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.

_____________

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.

Making Gold in Wildstar

If there is one thing that I hate in MMO websites, it is when people allude to the fact that they are making gold (etc) but never explaining how. What’s the point? Bragging rights? In fact, that frustration was my part of my impetus for creating Player Vs Auction House way back in the day (which later morphed into this site).

Preamble aside, allow me the great pleasure of presenting one bulletproof gold-making method in Wildstar and two more that depend on the obliviousness of AH shoppers:

No assembly (usually) required.

No assembly (usually) required.

“But I’m not an Architect!” “The AH is flooded with these things!”

No, my friend. Sell them to… the vendors.

Bulletproof Method: Challenges

[Edit]: Carbine has since nerfed the vendor prices for many decor items, including the ones listed below, to about 60% of their prior value. The strategy still works, but not as quickly.

Extremely early on while leveling, I noticed that some of the Challenge options were awarding Decor. It’s kinda hard to get a handle on how valuable the Decor would be on the AH without seeing what it looks like, but there was one language I understood immediately: vendor price.

I’m going to be presenting you an Algoroc map to give you a few chances to nab the Chua-Tech Loading Arm (1.31g 79s) and the Shardspire Canyon FABkit (1.23g 74.1s). The following farming route is for Exiles only; I’m going to assume that a similar route exists for Dominion, but I have no such characters. Here it is:

Money Run #1

Money Run #1

In text form:

  1. Swiftpaw Slayer: Kill the wolves. Since this is a fairly early-level quest, you might actually have a hard time finding enough mobs depending on the number of other players.
  2. Skug Egg Destroyer: Kill the spider-looking eggs that alert/explode when you get nearby. You can typically dodge all the normal mobs in here and just kill eggs, which only have a few hundred HP.
  3. Scrap Yard: Pick up items off ground. It is highly recommended that you finish area story first. Once finished, 90% of the mobs in the area go neutral, which makes it considerably easier to pick up the scrap. Don’t bother with trying for gold-level; just click the “x” once you hit silver.
  4. Skittering Slaughter: Kill the spiders. The lone spider mobs seem to count for more, but I’m not sure. As before, don’t bother going higher than silver medal. There’s technically another easy Challenge in here to run through eggs, but it’s only worth about ~24s.

There you go. The exact odds are unknown, but silver medals give you a 4x higher chance of getting the decor. Nab all four, and you’ll walk away with over 5g 3g in vendor loot for something that likely took you less than 10 minutes (assuming mount, already completed area). Challenges can be repeated every 30 minutes. The one downside of this reset period is that time only counts down while you are online.

And why the hell not, here are two more in Celestion that can award the same items:

Bonus Round.

Money Run #2

In text form:

  1. Dancing with Data: Perform a DDR-esque mini-game. If it’s your first time here, you’ll need to complete the quest at the same console to unlock the challenge. I recommend using the default Ctrl-F1-F3 buttons rather than trying to mouse-click them.
  2. Licking Lolli-Lopps: Click the mushrooms. This is actually a bit harder than it sounds, as you receive a low-gravity buff and have a tendency to lose all forward momentum when running around. There are some mushrooms higher up in the trees, but they’re tricky. High chance of out-right failure if there are other people doing this one.

Nab both, walk away with 2.5g. Nab all six, and you’re looking at possibly 7.5g 4.5g every 30 minutes until you can’t stand it any more. There’s always a chance the dice roll against you, but it sure beats whatever the hell else you were doing to make gold.

…or maybe not:

Vendoring the AH

That’s right, my friends. Despite the fact that most items default to their vendor price when you list them, somehow the AH gets stocked up with below vendor priced goods. While I fully expect things to be fixed soon – either with a patch or an add-on that will vacuum all these deals automatically – for now just keep in mind to check the vendor price when looking at items. For example:

Three-way profit.

Three-way profit.

There are actually three ways to profit here.

  1. Straight-up buy items to vendor. I don’t recommend vendoring mats (see below), but if you’re looking for quick cash, this is literally free money.
  2. Check Bid prices to see if they’re beneath vendor. This FABkit, for example, had a bid price of 1g and yet vendors for 1.79g. The guy was actually trying to sell it at 5g or whatever with his Buyout Price, so technically you could try and flip it if that’s your style. For now, I’ll take 79s profit for tying up 1g for ~24 hours or so. Also, keep in mind that just bidding for shit is a good way to nab normally expensive things.
  3. Create Buy Orders for less than vendor. This one is a bit trickier, because there is a minimum charge of 5s for Buy Orders; in other words, you’ll definitely want to put in a large order and otherwise do the math to make sure you’re coming out ahead. In my case, I basically put in an order for 100 of these items (it really doesn’t matter what they are) and each one I get is +1s to me. Low-margin, sure, but the overall principal can scale to whatever size you please.

