Design > Toxicity

One of the forum posts I was reading vis-a-vis community toxicity in hard group content – or any game, for that matter – asserted that toxicity is inevitable. I agree. “Any civilization is just three meals away from anarchy.” There is darkness in all of us, beneath the surface. Indeed, I would suggest that how we manage (and hopefully contain!) that darkness is precisely what makes us human beings in the first place.

However, I arch an eyebrow any time someone throws their hands in the air, claiming nothing can be done about the issue of toxicity in multiplayer games. We may not be able to ensure no one is ever toxic or disruptive to another player, but we sure as hell can mitigate, manipulate, and otherwise manage player behavior through system design.

An example I am still in awe over has been the Blizzard design for Hearthstone. Namely, how there is no chat feature with your opponents. Does this prevent every avenue for trolling and other “BM” (Bad Manners) behavior? Of course not. When you look at the forums though, the BM consists of stalling a full turn-timer’s worth, emoting Well Played right before the killing blow, or playing unnecessary cards before the kill. Oh, and some people get really upset when others concede before allowing them to manually deliver the final hit.

Compare that to, I don’t know, maybe any time you turn on XBox Live.

While there may not be any silver bullets for bad behavior in MMOs given the more freeform experience, I believe design can still mitigate the worst of it. For example, removing the ability to kick someone mid-combat or before loot is distributed entirely removes the ability of guild-groups to arbitrarily remove competition (at least, not after the kickee contributed). Binding BoE loot to people who do Need rolls prevents those “Need to sell on AH” players. Shared resource nodes not only prevents any animosity/misunderstandings about ninja-looted nodes, it has the pleasant byproduct of people being glad to see others, as they direct you to nodes you may have missed, helping you clear the path, etc.

Things not to do? Basically anything Wildstar is currently doing. If you have a quest to kill a certain number of mobs, you might get 8% complete per mob you kill. If some random stranger pops out of a bush and hits that same mob with an attack or two, suddenly you only receive 4% credit. Why? For the love of all that is good and holy WHY? Manually forming a group with these strangers doesn’t work to make things any faster either – the lot of you just have to kill twice as many mobs. This sort of design not only discourages cooperation and enables trolling, it fosters a (correct!) notion that other players are obstacles to your goals. The only “challenging” aspect of most of the Challenges in Wildstar is not giving yourself an aneurysm by the behavior – or very existence! – of other people.

You might be thinking I am exaggerating here. No, my friend. I did not hate perfect strangers more in Darkfall, when they could murder me at any time and full-loot my corpse. Because that was understood; that is what you signed up to do. I did not sign up to Wildstar to unknowingly steal other people’s accomplishments simply by existing in the same zone.

You might have heard that there are a lot of Group quests in Wildstar to kill powerful creatures. It’s true. What’s also true is that if you and a stranger bond in common purpose to attack one, but you tragically end up dying, you get zero credit for the kill. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why. I’m sorry, Carbine developers, for not making my very temporary fellowship with Sizzlebutt “official” by clicking some buttons on your interface. If I hadn’t died, we both would have gotten credit, but nevermind. Clearly there is some wizened, highborn logic behind this deliberate decision I am too simple to understand. Perhaps allowing dead players to receive credit for a mob eventually killed would open an exploit that unraveled your entire, expertly-crafted leveling experience. Or perhaps it never crossed your empty skulls.

Do you see what I mean about toxicity?

In an MMO, every player you meet should be an opportunity. Every aspect of your social game should be geared toward encouraging positive experiences. Every point of social friction should receive ample grease. Seriously, mind boggled at Gold Medals being tied to player deaths in LFG groups.¹ Do you know what they called that in WoW when it was implemented in Naxx? A goddamn mistake.

¹ This post was written before the news on Friday. Still, it is an idea that never should have survived the whiteboard.

Huge Wildstar Elder Content Nerf

Welp, time to pack it in, cupcake. Wildstar had a good run, a solid 24 days of hardcoreness before it was nerfed to the ground:

Based on the feedback we’ve been getting both from you and our own internal testing, we are planning on making revisions to the way Superb-quality loot is awarded in dungeons and adventures. Simply put, we currently place too much value on completing gold runs for veteran level content. By placing Superb-quality rewards behind a gate of near-perfect PUG performance, we have fostered a “Gold runs or bust” mentality that is negatively affecting our group play experience. We’d much rather people engage with the content and complete the runs they start.

