Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wildstar: State of the Megaserver

Update: I have seen the promised land of megaservers, and it is good.

For those of you that missed it, Wildstar announced the move to megaservers from their traditional MMO server structure a few weeks ago. While many have said that this is a sign of the decline of the game as a whole, I heartily disagree. When I first joined Wildstar's Beta, it felt like I had reached the promised land after dragging myself through the desert, starving and parched, for years. A self-professed MMO lover, Wildstar seemed to combine all of the mechanics that I had ever known and loved from other games: the content was challenging, and constantly evolving with new updates each month, there were personalization options for how your gear looked, and with the Path system you could, at least partially, choose how you wanted to level up. Everything seemed perfect.

I admittedly didn't get too highly leveled in the beta, for fear of tiring myself out on the game before it actually launched, and instead took time trying out a bunch of alts to see which class I liked best. After much trial and tribulation, eventually I settled on Spellslinger. With both range and high-mobility, spellslingers can be one of the highest skill-capped classes in the game, but I was determined, despite low starting DPS ratings in comparison to my Medic and Warrior brethren, to succeed.

 Cut ahead a few months. The citizens of Nexus are faced with the scariest prospect that we've yet had in our short times on the planet: megaservers and an upcoming server merge. For months, the population of Wildstar has been slowly dwindling, more noticeably on some servers than others. Mine, Caretaker, the first server up for NA, is almost entirely dead. The main cities are empty, and sometimes I'm surprised that I don't see dust devils like the ones found in Malgrave everywhere. It's sad and it's lonely, but there are still some of us sticking it out. At this point it almost feels like we are doing it more for a badge of honor than anything else.

"What happened to everybody? Where did all the people go? It's so weird to see an MMO that's population basically goes into hiding on the weekends!" These are all things I've heard from my guild members and other Wildstar inhabitants as we waited for the inevitable change to come.

Some people speculated that the dropping population was due to the game's challenging end-game content, something that Wildstar has been lauded for since before its launch. While the content is challenging, and often takes a great deal of skill and practice to complete, the requirements of "attunement" are not foreign to the MMO world. In fact, many of you will remember Vanilla WoW's attunement process, challenging endgame content that, while alienating for some, was challenging and enjoyable for others. I constantly try to remind anyone who plays Wildstar with me, pissed off after wiping on the same boss 20 times in a row, that this is what we are here for. The devs knew that there were committed players that wanted challenging, enjoyable endgame content rather than a constant grind towards better gear, and they gave it to us. If there are people leaving the subscription pool because of that, they didn't belong in the first place.

Another thought on the dropping of population is that there are a number of bugs in quests and dungeon content. Newsflash, ladies and gents, the game came out three months ago and is an entirely new world. In exchange for incredibly immersive beautiful content, there will always be bugs. We, as players, should be reporting them and should be patient in waiting for the fixes. We should not be verbally accosting engineers and representatives on social media, and we should certainly not be quitting because of it. The content in most other MMOs is so repulsively boring to me at this point that if you would rather deal with that than bugs, good riddance to you anyway.

The transition into giant megaservers--one PVE and one PVP for each region--is an obvious response to the fact that the servers are dying, imploding into nothingness like forsaken stars. The implosion, though, is mostly self-driven. The servers are losing population because people are stopping playing, and people are stopping playing because of lighter populace. So, the best response to this, in the mind of the Wildstar team, is to build a megaserver. And, surprisingly, many of the people that are butthurt about this are the same people that were butthurt by the issues that brought us here.

It seems that since this announcement has been made everyone has turned into a doomsday prophesier. There are both good and bad things about the megaservers but, ultimately, we won't be able to confirm anything until they happen. The potentially bad things, in my eyes, are outweighed by the good. Yes, your auction items that you could normally sell for exorbitant amounts of money on the Auction House are going to sell for less. There will be more people farming and hunting for the materials that you need and want. The game itself as a whole will change. Despite the fact that this change was made to fix overarching themes in complaints, though, I suppose, people will always want something to complain about.

Personally, I am excited to be merging into one, giant megaserver. For the past month my guild has slowly been dying, sucking the morale out of the few remaining members left. We currently have about 10 active members out of the over 200 that we had when I first joined months ago. The five full groups that we used to have running on raid nights have diminished to one that we can barely scrap together occasionally. It has been devastating. For us, and the many other guilds like us, the megaserver will be a place where we can start again.

Megaservers mean that there will be many more people, both to recruit from, to see during dailies and quests, and to PUG with for those sans a dedicated group. For me, that viability and vitality to the game will be be much more valuable than the pittance that I could make on mats in the Auction House. While I am less-than-enthused by the last name implementation due to an after-launch merge, it is a small price to pay for the happiness that I think the megaservers will promote for all players, as well as just me on an individual scale.

C'mon, guys. Let's be happy and make the best of what we've got. Less QQ, more pew pew.

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