First of all, I'd like to note the sheer brilliance of having a "recommended friends" list, something that most non-MMOs have adopted but MMOs have been slow to pick up on. If my PS3 can suggest people I've played with recently, I'm willing to bet that other games can, and yet so often I can't remember the healer's name or the competent DPS in the group and so it goes. Having that in place will be a boon to those of us with longer memories than attention spans.
I'm also interested in Rival functionality, and quite frankly, I'd like it expanded. Make it akin to a Friend list -- force players to approve Rival status, see when they're online, even let them send tells back and forth. This means that friends playing on opposite-faction alts can still talk, and it also lets you create real rivalries, with both sides talking and aware of one another even as they're not exactly friends.
Remember, good conflict comes from a situation in which both sides know one another.
Still on the social train is the Neighbor functionality for housing, which is... well, not ideal, but it's about where you could go while fulfilling a lot of other housing needs. The net result is that you don't feel locked out from a larger sense of community, but neither do you have random people wandering in your front yard at all times. It also means that you can actually go up and knock on the door of a friend's house. That's worthy execution, in my mind.
While I'm reluctant to say that tradeskill talents are an entirely good thing, since even in the beta they're not fully in place, the idea certainly appeals. It's the chance to not just specialize but really fine-tune your crafting experience, something that long-time readers know I am heavily in favor of. I'm hopeful for more in-depth crafting mechanics in the game, as I've speculated in the past. That being said, this sort of system could even make a more rote "click and wait" approach at least slightly more interesting.
As for all the class changes... on the one hand, there's no way to place all of these in a comprehensive context. We know that players are up to eight abilities at once, which seems like a good spread in an active game, although it brings to mind some of the weaker parts of The Secret World. (That mess is a different discussion, though.) On the other hand, some of the things we can suss out are interesting enough to speculate on for days.
For example, Espers get Dislodge Essence, which is a healing spell. Except it's more active than that. You hit the closest enemy with a damage-over-time ability that heals people as it does damage. Instead of standing in the back waving your hands, you're helping the overall tide of the battle through damage and healing. Warriors get a tanking ability that buffs defenses but fails if the Warrior isn't paying enough attention to the battlefield layout. Stalkers get to flip out and throw weapons everywhere.
The point I'm making here is that all of these classes are coming into focus as being related to familiar tropes without being beholden to them, which is pretty darn cool.
Rated arenas. Here ends the gushing, partly because this isn't something I find fun and partly because this is one of those fields where a few slight tweaks can absolutely destroy any sort of meaning for casual PvP. Rated arenas also frequently have the problem of rewarding the best players with better gear, thereby creating the exact opposite of every sport ever. I'm not saying this is bad, but I am saying it doesn't light me on fire at all.
Of course, immediately after that you can read about the changes to a dungeon called Skullcano, which is so ridiculously over the top that I can't help but fall in love all over again. It's either a volcano of skulls or a volcano shaped like a skull, or quite possibly both, and I can't pretend not to adore the idea of something called Skullcano. Well played, Carbine Studios, well played.
Ultimately, I'm interested that revealing major patch notes has now become a thing for the beta test. It's certainly unique, and it prevents unwanted leaks and gives onlookers a chance to dissect what's changing. At the same time, in some places I'm feeling a bit of speculation fatigue from guessing at what one change or another might mean in the long-term. We don't have a clearer context, and those of us not in the beta are building a speculative house out of nothing.
Feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to chat about telegraphs, based on my own limited experience and on what we've seen them used for thus far.
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.