Therefore, we will soon be implementing the following changes:

  • The existing gold medal rewards are being removed from gold medal completion.
    • These rewards will instead drop off the final bosses or encounters for dungeons and adventures.
    • The table from which this loot drops has a chance to be selected and is granted in addition to that bosses regular loot.
  • Any medals earned instead will instead give the group bonus rolls on an instance-wide loot list, at the end of the instance, on top of extra coin and experience rewards.
    • By way of example, completing a bronze medal would provide one bonus reward roll on top of the regular boss kill and completion reward, while a silver medal would provide two bonus rolls and a gold medal would provide three bonus rolls.
    • The items on these rolls are randomly selected from all equipment rewards that could drop from any boss or encounter inside that instance.
    • Each of these bonus rolls has a smaller, flat chance to select from the list of superb rewards.

We want groups to complete full runs of the dungeons and adventures, regardless of the medal earned. Instead of needing to disband immediately when a gold run fails, the Superb-quality rewards are available by working together to get through the instance.

Simply put: if your group runs Veteran Sanctuary of the Swordmaiden, all you need to do to earn a shot at Superb-quality loot is defeat Spiritmother Selene. No more medal requirements!

If you have any more feedback for us, please post it. The devs are listening!

See? TO THE GROUND.

I, of course, am kidding. A large number of people in the same forum are not:

So much for this game being harder. Give everyone easy loot and the degree of difficulty goes way down.

i considder this a HUGEE Nerf. might aswell remove medals als you deleted the purpose of them completly by doing this. i thought loot needed to be earned not handed out the easy way.

not even 1 month and you are already giving in to the lesser player? i guess you guys aren’t as hardcore as you promised.

keep this up and considder yourself 1 player less who will play this *still awesome game* for now.. lets see what you guys start nerfing next.. pitty realy.

Is this a joke? Already giving in to people whining about not getting faceroll epics? I thought this game was going to be rewarding if you did something extraordinary. You just killed the purpose of the medal system.. Why would you run for gold now? Even though people dont care to admit it, an important aspect of any mmorpg is the e-peen. If you cant show of your shiny nice epic that you working really hard for, only to see some careless nab with too much time, having the same item only with better sockets.. Come on Carbine, really? Im dissapointed.

The system was fine. Learn not to give in to spoiled players who doesnt wanna work hard to be equally well rewarded.

Pugs and challenging content are just not compatible.  I remember a 100 page thread on WSC back when Carbine first announced the LFD tool where everyone complained that the tool would lead to easy content.  Carbine assured us that they would not nerf content to appease whiners.

Now here we are less than a month into the game and Carbine has already folded.  Watching this whole dungeon fiasco unfold I thought there were 2 possible options:

1. Give us a new grouping tool to make same-server groups and elimate all the horrible behavior that the anonyminity of LFD provides
2. Nerf content

They took the easy way out, and I have zero doubt that as l2p said, this is only the beginning of turning this game into another braindead MMO that requires zero thought or skill.

One thing I will agree with the last quote above, is that PUGs and challenging content are not compatible. Or more specifically, LFD systems and challenge are not compatible. It is not about catering to casuals per se – you can desire as hard a game as possible – it is about the immutable fact that if the LFD system does not result in a successful run more than half the time at a minimum, the LFD system itself will fail. Kinda weird to think about it now, but there were some of us there at the start of the LFD revolution, and watched this truism develop in real-time.

Has it really only been three years? Indeed it has.

I will be honest in saying that I am rather surprised by Carbine’s… generosity in this regard. Until 20 minutes ago, I believed the simplest, most likely solution would have been to disable the Medal system when using the LFD tool. Because let’s face it, the real problem here were toxic morons who believed that they were entitled to skilled strangers pulled randomly from a dozen servers. That’s right, I said it. “Casuals” are entitled to the same thing every gamer is entitled to: content tailored to their skill level. Gold medal runs are not it… but Bronze runs? Yeah, those could work. And yet here we were, the “hardcore” babies throwing a tantrum, dropping groups or kicking noobs because they couldn’t get what they wanted. I don’t blame the hardcore crowd for rationally determining that a non-Gold run isn’t worth their time. I blame them for going into the LFD queue expecting anything more than a completed run.

