WildStar Grief, Stage 5.

Acceptance arrived quickly despite the soul-crushing blow dealt to my spirit today. I refer, of course, to the weekend beta code. Apparently the fine print was not read closely by yours truly, for upon the advent of the Auspicious Announcement, it turned out my NCSOFT login no longer allowed me to enter my WildStar account.

What fresh hell is this? WITCHCRAFT, I tell you!

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But fear not, dear reader, for I have consolation in spades. Well, maybe not spades, but in quantity enough to spare a bit for all. For there is yet more from LAST weekend I have not shared, and I shall do now here and now! Avaunt, ye melancholic humours!

Sorry. Lost myself a bit there. Back to it.

Tradeskills —

There’s tons of good video on W* tradeskills available. I horsed around with Technologist/Relic Hunter and could make some excellent medishots and buffs right away. Go Juice is awesome, by the way. Cheap to make, great for shortening travel time or escaping fights, and stacks vendor for upward of a gold, which will be very helpful come level 14 when you want to afford your house. Resources were extremely plentiful at least at the lower levels (and they should be: low-level unlocks should never have prohibitive usability barriers) and the crafting station became a go-to stop every time I returned to town. The variance system was a blast, although a bit painful to the checkbook.

(For those that don’t know, recipes frequently have variations that are created by paying game-cash to slot in other ingredients. Your one-hit medishot might be able to do its healing over time, or do a series of weaker heals and then one big blast at the end, for instance. It’s gonna cost ya, tho.)

An artificial economy needs sinks to balance currency value, however, and this could be a very effective method.

Lag —

I’ll admit my system isn’t cutting edge. Honestly, I’ve no idea what the average PC gamer’s rig looks like these days, but I’m probably on the low end if anything. I was not expecting flawless framerate with cranked graphics. Besides, it’s beta, for fuck’s sake. Things are going to be glitchy and psycho at times.

But good-god-almighty; people could not accept it. Every time I logged in I bailed out of the Advice channel ASAP just to ditch the tirades. Now, if you’ve got a crazy-ass system that usually eats benchmark software packages for lunch and spits out their skeletonized code fragments, sub-standard performance may not be a common experience for you. Understand one thing, however:

It does not mean a game is crap.

Yes, there were areas that I could barely operate in because my Mordesh was taking a single step every five seconds and then suddenly outrunning his own bullets, or firing assaults into phantom monsters that were not where they appeared to be. And I will ragequit for a good half-hour if I have to try and ride a waterspout up a cliff under severe lag problems again.

But I was still having fun. So suck it, lag — you can’t ruin MY day. Besides, server announcements proved that Carbine was well aware of the state of play and actively working to combat the problems. What more do you Advice channel douchenozzles want?

((Rant disclaimer — the majority of players seemed to be lovely folks who were overjoyed at seeing Nexus firsthand. My ire is directed only at the vocal turdmuffins who monopolized much of the chatbox space.))

Environment —

Love love love the interactive environment. Jumpy-platform ‘shrooms are beautiful things. And the achievement system. Wait, you get LOOT for achievements? Take my non-existent money! Hang on, if I use my scanbot to examine this totem I get a temporary flight form? Ye gods! And just across the river…

thisriverisactuallywashingmedownstreamandIhavetofightthecurrenttogetacrosswhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!

You’re still blowing me away, Nexus. Damn.

WildStar Beta Weekend, Ep. 1

So what’s WildStar like?

It’s fresh. After several years of MMOs that seem to rehash the same mechanics, WildStar is the only one that seems to be willing to raise the bar. The game doesn’t treat you like a novice. The designers know they have a number of new systems and mechanics, and the game seems aware that much of the sequences of combat and exploration will be new to the players. They’ve put the effort into teaching new players how to work the systems and the environment, and while I was by no means an expert, I felt reasonably proficient fairly quickly.

If you’ve read anything about WildStar, you probably know about the highly mobile combat and the telegraph system. As I am more used to the stand-and-fire elements of World of Warcraft combat, I felt like the stereotypical redcoat faced with Native American hit-and-run warfare. ((Note: I am well aware of the historical inaccuracy of this metaphor.))

It’s at this point that one becomes fast friends with the Dash button.

Eventually you find your rhythm and begin to dodge most of the enemy telegraphs, and despite fights being a bit on the longer side, you have more health at the end of combat. Adds make life exponentially more complicated, but honestly, the frenetic pace is very enjoyable.