Here’s a third-level method to making gold, and the one I assume many “I can’t tell you” players are doing:

Crafting the AH

One again, we’re focusing on ultimately selling things to vendors. But instead of looking at mats to vendor, we’re looking at mats to craft into vendor bait. Example:

Something like this, but better.

Something like this, but better.

The above isn’t actually the best example, as the margin is (relatively) razor-thin here; mats cost 15.93s  (2.6*3 + 8.13) and final product vendors for 24.87s, for a net profit of 8.94s. Will you churn through the crafting interface for almost 9s a cycle? Maybe. There’s crafting XP in it for whomever would rather do this than find a tree that drops Ironbark wood. Due to the nature of crafting, you might be able to toss a few copper towards additives that can morph the final product into a slightly more valuable vendor good.

The other professions should work the same in principal, although I don’t currently have a non-beginner Weaponsmith (etc) to try it out. Just keep in mind that all of the various components (Power Cores, etc) have their own costs, and also the vendor price seems to be a function of the overall stats of the item. For example, I “over-charged” a weapon (adding more stat points at the cost of chance of failure) and it increased the vendor price by 2s. Might not sound like much, but these margins can become important later.

____________

In any case, there you go: three methods of making gold in Wildstar. Needless to say, I highly recommend Challenge farming. It is profession agnostic, simple, and relies on nothing more than Carbine not nerfing anything. I have identified six Challenges worth more than a gold apiece, right in the starter zone for Exiles – now that you know about them, you can keep an eye out for similar payout in future Challenges for yourself.

Wildstar Annoyances

Everything ain’t flowers and sunshine, cupcake.

Competitive Questing

It is kind of funny how the release of a game nearly two (!) years ago can so profoundly impact your expectations for all future games, even if you no longer play the other one. Specifically, Guild Wars 2 pretty much forever ruined the “traditional” approach to implicitly competitive questing, and it’s hard to tolerate anywhere else now, especially in Wildstar.

As some might point out, you can technically get quest credit for killing mobs in Wildstar as long as you tag it before someone else lands the finishing blow. Not in the WoW tagging sense, but the “just any attack at all” sense. The problem is that there is a profound lack of all the other supporting social mechanisms. Resource nodes are still exclusive. Quest nodes are still exclusive. Challenges train you early on to hate other human beings, even if you could be tagging mobs together; most mobs at these early levels die much too fast for you to tag them anyway, and meanwhile each dead mob is one less chance for you to actually complete the Challenge. To say nothing about melee classes usually not being able to tag in time, or how hard it is to do so as an Esper.

There is also the implicit annoyance/benefit of walking into one of the many quest caves, following in the wake of what must be The Butcher on a rampage. On the one hand, thank you stranger for clearing out all these mobs. On the other hand, err… I kinda wanted to play the game too.

Terrible Chat Interface

“Addons will fix it” is never an excuse for anything, much less something as important as a chat interface. I was singing the praises of the /Advice channel being integrated by default, and that is indeed good. What is not at all good is the fact that there isn’t a way to reply to Whispers without specifying whom. Every. Time. I just wanted to say hello to the guy who, you know, just whispered me. Having to click their name in the rapidly scrolling chat box is awkward as hell.

The workaround right now is simply joining a party with them, as your chat box defaults to your last channel entry. Why Carbine decided to not do the same for Whispers (specifically defaulting to the last person you whispered), I have no idea.

[Fake Edit] After playing around with it some more, another workaround is to use the Circle functionality. Because we should be taking cues from Google+…? I’m joking, the idea of having multiple “Guild-lite” social structures is pretty good; I could conceivably have a Circle with ex-Auch players, another Circle with the bloggers whom sort of directed me to this server in the first place, and still be in a hardcore guild if some aneurism left me a constant craving for pain and drama. In any case, chatting with multiple people via /c1 is just like chatting in a party. It’s just a shame that I cannot add accounts to Circles – what sense does it make to being able to Friend someone’s account, but having to add all their alts to your Circle individually? Just give us the option, Carbine.