As I said, Carbine is being generous here. And subtle. The “bonus rolls” were a nice touch insofar as it provides a glimmer of hope to those whom were looking for a specific item a given boss failed to drop. I think most of us have experienced dungeon runs in WoW where the tank or healer drops immediately after not getting the loot they hoped for. Indeed, I would advise Blizzard to implement this selfsame thing for WoW immediately. I shouldn’t have to, given that WoW already does this in LFR, but you know how it goes.

In any case, this is excellent news whether you are on the train, or looking at the tracks from afar with anticipation. Hey, don’t look at me like that. It isn’t schadenfreude, it’s science. A testing of a hypothesis. That’s the thing about reinventing the wheel though: it almost always ends up having the same rounded corners.

Derailed

Ever sit down to play a game, and then experience an existential crisis halfway through? I just hit that in Wildstar.

Earlier in the week I had hit level 25, unlocking hoverboards and “tier 4″ abilities. With the latter, it basically means I can unlock expanded nuances to the abilities that I have on my bars, if I sink enough Ability Points in. For example, one of my attacks deals extra damage to enemies below 30% HP – the tier 4 unlock changes the threshold to 70% HP. Needless to say, this sort of milestone requires you to sort of comb over your action bar to see if you can find hidden synergies or if the tier 4 unlock makes an otherwise lackluster ability more useful.

On top of that, I was beginning to mentally prepare myself to actually start queuing for LFG. Yes, I have been talking about Veteran Dungeons and the like these past few days/weeks without firsthand experience with them. The primary reason for that is because of the reports I have been reading elsewhere, and the sort of Socratic musing on whether this sort of thing sounded like something I wanted to do in the first place. Given the state of Medic DPS, or more specifically my DPS, I thought I would try healing first. But instead of just jumping in blind and subjecting random people to my ignorance, I thought it a good idea to at least get a feel for healing in PvP.

You can probably guess where this is going.

The two BGs I played were perhaps the most awful experiences I’ve had in Wildstar thus far. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a dozen or so BGs on my other (lowbie) characters. Part of the problem is the classical healer dilemma in that you are pretty much useless on your own; if no one actually endeavors to capture flags, or if most everyone is terrible at PvP, you have no way of steering the battle yourself. Wildstar has an extra healer punishment in two more directions. First, the majority of heals are telegraphs just like everything else, which means that that near-dead teammate you are attempting to save will be precisely-dead when they dodge-roll out of the way of your heal.

Second… well, this is probably more of a personal problem, but actually picking which abilities to use is a depressing experience. It isn’t like you can just pick all Support powers and do well. Actually, you can, but without attacks of some sort you won’t be able to prevent flag flipping and such. So you are put into a position where you have to give up actually good abilities for weak-ass attacks, which you end up spamming all the goddamn time because the people you heal are goddamn useless. Just imagine the Exiles as the Alliance, and the blanks fill themselves.

And that’s when I realized that I don’t really like my Medic. Not just healing, which is a total clusterfuck, but… all of it. I enjoy the concept of the class, and even the sort of niche it occupies as an AoE healer. But guys, there is a profound sense of deadening when you realize how utterly shallow the combat system is. I get why Carbine did things this way – the only way the bullet-hell gameplay works is by reducing everything down to 5 buttons – but it puts enormous pressure on those few abilities to be fun to press. This isn’t like WoW where you can go Arcane or Frost if you dislike the Fire rotation. Every (DPS) class is basically a Ret paladin. Enjoy.

Some of this isn’t fair criticism, and I know it. I have precisely zero PvP gear, which likely has something to do with it. Everyone gets bad teams from time to time. I haven’t found an Arena Junkies-esque website to theorycraft the most efficient PvP builds, which raises the likelihood that I was specced poorly. Maybe I should have went 50/50 with attacks and healing, under the assumption that the shorter the battle, the less damage needs healed. Or perhaps I should simply “HTFU” and get back on the horse.

That’s the thing about existential crises though: you just don’t care anymore. Supposedly Medics are being looked at for the upcoming content patch in July, and it’s entirely possible I’ll just log onto my Medic tomorrow like it ain’t no thing. There’s a non-zero chance I don’t log on at all though. Because at the moment, I really don’t feel like playing anything.

