuements

One thing I hadn’t heard the Carbine team talk about much before is some items will have an imbuement which is basically a quest or task the player will have to accomplish to unlock more power on a item. Examples of tasks are killing a particular boss, collecting a certain number of items, max reputation with some faction, and other things along these lines. The items will be pretty good without unlocking these imbuements, but for players who really want to get the full power out of their gear tackling any and all imbuement quests will be something they’ll want to do.

Now personally I love the concept of imbuements. For me it reminds me (and yes I realize it’s not a direct correlation) of  forging Quel’Serrar back in Vanilla WoW. For anyone who was a warrior back then obtaining that sword was an accomplishment, and one where players not only had to kill a specific boss but had to do specific things during the boss fight… clearly it’s a memory I have held on to. As soon as Joe Piepiora mentioned imbuements and started explaining the reasoning behind them, I knew we were getting the type of content which will spawn stories and memories for years to come.

Piepiora also mentioned artifact weapons, which is the top most tier weapons only obtainable from doing the hardest content in Wildstar. Pretty cool. The Artifact Sword he showed off had SIX imbuements on it. As an example of how crazy it does get, at the end of the line on the artifact weapons to unlock the the last power players will have to summon two special bosses (which the group will never have fought before because they only exist for this imbuement) and defeat them at the same time (this is the 80 man raid some people have been mentioning). Talk about having a story to share afterwards.

Additionally… say I get this nice shiny artifact sword, great and stuff but then a new raid tier comes out. Well time to toss the old sword in the bank right (or relegate it to only being a costume skin)? Nope. Because of how imbuements work there is the potential to keep adding new imbuements on so I could keep powering that sword up and use it for a long long time. Not only is this prospect exciting, it’s also a great motivation to do some of these super hard requirements.

wildstar mmorpg features 2 featured     Lets Talk About Wildstars Elder GameStory Instances

Story Instances are instances designed for a solo player to really delve into the deeper lore behind Wildstar. The player is guided through these encounters by A NPC everyone meets during the standard leveling quests named Drusera. Starting at level 35 the story instances will guide players to a deeper understanding of the history of the planet Nexus and what is currently going on.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve seen this content because you’ve met Drusera. Story Instances have not made it into beta, and might not be there at all until launch. Which makes me sad, though I understand testing group content in beta is a higher priority for a multitude of reasons. Also, if these were already in beta some jerk probably would have written about it and spoiled all the mysteries for everyone else. /whistles innocently

Another aspect I really like about Story Instances is they can be leveraged to propel the story forward in the future. While there undoubtedly will be some story in the raids, most of the story will be told in these instances instead. As someone who is always unhappy to have to skip cut scenes because I don’t want to get left behind, I really appreciate this separation.

One part of Story Instances I am curious about, and unfortunately forgot to ask Stephan Frost about, is if Story Instances can be done in a group at all. I have friends who enjoy the story and lore in games as much as I do and it is nice to be able to go through the story parts with them when we can. Sure we can, and will, talk about what happened after but it’s not the same as experiencing it for the first time together.

wildstar mmorpg features 2 featured     Lets Talk About Wildstars Elder GameThe Takeaway

One thing Frost emphasized when I was talking with him is the Carbine team is focused like a laser on making sure there is plenty of Elder Game available not only at launch but also in the months following launch. As someone who watched SWTOR implode firsthand, knowing Wildstar isn’t just planning for the launch itself but what will happen immediately afterwards is reassuring. It’s also good to know they are planning for more than just raid content updates.

Now if I could just find out how exactly a group captures a raid boss to use on their Warplot…

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