If you think the moniker implies some hideous malady that results in freakish mutations, you're right on the money. From ferocious multi-fanged rowsdowers and giant gastrointestinal pustules to an emote that makes a purple alien mouth erupt from your chest, this new content created by the "intelligent virus" shows a whole new side of the planet Nexus. And I got a sneak peek of the new land, new dungeons, strain-infected gear, and other mutated goodies that await players in the Strain Ultradrop. As a bonus, we've even got the official trailer for you.
WildStar's first post-launch monthly update is going to be anything but a piddly little patch. "We've spent the last six months of beta training ourselves to do ginormous monthly updates," Gaffney said. "We've done huge updates [through beta] on purpose because when we're live, we want to be able to sustain a content pace that is ginormous." Strain will open up the two new zones (Blighthaven and Northern Wastes) and introduce new mechanics, new gear, and new housing items. As Gaffney said, "It's hours and hours of content."
Gaffney explained that since so many MMO players have seen and done it all, the team hopes to bring something fresh to WildStar with its updates instead of just higher levels of the same old, same old. For example, the new areas introduce new creatures, including freaky infected versions of familiar animals. These new creatures also have new mechanics and new attacks to throw at players for some added variety. Additionally, there are new quest mechanics like the ring challenge inside the goop-filled pustule of the Globellum. While you're swimming through it to collect rings, the pustule will randomly spit players out high into the air. This helps keep the challenge fresh each time it's attempted because there is no set path for beating it.
Blighthaven is a veteran zone, meant for players who have already reached level 50. Why is the first update focused on max-level content? Gaffney explained that the road of dead MMOs of the past is paved with games that had nothing for players to do once they reached max level.
The two faction's hubs are placed very close together, so players will find opportunities to PvP if that is their focus. For PvE content, Gaffney reminded me that the first area in the zone is mostly solo, pointing out that "60 to 65% of people in the U.S. tend to play massively single-player games." That is also why the team is focused on regular updates, since this group consumes content so quickly. About 50% of the zone is dedicated to the solo and small-group playstyle.
But solo isn't the only playstyle, and it isn't the only playstyle the team supports. Gaffney argued that having features that encourage others to make friends in game is a bonus, saying, "We love it when people play together because once you make friends that's what makes games stick. You want to play the games your friends are playing. Anything we can do to encourage social interaction, we do."
The 20-man area is a public event set in a tower defense-style map called Guardians of the Grove. Players can set up three basic types of defenses: one that attacks the waves of monsters coming on, one that controls or slows them, and one that does nothing except offer more and better loot. The event is broken into phases, starting with the opportunity to set up the defense before the onslaught. In another phase, the event actually shifts, and players become the attackers and have to storm the tower to take it back. There are mechanics to help players call others others to the different quadrants as needed.
Unlike Blighthaven, Northern Wastes is set up with the two faction's hubs at opposite ends of the map, bringing the PvP clash to the middle. This zone is also set up with the same solo, five-man, and 20-man content formulae. One unique aspect of this zone is that the team is actually considering making it open PvP on all servers so that it offers a PvP experience for everyone.