MMO vs Co-Op

I was browsing the official Wildstar forums yesterday, and came across a(nother) thread on the building toxicity of the game’s LFG tool in Veteran (e.g. heroic) Dungeons. Anyone who has ever played WoW for more than a hot minute could point out the problem with the bizarre, and frankly naive, design decision Carbine has settled on: beginning Cataclysm-era coordinated difficulty combined with Gold Medal or Bust reward structures. I mean, what kind of intelligent person says “If any of this group of five cross-realm strangers dies, they get no epics even if they eventually succeed” and believes that is a good idea?

By the way, do you remember back in WoW when you could kick someone before the last boss dropped its loot? Yeah, Wildstar allows that. If you queue into a 3-man guild unit, you will only receive a chance to roll on gear on their mercy. TBC BRILLIANCE, HO!

Anyway, the typical Apologist refrain is “just don’t PUG veteran dungeons.” Hard to argue with that. Until now:

And you see thats a sad part …..why play an mmo if your only playing with certain people to get things done? your in an mmo ffs, why not try and actually get things done with random people you don’t know? thats sort of defeating the purpose OF being an mmo and not just a coop game =/

I don’t know about you, but this (poorly punctuated) post turned nearly everything I just blithely accepted as given in MMOs on its head.

People criticize solo-friendly designs – “You’re taking the Massively Multiplayer out of MMO!” – and yet not much forum-space has been given to the notion that being sequestered in your guild of friends/acquaintances isn’t very MMO-ish either. What’s so Massively Multiplayer about your even 40m (or typically much less) raiding guild? Does it even matter that there are other players running around outside of your guild tag?

Seems to me that when you zoom out a bit, there just isn’t a whole lot of difference between the srsbsn guild member and solipsistic solo player – everything outside of the circle is just background radiation.

More Gold Strategies in Wildstar

I successfully purchased my first free month of game-time in Wildstar last week with a buy order of 2.25p. In case you’re wondering, there is indeed a fee for putting up a buy order, because sinkception.

Because why not.

Because why not.

Given how my highest character is level 23, you might be wondering how I did this. In no particular order, here are some of my gold-making methods:

1) Sell all the decor. I’ve gone over this before, but you should also get a feel for what’s on the AH in addition to vendor price. For example, one of the things that put me over the top was a 25g sell order for an Ikthian Holding Tank. I have no idea what that is other than the fact(s) that it vendors for 1.83s, I won it from a Housing Challenge, and there were none on the AH. In retrospect, perhaps I should have put it up for 1p and seen what happened.

2) Similar to the above: selling Dyes. Specifically, selling the Dye Collections (e.g. don’t open them) you can get from Housing Challenge rewards. This actually might be on its way out as a strategy on my server; they used to sell for 5g apiece all day long, but are now approaching 1g. That can still be a lot of money, just like with the nerfed-but-still-75s-apiece Challenge rewards I talked about a few weeks ago. The one that seems to still retain its value on my server is the Ikthia Collection, which hovers around 6g.

3) Tradeskill Reagents. In one of those WoW-esque bizarro scenarios in which you sell things to people capable of making it themselves, I was making a HUGE profit margin with Weaponsmithing, specifically making the Condensers (i.e. Titanium Elemental Condenser). Only Weaponsmiths can make this item and only Weaponsmiths can use it, so… the market for them should literally be zero. And yet it’s not. I actually blame Carbine for this, as their crafting interface is a steaming pile of unintelligible garbage, but I’m not above selling things people shouldn’t really have a need to purchase.

4) Abusing Buy/Sell Orders. This isn’t so much “abuse” as it is “profit-extraction,” but it basically entails noticing when a wide gulf exists between Buy and Sell Orders. For example, many AMPs have a Buy Order of 10s (below vendor price even before fees!) and a Sell Order of 2g or whatever. So I come in, create a Buy Order for 15s out of the goodness of my heart, then turn around and sell any that people inexplicably dump on the AH, for less than the best Sell Order. It’s passive, it’s not guaranteed, and it takes up a lot of your ridiculously limited Trade Orders (25 max)… but it works often enough that I’m on the lookout for such opportunities.

