WildStar beta, for the same reason that there is a lot of stuff in the WildStar beta that I have not heavily invested in. That reason is simple: I plan to be playing this game for a long while, and I'd really like to avoid burning out before it even releases. I didn't adhere to that rule in the Final Fantasy XIV beta and kind of felt the pinch, so this is a rule I learned the hard way.
That having been said, I've fooled around with it enough to be really excited after the last interview I had regarding the crafting experience. What I heard confirmed my limited experiences and offered some interesting food for thought. There are a couple of elements that might seem counterproductive and a lot more that are worth looking forward to in the future.
Let's get the silly out of the way first, starting with a misstep that's more of a personal preference than anything: You have to hit the level cap in order to max out your crafting.
Obviously there's nothing explicitly wrong with this. This isn't Final Fantasy XIV, where crafting classes are their own thing altogether and require only the barest minimum of progression to be used. (Yes, you're going to hit trouble if you don't unlock airship travel and materia melding, but you can put down combat progression altogether once you hit level 10, and by 20, combat progression no longer offers you anything mandatory.) Crafting and gathering are sidelines to the main class here, and that's fine; it's a part of the design. Perfectly valid.
The reason I note that it's silly is that the crafting system also desperately wants to be deep enough that you can have characters who are primarily and only crafters. There's enough customization going on that you can corner a market on something, meaning that there are people who would probably rather spend the rest of the game crafting. It's a deep enough system that you can, and yet you can't actually just kick back and craft forever if that's your jam.
A somewhat related point of silliness is the idea that there's still back-and-forth about where crafted goods should fall in relation to everything else. The solution seems pretty obvious to me: If it's not equivalent to the best, it should be equivalent to the second-best, with the added benefit of customization. The bright side is that I know the team is at least peripherally aware of this, and there's a tacit understanding that crafted stuff needs to be competitive at the top end... but then, Blizzard has known this for years, and it's sure as heck not how crafting shakes out in World of Warcraft. If you can't make top-level stuff or almost-top-level stuff, you are making speedbumps to be progressed past for cheap.
The former I don't see changing, and the latter I'd like to hope will wind up at the right point before the game launches. If not, well, I'll have some angry columns to write in the future.
Moving beyond that, though, I think there's lots of stuff to like and chew on here, fundamental parts of WildStar that I'm excited to see moving forward, like the idea that you build the experience you want, making it the way that you want, putting your own personal spin on everything.
Don't get me wrong; I'm absolutely certain that we'll wind up with guides showing everyone which stats are most advantageous, and there will be plenty of builds available demonstrating how to make a good Stalker tank and the like. That's inevitable. Just as in Guild Wars or The Secret World or Magic: the Gathering, there's nothing stopping you from taking a prefabbed setup from the online community.
The trick is that you don't need to stop there. You can take that build and customize it in just the right way for your own personal needs. Yes, you need to do the work necessary to understand why someone picked these skills and these stats, but if a given attack is more fitting for your playstyle, you can tweak the build and add it in. There's a distinct sense of creating something that works best for you, sort of an updated and expanded version of the games I just mentioned.
Crafting plays into that because you don't have to fight against the items available. You aren't stuck in a position where your ideal build requires item stats that simply don't exist; if the item isn't dropped or rewarded, you can make it. Yes, it's a bit more effort on your part to hunt it down, but it gives you exactly the sort of character and build you want to play.
That appeals to me. I've always been the sort to come up with some strange set of abilities and see if I can make them work, to develop builds based on roleplaying traits more than overall efficiency and the like. Having more tools to make that viable is a good thing, and having the space to make crafting or lack thereof into a character trait is also a good thing. A properly specialized crafter is its own thing, and I look forward to playing at least a couple of characters define by crafts more than class.
I also look forward to having characters entirely defined by their personal houses, but that's another discussion.
As always, feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I'd like to talk about the endgame (which I still refuse to call "elder game" -- sorry, Gaffney) and what it's going to take to keep people hooked.
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.
The Nexus Telegraph: Making it how you'd like in WildStar
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