Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Wildstar’s Endgame Will Work

At PAX East, the major emphasis of the Wildstar team was on end game. Many people including Massively’s Wildstar writer, Eliot Lefebvre, are dismayed by the apparent emphasis on high end raids as the main PVE endgame in Wildstar.

Wildstar has two raid sizes, 20 man and 40 man. If that feels a little Vanilla WoW to you it should.

(cue Billy Mays voice) But wait, there’s more!

They are also bringing back attunements. At level cap there is a lengthy quest chain that must be completed before you can start the 20 man raid. Completing the 20 man raid is required to start the 40 man raid. The attunement requirement is turned off in Beta to allow for more testing, but like the early mount that shortcut will not be in the live product.

We will hear all the arguments about 40 mans we did in WoW. We will hear about how only 1% of the players see the content and how it’s a massive waste of limited developer and artists resources. These were arguments I believed and supported. I cheered as the 40 mans were removed and replaced by 10s and 25s.

But after seeing the results (for example: WoW: Accessibility and Apathy ) I have to admit, I was wrong.

We now have a situation in WoW where you can get to the level cap, beat every boss and get all the gear without lifting a finger. We've gone from not being able to see the incredible raid content, to seeing a weak approximation of the incredible raid content. In addition, the only promise of more content is to do the same bosses over again in a harder mode.

What I've come to realize is an application of something that Rohan noted a couple of years ago. His context was PVP, but his observation fits for PVE as well.

The Path


The key is the concept of "Being On The Path" for endgame content. In nutshell, the number of people who reach the highest point of endgame is less important than the number of people who are working towards--and feel that they one day could achieve--that point.
As long as a player is "on the path", everything is fine. The real crisis point is when people are unable to get on the path, or their progress on the path becomes completely blocked. I think it is more important to help the guilds who are trying to become raiding guilds.
To help the people who cannot get on the path at all. The number of players who achieve the end is less important than the number of players who are on the path to the end. 
I believe the same will apply to Wildstar. The 40 mans, and the artifact gear they contain creates a long range goal for many players.

Orange is the new Purple 


WoW has created the expectation that endgame players will be in purples. Wildstar doesn't even try to fight this. The 20 man raid will rain down the Professor Plums (that’s a Clue reference to purple)*. But being epic’ed out won’t be the goal anymore. The 40 man awards Legendary (Orange) gear with a small chance at Artifact (Pink) gear. You see someone walking around Thayd with all orange gear and a pink weapon; you will know he’s done some incredibly difficult content.

The conceit of most players is to believe one day they will get there. They are on the path.

Off the Path 


Some people, maybe like our friend Eliot from Massively, will look at raiding and decide they don’t want to do it or more likely their life situation doesn't allow for a raiding schedule. Some people are incapable of spending 3 hours in front of a computer for multiple nights. This will, in all likelihood, be my situation. 

The good news is that 20 and 40 man raids are large and need a healthy number of bodies. Even someone with limited play time could find a useful role as a bench player. Replacements are always needed during a raid, especially the larger ones.

If someone truly doesn't want to raid, Wildstar has other endgame activities, but those won’t award the best and most incredible looking gear. If a prospective player finds that to be an untenable solution, then I would submit that they would be better off playing ESO or GW2 rather than a game like Wildstar which is clearly communicating an attempt to return to Vanilla WoW’s hardcore raiding roots.

*"Professor Plums (that’s a Clue reference to purple)" is a quote from Jimmy's Story, a very funny old WoW Youtube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeUhSjuhQYE)
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