The Nexus Telegraph: Preparing for WildStar's launch

I'm excited.  Are you excited?  I am.

When you read this, dear reader, you will be less than two weeks away from early access to WildStar. Unless you've come here just to let everyone know you don't want to play the game, in which case you might want to find slightly more joyous hobbies? Just a thought.

The obvious thing to do pre-launch, of course, is to reserve your name, but that didn't work out for everyone so well, and I'm betting that if you were going to do that by now, you would have done it. (Still have a little time if you haven't, though.) What else can you do? Open beta is over. It's just getting into the meat of the game and maybe taking a day or two off of work first, right?

Obviously not; there's more stuff you can do to prep yourself for the launch psychologically and otherwise. So step into my metaphorical office, and I'll give you some suggestions about things to do before the game starts and once early access kicks off.

If you'd like to chime in down in the comments about how everyone should be turning with the mouse in every game, please don't.

Work on your mouse-turning skills

If there was ever an MMO that called out for controller support, WildStar would be it. Sure, when you're not in battle, it feels far more familiar, but as soon as combat starts up you're into active territory and will be focused on lining up your telegraphs and the like. I'm not usually a partisan for how you turn your character in combat, since playing with a comfortable layout is the key element, but in this game, using your mouse for turning in combat can actually be an advantage.

The best practice here, of course, is to go ahead and load up some third-person shooters on your computer and get used to moving around there. Steam is more or less lousy with these things, so it shouldn't be hard to find one in your collection; if you somehow don't have one and don't feel like buying a new game, you can always pick up Star Trek Online and focus on ground combat in its shooter mode. You're mostly trying to get a feel for this, after all.

It may also be advantageous to pick up a mouse with thumb buttons to make your life a little easier; Razer has the Naga, Logitech has the G600, and I'm willing to bet there are a few more out there. I've long been a fan of these sorts of mice in online games, and WildStar makes it even more useful. Food for thought.

Don't buy every ability right away

Around the time you finish the starter area (a very linear experience), you'll start dipping your toes into the action set waters. That means that you'll have access to one new slot and two or three new abilities to mix in there. Your obvious instinct is to just click on each of them, buy everything you can, and figure out which one you want on your bar afterward. Right?

I recommend not. In fact, I'd recommend taking a minute, looking at all of the descriptions, and then deciding which one you're going to use right now and which one to buy.

Why the early frugality? A couple of reasons. First of all, remember that this is not old-school World of Warcraft or the like; any money you toss at an ability you're not using is just money going to waste. Second, when you're starting out, it's easier to make builds by finding out what tricks synergize with the abilities you're already using, not what will go nicely with the abilities you'll eventually have. It's too easy to drop abilities that it later turns out you'll really want.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it's not until you've unlocked six slots or so that the game really expects you to be running around without necessarily using the first few abilities. I dropped a couple of the obvious ones on my first run through with a Medic; it was only after I remade my build again that I realized that those basic abilities were there for a reason. The game borrows from City of Heroes here; the earliest tricks are the most universally applicable ones, not the weakest ones.

So be more picky when unlocking new stuff early on. If nothing else, it'll force you to think more closely about how you're building your character.

And enjoy nothing ever working quite right after a patch!  (I may be bitter.)

Consider add-ons

Hey, you know what already exists? An entire Curse page full of addon modules for the game. Yes, this stuff is already functional, it's been tested, and it allows you to start down the road of never using the game's default UI ever again.

Joking aside, if you've played in the beta tests at all, you've probably found one or two things that bug you, and there are ways to address that. If you'd prefer a more traditional quest text environment, for example, ClassicQuestDialog has you covered. Feel like the floating numbers in combat lack a certain amount of oomph? BetterCombatText. You've also got stuff like Interruptor, which falls under the aegis of "things that should already be the default," and PDA, a useful roleplaying tool sure to be abused n the future.

Unless there's a massive functionality change between now and launch, most of this should work fine once early access starts up, which is great. I know that not everyone likes addons, and I've got a back-and-forth relationship with them myself, but the fact that these are out there and can be explored is a boon to all sorts of players.

Don't rush

If you want to hit level cap right away, by all means, more power to you. I don't think there's ever grounds for telling someone that she's playing the game wrong. But my personal feeling is that you might want to take a little more time, play around, and enjoy yourself a little more.

The leveling regions in this game are big. There are houses to be built. There's a whole lot of meat in crafting, more than I would have expected even if it's not quite up to Final Fantasy XIV's crafting mechanics. There are paths to indulge in, and the one bright side of having paths and experience decoupled is that you can spend a long chunk of time just exploring your path without worrying about outleveling anything. There's a lot out there! So go out and explore and have fun.

If you have to hit the cap, that's your way of playing. But I think you might have more fun sniffing the roses a bit.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to Next time around, I'm going to be talking about the earliest part of early access, and after that... well, I'll be knee-deep in the early part of the game, obviously. Let's see what strikes my fancy.

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.