I Was Wrong About Wildstar: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Clone

If you Google my gaming alias Maric you’ll likely find comments disparaging Carbine’s labor of love and new MMO darling Wildstar in a few opinion pieces here and there.  Not out of meanness. I’m really sick of the MMO communities attempts to destroy every MMO out the gate in recent years.  I just was not impressed with Wildstar in beta.  To me, Wildstar looked and for the most part felt like Blizzard’s behemoth World of Warcraft.  While I loved WoW for years, I know I’m done with any real time investment in the game.  That ship has sailed for me.  Wildstar was so reminiscent of WoW, both visually and core design-wise,  I wrote it off.  I’m here to tell you today I made a mistake and I was wrong.

Not sold

I was extremely excited for Wildstar.  The MMO genre badly needed a change of venue as fantasy is overwhelmingly the dominant setting.  The pedigree of Carbine studios is one of proven talent.  I expected a great game and had very high expectations for the game.

I was afforded a Winter Closed Beta key by a good friend.   I was overjoyed to get the key as the beta pool to that point had seemed to be fairly exclusive.  Another friend who had been in Beta awhile told me that he wasn’t impressed.  I chalked his opinion up to maybe not liking the campiness of the art direction and writing.  Fair enough.  I was confident I’d be hooked as soon as I stepped foot on Nexus.  I was wrong.

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Playing the early levels of Wildstar, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had “played this before.”  Character creation was extremely underwhelming.  Especially after Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online raised the bar for the ability to create unique, varied characters.  The ‘!’ quest system felt right out of World of Warcraft (Wildstar isn’t the only MMO to be guilty of that design lift).  Even the audio clip upon accepting a quest sounded identical.  I didn’t want a fresher version of WoW in Wildstar.  I wanted a game that had it’s own character and who’s design felt new and different.  I ran around accepting quests and running kill and collect missions in a world which did not feel organic and dynamic (something I felt ESO did extremely well).  I felt that Wildstar didn’t have any spirit of it’s own.  I stopped logging into beta and wrote it off as a game that just wasn’t for me.  I didn’t hate it.  I just was not interested in this type of theme park WoW clone anymore.

WP Wildstar 2

A few things kept my fingers on the pulse of Wildstar as the game grew closer to launch.  For one, the community and general air about the game was refreshingly positive.  Over the last several years I’ve noticed that there is a contingent of people that infiltrate MMORPG news sites and spam hatred in comments.  Even among my Twitter community I see opinions posted that, in the interests of respect, would be better off published on a personal blog.  I’ve watched guilds collapse because a few members decide they no longer like a game and start talking negatively.  The negativity becomes an infection in the community, and it’s easy to let that negativity ruin enjoyment in a game.  I personally had this happen to me with SWTOR.  It wasn’t long before I was among the darksiders and I totally left the game.  I’m as guilty as anyone, though I’ve started to recognize and redirect any cynicism or negativity away from public forum so as not to ruin the enjoyment of others.  Once in awhile I have a relapse.  I’m only human afterall!

Secondly, Carbine has done an outstanding job when it comes to community interaction.  I’m not sure I’ve seen a developer work harder to stay actively engaged with their community.  Many Carbine developers are on Twitter having dialog with fans on a daily basis.  Most notably game design producer @StephanFrost,  Artist Peter Sung, and many others.  More than coming across as a sales pitch, I always got the feeling these people were genuinely enthusiastic about the game they were working on.  Wildstar wasn’t just a job for them, but an obsession they believed in.


Lastly, I am involved in a gaming circle that is full of fun people.  We are a culmination of guilds and people with the common interest of PLAYING ALL TEH GAMEZ!  While this isn’t always the healthiest environment for stability in any one game (not to mention bank accounts) it is nice to be able to hop around and enjoy different games with our various circles.  Most recently we consolidated our guilds and became The Alliance of Awesome (@AofAStuff).  And as usual, we had members who were very much looking forward to Wildstar.  I hemmed and hawed and put my foot down I wasn’t going to play Wildstar.  I just felt after my beta experience the game wasn’t for me, though I supported their enthusiasm and wished them luck.  Hell, we were split over Exile or Dominion factions, and I went through that hell with SWTOR.  The motto NEVER AGAIN was tattooed on my brain from the disastrous, guild killing decision to run two factions in Bioware’s space opera.  But in the end, the enthusiasm of my peers and desire to play with the crowd led to that fateful day when Greenmangaming sent me a 25% off coupon.  Yeah, I’m that easy.

