Course correction

September 5, 2014 by Tim

I quit Wildstar a couple of months ago, despite really loving the game. I had a blast questing, PVPing, and crafting my way to level 50.

Once I got there, though, it was time to start the attunement process for raiding. I’m no stranger to attunements, and a lot of MMOs have done them over the years. This one was particularly lengthy, but my friends and I went at it with excitement. Killed a world boss, ground rep for a couple of weeks, started working on silver medals in veteran adventures…

That was where it really slowed down. It didn’t help that, at the time, anything less than gold meant shit rewards, so everyone would bail on a group as soon as gold went out the window. It made it incredibly difficult to learn the adventures to get gold, much less finish with a silver. But either way, we powered through it over a few weeks, eventually collecting every gear drop we needed and all of our silver medals.

When we moved on to veteran dungeons, we felt no more geared than when we attempted them prior to gearing out from adventures. There was no noticeable increase in our power. It was frustrating, certainly not a cakewalk. During development, as Carbine repeatedly talked about how hardcore the endgame was, I was excited. I’ve done a lot of MMO raiding. From the Planes of Fear and Hate back in EQ1, to heroic mode ICC in WoW (my raid team earned the Bane of the Fallen King title and our Bloodbathed Frostbrood). I was looking forward to the challenge that Wildstar promised.

Unfortunately, as I spent hours each night working on these adventures and dungeons, I began to realize that perhaps “hardcore” just isn’t for me anymore. The huge time commitment that Wildstar was asking for not only to raid, but to just get attuned to raid, was simply more than I was willing to fork over.

I had to admit to myself that my priorities had changed. I’m a father now, I’m juggling a lot of different big comic projects. As much as I looked back fondly on my raiding days, right now it’s unrealistic for me to dump 3-4 hours a night into an MMO. I didn’t begrudge Wildstar it’s hardcore endgame, but I did have to accept that, at least right now, I’m not the player for it anymore.

My friends felt the same way, and so we drifted away from Wildstar, and then quit altogether.

Apparently, we weren’t alone. According to a recent report, Wildstar’s analytics show that most players aren’t engaging with the time-consuming end-game, with most player sessions lasting from between 15-30 minutes. As a result, Carbine is now refocusing their efforts on more story-driven solo content at endgame, as opposed to their massive, timesink hardcore raids.

Now don’t get the wrong impression from my comic strip… while I’m amused that they’ve discovered they need to head in the complete opposite direction they had originally intended, I’m certainly not admonishing them for doing so. Listening to their players is the absolute right move here.

This news, coming on the heels of Wildstar’s announcement of “megaservers” (a PR friendly spin on server mergers to keep population density at optimal levels), suggests to me that they’ve lost quite a few subscribers since launch due to their brick wall of an endgame, and are now course correcting to retain/reattract players.

When I left Wildstar, I did so hoping to return someday. Either as a result of them sort of smoothing out the progression to endgame, or even just after enough balance and content patches that I felt I could sustain an endgame on PVP or smaller content alone. Solo story stuff would work as well, I guess.

I don’t think it’s Wildstar’s fault here… I think they tried to make an endgame for MMO purists. They’ve just realized that those hardcore MMO purists are few and far between these days, and there aren’t enough of them to keep a subscription game afloat. MMOs are in a very different place than they were fifteen years ago. You can blame it on WoW, and the “casualization” of the genre, but that’s not entirely it.

There are a lot more options for games out nowadays, and I think people have shifted towards shorter sessions. Games that they can enjoy in smaller bites, more often, as opposed to four hour marathon stretches at a time.

Either way, I still love Wildstar, and root for their success, and hope to peek back in on them someday.

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