Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Couple of Thorns

   I have one nagging worry about Wildstar. There was something slightly off. As I mentioned before we hit level 50 just before the last beta weekend came to a close. While Virika and I both enjoyed leveling, I kept thinking about what will make Wildstar a great and successful game. So what makes a great MMO? I've been thinking a lot about this and here is the list I came up with:
  1. The experience of leveling and exploring the game world must be fun and feel rewarding.
  2. End game must be filled with enough content that is challenging and rewarding enough to keep the players interested.
  3. The game must be fun to replay. Leveling an alt character must be a unique experience that is just as fun as the experience a player had with their main.
   Obviously, there are certainly other factors behind successful games, like player base, community and several other factors. For now, I want to focus on the three above. 

   To the first item, Wildstar definitely has a great leveling experience. Nexus is a richly designed game world with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. The lore is fantastic and players log out wanting to experience more. At least to me, Wildstar has enough comedy to keep the player laughing and doesn't take itself too seriously. On the flip side, the conflict between the two factions is believable and the player feels heroic taking part in the struggle. A great sense of adventure dominated every zone I played through and I don't think it could have been much better.  

   As far as end game, I don't know yet. In terms of adventures and instances, Wildstar delivered heaps on the way up. Hopefully this upcoming beta weekend I can try out the level 50 veteran instances and cut my teeth on some serious PvP. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to experience the raiding situation before launch, but we'll see about that.  I am optimistic that Wildstar will deliver a fairly decent endgame with the launch.

   Replay. Alt characters... about this I am nervous. Although the leveling process was great, the zones were very linear.  I did the missions on the ship. I had a choice of two starting areas which were pretty good. I got to the main city and went to the next zone appropriate to my level. When I finished that one up or got to a point where the xp rewards were trivial I moved onto the next zone.  So on and so forth. There weren't options. My fear is that playing another character of the same faction will be an arduous chore on the way up to the end game. Everyone will be doing the same quests they did the first time through. That's just grind and not very fun.

   As I see it, there are two things a player can do to keep it interesting.  The first is make a toon on the other faction. While most long time players will want to do this anyway just for the experience, many will want their alt character to help support their main. Also, players want to keep playing with their friends. The other thing a player can do is choose a different path. This will provide some different content along the way. I don't know that it's enough though.

   Overall, Paths are a great idea. If you haven't seen it yet, check out this post by Tobold. He discusses some of the appeal of the paths system and why it works for players. Personally, I had fun doing the soldier missions and all that but I couldn't help but feel a little let down. I feel Carbine missed an opportunity with paths. Each path could have been a lead in to another unique story line. The objectives and rewards could have been a lot more thrilling. Some of those soldiers holdouts were difficult but most of them weren't. Throughout the game, doing path missions felt a lot like doing chores. Especially, the settler I played. There was way too much stuff to collect and it seemed never ending. The rewards for settler seemed a little better but at the end of the day I'm not good at doing chores at home and I don't really want to do them in the game. If a player could raise their character level by doing path missions, they could at least change up the leveling grind a bit.
   Obviously, I am still really excited about Wildstar. However, the linear questing model, I think is a serious flaw. It probably won't break the game but I hope that the designers think about this in the future.

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