Wildstar was doomed to fail on launch (and how could it be rebooted to success)

Many in the blogosphere are sad because Wildstar is closing, despite them not playing it. This says two things: the creators made something lovable and remarkable that caught people’s eye, made people play and want to love the game.

The other is that the game was fundamentally flawed, broken to the core. Enthusiasts can ignore bugs, can look over unbalance, wait for “we’ll release it when we’re ready” feature and above all, they bring in their friends to play.

I needed no explanation why all these happened, I had the result the moment I’ve seen a video of the game about the beta and decided “no way”. The broken core was the telegraph action combat system. Don’t get me wrong, many successful games use telegraph action combat, League of Legends and Overwatch being the most well-known. But neither one is an MMORPG and for a good reason.

It’s bizarre that basics need to be explained to people who develop games for living. It’s like having to tell a chief power plant engineer that perpetuum mobile cannot be made and why. But let’s do it again:

Each genre of gaming focuses on one kind of “skill”. Those who like to hone this skill, find it fun to do so will be attracted to the genre. They are attracted exactly because they want to hone that skill. Everything that distract them from it (besides random, progression-irrelevant flavor stuff) hurt their fun.

For example FPS fans value the skill of quickly moving the mouse to the head pixels of the enemy. It’s a senso-motoric skill. The FPS games are purposefully bend everything for this one skill. The characters can turn back at infinite speed which is completely impossible for soldiers that the games formally simulate. Because the game is not simulating soldiers, the combat setting is just a lore-background, you are not roleplaying a soldier trying to stop terrorist, you are playing a “move cross to pixel faster” game, and if character turn speed was limited, it would put an artificial ceiling to your “skill”. The maps are fixed and few, because the players don’t want to be distracted by having to find their way or map the place when they focus on moving that cross. Any FPS which isn’t about moving the cross for the win will either fail – or like PUBG – the community ignores the other parts and just plays for headshots anyway.

The “skill” in MMORPGs is long-term planning and disciplined execution. Players collect items, reputation points, currencies, quest counters for progression that takes place over thousands of hours. While many games have thousands of hours of play by enthusiasts, those hours take place in thousands of independent short matches. In MMOs, it takes place in the same “round”, today session starts with all the advantages you collected in the previous days. You have more “stuff” than a newbie and players support that. Otherwise, they wouldn’t play.

The core MMO player values discipline (think of raiders with schedules and leaders), planning, “effort” and dependability. This is the setting they want to play in. Everything else distracts them. Putting action combat in an MMO is like putting year-long character progression into an FPS. Imagine that Counterstike would announce that you’ll have a persistent character that will get traits over time and a 2000-hours character will have 10x HP, 5x damage, 2x speed than a new player. The game would die in an hour, because players would be outraged that the combat isn’t won by the “skilled” (the one who moves crosshair to head faster), but the “lowly nolifer” who “grinded” out the upgrades.

This is exactly what Wildstar did. They created a game where players should collect items, get upgrades, play with a persistent character, while their progression wouldn’t depend on the mentioned things, but mainly on their ability to respond fast to telegraphed attacks. Players probably didn’t even got to the point of being outraged that progress goes to the “twitch-kiddies” instead of the “dedicated good players who make the necessary effort” because they vomited looking at the action combat in a video and refused to even try it, like I did.

An MMORPG must be very light on twitch-skill and heavy on planning, disciplined and organized play to succeed.

As a piece of good news: I think much of the development of Wildstar can be salvaged, by using the assets to make an Overwatch-clone. The classes would be the heroes, the combat system is perfect for that kind of game and the iconic places could be used for arenas. So Wildstar can shine, just not as an MMORPG.

Alternatively, Wildstar could be rebooted by dumping the action combat system for normal tab-targetting, 1.5sec GCD, skillbar casting MMO. Without double-jump, of course. The setting is clearly loved by many, the dungeons, bosses are already there.

.

PS: Warships update: since I take a break after every defeat, the amount of wins grows fast:
noquad

Author: Gevlon

My blog: https://greedygoblinblog.wordpress.com/

15 thoughts on “Wildstar was doomed to fail on launch (and how could it be rebooted to success)”

  1. “Imagine that Counterstike would announce that you’ll have a persistent character that will get traits over time and a 2000-hours character will have 10x HP, 5x damage, 2x speed than a new player. The game would die in an hour, because players would be outraged that the combat isn’t won by the “skilled” (the one who moves crosshair to head faster), but the “lowly nolifer” who “grinded” out the upgrades.”

