We were allowed to write about our play experience amidst the NDA of WildStar’s 2013 Arkship. The demo was kept to the Deradune zone, which is the open-world starting area for the draken and another race, an Exile I believe. I feel that there is so much more to learn about the quest and combat design in WildStar, but I also feel, given my play experience with many, many MMOs that I have a pretty good feeling where WildStar is heading. This post will be about my thoughts on WildStar’s quest and content design, with another following on the combat design later this week.
WildStar is going to have quests. It will be a “quest-oriented” MMO similar to World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online, but it plays more like Guild Wars 2, the “questless” MMO. Last year’s Guild Wars 2 focused on iterating on the social aspect of open world PvE and Star Wars The Old Republic and The Secret World focused on the story aspects. WildStar is iterating on the basics of quests. Like the name of the game implies, Carbine wants quests to be free in form.
I started the area, and quite a few NPCs had quest bangs over their heads. This is the ground level for players. It gives them plenty of direction and purpose, especially with longer storyboard quest chains. There was even mention that some static-appearing quests might be more temporary. A crash landed ship might set up a transient quest hub before they want to launch back in to orbit. One player might run through the zone feeling it’s a permanent addition, while another player never sees that ship. There are also quests that seem to just spring out of my actions. A huntress might call me on my wireless to set me a-hunting, or I might find an NPC roaming the field that gets my attention.
These pop-up quests bleed into challenges. A baseline challenge is simply “kill more that-which-you-just-killed”. Complete that, and it’s a quest completed on the fly. My favorite challenge occurred when I made my way up to a plant tower to plant the Explorer beacon. A challenge came up that asked me to get down the tower in 30 seconds without any fall damage. I was laughing out loud because I knew Carbine had me. I couldn’t ignore that challenge.
Finally, there was quite a bit of Path content called “missions”. I’d say in the area I explored (about 25% or so of Deradune), I had 6-8 Explorer missions left to accomplish. I completed 3-4 Explorer missions as those were what I was really gunning for during my demo time. Missions just sort of appear in a UI portion called a “Datachron” (separate from quest UI) to remain until I want to go after them, which is something I should mention. Clicking on any quest-like content in the UI puts a temporary arrow around the player to guide them to the area. I used this many times for quests, challenges, etc., which was a nice alternative to constantly pulling up a map to figure out where the content took place.
Finally, there will be public events. They have the tech for this, but public events are going to be overshadowed by quest, challenges, and missions. Perhaps some zones will have more public events creating a zone narrative, but I felt, at least in part of Deradune, public events are a nice aside. Metal Maw, the giant boss of that area, was such a public event to rally around when it goes active.
It is apparent that WildStar is aiming for a quest-based free-form play. It seems contradictory, but from my experience, it works. I heard Carbine designers mention that they don’t want to force players along any specific quest-hub/quest-chain route. Carbine wants players to play how they want to play. It’s interesting that for both NCSoft’s ArenaNet and Carbine, both studios wanted to remove the single-direction quests in conventional MMOs. Carbine did this in a way where quests still remain a discrete thing, but they really use this to their benefit.
The main issue is going to be how much content Carbine devs can truly pack in to one area. If the devs can continue with the saturation I saw in our little area of Deradune, I’d say the game is well worth picking up to experience a refreshing take on a quest-based MMO. I can totally see how leveling up a new character along roughly the same route could result in a very different experience.
Of course this leads to the issue of whether WildStar is a “tourist” MMO. From my play experience I cannot say. There was a lot, a lot of discussion of sticky content, some of which I would be writing many articles on, if I could. My experience with the open world, early level content is simply too narrow a scope. I will say this. From what I played, I already plan on picking up WildStar. It was simply fun. It was very unconstrained, and I feel for people that like to smell flowers, especially in a limited time frame, WildStar will be a good, shiny choice. For players more wary of a migratory experience, I’d wait to make a firm decision until Carbine really discusses their sticky content with the “elder game”.