At a glance, there are far fewer problems when dealing with PvE content compared to PvP content. WildStar’s PvE options are a bit better established, and besides, all you need to do is provide the enemies and a reason to fight them. It’s not as if you have to deal with all of the differences that you find in PvP, after all. Toss out some dungeons, give players a daily hub, and everything will work out perfectly, right?
The answer is no. Not even a little bit.
Just as you need a variety of different things in PvP to serve a multitude of playstyles, you need a variety of different opportunities for PvE players. It’s still a header that covers a broad field of different playstyles and preferences, and that means there are a lot of different things that the game needs to offer. Bearing in mind that we’re talking about the level cap here, let’s take a look at what areas the game needs to support.
Casual group content
Much as casual PvP is important, casual PvE is important too. Yes, that’s true even at the endgame because everyone deserves the option of trying something new. Maybe you’re not normally into PvE content; maybe you prefer soloing or maybe you’re just not in the mood for a hardcore progression challenge. Whatever the case, the game should have something for players to do in a group that doesn’t require absolute precision.
What we’ve been told so far about the game’s group content involves a whole lot of challenging encounters, not casual runs with friends. That’s all well and good, but we need dungeon content that provides opportunities for a bit more group entertainment and a bit less crushing challenge. There’s no reason you can’t have both.
More to the point, just as it’s important to have content for players who want challenges, it’s important to have content for novices. Yes, I know that everyone reading this has run a million dungeons in various MMOs and knows how the genre works, but not everyone does. Let newer players and less-experienced WildStar players learn without throwing them against a brick wall.
Big progression raiders
Progression raiding isn’t just about getting rewards; it’s about fighting through the toughest content a game has to offer. It’s the equivalent of competitive PvP, when you get right down to it, just without direct competition. Offering challenge to the players who want a challenge is an important piece of the puzzle.
We already know that WildStar is going to offer variable and highly challenging raids for large groups, giving progression fans plenty to do. What bears a bit more watching is whether or not players will get other options. If we’ve got a bunch of other things to do as discussed here, then I suspect having raiding as a progression path alone will work out fine. Otherwise… well, it’s going to have the same problem as a lot of games without the advantage of accessibility.
Dedicated group progression
For some people, it’s just the “raid” part that’s problematic. Challenging progression content is great, but tying it to a huge raid isn’t fun. These are people who want to keep going through the game with the same party as always, pitted against greater and greater challenges without needing to move up to an entirely different group dynamic.
This is a field that tends to be almost entirely neglected, since the unspoken assumption is that players who want group content will go into raiding. But I think there’s something to be said for having a more traditional party setup continuing into the endgame. Instead of going the route of many games in the past and having harder dungeons serve as training wheels for raids, why not make harder dungeons their own progression path altogether? People who want to raid can raid; people who don’t won’t have to. Fair’s fair.
Challenging solo content
Sometimes you don’t have the time to group, sometimes you want to face a challenge alone, and sometimes you’d just prefer to play solo. That is entirely valid, for a variety of reasons, and that means you should have content backing you up. This is something that MMOs have traditionally avoided for various reasons and something I’ve mentioned before as an important element of any good game. You need solo progression, and that means giving challenges to players that are meant to be cleared by just one person.
As I mentioned not too long ago, about the only thing we’ve been told is that there will be some form of content for solo players. That’s all well and good, but it’d be pretty lame if that content amounted to a series of pointless walks to clear trivial encounters. If we’re going to have solo progression, we need actual progression, and that means challenge. But even having said that…
Casual solo content
Sometimes you also just want to screw around on a character. You should be able to do something at the level cap without always needing to hammer on that progression button. There should be content for the nights when you want to talk to people in-game and don’t want a major challenge — when you just want to jump around and fight some stuff and do whatever.
The usual solution to this is daily quest hubs, which I think everyone in the world is so freaking tired of at this point you guys. Seriously, I actually like daily quest hubs and I still have a little twitching fit over them. We really need to give people more interesting things to do outside of challenging progression at the level cap. Paths in WildStar might provide some additional opportunities in this department. A look at some of City of Heroes might not go unrewarded, at that.
Temporary bite-sized doses of holiday event minigames
You know what? I really don’t think we need that.