A nod to the interface
Let me just say that I'm really fond of the new UI that's been previewed. I know there are people who like to have a block of buttons in the center of the screen, but I much prefer the more spread-out and relaxed version on display. There's a greater field of view for actual play and plenty of space to still have all of your other buttons on display and accessible. Kudos for that.
It also pleases me because one of the frequent potential failings of a moddable UI is the sense that there's no need to update it because the players will do that. Seeing an updated version of the interface means that Carbine Studios isn't relying on players to just fix the whole thing. I'd probably be a little more annoyed if the revamp didn't look so clean, but it does, so I look forward to playing with it more.
No more big invites and the UI connection
I think it's worth noting that these two stories came in close proximity to one another because to me, they're parts of the same whole. They indicate that the game is getting much closer to being shown off openly and aiming for release.
While I might be annoyed at the idea of a company not bothering to update its UI when it's proven to be broken, there's the simple fact that a UI is not a high-priority thing. And with good cause, really. If you have to choose between fixing broken mechanics and fixing your interface, you'll pick the mechanics every time. The UI makes a nicer first impression, but people will work around an ugly one. Working around a broken game is much less pleasant.
To me, the fact that this was one of the updates for the game indicates that the design team, as a whole, is happy enough with the current state of the game that it seemed that there was time to trim up the interface. Things were going well enough with the current pool of testers that no one needed to make major system updates. Just put together a nicer UI, make that feel more polished, and fix a minor issue that probably wouldn't affect launch.
Is this accurate? I can't say for certain. The things that I've played as part of the press NDA drop have all felt very polished and fun, so I wouldn't have been complaining before. It is possible I have not scoured relentlessly enough for bugs or major issues, but I can sort of see why a lower-priority update would get more of a priority standing in wake of the game's current stat of polish.
That adds up to a certain conclusion, as well: This phase of testing is the polishing phase. There's space and time for fixing bugs and tweaking balance, but not wholesale tearing out and rewriting of major features. Think of it as being allowed to stay in a hotel which is four-fifths complete. Sure, the color of the walls can be changed and some fixtures could be moved, but there's no time or space to suddenly add in a brand-new floor or completely rearrange the outlets in every room.
Are we looking at an open beta?
Open betas are touchy things. A lot of big titles have started eschewing open betas altogether, opting instead for late test phases in which pretty much anyone can get in if she wants to. So is WildStar going to totally buck the trend and bring the OB back?
I don't know. But I think we're going to find out very soon.
Basing this assumption upon absolutely nothing except intuition, I'm going to guess that within the next two weeks we will have a release date and either an open beta date or a last-phase-of-relatively-open-beta date. I suspect the polishing touches are being put on, the highest levels are receiving passes to ensure that players can enjoy the endgame, and all the hatches are being metaphorically battened. We're on the cusp of the last big push until release.
That also explains why the weeks have grown so quiet. For a while, we were hearing all sorts of super-relevant details about things that we simply didn't know, which was very important and is no longer applicable. We know all of our available classes, we know about the game's major systems, we have a pretty clear picture of what the game will look like. All that remains is to sit down, strap in, and start seriously playing the game.
Short of publishing an itemized guide to literally every part of the game from here to eternity, we're at the point that all we need are details. And I think very shortly everyone who wants those details will be able to step in and get them.
Feedback, as always, is welcomed down in the comments or via mail to email@example.com. Next time around I may very well have more to talk about here over the intervening two weeks, but in the event I don't, I'm going to talk about WildStar's obvious points of comparison in the MMO sphere.
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 other Monday, 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.