Monday, August 17, 2015

Opening The Door On WildStar

It's all Mercury's fault. He posted a really excellent "first impressions" piece on the current iteration of WildStar's new F2P build, currently available only in beta. It prompted me to stop prevaricating and jump through the necessary, tedious hoops to climb on board the sinking ship before the F2P tugs arrive in the Autumn to tow it out of the deep, hardcore waters where it's floundering, into the shallows of casual gaming where it probably should have stuck to cruising all along.

Mercury's review was the trigger but it had always been my intention to buy a copy of Wildstar before the re-launch. As with EQ2's Silver Membership deal back at the launch of Freeport, buying the box amounts to a single small payment for a greatly enhanced long-term experience. Among other highly desirable perks like additional bag space and more house item slots you get 12 character slots per realm instead of two, which is a huge bonus for altaholics.

It's also something that will not be available to anyone who chooses just to download a free copy of the game, even if they go on to pay the monthly Signature fee (subscribe in other words). In F2P WildStar additional character slots will have to be paid for:

"All accounts created after the transition without applying a key from a box or digital copy of WildStar will support 2 characters per realm by default. This is true for both Free and Signature service levels. Character slots are always an a la carte purchase".

If they follow GW2's pricing model those extra ten slots per realm would cost £85!

When MMOs transition from one payment model to another the process can be convoluted. It pays to read the terms and conditions very carefully. I thought I'd done that but as I fact-check for this post I find I haven't been as duly diligent as I thought.

My first idea was to buy the game from Amazon, where there are plenty of copies available starting at around £13. The delivery dates on those are long, however, and since no release date has been announced for the F2Plaunch other than the vague "Fall" I was slightly concerned it might go live before my box arrived.

In fact, reading the full FAQ, that wouldn't matter:

"you may still be able to find boxed copies in stores or on the Internet. These copies of the game will vary in cost depending on the seller, but the keys within will continue to offer the same promotion bonuses they do today...All accounts created using keys from a physical box, or with keys available from the website before the transition, will be grandfathered to support 12 characters per realm. This is true of box keys even after the transition." (My emphasis).

Another thing I didn't know or, more likely, had forgotten is that WildStar has a peculiar form of Region Locking. Your account is not, as is more common, region locked by IP or your physical address; it's locked to the origin of the code you purchase, be that in a box or an email from Carbine. I bought my copy yesterday directly from their website and it is locked to the EU servers, which would not have been my choice, although now it's happened I'll probably stick with it. What will happen to region locking when the game goes F2P is anyone's guess anyway.

Then there's the server choice. There isn't one. Well, strictly that's not true. There's one PvE server and one PvP server. Megaservers, supposedly. You can get a free transfer from PvE to PvP too - probably not the other way, I'd guess.

Buying and registering the game was a total pain as it often is with MMOs. I do wonder if half the reason so many of these games under-perform isn't down to how hard the companies selling them make it for us to give them money. It took me over half an hour just to navigate the various registration and security screens. 

It's no surprise there's such an issue with people re-using email addresses and passwords - I try to make a new email address for every MMO and always use totally unique passwords but it takes forever or feels like it. Add in the secondary security, the authenticators and the telephone call-backs and you have to be pretty committed to get to the end of the process. No wonder many people take shortcuts.

Even when all that was done for some reason the PayPal option didn't work. I think a lot of prospective customers would have jacked the whole thing in long before I did. I know I was close to bailing on the whole idea a couple of times. And of course after that came the multi-gigabyte download before I could play. These companies really need to read up on instant gratification if they want make money.

Or they could just copy Blizzard. If you want to play WoW on a whim you can be through the registration process in a matter of seconds and in character creation in a couple of minutes, while the download streams in the background. It's an almost seamless transition from having the urge to stepping onto Azerothian soil. Let's hope WildStar drops most of the barriers to entry when the transition comes. A streaming client is a must for a F2P MMO with a big footprint, even in these days of fast broadband, I would say.

With all that out of the way I only had time to make a character and run around the Arkship tutorial for half an hour before it was time for bed. I made as much of a mess of that as I had of the rest of the process. I was very happy with the way my new Aurin character looked but for some inexplicable reason I lumbered her with a ridiculous name that I am just not going to be able to live with so she's for the woodchopper before she gets off the Arkship.

This morning I made a Mordesh instead and I'm not wild about her name either. I think I'll delete the pair of them and start over. I was going to say something about the actual gameplay but this has run on so long that will have to wait for another post. At least the hard work is done...until I have to set up the next account for Mrs Bhagpuss, that is. 



  1. I've also been drawn in to Wildstar again due to all the positive coverage regarding the f2p transition and the fact that I actually quit after the first month of launch due to real life circumstances, not because I didn't enjoy the game.

    And I have also experienced frustrating issues with getting in. I haven't been able to log into my account management for the last 12+ hours due to a combination of site maintence and other errors and was close to just not bothering, but I think I'll stick it through and keep trying until I can get back in.

    Looking forward to following your upcoming adventures.

    1. WildStar was always a game I liked but just not enough to pay a monthly fee to play. Also it always felt as though the hardcore approach was in conflict with the aesthetic. I think F2P and a softening of the gameplay could see it doing well - or well enough to keep going at least. They really do need to make sure people can get in and get playing fast though. That's kind of essential.

    2. I agree completely. I can appreciate the idea behind the "hardcore" approach, but i feel that Wildstar went about it all wrong. It's kind of a like a jeckyll/hyde. They could have started with a smaller scale "hardcore" focused game and then slowly made it more accessible and casual friendly over time, or that could have gone bout it the other way too. Instead it came out with multiple personalities :/


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