These are some final thoughts and impressions from this past weekend’s WildStar beta event. Overall the test was mostly stable. This was the first weekend test event since pre-orders for WildStar became available. One of the “perks” of purchasing a pre-order is access to weekend beta events, so this was the first such event where Carbine was not in direct control of the player population and the potential stress on the WildStar servers. That said, there were no major issues in terms of server stability during the time played. Latency also did not appear to be an issue, although more often than not when these problems do occur, it is due to something related to the player’s connection on Internet traffic in general. The game itself is not always the culprit.
One item Carbine may have to address is the ease of completing quests in the low level areas of WildStar. This is an issue that almost every massively multiplayer online (MMO) game faces. When a game first launches, there is an overabundance of players “clustered” in the low level areas. This is simply due to the fact that everyone is starting at the same place. These eases over time as players advance at different paces and the population begins to spread out over a broader range of levels and zones. But at the beginning, the game faces a bit of a “traffic jam,” and WildStar is no exception to this.
There were some quests and objectives in both the Exile and Dominion starting areas that were difficult to complete due to the large number of players in the area. Required items were difficult to find, and monsters were scarce. WildStar does attempt to alleviate this problem somewhat with the way it tracks quest progress and assigns credit. The game does not use the traditional “tagging” mechanic present in most MMO’s. Any player who damages a monster needed for a quest receives credit upon that monster’s death, allowing them to advance the quest regardless of who took the “first shot.” However this system is of little help when there are simply no monsters to kill in the first place, and this is the precise problem that was encountered in a few situations. Players were standing around waiting for monsters to appear. This “spawn rate” will have to be examined before the game launches. This is one final impression from this weekend’s WildStar beta test.
A comment must also be made about the changing nature of testing in general. Beta testing used to be primarily what the name implies, testing. However in recent years this has not proven to be case. Instead these tests seem to serve two other primary purposes, with testing an almost distant third consideration. More often than not, beta testing for MMO’s today is more about marketing and publicity. Testing access is given as a perk to those who invest in the game, either by purchasing it early, or purchasing a more expensive version of the game with a greater number of perks. Beta testing is also used to generate publicity for the game. Players are encouraged to share their experiences, or members of the gaming media are granted access. The actual refinement of the game itself becomes less of an issue.
At the end of the weekend the question must be asked, is WildStar worth purchasing? At this point it is difficult to give a definitive answer. The game is undoubtedly fun and entertaining. If a player is not currently committed to an MMO that requires an ongoing investment of time and money, then it is easy to recommend WildStar as the game to fill that void. For players who are already committed to a similar game however, it is difficult to recommend WildStar. There is not enough difference between this game and similar MMO’s such that if a player is already playing one of them (i.e. World of Warcraft, RIFT, Star Wars: The Old Republic, etc.) that they would feel the need to invest in WildStar as well. Time may prove differently, but based on impressions from this weekend’s beta test, that is how it appears now.
This was a final look at WildStar based on impressions from this past beta test.
Commentary Review by Christopher V. Spencer