First Impressions WildStar Online Pre-Order Beta Weekend

Wildstar Fan Art: I haven’t made fan art for a game since I made mods for a little sim game called Creatures about a decade and a half ago (1998 iirc). But I couldn’t resist trying to paint a portrait of my little “ass-steroid-kicking” Aurin.  Still a work in progress. I have a long way to go, but here’s my digital painting in progress of my character, Quirx, and a closeup of the head . Click the images for a larger view. Enjoy!

Quirx_WildStar_WIPQuirx_WildStar_WIP_Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WildStar

Wildstar is a Massive Multiplayer Online video game  for the Windows platform  developed by Carbine Studios and distributed by NCSoft, that seems to have taken the best of every other MMO out there and applied humour and intelligence to solving the frustrations that most players build up over time with these games. At least that’s the way it looks at first glance, or I should say, having ones eyes glued to screen for three very full days of playing the first of the Pre-Order Beta Weekends.

The following, (be warned,  *long*) review encapsulates my experience of Wildstar from Character creation to Level 15. I’ve divided it into Pros and Cons and finished up with an over view. You can skip to that if you want, but you may miss out on some fascinating and vital information about the game. Besides, it will hurt my tender feelings if all my hard work writing this goes to waste.

 

My Main Wildstar Character:

Faction: Exile

Race: Aurin female.
Class: Esper (Giant Shurikens)
Profession Path: Settler
Crafting Tradeskills: Survivalist, Architect
Hobbies: Cook, Farmer
Level: 1- 15
Disclaimer: I have only played characters on the Exile side. Both of my beta toons have been Aurin. Why? Because they’re so cuuuuuute! (In a baddass, butt-kickin’ sort of way…) My previous toon was an Aurin Spellslinger Explorer.  I thought Explorer would be a good match for my playstyle, but it turned out to be super frustrating doing path missions with her. I got her to level 9 on a stress test beta weekend. On further reading, I think Scientist would suit me best. Spellslingers are awesome in combat though!

Pros:

There is so much to love about this game I’m not sure where to start… So much so that I’m willing to put up with some pretty serious drawbacks that affect me personally, such as motion sickness, fear of falling from heights, and eye strain from glare. Mal pointed out that playing Wildstar was like “playing inside a Saturday Morning Cartoon*!” (*SMC) And yes, it IS like that. So much fun! I have a favourite of Carbine’s Wildstar Videos that cracks me up to tears every time. I re-watch it often.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCaIxmffFWY. It shows the off the Wildstar classes in just that perfect SMC way. While you’re there check out their other flicks. They are all pretty fun.

Settlers have a ton of fun doing their Path missions and generally being really useful by building buffing stations, beautifying the settlements, repairing broken stuff, and adding security options, all while doing the normal levelling quests. The buff stations stay up for about ten minutes unless you or another Settler adds time to the station.  You get Path XP whenever anyone uses your buff station. This helps you to level your Settler Path and  helps others by providing buffs even when there is no one else around. Paths have their own XP levels separate from the Combat/questing/levelling XP. Mal and I both took the Settler Path and took turns creating and adding time to the buff machines.

I love that my Settler can do things like fix a broken drilling bot and leave it there for a Scientist to stumble upon it later and activate it. Reminds me of one of  Robert Frost’s poems “The Tuft of Flowers”: ” ‘Men work together’, I told him from the heart, ‘whether they work together, or apart’. “

Customisation is available from character creation to stats to clothing, housing, mounts… almost everything! And you can wear fancy duds over your badass gear everywhere except in PVP (’cause that wouldn’t be quite fair…) due to the fact of costume gear slots becoming available as you level.

The characters you play and some of the NPCs are colourful and funny in the most delightful way. Oh, and get used to being called “Cupcake” no matter how baddass you are and no matter what the gender of your character is.

Some of the races are downright creepy, too, but in a funny way. Shhh…( m.o.r.d.e.s.h. ) It must be hard coming up with new ways of saying ‘creepy guys”. But hey, they can’t help it! Their race is almost extinct due to a nasty plague that turns them into zombies-kinda. But don’t worry. A cure is at hand –(they hope!).

Then there’s the rich and fulfilling Lore. Book collecting with wonderful stories in them, Lore infused data Cubes, Lore based levelling quests and path quests.  Stories that you work your way through and suddenly find that your enemies have been subdued and now fear your mighty wrath or intellect or giant sword or your frilly pink underwear or something and no longer threaten or attack you (they go from red/aggro to yellow/passive). Epic. (you can still attack them though if you’re having a bad day).