I’m a huge fan of the housing system as well — it unlocks at level 14, so I only got to play around with it briefly. Which brings me to my very first photo-journal!

This is Christoph R. Croake, Scientist, Spellslinger, Relic Hunter, and Technologist.

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Christoph just got an offer to visit the housing sales center by visiting the Protostar Sales Rep!

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One purchase later, and Christoph has his own sky-island.

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And starts building a house. Just a small one.

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This is where the mad science parties will happen. 

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After a few purchases, Croake has a viable living space…

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… and a tiny picnic area.

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Oooh, neighbors! Croake will invite them over for experimental chemistry dinner.

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Off to the auctioneer for some more property improvements. Where did he go?

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Whoops. Going to need a few more levels before Christoph can install his medical facilities.

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Will Christoph ever be able to have his own home research lab? How safe is it when you’re living several thousand feet in the air? Come back next beta weekend to find out!

Resurgence

Well, lasses and lads, it’s been almost a full year since my little game-blogging experiment went on hiatus. Life is a many-splendored thing (or are those the wrong lyrics?) and I’ve got my writing chops back. Besides, I just got in on the mother-effing WildStar beta, near as I can tell. So that’s hellaciously awesome.

Sad bit is, I don’t think I can play until after work tomorrow, assuming my semi-outdated system can even run the game. Fingers crossed.

So I’m going to tip my hand for you folks a bit and let you in on one of my favorite parts of game prep: Character Planning! Hopefully the names I want are available.

My first character is to be Christoph Croake, a Mordesh Spellslinger of dubious pedigree. I love the futuristic Victorian elements that Carbine’s applied to these Grismaran natives, and the tropes of Guns Akimbo and Omnidisciplinary Scientist blend together nicely. Since his planet was decimated by alchemy gone awry, a potentially-limiting class-based society has gone the way of the dodo (or whatever harmless alien bird species have been extinct-ified in a similar fashion), giving Christoph a fair option at making himself more than a working stiff. That’s a bit of a pun, for those who know their Mordesh lore.

Still not sure what he’ll look like, but there’s tons of options if you want to check them out.

So when/if I get WildStar up and running, expect a chunk of updates on what I like the bestest.

Ta!

PAX Vid – WildStar Dev Panel

I will confess – I’ve never been to a convention. Or an expo. Or any sort of geek/entertainment/video game Mecca event thing. It’s all secondhand to me, mostly because I’ve never been able to make time for anything more involved than watching a YouTube video of Nathan Fillion being awesome. Be that as it may, I’m not totally broken up about it, because other people can judge me all they want to and I don’t care.

But the people that make the videos and put them on YouTube so that I can enjoy them later are demigods to me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to share things like WildStar Dev Panels with YOU.

Random highlights for me:

  • The Halon Ring is the first zone we see, and there seems to be a nice mixup of epic adventure elements with goofy random aspects. WildStar loves variety. They don’t want it to be a grind and they don’t want the gameplay to get stagnant.
  • Paths get benefits from questing together in WildStar. Explorers let the rest of the group get easier access to zone areas, while Scientists might unlock features of the ecology to give allies a strategic advantage.
  • Protostar is once again confirmed as a largely unethical, opportunistic, blithely greedy megacorps. Fun!
  • Housing development is not only decorative, but as functional as possible. I fully intend to have a ridiculously, excessively fortified home for at least one of my WildStar characters. Weapons platforms everywhere. Still hoping it’s nothing like Farmville, though.
  • The placement/scaling tool looks GREAT. Very intuitive for positioning/orientation/sizing, and giving full control on the housing interior arrangement.
  • Crafters will be able to make something called ‘fabrication kits’ which are apparently self-contained installations for your housing plot exterior. They can also accelerate the construction of certain features.
  • Taxi stations (WildStar’s answer to WoW’s Flight Paths, I assume.) can be built at your house.
  • Most of the stuff you get doesn’t come from vendors – either you earn it yourself or you can get it from a crafter. To me, this reinforces the point that the player is the point of the game, and it won’t be a farming/turn-in focused experience.
  • Doing random crap and poking around at the interactivity unlocks new things that may not be apparent on first scan.
  • Exploding sheep.
  • The Esper has this spinning sawblade of death thing, but it looks to be a static placement on a delay, which makes me giddy with tactical anticipation. Check around 34:44.

