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WSC Exclusive - A Tale of Two (EU) Arkships

Discussion in 'WildStar News' started by Zap-Robo, Apr 25, 2013.

  1. Zap-Robo

    Zap-Robo Administrator • King Cupcake

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    As many of you know, this weekend gone was the turn of our European fans to get a taste of WildStar at the Arkship EU 2013 event. Fans from across Europe were personally invited by Carbine to join them in Brighton, UK to see panels, play WildStar and give valuable feedback. Oh, and to party a little!

    But what about those of us who couldn't join them? (Ed: Where was my invite back to the motherland, Aether?) Well we contacted a couple of lucky participants and asked them to share their thoughts exclusively here on WSC! So, scroll down or click to jump between articles!

    ( Read more - Black Wolf's Arkship EU Experience )
    ( Read more - Mizpah's The Invite )
  2. Zap-Robo

    Zap-Robo Administrator • King Cupcake

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    BlackWolf’s Arkship EU Experience
    By BlackWolf

    After signing the NDA and receiving my swag bag, the European Arkship finally started for me. I arrived after the event already started because of a late flight and some traffic jams on the way from the airport. Chad ‘Pappy’ Moore was introducing Wildstar to the attendees with some general information, so I hope I didn’t miss anything vital.

    After Chad’s introduction we got to see a virtual studio tour. Mike Donatelli dragged camera- and soundman with him through the studio, surprising developers and asking them to show us art, tools, mechanics and much more. This tour of the studio was shown in ‘the Carbine way of doing things’ and it was clearly staged in most cases, but we all know Carbine doesn’t take themselves very serious. All the Wildstar videos we have seen so far reflect just that in every way and so did this tour. We were all laughing at the bad acting and funny jokes. We also were in awe with the artwork, features, tools and other stuff we can’t talk about. After the studio tour ended, the attendees gave the devs a big applause. It was a great tour.

    After the introduction we got 15 minutes or so prepare ourselves for the first panel. I can’t tell you anything about that, but trust me, we asked questions, got answers and a lot of information. It was awesome. We actually ran out of time and Troy Hewitt pushed us towards the exit with the question if we wanted to play the game. Naturally, he didn’t need to ask us twice.

    Of course I picked a spot where the headphones didn’t work, so I quickly moved to another chair and created my first character. After logging into the testserver, a screen with the Exile and Dominion logo popped up. I didn’t have the patience to check out the character creations options, so I randomized my Exile Human Spellslinger Scientist. I’m not going into details of the game and combat, but I tried every Class and every Path in play sessions of 10 mins or so each. So far I like the Stalker the most and that surprised me. I talked to a developer about this and we both concluded it had something to do with me being a noob. ;-) After getting a feel of every Class and Path I inspected the UI a bit and I did find some interested things I’m not allowed to talk about.

    Earlier that afternoon we got told by Aidan that we could form dungeon and arena groups to enter a competition to win awesome Logitech prizes! Gazimoff, Glenn Ambler, both wives and myself signed up for a dungeon group. After another panel we had the opportunity to eat something and socialize with developers and community folks. I had some great conversations and I can honestly say the developers really listened to you, took everything you said very serious and wrote stuff down in their notepads to remember.

    The competition was split between arena knockouts and a timed dungeon runs. I didn’t sign up for an arena group myself, but it was a blast to see people fight. Constant movement, lots of CC and double jumping over walls and hiding behind them were some of the ‘tricks’ you had to do to be able to win. The multiple shared lives made the fights really interesting as well. Stephan Frost, who we all know from the Housing Dev Speak video, was commenting on every fight.

    It was time for our dungeon run and we had 5 minutes to prepare for battle. I didn’t had much play time before and suddenly I was confronted with a premade level 22 Draken Stalker in a dps role. In those 5 minutes I had to set up my milestones, allocate stat points, configure my Limited Action Set and check on new spells I’ve never seen before. So, I think it’s fair to say I went into the dungeon totally clueless on what to do with my character.

    I think it showed. I had a hard time to get out of telegraphs. I died a couple of times on trash, because I was too busy trying to figure out what I had to do with my spells and did not pay enough attention to the healer telegraphs. Somehow we managed to reach the first boss. Around the boss stood 4 adds who were casting magic beams. Mindlessly we charged towards the boss and starting hitting him like crazy. Well, I can say this, the telegraphs were insane. Checkered patterns and moving circles all over the place. I died a couple of times because I got stunned. Someone gave me a tip how to get out of them and it went a little better after that.

