Final Thoughts on Wildstar

Given my near 2 year blogging aniversary is right around the corner, it occurs to me that I’ve been doing this long enough now that I can look back and find many many mistakes I’ve made, in the course of my work.  Today I’m going to visit one of those previous mistakes for one final bit of analysis.

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Wildstar was one of those games that it was easy to get excited about, given the dearth of good options in MMO gameplay.  Sadly, the reality of those high hopes didn’t pan out.  While paths were something I was excited about when first announced, hell one of my earliest posts was on what type of gamer you were, it turned out that Wildstar’s actual implementation of them left a lot to be desired in terms of compelling gameplay.

I take solace in the fact that I wasn’t the only one wearing rose-colored glasses.  The Wildstar dev team themselves suffered from quite a bit of that, remembering a glory time of 40-man WoW raids with punishing attunement requirements that separated the wheat from the chaf in terms of how serious an MMO player you were.  Most of those requirements they’ve actually had to walk back, having to re-learn the lessons that WoW learned, which was that attunement and participation requirements do not actually make for a fun or successful MMO.

The worst thing though has been watching the development team at Carbine go through so many of the same fledgeling MMO problems and errors as every other team has ever done.  Given that the team was made up of former Blizzard developers, I was expecting significantly more awareness of the MMO gamespace and what it’s players were like.  But after the full listing of the many mistakes the team made here, it’s clear to me that the rose colored glasses were wrap around shades.  Probably with the band on too tight.

It’s also clear that the current number one major industry problem with MMO’s, is content generation, and is also negatively impacting them.  Their release schedule is punishing and it’s clear that all efforts are being driven towards generating content.  This is a huge problem for the industry, one I’ve seen only a handful of developers make any effort to deal with.  Because content generation takes so long, and since it’s all basically custom content made by hand, there’s very little time for anything else.  Until a better way is found, this will probably be what sinks Carbine in the long run.

That isn’t a knock on the individuals at Carbine.  They successfully produced an MMO that has been out for around a year now and that alone is a huge success.  But in an industry that seems perpetually stuck in groundhog day, it’s frustrating to watch their fall.  Toxic communities, inattention to major quality of life bugs, and catering to a vocal minority of hardcore players, can kill any MMO.  But punishing content generation schedules that put the new ahead of EVERYTHING else will kill it faster than anyone realizes.  I do hope that Carbine turns it around, but until they do, you won’t find their game client on my machine.  Given that the ultimate heads of Carbine are their publishers at NCSoft, I’m dubious of the leadership making the needed course corrections.  Here’s hoping that my own mistakes going forward, will not be so difficult to fix.

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