Looting: Love the combat XP/loot mechanism. There can be no kill stealing for loot or XP because anyone can help anyone else and be rewarded equally. So relaxing to be able to just wade in. The game doesn’t show other players your loot. The loot mechanic only shows the player their own loot and no one elses.

Love the Loot Pinata ( an explosion of loot from the dead corpse) and the Loot Vac(Pres V for vacuum and the loot gets sucked into your pack even while you’re moving or have started hitting on the next mob)!

Crafting: Check out this awesome interactive Wildstar Tradeskills Chart: http://wildstar.silvercircle.net/tradeskills.svg.  Playing with it can give you an idea of what you’d like take on in the way of crafting skills and in what way they’d interact with other tradeskills.
So far, I like the crafting mechanics. I very much enjoyed being able to make food with buffs by moving the dots into the displayed area. though some clarification of the bonus area would be helpful. The text said it was a circle, but it would have better served to say the “differently coloured patch or arc”, or something like that.
I took Architect (builds stuff for player housing) and Survivalist (gathers wood, meat, leather, bone and pelts!) I enjoyed lasering down trees and using the wood to make stuff for my house, though I had to borrow ore from my partner, who needed it even more than me for his Armouring tradeskill.

Cooking and Farming are crafting “Hobbies”, and apparently there may also be Fishing as well. Just please, Devs, don’t make it into a minigame?

Another useful crafting mechanic that any player can do is Salvaging, which breaks down normally useless items (and some discarded gear) into useful crafting mats which go into their own separate bag and apparently stack to 250! Nicely organised, too.

Apparently you can switch tradeskills (1st switch is free; the next is 25 gold.) and switch back to a previous tradeskill *without losing your previous progress!* What a relief that is!

Housing: Housing is. Just. Awesome.

Cons:

(Caveat: A lot of these are Beta problems; fine-tuning adjustments aways need to be made at this stage of development.

Keeping in mind that the game has not yet gone Live, there are always balancing issues, minor bugs, and optimizations that need to be addressed at some point. This may detract somewhat from the fun factor (but not much) for awhile, but I feel confident things will smooth out. –After all “The Devs are Listening!”)

Crafting: not enough resources/too many players in a small area, could not find the instructors to interact with them and later realised there was a quest for beginners. Camera stops you from looking up and my character is small and needs to do so a lot. All you see is the back of your own head. Also it would be helpful to add into the first crafting quests that it isn’t necessary to add anything if the quest item needed is only the basic generic item. I wasted hard-to-find ore that way leaving me with not enough to finish the quest.

Gathering: My Aurin Esper’s weapon could not be used to gather ore. I believe this may be because although she has a physical weapon, she doesn’t do physical damage with it, only psychic damage (iirc). I did watch a guy with a giant sword attack an iron node and kill it. I assume he got ore from doing that. Would my toon have been able to use one of the mining tools? I’ll try that next Beta weekend.

Glare and Eye Strain: Bloom slider/toggle in Video Settings was missing. I suffer a great deal from glare due to a congenital visual impairment and usually turn off bloom altogether. Sadly I had to endure. But it was worth it.

Busy. Busy. (Did I say Busy?) crowded and eye-aching bright blurred graphics. Again, my graphics card may be the culprit here. I did turn down all the ground clutter settings and it was still pretty busy.

UI and Chat text: See above. The stylish-looking text boxes and labels, very pretty but quite a strain to read. Not enough contrast. Also not colour customizable.

UI: Nameplates: Every player and friendly NPC has the same colour nameplates (green) except your group members which are unfortunately white and therefore hard to find. I ended up turning off all player and decorative npcs’ nameplates so I could find my group mate now and then.

UI boxes: There are some non-moveable non-transformable parts of the UI. My gaming partner sent me group invites that timed out because they were at the edges of the screen. As well, I could not read what I was looting as the text was out of my cone of vision way up in the upper left corner. I ‘d love to be able to resize  and move those elements of the User Interface..

Current Quest Locator: This allows you to get an arrow that briefly points you in the right direction. Having to constantly mouse click to get directions for the current quest left my hand quite strained over the long hours of the Beta Weekend. Also, the cluttered environment made the camera behave badly and so enhanced the need to use the locator very often.  A way to create a keystroke for “find closest quest object/area” would be helpful. Could see nothing about it in the search keybinding box.