Provide no value, get paid.

Provide no value, get paid.

A rather ridiculous non-AMP example I have is with Roan Steaks. I only actually knew about this meat drop because I was trying to figure out if there was any reason to level cooking, and it was one of the requirements in the Tech Tree. At the time, the ~1s buyout price was nothing compared to the money I was making via Challenge decor vendoring, so I put in a 200 item Buy order at like 1.1s. A week later, I noticed that Roan Steaks had a Sell Order of 30s apiece. I sold all of them. To be clear, I turned 2.2g into 57.8g in the equivalent of a penny stock windfall.

Not only is this still occurring, by the way, I’m pretty sure by this point reselling meat has been responsible for half of my total wealth.

5) Vendoring crafted goods. Tobold actually wrote about this several times, but you can occasionally get X profit per cycle crafting and vendoring the product, depending on AH prices. For example, Fine Titanium Cleaver requires 6 Titanium, a Low Viscosity Flux for 5.27 silver, and a Sapphire Power Core. If you use Refined Sapphire Powers Cores, e.g. a blue one, the result is a blue version of the weapon, which vendors for more. In this case, any time the combination of 6 Titanium and Refined Sapphire Power Cores is less than ~55s, you profit the difference.

Even though this is effectively endless profit, I personally feel I can earn more money faster via other means, up to and including just killing mobs in the world. You can usually pack in more profit by creating your own Power Cores, but at some point it might be better to simply sell the Power Cores than adding the extra step.

6) Vendor everything else. Ever complete a Challenge and then get wildly disappointed by randomly getting the Salvaged Loot bag? It’s not actually a disaster: each of the random crap items you receive sells for 5s or more apiece. The last loot bag I opened actually had 45s worth of “vendor trash.” That’s, you know, almost half a gold right there. Also, if you find yourself looking at regular quest rewards and not seeing an upgrade, make sure to pick the one that vendors for more; it’s almost always the Heavy Armor piece. It all adds up eventually.

7) Runes. I only recently discovered this opportunity, and right now it’s both low-demand and low-competition on my server. Basically, Runes are the equivalent of Gems in WoW but, bizarrely, everyone can craft them. All you need are the mats and some idea of which ones are selling high.

$_$

$_$

In the above example, Rune of Finesse has a current price of 20g. There aren’t any Buy Orders, so theoretically the demand is questionable. Regardless, four Rune Fragments, two Signs of Air, and one Major Sign of Air costs barely 3g on my server AH. In other words, the potential margins can be HUGE.

Rune Fragments are the typical bottleneck for this, as the only really reliable source of getting them is via Salvaging, which necessarily requires you to gamble the vendor price of the item. If Rune Fragments are expensive on your server though, they can be their own source of profit; just follow this video by Noxious. So, really, you should be covered on both end of things – either Rune Fragments are cheap and you can craft a bunch to sell, or they are expensive and you make money creating them.

8) Level Up. Although this is clearly not the route I have been taking, gold is easier to come by the closer to the cap you get. At level 50, you earn Elder Points for each full XP bar you earn, up to a certain weekly cap. Beyond that? All extra XP is converted to gold. This is on top of gold from daily quests, mob kills, vendoring level 50 loot, and so on. Worst comes to worst, you could vendor the tier 4/5 mats you get from mining (etc) to the tune of 50s+ per node.

So there you have it. Between this guide and my first one, you should not really have any trouble getting a comfortable level of wealth in Wildstar, even before the level cap.

Goldsinks

It’s all Wildstar, all the time up in this joint, but what is interesting is how many times I’ll encounter something that makes me reexamine more general MMO concepts. For example: goldsinks. Every MMO needs them, and yet Wildstar can sometimes feel like it has sinks within sinks (sinkception).

One example near and dear to my heart are AH fees. Wildstar features a 12% tax on sold goods. Having one at all is pretty standard, although wasn’t the cross-faction goblin cut 15% in WoW? Anyway, there is also a 2% or 5 silver (whichever is higher) fee on purchasing goods. And a listing fee. This can burn you pretty bad if you aren’t paying attention, as a 2s item suddenly costs 7s if you just buy the one, a 350% increase. Purchase 100 of them though, and that fee is just 2.5%.

