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…

Wildstar Neighbor Housing Contest

Wildstar shows off more of the Housing possibilities with their latest Housing Contest.

You might recall back in July Wildstar did a Housing Contest to show off the variety of options in player housing. Beta testers were challenged to put forth their creations to see who had the most interesting and creative house. It looks like they went at it again during the third closed beta test. This time there was a twist. During that phase of testing the Neighbors feature was introduced which allowed players to team up and build massive houses, sculptures, and scenes.

The newest contest had people team-up and create things together to earn the coveted Protostar-sponsored Housing Trophy which the winners will get to display in their house after Wildstar is live. Below are some of my personal favorites, but you can see the full list of winners on the Wildstar Wednesday page.

The “Most Joyous Wedding” Award

I admit it, most of what I love about this one is all the Rowsdowers. I mean just look at them sitting in chairs and stuff. I also really like the two beds stacked with boxes and what looks like a tv or a computer there? Totally looks like a fort I would have built when I was a kid… if Rowsdowers were a thing back then…

The “Lopp Of The Rings” Award

This one gets me on mood setting, the fact there is a spidery thing looking there, surprise that you can have spider webs, LOTR reference, and cuteness 🙂 The bunny on the left even has a sword and a light source to use to save his friend! I definitely can see why this was one of the winners.

The “Game Of Veggies” Award

I’m not sure much needs to be said about this one, it just makes me smile 🙂

Wildstar’s Subscription Model

It’s been a few days since Wildstar released their business model plans to everyone and I have finally been able to gather my thoughts on it. Initially I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping for a b2p model with an optional sub. The model Carbine has come up with could workout similar to B2P (for some people), but if it works or not is almost entirely out of their control.

Part of Carbine’s plan with CREDD is to undercut gold sellers. How I see this working is people who don’t mind paying a little more for their gold to get it from a safe source will see CREDD is as a good option (assuming enough people are spending gold to buy CREDD in return). The downside is gold sellers probably will be able to undercut whatever the average gold gain per dollar works out to be. Which highlights a glaring issue, the amount of gold you’ll get for you dollars isn’t set. Markets ebb and flow, the result being a player’s choice will ultimately be between receiving a variable amount of gold through legitimate means or getting a specific amount from a gold seller.

Another cause for concern is they keep comparing the CREDD system to the PLEX system in EvE, except EvE didn’t launch PLEX until 2008. The reason this matters is five years into the game there already was a pretty solid player base who had the resources to be able to afford to buy PLEX time from other players in amounts which made the transaction worthwhile. In other words there was a cushion to help PLEX catch on.

When Wildstar first launches we aren’t going to have anything. Sure there will be some people who race through the content and save up their gold… But are those people more likely to be the ones selling CREDD or the ones buying it? My instinct says they are more likely to be the ones selling. If that’s the case is there going to be a price point where lower level people can afford the CREDDs but it would still feel worthwhile to those who are buying them for cash? Additionally if not enough people are spending their gold on CREDD or are willing to buy at a price point sellers are happy with, it might get to the point where no one buys CREDD to sell because there’s to much risk involved.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I was reading a Blog over at Wildstar Fansand Anhrez brought up an interesting point about guilds and CREDD I hadn’t even considered.

The ideas was bounced back and forth and I have to wholly agree that with what we know about Wildstar guilds now have something to ‘award’ its players more than loot. A good guild will accumulate gold. With unclaimed loot, high end materials that can be sold, etc gold comes to those guilds that are solidly managed. Once guilds have certain bosses on farm status maybe players will hire out for raid boss safari’s and the gold earned goes the the guild to then be shared for CREDD? So besides maxing out your guild bank and guild hall (tbd options for Wildstar) could gold be shared with players to help off set costs of their gaming?

While some of this depends on how easy it is to get gold in game, the basic idea of guilds being able to reward their members with a free month here and there is great. I mean how nice would it be to get a free month of game time from your guild? Though again it hinges on how easy guilds find stocking up on gold to be.

The last bit which sort of rubbed me the wrong way was the fact they won’t say outright there will be no microtransactions; which makes it feel like there probably will be. Now I know the only game out right now which you can sub for and doesn’t also have a cash shop is Final Fantasy XIV. Even so, I still cling to the idea your sub gets you everything in the game. The concept of paying a company the box price, a monthly sub, and then extra for cosmetic things just seems like a crap situation for the consumer. However, the ship has probably sailed on that concept.

Don’t get me wrong I am still really looking forward to Wildstar coming out. I will definitely play. I am just concerned if things don’t go perfectly they’ll be looking at some hard choices pretty quickly. I really hope they are planning for a large drop-off of players after the first month. I also really hope their projections for player base after the first month are sane.

More Player Housing Info

In a recent Uplink post Loic “Atreid” Claveau discussed Player Housing and revealed some more information about what we can expect. I have some thoughts about Lighting, Expeditions, and Renown to share with everyone.

Player Housing, now with ambient lighting!

