Wildstar and community-building

Two very interesting posts yesterday that I’ve been thinking have some shared relevance.

Firstly Rohan has an excellent post on the FFXIV community and how Square Enix have helped to engineer a friendlier or more patient MMO community through game design and positive reward systems. He postulates that the relative slowness of leveling and combat may have weeded out many of the impatient players that are common to other MMORPGs (the “gogogogo” players, those who drop group at the first wipe in a dungeon etc). My husband and I have experienced this difference in attitude, certainly some dungeon runs have not gone super smoothly but where wipes do occur there’s a higher tolerance of failure – I get a sense that the players are more patient than in other games; not always but more often than not.

Secondly M J at Massively OP has written up an interview she conducted with Carbine devs about the upcoming mega-patch that will herald not only free-to-play to Wildstar this autumn, but also a lot of changes to the game. The post details proposed revamps of the character stats, a more even spacing of dungeons with an earlier intro to group content, quality of life improvements like always-on sprint out of combat and much more. All positive stuff although I’m glad I’ll have experienced a good amount of the game prior to these changes for comparison.

Wildstar has a turbulent history of targeting the “hardcore” and having included systems that encouraged elitism and poor group behaviour (e.g. requiring gold medal runs on endgame dungeon runs to get the best loot led to lots of players dropping group after the first wipe). I was turned off the game at beta by how highly competitive so many elements of the game seem to be (or have been). When zones were busy, challenges were my idea of hell and open-world combat was a mess of players dragging monsters over your fight so you’d grab aggro from them (accidentally or on purpose).

Even recently in my last gaming session I’ve seen an example of this competitive nature. I was collecting frozen tubers in Whitevale via a two-step process, holding ‘F’ to unfreeze them and then having to press ‘F’ again to collect the root. I was momentarily distracted by chat in the advice channel (a second or three) and another Exile character skate-boarded up and collected the item I had thawed. This isn’t a “two characters running for the same node” incident – I had already interacted with it to unfreeze it and someone felt justified in taking the item!

What I’d really like to see Carbine doing is not just making the game easier or faster but rather for them to focus some attention on toning down the competitive nature of the open world content. That in combination with some active encouragement for players to help one another could be a real help in building a more positive feel to the game’s communities and to the game’s reputation online.

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