    In the second phase the boss became immune and we had to kill off the adds. In the third phase we had to finish off the boss. We managed to survive, we didn’t wipe as a group, but we all died several times during this fight. After we killed him we went further into the dungeon with only seconds of the 30 minutes left. Our final charge (without fear) into some trash and wiped with glory. It was a blast!

    After the dungeon I spend the majority of my time talking with devs, explored the UI a bit more and did some minor testing in the game. After the competitions the prizes were awarded by Loic and of course pictures were taken from the winners. The party continued with lots of drinks and major fun. After the official party ended a small group of fans and developers ended up in the bar where we continued our conversations with drinks, cheese and fries. I can honestly say I didn’t sleep much that night!
  3. Zap-Robo

    Zap-Robo Administrator • King Cupcake

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    The Invite!
    (or Luckier than Lucky McLuck on a Lucky day in Lucksville)
    by Mizpah

    My personal brand of Arkship adventures started on Saturday evening when I poked my head around a very polished wooden doorway into a somewhat packed dining room, and realised that forum handles are not actually the best things with which to identify someone with in person...

    So girding my loins (whatever that means!) I strode forward into the unknown, this particular slice of humanity representing the great, the good, and the lucky in the European WildStar community. Fortunately name-tags and rather fetching blue hoodies with the words 'Dev Team' abounded, and a quick enquiry led me to the friendly face of the gregarious Aether and a chance to find out what was in store for the evening.

    Thus ensconced I realised that my invite to 'pop in for a drink' was going to be a very fine invite indeed. For I must confess, my name was not originally on the fabled Arkship list – yet because of of my geographical proximity and a chance comment on IRC I was fortunate to get what I thought would merely be a chance to pop in and say hi to a few well known IRC nicknames and forum handles. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

    You see the idea was that I would join the crew for an evening party and a chance to socialise. However to my surprise it seems the room was packed with screens – that just happened to be running WildStar. Oh, and that over the course of the evening a PvP tournament was taking place. It didn’t take me long to realise that I really needed to get an NDA signed due to the absorption of information from merely walking around the room. A fact I mention to Aether standing at the bar, who promptly agreed and wandered off to find the effervescent Faelan to assist.

    At this point my own personal gaming fairy must have waved a magic wand.

    As soon as the NDA was signed, with smiles all round I was informed that I was to be made 'official' – and was promptly presented with a virtual boarding pass for the rest of the weekend and rather nice bag of swag.

    So with the background to me being there out of the way (if you have quite finished cursing me through your monitors!), I suppose I ought to fill you in on the rest of the weekend.


    Party time!
    (Or Why PvP Tournaments are better than Jelly and Ice-cream)
    Wandering around the party was a great chance to meet an array of people, some from Carbine, some from the Wild-Star Central community, and many from across all of Europe. It was whilst talking to @Gazimoff that a shout came across the room for two more team members to round out a PvP team, so with no little trepidation we put ourselves forward. Thankfully we were to be paired with Bardic which I hoped would cover the fact that I was about to drop into a pvp arena type setting with no hands-on time whatsoever with the game. What could possibly go wrong ?

    When the time came, I opted to go down the Spellslinger route – hoping that my many years as a ranged hunter would help in some small manner. It seems they may have done!

    The first impression of PvP was the connectedness of the character. There was no delay, no micro stutters - everything was fluid and responsive. This is a stark – and welcome – contrast to recent releases such as SWTOR. That feeling of 'connection' with your on screen avatar directly impacts on your ability to move and dodge. Timing a double jump over a wall to get a literal drop on your opponent was a joy. Executing a sideways dash out of a player telegraph as you strafe round them decimating them with [redacted] is a great excuse to cackle like a maniac.

    The sense of 'flow' – the fact that your choices impact the damage you take (or don't take) is key. There was no zerg in the combat, you were playing a skill based game. One that rewarded smart reactions and decision making, and punished mistakes.

    What's more it was fun – lots of it.

    That's not to say that I am a PvP maven by any means, my focus is PvE, and in the first round it showed with a 1-3 kill/death ratio (yes there are meaningful statistics post game) and damage-taken numbers not in my favour. Thankfully the other members of Team “Kick Ass” fared far better and carried the day between them.

    However once I had bridged the learning curve a little more, things improved round by round – my highlight being someone (Wolfie and Chad!) wondering aloud in the background if my character was bugged (“but its not taking any damage”, “ah look there we go”) and a far more healthy 6-0 kill/death ratio in the semi-finals. Alas final victory was not to be with Boon Control (congrats guys!) taking the final with an Esper/ Stalker combination that introduced me to the wonderful world of blinds – a real oh &^% moment when I encountered what it means to be blinded in this game.

