Friday, May 16, 2014

The ups and downs in WildStar's pre-launch

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We're in the home stretch before WildStar's launch now. If you haven't pre-ordered, you should do so. For all intents and purposes, the launch game is what's being used in the weekend test sessions. All that's left is the actual gameplay, and if you're an RPer, hunting down the roleplaying community to see what's acknowledged as the unofficial community roleplaying server because beta servers certainly do not have those all-important RP tags.

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A bit of discussion with a friend the other night reminded me that I can't think of a single game over the past four and a half years that I really thought launched at the right time; either they launched a bit too early or a bit too late, at best. So today, with launch less than a month away, I'd like to talk about the things that make me most displeased about the game... and the bits that make me the most hopeful.

First of all, I've said this on the podcast before, but I'm really upset with where the game's path content wound up. All I can do is promise players enjoying the game at launch that it wasn't like this in the earliest versions we played, and it was in fact far more involved and vital. The decision to separate level progression and path progression into completely different tracks seems like a poor idea from the beginning, like a gift-wrapped package saying, "You don't need to care about this!" The original version of paths -- big chunks of content that could allow you to largely bypass the actual designed leveling experience if you wanted to -- was far more interesting and a great idea that unfortunately got put aside in favor of more straightforward progression.

The most recent patch added restrictions on where players can update costumes, which strikes me as unpleasant. Yes, I totally appreciate the option to have multiple costumes, and I do like that those costumes are not tied specifically to armor sets; at the same time, I liked the earlier implementation where you could do this literally anywhere in the game. It reduced the amount of time you spend hanging on to things and hoping they'll eventually fit your character concept, for instance.

This is a game of customization. And I mean that in the best way; there's so much stuff here that you can't help but building some elements of the game you'd like to play.Active combat ensures that two different classes really do play differently from one another; there's no way to mistake a Warrior's sweeping close-range strikes with the cannon patterns of the Engineer. More to the point, you can really tailor a lot of your class playstyle to the class you like the most. I decided during beta to try playing an Engineer totally devoid of pets, and while I wouldn't say it worked better than anything, it was doable. I had the tools to make it work. Nor was I permanently locked into that choice; more so even than in Guild Wars or Guild Wars 2 at launch, trying a build in WildStar was easy and painless.

And there's a development team in charge that seems genuinely interested in listening rather than telling. Oh, sure, there are things the devs have done that I disagree with vehemently (and have written whole columns about, even), but there's the sense that plans are a bit less fixed in stone. When a stink was raised about body types, the team actually did something about it. The new body types aren't perfect, but they're forward motion just the same.

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