Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Day 767 : A Postcard from Nexus

It was inevitable that I'd give Wildstar a try sooner or later. I just didn't think it would be sooner, or that it would take over so rapidly for various reasons I'll go into. So there is going to be some discussion of a theme park MMO here.

For those who think I've fallen from the true path then you might read something that today gave me giddy nostalgia for the realms of New Eden. Over on Low Sec Lifestyle Sugar has written about how she became an FC for a bunch of self professed carebears under the hammer of a war dec. She learns to FC and they learned to be FC'd. It reminded me that the glory of EVE isn't really those stories that the mainstream media pick up on. It isn't the Burn Jita or Titanomachy videos I send non EVE-playing friends. Instead it's the smaller narratives woven by the innocents that compels. I care more about the story of the newb who went to war in a frigate he could barely fly or afford to lose than about the story of a Titan pilot who can shrug off the loss. Go read, be entertained, jump in a frigate. With both this and the Crius release on my mind I feel I'll be back between gates sooner or later. Anyway, this is the story in order I think:

So I'll be back, or I will once things get sorted. Summer hit England and with it (and the usual lull and changes in my gaming habits) the annoying news that I was getting more ill. I have Crohns disease. I generally refuse to call it that and refer to it as the "Witches" and it's intermittent attacks as "witchfire". Punning cheers you up. I'm lucky though, it's a fairly mild case compared to some, including at least one EVE player we've lost to it this year. However, an MRI result revealing it spread sent the doctors into a preventative panic. Since I felt well beforehand and haven't felt worse in years afterwards I'm assuming I'm a victim of the interpretation of shitty JPEG compression coming out of a 15 year old MRI machine but what do I know? They put me on immuno suppressants which promptly made me so ill I had to go on a course of steroids too. Entertaining fact - I have to phone up if I have "strange or frightening thoughts". Newsflash doc'. I have them all the time. I have to phone up if I "see or hear things which aren't there". A) How do I tell and B) I'm a gamer and a nerd. I purposefully try to "see or hear things which aren't there" all the goddamn time.

What does all this grim medical shit (ah ha ha) have to do with a theme park MMO? Well, it's easy to pick up. The game, not the disease ( not that it is a disease technically). At the start Wildstar is easy. No fiendish plans, no secondary backup plans and no disaster plans required to go and do some basic PVE. I'm not in the kind of place where I want a nervous, adrenaline laced, edge to everything I do in a game.

But "it's just Warcraft!" I hear you cry. Well, it is and it isn't. At first you are just in a standard theme park. Go there, kill these guys, come back, press button, receive reward, add "Pavlovs favourite" to your character title. That kind of thing. It was a relief just to have nonsensical stuff to do without fear, whether the adrenaline laden fear of EVE is a good thing or not ( and it is ), considering what was going on. Then the game started to make me laugh. It's a cheesy humour but it's rife with it. The first few times my character levelled up just made me laugh. Not just the incredibly over the top animation but the messages played over the top of that. And I do mean "over the top". It's like an answer to the old message of "ding!" you'd say when you messaged a friend in Warcraft to say you had levelled up. In Wildstar you might as well play the first bells of Big Ben in comparison. As I said to someone at the time, "That's a big fuckin' ding". Humour and exuberance are rife. Of course this makes the game less "serious" which at the time was a big a draw as anything for me. I needed a non-serious refuge.

Then surprisingly the game turned out to have a hard edge.

Combat isn't target, click buttons, loot. It's target, run around trying to aim, plan your boosting mechanic, try not to aggro everything in range, and then try and stay out of the red. I knew top class raiders in Warcraft that couldn't stay out of the red. They'd be dead every ten minutes after level 20 in Wildstar. Dungeons are apparently challenging from the get go. I refused to get involved in long term group things for reasons I've covered above.