70 copper purchase balloons into 570 copper.

70 copper purchase balloons into 570 copper.

Not impressed? Okay. I’m just getting started.

A more bizarre goldsink is that of respeccing. WoW has had respeccing fees forever, right? Sure. In Wildstar though, repeccing abilities is free and quick and absolutely painless… EXCEPT when it comes to AMPs. In other words, I can take a minute and go from DPS to healer no problem. I can mix and match anything on my action bar, including moving the “tiered” ability points around. What I can’t do is rearrange all those passive AMP points without getting dinged at an increasingly large rate. At level 50, it costs 50g. At current CREDD prices on my server, that means AMP respecs costs about $4. Every time.

Or, hey, maybe you just want to dye your clothes. Hopefully you enjoy pastel colors, because otherwise you are looking at 9.26 platinum (926g) to dye your clothes red, and a similar amount with the ever-suspiciously-rare black dye. That is quite literally $80. For one channel, out of three.

Or maybe you just want to unlock the AMP that is responsible for 20% of your class’s theoretical DPS. Sorry, it’s an ultra-rare world drop. Current price? 12p on the AH. Or $100.

Isn’t it wonderful what RMT does to one’s perspective?

I am not doubting the necessity of goldsinks¹. But I do agree with the posters on the forums that there is a profound difference between, say, an absurdly priced mount versus something that directly impacts day-to-day gameplay. Repair bills are one thing, as they act as a sort of death tax, encouraging specific behavior. But what does high AMP respecs accomplish? Discouraging people from utilizing their roles, after the deliberate design choice of making every class a hybrid? If it costs to change both AMP and Abilities around, that would at least be consistent. Instead, you have the ability to… be a crappy healer/tank at any time. Gee, thanks.

And then there’s the dye thing, which just seems pointlessly cruel. There are tons of housing sinks – including weekly upkeep on each of your plugs – but this just feels different to me, for some reason. Maybe because you already had to luck into/purchase the rare dye to begin with?

I am very much in favor of goldsinks in the form of WoW-esque 100,000g vendor mounts and other such extravagances. But the reason I am in favor of those things is because they are progressive goldsinks. In other words, these are goldsinks designed to hit players who can actually afford to pay them. Contrast that with, say, respecs. That hits everyone, in an extremely regressive way (nevermind the 70c AH item getting taxed to 5.7s). I feel like repair costs are perhaps the ultimate regressive tax, hitting the poor and inexperienced harder for essentially no good reason. I have always said that failure is its own punishment; you better have a good reason for adding an injury on top of the insult.

There have been a few people mentioning that these sinks will likely become irrelevant in the coming weeks and months as the playerbase matures. “These sinks were designed for the long haul,” they say. So, uh, is that supposed to make them better design choices? Making shit extra harsh in the free month off of release, only to fade into irrelevance as the playerbase thins out? Maybe it’s fair to assume that the negative PR of jacking goldsink rates up later is worth the initial hit now.

Still, I’d much prefer that other players act as the goldsinks (in terms of profit-taking) and not core gameplay mechanics. The latter ends up feeling a bit suspicious when you sell the means to bypass it (i.e. CREDD) in the game store.

¹ If I’m honest, I do kinda want to doubt them. The goldsinks in WoW are extremely minor at basically all levels of play, and easily circumvented with daily quest income. And yet it’s not as though the AH barons with seven-figure stockpiles are locking the average guy out from necessary AH goods.

Housing Madness

For the most part, I attempt to resist the urge to indulge in housing systems in MMOs and other games. These are good features and I am very much glad that they are implemented. In fact, I have expounded on the benefits of Show & Tell mechanisms for years.

The problem is that my efficient and logical exterior is but a bulwark against the roiling pit of madness that lies just beneath.

Perfectly logical.

Perfectly logical.

You see? Decor items are too valuable to a vendor or as an AH object for me to “waste” learning. There are a few items that slip through the cracks (in my psyche), sure, but I can solve that problem by scaling them up to the maximum. Everything is all good here, thanks.

Or at least it was until I checked a reputation vendor and noticed they sold some decor at 60 copper apiece. Then… then, They came inside.