Underdeveloped Mentoring

Did you know there was a Mentor system in Wildstar? You know, an in-game means to down-level yourself to go play with your friends? Me either. If I had not recalled that bit of trivia from half a year ago, I would not have scoured the web in search of the means to do so.

So, Pro Tip: target a party member and type /Mentor. Alternatively:

Right-click > Group > Mentor Player

Right-click > Group > Mentor Player

As far as I can tell, there is no other in-game explanation for this, for god only knows what reason. It certainly isn’t automatic like in Guild Wars 2, which I suppose can be good for carrying friends through group quests or whatever. I haven’t really been able to ascertain how much XP is penalized (if any) for doing this, but at least there’s a mechanism for making playing with friends less painful.

Phasing

One of the downsides of playing with friends though is the hard phasing. Right from the start, you are going to have to click Sync Group whenever you join someone’s party just to ensure you are in the same world instance. Which sort of begs the question for why there aren’t just megaservers, but whatever.

From there, we were confused a bit upon reaching Gallows, as I got a notification that the Mentoring would revert due to being “too far away” from my friend. Turned out the NPC town of Gallows was phased, and so he disappears from my world any time he’s within 10 yards of the place. Quests that take you “off world” also basically just teleport your friends away.

It irks me that these ex-WoW devs will have to re-learn the same goddamn lessons their peers ran face-first into years ago. And, hey, if you are going the hard phasing route, couldn’t you have individual resource nodes too? Or at least individual quest nodes.

Resource Node/Tools

This next one is an incredibly easy fix, either by Carbine or hopefully an addon later on, but it annoys me that it’s a thing in the first place. Basically, gathering professions require a specific gathering tool to be equipped before you can harvest a given node. I have chosen the equivalent of Mining and Laser-Lumberjacking. But here’s the thing: the game won’t automatically switch between tools. You have to manually click on the appropriate tool to go between mining Iron to cutting down a tree. Err… what?

If the goal is to discourage people from having two gathering professions, well, good job. Otherwise, it’s just goddamn annoying.

Salvaging Wat

One quest of particular note during my brief time with the beta was the one which asked you to Salvage an item. It was noteworthy in its clunkiness. Sadly, not much has changed.

As far as I can tell, the only way to Salvage things is to click on an icon in your inventory, which brings up a Salvage window… that then asks you to cycle through your entire inventory. Wut. Why can’t I, oh I dunno, just right-click to Salvage things? Drag them into box maybe? Make it a toggle like with Disenchanting in WoW?

If the game does have these things, they are doing a terrible job at communicating them.

Public Event Nonsense

Finally, I’m not sure whether I have seen a worse implementation of Public Events in an MMO. I’d call it “half-baked,” but that implies a portion of it has indeed seen the inside of an oven, which does not appear to be the case.

While questing with my friend, the path led us near one of the marked Public Events on the map. “Alright, let’s go see what these are about.” When we arrived, we joined in killing an Elite, which ended up being the capstone to the Event. Nothing dropped, no notification of anything, and the quest markers was pointing to an empty field nearby. “No worries, we probably need to start it correctly.”

After waiting about two minutes, the NPCs respawned and the Event began again. So we collected boxes, dropped some mining bots, killed some mobs, spawned the Elite, and then killed it. Aaaaaaand nothing. Literally nothing dropped at any point. There wasn’t even an indication that the event ended, other than the NPC camp disappearing in a cloud of dust. We eventually figured out to click on the Public Event text in the sidebar, and I was presented with this screen:

Hey, thanks for tracking precisely how much time I wasted.

Hey, thanks for tracking precisely how much time I wasted.

Err… wat.

I mean, on the one hand, okay. I can understand if their Public Event system is to only award things to people who contribute the most. It’s profoundly anti-social, and even Warhammer gave people in the middle a shot at getting loot, but whatever. What is less excusable is the lack of any indication of anything. And, you know, the fact that I actually did appear to be a top contributor. This is just a newbie zone Public Event, yes, but both my friend and I have come to the conclusion to not waste our time with these things again. One shitty experience with a game mechanic at the very beginning can poison the entire mechanic going forward.