    I am also pleased to report that I didn't feel as if the mechanics relating to your available skills (the number of items in your Limited Action Set or LAS) were in fact limiting. After reading with some dismay the comment in the M30 Patch notes about reducing the LAS size in beta, I anticipated that this would be a backwards step. Of course I don’t have the previous implementation to compare things with, but I can say that I did not feel limited in my interactions and choices. I can't elaborate on all the mechanics around this issue – but I can say its cohesive, part of a bigger picture and works in the context of the game-play experience. Nothing feels 'dumbed down'.

    Another point of note is the 'lives' system used in the arena – you have a pool of available respawns. Any dead player can use them – however when they are gone it becomes a last man standing affair. This really felt good in practice – it added drama as the games progressed, and I can see it being used very tactically in the future – especially in larger sizes of game than 3v3.

    My final comment on the mechanics within arena PvP is to mention in oblique terms the options my LAS or 'build-out' gave me. I had an array of choices on a level 22 character. Control options. Damage options. Abilities that had to be timed for maximum effect. More to do than just button mash. When I changed my build-out between rounds, it had a real impact on how my character played – in this example I increased my mobility and sacrificed other aspects, and after this change my character really did play differently. Which was better? Possibly neither – it was a play-style choice – but one that suited me.

    I currently feel there will be a big delta between someone playing 'class X' and someone else playing 'class X' well. This bodes well for a meaningful arena game within WildStar – I had no intention of engaging in arena once the game launches – I am now looking forward to it.

    Another interesting aspect, outside of the actual PvP itself, was the crowd interaction. Frosty (no – not a snowman, but the guy with the awesome voice from the Housing DevSpeak video), provided some shout-casting – and even with the opportunity to be playing the game on their own stations, people chose to watch both the PvP and PvE competitions. I still have questions about the viability of making (any) arena style combat as engaging to watch as say Starcraft 2, but the potential is there if the right way to present the content can be found to make it engaging for the viewer.

    Outside of the tournament the rest of the party was taken up by a whirlwind of conversations – everyone in the community had so much to say and ask about WildStar. You would ask a question to a wandering Carbinite about <redacted>, and the response would be “Oh wait, 'Bob' wrote that, let me get him for you to discuss it” and the next thing you know, not only are they discussing it but they're making notes of opinions to take back to a secret island lair headquarters.

    Carbine however like to have tricks up their sleeve. In conjunction with Logitech they had added another twist to the evening. Prizes! As if being there wasn’t enough, they decided make my bags heavier on the way home. 'Kick Ass' managed to squeeze into second place, and for our troubles we ended up the proud new owners of a Logitech G930 wireless headset, and a G19 Keyboard. Pretty handy as I had managed to run my chair over my current headphones 48 hours earlier!

    Who needs Jelly and Ice-cream to make a party awesome?


    After the party, the after party
    (Or Carbine – The People and the Passion)
    So with the party concluding (at about 1.00am), you would normally expect the guys putting on the show to retire. Not these guys – I think that strong livers and insomnia must be prerequisites on any CV that is considered in California.

    You see, in a sentiment echoed by many, Carbine are passionate about their game. By extension this means they are passionate about the people who play their game, they genuinely enjoy discussing – in detail – the finer machinations of everything game related. It's a little like watching proud parents showing off a youngling – they love to talk about every detail. I can only imagine how hard it must have been not to be allowed to discuss something you are so passionate about for so long!

    Thankfully I find the topic of Wildstar more interesting than younglings, and there was to be no shortage of conversation or banter.

    So it was that we found a group of us decamped into the bar, drinks in hand (not to mention cheese boards and fries), discussing life, the universe and everything. In fact the next few hours proved to be the highlight of the event for me. A chance to understand the people and the personalities. Not as stereotypical gamedevs (they are not!) or as some form of indebted community punkhawallahs (which they most definitely are not!), but as real people.

    As people who are as awesome outside of the context of 'carbine time' as they are when 'on the clock'. Across the board they are individuals you want to be sharing your social life with – and the same would be true wherever these people worked.

    Why do I make this point so strongly? Because I know first hand that this is not always true with those in the industry, and that to have such a common mindset and culture amongst a group of people on the same project is unusual.

    That's not to say that WildStar did not come up in the conversation, it did – at which point Stephan Frost took it upon himself to give me a run-down of all I had missed prior to the party, which was gladly consumed.