This sort of thing amuses me. Amuses me greatly, indeed. I already have visions of a house plot completely enclosed in metal, like a Borg Cube. Or perhaps more accurately, the inside of the Lament Configuration from Hellraiser. I am near-cackling already, simply by imagining the look on the faces of visitors; they know not how far the jabbit-hole goes.

The answer is that it goes all the way.

Luckily for everyone involved, I am far too close to my goal of CREDD funding via in-game means to afford to bring my sinister plan to its dark fruition. I have Dyes to peddle, commodities to exchange, crafted items to vendor. The time for living room skull pits and such is not yet nigh.

166 Human skulls. All legitimately obtained, I might add.

166 Human skulls. All legitimately obtained, I might add.

Err… not yet again nigh.

Player Churn

It’s been about two weeks since this Gamasutra interview with Jeremy Gaffney, but I think it’s still worth a read. Or just have your mind blown with this thought experiment:

“Even a good game churns 5 percent of its users out every month,” says Gaffney. “That means every 20 months you’ve churned out your whole user base.” If you have one friend who still plays an MMO, that means you might have 10 friends who used to play that MMO.

That 5% monthly figure has been pretty consistent over the years, as WoW had an apparent 4-5% churn rate even during the heights of vanilla/TBC. That means each expansion could basically have an entirely new playerbase. Obviously, some stick around for the long-haul, so there’s some continuity.

Nevertheless, I feel like this more succinctly highlights the design pressures on MMO developers. Does an MMO ever get more hardcore over time? It’s hard to see how it could, given how one needs to entertain an entirely new audience every (at best!) two years.

Street CREDD

Wildstar’s EVE-like CREDD system is currently and unexpectedly active. Current price on my server? About 200g (or 2p, but that doesn’t feel as impressive).

Accurate as of today.

Accurate as of today.

There was a huge Architect nerf the day after I posted my guide, which reduced the vendor price of Decor by 40% (I did update it though). Apparently my bulletproof Challenge strategy was small potatoes compared with people earning +20p by vendoring decor crafted with below-vendor prices of ore/wood dumped by gatherers. On the one hand, I understand the need to not break the economy. On the other hand… 10 CREDD is $150 that I just missed out on.

It is an open question whether I would be playing Wildstar 10 months from now anyway. The truth is that I don’t know. Yesterday, I played it all day. Guys, I can’t even remember the last time I played one game for the entirety of my free time after work. Well, obviously, it was probably WoW, but still! Even though I think I prefer having a few small games that I work on each day, there isn’t much that can beat that feeling of delighting in bodily immersing yourself in a game.

"Challenge complete" is the sound of my addiction.

“Challenge complete” is the sound of my addiction.

And yet I am only level 18. I haven’t bothered with Adventures or even reading up on Dungeons, as I’m getting enough horror stories vicariously from Reddit. My ex-WoW friends haven’t logged on in a few days which, if nothing else, indicates they are not as deep into the game as I am. But am I even in that deep? I’m mining, playing the AH, and doing circuits of housing Challenges every 30 minutes or so. That’s still good, right? I mean, other than the fact that that pretty much describes my pattern of behavior in my twilight WoW months.

My nominal Wildstar goal is to get enough gold to purchase CREDD before having to enter any credit card info. At the current price, I am about 25% of the way there. It is entirely possible that I won’t be able to keep up with the presumed increase in demand as the game nears its 30-day mark. Or maybe my long-shot decor listing at 1p apiece (I was the only person listing the items) will result in a CREDD purchase tomorrow. Or maybe look shiny shiny I wonder if my Challenges have reset?

Err… so yeah. That’s been this whole week.

Wildstar Housing, Balance

This Penny Arcade is pretty much spot-on.

I have not personally succumbed to the housing endgame, but I absolutely see the appeal. My present domicile is named Function Over Form, and is primarily centered around having my own Mining and Garden nodes for resource gathering. Any decor that isn’t worth vendoring is placed as amusingly as possible, scaled up to the maximum. As it turns out, the scale on most of these items figuratively and literally go to 11.

I enjoy the view from my 30-ft couch.

The view from my 20-ft couch.

If you were looking for more serious housing endeavors, examples abound. I especially enjoyed seeing the DIY jumping puzzles. The craziest, most underrated part? You can visit other peoples’ houses. You don’t even need to know them in-game; as long as they have opened their house to the public, you can stop by, and perhaps harvest their resource nodes (more on that in a sec).

