Hey, guess what I'll be talking about with today's column.
I haven't had nearly as much time in the headstart as I would have liked at this point, largely due to the dread specter of Real Life minimizing my free time between launch on Saturday and when this column is being written (which is not five minutes prior to posting, if you were curious). But I've got some impressions just the same, and whilst I don't think they really qualify for first impression status, you came here to read about WildStar's launch, and that's just what I want to talk about.
The launch bug
I last did this dance about a year ago, and wouldn't you know, the same things happened.
If you don't feel like clicking that link, back when Final Fantasy XIV relaunched, there were issues. Servers went down, hotfixes were applied, login queues didn't work properly. Problems existed left and right. People happily proclaimed that the sky was falling and that the launch was an absolute disaster and that Square-Enix should have known better.
Here we are at early access for WildStar. Servers going down, hotfixes being applied, login queues not working, you get the idea. My personal favorite was someone complaining that they have to sit in a queue for an hour despite having paid for the game, as if the people already logged in hadn't paid for the game or weren't entitled to keep playing or whatever.
I don't know why we have such short memories for launches. This happens every single time. Right down to the complaints. The reason people loved making jokes about The Elder Scrolls Online's launch wasn't because it had bugs or lag or any of that, it was because some bright spark had the idea of saying that there would be none of those issues on launch, which was a bit like saying that the game would make you Queen of the Unicorns. Worse, actually, since a fantasy game could conceivably let you become Queen of the Unicorns at some point.
Don't get me wrong, it's annoying. But the issues that I've seen and experienced are, well, about on par with what I'd expect for a launch weekend. I imagine we'll see another small crest of issues on Tuesday when early access ends and then things will settle down. Reserve your rage for problems that aren't getting fixed when time has passed, rather than just the frustrations that happen whenever a new game launches.
There are some issues and bugs, definitely. Not being able to get a free bag within a few moments of release isn't something I qualify as a major failing. Annoying, sure, but by the time I had the remotest need of a bag the issue was fixed. It will be all right. Take a deep breath. Exhale.
Freedom to go
One of the odd things I noticed about the game now is that I've started digging a lot more than I had in the past.
Don't get me wrong; I'm a lore person. I love reading about lore and backstory, I get a rush every time I grab a datacube or a journal, and I find them both great fun. But in beta I certainly wasn't going to go out of my way to hunt for these things, because as mercenary as it may sound I'm not going to spend an hour of my life scouring for one obscure lore entry when it's all going to be reset later on anyhow.
I like the fact that the maps have inherited a Guild Wars 2-style completion interface, which is a little incentive to search further even if you think you've seen everything. It rewards going off and wandering a bit more even when you've already cleared what directly ties into your quests, and without the dread specter of an impending reset I find myself far more invigorated at the thought.
The other major thing that I like seeing now that the game is live is that it does a good job of delivering on part of what I love the most about MMOs -- players inhabiting a shared space, even if they're not necessarily grouping.
Over the years, we've seen a definite move toward group content as being the social side of MMOs, but the fact is that that's just one sort of social interaction. There are a lot of others. Like seeing someone else taking part in a holdout, leaping over, and helping them batter back enemy hordes. Or watching a Settler set up buff locations, grabbing buffs, and then running off to help that player take on a particularly nasty beastie.
Because of the shared experience and the way that kill counters work, there's never a disadvantage to helping someone. It's inherited the best parts of other games in which groups can be ad-hoc formations, and the result for me is that it feels far more organic and dynamic than a game which features dynamic events. Sure, events pop up, but the real dynamics are the ways in which players are working together toward common goals even if they're not rolling on loot together.
It happened in small ways during beta, of course, but the lesser volume of players meant that it happened less. Now I see it constantly, and that makes me happy.
Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I'll have more in-depth launch impressions, partly because at that point I'll have more in-depth launch experience to draw upon.
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.