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And while I continued to scream to all corners of the Earth “Wildstar isn’t for MEEE!” the positive vibe leading to early start did manage to crack my resolve and make me slightly giddy for launch.

I don’t know if it’s because I went Dominion (I played Exile exclusively through Beta as I like their races more) or if it’s the casual friendly design that Wildstar offers, but I have found myself very much enjoying the game.

I think one of Wildstar’s problems is that on the surface there doesn’t seem to be much to the game that I haven’t already done before in countless MMORPGs.  In fact, when you peel back the layers, Wildstar has a fairly deep class system.  I also have noticed that while I was not impressed with the game visually in beta, that I find the game beautiful at times.  The poly count is much higher than I expected it to be, and the animations on the player characters are fantastic.  ‘I’ still find The Elder Scrolls Online to be a better game in many respects (especially PvP, dynamic quests and writing, and the dark fantasy art direction). But ESO also requires more of an investment both in time, and mentally.  I find that I can sleep walk through Wildstar in many ways and make progress, which is something I could never do in ESO.  With work, family, etc. Wildstar in many ways is a better fit, even though it is ideally not the game I would have as my main.

Funny thing is, I find myself logging in everyday and spending hours in Wildstar.  Why?  For reasons I have already mentioned.  The people of AoA. The general community, and the positive vibe they generate.  I don’t have to be on my ‘A game’ which I’m often not after coming home from work.  And lastly, because in the end Wildstar is a good game.  When all is said and done, I find myself having fun and I’m enjoying the game.  So much so I read the quests because the storyline is fun, and there is an underlying mystery to Nexus which is interesting and makes me want to know more.

I would still say to some extent that Wildstar is a WoW clone.  I know I may get flack for saying that but when it comes down to it, the game still very much feels like WoW to me.  I know the combat system is different blah blah blah.  But the game design feels so familiar for a reason.  The color palette for the art doesn’t help much either.  It’s not a slight on Carbine or Wildstar.  It’s just an observation and my opinion.

In the end, I have learned to stop worrying and love the clone.  At this time in my life, it’s the easiest method to gaming with my friends and enjoying the genre I love.  Do I believe Wildstar is for everyone?  No.  I totally get those that have no interest in the game.  Do I think Carbine has a polished gem in their hands?  Yes.  The production value and feature rich content that Wildstar has launched with may be unsurpassed in the history of the genre.  Housing at launch?  Pretty remarkable.

So yeah.  I’m playing a game I thought I had no interest in.  So it goes.

Maric aka Paganrites

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Posted in MMORPG, Online Gaming, RPG, Wildstar | 1 Comment

The Secret New Year

Recently our guild planned a Thursday Night event in The Secret World. I logged in a little early and was treated to a show of people celebrating the Chinese New Year, TSW Style!

Posted in TSW | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Fighting the Good Fight: Why the Independent MMORPG movement is a good one to support

I’ve been spamming Twitter over the last year about most every Kickstarter MMORPG that has been proposed.  Some of them I’ve believed in wholeheartedly (Mark Jacob’s Camelot Unchained).  Some of them are more of a gamble but have interesting ideas that I would love to see implemented in the genre (The Repopulation, Pathfinder Online).  One question I am asked over and over, is what do I see in these projects that gets me on such a soapbox?

CU wings

The answer is simple.  I firmly believe we need more flavors in the MMORPG genre.  Most every game since Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has been a design clone.  Sure there might be improvements made, or small changes to differentiate games, but at least in my opinion, the overall feel of current games is WoW (one exception is Funcom’s The Secret World).  I see this trend continuing with the MMORPGs coming out this year, and I’m deeply saddened by this.  Why can’t we have more diversity in our most beloved genre of gaming?

PFO Cleric

The issue here is that because WoW has been so astronomically successful, most anything that followed it did not stray too far from Blizzard’s design.  Quest hubs, linear quest paths, instances to deal with hundreds of thousands if not millions of simultaneous players, fast travel, etc.

I guess game design today is also a victim of today’s fast paced, instant information at your fingertips world we live in.  And if you are commuting two hours a day into San Francisco, when you get home to relax and game the last thing you want to do is wait 45 minutes to try and grab a rare spawn, or have to gather four of your friends to make it back to your corpse.