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That is about where I’m at with things. I just dinged 12 13 on my Medic yesterday, so I’ll soon see how Adventures, Dungeons, PvP, Housing, and Mounts work out. I have been reading about how group content is leading to rather crazy amounts of Renown gain, which is an alternative currency you can use to purchase things like Mounts and such.

I have to say though, some of these classes are just obscenely underpowered compared to the others. Rather than Mentor my Medic down to level 8, I switched to my level 7 Engineer to play with the aforementioned friends. Jesus Christ, guys, it is so bad. It might not feel that way if that’s all you have known, but I challenge you to roll a Medic or Spellslinger and tell me Engineer belongs in the same game. What’s worse is that at level 8, you’re three levels away from getting anything approaching another DPS ability. You get Shitty Shotgun, Tickle-Me-Elmo Electricity, a reactive Crit attack that can’t really trigger off anything, and two Dumbass Bots that will aggro all the things. If the level 11 ability doesn’t blow my fucking mind, I might be forced to put on the waders and start mucking around the official forums.

Wildstar: The First 4 Days

I am likely playing Wildstar all wrong.

Basically, none of my characters are above level 8. I started off playing a Medic, which has been pretty fun. Once I hit a certain point in leveling though, I started asking questions in the /Advice channel – pretty brilliant of Carbine to include that by default, by the way – and realized that I should probably come to some sort of decision on a Main. Would it be Medic? What about all the other classes I hadn’t tried out?

Low-Grav buff stacks with Scientist Low-Grav buff. SCIENCE.

Area Low-Grav buff stacks with Scientist Low-Grav buff, by the way.

Let me state for the record that stopping your progress in newbie zones to reroll five other classes through the same sort of newbie zones is both very logical and a very dumb way to play. But since I did, I may as well go over how I felt about things.

Medic seems pretty powerful. Unlike most classes, they start with their resource system at full power, which lets you front-load a lot of damage into mobs. Also unlike a lot of classes, their “finisher” has no cooldown, so if you 1-2 shot the mob you attack, you can almost instantly transition into the next mob in the same fashion (the resource bar regenerates quickly outside of combat). Also, Science.

In comparison, playing a Warrior felt terrible. The filler attack was weak, and their multi-tap finisher has an 8-second cooldown. So while most classes press 1-1-2-2 to kill mobs at this level, the Warrior enforces an 8-second cooldown between mobs. None of the abilities that come later seemed all that exciting, which is a problem considering that you’re stuck using the early abilities for most (if not all) of your gameplay to cap.

Brutal character deletion.

Brutal character deletion.

I’m pretty sure the Engineer is broke, or at least was in the area that I was leveling. In principal, having bots out is cool. Not getting any feeling that the bots are contributing damage is less cool. Pets in MMOs generally fall into either Overpowered or Useless categories depending on their AI and pathing, and my impression is that Engineer pets are the latter. Considering that the Bruiser Bot and Missile Bot count as Abilities, having two of your early abilities feel useless is not encouraging.

Esper was somewhat of a surprise to me, in that I anticipated it being unfun when the opposite is true. In a game of constant mobility, what sense does it make to have your #1 filler attack require standing still? Then look at the level 4 ability, which is instant-cast but does nothing until 4.4 seconds later. Nevertheless, it feels kinda fun to be able to set up a lot of damage on mobs that lands all at once. I’ll likely have less fun in PvP and in situations where I can’t wind-up attacks though.

This Esper didn't come out bad at all.

This Esper didn’t come out bad at all.

The Stalker is toned down from the closed beta, but in principal and effect still feels a tad overpowered. Stealth has no cooldown outside of combat, your #2 attack is basically Ambush, Energy regens quickly outside of combat, so you can start every encounter with a huge burst of damage like the Medic. Plus, Stealth is always fun for bypassing mobs/players. If you go the Stalker route though, be sure to check out each race’s Stealth animation. The female Mordesh animation, for example, is grandma power-walking; meanwhile, the female Aurin is Naruto/ninja running.

Finally, the Spellslinger shot up in fun-levels once I figured out “the trick.” Basically, your “cooldown” ability is Spell Surge, which gives your abilities extra power for as long as you have Focus (or whatever). However, Spell Surge is actually a buff that lasts until you completely empty your Focus bar, and Focus regens (somewhat slowly) outside of combat. So, under normal circumstances, fighting mobs goes: 2, wait 5 seconds to charge, fire, 1-1-1-1. With Spell Surge up though, your 2 ability charges in 1.4 seconds and one-shots mobs if it crits. Even when it doesn’t, most encounters end with 2, wait 1.4 seconds, 1-maybe 1 again. Mobs die so fast that it starts getting annoying waiting for 2 to come off cooldown (10 seconds) before one-shotting the next, but I just unlocked another cooldown button that essentially one-shots mobs too, allowing me to alternate.