That’s my brief cross-section of the content. What about you – did you spy anything I didn’t?

 

Enter the House

“Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that:
You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life
When you do take the means whereby I live.”
– Shylock, The Merchant of Venice
I confess, I’ve never played an MMO featuring player housing. I hear the stories of Ultima Online and the crazy player-created housing market and all that it entailed. Once again, however, WildStar has thrown down the gauntlet for implementing layered mechanics and content, demonstrating that the conceptualization of player housing holds more than just a hilarious promo video.
Observe:
So not only do we have customizable personal space, gameplay mechanic benefits, and social platforming aids, but we have dynamic resource plots, crafting aids, questing hubs, portals, and who knows what else. I can easily see this taking the place of a banking system for those players with homes. If Carbine wants an inter-player economy, you could easily have a storefront option.
As long as this aspect doesn’t reflect Farmville too much, I think I’ll be happy.
Throughout the exposé, I was once again struck by the layering aspect of WildStar. This really looks like a game that wants everything to affect everything, and for players to constantly be exposed to different parts of the game without forcing them to pursue all of them. It stands to reason that someone who finds a housing decoration from killing a random critter is going to be more likely to try out the whole homeowner thing — and if they can put a resource node on their property, then why not see what this whole “crafting” thing is all about? And, oh wait, I can have friends over? Well, why not make some more friends and show this place off to them?
It’s objectively fantastic, at least for my personal value of objectively.

Shotgun Catch-Up

Hey gang! Yeah, it’s been far too long. I was out for health reasons. Still can’t handle direct sunlight. ENOUGH. ABOUT. ME.

I’m breaking out the ol’ scattergun to try and hit as many interesting bits and items that I can. There’s a slew of cool crap coming down the pipeline, and I might not be the first on board, but I’m certainly going to try to make up for lost time.

Albion Online looks ambitious enough. I like the concept of a far-reaching cross-platformer, and as you can all probably tell, RPGs are where I cut my teeth and do the most of my playtime. One thing that rocks a good RPG for me (at least in a mechanical sense) is variety, variety, variety – I don’t want my character to simply be another Variation on a Theme of xx_PaGaNiNiskullz_xx (that’s a Brahms joke for you non-musical types). And of course, the fact that I can steal crap from other people that they paid for gives my inner brigand a very real jolt of excitement.

I haven’t mentioned Watch Dogs yet, which is almost a crime, because it looks like a godforsaken amazing ride. I’m always a sucker for new mechanics, and the linking of hacking to combat to investigation to manipulation to plain awesome looks incredible. The atmosphere seems polished and if the gameplay is as customizable as the videos seem to indicate, I think we’ve got at excellent debut on our hands. Absolutely keep an eye on this one.

WildStar did another Uplink, this one on PvP, a topic that brings on a mouthfoaming debate whenever multiplayer games exist. So that’s fun. My take is that if any aspect of your MMO is a grind, you’ve lost the better part of your audience. Now, I’ve never done much PvP myself in RPGs, being that I’m a story junkie and a laid-back explorer type, but I’m always willing to risk another beatdown at the hands of my rabid diehard peers if it looks fun — so if WildStar tries to do as many innovative things with their PvP that they seem hellbent on doing everywhere else on Nexus, I’m planning to give it a go. Viva la curbstomp.

Also, Anita Sarkeesian has debuted her Tropes vs Women series. It’s a bit long, and her first episode isn’t earthshatteringly insightful right off the bat, but she’s beginning to establish her foundation. You might not be blown away by the introductory episode, but this bears watching. So go be objective about the entertainment field that we love so much and give the lady a hearing.

We’re also approaching Defiance. Post-apocalyptic, aliens, crazy weapons, superhuman powers, and a TV show to go along with it. It’s like the antithetical Captain Planet. Or something similar.

Last but not least, Shroud of the Avatar. I’m sure it’s a huge injury to my gamer cred that I’ve never played an Ultima game of any stripe, but even I know who Richard Garriott is. Considering that the man cut his teeth in game development for homebrew D&D, it gives me hope that I might have a future in the industry too. No, you did NOT just hear the sound of me kicking my 3.5ed books under the table.  Anyway.

Like everything else in this entry, we’ve got a highly ambitious project, and the fact that it’s starting as a crowdsourced/funded endeavor gives me some jitters. Once again, story-centric games make me drool and despite the unpolished look of the graphics, I want to see where this one goes. I want to see it very much.

Ciao!