I understand the need/desire for instant gratification, or being more efficient with the time we have.  Many of today’s gamers blow through months of content in days, want zero wait dungeon pops, don’t want to run for 20 minutes across digital fields to group with friends, etc.  That’s a symptom of the world we live in.  The need to save time permeates our lives, and carries over into so many aspects of our culture, including gaming.  We ask our phones what we should eat for lunch, as it’s too much of a bother to pull that info from our brains.  😛


So while we have our socio-driven reasons for the more casual direction of today’s MMORPGs, there is no reason we should not have other choices that deviate strongly from what the status quo is today.

My first MMORPG was Origins’s Ultima Online.  I was actually a tester for UO.  In the first hour of that game, I watched a group take down a wyvern.  I promptly walked up and looted the corpse.  The other players had no clue what had just happened, and I had just committed an act so out of character my heart was pounding.  On my way back to town, not two minutes from safety, I was jumped by another player and robbed.  It was then that I fell in love with the sandbox, open world game design that the genre could offer.

I had a discussion on Twitter today with a friend who inspired this post.  He asked why I keep pushing EQ veteran Brad McQuaid’s new MMO project he’s Kickstarting named Pantheon.  I told him, I miss non-instanced, open world exploration.  I miss corpse runs.  “You like corpse runs?”


Emphatically YES I miss corpse runs!  Sure they could be a pain, but the sense of community and the bonds made when you had to rely on your guildmates because of game design elements like corpse runs made for some great memories.  I miss that need to group, because it was just too dangerous to solo.  I miss the games where if you went out at night, the world was a different place and you were asking for trouble.

So I ask myself, why isn’t anyone offering these choices in MMORPGs today?  Darkfall somewhat does and I played Darkfall for quite awhile before the reboot and enjoyed it.  The issue with PvP centric sandbox games for me is that the community is a little more venomous than I prefer to deal with.  For me, a game like Mythic’s Dark Age of Camelot struck this perfect balance between community, PvE, PvP and open world.  I very much miss the consequences of old school MMORPGs.  This was most recently apparent to me as I played a very enjoyable game of Diablo III hardcore with a group of friends.  Knowing that if I died in game, my character would be gone for good made playing D3 a highly exhilarating rush to play.  I cared so much more about every action I took, every mistake made.  For me, that danger made for a much more fulfilling gaming experience.


Which brings me back to the soapbox.  I very much feel like I need to support the classic MMORPG veterans like Richard Garriot, Mark Jacobs and Brad McQuaid in their efforts to once again create worlds for people to get lost in.  I am actually amazed at the hatred spewed in forums against these men, who are in many ways the digital gods that forged the paths for the most popular games we play today.  I know Garriot and Jacob’s have millions of their personal wealth invested in their projects.  The most vicious attacks I’ve seen have been on McQuaid, usually regarding the collapse of Sigil.  If you hate this guy, I ask you to watch this interview.  I think you will change your mind.  If you do not want to watch the entire interview, start at 20:50.  (I highly recommend this interview in it’s entirety, at parts very touching).


I am also very much impressed with indie studios like Above and Beyond, and their MMO The Repopulation.  I do not see major studios publishing games like this.  They are too niche and will not generate the revenue that publicly owned companies demand.  This is perhaps the most important reason to be open to crowd funding.  Even if you do not have the means to do so, or do not particularly like the product being offered, crowdfunding is a powerful tool.  Choice is good for everyone.  You never know where the next revolutionary game design choice will come from.  I love what SOE is doing with Landmark.  The tools to be creative seem vast.  I bet Notch is flattered.  😛  (I kid I kid!) Who knows what impact a little developer like Above and Beyond could make in the genre.  Who knows what three old school industry vets might come up with that improves Blizzard’s next big game.   And in the end, because these games are offering something different from today’s choices, I can’t help but support their cause.  The more flavors the better.

That’s why I fight the good fight.  Someone has to do it.

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Please consider backing these games if they interest you.

The Repopulation – https://www.therepopulation.com/crowdfunding/

Camelot Unchained – http://camelotunchained.com/en/builders-tiers/

Pantheon, Rise of the Fallen  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1588672538/pantheon-rise-of-the-fallen

Shroud of the Avatar – https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/

Posted in Brad McQuaid, Camelot Unchained, Kickstarter, Mark Jacobs, MMORPG, Online Gaming, Pantheon Rise of the Fallen, Richard Garriot, RPG | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Shadowrun Returns


Hi folks,

I wanted to take a moment to show off a game I have been playing recently called Shadowrun Returns. I also wanted to try and play with Fraps and create a video about the game. So here is my best effort on showing off this game and learning how to create movies.

