Kam’s Korner: Wildstar Part One

To start things off here in Kam’s Korner, I am going to discuss a game that has, over the past six months, been a major focus of my play time and attention – the MMORPG known as Wildstar, developed by Carbine Studios and published by NCSoft.

wildstarlogo

Wildstar is a game that has a lot of history behind it. It began its development way back in 2005, after Carbine Studios was founded by seventeen former Blizzard Entertainment employees who “wanted to do anything but WoW”.

wildstar

screenshot I took

From there, development began. The team working on Wildstar looked for a game engine to suit this up-coming MMO, but they found that none of the engines met their specifications or needs – the major need for the team needing said engine to scale well five years into the future. So, as all developers do when they fail to find a tool that works for them – they built their own.

not a real server engine vroom vroom

not a real server engine vroom vroom

In 2007 Carbine Studios was purchased by Korean gaming giant NCSoft – who explained the studio was working on an “unannounced MMO project”. The game itself did not debut to the public until 2011 at Gamescom, where the team announced the game as a “sci-fi/fantasy hybrid of ‘high adventure’, in which players lay claim to a mysterious planet on the edge of known space”. It was around the same time that NCSoft released, in my opinion, a really freakin’ cool cinematic trailer to go with it:

Fast forward another three years to June 3rd, 2014 and Wildstar is released to a very enthusiastic showing – people are revving their guns to get to planet Nexus, baby! Yeah!

(Cambridge, MA,11/29/13)    shoppers flood thru the doors as the mall opens as Black Friday starts the holiday shopping season at the Galleria Mall in Cambridge.   Friday,  November  29, 2013.  (Staff photo by Stuart Cahill)

(Cambridge, MA,11/29/13) shoppers flood thru the doors as the mall opens as Black Friday starts the holiday shopping season at the Galleria Mall in Cambridge. Friday, November 29, 2013. (Staff photo by Stuart Cahill)

Unfortunately – things did not, admittedly, go as the fine folks at Carbine and NCSoft were hoping they would. As most MMORPG designers and gamers know, launch days for any MMO are often a test of not just endurance – but of how many cups of coffee one needs to stay awake, because with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of players trying to log onto a game server all at once, you’re going to have a bad time.

boom

boom

Over the last six months since I came back to Planet Nexus, I have found the game to be vastly improved since it’s launch back in 2014. However, I want to emphasize that at launch, the game was…disappointing, at least to me. You see, Wildstar had built up a reputation as a game for “hardcore” players – with almost all of their promotional videos, while being hilarious and awesome, revolving around the “this isn’t your mama’s MMO” concept. While the game did(and does) have a ton of solo-friendly content meant for the player of every type – I have to admit that Carbine didn’t do a good job of presenting said content in a way to appeal to casual players.

Another thing that I found to be majorly off-putting was the grindy aspect of the game. You see, the old days of grinding for levels and power are a thing that many games are phasing out – there is no need to kill mobs in a repetitive fashion to get that extra level or that last bit of experience anymore – quests and other activities generally do a good job of getting a player from point a to point b. However, in the beginning Wildstar had gaps in its leveling design, where a player would go from level 18 to fighting level 21-22 mobs in a different zone. Now, looking back, I do not think this was done on purpose, but it was more so a flaw in the lay out and location of quest hubs – even today I have gone back to starter zones to find quest “hubs” that were missed, out in the remote areas of…well, nowhere.

But all of that aside, many of the “hardcore” community, the ones that Carbine had, in their mind, appealed to, found the game to be a disappointment – while the content was challenging and difficult, they found the attunement for said content to be very long, complicated and needlessly gated behind layers of ‘steps’. While Carbine has fixed the raid attunements now, back then, many raiders were not happy with how large and complex they were.

Another complaint was the amount of bugs. While bugs and glitches in any game, especially an MMO, are, as I stated above, common enough in the world(no team can fix every bug before launch – it is just not feasible. Not unless you want an MMO development that never ends.), criticism pointed to the fact that there were bugs in all of the content in the game – from housing to PVP to raids to leveling to even armour dyes. Again, Carbine has gone back and fixed the vast majority of these bugs and problems, but it was a frustrating experience for players at the start.

squashed flat

squashed flat

For me, however, one of the more frustrating things about the game upon it’s release was the optimization – it just was not there. Now, when I talk about optimization, I refer to how a game runs on a computer – games that are very well optimized such as World of Warcraft can run on a wide variety of machines, from an up to date gaming laptop all the way down to an old Pentium 4 processor if need be.

Of course, WoW and Wildstar have two completely different graphic engines – and I understand that not all things are uniform, as WoW is the exception in optimization, not the rule – but upon Wildstar’s launch I found the game to be rather unimpressive in terms of it’s graphics and performance on my computer. While in other games, even Crysis 2, I could run it on high-medium high settings with no issues at all, Wildstar was struggling to break out of the ‘medium’ setting with severe temperature issues.

Again, all of these things are issues I had in 2014 when the game launched. I want to make it abundantly clear that Wildstar now is far different from Wildstar then. If the game was still the same as it was, I would not have come back. But I am back – and 2015’s Wildstar is much, much improved from the release version that I experienced.

Those issues aside, I eventually moved on from Wildstar just a month after it’s release. I was not enjoying myself – and I hated to say that, because I think many people were hyped about the game’s release and I was certainly one of them. So, I uninstalled the game from my computer and moved back to World of Warcraft.

Within the last six months, however, I returned to Nexus after reading some rather promising feedback and reviews from not just websites but from people that I knew. They told me that the game was in a far better state in terms of stability and content, and I should come back and give it a try. I was indecisive at first, but I decided that every game deserved a second chance, and Wildstar was no exception.

Join me later for Part 2 of Kams Korner: Wildstar as we talk about the current game, my thoughts and more!

(All images in this and any other Kam’s Korner are copyright of their respective holders. I make no claims to any of these images nor am I profiting from their use.)

Sources:

  1. http://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm/game/632/feature/8971/What-Went-Wrong.html/page/1
  2. https://www.reddit.com/r/WildStar/comments/2u6i6l/can_someone_explain_to_me_why_so_many_people_left/
  3. http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/17/ncsoft-announces-new-mmo-wildstar/
  4. http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/15/wildstar-aims-to-be-anything-but-wow/
  5. http://www.zam.com/story.html?story=32245
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WildStar_(video_game)
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