The developers, led by Lead Narrative Designer Chad Moore, set the tone of the presentation by leading off with the recently released housing preview video (which you should go watch if you haven't already), followed by a short explanation of the game's backstory. For the uninitiated: The game takes place on the planet Nexus. Nexus was once inhabited by a race of hyper-technological beings known as the Eldan before they mysteriously disappeared, causing the location of the planet to be lost to the annals of time. Until now, that is. Now everyone wants a piece of that sweet, technologically advanced pie, and players arrive from all over the universe to explore this mysterious planet and the secrets within.
Admit it: You wanna know what those secrets are, right? One of the primary features the team was showing off during the presentation was the not-quite-new-but-much-improved combat system. Namely, the team has implemented what it refers to as a telegraphing system. Anyone who has ever played an action game should be familiar with the concept of enemies telegraphing attacks, and it's no different in WildStar. As an enemy gears up for a big attack, markers will appear on the ground to indicate where those attacks will land. If you happen to be unlucky enough to be standing in one of those markers, you can say goodbye to your teeth and/or vertebrae. This telegraphing system works for player attacks, too. When a player activates an ability, but before it actually fires off, players will see an indicator that designates where the attack will hit, therefore requiring them to actually line up attacks instead of using the typical "fire-and-forget" method of combat.
WildStar will also be introducing Guild Wars 2-esque environmental puzzles, though while GW2's puzzles are generally limited to platforming-style jumping, Carbine has something a bit different in mind. While exploring a valley racked by violent winds, the preview character was tossed into the air by a whirling tornado. Moore revealed to us that if the player is particularly observant, she'll notice a few rock formations on top of which she could land with a little help from the cyclone. With some skill, a little luck, and probably many deaths-by-fall-damage, players capable of sticking the landing will be rewarded with some shiny loot for their efforts.
Of course, one of the most important parts of any MMO is the endgame, and Carbine is planning to take a somewhat unique approach to providing content to players at the level cap. While the game will, of course, feature traditional endgame instances and the like, the primary focus of content for level-capped players will be on the game's story. According to Moore, Carbine plans to release what is known as the "world story" in serial installations, with each of these serials unveiling more and more of the overarching narrative surrounding the planet Nexus and its enigmatic former inhabitants. Since I'm a sucker for games that allow players to influence the game's story, I just had to ask whether Carbine had any such plans for WildStar. While I was expecting the usual "we can't talk about that yet," the devs did reveal that, while nothing is set in stone, they are certainly considering the possibility of allowing players' actions in one story serial to determine the direction of the next. Again, the developers stressed that player-influenced storylines are not a certainty, but they're contemplating the idea, and that alone is enough to make me giddy.
My fellow journalists and I tried our damnedest to press the topics of PvP, post-level-cap progression, and (of course) beta dates, but alas, our pleas were met with the dreaded response of "We're not ready to talk about that yet." We were promised, however, that when the studio was finally ready to break the silence on these subjects, we'd find it well worth the wait.
And thus my all-too-brief stint with WildStar came to an end, but when I left the presentation, there was no doubt in my mind that the game's spot on my to-watch list was well deserved. Bottom line: Anyone who craves an MMO that skirts the edges of the traditional sci-fi and fantasy MMO genres while tweaking and improving the MMO features we know and love would do well to keep a keen eye out for WildStar in the coming months.
Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 31st - September 2nd, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2012. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, PlanetSide 2, RIFT: Storm Legion, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!