So, I've been reading a lot posts, positive and negative (more negative), and felt like I should give a perspective from a non-hardcore gamer, and why I play Wildstar. <Warning: It's long
A quick gaming background: I grew up playing NES, Gameboy, SNES, PS1 games, old school PC games like Monkey Island, King's Quest, Doom 1 & 2. I love FPS games like Half-Life, Portal, Bioshock, and Deus Ex. I love console-RPGs like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Tales of Phantasia, and Xenogears.
My first experience playing any kind of MMO as a teenager was a MUD called Gemstone III. A text based MMO? How stupid. That's what I first thought. But, as a big fan of fantasy fiction at the time (Wheel of Time, especially), I started to revel in the worlds that these written words created via my imagination. The characters looked how I wanted them to look, the world was large and expansive, bustling with people and creatures. I dabbled in a sci-fi MUD called Iconoclast with a friend for a little until I found the big one.
This was in their pre-credit era, where skill points were given purely on a time-played basis. This really set apart the feeling of the older veterans vs the newbies. The first experience I remember walking through the gates of one of the major cities, Ashtan, is a player falling from the sky, crashing into the ground in front of me. Another player floated down on a flaming chariot, the fallen player got up, and they proceeded to combat furiously in front of my shocked and clueless eyes. What an experience! These were players well above my level, experience and skill-wise, and they were to be respected, if not necessarily loved.
In today's MMO terms, it was a purely roleplay-based game, with completely open world PvP. Cities vs cities, guilds vs guilds, religious orders vs religious orders. Ganking, theft, it was all there. The community was based upon the guilds you joined through your classes. There was a heavy focus on commiting to the guild first, and always helping new members. This social world was so immersive, I was lost in it through a large portion of my high school years. I would even wake up early in the morning to play before school!
While most MUD combat systems were centered around an auto-attack system, Achaea's really was skill based. Each attack had to be timed, and there were so many skills to learn and counter. It was not easy to excel at combat, and heavy scripting through third party clients often was needed to be highly competitive. But, it was fresh. It was always exciting. There was no, "type 'kill rat' and watch-the-fight-play-out-through-dice-rolls" combat. You had to be creative with which skills you used to combat certain players and classes. You had to watch your back, and each other's backs. You had to be a team to survive.
On to the future
When Everquest was released, my first thought was: Oh, it's a graphical MUD. Many of the systems present in MMOs today date back to the systems established by MUDs. The guilds were there, the skill trees were there, the endless grinding for experience was there, the auto-attack systems were there. What was missing was the immersiveness that was allowed by your imagination. The endless emotes that were not limited by graphical capabilities. The expressive roleplaying. The lack of these things really turned me off to the graphical MMO genre. I didn't want to play a console RPG with an endless grind. I always describe MUDs like this: MUDs are to video games as a book is to a movie. A book doesn't show much, but it let's your imagination do all the work. On the flip side, a movie shows you everything, but, you can't alter anything with your imagination.
Over the past few years, I've tried to jump into the MMO craze. I tried World of Warcraft when they introduced limited Free to Play, but it felt like a grind-fest to me. Everybody playing FFXI was already max level and just grinding. I really, really love the concept of EVE online, and gave it a go, but it was too serious and hardcore for my tastes.
Enter in a new genre: MMO-FPS. What? OMG! I want in! Battlefield. Borderlands. Planetside 2. Firefall.
Battlefield - I loved the concept, but my internet at the time couldn't handle it.
Borderlands - Filled with annoying kids without patience, and I didn't have friends who played it.
Planetside 2 - Massive FPS and bandwith requirements, constant huge updates.
Firefall - What an amazing concept! An FPS game focused on PvE content! However, When I logged back in recently for launch, it was a completely different game from what I had played during beta, with the worst voice acting I've ever heard aside from a US port of a certain Japanese game (Grandia). It FELT like a F2P game, while during the open beta, it felt like a premium game in the works. I haven't really given it a go since then.
So. What about League of Legends? Everyone is playing it. All my friends definitely are.
The skill-based gameplay? Brilliant. Their Free-to-play model? Revolutionary. The quality of the game, the artwork, the competitive community? World-class.
A few things that turned me off. First: The grind. To even catch up with my friends, I have to first put in a massive amount of time.
Second (and my main reason): The repetition. The maps are the same, the mechanics are the same. Just like in sports, the goal becomes maximizing the minute advantages over the other team within the boundaries of the rules, and certain strategies start to win over others. Rinse and repeat. It gave me flashbacks of de_dust2... It's great for people who enjoy that. I didn't want to commit to that.
I guess I'm feeling nostalgic for a certain type of game: a game which can give me the same kind of excitement given to me by one which stole so much of my youth (in a way that WoW did to this current generation). A game that is skill-based. A game which gives you creative choices in combat. A game that really encourages community involvement, so much so that you almost couldn't survive without one. A game with a great story, and a reason for every quest. A game which gives you meaningful character progression. A game with an option for competitive play if I wanted to go that route, without having to commit solely to it.
...so, it was maybe 2-3 days before the Headstart to the Wildstar Launch. I was casually playing FFXIV on and off. I had just recently purchased Dark Souls from a Steam sale. I was having trouble with a certain boss, and (I know, I'm a horrible person) went on GameFaqs to get past this particular challenge. Hmm.. What is this colorful banner on the side with a Ratchet & Clank-esque hamster creature? Wildstar? What the heck is that?
Two days later, I've canceled my FFXIV subscription, and was downloading my Wildstar client.
Really. This is the game I have been waiting for for so many years. I may or may not have time to raid ever. We'll see. But, the combat is exciting. It has the LoL feel along with the permanence of your character you've invested in for so long. The story content is great. The amount of back-story is great. The leveling grind doesn't feel like a grind (especially with a friend). All of the incentives to be a part of a community is great. I love the fact that Carbine wants to make a game that can slowly train a casual player into a hardcore player. The PvP has much potential if the current issues get hammered out and a community base gets established.
I know there are a lot of established MMO players who played Wildstar and are disillusioned by its many issues. I did not come from WoW, or SW:ToR, or LoToR. I really love games, but MMOs are generally not for me. Until this one. I don't play games to finish them in the shortest amount of time possible. I play games to enjoy the content. This is the first time since my MUDding days where I can't wait to log on to a game, or even wake up early sometimes to play a little bit before work. I have a 2 year old, a full-time job, and a music career in the works, and I am STILL determined to play this game.
Maybe this is not a game for the hardcore gamers. Maybe it's a game for casual gamers who want a serious gaming experience. My only wish going forward is an amazing tight-knit community the likes of which no MMO has ever seen before. Maybe I can be a part in creating that.