Impressions From ArkShip

Fresh from the fan meet, we tell you why character control in WildStar rocks

This past weekend I had the incredible honor of traveling to planet Nexus… er… southern California for ArkShip, Carbine Studios' first (of many) community focused events for WildStar. Volumes of awesome could be written about the Carbine staff and how they made all attendees feel almost like valued members of the team, not to mention their late-night karaoke prowess. Perhaps we can cover that at another time. But for now, I want to talk a bit about the game, if that's ok with all of you. Sound good?

If you follow ZAM in any sort of regular way, you'd know my esteemed colleagues Gazimoff and Ragar have already posted their own previews of the game, after attending various media events last month. But I want to take a different track - something more specific and yet slightly intangible. And no, it's not about the karaoke stylings of content director Mike Donatelli

I want to talk about the "feel" of the game's controls. That is to say, since we're going to be spending a scientifically calculated 99.99% of our time interacting with our character both in and out of combat, I believe this is a hugely important and often overlooked "feature.." Yet, if done right, character control should be completely invisible to the player, allowing him to have a deeper, almost visceral connection to the game play.

One of the things that Blizzard has been lauded for in World of Warcraft is the control of your character, both in and out of combat. In Azeroth, your character feels like a virtual extension of your hands. Controlling your character feels like you're touching something that sits firmly in the world, not floating on top of it. Your character's feet touch the ground as you move, turning is responsive and there's a very tactile and satisfying feeling to it all.

The other side of that coin, for me, is WildStar's NCsoft stable mate Guild Wars 2. Character control there has been described as loose and "floaty." And, in fact, if you watch closely, your character really does slip and slide a bit, which adds a weird feel to combat for me. ArenaNet has stated this is to portray more realistic animations when your character starts and stops, but it just hasn't really clicked for me. That said I really enjoy the refreshing approach to combat that ArenaNet has taken in its game. Dodging out of the way of something is hugely satisfying… duh!

Enter WildStar. Character control in Carbine's game feels rock solid. It's like the very best of what is great about World of Warcraft, combined with the very best of Guild Wars 2 action-oriented combat. Layer on top of that WildStar's own unique take on combat telegraphs and it's a hugely fun, satisfying experience that makes even the most mundane of fighting tasks a challenging treat.

I spent most of my game time playing the newly-announced Stalker class over the weekend, which is Carbine's take on a roguish stealth class. I always play the rogue/thief/spy in MMORPGs, so I have a wide swath of reference points for this type of character. Suffice it to say, I was hooked. Between the sprints, the double-jumps, the dashes and the incredible combat animations, it was one of the most fun experiences I've ever had as this archetype.

One potential area of improvement in combat might be to increase the "sense of hitting", at least as a melee class. Perhaps this is the perception of (and my relative noob-ness with) free-form vs. target based targeting, but with all of the other high notes Carbine is hitting, I'm confident its iteration process will get this right, too.

My intention here isn't to "compare" WildStar to other games, but to give you some information on my experience and play style to allow you to set your own baseline and go from there. Hopefully I've done that but, I'm taking questions in the comments below in case you want to know more!

In the mean time, you can actually sign up for the WildStar beta right now if you haven't already. With any luck, closed beta will begin in a few months and everyone will get a chance to try it out for themselves. WildStar is currently hurdling through space toward a launch sometime later this year — as long as it's ready. 

Bill "Lethality" Leonard

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Great article
# Mar 21 2013 at 9:10 PM Rating: Decent
6 posts
It would be great to see 'impact' on the character related to the damage taken. Fluid, well crafted movement mechanic can make a game feel very real. Immersion for me can be more about the feel and play-ability then about graphics, models and can i get my ears right.
Nice article!
# Feb 21 2013 at 1:10 AM Rating: Decent
1 post
Interesting article!
I certainly like that you wrote about characters feel in the game, as I too, think it's something that's extremely important in MMORPGs and that it's being overlooked as nothing important far too often.
The hype also got bigger by comparing the game to WoW's character feel. I've played tons of MMO games, and no game comes close to what Blizzard has accomplished in their now 8 year old game - talking strictly character feel and animations.
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