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The Nexus Telegraph

The Nexus Telegraph Extra: WildStar's deafening silence

Sci-Fi, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Answers so mysterious they've decided not to share any of them.
How many people are currently playing WildStar?

I don't know. You don't know, either, beyond vague guesses based on things like Raptr numbers, which say more about what Raptr users like to play than about actual game popularity. But it seems like the sort of answer that could be used to at least deflect a great deal of criticism, doesn't it? If Carbine Studios is sitting on two million players at a reasonable level of activity, that wouldn't shut down all discussion of the game's myriad problems, but it sure as heck would demand some rethinking.

That's precisely what I asked when I, at Carbine's behest, sent the team questions about the health of the game over a week ago. The bad news is that Carbine still hasn't answered my questions, nine days later. But the good news is that in the interim, Carbine was willing to tell another site that WildStar does not have a "player interest" problem, which seems like the sort of waffley question you'd answer if you really didn't want to be specific.

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The Nexus Telegraph: Dribs and drabs of WildStar

Sci-Fi, Culture, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Admittedly, talking about it seems a little silly.
The past few weeks have not been a fun time to be a fan of WildStar, and we still have heard distressingly little about what's coming in the next patch. Heck, the most I can think of hearing about in recent memory is the announcement that the game will not feature any sort of holiday content this year, and as those of you who know me will probably guess I kind of wanted a Halloween event. (I like October.)

But let's talk about what we do know and where we are right now, since barring any further developments, there's not much more to be said about what isn't working. Either things get addressed or they don't. So let's talk about the next drop, what we will and won't be getting from it with any measure of luck, and about the complete lack of holiday content and why anyone should care. Yes, even if you normally don't care about holiday content!

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The Nexus Telegraph: How to fix WildStar

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

I've been thinking about fixing my brain, but... actually, don't think about it.  Just do it.
It's been a quiet couple of weeks for WildStar, which could be taken as indicating the team is making major changes, or it could just be pre-patch preparations that are taking half of forever. It'd look the same either way. We know the next patch is coming, and we have some idea of what it's going to contain, but we still haven't gotten anything resembling a release date. Still, leaving aside the obvious shift in patch schedules, I'd like to think this is the start of a paradigm shift for the game's development as a whole.

This ties into the last column's topic quite well. The game has issues at the moment; it's not hitting the notes or player numbers it wants. What can actually be done to address this? How can the game draw players back and keep them engaged, especially when it's in need of some pretty serious server consolidation so early in its life?

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The Nexus Telegraph: WildStar ain't doing so good

Sci-Fi, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

We were thinking about something else.
If you somehow missed it, last week the WildStar team announced that the game will be squishing into megaservers to help bolster populations. What the hell happened?

Contrary to what the developers would like you to believe, this is not good news. It's especially bad news if you're part of the roleplaying community, as you're about to get shoved into a server configuration that's almost specifically designed to prevent you from roleplaying outside of a handful of shared plots, but it's bad news for everyone. And it's bad news for the game when server merges are a reasonable reaction after less than three full months of operation.

We all know that the game launched to good reviews, and it's far too early to say, "Well, it failed." At the same time, this is not a sign of a robust and vibrant future. This is the first stage of an organized retreat, and it doesn't inspire confidence. So what, exactly, took place that brought the game from the high of its launch to server mergers today?

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The Nexus Telegraph: Habits that WildStar should keep

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

It's time for another round of Good Idea, Bad Idea.
Last time around in this column, I talked about the stuff that WildStar desperately needs to get out of its system, and quickly. I'm pleased with it. With the scaling-back of the update pace and some changes that I expect to be coming, I'm hopeful on that front. (Incidentally, if someone has a link to an actual promise of monthly updates from Carbine Studios, pass that along, since I don't think anyone ever actually promised it so much as just wound up doing it.)

So why am I still playing the game? Because it's got a lot to recommend it despite those failings. These are not bad habits that the game needs to kick but things that the development team should arguably double down on. They're arguably the best parts about the game and certain what makes it stand out the most. So in direct counterpoint to last week's article, here are the things that WildStar should keep doing.