Ok so it’s pretty clear I am excited about the concept of choosing the ambient lighting on a room by room basis. This is basically how light or dark a room is before you put any sort of light fixtures or candles in the room. It might not seem like a big deal, but it really goes a long way to being able to decide just how a room will feel. Take a look at this example Claveau provided.

Now just imagine if the default lighting was really bright, making a dark and moody room like this wouldn’t be possible at all. Additionally, say if you did want to make a bright room but the default was completely dark. You would have to use a ton of lighting to get the room bright and it probably still wouldn’t be the effect you were looking for. With the addition of room by room ambient lighting they have added a ton of options which I am super SUPER excited for.

Get Ready to Rumble!

I’m just going to quote what Claveau had to say about expeditions:

Now I’ve made mention of Expeditions in passing in a couple of places on the webz, but now I’d like to show you a picture of one. For the uninitiated, an Expedition is a type of plug that you can put on your property that connects to a scaled group instance. The one I have pictured below is the Graylight Grapplefest, a notorious fight club. In it the players are tasked with defeating foes inside the spotlights in order to get the maximum points per kill. Winners are awarded with Renown and unique housing trophies.

So basically it looks like a sort of arena where you and your friends can enter and fight various foes and test their skills. He goes on to say they plan on expeditions taking about twenty minutes for each one. Which all of that sounds awesome. I wonder how hard they will be. I hope there is a scalable aspect to it, otherwise it’ll get boring pretty quick and since it’s a way to earn Renown you’ll probably want to keep doing them for awhile. If nothing else I hope they will at least have some variability to it (like puzzles and raids).

Speaking of Renown…

The biggest news in this post is Renown. It’s described as a sort of social currency. You earn this currency through completing content on your property or through doing grouped content anywhere in the game. Sounds awesome right? The main possible issue I can see is how earning Renown is balanced.

For example, say you earn 20 Renown for doing any kind of content for which Renown is rewarded. I can easily see people getting mad because their 40 man raid (which probably will be a larger time commitment) will earn them just as much Renown as someone doing an expedition and I can definitely see how that might feel unfair. Not to mention as a “social currency” it would seem weird if actives where you were doing things with more people didn’t earn you more Renown.

On the other hand if smaller groups earn too much less than the large raiding groups the system will feel really unfair the other direction. I mean not everyone wants to or even can do 40 man raiding. From the rest of Wildstar’s game design they seem to think that’s fine. But if the only people who can earn enough Renown to get the cool items (in a reasonable timeframe) are the people who do 40 man raiding, there will be a problem. As always balancing the desires of different groups is one of the biggest challenges MMOs face.

What is Renown used for? Oh it’s for purchasing things for your house and “some other interesting rewards”. So only people who are interested in Player Housing should care about it… which seems to be the vast majority of people. Also those “other interesting things”, I wonder what those will be. I would think not anything vital to gameplay since those sorts of things would be a bit more than “interesting”. Man if they make Renown pay for housing things AND pets/minis I just won’t know what I’ll do.

That’s about all I have for now. You can read their whole post here. Can’t wait for the possible Race/Class reveal at ComicCon on Friday!

Stress Test Time!

This week’s Wildstar Wednesday revealed they are close to doing their first stress test. We don’t currently know when this will happen but everyone invited for the weekend will receive an invite a few days before so they can download and patch the game before the stress test starts.

There was also the following tidbit:

Everyone that gets an invite into the Stress Test and makes a good faith attempt to log into the game during the test will be guaranteed an invite into a future (much more stable) Closed Beta test as a thank you. I need your help in breaking the server, and we want to invite you back to play when I’m not trying to do mean things to the hardware. So help us break everything as many times as possible this weekend, and we’ll make it up to you with a real beta invite in the future.

Basically if you want into the beta and get invited to this stress test… Don’t blow it off! If everything goes to plan, the stress test weekend will be a REALLY bad weekend for playing but will give them a ton of useful information to get ready for launch (oh please oh please let there be a game that doesn’t have severe server issues at launch).

One curiosity, in general you do not see stress tests until much further along in closed betas (we are only about a month into this folks). There are a couple of ways to interpret this. Either we are much closer to launch than any of us thought; or they are being super proactive. Personally I hope it’s the second option and they make the most of the time they have.

Here is a link to the full article for anyone interested, there is also some interesting info about what exactly a live producer does.
http://www.wildstar-online.com/en/news/wildstar_wednesday_beta_stress_test.php

Circles in Wildstar!

You think Wildstar’s guilds will be the same as every other MMO? Not so fast there. Wildstar has taken guilds a step further than the normal run of the mill set-up in most MMO’s.

The Wildstar Devs recognize that while most people have their guild they are a part of and they view it as the central avenue into whatever aspect of the game they are most interested in;  people often form friendships outside of their guild as well and look to those people to do other activities. This is something other games have tried to address by allowing you to join multiple guilds at the same time. The main drawback of those systems is that you can usually only view the guild chat of one guild at a time. As a result you are severely limited in your ability to interact across your different guilds.