Quest List: I’d also appreciate some way to stop the text in the quest list from constantly shifting up and down, depending on which one I am nearest to. I prefer to have the quest that I’m doing/looking for on top of the list even if it’s leagues (or zones) away from me.

Aurin Starting Quests: the first main (Aurin) story questline has a screenwide overlay of bright moving green textures that flash on the screen every few seconds, making it impossible to  see any thing else. This took away from the enjoyment and satisfaction of working to solve the issue from which it supposedly stemmed: that is the agony of a world tree. During a previous Beta Weekend it was simply a blinding white light across the whole screen which was bad enough, but the new moving texture made me quite ill from motion sickness, and I had to stop  often to regain my visual equilibrium and settle my stomach. So I just wanted to get this quest over with fast to get rid of that mechanic. Not fun at all.  And yet, if it had been otherwise, I would have really enjoyed doing that questline.  Without it, one cannot progress through the fascinating lore. Perhaps this could be changed so that it occurs only near the edges of the screen.

Group Questing: Inconsistency of quest mechanics design: Your group shares completion on some collection quests, while every member of group has to do it individually on others.

Also VERY hard to keep track of where you group mates are. Pale blue tiny round dots on the minimap are impossible to differentiate from the white dots especially if your group members aren’t moving. .

CHALLENGES: wtf! most are impossible due to slow spawns and too many players. A challenge is something that is difficult but not impossible to achieve. The volume of the voiceover for CHALLENGE is far too loud and I never did find out which slider affected it. Most of them happened while questing and I eventually just turned them off as soon as the voiceover broke my eardrums. Annoyance Factor of 100. (this was probably exacerbated  by being somewhat goal-driven, wanting to reach at least lvl 14 to experience the housing, and really feeling the levelling slowdown at lvl 8 onward.)

Would like the  option of CHALLENGEs to be able to be postponed or have them toggled off entirely and have a *small* indicator icon on them so they can be gone back to later.

Loot Bugs: Had some problems with loot that I won rolls for: i.e. almost every time, it didn’t give it to me, nor could I vac it, but instead I had to wait for it to time out (love the giant die from which the loot depends), and once it times out, one can’t see the loot to pick it up. ( though the vac still works if you’re close enough). This didn’t happen for Mal’s toon, only for mine.

Very slow levelling from lvl 8-15 onward (may have been perceptual).

Incredible lag even mild rubber-banding and framerates of 11 to 22. I have a pretty decent Rig, but I know my Vid Card is way out of date by now (Nvidia GTX 260–No wonder I didn’t get on the main Tester list! ;`) Have an Nvidia GTX 770 4gig card coming soon. That should fix that framerate problem.

Real Time Minigames while experiencing heavy lag? Impossible to enjoy, though I did find that mashing keys did a tolerable job on at least the two I did.  Picking up objects that wanted me to spam the F key with the horrible old IBM keyboard I use (that my Inner Geek is terribly proud of) had me failing more often than not.

Platform Jumping Quests: Being unable to master the platform-style jumping quests (mostly found on the Explorer Path) drives me bonkers.This is also probably a lag issue that will most likely be addressed before the game goes live. Or perhaps my new Vid card will make this a moot point. We’ll see.

Game Mechanics: Construction Quests that create areas that disappear and need to be reconstructed by picking up items and carrying them on the head which further obstructs the camera. I often picked these up by accident and spent hours looking for the NPC to “PLEASE, GET THEM OFF ME!” :`) Need an auto-quest indicator to pop into your quest list/log so you can at least try and follow a quest path to them.

Housing: placing “furnishings” constantly crashed to character screen. -Crate contents  showed no indication of where (inside/outside house) can be placed. Can I put a pine tree inside? Yes, but cannot resize it there? I’m not sure if it went away but I even dropped one in the house and it got stuck there. Ah well. This is what Beta is for.

Auction House: Esoteric auction house mechanics. Needs a whole new UI design overhaul, imo. I took one look at it and decided to forget it for now.

Missing Textures: *The scariest/most frustrating part of the whole weekend was when the last part of one of the quests told us to find a ramp to the top of an underground area and the ramp was entirely invisible! Apparently someone had forgotten to add in it’s texures. lol (Yeah, its funny now.) I have a heights phobia/fear of falling so  at the time that was terrifying to me. Fortunately, someone discovered it by accident and shared their knowledge. One player actually took the time to help others by walking up and down the long winding invisible path. I am truly grateful to them for their help with that! But yeah it’s pretty funny too. :`D

Overall

I’m in love with this game.

