If you’ve been keeping up with MMO news, then chances are you’ve heard a lot about WildStar during the past few weeks. Carbine Studios has made it their mission to show off the game, and for good reason. They’re proud of their work, and I can honestly say they have reason to be.
But what about the raids? You could argue that raiding is the most important element of an MMO. It’s what you work hard to get to, and then work even harder to be successful with. Carbine Studios hasn’t said too much about raiding… until now.
Starting off our discussion, Donatelli was quick to agree with my sentiment that the sense of reward and accomplishment in MMOs have dissipated during recent years. “There’s no question about it,” he said, adding, “we’re out to change that.”
What may surprise you is that WildStar’s raiding is challenging. When I say challenging, I mean really challenging. Carbine Studios have been testing and tweaking the game’s elder game—Donatelli emphasized that it’s called elder game, not endgame, because it doesn’t ever end—encounters for months. When you defeat a boss, you’ll know you’ve earned it. Bosses are punishing, but manageable provided you know what you’re doing and have a group of team players with you. You aren’t collecting loot from these beasts by your lonesome self, to say the least.
But it isn’t just about presenting nearly insurmountable odds and then leaving you to find the motivation to conquer the challenges. Each boss fight that I’ve seen has been complex and interesting. To understand why, you have to grasp the game’s Telegraph gameplay.
WildStar has plenty of gear to earn, but much of your success will live and die based on your skill. Most of the game’s abilities require aiming. For many attacks, that means making sure your target is in the area of effect. You can see this area of effect, which Carbine likes to call the ‘Telegraph’. It’s essentially a highlighted area on the ground—the color can be customized, by the way—that everyone can see. If you’re a healer, you don’t get a free ride as many of the healing skills require aiming as well. All those years playing first-person shooters are about to pay off.
Enemies, including raid bosses, adhere to the same mechanic. You can see where their attacks are going to land, and by using double jump, dodge, and quick reaction you can avoid a high percentage of the damage. In some cases, ignoring a telegraph is fatal. Players who walk in hoping for easy loot are in for a surprise.
What WildStar’s action-centric combat system does more than anything is build a foundation for new experiences. This isn’t a tab-targeting game like 90% of the other MMOs out there. The constant use of aiming, dodging, and jumping allows for some extremely memorable encounters. Fights won’t be about just sticking your tank on a boss and then killing adds as fast as you can. You’ll have to actively participate in avoiding damage in the room, platforming—Mario veterans will be able to show off their skill—, and have great footwork to be a top-tier player. With this foundation the game is able to deliver boss battles unlike anything else on the market, massive battles where every individual player’s awareness and skill is required to reap legendary loot.
In order to equip players with the knowledge to take down the monstrous enemies of places like Datascape (the first 40 man), players will be exposed to mini bosses and events that Donatelli was hesitant to call a “tutorial of sorts”. These pre-boss encounters might technically be “trash”, but tons of effort has gone into making them interesting and in one way or another related to what comes ahead. Carbine has made a conscious effort to show you how to counter the vast array of abilities and mechanics before you face the big guys.
There are a couple of mechanics worth noting, including Interrupt Armor and Stuns. Using coordination, you and your team can remove Interrupt Armor stacks from a boss to make them vulnerable to stuns, providing a moment of opportunity where the tank doesn’t have to worry about being clobbered, and DPS can unload. Donatelli said that stunning “won’t be integral to any boss battles”, but is something players can play around with to get an advantage. I like to think of it like Final Fantasy XI’s Skillchain mechanic. You never necessarily had to do it, and it required a great deal of teamwork, but when you pulled it off it felt great and gave you a leg up on a boss.
Lastly, the monotony of combating the same bosses each week is being remedied by a rotation system. One week you’ll have to deal with a particular foe, but next week you might have to face a different boss altogether. There’s no predictability here.
Before ending our conversation Donatelli shared two things Carbine have learned from other MMOs over the years. For one, “microtransactions are rampant”. Forget that jazz, WildStar will be a subscription MMO, and you’ll never have to worry about other dudes buying all the most powerful stuff with their Mom’s credit card. Speaking of which, if you want to play WildStar without paying a sub fee technically you will be able to. The CREDD system will allow you to trade in-game currency for your monthly sub. Not only does this allow you to validate your MMO addiction if the $15/month bothers you, but it hurts those mean ol’ gold farmers, too.
Secondly, Donatelli expressed that Carbine has been “working on post-launch content since over a year ago”. WildStar is already brimming with content for launch, but it’s not going to end there. The elder game will be constantly seeing renovation and integration with balance patches, new raids, and items to earn in what Carbine is planning to be a “one-month patch cycle”.
I’ve spent years of my life both as an avid MMO player, and as a raider. Everything I’ve seen of WildStar points to it being the MMO that delivers the next-generation raiding experience that the genre has been in dire need of. If you get deep satisfaction from defeating big bosses—uh, who doesn’t?—and taking part in teamwork with other players virtually, then mark your calendar for June 3rd. WildStar is almost here.