Wildstar caused me to do a complete 180 over the course of its development up until its launch. At first I wanted to play it so badly, from the first info that trickled out onto the internet and seeing it at PAX East (where I got a pretty sweet shirt) to about the time they started to talk about their pay model. I was excited for it but as more information was released and more was shown I started to change my mind. A few decisions here and there didn’t seem so bad, there was enough about it to make me overlook downsides like the $60 + $15/mo pricing.
Then I got into the beta which made me sigh a sigh of defeat, putting the game into the “Passing on this one” bin.
Don’t get me wrong, at the time I didn’t think Wildstar was a bad game, just not one I wanted to spend the money on and not one that convinced me to ditch Final Fantasy XIV. It was too over the top, from its animations to its, to me, forced humor. The combat just didn’t feel right, striking a strange middle-ground between TERA and Guild Wars 2 that felt clunkier and more demanding than it needed to be. While I managed to spend the entire show playing its beta, unlike our boring friend The Elder Scrolls Online, the leveling was slow and grindy even at the early levels.
But it just wasn’t for me, and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately for Wildstar and Carbine Studios, though, it sounds like the game doesn’t really know who it IS for.
Carbine really talked up how “hardcore” the game was going to be, bringing back 40-man raids from Vanilla WoW and how difficult the game’s dungeons were. When asked about former WoW players, Wildstar’s Executive Producer, Jeremy Gaffney, was quoted as saying “If you’ve been playing [WoW] for ten years, nothing’s going to pry you out. Still for every player playing WoW, you have ten players who used to play WoW. We want those ten.” So they weren’t really denying they wanted to appeal to the “hardcore” WoW raider crowd, the ones from Vanilla and those who spent a ton of time with the game, got bored, and quit a long time ago.
Again, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that “hardcore” crowd is the minority. You can’t pay the bills with just the vocal minority from WoW, since they make up 5% of WoW’s current/former playerbase (I made that percentage up, but you get the idea). Even though I think an over casualizing of WoW led to it becoming a game I no longer wanted to play, they’re the ones who pay the bills. They give you the subscription fees which fuel your game, and you have to think of both groups when making the game. Overtuned dungeons and raids the majority of your playerbase will never see is a recipe for disaster or Free-to-Play within months. Wildstar is in its 4th month of release, and it’s starting to show.
This Drunken Thoughts came about when I came across this thread on Reddit simply asking “What happened to Wildstar?”. One of the responders, omegax84, gave a pretty huge response as to why he thought the game fell off the face of the planet and its future was in jeopardy. To paraphrase, things like the combat being boring yet extremely easy to cause wipes in raids, bad itemization, and an over-tuned end game. He also pointed out that according to one of the raid statistic tracking websites for Wildstar that there are 3000 people raiding and that only 4 guilds have ever killed the first boss in the 40-man raid. Take the accuracy of that as you will, but it’s a bit staggering to think that the big hook of the game is one of the biggest reasons why people aren’t playing it. Check out the post yourself so I’m not completely stealing his thunder. It’s a pretty good read and a lot of info on why the game isn’t the Second Coming some had hoped it would be and possibly in trouble.
For a little salt on the wound, it was announced today that Wildstar’s Design Producer Stephan Frost is leaving Carbine for another opportunity. He said it had nothing to do with the game and the community, and that’s how the industry goes, but who knows what that says for the game’s future.
It’s unfortunate that Wildstar is in the state it is, because like I said earlier, I really really wanted to like it. A lot of people did. But the uphill battle of jumping into the flooded MMO market with a focus on a niche group of players with a brand new franchise seems to be getting the better of Carbine. Maybe it’ll go Free-to-Play and have a resurgence like TERA had with TERA: Rising, or maybe it’ll join the pile of other MMOs that jumped into the arena and got thrown out on their ass.
But with WoW still being firmly planted where it is and others like Final Fantasy XIV going 2 million players strong, it’s definitely going to be an even steeper climb for Carbine.