In what the games’ industry hype-cycle, new MMOs need a great deal of traction in order to draw in an audience in a sphere where they must compete with the likes if World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2—so when I look for news about Wildstar (NCSoft and Carbine Studios’ upcoming MMORPG) I know that much of this is marketing, but it’s also obvious there’s a great deal of heart involved.
Wildstar possesses everything that makes it a marketer’s dream: it’s a solid, good-looking game, it has humor, a great team of people on the public circuit talking about what will go into the game and it also has a dazed and somewhat disenchanted audience of MMORPG players who feel odd about how hyped Guild Wars 2 was and a certain amount still clinging to World of Warcraft and Blizzard’s powerful suction.
By the way, if you haven’t noticed: Beta signups are already underway so you might as well try to get in.
Looking at it, Wildstar promises to be a science-fiction MMORPG with a lot of elements learned from fantasy-styled games: it has guns, gear, and “magic” in the form of psionics (space magic.) As well as new an interesting mechanics that should put it into the upper echelons of MMO gaming as soon as it hits the market. Namely, I refer to the race, class, and most importantly path system.
The Path System: An interesting social meta-mechanic
The path system in the game will give players what essentially amount to careers that directly affect not just the metagame but the direct game mechanics not just for them, but for other players near them. Paths include soldiers, explorers, scientists, and settlers. Any character can take any path irrespective of race/class combo (restricted only by faction availability, no doubt.)
The paths do what they say on the tin, but as I said above they will change the underlying notion of the game depending on what happens to be taken. Soldiers can open up special overworld missions to protect an outpost, take a position, etc. and when they’re doing this other players nearby can participate (upping the 0wnage and rewards no doubt.) Explorers can unlock places in the world that otherwise might not be accessible to other players—and nearby players can also participate by coming along. Scientists could accidentally awaken some underground beast while scanning a flower.
Settlers provide what looks like one of the most interesting mechanics in that they can build structures and towns, and upkeep them. Structures as small as campfires and as large as barracks and jails—these buildings at their various tiers and proximity would even add buffs, or perhaps missions for other players, so they provide another level of social aspect to the game. And, as it turns out, it would take several settlers working together to build up a sufficient town for the higher tier buildings (and thus their buffs and missions to become available.)
High Expectations: Wildstar’s payment model is undisclosed but probably a “hybrid model”
Right now the payment model is “still undisclosed but not unknown,” and everything we know about it—which is extremely thin on the ground right now—says that it will be a “hybrid model.” This tip comes to us from an interview with Carbine’s Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney (where he reveals around the 16:00 mark during a video interview with Gamebreaker.)
What does this mean exactly? Well, we’ve seen a lot of different types of hybrids of the free-to-play on the market and the two biggest are a buy-to-play with a free-to-play aspect (such as Guild Wars 2 that has a box price and then is run via a cash shop); and there’s also those that have a subscription for spiffystuff but a free-to-play model all the way through elsewhere such as Star Trek Online.
Looking at the staggering quality of Wildstar it could fall into either model seen above. There’s always the chance it will run with a box-price (buy-to-play) in order to fund the construction of the game and then will feed itself via an e-currency with microtransactions and a cash shop. This would put it directly in line with how NCSoft already runs Guild Wars 2 and give Carbine Studio’s the leeway to continue to produce the game while the publisher rakes in some initial cash.
I believe this is most likely because we’ve already seen NCSoft use this model with their previous triple-A GW2 release.
Coming Soon to a PC Near You?
Hard to say. Carbine Studios has been tightlipped about the release date, but the slow progression of the beta and stress tests tells us in the industry that we’ll be seeing it this year, potentially during the final quarter. Things feel like they’re ramping up. E3 will likely provide a number of big reveals and more information and that might even include a date that it’ll be hitting the market.
Meanwhile, us at GameOgre will keep scratching at the door to get into the beta when it opens up to the press and keep you in the know.