The WildStar Ghost Town
WildStar is in trouble. There’s no point in sugar coating the state of the game - it needs help and fast. From its launch, WildStar was brimming with players in all aspects of the game. I joined with a guild I’d known for a very long time who had managed to stay together, as a group, since the launch of Warhammer Online. One month into WildStar’s launch and a guild made up of 125 members had fallen to only 15 active players. In needs of players in order to undertake raids or even the basics such as forming a 10 man Rated Battleground group, we decided to cut our loses and merge with another guild for the greater good. Unfortunately and despite the merge, that guild also hemorrhaged players after a further two weeks, resulting in an inability to field 20 players to undertake our first steps into Genetic Archives. As the newly merged guild continued to lose players, it was more than apparent just chatting in Illium as to how empty the game was as a result of players leaving.
I’m fortunate that I work from home so when I want a break or if there’s something specific relating to WildStar that I want to cover, I can log in and do it. Frustratingly, between 7am and 4pm most of what WildStar offers cannot be undertake because there is no one online. Queue times for dungeon finders are “Unknown”, Rated or Practice Arena are “Unknown” and even Practice and Rated Battlegrounds are “Unknown”. Now you might think “Well, most people are at work” and to some degree you’d be correct but to suggest that in a massively multiplayer game, across multiple servers and with cross-realm match-making that there aren’t enough people to fill a dungeon group of 5 is simply staggering. To make matters worse, I’m actually on the busiest EU server (Hazak) and even more worrying, it doesn’t get much better after 4pm.
You’d think that when players get home from work they’d want to jump online and play, but it clearly isn’t happening. Yesterday evening I wanted to help my friend reach 1800 rank in Arenas but not a single person was queueing. Even up to 8pm the queue time in 2 versus 2 was “Unknown”. Worse, for him to even begin to obtain Prestige to gain the starter blue PvP set, he was waiting for more than 20 minutes just for Practice Battlegrounds.
I’m fortunate that I now have a brilliant guild that’s not only busy with players, but we have enough to field two Genetic Archive groups 4 times a week. The problem is however, not all players are that fortunate and for new starters, the game is pretty dire. Having recently made an Engineer (my Medic and Spellslinger are pretty much finished, with the exception of a couple of AMP points) I haven’t once, in 30 levels, seen a single person. Worse still, it means I can’t undertake anything other than the generic PvE questing. What kind of “Welcome to WildStar!” experience is that?
What genuinely worries me is how so many of the people I chat to in Illium (when I do actually see someone) that think MegaServers will cure everything. Unfortunately and perhaps they don’t realise, it’ll only help with physical interactions in towns or out in the game world. Considering Battlegrounds, Arenas, Dungeons, Adventures and Warplots are all cross-server, it’s still only going to pull from the same pool of players. The only difference it will make is for players who have yet to transfer to Hazak who will now be able to find a guild and bolster the ranks of those Raiding. For anyone starting out in WildStar or wishing to undertake one of the many brilliant things the game offers, it just won’t make the slightest bit of difference.
At this point, I can honestly say in all the years I’ve played and covered massively multiplayer games I’ve never once seen such a heavy decline. Even Warhammer Online which suffered horrendous player backlash managed to retain enough players to allow for constant Scenarios or Realm versus Realm. Even as I write this at 2:00pm BST and having walked around Illium, I’ve counted a total of 11 players.
Frustratingly, WildStar doesn’t deserve so few players. If it was a genuinely bad game, I’d wholeheartedly support people speaking with their wallets and not playing and yet it couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes it has some issues but what massively multiplayer game in the last ten years hasn’t. Not only that, but I’ve yet to encounter a single bug, mechanic or system in WildStar that’s broken to the point where I can’t actually have fun in the game. It looks gorgeous, has brilliant animations and movement, its combat is the best in the genre (without question), it’s dungeons wipe the floor with all the competition and even its raids are incredible for a game that has just launched.
Having booted up Guild Wars 2 this morning, I genuinely believe that WildStar trumps it in so many departments and yet the game was absolutely jam packed with players. What I’m struggling to understand is how so players can lambast WildStar’s PvP, Rune problems or Attunement process and yet flock to a game that provides so little in comparison. I’m not suggesting Guild Wars 2 is a bad game (I’ve poured thousands of hours into it across multiple level 80s) but what Guild Wars 2 offered out of the box on launch day I don’t believe compares to WildStar.
WildStar might have its kinks, certainly its PvP at the moment is a pretty ugly affair, but there’s some real quality under the surface. The biggest cause of its woes is its leveling process (which is traditional, sometimes funny but incredibly boring) and the fact that it was marketed as hardcore. If there’s anything WildStar isn’t, it’s hardcore. It might have less accessibility than Guild Wars 2 due to some of its systems (Reputation daily farms or the Attunement process) but the vast majority of everything on offer is immediately available. Doing a dungeon in a PUG is no more difficult than a PUG in any game in the genre and surprisingly, I’ve managed a couple of Gold runs in PUGs before. To label them as hardcore does itself a disservice because it makes players who don’t have hours spare instantly wary of their time investment. Even Raids (having completed 6/6 of GA) aren’t particularly difficult with the right mindset if you’ve an ability to learn relatively basic and repetitious mechanics.
What Carbine need to do now is launch Megaservers so that Guilds can repopulate, deliver Drop 3 (bug free), provide a free months free trial and begin to look at a long term solution to its questing system and how it can become more fun. If any game did “questing” right, it was Guild Wars 2 and if it means future WildStar zones drop NPC interaction and leave you needing to simply undertake a task in an area, so be it. There’s still time to turn WildStar around but Carbine can’t afford to be slow about it otherwise this subscription game will soon be heading free to play.