There are a few of us in the Game on Aus community that have been playing games together since we were kids. My favourite genre of games, and where some of our fondest gaming memories come from, is Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). We are going to take you down our memory lane as we explore our origins playing MMORPGs from the late 90’s through to today in a multi-part series.
So far I have covered MMORPG’s from 1997 through to 2004. I am skipping ahead in time for this chapter because WildStar, the 2014 game developed by Carbine Studios and published by NC Soft, is switching off for good in the early hours of November 29, 2018 here in Australia. I’m fast forwarding a lot through the evolution of MMORPG’s here, but I wanted to give you an insight into this wonderful and quirky game rather than waiting until I progress to that year with this series of articles.
Catch up on previous entries in this series:
Part 1 – Ultima Online
Part 2 – EverQuest
Part 3 – Asheron’s Call
Part 4 – Anarchy Online
Part 5 – Dark Age of Camelot
Part 6 – Star Wars Galaxies
Part 7 – EverQuest II
Part 8.1 – World of Warcraft
Sci-fi MMO WildStar was released on June 3, 2014, at a time where MMORPG’s were in a downward period and it had been a couple of years since a truly epic MMO had hit the scene. Guild Wars 2 came out in August 2012, then we had Defiance in April 2013, followed closely by Neverwinter in June 2013. Elder Scrolls Online was released in April 2014 and that had a late surge of interest, me included, until we finally got to WildStar.
As had been a pattern for many years in the MMORPG landscape, every new MMORPG took what features worked well from the previous few, polished those features, and then looked to add something new that made them stand out from the rest. This pattern still occurs to this day. WildStar did this too, adding its own unique style, witty humour and crazy in-your-face art that was quirky enough to attract my attention. Have a look at the game trailer below to see what I mean.
The Eldan, a highly advanced alien race, sought to create a perfect being called the Genesis Prime through the Nexus Project. Upon completion, the Eldan’s thought this creation was less-than perfect so they attempted to destroy it, however the Genesis Prime annihilated the Eldan to extinction. Years later, an explorer re-discovered Nesus. Two main factions, the Exiles and the Dominion sought to lay claim to the world. The Exiles are a thrown-together alliance of refugees, outlaws and mercenaries that have come to planet Nexus to find a new home. Whereas the Dominion are a powerful interstellar empire that has ruled the galaxy for two thousand years and is now claiming Nexus as their rightful legacy.
WildStar features eight races, four that are unique to the two factions. Exiles have Humans, Granock, Aurin and Mordesh, whilst the Dominion has Cassian, Mechari, Draken and Chua. I love some of the descriptions they’ve given to races. Humans are described as “Outcasts. Renegades. Scruffy”, and Granok are “Rock-Skinned. Fearless. Hung over.” There are six classes to choose from – Warrior, Spellslinger, Esper, Engineer, Stalker, Medic. Some class names are obvious as to what they are, with Esper being the unique addition using the power of their minds to conjure deadly apparitions and extrasensory weaponry. In their words, “When it comes to mass butchery, it’s the thought that counts!” You also need to choose a Path to follow, and this is the start of some of the great additions made by WildStar.
As explained above, path’s add custom content to the world that suits your playstyle – essentially new optional missions for you to complete as you explore the world. Explorers access secret areas such as new trails, hidden relics and cave entrances that can’t be accessed by non-explorers. Soldiers create weapon lockers and craft advanced hardware prototypes, settlers build additional areas to help your team, such as battle arenas, hospitals, taverns etc. Finally, scientists can study world objects with a scanbot and unlock secrets to things such as relics, robots or radical machines. I chose the Explorer path as I enjoy going off the beaten path in games like this discovering anything i can find and i read there are jumping puzzles for explorers which is a gameplay element i loved from Guild Wars 2.
Interestingly, in doing research for this article (thanks wikipedia!) I discovered that these paths are partly based off the ‘Bartle taxonomy of player types’ with the four pillars of players being explorers, killers, achievers and socialisers. The bartle test is a classification of gamers based on a 1996 paper by a british professor, Richard Bartle, according to their preferred actions within a game. I took the test myself and funnily enough, I am 67% explorer, huh, would you believe it! From the test results, this is a description of an explorer gamer:
Explorers delight in having the game expose its internal machinations to them. They try progressively esoteric actions in wild, out-of-the-way places, looking for interesting features (ie. bugs) and figuring out how things work. Scoring points may be necessary to enter some next phase of exploration, but it’s tedious, and anyone with half a brain can do it. Killing is quicker, and might be a constructive exercise in its own right, but it causes too much hassle in the long run if the deceased return to seek retribution. Socialising can be informative as a source of new ideas to try out, but most of what people say is irrelevant or old hat. The real fun comes only from discovery, and making the most complete set of maps in existence. I’m also 60% achiever, 47% socialiser and 27% killer, amazing! How bloody good is that test?! Anyway, back to WildStar.
