For Science

Belle Walker, scientist.

Belle Walker, scientist.

Note: this post contains some spoilers for the story leading up to (but not including) Drop 3. Fairly warned be ye.

Even though Gracie is an explorer in-game, in real life I am a scientist. I generally have a love-hate relationship with the portrayal of science in video games, movies and television. This is due to the frequency with which several annoying stereotypes or tropes crop up, including the completely socially inept scientist, and the Frankenstein, “scientist tries to play god and causes destruction” trope. So I come to any sci-fi based game, especially one where “scientist” is player option for path content, with some trepidation.

WildStar definitely plays into some of the tropes that bother me so much. The two player races with the strongest scientific minds? The Mordesh, who have meddled trying to create immortality and thus unleashed the ravenous upon the world, and the Chua, who take science to mean weaponizing everything and experimenting without petty worries like ethics. That’s not a great start. Then we have the Eldan, who have done crazy things to Nexus, manipulated the genetics of sentient races because of petty interpersonal squabbles, and oh yeah, meddled by trying to create a god and thus unleashed a horror upon the universe. Because using that trope once just wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong I love the Mordesh and I’m engrossed in the world story, but I could use less of the Frankenstein trope.

On the “socially inept scientist” front WildStar does a bit better. Yes, some of the scientists are a bit overly focused on their work, but there are so many scientists in the game there is plenty of room for all kinds of characters. I especially like seeing scientists from the “non-sciency” races, for example the Granok lady scientist who gives you a quest in Crimson Badlands. My favorite is the Granok scientist in Whitevale, who rightly points out that just because he’s a big burly rock man doesn’t mean he can’t be a good scientist.

Lucy Lazarin, I'll never forget you.

Lucy Lazarin, I’ll never forget you.

Now another peeve of mine is that the number of women scientists and their portrayal in fiction is lacking. So imagine my delight at the sheer quantity of lady scientists (and soldiers, and spies, and leaders, and farmers, and and and…) in WildStar. I love them. I love Belle Walker and her dual scanbots. Yes they’re silly, but this week I learned from a loading screen tooltip that she created them with differing personalities so that they’d help her understand things from several perspectives. I think that level of care is just amazing, and it changed my mind from “Belle is slightly flakey and impulsive” to “Belle is more cunning than anyone gives her credit for”. The writers are trying to create a complete person here. Belle is young and sometimes reckless to be sure, but she is also incredibly smart and capable too. I had an absolute blast running alongside her in the OMNICore1 instance.

Next up is another place where WildStar disappointed me. I love Lucy Lazarin, and I hated what happened to her in Blighthaven. If I could sit down with (Carbine Creative Director) Chad Moore and ask him one question, it would be: why couldn’t that have happened to Victor, and Lucy have been the one to carry on his research? Or maybe something else entirely could have happened there. I mean, imagine the crazy universe where women don’t have to have horrible things happen to them to fuel the plot motivation for the men in their lives. I’m not going to dwell on this too much here, but let’s just say that I threw my rowsdower plushie across the room when I played through that quest, and that Lucy had interesting potential as a character and deserved better.

I think that it is great that we get multiple father-daughter scientist or explorer teams in this game. Both Lucy and Belle fall into this category, and I can think of at least one more team (in Galeras) off the top of my head. Functional families that work together are not something you necessarily see a ton of in MMORPGs. However, it does strike me that we have 3 cases of father-daughter pairs. I would have really liked to see an instance where the senior person was a woman.

Women are underrepresented at the highest levels in most occupations, and scientists are no different. Young women enter academic science in approximately equal numbers to men, but there’s a large amount of attrition as you progress from postdoc to senior faculty. Unfortunately WildStar seems to mimic the real world in that sense. Having at least one of the family pairs with a mother taking the lead would have really meant a great deal to me, and would have sent a powerful message.

Elyona, mother and scientist?

Elyona, mother and scientist?

The one place where we get to see some hints of a mother scientist are with Elyona. She was the Eldan tasked with raising Drusera. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see their relationship in too much detail since it took place before we arrived on Nexus, and the Elyona we see has been corrupted by the Entity.

Overall WildStar certainly doesn’t do any worse than other media being produced right now. I feel like I am especially hard on it in some ways because it gets so much right and I want it to be even better. It makes me incredibly happy to be able to wander around in a world full of scientists of different races and genders. I hope this game keeps getting more thing right, and keeps feeling like a world that I want to be a part of. For Science.