Shadowrun Returns is a turn based RPG in a similar style to Baldur’s Gate. It is set in the Shadowrun IP developed by FASA in the 1980’s. The IP almost died but it looks like the tabletop game has been taken over by Catalyst Game Labs and some new computer games are coming out based on it. I wasn’t able to participate in this game’s kickstarter, but I did help Shadowrun Online‘s kickstarter so hopefully that game will see the light of day as well.

This game was $20 USD on steam and it was well worth the money. I had fun with it and I am glad to support a company that took a beloved IP that was floundering and made a respectable game out of it. I hope Harebrained Schemes can continue to put out content for the game as well as the greater community.


Posted in RPG | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

FFXIV Is The Most Beautiful MMORPG I’ve Played, And I’m Loving It

I was one of the original customers of Final Fantasy XIV, before the tag line ‘A Realm Reborn.  When FFXIV version 1.0 launched, it was a mess.  The uninspired game world consisted of shrub mazes which led from point to point and reused art assets.  While still a good looking game, FFXIV launched unfinished and without focus.  Square made the unprecedented move of pulling FFXIV back into development for a reboot.  The end result of their efforts with the relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is like night and day.

Photobombed by my pet

FFXIV 1Yeah yeah launch server woes so damn the game to oblivion right?  I’m telling you that would be a mistake.  Final Fantasy XIV deserves at least a look.  If you are in between games, are looking for a fantasy MMO, are a fan of the Final Fantasy series in general, you owe it to yourself to at least spend a day in the game and form your own opinion.


Square has done an absolutely amazing job of breathing new life into FFXIV.  I can’t imagine the undertaking of pulling back an MMORPG already millions in the hole, and relaunching in hopes of saving some face.  The game feels like it has been redesigned almost from scratch,   I firmly believe Square has done so with FFXIV: ARR.  And though as an original launch buyer I felt a little burned, I do not feel so now.  This is the game that people wanted.  Best of all, ARR doesn’t feel outdated.  As a matter of fact, very much the opposite.  ARR looks and runs better than almost any other MMORPG on the market.  The game is absolutely gorgeous with high resolution, sharply detailed avatars, textured armors, amazing lighting effects, and a game world which looks as good as many cutting edge single player RPGs.  Animations are some of the best in the genre, as is the emote system.  For roleplayers, FFXIV:ARR provides a setting and the tools to have a great experience.  The community has been outstanding and one of the better I’ve seen since LOTRO.

ffxiv_09082013_203347When Square went back to the drawing board, they did not simply reskin the game and reuse all of the assets.  From what I can tell, a vast majority of quests have been rewritten, or at least improved upon.  Since the original game world was essentially destroyed in a huge event when Square closed down FFXIV, new lore and a new direction was necessary.  I am happy to say the quality is better than ever.  The game does not feel rushed.  There is plenty to do and see and I find it very enjoyable to do so.

ffxiv_09092013_174009There are a few game design items that did not make it into ARR’s launch.  The PvP system has yet to be implemented for one.  There is the typical issue of players hitting level cap a week after launch but developers will never be able to spit out content fast enough for those folks.  I’m level 17 now and am taking my time to enjoy the game.  I have more content than I know what to do with.  Crafting is a full time job, rewarding and fun.  I’ve started to learn another profession which essentially shoots me back to Level 1.  The good thing is I really don’t have to repeat content to level the new class.  There are three major questing hubs which offer players nice variety when leveling alts or alt classes (you can choose to do either).  The freedom of choice in FFXIV is another aspect of the game I really appreciate, especially after the linear design of SWTOR.

ffxiv_08162013_164357I’m not going to sit here and declare that FFXIV:ARR is the best MMORPG ever made.  I am not going to try and sell you on it’s originality.  But I very much admire what Square has done with this MMORPG.  In my opinion FFXIV: ARR is one of the better overall MMORPGs on the market today.  Despite a rough launch week and the inability to log in, I have had zero issues with the client.  Framerates are great, little to no lag, with fast loading between zones.  The engine Square is using is one of the better ones I’ve seen.