Here is the method to do so, and please pass it along:

Won't you be my neighbor?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Wildstar is by no means the first MMO with player housing. I was questing with a few friends on Vent the other night, and one friend actually complained that EQ2′s housing system was more intuitive. I’ll, uh, take your word for that.

Carbine has done something really clever here though, in elevating the Show & Tell aspect by combining it with Challenges and resources. I have my low-effort housing solely to be able to low-effort mine resources every hour or so; the Shardspire Canyon FABkit in the back similarly allows me to complete an easy challenge for a shot at additional goodies every 30 minutes.

But see, you can get a list of a few dozen people who have opened their houses to the public and check out their setups. If they too have resource nodes or Challenges on their property to complete, you have an incentive to essentially cold-call them to become Neighbors. Collect a big enough list, and you can probably farm all day just in other peoples’ houses.

Maybe that doesn’t seem all that social. I will tell you though, that it got me to add a random stranger to my Friend’s List so I could talk him into letting me farm his creepy, albeit very committed Plushie-themed house on the regular. I’m already trying to come up with a naming convention to indicate people willing to 50/50 their nodes into a… well, a “neighborhood,” to our mutual benefit.

The fact that there is a Zone Chat specifically for people in their houses is goddamn brilliant, by the way.

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Having said that, I now have a 2nd character parked at level 15 with very little impetus to move forward. It is difficult to shape into words why that is the case, as I even enjoy my Medic main. As others have mentioned, by level 15 you will have unlocked your house, your mount, and will have opened up enough abilities to get somewhat of a grasp of what buttons you’ll be spamming for the next forever.

Part of the problem is commitment issues. Mobs don’t die in 2-shots anymore, so you better like who you’ll be grinding with. Is Medic really the best for me? In trying out the other classes though, let me just say that Carbine is going to seriously need to work on the ESPer and Engineer (I’d say Warrior too, but I’ll give it another shot first).

The Engineer problem is pretty straight-forward: the bots suck. Not only do the bots suck damage-wise – which is a big problem when they constitute 2 of your very early ability selections – but they have pathing issues too, which can lead to aggro issues. My Engineer is level 8 and it just doesn’t feel fun, and none of the upcoming abilities sound like they will be fun either.

The ESPer problem, on the other hand, is a complete breakdown in the class design. I can’t speak for it’s endgame performance, but there is almost nothing I like where I’m at. It is currently the ONLY class to have it’s “primary” builder require being stationary, which makes it worse than useless in PvP. Flag carrier running away? GG. Target runs out of your telegraph? Now they’re 35+ yards away and you’ll never hit them with anything. GG. Then you have it’s R ability with its… stay stationary to gain an absorb shield, interrupt armor, and PSI points? Only useable in combat? Let me just say that using that ability in PvP just leads to pretty much instant death, even in the lower brackets.

Medic was more fun, but PvP is a crazy mess.

Medic was more fun, but PvP is a crazy mess regardless of class.

I’m mentioning PvP a lot with the ESPer as that is largely how I leveled with that toon. The Aurin/Mordesh starting area is abysmal, and meanwhile PvP is pretty outstandingly rewarding and fun. It takes around 3-4 games per level, and you pretty much consistently get 300-400 PvP currency per battle. The PvP gear has some “useless” stats to make it weaker in PvE, but you can unlock usable shoulders that will likely last you a half-dozen levels or more with pure PvE stats. Otherwise, you must rely on opening the PvP loot bags rewarded at the end ala GW2, to similar effect (read: none).

My goal with the ESPer was pretty much to heal exclusively, and in that area it is kinda okay. Most of its healing abilities are actually targeted (and stationary), which reverts the game back to WoW-mode; I moved the team window down to the center of the screen and basically used it like Healbot. I ended up unlocking a standard telegraph heal in the teens though, so I was able to be a bit more mobile as a healer.

So, yeah, ESPer, Engineer, and likely Warrior are about the three weakest classes at the moment. Carbine is on the record for saying that classes will be buffed up to the top level rather than top-tier classes being nerfed, so we’ll see exactly how they plan on solving this balance issue. I don’t see any way out for the ESPer other than making the level 1 ability a mobile cast though.