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The Nexus Telegraph: Addictions that WildStar must kick

Sci-Fi, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

I look forward to people telling me how I'm wrong because the game is meant to be a raiding game as if that wasn't an inherently ridiculous statement.  Commence to jigglin', folks.
Matt Daniel is a friend of mine. (Yes, despite my claims at the end of some poorly considered features we did together.) He's also a spectacularly bright guy with a clear picture of what games do well and what they do poorly. So when he and I wind up chatting about WildStar and noting the exact same problems, I take this stuff to heart. And there are a couple of underlying issues that the game would do well to address sooner rather than later.

I've talked about issues that the game has before, but a lot of those issues are really symptoms, not the core issues. I enjoy the game a lot, and I think it has a lot to recommend it, but there are some nagging fundamental issues, just certain ways of viewing the game and the community. As we approach the all-important three-month mark, it's time to start thinking about those issues, about what they represent, and perhaps most importantly about how those issues can be addressed.

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The Nexus Telegraph: Another WildStar patch approaches!

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, PvE, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

It's where I have my fun, It's where I point my gun.
I honestly expected the second patch for WildStar to take much longer to show up on test servers, but here it is. In some ways, I'm not surprised, since we're in the just-after-launch pattern of finishing and polishing stuff that wasn't quite ready for launch with the rest of the game, but still. It's a small one, but you know, I can live with frequent small patches just as well as I can live with more spaced-out large patches.

As it stands right now, we've had about a month to get used to the Strain drop, and I imagine we'll be seeing Daggerstone pass on live sooner rather than later. (With my luck, tomorrow.) So let's talk a little about the last patch, the upcoming patch, and what we can see about how Carbine Studios handles its patches overall.

Oh, and dropping bombs on your teammates. I'm sure that'll factor into this discussion at some point.

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The Nexus Telegraph: The basics of crafting a WildStar build

Sci-Fi, Classes, Game Mechanics, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Have I used this before?  I think I've used this before.  Please, let me know if I've used this before.
There are few things I love so much as writing a column for June 30th only to find out on the 30th that the patch I'm discussing is going live on July 1st. You know, when it's too late to change anything. I really would have been happy to have found that out before the day.

But, hey, WildStar's first patch came out, and now I've had a couple of weeks to explore it a bit. Am I happy with it? Sufficiently, yes, although I haven't yet digested it in full. For one month out from launch, I can't complain much.

Of course, that's not the first thing that I want to talk about today. I want to talk about builds. Rather than giving you the absolute best-of-the-best builds for tanking and DPS and so forth, which I can't quite do, I want to help you figure out how to make a build that works. It's a satisfyingly interactive, and there are lots of very functional options however you choose to build your character.

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The Nexus Telegraph: WildStar's first dose of Strain

Sci-Fi, Patches, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Not that I can't think of some people who will totally want this one.
The funny thing about launches is that they're like every other aspect of the game industry: They're based on momentum. Create the feel that you're coming out with new content on a quick basis and you get points from players, even if it's inevitable that some of this content is stuff that was almost-but-not-quite ready for launch and just had to be trimmed back a little before we first got to dip our toes in the official swimming pool. You can see the zones on your map in WildStar right now, even.

Does it matter to me? Nope. I have to admit it doesn't. I'm satisfied.

The bulk of the news this month has been about the game's first major patch, which is due for "early July" without a harder date. I have not yet gotten to go hands-on in this content; I've been too busy focusing on the live game and advancing there (up to 50 on one character, at least!), but let's talk a little bit about what's being added in the patch. Fair warning: Spoilers may ensue.

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The Nexus Telegraph: The first week in WildStar

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Launches, Opinion, WildStar, Dungeons, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Come on baby, don't fear the reaper.
Full launch for WildStar has come and gone, the servers have been up and running for a week, and I've been hacking away at various enemies of the Dominion like a good soldier. As I write this, my main is 23, although I'd probably be a fair bit higher by now if I hadn't stopped quite so many times for roleplaying and to decorate my house. (Not too much of that, though, I need to afford that spacious house once I get to a valid level.)

It's safe to say that I'm enjoying the game a whole lot. Server loads seem to have largely stabilized, at least from my end, and the fullness of time has given me more opportunities to run more stuff and really enjoy a wider variety of what's in the game. There's some good stuff, some annoying stuff, and some things that kind of cut both ways at the same time. So let's just dive in, shall we?