Weather effects are fantastic

FFXIV STORMWhich leads me to one last issue people are having with MMORPGs lately.  FFXIV is a monthly sub MMORPG.  Do I think the game is worth a sub?  Yes.  As long as Square is adding content, which they claim they will do bi-weekly, then I fully believe the game is worth a sub.  Then again I do not have any issue with the subscription model.  I actually prefer it.  I also want Square to recoup their losses.  I know I’m repeating myself but I’m so impressed with what Square has done here, and I sincerely believe they very much deserve to turn a profit with FFXIV.  Sure they could possibly do so with a F2P model.  But I think the community would suffer, and it would take longer to recoup their investment.

I may be in the minority but I will always pay a sub for a game that provides me hours of entertainment and fun.  Guess what?  I’m having fun.



As mentioned the game’s emotes are some of the best in the genre.  Expressions on avatar’s faces probably will only be surpassed by SOE’s EQNext

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Posted in FFXIV, MMORPG, Online Gaming, RPG, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Robert’s Space Industries Releases Hangar Module: Backers See Their Ships for the First Time

In October of 2012 Chris Roberts of Wing Commander fame threw his dice into the Kickstarter crowdfunding game with a project he called ‘Star Citizen’. Star Citizen funded at a little over 2 million. Today, the crowdfunding total sits at $17.5 million, and Robert’s Space Industries just rewarded their faithful backers with a ‘Hangar Module’ download where players can not only view but have some interaction with their pledge ships in their very own hangars.

StarCitizen 2013-09-02 15-22-28-35

Some ships are still being designed so are not available for preview in the hangar module. Here is a screenshot of one of Pid’s ships, the Cutlass, that only exists as a model in his hangar.


I had posted some images from the hangar reveal which received a lot of attention, so I thought I’d try my hand at taking some in game footage. This is my first attempt at video and narration with no skills in the least, so I apologize in advance. I hope this hangar walkthrough provides some insight into just how incredible Star Citizen is looking to become.

The 300i sits in the dark, waiting for it’s moment.

StarCitizen 2013-09-01 22-51-30-48

– Maric

Posted in MMORPG, Online Gaming | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Treek Experiment [SWTOR]

Back in patch 2.3, Star Wars: The Old Republic released a new companion that couldn’t be quested for. It either had to be bought with Cartel Coins (real money) or Credits (in game currency) both of which commanded a steep price. Not having the credits at the time nor wanting to plop down the equivalent of about $20 USD I passed on the idea.

Since that time I have managed to gather the 1 million credits that it takes to purchase the companion and I decided I would finally take the plunge. Boy was pulling the trigger on this transaction a difficult one.

Treek1Unlike the HK-51 companion that was released in patch 1.5, and very much unbeknownst to me, the new companion comes equipped with level 10 gear. The companion uses heavy armor and has Aim as the key stat, so the character I bought the companion on would have had to go and buy a bunch of Level 55 mods. Bummer. So out came the wallet.

Fortunately, my monthly subscription provides a small stipend of Cartel Coins which I proceeded to spend 700 of to unlock Treek on all of my characters. This unlock, to me, seems fairly reasonable considering to buy Treek with only cartel coins costs 2100 and that is for just one character.

So I switched characters from my level 55 Sith Marauder to my level 55 Sniper, paid the fee to unlock Treek on all my characters, and then picked up the little walking throw rug.

treek2At this point I wanted to try out the new companion and run her through her paces. For quite some time now I have been underwhelmed with the performance of Kaliyo as a tanking companion. Since Treek can be either a tank companion or a healer and can wear all the same gear that Kaliyo is currently wearing I thought this would be a good test to see if she can do a better job.

treek4So I removed all the gear from Kaliyo and moved it over to Treek (sorry Kaliyo, I know the ship is rather drafty but you are a tough woman). To test out what Treek could do, I decided to run the CZ -198 dailies with her. They are quick and easy, but they typically gave Kaliyo a run for her money.

treek5    treek3

Well I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. Typically Kaliyo would get into a number of scrapes that would kill her and I would have to finish the fight with the mobs attention being squarely on the player. This time through Treek never died, and I even got into a scrape where I aggroed a gold, a silver, and a bunch of trash and I managed to get through with the little self healing that Treek can do in Tank mode.

All in all I am pleased with the effectiveness of this new companion even though Ewoks are not high on my list of desired species for SWTOR. Fair warning: I have not used Treek extensively yet, but from the little that I did see I think she will be my companion of choice for my sniper at least.


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