I like WildStar a lot. You knew from an early time that I liked the game’s aesthetic and sense of humor, and as time went on it became clear that I also liked the mechanics and the approaches it has toward an endgame. When I finally got my first hands-on playtime with the game, I liked that, too. What I’m getting at here is that WildStar is currently fighting with Final Fantasy XIV for the title of my absolute favorite MMO, and they both coexist in a space of I want to play you both all the time.
But some people aren’t in that boat. Some people aren’t that wild about the game, even some people whom I work alongside. And that is totally fine.
Last week’s events made me decide to do one of my periodic column-topic-switches to discuss the fact that there is going to be bad press about WildStar out there, sometimes even bad press that complains about things that you don’t think are relevant. And the best thing you can do is be cool.
Why? Well, let’s start with the basics: It’s not your job to defend the game.
I don’t mean that in the sense that you aren’t employed by Carbine Studios. (Disregard that if you are, in fact, employed by Carbine Studios. Hey, guys. My ankle’s all better.) I mean that in the sense that the real defense of the game should come from the game itself. If you’re trying to mount a long-winded defense about how a game’s problems aren’t really problems, you are essentially playing the Xbox One game, in which you tell a room full of unhappy people that they’re not really unhappy.
“But that’s not relevant,” you say to your monitor, fully cognizant that I should not be able to hear you. “This is criticism or whatever about something that’s inaccurate, so surely the person leveling criticism just didn’t do the research!”
Sometimes that’s an excuse, but sometimes it’s accurate. But if that’s the case, you really don’t need to jump in with a pedantic explanation of why someone doesn’t know something. If someone is complaining that the game makes it too difficult to dye your gear when there’s an NPC five inches from your starting position labeled “Gear Colorist,” a correction is pointless. And if it’s not obvious, even if it’s a silly criticism, it’s one that should be leveled.
Beyond all of that, though, is the simple fact that some people are just not going to like the game. Some people are, in fact, going to give silly reasons for not liking the game that are just there because there has to be a reason, and it’s sometimes difficult to articulate what you dislike about a title.
And that’s fine. Even if the game is the best it can be, some people will dislike it.
The thing is, good design is also partly about knowing that some people are going to dislike your design. When I write an article that I’m really happy with, I know the sort of person who’s going to like it, and I know that some people who regularly read my writing will really dislike it. But if I only wrote columns that everyone liked, I couldn’t ever do a column that some people will love and some people will hate.
Games are the same way. The notes that WildStar hits are aiming at a really strong emotional connection, and for some people it’s not going to be there. I look at the game and I see a meeting of Firefly and Pixar wrapped up in an active engine with a really dynamic class setup. Those are all things that sound cool to me. Some people look at that and feel like it’s the exact opposite of what they want, and they move on to play something different.
Could the game aim for the middle of the road? Of course. But then it would deplete my positive reaction just as surely as it would ameliorate the negativity.
I can’t find the quote, unfortunately, but there was an interview in which the Mystery Science Theater 3000 writing staff was asked how they approached putting in obscure references. The response was that the team didn’t ever worry that not everyone will get the joke; the right people would get it, and they’d be thrilled to get an obscure reference. If you try to make something that appeals equally to everyone, you end up with something that truly appeals to no one.
Some people aren’t going to like WildStar. And if we, as a community, turn on them with the fury of a thousand suns, it doesn’t make the game look better. It makes us look like a bunch of screaming idiots who can’t handle the slightest bit of criticism, which is far worse for the game.
Why? Well, to start with, no one who is on the fence about trying a game wants to look into the heart of the community and see a bunch of screaming idiots. More to the point, if you see a lot of people getting really sensitive over criticism, your first instinct is that someone must have hit a nerve. Overreacting to negativity actually makes it look more accurate, not less.
Instead? Just shrug. Everyone’s entitled to different opinions, even if you’re of the mind that those opinions are kind of dumb. Not everyone has to like WildStar, and it’ll say more if we as an aggregate can just smile and move on if someone complains. Good feedback makes the game better, even if that feedback is mostly negative.
I think one of the big problems these days, is that everyone is writing articles laden with their opinions, and present them as if they are facts. Everyone has their own taste, yes, but I’m very sick of seeing others push it off as being the only acceptable norm—which really relates to what you are saying here. If I’m not mistaken, this is aimed at people who flamed another Massively article, one that wasn’t so favorable.
What they didn’t wasn’t cool. There’s no excuse for that. However, the article itself was presented in a manner that seemed to suggest that the game would crumble, and that it was rehashed. I get your argument that the “those aren’t really problems though!” statement is rather a vile way to put it—but so is the overall reach to find anything negative in all of gaming these days. Everyone has an issue with something. While that’s -fine-, that’s also something that’s based in opinion, and why people felt to say that the issues presented were non-issues.
Now, I’ve got qualms and hopes for this game. My -biggest- fear is investing in this, for it to only last a little while and only be slightly what they present. If what they are showing us right now is indeed as vast and complex as they say, then I’m for it. If not, and they are showing us everything right now to get us to buy it—well, then I guess we can chalk it up to the typical MMO experience these days. On both sides of the fence—we really want the -next- good MMO, that could tangle with WoW in sales and scale, but have been so burned by everything after it that we’ve become jaded.
Great article Eliot!
Our hobby is unique because of the broad age ranges of the participants and the anonymity it inherently provides. We have 13 year olds getting laughed at in school and 40 years olds who lost their job or wife.
The nature of any hobby is to provide an escape, and the scope of escapes provided by our hobby are vast enough to give the impression that it should provide for every unique escape fantasy we might have.
So, we have a cross generational population with a multitude of individual needs who can pretend to be somebody else and vent their frustrations at the natural world on a forum where folks actually pay attention.
It’s a perfect storm. Oh, and many of us are mentally ill as well.