We spoke with Donatelli and Moore to delve deeper into the upcoming transition.
WildStar will be transitioning to free-to-play this fall, and we took the time to speak to Product Director Mike Donatelli and Creative Director Chad Moore during E3 for more information on what the change will offer new and existing players.
The game will be getting a host of changes to make it more user-friendly, with the first one being the tutorial options. Currently there's one tutorial zone that everyone goes through, and while that will still remain as a choice, players will now also be able to choose to bypass it or begin a step prior to it. Focusing on the player's MMO experience, tutorial options include Novice (never played MMOs before; extremely basic knowledge), Intermediate (the current WildStar Arkship tutorial experience, though streamlined to be quicker), and Expert (bypass the tutorials while being granted experience and gear that you would have gained from it).
Character creation will be buffed up, with better descriptors in place to help players understand their class and path choices before committing to them. Videos have been embedded for each class and path during creation so you can see how they act during gameplay. "What we've seen in focus testing is that it's much more accessible," Mike commented. Chad added that "we want to give players more vision and accessibility into the choices that they're making."
Stats and itemization will also be simplified in the fall update. At the beginning of the game players will only need to focus on the primary stats of Armor, Health, Assault Power, and Support Power, all of which are fairly self-explanatory. Secondary stats will allow players to hone in on the type of gameplay they want to embark upon, and are increased by the gear you are wearing, giving the flexibility to be adaptable in your play. These changes have caused all the current gear to be reitemized, but with the stat changes your equipment choices will be easier to understand and customize regardless of your MMO experience.
Dungeons are also on the slate for changes, will their progression smoothed out, levels adjusted, and gear reitemized. Rescaling brings the dungeons at five-level increments, and this smoother slope offers a friendlier group leveling experience.
Quality of life improvements are small but numerous. Sprint is being changed so that the default run speed out of combat is the current sprint speed with no drain on your character and no extra button presses required. While in combat you can still sprint using the normal shift trigger key, but it will drain the meter as it currently does. Prime monsters will be moved to their own edges of areas so it's less likely to accidentally run into them during normal gameplay. At maximum level there will be a contract to hunt Primes, encouraging players to still seek them out. Navpoints minimap tracking is another addition, an oft-requested feature that will aid in navigation.
"The sprint is a toggle outside of combat. Rather than holding down shift, you can switch between sprinting, running, or walking speed at any time, with no resource cost. In combat, you default to run speed and the sprint resource bar is back; it functions much as it does now." –Caydiem (x)
Loyalty points are at the heart of the previously announced rewards program. Players can earn points by redeeming C.R.E.D.D., buying and spending NCSoft's NCoin virtual currency, or by signing up for a Signature Plan (the optional monthly subscription). Earning the points is retroactive for those who have invested into WildStar prior to the transition, and there are several tiers of rewards that players can achieve. Omnibits will be the in-game bonus currency that will drop during regular gameplay, giving F2P players an additional free option for ways to obtain these rewards. Some examples of rewards include crafting bonuses, reduced cooldowns, a furrelope pet (pictured at the top), and more.
Mike: "There's a Scooby-Doo mask that's pretty cool, but you don't get the barrel-chested dude with it."
ZAM: "No? But I like getting barrel-chested dudes on the side."
Mike: "I suppose we could throw it in, make a note of that!" (Editor's Note: this is sarcasm; don't get your hopes up too much)
ZAM: "I'll be sure to include it in the article!"
New content will be coming as well with the update. A new story instance, Alpha Sanctum, will be hitting at level 15, which will help spread out the world story more evenly as you progress through the game. "This is all based on player feedback," Mike said. "We had literally tens of forum posts about this." PvP players will get a new arena (the biggest to-date), the Cryo-Plex, an ancient facility found in the frozen wastes of Nexus.
Coming sometime after the F2P transition, Player Communities will bring housing enthusiasts together. Up to five home owners can put their houses on a single map, creating a village of sorts, with the ability to invite up to 15 more players, who will be able to visit the homes and develop the plot, into the community. Finally, WildStar will be coming to China sometime in the future, which will open the game up to a wider audience.
The F2P testing isn't on the PTR yet, but will be "soon". If you're interested in helping with this beta test, make sure to sign up here!
Thanks to Mike Donatelli and Chad Moore for taking the time to talk to us at E3!
Ann "Cyliena" Hosler, Managing Editor