...okay, Spell Slinger with Surge up may be even cooler.

…okay, Mordesh Spellslinger with Surge up may be even cooler.

Now, obviously, these impressions of the classes could not be representative of their final forms, so to speak. If someone was describing the level 8 paladin experience in WoW as indicative of endgame, I would… hmm, bad example. Level 8 Elemental shaman… err. You get what I mean. Some classes don’t “click” until a key ability is unlocked, and other classes that start out as overpowered can fall out of favor once mob Time-To-Kill increases past a certain threshold. Medic, for example, will likely get annoying if two front-loaded #2 abilities aren’t enough to burst something down. Or maybe it won’t, because Science.

I would be interested in hearing the experience other people had with the Warrior. Was there a level or ability where it became fun? Maybe I was missing something like with the Spellslinger.

______________

I want to take a minute to talk about the Paths. Thus far, I have a hard time justifying anything other than Scientist. I mean, the Settler buff stations are really good – 50% run speed outside of combat is tough to beat – but I’m not sure how you compete with the endgame utility to summon group members or summon portals to capitals. Explorer abilities are almost a joke, and Soldier will entirely depend on what exactly a “Weapon Locker” does and/or what “Bail Out!” even means.

I analyzed the blue crystals at the left to get a jump buff to reach the hidden stash.

I eventually analyzed the blue crystals at the left to get a jump buff to reach the hidden stash. Scientist FTW.

Of course, you can pick a Path depending on the type of side-quests you enjoy too. If you don’t particularly care though, I have found Scientist to be the best: not only do you get easy tasks, you unlock special areas that no other Path has access to, e.g. bypass doors, unlock jumping buffs to reach secret stashes, etc. Sure, Explorer gets exclusive jumping puzzles, but those are less obvious than the locked Scientist doors in the course of normal gameplay.

________

I was asked by another ex-WoW friend if Wildstar was worth purchasing. Not at full MSRP… but $48 at GMG? Probably. I am having enough fun at these low levels that I’m certain I’ll play and hit the cap even if my other friends abandon the game tomorrow. Will I enjoy the hardcore dungeons and hardcore raids? Unlikely. The concept of Challenges in busy zones is a huge design oversight that doesn’t exactly engender faith in social aspect of the game; you need to make friends to do endgame stuff, but the rest of the game causes you to hate other people. I do not anticipate 40m raiding to survive the year.

Which is worse: empty TP roll vendoring for 75s, or me being too afraid to vendor it?

Which is worse: empty TP roll vendoring for 75s, or thinking it’s worth WAY more than that as decor?

Overall though? Not bad. I’ll be interested in seeing if I can pay for my next month via CREDD.

Wildstar: the First 4 Hours

Okay, let’s get started.

Auspicious.

Auspicious.

This screen was a bit disconcerting considering I hadn’t even made a character yet. As it turns out, it was defaulting to the beta server which… still exists? Weird.

Here we go.

Here we go.

I have mentioned it before, but I have a huge issue with character creation in any game. Namely, analysis paralysis:

Analysis paralysis or paralysis of analysis is an anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or “perfect” solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution.

Pretty much the only reason I purchased Wildstar and am playing in the Head-Start is because I have some friends who have decided that it was a good idea to get back together. Which is great… but these are largely the same people (with two big exceptions) who quit WoW a few expansions ago, quit GW2 within the first two weeks, and otherwise jump from game to game. In other words, there be issues.

In fact, there were some issues right from the start: one of the friends is gung-ho for PvP servers and already rolled on Warbringer as Dominion, then tagged us all in a Facebook post to let us know. There’s little doubt that if I went with him, most everyone else would follow. So, do I try and keep everyone together? Or do I herd as many friends as possible to a PvE server where the likely 1-month survivors will have more fun? Once that (easy) decision was made, I had to, you know, pick a PvE server. Obviously the Full ones were out, but should I go High or Medium? What is the server known for? And what kind of question is that, on Day 1 of the Head-Start?

