WildStar: The Boosting Epidemic
Three weeks after WildStar launched I befriended a complete stranger in Illium. For no other reason than we both needed something to do, we began chatting about Arenas and the pursuit of a 1500 rating. He being an Esper and I a Spellslinger we felt the combination could work even though we’d never played together and were fresh 50’s in a mix of blue PvP and PvE gear. Vippa, as it turned out, was and is a brilliant Esper. For a class that’s squishy and one which requires a high skill ceiling, I will freely admit that I was lucky to find him as a partner. As for myself, I’ve achieved plenty in my massively multiplayer career in terms of PvP in a variety of games so I felt we were pretty well set to take on the competition.
As it turned out, we fared pretty well in a very short space of time. At the time of playing 2v2 Arenas there weren’t the amount of 1800 players people experience today though there were still plenty of teams rated 1500. You can also likely imagine that only 3 weeks into the game the meta as to what worked or doesn’t work in Arena had yet to be established. During our time we came across very few Spellslinger and Warrior combinations and very few Warrior / Shield Surge Medics. For the most part Arenas just felt a melting pop of players diving in attempting to reach 1800 as quickly as possible based on the highest damage builds they could find.
Across two days, totalling around 6 hours, Vippa and I made it to 1500. I wouldn’t say it was particularly challenging and only a few teams caused us difficulty (not through their own skill I might add, just that we often messed up during our early matches together). Eventually we fell into a routine where match after match we destroyed the teams we came up against.
Sadly, Vippa and I didn’t pursue the road to 1800 together due to differing play times and instead I joined up with a friend (Carora) who is a DPS Warrior. It turned out that the perfect Arena 2v2 setup is, according to the community, a Warrior and Spellslinger. Sure enough and in 4 hours of play time we reached 1800. The only delay to our play were a pair of Stalkers who did nothing but appear individually in combat, attack and restealth while the other made their move. We beat them plenty of times but also lost a handful. It set us back, but only marginally. In total, it took around 10 hours to reach 1800 and despite receiving significant quantities of complaints from those we fought (“LOL scrub grub!” or "LOL FOTM!" being my favourite) it was an entirely painless process.
Fast forward several weeks and the landscape of Arenas has changed massively. People quickly realised that pairing with an individual who has better gear than a standard partner in blue was advantageous from a raw attribute perspective and win trading has become rife. As far as “boosting” is concerned (that’s taking a high ranked player, preferably 1800 rating, as your Arena partner) it does inevitably have its advantages. The gear available at 1800 rating over the blue level 50 PvP gear is notably better and will allow your team to deal more damage against fresh level 50 opponents. Your primary attributes will be significantly higher and so will your armor rating. That said and with the current state of the armor system, equipping a full set of Epochos blue PvE items will see you have higher attributes than even the 1800 rated set can provide (though it’ll cost you a significant sum of money).
The community pursuit of boosting partners, because the WildStar community believes it’s mandatory in order to now reach 1800 rating, is both frustrating and ridiculous. While 1800 players accompanying 1200 beginners does tip the balance in their favour (in terms of raw damage output and certainly in 2’s) it is still no substitute for skill or team composition. Even so, it’s enough to see almost every single team in 2v2 Arena now having an 1800 equipped partner “boosting” a lower ranked player.
To believe that you need an 1800 ranked player to “boost” you is, I believe, admitting that you and a partner (under 1800) are incapable of beating said individuals. That of course is nonsense and having leveled a Medic last week, I managed (only yesterday) to reach 1500 in blue gear, without a boost and as DPS (no, not Shield Surge!). At the time of writing that Medic is now 1699 in rating and has partnered with Espers, Spellslingers, Stalkers and Warriors. While that isn’t indicative of the system being perfect or functioning as it should, it is indicative of the fact defeating boosters is a very real possibility even if your gear is sub-par.
As far as boosting is concerned, the community pursuit of skilled 1800 ranked players to partner with has lead to a market developing where players are willing to pay to be boosted. For a price ranging from 24 Platinum from 1200 to 1500 and 35 Platinum from 1200 to 1800, it doesn’t come cheaply. Not surprisingly several skilled players have begun to utilise this player pursuit of rating and have made significant money from the carousel of boosting random buyers. One particular “booster” on Hazak (EU) is Ace. As a Warrior in Kyram Gaming and having played alongside him this week (and against him plenty of times) it’s fair to say he is a gifted player. While his gear is exceptional, his knowledge and use of his class is to. What makes the Warrior a brilliant boosting partner is the fact they are an exceptional building block for any Arena team, irrespective of 2’s, 3’s or 5’s.
What surprised me when joining with Ace and when fighting against him is the fact that despite his gear and personal skill, he’s still very much beatable. Admittedly our composition of 2 melee classes was poor and I wouldn’t normally utilise something such as that when fighting with anyone, it’s still evident that irrespective of gear he’s as much reliant on his partner as he is on his team composition and the composition of the team he’s facing.
The reason why Ace is so successful at getting players to 1800 isn’t because his class is overpowered (Warriors are powerful but do have their limits) and it isn’t because his gear carries him, it’s because he is a very skilled player who pairs well with most players. Even if those he’s boosting are poor, his skill alone is often enough to drag the team kicking and screaming to 1800. Certainly some of the people he has been paid to boost that I’ve fought against aren’t fit for any ranking, never mind the 1800 he’s helping get them. He is however good value for money.
Does this make boosting right and are players like Ace undermining an entire system Carbine have devised? Yes and no is my answer. What players such as Ace are undertaking I agree with entirely. He is simply providing a service - a legitimate one - that players are willing to pay for. He doesn’t necessarily guarantee you 1800 and he turns people away that prove too incomponent or that lack a basic grasp of their class or equipment. But if players have got 35 Platinium to spend, and they want to throw it Ace’s way, so be it.
For the teams going up against Ace and those he’s boosting, I think half the time those that lose or complain about his service are simply failing to think for themselves in regards to how they should overcome the current Meta setups (Spellslinger/Warrior, Spellsurge Medic/Warrior, Engineer/Stalker) and his actions. He might hit like a truck (like many 1800 geared Warriors) but he’s also incredibly squishy at the same time.
I’m not in anyway suggesting that in 1200 rated Arenas going up against 1800 geared players isn’t making progress up the ladder harder (it certainly isn’t fun being two-shot by a slavering Warrior hell bent on your death) but it’s not impossible and it doesn’t automatically dictate you also need an 1800 in order to compete.
If Carbine truly see boosting as a problem it’ll be slightly ironic to do so in a game and genre where gear is king. We all play massively multiplayer games and certainly WildStar to take part in the gear treadmill and the progress that entails. To then punish players who wish to play Arena by saying “you’re too well geared to fight against others” completely undermines this. Are we to then apply this argument to Battlegrounds and have players in 1800 gear unable to join them because it’s “boosting” an entire team? Based on the continued complaints I see on this issue at this rate we’ll be heading in the direction of the level playing field across all PvP modes, as set out by ArenaNet in Guild Wars 2. Who wants all the flaws that system brought? Not me.