Now, for me personally, the paths were what caught my attention with WildStar. A themepark game with some sandbox elements is cool; it seems like the other side of ArcheAge, which looks to be a sandbox game with some themepark elements. But maybe that comparison isn't fair. When I asked why path gameplay couldn't just be combined with regular leveling, Carbine reps explained that paths are supposed to complement the game's combat, not supplant it. We're not supposed to be leveling just by exploring or gathering lore. The option for that sort of gameplay is there, but it's supposed to be only an option, kind of like crafting. Still, 25-33% of a zone's content being devoted to paths isn't too bad, especially if you have friends following other paths to help you experience what those other paths have to offer. But if you were hoping to level up by making potions or exploring, WildStar might not be your game, unless things change dramatically in beta. The closed beta feedback is taken very seriously, so if people don't like something about the paths, Carbine freely admits it is willing to change the system.
Carbine also doesn't want a single player to be able to do everything; it wants to encourage socialization with interdependencies. Consider classic Darkfall, in which players were just mastering every skill, which really made it obvious who had been playing the game for a while and who was new. In fact, Darkfall dropped its completely open skill system when it launched Unholy Wars to prevent players from becoming an all-powerful wizard while also shooting a bow. The game does still allow players to level up through content like exploring and gathering. While I was told this sort of system was technically feasible, it's just not what Carbine wants to do. The WildStar devs say they are "trying to force people to make choices" so that each path is as unique as possible and so that players feel that each fresh character has a fresh experience, which is good for replay value.
The takeaway here is that WildStar really is a combat-centered game. I know it's not a shock to many people, but I also know there are prospective players dreaming about being a pure Settler and maintaining a town, so hopefully this helps those people understand that Carbine isn't building that sort of game.
Still, there are lots of different ways to do combat. When I asked what precisely about the game's combat is meant to attract MMO players as opposed to a console player, Carbine's devs explained that the game's combat is supposed to feel like the "next step in MMO combat." They want people to be engaged, move around, "not sipping a coke." While the game's combat borrows from "action, consoley type games," it's "made for the MMO market, so it's not quite as complex as other console games but [instead] adds something to the MMO space that hasn't been seen before."
The closed beta NDA is still in effect, but I asked whether the team could relate some stories about player creations in beta. We've heard about space for creation in housing, but unfortunately, Carbine isn't quite ready to show off player-designed homes just yet. I was told that players are, however, enjoying the dungeons, which the team says feel like high-level dungeons in other games. In fact, the player testers have already found interesting ways to break these dungeons, but for obvious reasons, Carbine wasn't spilling the beans on how.
One last highlight for those of you interested in guilds and warplots: When I asked whether PvP guilds can undertake warplots without raiding and whether the game will include guild levels, I was told that "although guilds and warplots work together well, they aren't exclusive to one another; there will be guild stuff that has nothing to do with warplots, and there will be warplot stuff that has nothing to do with guild stuff."
There'll be a big reveal about these one day, but that day just isn't today. Maybe you'll get lucky at PAX!
Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 10-13, bringing you all the best news from E3 2013. We're covering everything from WildStar and Elder Scrolls Online and ArcheAge to FFXIV's inbound revamp and TERA's latest update, so stay tuned!