Tobold's Blog
Monday, April 28, 2014
 
Why Wildstar?

Rethinking the question of why I want to play Wildstar and not one of many other similar theme park MMORPGs, I do believe that in the end it comes down to the combat system. Even if these games have features like crafting or housing, in the end we spend the majority of our time fighting monsters. And if this "basic repeating unit" of the game isn't fun, the whole game fails. I think the combat system in Wildstar is really well done. It is more dynamic than the classic system used in games like World of Warcraft, but without being so twitchy that a middle-aged gamer like myself can't keep up. If I consider other factors, like the world, I would prefer other games: Lord of the Rings Online is the game in which I would be most interested in the world; but as I detest the unresponsive combat system of LotRO, I'd rather play Wildstar where the combat has great flow, even if I couldn't care less about the world of Nexus.

That insight leads me to an important advice regarding Wildstar: If you decide to play (in the beta or after release), take your time to play each character class to at least level 6+. The flow of combat of the different classes, between the abilities that use up your special resource, those that replenish it, and the innate ability, is very different. And it is even more different compared to previous games like World of Warcraft, so it isn't because you liked a certain class in WoW that you will like it Wildstar. Testing out all classes and finding those where you like the flow of combat is time well spent, and can make all the difference between you enjoying or hating Wildstar. My first choice of class, medic, turned out to be far from ideal for me; based on testing of all classes I'll play warrior and esper in the release version. But if you prefer a different flow, your choice might look very different. You need to see for yourself.

I have done my testing, and I'm approaching "beta saturation". I spent this weekend testing money-making with tradeskills, which got me 20 gold in one day, enough to buy a biodome (teleport) for my house, and a mount. And I did all the exploration mission of a second level 6-14 zone with the level 15 (later 16) character that had already explored his first zone completely. That brings me to one potential caveat about Wildstar: There aren't all that many zones. There is only one zone per faction from level 1 to 3, two zones each in the level 3-6 and 6-14 range, and apparently then it goes back to only one zone for level 15+. In the beta I took care to play mostly the faction I'm not playing in release, and I played three of the four possible 6-14 zones through, to leave one for release. But it is well possible that Wildstar won't have a lot of replayability value for me, if there aren't more zones coming later.

There is another beta weekend starting Friday, and then the beta schedule for the month of May isn't very well defined before the headstart on May 31st. Right now I'm not sure I'll play more in the beta. I have tested all my possible decisions, and don't want to overdo it and spoil my fun at release.

Comments:
About combat: every "new" game has an interesting combat, simply because it's new. Any hint on how the combat system will hold on the long-term, i.e. when it's been theorycrafted?
 
I agree about the Wildstar combat, it is quite well done. I think it may the best I've seen of the new wave of real-timey action combats. Especially past level 15, the (solo) difficulty appears to ramp up, and the enemy telegraphs increase in complexity & deadliness, such that skill & timing begins to really play a role. I'm having trouble imaging the resulting mayhem in something like a 40 vs. 40 warplot, though.

The rest of the game impresses me far less. The interface is buggy, clunky, overly complex, and poorly documented/tooltipped. It takes a long time to begin to get comfortable with it. Only today, my 4th full day of beta, can I say I'm becoming sufficiently proficient with it that I can actually focus on the game most of the time without frequent annoying battles with the UI. I did a lot of loud swearing on days 1-3. But apparently the add-on API is pretty good, and a bunch of useful seeming add-on are already out, so hopefully the community will make this more friendly even if the devs don't.

I've been playing only an engineer/explorer (to level 18). It's a curious class, being a heavily armored, pet-using, ranged AoE DPS/tank hybrid! Like a warrior, but with a huge gun, and robot pets to boot. The pets work surprisingly well in PvE, they're ridiculously tough to kill and so I'm rarely in trouble. Lately the melee pet isn't holding aggro as well as it used to, so now I have to scramble much more as I'm getting attacked regularly. I'm not sure I'd choose the class for live, but as of yet I have nothing to compare it to. I can see where the pets would be quite useless in PvP, and probably even group play, and while you can slot in other skills, that would seem to me to gimp the engineers' overall prospects rather heavily. Fortunately my main concern is just PvE.


Overall, I'm far from committed to buying this. Yesterday I would have definitely said no way, it's way too buggy and unpolished to release in a month. I already skipped ESO for launching what is still a beta. But today was a much better day. You can bypass most of the annoyances once you learn how it all works. And while I haven't used any 3rd party add-ons, I just browsed what's available and will start to use them next weekend.
 
The interface is buggy, clunky, overly complex, and poorly documented/tooltipped.

The sad part here is that Wildstar had a technically better interface previously, and only changed in the middle of this month to the buggy UI 2.0.

Any hint on how the combat system will hold on the long-term, i.e. when it's been theorycrafted?

I'd love to know a bit more theorycraft, for example on the stats. It isn't really obvious whether you rather want an item with let's say more brutality or more moxie. But what I like about Wildstar is that theorycraft has a natural limit. Even if you know everything, you still have to learn how not to stand in the red stuff, which isn't as slow and obvious as in previous games.
 