    I can't of course go into the details of the conversations, but I think I can say this:

    My largest misgivings with recent MMOs, and the directional shift of others, has been the homogenisation of roles, the rise of an 'I am entitled' culture amongst players, and the lowering of difficulty over time to appease a convenience-driven mindset within the player base. For me it dilutes player skill and rewards – and makes in-game achievements meaningless. From a raider's perspective, it promotes easy content, and removes any in-game aspirations, competition and long-term enjoyment.

    I know we have all heard that they are building some content for the high-end raiders within the player base, but that in addition there is a world of activities for those who don’t want to attempt to broach that content. I however have had my doubts (due to being jaundiced and having heard it before!) over this vision being executed over the long term.

    My misgivings have all (for now!) been laid to rest. I am now convinced that Carbine have a clear and present vision for WildStar and they are determined not to allow it to be diluted. By the same token they really are engaging with the community in a way that I have never experienced before.

    We have run into this concept before of course. “We love our fans”, “We are listening”, “We want your feedback”, “We are all gamers too!” are all phrases that are not unique to any one studio.

    However for the very first time I am convinced that this is not just a trite party line – this is an ethos Carbine seems to live and breathe, and every person I met was a staunch proponent.


    Paneltastic
    (or All about [Redacted])
    This is probably going to be the hardest part of this report to write. I remember at school I once received an epic essay punishment. To write 5,000 words about the 'air inside a table-tennis ball'. It was not the most fun experience, and If I am not careful, trying to write about panels could be similar as I try hard to filibuster for as long as possible about nothing.

    So to avoid that happening, lets keep things short and sweet!

    On the Sunday I got to experience two panels – Housing, taken by John (surname?) and Tiffeny Chu, and Combat & PvP run by Jen Gordy and Christopher Behrens.

    As the content is all <redacted> I leave you with simply an impression. This was not a typical show and tell session, or an excuse to shuffle through a few slides. The panels were interactive, with questions taken on the fly and some great content shared. There may have been a prior intent to follow a degree of script – but once again passion took over and a lot of information was freely shared.

    My biggest takeaway from the panels was the degree of depth and thought put into every aspect and system presented.


    Playtime! And a Dungeon run:
    (Or Does an Arkship kill count as a world first?)
    Lets start with an admission. PvE content, namely Dungeons and Raids, are 'my thing'.

    Enigma was raiding in the days of yore – 40 man content, and whilst dungeon designs and encounters have moved on, there were amazing aspects of these raids that have been left by the wayside in the process.

    So on the Sunday downtime, I managed to rustle up some stalwart companions (and with an abject apology for not having everyone's name!) and venture into Stormtalon's Lair.

    At this point I was playing a Stalker – melee-based as opposed to ranged I was a little outside of my comfort zone. My intent here however is to focus on the dungeon and the bosses, and the encounters, not on my character!

    To start with it feels like a 'proper' dungeon. The sense of risk is greater than the open world, the mob behaviours, health, abilities and more all seem to reflect this when compared to their open world brethren (warning, small sample set!).

    The dungeon has a style and atmosphere – it is a venture into the unknown, complete with scale and a pervasive theme. Its clear that you can take a direct path through the dungeon, or engage in activities and quests along the way (we took the direct route).

    Whereas it has been compared visually with WoW's RFD, I find that to be a poor comparison – aside from elements of the colour palette, it has a very different feel, vibe and sense of scale.

    The mob density is well balanced, and whilst I would like to see a little more threat from pathing mobs with greater and less predictable patterns, this was a dungeon accessible from level 20 – not endgame content. If this is the first group dungeon that a new MMO'er experiences they may be in for a rough ride without a solid group.

    Its already not 'easy', and with the opportunity to scale the difficulty of future dungeons as you grow in the game, dungeon runs could be a very fine and fun experience. Add the boss mechanics, and it gets even more interesting.

    There are three principle bosses you will encounter when you venture inside the Lair alongside Stormtalon. My expectations of bosses for a first dungeon were actually quite low.

    I anticipated some tank and spank action, with some telegraphs to teach people to 'stay out of the fire'. Indeed, I had been wondering to myself how well telegraphs would work as a damage mechanic in a dungeon and raid setting, as it would be 'easy' to avoid them all. . .

    I am pleased to report that I was very very wrong.

    I am of course walking a fine line between impressions and spoilers here, but I would like to elaborate a little more on some of the boss mechanics presented.

    Firstly the event that triggers storm talon? It feels fantastic. Its visually stunning – static screen-shots do not do it justice.

    Secondly these are real bosses with real mechanics. If you can't get those mechanics right – your group will die.

    There are phases, adds, movement tests, invulnerabilities and a mini-gauntlet rolled into the fights.
    You need multiple people to succeed in the phases of one of the fights to progress the phases.