When it goes Live in June I’m going to simply steep myself in it, savour every moment. From what I’ve seen there are years worth of moments here. I’ve played almost every MMO in existence, my first being the sadly missed Earth&Beyond, and Beta’d many of them too. After awhile all the new MMOs started to look the same and throw up the same stumbling blocks to continue playing them, that being tedium, grinding, lack of content, and quests that made no sense -especially dailies.  As long as Carbine keeps it as fresh as it is now and minimises the tedious parts, I think we’ll all be playing this game for many happy years.

I have faith in the developers to keep faith with their player base –all of us, not just the PVP-ers, and I love their zany humour, which is stamped all over the game, even on quests that I normally would simply not do because it was asking me to do stuff I consider creepy or… well.. creepy! They’ve made it so I can do what I’ve been asked to do by the NPC and be surprised to find that it was funnier than it was horrible. Did I mention that the Horror genre really triggers me pretty strongly, so I avoid it like the… uh… Plague. {{Shudder}}

I digress.

There’s a whole lot more fun stuff I’ve learned over the weekend that I could go on and on about, but this is already tl;dr and besides, I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of the joy of discovering all the cool stuff themselves. I’ll be publishing updates after each of the remaining Beta weekends, and who knows, maybe even beyond that.

Note: I had so much fun playing WildStar that I almost entirely forgot to take screenshots. Next time. I promise.

 

Aedre’s Firefly Updates Closed for Renovations

Aedre's Firefly Updates Closed For Renovations

Sorry folks. I do wish I could give you a timeline for this, but I have no clue.

It took me years to get Comic Press and Word Press to make it easy for me to create updates, and now I can’t get the software to do what I need. Functionality that was integral to Comic Press has been trashed by Comic Easel. It now takes me many hours to upload an image and write the comic blog and have it set up the way I need it set up.  Also file obfuscation, wp to twitter, RSS, etc. are no longer working. Between Word Press, Comic Press, Child Themes, and Easel, this whole site is now a mess of conflicting code files. As a result I’ve lost all confidence in the Comic Press/Easel solution.

I am now looking into using the “Webcomic” theme for Word Press, which was almost my first choice years ago. Chella has already got a mockup of the site on her server and it looks feature rich, clean and sweet as a content delivery system for comics and graphic novels.

This image will remain on the landing page here until we get things in order. I’m hoping to leave things in Chella’s capable hands, but I know she has other clients as well as her own art and music creative projects, so it may be some time before the new site goes live and I start updating the story again.

In the meantime, I’m doing the InkTober Challenge this year with quill dip pens and ink on Bristol and Strathmore 400 Series sketchpads. 31 ink sketches in 31 days. (Check out the hashtag #Inktober on Twitter. Some wonderful art showing there.) The image above was created that way, and reassembled in Photoshop.  I’ve created a picture album for them on my Google Plus page, so if you miss the tweets about them, you can find them there.

I hope you can be patient, and if you can I thank you! <3

Coffee Cup Art: “Flood Moon”

2013-09-27-Flood-Moon-Cup

 Flood Moon.

I love doing these cups.  Hey, And no extra charge for the wonderful smell of coffee!  On this one, if you look closely you can see the coffee stains all over it. 

Yeah.

My eyes were really bad the day I made it and I was reaching for the sugar jar at the cafe…  And I knocked the whole thing over –all over the counter! Boy was I embarrassed! I ran over to the sweet young woman at the counter and asked for a cloth, brandishing my empty cup.

” I knocked the whole thing over,” I said. “It’s a mess. Sorry.”

She told me not to worry; they’d clean it up and she took away my cup and refilled it and handed it back to me, smiling. I really wish they had let me help clean up. I dislike having others clean up my messes.   It wasn’t until I was back at the table with Mal that I realised the cup had coffee stains all over it. Hmm…  I was wondering what I was going to draw that day, but as soon as I saw those long drippy stains (already dry from the heat of the refill), I knew it was going to have trees in it.  And the image above shows the cup that came from it.  AUTHENTIC Coffee Cup Art! Made with REAL coffee! ( some of it anyway)  :`D

Also? I love my Copic brush markers!

Have any of you come up with something awesome that started as a disaster, embarrassment, or mistake?

More Aedre’s Firefly stuff on Wednesday as usual.