The Nexus Telegraph: Habits that WildStar should keep

It's time for another round of Good Idea, Bad Idea.

Last time around in this column, I talked about the stuff that WildStar desperately needs to get out of its system, and quickly. I'm pleased with it. With the scaling-back of the update pace and some changes that I expect to be coming, I'm hopeful on that front. (Incidentally, if someone has a link to an actual promise of monthly updates from Carbine Studios, pass that along, since I don't think anyone ever actually promised it so much as just wound up doing it.)

So why am I still playing the game? Because it's got a lot to recommend it despite those failings. These are not bad habits that the game needs to kick but things that the development team should arguably double down on. They're arguably the best parts about the game and certain what makes it stand out the most. So in direct counterpoint to last week's article, here are the things that WildStar should keep doing.

There's something to shoot just over the horizon.

Things to do over every corner

I think there's full space to argue about how much stuff WildStar actually shipped with, but I have to give it props for the fact that it shipped with a lot of things. A lot of this stuff would have been in the post-launch updates for most MMOs, but the game launched with an array of content to cover a wide swath of playstyles. Yes, it launched with only a handful of dungeons, a few adventures, and a pair of instanced battlegrounds, but all of them were in place at launch.

Compare that to Final Fantasy XIV's relaunch, which is evolving a similar feature set but only launched with some of it in place. Most of it had to be patched in afterward.

The fact is that almost the entirety of the game world harbors something to be done. Aside from quests -- and I rather like the game's ethos of "less text, shorter objectives, more quests" -- there are challenges and path goals all over the place. There are discovery objectives. There are lore bits. Wandering in a random direction is a valid way of playing the game rather than an exercise in futility, something that makes me extremely happy and also surprises me.

If anything, more of this is a good thing. Having more to do over the next hill inspires you to explore more. More path objectives are welcome. Paths in general are really keen but underused. The fact is that being able to choose how you want to go through the game on a whole is really fun and engaging, and very few other games give you that sense of wide-open freedom. I never worry about going in the "wrong" direction while leveling, just about making the sort of experience I want to have, which ties into the next habit...

That old LEGO mentality

I love LEGOs. (Those of you who are rushing to the comments to tell me that they're properly called LEGO bricks, sass away. I'm well aware; that's why I'm saying it.) I have a huge bin of them in my closet. And I vividly remember when I first got a set from my grandparents, who bought me a nice domestic-style set to build cars and houses and the like.

I built spaceships and robots. Because ain't nobody tellin' you what you can and can't build with those bricks.

There are a lot of options in WildStar to build what you want. Want a house that's covered in gathering nodes? Go nuts. A scientist warrior who's built to deal AoE damage? There are tools there. Want to have your dude be forever bare-chested in lime green armor? Have a ball! All the game actually cares about is giving you all of the tools; you're the one responsible for making the tools assemble into something you can enjoy.

I just wanted to build a house!  Why am I here?

Obviously, a lot of people have figured out optimal builds for the various classes and roles, but even within those builds there's room for variation and experimentation. There's space (and often a need) to play around with those builds based on content. You aren't somehow weaker for swapping things around or trying something different. It's the sort of open experimentation that Guild Wars embraced, much to its credit, and that results in a game in which you can try new things and make more unique characters.

The difficulty of obtaining a lot of this stuff is a sad holdover of the game's apparent fear of not being hardcore enough, but the fact that the systems are in place make this an easy change to roll out. You have so many options for what to do, so many different ways that you can play the game, so many options for what you want to play. The fact that not all of those paths are yet fully developed or properly balanced doesn't mean that the choice doesn't exist, and that alone is commendable and keen.

Taking a shot at being better is always worth it.

You say it all matters

These days, World of Warcraft uses raid tiers the same way that bank robbers use terrified tellers. "We could add this in, but that would cost you another raid tier, and won't someone think of the raiders?" If you don't like raiding, you are fundamentally there to serve as fuel for the people who do. More features you want are added only as long as they don't diminish that raid experience.

WildStar has had two patches, and neither one has had any new raid stuff in it. Both of them have added stuff for other playstyles. Despite the failings it has, the game and its developers do seem to genuinely believe that yes, there are a lot of different ways in which people want to play this game, and all of them should get to enjoy it in the way that they find fun.

Really, that's the reason I harp on the game's faults as much as I do: because I believe that its failings have their root in ignorance and poor decisions. There's the knowledge and the ability there to make something better, and what's holding the game back isn't a question of just not caring but a matter of making decisions that are sub-optimal yet make sense in a closed environment.

That's been the official line, and at this point, I still concur. This is not meant to be a game simply for the raiding crowd, for the most hardcore of the hardcore, for the PvP master or the ersatz market board wizard. It's a game for all sorts of different people, with lots of different styles and goals. Yeah, it's not perfect about handling all those styles at launch. But I do believe it's trying, and that alone is a habit worth encouraging.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to Next time around, I want to talk about what we do know regarding the next patch, the changes to update cadence, and how it ties into expectations as well as actual statements. (I wasn't asking idly about that monthly promise bit.)

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.