    I would suggest that the movement requirement in one fight reminded me of Kologarn – and that’s in your first ever dungeon. The level of movement (and anticipatory pre-movement) needed is greater than anything I recall in five man content. If you are not aware – even with telegraphs on the floor, you will die.

    With the last bell for disembarking the Arkship ringing in our ears we found ourselves on our fourth attempt on Stormtalon. We had already been in the dungeon long enough for respawns, and we had fallen to more than just the final boss along the way.

    However in true heroic style, and with Stephan tanking, we succeeded – even if only just. Cue applause, an involuntary simultaneous vocal cheer from the throats of the group and the announcement – 'Stormtalon down'!

    Thus my amazing Arkship adventures ended – with my first truly spine-tingling moment in the game world. The first ever clear of Stormtalon's Lair.


    The long trek home
    (Or #WildStarWorldDominationPlan is working!)
    Winding my way back from the South Coast to Birmingham left me plenty of time to digest all of the content I had been fortunate enough to experience – and also to realise that it's probably impossible to sum-up the impact of an event like this. Carbine – if you ever develop your own 'CarbineCon', or CCP style conference – I will be there in a flash!

    I consider the state of the MMO marketplace for raiders to be poor right now. There are no games with a great raiding game currently live that are not beset with other issues.

    Wildstar is achingly full of potential right now, and Carbine appear to be the right people to deliver on it.

    Whilst I am not suggesting that making an MMO great is a done deal, or without issue (there is a long list of areas that could go wrong for any game), the concerns I have had for WildStar have been summarily marched up front, put against the wall and shot by both the excellence and vision of Carbine's people, and the game client I was able to play.

    How best then can I sum-up the impact of weekend?

    Well it has left me scarred and traumatised. I now have a need to find a room full of strangers, stand up and say “My name is Mizpah and I am addicted to WildStar...”.

    I have a feeling that several others from the ArkShip may well be there.
  4. Mizpah

    Mizpah Cupcake-About-Town

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    Thanks Zap!

    There are possibly some images to follow, for anyone that wades through the wall of text feel free to ask any questions!
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  5. Kurik

    Kurik Super Cupcake

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    Thanks for the write-ups, reading them now. :)
  6. Valin

    Valin Cupcake

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    Very interesting reading!
  7. Elward

    Elward Cupcake

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    Sounds like dungeons may actually be a challenge, I can't wait to play! And thanks ya'll!
  8. gentlestar

    gentlestar Admin's Wifey - Do Not Aggro!

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    Great articles!! seemed like a lot of fun!
  9. Glacius

    Glacius Cupcake-About-Town

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    Great stuff guys! Unfortunately, just about everything is <REDACTED> :(
  10. aiuradun

    aiuradun Cupcake-About-Town

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    Damn sounds good :)
  11. WarPlots

    WarPlots Cupcake

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    Great reads! I am def. excited to try out arena.
  12. Zap-Robo

    Zap-Robo Administrator • King Cupcake

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    This is the nature of the Arkship events. They're more for the devs getting direct player feedback on unannounced systems, than they are for giving the wider community new insight/content. Great for the participants and devs, not so great for anyone on the outside.

    That said, many thanks for Mizpah and BlackWolf for putting down their thoughts on e-paper and letting us at WSC share them with the world!
  13. ThePandason

    ThePandason Cupcake

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    Thanks for the extensive write up, BlackWolf and Mizpah. Both great reads!
  14. SirRobin

    SirRobin Cupcake-About-Town

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    Great reads! Thank you. :up:
  15. iiFrank

    iiFrank Cupcake-About-Town

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    Great read fellas! :up: Wildstar cannot hit stores any sooner :eek:
  16. Anhrez

    Anhrez Cupcake-About-Town

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    you've sprained my imagination ...... well done
  17. Cezia

    Cezia New Cupcake

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    Appreciate the write ups but just wanted to say, while I may be Gazimoff's wife, I am a gamer and member of the community in my own right. If names must be mentioned and you only happen to remember the men in the room, that's fine, but dropping the people you do remember an email won't offend.
  18. Alexai

    Alexai Cupcake

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    Great reads, thanks for your thoughts guys! You can mark me down firmly in the "jealous" category.
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  19. kyrie1896

    kyrie1896 New Cupcake

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    Is there any word on how long the NDA is going to be in place regarding the stuff discussed at the panels? Is it "Never talk about it again" or is it going to be lifted so they can share it with the rest of us, preferably at some point prior to launch?
  20. Black Wolf

    Black Wolf Super Cupcake

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    Probably never.
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