Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wildstar - Where Did It All Go Wrong?



TL;DR - Probably at the very beginning.

So yeah. Wildstar. Didn't quite live up to the hype. Is the game dead? Not yet, but reckon it soon will be. 'Course I said the same thing about SWTOR and it's still in the top 5 MMOs or something like that. So as always, take my opinions with a grain of salt. And I can only really speak to what I've experienced and seen, so this isn't by any means THE definitive ruling on the game. Regardless, it ain't doing well. Folks ain't happy. Hemorrhaging players like a gushing chest wound. Lack of new real content in releases. And shit still broken since Beta.

So as I said in previous mentions of the game, it's basically a WoW Clone with a nifty combat system. Which from everything the devs had said, it's pretty much exactly what they were aiming for. Recreate the glory days of "vanilla WoW" (or so I hear, never actually played WoW). So good job I guess. Mission accomplished, and all that. But I think that's kinda the core problem. What worked for games 10 years ago doesn't necessarily work these days. People have been there and done that over and over and over again with every other MMO that shamelessly copied WoW. Shit is old and tired. It's the same mindless theme-park grind. But in Wildstar they made it HARDCORE!

So "Hardcore". I was always under the impression that meant "difficult". Requires skill and dedication, and all that. And Wildstar absolutely has areas where that shines. Other areas... not so much. In alot of places it seems they just translated "hardcore" as "tedious". And by "alot of places" I mean every part of the game other than Dungeons and Raids. Attunement, dailies, even crafting are all incredibly mind-numbingly tedious. Cuz that makes it require dedication, right? Hardcore brah! Maybe for some. I think the best description I saw was "they put so much effort into making it Hardcore, that they forgot to make it fun". Which pretty much describes everything outside of your first few runs of Adventures, Dungeons, and Raids. But you had to do these things over and over again ad naseum to acquire gear, or perfect the fights for Silver medals. At which point they stop being fun and become a tedious grind.

This was particularly problematic for Dungeons. Because the fights there are very very very well-tuned. If you lose a single player in any of the boss fights, the group will probably wipe. Everyone has to bring their A-game. Hardcore! Unfortunately there is nothing in the game that really prepares you for Dungeons other than... running dungeons. So learning requires dying. Alot. And since one person's failure leads to everyone else dying, there is quite a bit of pressure involved. Which not surprisingly leads to a rather toxic game environment. You don't want to group up with people that are going to get you killed. They cost you gold, and they prevent you from succeeding. You don't PUG because you can't trust them not to suck, and you need voice comms anyway to coordinate. And even in your own guild/group you are constantly cutting people out that don't measure up. You only want to group with people as good, or better than you. Because anything less will prevent you from succeeding. Because it's Hardcore. Bro.

So what does one do while not running Dungeons or Raids? While waiting for other guildies to log on, or heaven forbid being a bad that nobody wants to group with? Well.... not much. Once you hit 50, raiding is all there really is to the game. There is nothing else of real consequence. Crafting is rather pointless once you get into Dungeons/Raids, cuz crafted gear is the bare minimum of what you need to get thru that content. Dailies are just the same exact quests every day in a recycled starter zone map (seriously, same exact map), over and over again for 30+ days to build up Rep. And on the off-chance you are creative, even housing is pointless since nobody else sees your creativity but you. PvP is still horribly broken and imbalanced. And there is a massive amount of low-level areas and zones that are utterly pointless for a level 50 to return to. So if you aren't raiding, there ain't really much else to do.

So how did it get this way? Well apparently it was the way the game was designed. Carbine Studios somehow managed to ignore a decade of MMO development, disregarded all the lessons the industry learned over the years, and designed a 2004 game complete with all the errors, limitations, and design flaws. Despite people telling them of things that needed to be fixed back since closed Beta. But that's not terribly surprising if one looks into company reviews from Carbine employees. Apparently their studio is a dysfunctional cesspool of hatred, backstabbing, and sabotage. Course the only people who ever post company reviews are disgruntled employees with an axe to grind, so take it with a grain of salt. But obviously there were some glaring problems in development, so it's not hard to imagine a kernel of truth there.

In the end it looks like the game killed itself. They are trying to patch the holes in the ship, but it's already mostly underwater. There's some fixes and balance changes, easing the attunement process, replacing the CEO (who stepped down for *cough* personal reasons), hiring a new marketing team last month, consolidating servers to fix population problems, and various other shit. But it's probably too little too late. Which is too bad. Cuz there really was some great stuff to the game. Combat system was brilliant. Awesome world setting. Fun challenging dungeons (the first few times at least). But that sort of stuff doesn't save a game that's flawed at it's very core. It's a level-based themepark MMO that caters to a niche raiding culture that fosters a toxic atmosphere. I just don't see that working anymore.

Oh and some quick background on what I was playing. DPS Stalker with full Purple Adventure gear, hitting 2400 AP. Got as far as Bronze in Vet STL and KV before quitting.

2 comments:

Redrobot said...

I have to agree with you on your review of Wildstar. I brought into the hype and thought it was going to be an awesome game. Even put down 75.00 for the digital deluxe edition. First week was awesome. A ton of players running around, grouping to do quests, even ran a very fun dungeon. As a veteran MMO player (with 6 years of WoW under my belt) I thought I had finally found a new home. I was in love with the art style, design, and over all aesthetic of the game. Presentation was top notch, it ran great on my rig and played happily the first month.
Where I started to see problems were in the later zones. The quests chains would take literally dozens of hours to complete and each zone would take me a few days to get though.While I love that there were plenty of quests to keep me busy, seeing the same background and settings got a bit dull.
As I progressed further into the game, I found fewer and fewer folks to play with. My guild was basically empty, I was running around and doing complete zones all by my lonesome and had to forgo any of the group quests cause I couldn't find anyone to play with.The whole place felt like a ghost town.It was like I was play to play a single player RPG game.
I never got to end game content. I did reach 50 with my engineer, but when I saw all work I would have to do to get attuned, I said "Screw this!". I got better, more productive things to do with my time. Say for example made 3D porn.
I honestly believe that Wildstar's heart is in the right place, but the style of gaming they want from us dried up a long time ago. I remember doing 40 man raids back in Vanilla WoW. The hours prepping, getting the mats, and learning the fights. However as a working adult, I just don't have the free time to invest in that sort of activity anymore.
I hate seeing game studios close, people losing their jobs, after hundreds if not thousands of hours of man hours put into a project. I think the studio needs a overhaul in their business (perhaps lower the monthly sub to 5-10.00) practices, and rework their core game design. The foundations of an awesome game are there believe me!

Will Zenn said...

hey mongo,

I got in the beta, got the game pre release. I never played after release due to much of what you stated above. Especially the fact my quest log was over loaded and i had no clue even what to do I got quest paralysis at level 30 ish ... like really i need 50 quests in my log and not really sure what one to do now - i quit.

I played WOW since... well forever lol in fact plying this beta to the point i said this game wont make it got me to re up my WOW sub and play that more lol

Anyway, you are spot on and nice write up over all. There are a few MMOs incoming I plan to look at but i am really hoping a game comes out that is new and different Vs quest grind, crafting that means shit and raid until you eye bleed - gear up - ohhh expansion all your gear sucks now rinse repeat :P

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