I'm trying to remember the last time you showed any real interest in an MMO. I think it was SWTOR? Correct me if I'm wrong. While you had some issues with that game, I don't remember you elaborating on why you stopped playing, just that you "lost interest". That's when you shifted your blogging focus away from MMOs in general and started writing about your D&D adventures.

Is Wildstar's combat really that much more compelling than any other MMO? For how long do you expect to play it?
 
For how long do you expect to play it?

I will certainly play it throughout the month of June. As I will be away for three weeks in July, I might stop my subscription then, and take it up again in August.

There is a high probability that I will stop playing after I have reached the level cap with one or two characters. As much as I like the combat system in single-player mode, I do have my doubts about it working in multiplayer cooperative PvE or multiplayer PvP. There is a limit on how many "telegraphs" you can handle. I would be surprised if I end up raiding or PvPing in Wildstar. So I probably run out of game to play before the end of the year.
 
I have one character. I think he's an Engineer but I'm not sure if that's the right name for whatever class I picked. I seem to remember it mentioned something about turrets or drones although so far he doesn't have any of those.

I think he's level 6 but although the UI has a progress bar for levels as far as I can tell it doesn't tell you what level you are. Neither does your character sheet. Either that or it's just such a confusing mess I missed it. The UI is terrible.

Anyway, getting to the point, combat: solo so far I haven't seen any indication whatsoever of the necessity to pay any attention to telegraphs. All I do is either backpedal or circle-strafe while spamming every attack. Everything dies and the sports-commentator voice yells "Double Kill!" "Triple Kill!" or whatever that thing he says is over and over.

Assuming my key is valid for the rest of the betas I'll get him a bit higher and see how long this unsubtle approach holds out. Experience with every other MMO ever leads me to believe that if killing things is this easy using the very basic starter gear in beta, it will become much, MUCH easier within a few weeks of launch, when the content will inevitably have been downgraded for difficulty and everyone will have access to a whole raft of more powerful gear, consumables and buffs.

One interesting thing I noticed is that virtually every on-screen indicator can be toggled off, including all telegraphs. I might try that next time because visually WildStar is about the ugliest, most cluttered MMO I have ever played and that alone would be enough to outweigh any other factor in any decision I might make on whether to play it out of more than curiosity.

I wonder just how playable it is if you can't even see the telegraphs?
 
Tried all classes and had a terrible feeling of lack of balance. The new combat system was also buggy as hell. I could see telemarks of enemy players about 2 cm behind me (while "retreating" in pvp)and I was still being hit. Really frustrating. Played beta, didn't like it. Felt bored (maybe I'm expecting too much? Silly silly me believing in the hype etc?).
 
I think he's level 6 but although the UI has a progress bar for levels as far as I can tell it doesn't tell you what level you are. Neither does your character sheet. Either that or it's just such a confusing mess I missed it. The UI is terrible.

See comment above, they changed a working UI to a terrible UI 6 weeks before release. Not a good idea.

Your level, by the way, is displayed next to your character's portrait on the little window that also has your health bar. And yes, that information should also be on the xp bar. The only excuse for the UI is that soon everybody will have addons with a different UI, like in WoW.
 
I could see telemarks of enemy players about 2 cm behind me (while "retreating" in pvp)and I was still being hit. Really frustrating.

If you target an enemy mob, you will see a red circle around his feet. That circle is considerably larger than the visible size of the footprint. A telegraph hits a character if the telegraph area overlaps that red circle. It doesn't have to touch your feet.

As I said before, I like the Wildstar combat for single-player PvE. I have very little confidence in it working for PvP. I would not recommend Wildstar for PvP fans.
 
I love the combat for PVP and PVE. It's a breath of fresh air.

The questing is mundane but I suspect it's because they're trying to get it out of the way of all the other features that they have like shiphands, adventures, dungeons, warplots, houses, whatever they're choosing to call the instanced PVP etc.
 
I wonder just how playable it is if you can't even see the telegraphs?

There's one way to find out, try it! I think you might get ok by until level 10-14, depending on class, as the game seemed pretty easy early on. I'm not sure how easy it is to read coming attacks from animations alone, since all I look at is the ground. An engineer could probably handle getting hit more than most, they're heavily armoured, and if you use the bruiser bot well, it can keep a lot of aggro off you completely. Later on I can't imagine playing successfully without the visual telegraphs, they come at you constantly, and if you miss a dodge you often get stunned, or nailed with a multi-attack combo of some sort. Maybe a healer could survive if healing is powerful enough.

As for theorycrafting, ability selection, positioning & timing do seem much more significant than a few percentage points of stats here or there.
 
RE: Lack of zones

My highest toon is a Level 22 Engineer.

Wildstar 14+ has huge, huge zones. If you go in with the WoW mentallity of 'clear all quests in the zone', you will be overleveled for the zone before you are half way through.

The new UI breaks quests down into World Story, Zone Stories (plural), and Tasks.

