I want to talk about the negativity around Wildstar – which I guess is sort of a Streisand effect…
First off, Massively isn’t a gaming news site. It’s an editorial/opinion/re-posting web service. It’s one of the more prominent sites but to claim that it holds any journalistic merit, well you couldn’t be much further. What it does, it does well – in that it generates buzz/comments. So when you read an article stating that Wildstar isn’t doing well, take it with a grain of salt. It should hold as much weight as when BoK posts something similar.
So let’s start with the facts.
Some Wildstar servers are ghost towns. As with any MMO, once you can’t find anyone to play with, you stop playing, so this is really just like watching water leave a drain. To combat this, Carbine will be implementing Megaservers (like every other MMO in the past 4 years – including WoW).
The game has a much harder difficulty curve than any other themepark. The wall is early and it is high and it gets bigger over time. I won’t say the game is complex, outside of coordinating interrupts, but it is very unforgiving of mistakes. This by nature reduces your potential client base. There are no planned changes for this outside of a “learner” dungeon in the next patch. More tools to teach without changing the core system.
Itemization/Runes/Power distribution is not aligned. Right now, the melee classes get a larger benefit from stats than ranged players, which is causing them to have ~50% more damage output. They just scale like crazy. Rune slots are also an issue, where “optimal” runes are 2-3x better than a normal rune. What this means today is that there is little choice at max level, and making anything but the correct choice is a massive penalty. Both of these issues are going to be addressed by Carbine – the first part by normalizing power and stat gains and the latter by spreading out runes across more slots.
The next part is my observation.
The end game is forked into two parts – the solo side of dailies (that each take 30+ days to cap), customization (armor and housing) and farming/crafting and the group side of adventures/dungeons/raids. Elder Gems are the max level currency and right now, it only has a use for the latter group. Solo folk need more content and the next patch has some more dailies. However the game needs more types – shiphand missions are an easy target – and a better use for Elder Gems. Carbine has stated they are working on this but there are no timelines.
The group folk have a completely different problem, in two parts. First is the attunement wall. Unless you already have a raiding guild who wants to pull you through content, you’re not going to get through it – in particular because of the world raid bosses. It took WoW multiple content patches to create this attunement wall (BWL and BT come to mind) and caused enough problems that the entire model was scrapped. That Wildstar implemented this wall at launch…very odd choice. Carbine is making changes to reduce the requirements of attunement but without Megaservers or an existing raid group, people are still out of luck. The second part is the reward structure around group play, in that it’s “gold or bust”. Given the above mentioned difficulty, and the fact that adventures/dungeons provide a significant boost in rewards if you achieve a gold medal, any failure is met with a group disband. This causes an “elite” culture and provides absolutely zero learning curve for players. Carbine has made some changes to the rewards structure in that now even a bronze gives something but there is still too large a gap between bronze and gold. (To compare, Gold runs in Wildstar are akin to Gold Challenge runs in WoW).
The good news is that I’m still playing and having fun. It isn’t a daily thing mind you, but every couple days I log on and run a few things. The group thing is an issue for my playstyle.
Is Wildstar in a rough spot? Certainly. At the very least, it will continue to hemorrhage players until they can implement Megaservers. There should be no larger priority. Aside from that, there are plenty of balance changes on the way to address some of the concerns above – and soon too. As for the group play at max level, that is going to require more time and more thought. Had Megaservers been there at the start, perhaps the attunement issue would be smaller as there would be a larger player base to get through it. My opinion (since beta) is that focusing solely on 20/40 person raids is a mistake. Time will tell if Carbine feels the same way.