Free Pass To Nexus

The launch of free to play for WildStar has brought me back to the virtual confines of planet Nexus.
Aside from a couple days of server backup, I returned to a game quite happy to see me, my account now garnished with lovely veteran rewards such as a free flux hoverboard for all of my characters. However, how happy have I been to see WildStar again?

Well, as far as content and general gameplay are concerned, WildStar is a gem in the MMORPG scene.  I love dodging the telegraphed attacks by the well-designed monsters whilst journeying through a beautifully realized space opera with colonial western undertones.  Logging in feels like tuning in to a delightfully camp action cartoon, and there's a lot to love about that.

Yet, why is it that I promptly fell back into my old habits of being unable to pick on a single character to play?  Well, as I've said when I dropped the game earlier, it's not exactly WildStar's fault, this is a deeply ingrained habit for all MMORPGs I play, only ones that allow me to do everything on a single character have a level of immunity to this.
However, I would not say that this is completely my fault, either: the deeper issue is that this kind of game is highly derivative.  Aside from a few key features (mostly the telegraphed action mechanics in the combat) there is very little core gameplay that WildStar does that World of Warcraft did not already introduce with its slick hub-based quest mechanic a decade ago.

MMORPG developers, read my lips: no more quest hubs.  I've played about two dozen MMORPGs that implemented them wholly because they were fumbling after World of Warcraft's crown and I've had enough, and I doubt I'm the only player that feels this way.  The quest hub concept was novel for its time, but now it's really, really overplayed.

To an extent, I think Minecraft made quest hubs obsolete.  Why should we, as players, get all that excited about running down linear quest lines when Mojang went and gave us a virtual world that allows us to do more of whatever we want to do than any other virtual world on the market?  No wonder Microsoft ended up buying Minecraft for 2.5 billion (with the b, not the m) dollars.
If  you think Minecraft being coded in JAVA was a bad way to present a seamless virtual world, bear in mind that we've been sufficing with pencil and paper to try to reach the same goal for longer than the personal computer has been around.
Of course, if the goal is giving the players a virtual world that molds to its players heart desire, even Minecraft has obvious limitations.  For the future of MMORPGs, look more in the direction of ArcheAge, where quest hubs are only early training wheels, the greater body of the game is very open to whatever the player wants to do.  EverQuest NEXT borrows heavily from Minecraft, but it has yet to be established if they've mastered a good implementation.  Honestly, the future of MMORPG, like any technology field, is ambiguous territory, but I know this for certain: MMORPG designers need to break free of their quest hub addiction if we're going to make any progress.

Despite this, at the end of the day, I don't dislike WildStar.  Sure, the heart of what it has been designed with to drive player impetus, the quest hubs, is bland.  However, at least on the surface, WildStar is something very enthusiastic and wonderful.  Does this make it something worth my time?  Maybe... after all, I still watch good TV series, and surely they're even more linear than quest hub-driven gameplay is.  To these ends, free is a very good price to entice me to sit down and give it a watch.

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