Tasks are your kill 10 rats, collect 10 pelts sort of things.

World quests cover the zone to zone story.

Zone quests are mini stories. From my experience, I think the idea is that you don't do all the zone quests on a single toon. You leave some zone stories and do those on your alt.

Wildstar also learned from SWTOR's failed "Alts are endgame" idea. They plan on having plenty to do at cap and continuing to release new content. They are talking monthly right now, but I have to think that will slow down over time. We can consume content so much faster than they can make it.
 
@Perkus

By 18 an Assault Engineer (DPS) should no longer be using the Bruiser Bot (melee tanky bot).

How you build your LAS (limited action set) is key to how the class performs. My Engineer will just tear through mobs even at 20+.

I'd try something like this at 18: http://ws-base.com/builds/generator/engineer#ggggKg1QgE/410.411.412.408.420.413.414.422.423

I really like the LAS (limited action set). It gives some interesting choices and lets you set up your toon to work in different ways.
 
Even if you know everything, you still have to learn how not to stand in the red stuff, which isn't as slow and obvious as in previous games.

Wasn't exactly this the reason you disliked combat in WoW? That it ends up being just reaction-time "not standing in the bad stuff"?
 
Wasn't exactly this the reason you disliked combat in WoW? That it ends up being just reaction-time "not standing in the bad stuff"?

WoW only has that in raid situations, where I would still consider it a bad idea. And in WoW those "don't stand in the bad stuff" situations are scripted, which leads to a group of 10+ raiders "learning the dance".

Wildstar telegraphs are far less predictable, and every mob has them. So it is a question of you yourself reacting to some event, which makes combat more dynamic. As I said before, I'm not convinced it works in multiplayer, as you get the usual problems like "blame the healer if you couldn't get out of the bad stuff" group dynamics.
 
Well, if it works as in Neverwinter it end ups being a lot more predictable than you think. Dungeon bosses in NW have a "cycle" which is pretty predictable. In NW this is a requirement: not all classes have the sprint/jump to get out of telegraphed attacks: as a tank you're supposed to stay in several of them and eat them up using your guard. A sequence of too many heavy hits and you'd be squished.
But the big problem in a group setting is that the player with the highest lag becomes a liability. I was surprised/annoyed to read one of the strats for one of the NW bosses, which read more or less "if you have people who lag in your group just leave the party, since you'll not pass the boss". In a 40-man raid setting it would be a nightmare (as it already is on some bosses in WoW).
 
Interesting. I'm the opposite, I think. Now, if combat is *terrible* then, no, I'm gone. But if it's just 'not that great', I'd rather be playing a 'not that great' combat game with a story that makes me care about why I'm there, than a superb combat game in a world where I don't care about anything.

If you're just playing for the fun combat, it's basically indistinguishable from playing a fighting game. And MMOs, even the good ones, are terrible compared to most other genre's combat systems. So I personally don't see the point in sticking with an MMO if you don't care about the world.
 
@helistar's comment: "But the big problem in a group setting is that the player with the highest lag becomes a liability. I was surprised/annoyed to read one of the strats for one of the NW bosses, which read more or less "if you have people who lag in your group just leave the party, since you'll not pass the boss"."

This is one of the reasons I have mixed feelings about the action-combat MMOs are moving to.

On the one hand, these are some fantastic mechanics which are moving closer to demolishing the technical limitations that keep us from playing a massively multiplayer version of Amalur or Skyrim, real-time combat, making the minute-to-minute of traditionally staid games more dynamic and exciting.

On the other hand, these things are only ever built for the US, and light can only travel so fast, so if you're on literally the opposite side of the globe, you're left outside, pawing at the glass window, longingly at something cool.

The time I spent in APB revealed it to be a highly enjoyable lobby shooter in some moments, with some really fantastic aesthetics, but the lag heavily hamstrings you, leaving even the most skilled player as mediocre at best. Having that element creep into MMOs starts putting them out of reach (FFXIV's boss fights come to mind) the more they depend on good latency.
 
"Sunday question" :-)

What do you think your response to "For how long do you expect to play it?" says about MMO development? My assumption is that if they spent a lot of development dollars on end-game, then they might have gotten an extra month or two from you.

(My assumption is that developers will continue to fool themselves and their funders and think they can do everything and fail.)

But otherwise does it seem to you like MMO targets are bimodal - i.e.

games that can be profitable (i.e. smaller) with a lot of box and 1-4 month players

and

games that can be affordably indefinite. Considering the recent problems (14 month without a patch) in WoW, it is hard to see many games being able to afford to feed the content locust. Indefinite needs sandbox or PvP or a way to do traditional WoW patches/content cost-effectively. But can sandboxes be mainstream any more? Will PvPers want to play an MMO instead of a MOBA, WoT/P..., or FPS or console? If WoW can't keep up can developers with 10% of the income and 5% of the developers keep up?

Do you think NCSoft will see you (Box + a few months) as a victory or a OMG why didn't 80% of box sales pay us $180 per annum indefinitely?
 
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