Healing is worse, in a good way. I used to be a healer in Warcraft and it could be tough up at the raid and heroic dungeon level. I've healed one five man mob in Wildstar and it made me swear to get to 50 on one character and then go back and consider the entire thing again. Having to aim heals while people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, while dealing with odd class mechanics and damage that has to be avoided is a lot harder than it looks. It certainly made flying logi in EVE a lot more appealing, something I avoided like the plague after my Warcraft healer days.

The market is more complex than Warcraft. Admittedly it is no where near the free market of New Eden but it's there. Buy and Sell orders are possible. Knowing what these where and having certain experiences in EVE to back me up meant that I was pretty much sorted for cash from about level 15. I've calmed it down a bit but there is still no way I'll need to worry about cash until I do something stupid like raiding ( which I won't be doing ) and even then I think I'll be ok. I'm not at the levels of purchasing CREDD ( the equivalent of PLEX ) but who cares? I could do it if I wanted

Crafting in the game is a little more involved than Warcraft. Not that excitingly so, in fact occasionally random and annoying to the point of difficulty, and not the satisfying result of intellect that it is in EVE. My main skills were easy enough to level so that I was sat around getting the materials from buy orders because I'd never been to the places where the materials I needed were available to gather. Then I discovered the "hobby". Cooking. It became an obsession to get 15 talent points in it. They had deliberately made it trying and difficult and so I got addicted to it. In the end I just used the market to avoid the otherwise incredible level of grind that it represents and got what I wanted. It took some planning and my conclusion was that I'd gone from being a starship and weapon manufacturing expert to a character having some difficulties making a certain type of sausage. The humour was not lost on me and again the game made me laugh.

Housing. Yes. I wasn't going to get into virtual doll housing either. Then I did. Finding the optimal position for the liquor filled bar you are installing in your house, finding the optimal position for the huge eyeball you found in some random challenge, finding you can install personal challenge tasks. They take their toll. Let's face it, if CCP turned around with a working Walking in Stations implementation tomorrow where decor for your quarters was paid for in AUR then the spike in PLEX prices would make the last six months of PLEX inflation look like a one pence increase on your favourite snack bar. At one point I seriously considered what EVE would be like had Walking In Stations worked, and worked well. It looks like the guys at Wildstar just took all the crap they made the world out of, stuck it in various places for you to find and then gave you a blank canvas. I can't imagine it was a lot of work to make a player version of their own world building tools compared to developing the rest of the game and it's worked out well for them.

Are there any bad points to consider?  Absolutely loads but I'll stick to two comparisons to give you an idea.

vs Warcraft : The world is too zoned. You always feel like you are in a zone rather than just a part of the world. Often zones in Warcraft had long running borders and it made you feel like part of the world. You'd pass through old areas on the way to somewhere else and reminisce. In Wildstar you just teleport around and follow the paths through the gaps in scenery to the next zone. Open world it is not, not really.

vs EVE :  Damn Wildstar is visually noisy. I had to log back into EVE to calm down and make sure my eyeballs got a rest. There is so much shit going on all over the shop, it's a visual assault. The most powerful muscles in my body right now must be in my eye sockets. Give it a rest guys and put some calm places in.

Will I continue to play Wildstar? Well I don't think I'll ever be able to fully leave EVE. I've been keeping characters skilling over the past month mainly because I had plans but even if I let my sub drop I'll be back one day to use them. It's an old EVE story we've heard before. The Hotel California of games. There are other games nudging gently into my awareness, Landmark and ArcheArge among them. I'll continue to monitor the situation but for now, with my own body conspiring with the NHS to kill me, I'll leap from a precipice on a hoverboard, flip out my twin pistols and gun down a ton of angry something or others and laugh. Then two minutes later I'll switch off and go and watch some TV, secure in the knowledge that I had a little thing to do and a laugh.

While I watch TV that little thread of thought, almost autonomic now, that didn't exist until two years ago, will be plotting and scheming. Perhaps just as it was always meant to.

EVE Track of the Day

Hotel California - The Eagles