Precipice.

Precipice.

Ultimately, I defaulted to Exile on Evindra, simply because I saw a few other bloggers mention it.

While this over-analysis might seem strange, from my perspective few people realize how absurdly critical realm selection is. Had I not picked the Recommended server on Auchindoun-US back in the day, my six-year relationship with these people would have never existed. Hell, I resisted getting a mic for almost all of TBC precisely because I did not want to grow attached to people I would never meet but nevertheless feel an obligation towards. Now? We’re sharing hotel rooms at GenCon.

Maybe I would have met a different set of friends on a different server, and I’d be talking about them. Maybe I would have met no one and quit the game years ago. I’m aware that realm selection was just one step on a sequence of causality leading up to the Scarlet Monastery run that led them to inviting me to Invictus. But, dammit, this right here is where you start collapsing the waveform.

Realm decided, I was immediately presented further dilemmas:

 

How much Dunk in your Bundka?

How much Donk in your Bondka?

Just kidding. That’s an easy decision.

Aww shoot, indeed.

I’d pay someone, like, $5 for that name.

So, as of right now, I’m (steam)rolling around as an Exile Medic named Azuriel. The class is pretty fun thus far, which is quite a relief as it was one I did not have any beta experience with. Mobile and hard-hitting Science? Yes, please.

I’m still interested in Engineer assuming that the DPS/fun issues I had in beta are addressed, and I have yet to try Warrior or Esper. I’m weary about being rooted to the ground for my primary attack with some of these classes, but at the same time you unlock alternate filler attacks later, so… it’s tough.

Two other items of note:

Irony.

Irony.

First, in perhaps the most comical bug fail I’ve ever seen, clicking the Report as Spammer button on any of the numerous gold sellers in chat results in an instant Crash-2-Desktop. The spam cleared up by itself once out of the starter zones, but I’m still laughing at the implicit message being sent.

Next, the opposite scenario of a full designer win:

The devs as indeed listening, apparently.

The devs as indeed listening, apparently.

I am a little hesitant to declare total victory, but preliminary reports indicate Skill Trainers have been consigned to garbage bin of bad game design where they belong.

Checkmate, atheists.

BM Steam?

So what are the odds that Steam is selling RPG Maker VXA for $17.50 (75% off) the same day that RPG Maker VXA is a part of the Weekly Humble Bundle (i.e. buy it for $1)?

Someone is a bastard and/or genius.

Someone is a bastard and/or genius.

I mean, it can’t be all just some amazing coincidence, right? And I would imagine that the Humble Bundles are, err, less nimble than Steam sales. Then again, maybe this is actually Good Guy Steam for letting us use RPG Maker VXA for free before deciding if one American dollar is worth the risk. Tough call.

On a related note, I was all set to plunk down some monies on the bundle before I realized that I already owned RPG Maker VXA. I’m not sure how, when, or why, but I do. Back in the day, I used a similar program on the PlayStation to start up what would inevitably be The One game that broke me into the industry. But after spending literally 15 hours coding item stats via controller (Stone Sword –> Iron Sword –> Steel Sword –> etc) I decided that my dreams were dumb.

I still have a lot of ideas, but they are tempered in the reality of getting other people to do them.

Definition: Insanity

With great reluctance and a heavy sense of resignation, I took GreenManGaming up on their 22% off coupon for Wildstar. Day One purchases are for chumps, and that goes doubly so for MMO releases, but… well, if all your friends are jumping off bridges, you might as well join them. Attempting to apply that game code resulted in this:

And so it begins...

And so it begins…

Repeated attempts eventually got through but we’ll see how it all goes down this weekend. Will my friends stick around in this game (not likely)? Will I find an agreeable method to fund my subscription entirely through in-game gold (possibly)? Will there be many, exhaustive posts detailing everything I find wrong with the game (indubitably)?

Still, this is what you guys pay me to do, so I will trooper on.

Also: Press™.

PvP is Overrated

Okay, seriously, last time I abuse a (this) misleading title.

Two items of interest today. First, Blizzard finally took a step to address BG faction imbalance (read: queue times) in WoW… by opening free Horde –> Alliance transfers on a single realm:

We consistently watch queue times for all areas of the game to try to identify problem areas where we can step in and make an improvement. Battleground queue times specifically tend to be a direct result of how many people are entering the queue at any given time from both the Horde and Alliance, within an entire region. While a number of factors can lead to longer queue times, faction interest in queuing for PvP tends to be the primary influence. For that reason we’re going to be trying something new. For a limited time, and only for select realms (for this first test just a single realm), we’ll be opening faction changes for Horde characters to change to Alliance for free.

