If this comes as a shock, possibly one that invites shock and horror, I apologize. But I love comics. We have bookshelves filled with comics in my house, I spend a lot of my free time reading comics, and I know a fair bit about comics. Not even close to everything, though, which is half the fun of comics in general. There's always more to learn, always something great that you've never heard of.
The point I'm slowly getting to here is that I was pretty excited when WildStar started up a comic. I think this is something that more games should do because comics lend themselves to MMOs pretty naturally. So what's good, what's mediocre, and what's bad in the comics that are running thus far? Even with just two weeks of comics I've already formed some pretty strong opinions about this stuff.
Let me just say that I'm endlessly pleased with the fact that these comics are not of the increasingly and bewilderingly popular "motion comics" trend that we've seen. Cheaply gliding a still image around and marrying it to voice acting makes for an awful movie and an awful comic all at once. The whole value of comics is that they're a visual medium you can take in at your own pace, something that motion comics nicely demolish.
The actual art is both stylized and expressive, which is good. Panel layout is simple enough to allow for a clear flow between elements while still leaving some spots in for minor gags. The humor works well if you're on board with the sense of humor thus far, and the comics manage to be grin-worthy without shoehorning in jokes where they don't fit. All of this might seem minor, but when a lot of comics produced as tie-ins fail at even these basic elements, points are due.
The pacing in here is agonizingly slow. Over the span of the comic's existing run, we've seen pretty much nothing actually happen except for two examples of wildlife getting screwed over, not to mention that the click-through interface that currently exists adds bits and pieces to panels as you click through, which means that two pages' worth of information is conveyed in a dozen or more.
It's padding. It ensures that you read things in the correct order, but it means that very thin bits of actual content get stretched out to the limit. Yes, it's better than the motion comics that I just decried, but it also doesn't work together very well as a comic just yet.
Therein lies the issue: "yet." Right now we've got remarkably little material to actually look at, and there are a lot of criticisms that could be leveled but might be moot in another week or two.
For example, so far the comic has told us nothing that fans don't already know. Yes, the Chua are little sociopathic monsters, and yes, the Mordesh like to be seen as elegant and refined despite being ambulatory corpses. It could be that in the next several pages we'll be walked through the history of these races, at which point the comic becomes a prettier way of feeding a new set of the same information we already have. Or we could see more of how the races interact with one another and their fellow faction members, which would be interesting and novel.
Similarly, there's nothing thus far to indicate what the world of Nexus is actually like, but this could be happening before planetfall. The comic could show us one side of the landing event, it could show us well before, or it could show us anything. We don't yet have a larger context, just some rather info-light panels to work from.
The comparisons to be made
Two other games jump to mind as really making use of comics before and around launch: Star Wars: The Old Republic and City of Heroes. Both of the above have some lessons that might be worth consideration from the team at Carbine Studios.
Star Wars: The Old Republic had comics that focused heavily on major lore figures well before the game's timeframe, offering characterization that didn't necessarily show up in the game proper. What it did very well was show how the factions acted internally and externally, creating a context for these characters beyond the game.
By contrast, while major lore figures showed up in the original City of Heroes comic, the point was mostly to show a group of side characters experiencing the world much like player characters. It was about showing the sort of large-scale adventures you could have in the game right from the start.
Both of the above also made their comics thick and meaty affairs. CoH sent out a straight-up comic book to subscribers, albeit with ads for NCsoft games taking the place of Charles Atlas. SWTOR opted for several pages at a go every week, giving fans something to look forward to once a week.
Thus far, WildStar's comics are a bit of a disappointment. They're information-light and kind of fluffy, recounting things we already know. But I'm on board with the idea, and for all we know the next few weeks could make the whole thing really shine.
Much like that poor rowsdower. Most people use simulated targets for tests, Zax.
Feedback is welcome down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let's talk about paths again -- namely, some potential sources of inspiration that might make the system as a whole make more sense and play better.
Here's how it is: The world of Nexus can be a dangerous place for a tourist or a resident. If you're going to venture into WildStar, you want to be prepared. That's why Eliot Lefebvre brings you a shiny new installment of The Nexus Telegraph every week, giving you a good idea of what to expect from both the people and the environment. Keep your eyes peeled, and we'll get you where you need to go.