What Wildstar is doing instead is in addition to your guild they will also have something they are calling “Circles”. These will be different from guilds but have some of the same features guilds do: roster, private chat channel, name tags, and other undisclosed features. Say for example you are reading guild chat and notice there is activity in your “Firefly Appreciation Circle” well you won’t miss any of the conversation and will be able to jump right in.

Currently the limits are set at 1 guild and 5 Circles. They have not been specifically clear on if it is per character or across an account as yet, but they did say they are open to possibly increasing the limits if they find during beta 5 Circles just are not enough.

Honestly Circles is a great sounding feature which has a lot of promise. One thing I am a little concerned with, and we will have to see how it is handled, is Circles might help to contribute to fracturing in guilds. This would probably mostly be a potential issue for larger guilds, but it also could be something which might destroy smaller guilds. Also imagine being in the middle of a raid and having people not paying attention because so and so is being funny in their Circle chat.

The potential peril is all guilds develop groups of people who play together more than other people. This is a natural thing which develops among groups of people. Some people will get along better with certain other people, while different people will like others. Sometimes it is as simple as some people’s playtimes line up more than other people’s.  The issue with circles though is it could very easily give people a place to talk to those friends freely without other guild members seeing. Which could be fine, or it could sow discord.

Solving those issues will probably fall to guilds themselves, and I am not sure doing otherwise would be a really good idea on the Dev’s part. For instance completely disabling Circle chat during raids by default might be an issue for people who can handle raiding with some distraction. They could give us some tools on to handle the issues on our own. Personally I think in the long run a player choice focused solution would probably be for the best.

As always though it is all very up in the air until Beta is over and we know more about where everything is falling. Overall Circles have some great potential, and very few obvious drawbacks.

For more information about guilds in Wildstar please check out their Dev Post “What is a Guild?“.

Wildstar

There’s been a lot of information released about Wildstar in the last couple of weeks and in their panel during Pax East they released even more details about player housing, paths, warplots, and more. First you should check out their video with all the highlights!

Player Housing

Player housing is literally what it sounds like. You can buy a plot in-game, clear it of unwanted wildlife and build your house. You can add paint and wallpaper as you like (or leave your walls bare!). You can also fill your house with any furniture you want. The example they gave at the panel was if you want a table floating in the air upside down with a chair on it – you can do that!

In addition you can do things like build a crafting table or a shop at your house. Logging out at your house will give you more rested XP, and the more things you have in your house the greater the XP return will be. Wouldn’t it be amazing to teleport from your home directly to raids? Well you can also build a portal at home that will take you directly to the raid and give you a buff for using it.

What good would a house be if you could only go to it once every hour? Well it would be rather inconvenient which is why you will be able to teleport to your home anytime you want!

Every house has neighbors and good neighbors help each other right? Every time you help a neighbor whether it’s fighting off bandits, helping with crops, or anything else that can happen you get XP and a share of the rewards for being a good neighbor.

Warplots

First look at warplots seems to be something guilds will create and build together. Basically a guild will build one and set it down in the middle of a battleground. Warplots will have defensive and offensive capabilities and they look like they might offer a ton of customization as well.

As of right now if your warplot gets damaged in a battle the guild will need to repair it to get it back up to full strength. However, if it turns out during beta that repairing is just too difficult or sucks the fun out of PvP they did mention that there are other options to be looked at.

Paths

In an effort to keep leveling from being too linear the Wildstar team has introduced the concept of paths. At character creation you choose which path you want to follow. Once you pick a path you can still take part in things other paths focus on (“Crossing Paths”) but you well get a bit less XP for those activities. Some of the options given were Explorer, Scientist, Solider, and Settler.

With the explorer path it is all about exploring the world and finding things. When I played at PAX East one aspect I really liked was as you ran around different exploration quests would pop-up and send you off in different directions. I can definitely see being an explorer leading you to all sorts of random places you wouldn’t think of to start (which is the point).

Solider path is all about killing things. People who enjoy leveling through grinding or quests where you need to kill x many mobs that will be the path to choose.

Scientist will be the patch for people who are more interested in the lore side of things. Your quests will involve learning the stories behind the game and the Nexus.

The last option is the Settler which is the social path. The example given at the Wildstar panel was you have a campfire and every time someone uses your campfire you get bonus XP and the more people who use your campfire the more XP you’ll earn in a given amount of time. You wouldn’t be able to look up where the best place to put a fire is because if everyone is putting them in the same place fewer people will likely use your particular fire. There is a bit of a puzzle built-in here for figuring out the best places to put your fires.

Those are the three main areas that they went into more details about. Other interesting tidbits are this game will be PC only at launch, there will be mounts, there is a world storyline that is soloable at max level, Elder Story is a storyline told through group quests at max level, and the factions will operate completely separate from each other.

The last bit (and probably the biggest deal for long-term success) is they have not settled on a business model yet. The estimation at Pax East was they will have something for us regarding that in about 2 months.