The Nexus Telegraph: WildStar's year in review

Because sometimes you might forget who the author is, right?
I started this column early in December of 2012, which means that as of now I've been writing about WildStar once a week for a little over a year. It's also nearly the end of the year, which makes it an ideal time to write about the changes that we've seen to the game over the past year. So I'm just going to go ahead and ignore the slight discrepancy and use this column for both year-in-review elements.

Obviously it's not exactly possible to look back at the changes to the game over the past year, since we're talking about a game still in the midst of its testing cycle. But we started the year without even knowing about one of the game's factions beyond a vague mention, much less the game's lore and classes. So let's look back at the last year of news and the last year of columns in their entirety.

No word yet on barfight mechanics, sadly.2013 for WildStar: Telling us everything about the game

At the start of 2013, we knew the name of three classes and we knew of three races. We knew of all the paths, but we didn't know much of anything about them. We hadn't even yet seen the big reveals about the Dominion, leading to an early column that was nothing but speculation about how the faction would turn out as a whole. That's a very different place than we're in right now.

At some points the revelations on the game have seemed almost insultingly slow, but we're ending the year with a good picture of everything other than the game's content and the crafting system. (Well, aside from what has been peeked at in the beta thus far.) The net result is that all we still need to learn are the various zones of the game, and we can pick up a lot of those facts just by playing the game as it inches closer and closer to release at some point next year.

We're told spring, of course. We're also aware that there's at least one other major release scheduled for early next year, and regardless of whether or not you're excited for The Elder Scrolls Online, there's some wisdom to be had in delaying your game until after it's had time to release and undergo the usual early attrition. Or releasing before in the hopes of sniping the game... but a little later is better than a little too early, since the latter makes the game feel unfinished.

What matters most is that we've slipped past the game's major event horizon for sweeping system changes; we're not going to find out tomorrow that the Medic has been replaced with a melee class wielding a scythe and centered around buffing itself, for example. I might be annoyed by the speed of some revelations, but I imagine some of these concepts were still in flux for the majority of the year. Now we know what the shape of the game will be at release, with nothing remaining but the rough edges and such.

None of these updates about the game's actual systems has slowed the cries of people claiming that it's a clone of World of Warcraft. Those of us who have actually played the game and played World of Warcraft will realize that this is about as accurate as calling World of Tanks a World of Warcraft clone.

Self-creation.2013 for the column: Finding the voice

The first year of any project, I think, is about figuring out what the heck you're doing. That sounds as if it should be simple, but it never really is.

Early on, I ran into the simple problem that the game isn't actually live. I can't talk about mechanics for a game that I can't yet actually play, after all. What I can discuss are theories, design principles, lore, and on occasion, speculative problems that the game will have to face in time.

The lore columns, it seems, have been a pretty big hit. They're also columns I've been particularly happy with because I really like talking about how the game is handling its various races. Each of them is simple enough to stand up to quick descriptions, but they're all hiding a bit more depth if you look below the surface and start really analyzing what we know about the game behind the pure mechanics.

Understandably, speculation has been more of a mixed bag; not everyone likes ruminating on what could be instead of what is, and I don't think the speculative columns as a whole were my best pieces. Not my worst, either, but I'm going to be happy as we get closer to release and can talk more about the actual game instead of the hypothetical game of the future.

Release, of course, will mean talking a lot more about actual mechanics rather than just the ideas behind some of these mechanics. I think the ideas are neat, but I'm a corner case; I enjoy speculating about MMO mechanics regardless of any actual use for them. It's a quirk of my job and my preferences. It's not always easy to think about how something will work on a purely theoretical level.

Overall, I feel it has been a pretty good first year. Not perfect, but solid. I'm looking forward to talking more about the game as we move to launch instead of this long not-actually-launched period.

As always, feedback on both the year of the game and the year of the column can be left down in the comments or sent along via mail to eliot@massively.com. Next week, we're taking a look at the Cassians, those titans of industry and empire.

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.