The Nexus Telegraph: Surprise! WildStar!

Or maybe you did expect it, they've shown this off for a while.
You might have noticed that there was an omission in last week's installment of The Nexus Telegraph. Every week I let you lovely people know what I'm going to be writing about next week, and when I can, the week after that. Last week I completely omitted what I'd be discussing in my next WildStar column, leaving you with no idea what I'd talk about today.

Surprise! Yes, that was the thematic link. It seemed clever to me.

One of the big elements that WildStar is embracing thus far is that trick of surprising the player. It's a tricky thing to pull off in an MMO because the entire genre is built around understanding and minimizing surprises as much as you can. So let's take a look at some of the game's approaches to surprise and how the game manages to create more surprises by giving you fewer surprises in some areas. Yeah, it's that sort of thing.

Going to be honest, I expected less gun.Surprise! Content!

When I left Star Wars: The Old Republic, it was with a bit of a heavy heart. It wasn't because I didn't like the game; I simply couldn't bring myself to play through any one of the game's planets again. I'd played through multiple times, multiple stories. There were no surprises waiting, no neat tidbits begging to be discovered, just the same things that I'd seen time and again.

WildStar's zones address this in part by being numerous enough that you have multiple paths to the level cap. (That's the stated goal, anyway.) But it's also addressed by the addition of a completely separate system: Paths.

Let's face it, finding an unexpected bit of out-of-the-way content is a rush. You find an obscure quest chain on one character and you're happy because you suddenly realize that you've got a new side of the game to explore. It's even more of a rush if you go to the same place on two different characters and get two different experiences based on what you want each of those individual characters to be doing.

Obviously there's only so much path content in a given region. You will, eventually, run out of new things to explore, although given the game's various events and the whole scaling shipside mission bit, it's going to take a while. But the Paths allow you to request more tasks to do X and then surprise you with bits of X here and there. You can skip them, or you can wrap yourself up in them, but they're there for a surprising burst of things to do.

Espers harness the power of surprise into a special surprise-based bomb.  It's not fun at parties.Surprise! Abilities!

At a glance, telegraphs seem like the opposite of surprising. Not only do you have your overlay on the ground, you now have little castbar elements to make it clear when the telegraph becomes active. You can't be surprised by what you already know is coming.

What you can be surprised by is how those abilities interact with one another. This is something you just can't do reliably if you're guessing where and when something is going to explode. Lead an enemy over some mines, then let the mines go off and blow the hell out of your target without having to do much more than walk.

It also means there's more opportunity to see bosses and enemies use abilities with more randomness because you can respond to what's happening around you. If the boss just turns to your character, you don't know what's happening. If you see a big red telegraph under your feet, you know to swing left. If it's a cone, you know to swing forward and left to get out of range. You can respond on the fly to changing situations instead of dancing by a pattern.

Plus, there's always the potential for telegraphs to interact in unusual ways. Imagine a class ability that doubles the effects of any allied effect in the same area. It would be hard to use effectively if you didn't know what was being used in the same area, but it can work just fine if you're seeing telegraphs stacking over one another.

Surprise! Tricks!

While we don't know all of the details, all signs point to the various classes of WildStar having quite the range of abilities. You're limited in how many you can use at once, but I wouldn't be surprised if an individual class has upward of 50 different abilities to use at once. That means you have a wide range of tricks you can pull out and space to have a skill on your bar that people might not expect.

Say you're playing a Warrior. You can be focused on knockbacks, stuns, and the like quite easily. But there's also room for you to have a ranged ability or two, possibly even a powerful one, just to surprise anyone trying to outrange you. Or maybe you're mostly focused on your arm cannon with defensive cooldowns... until someone gets into melee and discovers that you've mastered a pretty damaging set of melee skills.

When you see a Warrior in World of Warcraft PvP, you have a pretty good idea of what he's capable of. The tricks might be different, but the brunt of his abilities are predictable. On the other hand, when you see a Warrior in WildStar, she could be sporting any number of different builds, including ones designed just to ruin your day. And that's just as true in PvE. No, the enemy won't be surprised per se, but you can tailor your abilities to make sure that you counter a given enemy type's most obnoxious tricks.

As always, feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massively.com. Next week it's time to look at the Chua.

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.
This article was originally published on Massively.