I played around with a couple of classes, eventually settling on an Engineer as my main as it was a ranged class that could summon bots to take the agro whilst I unleashed hell! Each class has two specialisation pathways, engineers could be DPS or Tanks, and I chose the tank spec so I could take some hits while my bots wailed on the enemy. Once in the game, initially it felt like many of the previous MMO’s, the user interface was familiar, movement was smooth and graphics were able to be run on low-mid range PCs so it looked good. There are npc’s with quest icons, a decent map that shows locations of your quests with quest numbers, menu items for the in-game shop, etc. Pretty standard stuff so far.
As I started playing though, the new systems started to present themselves. Some subtly, but most were straight up in your face, and this wasn’t a bad thing. When you enter a new area, you are given a brief description of the history of that region – very helpful to get you to understand at least a little of what is going on around you. Let’s face it, most of us don’t read the lengthy quest text, we just skip until they tell us where to go. Like previous games, quest locations are shown on the map, only this time you also have a waypoint system to show you visually which way to go to the next objective. I could just look at my map but ok, show me the way!
The explorer path allowed me to follow some flags to the tops of mountains or tops of trees, with cleverly placed leaves that I could jump up to. Another addition to this game is double-jump, which enabled you to navigate terrain well, and helped with these jumping areas to get to explorer-only locations. You can hold down shift to sprint, with a limited sprint-meter that shows you how much sprint you have left. Combining shift-sprinting with double-jumping and you could reach those pesky collectibles in the distance. It wasn’t long before I dinged some levels. I’ve talked about ding animations in previous games, but this one sure let’s you know when you level up!
Another major addition to the game was action combat. Your skills have area-of effect damage, and it shows you with an indicator the range and direction the damage will occur which you can aim yourself. Similarly, the enemy has the same feature, so combat was quite action-oriented. Your character can dodge attacks by double-tapping a direction which made ordinary pve combat interesting and kept you on your toes, particularly in dungeons. You also had a chance to be disarmed in combat, meaning the enemy can rip your weapon out of your hands, so having the ability to quickly dodge to it was invaluable.
This system unfortunately was also a downside to the game given the ping/lag to the servers which was prevalent for us Australians with higher ping to most people in the world. When we saw the effect on the ground, we would attempt to dodge it but due to the lag the effect had already hit us and caused many of lag-death. You could handle general pve questing with the occasional death, however as you progressed in level, the higher dungeons became almost impossible to complete with our lag which was a real shame and ultimately lead to me and other mates to leave the game behind. As a result of this, I never tried PvP as I knew lag would play an even bigger part and I would only have got frustrated at it.
Player housing was a cool feature as everything was customisable, and you could create some weird and whacky buildings. Each player was given their own sky plot which you could invite your friends to, so there was no threat of anyone stealing your stuff, and you could show off your creations to your mates. You also gained more rested XP if you logged out on your sky plot. I didn’t delve too much into building an elaborate house, rather i just made some basic crafting stations. There were also plenty of public quests and challenges that everyone can contribute to out in the world, so the pve experience was one of the better ones i had experienced, only marred by the lag affecting the action combat.
WildStar initially gave players two methods of paying for the game’s subscription: a monthly fee as per most MMORPG’s, or the purchase of an in-game item called C.R.E.D.D. with real money. C.R.E.D.D. granted players 30 days of playtime and was tradable to other players for in-game currency. Therefore, if you played enough and found a good way to make in-game coin, you essentially could play the game for free. The following year in September 2015, WildStar went free-to-play, rebadged as WildStar Reloaded and the deal was sweetened with a graphical upgrade.
By February 2016, all PvP-specific servers were shutdown due to less than optimal player numbers and were merged with the two remaining PvE servers, so the playerbase was ever dwindling. I myself had moved on however these MMORPG’s always have a loyal fanbase that keeps it going, providing developers are able to and have the funding to continue work on the game. Alas, in September 2018, NC Soft announced that Carbine Studios would be shut down, as would WildStar and other projects from the publisher. Despite not playing it for more than a year myself, I still feel for the developers and the loyal players who found this their niche game for so many years.
The developers named the time and place for the final in-game event to occur to send off this crazy and fun game. Players were instructed to make their way to the Wigwalli Village Celebration area in the Whitevale zone. I had seen videos of players who had witnessed the closing of some of their favourite MMORPGs, Asheron’s Call 2 is one I was quite fond of, and so I thought I would set my alarm for 4am and be part of the amazing send off for this game. I asked some players what they thought were the best features of the game and above is some of their responses. As we counted down those last moments of the game, I was able to capture 9-minutes of footage with what looked like hundreds of players gathered together as a final send-off with the servers going offline at 6am AWST on November 29, 2018.
If you have great memories of playing WildStar, I’d love to hear about them! Join the Game on AUS – God Mode closed group where you’ll be welcomed, and we can reminisce the old days.