WildStar: New IP but Old Community?

If you want to have your finger on the pulse of any MMORPG, it is best to start fast and early. Few other genres can muster up an equivalent buzz, at least not one that extends in-game. MMOs come packed with their own internal social networks of cooperative play, a wide array of chat channels, and guilds looking to bolster their rosters with just about anyone. As a new IP, WildStar’s launch has been no exception when it comes to the hype, but in a genre typically plagued by exclusionary personalities, progress-gated social clubs, and rampant trolling, how does the community stack up so far?

Far better than expected.

Coming into WildStar, I was worried that the game’s willingness to embrace a fairly hardcore MMO approach with certain features (namely raiding and its 40-man raid size) might carry over and affect the rest of the game. Though it’s too soon to tell for sure, my time on Evindra (US-RP) has thus far been great.

It’s difficult to follow the various chat channels. They ebb, flow, and scroll with impeccable speed at most hours of the day. Conversations vary from the newbish to the absurd to the sometimes constructive. I have yet to see any big arguments or much mockery. Players are all struck with a gleeful enthusiasm for WildStar’s fresh spins on a lot of dated MMO mechanics.

Usually, this translates into a broad willingness to answer questions. Of the few that I’ve had to pitch to the public, they have all been answered quickly. Now, experiences will vary based on the server, but I believe it’s typical to the genre that in the heat of a game’s launch zeitgeist, people are their most pleasant. After all, everyone is a newb even if they’ve played MMOs before.

This especially shows in the questing. WildStar rewards quest credit differently from a lot of other themepark-oriented MMORPGs. For starters, the difficulty of a mob determines the percentage it will contribute to your overall question completion. Rather than being asked to kill ten rats, you’re instead asked to kill a non-specific amount of rats. The weakest rats, often found in small groups, will be worth the least on up until Dire Rat Supreme, who will contribute significantly more but may be difficult for most classes and players to solo efficiently.

This leads me to a second important difference: it is incredibly easy to share mob kill credit with other players, even those you aren’t grouped with. Essentially, all you need to do is tag them with some damage and you’ll get credit. Many new players and MMO vets are still adjusting to this fundamental difference. Older games in the genre condition you to be very greedy when it comes to questing. WildStar still does that somewhat. Often, a quest will require you to collect an item off the ground, and sadly these still despawn once a player has collected them (before respawning fairly quickly). Add in the game’s star feature of aimed abilities and essentially you have a very fair competitor to Guild Wars 2’s completely cooperative design without completely overhauling the genre.

It may change as the game’s population waxes and wanes, but I think the leveling design will be an essential part of WildStar’s strengths moving forward. Rather than be an entirely soloable experience that you can mindlessly keyboard smash your way through, leveling in WildStar rewards group effort, teamwork, and playing the game correctly (learning to dodge, healing others, etc.). It promotes the ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality necessary to sustain the community, social, and cooperative focuses of any proper MMORPG and will help to sustain WildStar for years to come.

I am excited and enthusiastic for WildStar’s future. At least now while everything is still in motion, it is a terrific social experience for new and old players alike. Not only are there a lot of new tricks to learn to maximize your fun playing, but finally we’re getting back to a point where the genre actively promotes learning those tricks with others (especially strangers) outside the confines of already group-focused instanced gameplay.