While time will tell how much this works in solving queue times, I have been watching Blizzard dance around this issue with considerable amusement. Because honestly, the solution that actually works is the one the devs are least willing to implement: same-faction BGs. Bam! Faction imbalance solved. Instead, Blizzard is treating random BGs as some sacrosanct, final line in the sand:

Faction imbalance is definitely something that’s contributing to the lengthy queue times. That said, we agree that allowing Horde vs Horde and Alliance vs Alliance Random BG’s isn’t a great answer. We’ll do it if it’s absolutely necessary (Rated BG’s allow for same-faction battles for exactly this reason), but we’re going to look at all other options first.

Honestly, even if we can’t find another good answer, we’re not sure queue times are so bad, at least at the moment, that same-faction Random BG’s would be worth it. Horde vs Alliance, Orcs vs Humans, Elves vs Trolls etc. has long been a strong core of the Warcraft universe. We want queue times to be faster for everyone, but we also don’t want to lose that.

Err… guys? It’s a goddamn random BG. Nobody cares. Horde have been battling Horde in Arena and Rated Battlegrounds (gasp!) for years. It would not be at all difficult to provide lore-based justifications for this combat. I mean, the Horde is fighting the “Iron Horde” in the next expansion, for god’s sake. One team is Horde, the other consists of “Twilight Cultists.” One team is Alliance, the other is “Scarlet Crusaders.” There are literally dozens of viable factions introduced in each expansion that could make these fights make sense, if anyone at all really cared about the “strong core of the Warcraft universe” nearly 11 years since the release of Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne. And it’s not like they could not get that same Horde vs Alliance kick from, I dunno, the actual story as told by quests and such. World PvP could still be whatever.

There are few things worse in any game than having to wait out timers. Sure, some people pine for the days of 30-minute boat rides in EverQuest and such, but you could theoretically chalk that up to “immersion.” There really isn’t anything that can be said for BG queue timers; the whole thing is arbitrary from the start. I’d like to believe that we will see same-faction BGs from Blizzard sooner rather than later, but the hills people choose to die on are varied and nonsensical on the whole.

Second item: fun with “Peace-decs” in EVE. While technically recycled, the article is interesting to me because it turns the traditional EVE “PvP sandbox” thinking on its ear.

For the uninitiated (which technically includes me as well), EVE has three security zones: hi-sec, low-sec, and null-sec. If you are out mining in high-sec, anyone who shoots you will get killed by space police within a few seconds. One way to get around that is for a PvP guild to “war-dec” your guild, which gives them the ability to shoot you without repercussion for as long as they pay the upkeep to the war-dec. What can you do? Nothing. Technically, you can quit the guild that has been war-dec’d or join an NPC guild or perhaps just not log on at all until the whole thing blows over. The developers likely hope that you either fight them or hire mercenaries to kill them or something of that nature. Or maybe they don’t particularly care.

This hypothetical “peace-dec” is the opposite of the war-dec: your guild pays a sum of money + upkeep costs to prevent another guild from being able to fire on you in hi-sec. Sounds fair, right? Holy shit though, watch the PvPers freak the hell out at the suggestion. For the inherent symmetry of the peace-dec thought experiment highlights how much of a non-sandbox the EVE universe might happen to be. I mean, is a sandbox a sandbox if other players dictate how you can play? It’s an interesting question. It’s also interesting seeing PvPers get mad at being threatened with the inability to play the game how they want to, when the existence of war-decs necessarily prevents PvE players from doing so. Why is turnabout not fair play?

In any case, the idea of a peace-dec is really growing on me, even for other games. For one thing, imagine the money-sink capability. Even if there were only a 5% chance of dying from a ganker, I’d imagine that 90%+ of the players would consider X amount of their earnings a worthwhile sacrifice for the peace of mind. Then, as you get more comfortable in your PvP ability, you can stop paying the upkeep and gain a greater profit for your skill, even if you are farming the same area. Plus, you could have instanced PvP for those who want fights they don’t have to look for. Who loses under this scheme, and why do we care about them?