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The Nexus Telegraph: WildStar's headstart (launch) is here!

Sci-Fi, Launches, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

It's all for keeps.
Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen. We've been waiting for it for a very long time, but you can indeed play the game now. WildStar is no longer a vague promise of what might be in the future, it has well and truly launched, and it's inherited all of the launch issues that come along with every single MMO launch, along with an assortment of people certain that we've never seen anything like this before.

Hey, guess what I'll be talking about with today's column.

I haven't had nearly as much time in the headstart as I would have liked at this point, largely due to the dread specter of Real Life minimizing my free time between launch on Saturday and when this column is being written (which is not five minutes prior to posting, if you were curious). But I've got some impressions just the same, and whilst I don't think they really qualify for first impression status, you came here to read about WildStar's launch, and that's just what I want to talk about.

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The Nexus Telegraph: Preparing for WildStar's launch

Betas, Sci-Fi, Launches, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

I'm excited.  Are you excited?  I am.
When you read this, dear reader, you will be less than two weeks away from early access to WildStar. Unless you've come here just to let everyone know you don't want to play the game, in which case you might want to find slightly more joyous hobbies? Just a thought.

The obvious thing to do pre-launch, of course, is to reserve your name, but that didn't work out for everyone so well, and I'm betting that if you were going to do that by now, you would have done it. (Still have a little time if you haven't, though.) What else can you do? Open beta is over. It's just getting into the meat of the game and maybe taking a day or two off of work first, right?

Obviously not; there's more stuff you can do to prep yourself for the launch psychologically and otherwise. So step into my metaphorical office, and I'll give you some suggestions about things to do before the game starts and once early access kicks off.

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The Nexus Telegraph: WildStar's pre-launch ups and downs

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

I'm going to be honest with you, I just found this shot cute and decided to put it here.
We're in the home stretch before WildStar's launch now. If you haven't pre-ordered, you should do so. For all intents and purposes, the launch game is what's being used in the weekend test sessions. All that's left is the actual gameplay, and if you're an RPer, hunting down the roleplaying community to see what's acknowledged as the unofficial community roleplaying server because beta servers certainly do not have those all-important RP tags.

What? I know what side of the bread my butter's on.

A bit of discussion with a friend the other night reminded me that I can't think of a single game over the past four and a half years that I really thought launched at the right time; either they launched a bit too early or a bit too late, at best. So today, with launch less than a month away, I'd like to talk about the things that make me most displeased about the game... and the bits that make me the most hopeful.

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The Nexus Telegraph: In which no WildStar injuries happened

Betas, Sci-Fi, Events (Real-World), Endgame, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Parting is such sweet sorrow for another month or so.
My performance on the dance floor during PAX East 2013's WildStar party is the stuff of dark legends (in my mind, anyway), but it was not replicated this year. Indeed, when I tried to get into this year's WildStar community party, the entranceway was inaccessible due to the sheer mass of people. As I naturally handle crowds about as well as a Mechari handles knock-knock jokes, I opted to turn around and go back to my hotel room.

There was a Ghostbusters marathon on, so it was still kind of awesome.

This did not, however, mean that the convention was devoid of interesting stories; it just was devoid of stories in which I sustained injuries greatly impacting my normal hiking routes. So let's talk about what things really stuck out in my mind through the whole con. For my money, that comes down to the focus on the endgame and a really stupid statement. Where to start?

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The Nexus Telegraph: Is WildStar a World of Warcraft clone?

Sci-Fi, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, WildStar, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

This isn't a metaphor.  Metaphors are subtle.
No.

That was quick, so we can all -- oh, wait, no, I need to write more. Also saying we can all go home is pointless; most of you are reading this from home. All right, we'll start over. This is one of those things that gets trotted out every time a new game comes along, and in WildStar's case it comes out twice as regularly, since it's the first game in history to use colorful and stylized graphics other than World of Warcraft, except that it isn't.

It's kind of ridiculous, and it's a bit of a pet peeve. As someone who has played World of Warcraft extensively, I find the list of similarities between the two pretty shallow, and it comes across more as a way of dismissing the game without bothering to learn about it. So let's talk about where WildStar does take its cues from Blizzard's game, where they differ, and why saying it's just a clone is absurd.

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