    “Skilled” Overwatch players love complaining about “no-skill” “auto-aim” players who can win fights with game sense instead of twitch aim.

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  2. “Players probably didn’t even got to the point of being outraged that progress goes to the “twitch-kiddies” instead of the “dedicated good players who make the necessary effort” because they vomited looking at the action combat in a video and refused to even try it, like I did.”

    I tried it, despite the action combat, since I wanted to give the raiding a shot. I never made it past level 20-something, actually Wildstar was the only MMO I quit before the free 30 days that came with the box ran out. I did the first proper dungeon and it was then that the action combat reared its ugly head in full force; you had it in the open world, but nothing prepared you for the amount of twitch gameplay that was needed in group combat. I actually felt bad for the healer, who had to dodge 10 telegraphs while also looking at the health bars. And the endgame was gated behind not just clearing the Elite version, but also getting a ‘medal’ on it (otherwise you were a ‘scrub’ obviously).

    IMO, Wildstar deserved to die much sooner.

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  3. An MMORPG must be very light on twitch-skill and heavy on planning, disciplined and organized play to succeed.

    This is a good point, but not a only point. Planning and organization can give benefits, but its important to have limits. If there is no way to lose, people will abuse that power. Let it be kiling the new an inexperienced players just for fun or having a massive eve market control, point is same – they abuse the power of not losing anything. MMO games bloom early, just because early planners and oganizer will get ahead and feel powerful and will die out on the same problem, there is nothing latecomers can do to to challenge them and early players just get bored. “with great power comes great responsiblity” – there is not many massive multiplayer games who implement that in their games. Sadly, mostly you see only “with great money you skip the responsiblity” type of games at the best.

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  4. Funny that you mention double-jump. I’m not looking for twitch games or platformers (just a different type of twitch game), so if I see double-jump mentioned I’m already very likely to skip a game.

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  5. I’m not playing GW2 just follow it, so if I’m mistaken and someone who plays it read it, correct me. But as far as I know GW2 did exactly this change. It was also a mostly twitch game at launch, with not “holy trinity”. But it was not working. So they changed and implemented holy trinity and downplay the twitch part to current WoW level (which is way more twitchy than it was though). And as far as I know GW2 has a pretty stable playerbase now.

    I think Wildstar’s developer forgot that when WoW was big (10m players) there was many players who played it not because they liked MMOs or WoW but because it was the mainstream (literally with the ads in TV and everywhere). So feedback from this diluted playerbase was unreliable. There was many player who wanted more “dynamic” combat but these people migrated to moba or fps since then because that’s what they really wanted (just there was no mainstream version of them then). GW2 was born in the same period so they did the same mistake: “MMO players want more dynamic combat”. But (fortunately) they realized the mistake and corrected it.

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  6. By the way double jump in WoW’s Demon hunter class is the best class feature ever. But of course it’s only in one class, so the game does not rely on using it, so it’s just a quality of life feature (which makes easier to navigate) and not required to use neither in solo or grouped content.

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  7. There was an “insider expose” at one point that shared that WildStar was originally tab targeting, but mid way through development a senior exec decided it had to be action to meet the changing needs of players. As you mention, MMO players like tab targeting – at least the ones willing to stick around and support a game long after it is the hot new thing.

    Would have been interesting to see how the game would have fared under that model.

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  8. GW2 has exactly the same kind of telegraphs as wildstar. I can’t speak for the twitch requirement of Wildstar due to never having played it, but GW2 is intense enough to put me off (I mainly play PvP on and off, if the game supports easy to pilot builds which reward decision making more than technique). I don’t see ANet shutting it down anytime soon. Side note: World of Warcraft has many mechanics DETRIMENTAL to what you (correctly) perceive the game to be about, and it’s still on top of the MMO market.

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  9. @ Gevlon: Actually Jingles did mention that it was very good to announce a plan and that flooding the cap zone with torps was a good idea. Too bad that this one destroyer who died first from your team did not listen and whined that the team did not support him… He said it was a good match and that you and other teammates rigthfully warned your last surviving teammate not to move and to survive by timer running out. Instead he opted for the keeping his star by doing max damage and getting more exp, so this guy threw the match and handed the victory over to the enemy team…

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  10. @Gevlon

    Is there anyway to know whether or not the last guy actually saved his star?

    It would seem the “star saver” myth is no myth at all.

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  11. Pretty sure the bad performance and instability during launch, the horrifically tedious attunement that hid the end game, and the generic leveling experience played a far bigger role in Wildstar’s failure than “fast combat”.

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