Patchmas Eve

Looking stylish while waiting for the tree event to get going

Looking stylish while waiting for the tree event to get going

In just a few short hours Drop 3 will be upon us! If you haven’t been following the WildStar news, Drop 3 is basically combining several months worth of content, tuning, and bug fixes. This means when the servers come back up we’ll have lots of new things to do, and also lots of changes to get used to. Hopefully nothing gets too broken in the process, but with a patch this huge I am sure there will be something that doesn’t go as planned.

I couldn’t even say what I am looking forward to the most. There’s so much being added or changed that I hardly know where to begin. I think the increase to the decor limit is one of the best things, but I am also really looking forward to having new quests to run through. I have spent the past week trying to tie up some loose ends, in between running adventures and dungeons with my new guildies. I’ve managed to max out my reputation with the Guardians of the Grove, and I’m just 1 or 2 days away from capping out the Malgrave Research Initiative. This is extra good since there’s a whole new reputation to start working on tomorrow. Like Guardians of the Grove, I believe the new reputation will have an ability point unlock as a reward, so I want to jump in and get started on it ASAP. Importantly, it should also have architect blueprints for some strain-infested decor!

Thaydbelow

I died and fell through Thayd. That was a new one.

I have mixed feelings about the timing of this Drop. As some of you may have heard, there’s some other MMO releasing an expansion this week. The vast majority of my old friends have already been back in that MMO, getting ready to level and start raiding again in the new world. Having WildStar’s patch hit at the same time means that I will at least be distracted with new shiny things to do, so hopefully that will ease the longing for a time when my friends all played the same games together. On the other hand, it is a bit frustrating that all of the excitement of Drop 3 will be drowned out by the swarms of people playing that other game. It also means that some folks who might still want to give WildStar a chance will be long gone. Hopefully they will come back when the new expansion smell wears off in that other game. I’ll still be on Nexus, filling up my house with strain eyeballs and running my moonshine still.

Whether you’ll be celebrating tomorrow with malevolent alien plagues or orc-based time travel, I wish you the merriest of patch days. May the servers come up on time, the lag be tolerable, and the bugs be few!

 

With a Little Help

Lots of people doing the R12 event leads to the best taxi trains!

Lots of people doing the R12 event leads to the best taxi trains!

Howdy friends!

I’ve been so busy actually doing stuff in-game that I’ve been putting off writing about it here. The Megaserver seems to be a success as far as I can tell. The population seems strong and I’m slowly getting used to the fact that world bosses actually get killed and the R-12 event takes 15 minutes instead of an hour. An added bonus is that the AH is much more reasonable and active and people actually come and harvest my thicket for me so I’m not completely poor all the time!

Finishing Malgrave Trail with a guild group!

Finishing Malgrave Trail with a guild group!

In other exciting news, I joined a new guild. While I have to say that Chili and Cornbread was one of the most positive guild experiences I’ve ever had, most of the awesome people that filled it have now moved on to other games. I felt incredibly guilty leaving the guild as I was holding down the fort but MMOs are social games and without people around my interest was fading fast.

My new guild is Remnants of Hope (Entity-NA). I won’t ramble about them too much in case they change their minds about me at the last minute, but I’ve been having a blast since I joined. There are always people online to talk to, and I’ve run more group content in the past week than I had in the previous 3 months because there’s always something going on. I felt relatively content just doing my dailies and playing with my house while I was alone, but now I have a full buffet of content available and I realize how much I was missing. I know soon enough the vet adventures and dungeons will become old hat, but for now I am having a blast learning everything and pew pew-ing all the bad guys like the most bada$$ of cupcakes.

New Life

Crowded Thayd is a happy Thayd

Crowded Thayd is a happy Thayd

The Megaserver merge has been absolutely wonderful for my experience in WildStar. I was a bit nervous that there’d be more competition for quest mobs and resources, and that’s true but to such a minor extent that it doesn’t really matter. It is vastly outweighed by the fact that there’s dozens of people wandering around Thayd at all hours. For the first time ever I did the Drusera’s Tree event and got gold with all special sprouts up, because there were enough people to actually defend them. There were so many people killing Scorchwing that there was a crowd waiting for him to spawn. The very first night of the Megaserver people were cheering because there were enough settlers around to activate all the teleports and buffs in Thayd!

Waiting for the flaming chicken to appear

Waiting for the flaming chicken to appear

I don’t know what is in store for this game, I do know that having people around has completely revitalized it for me. I hope that people who have left decide to give it another chance, either now or after the upcoming drop launches. It is a living world again, and I’d like it to stay that way.

Relaxing for a Change

Lopp villiage in Celestion

This zone is so photogenic. Oh who am I kidding the whole game is just beautiful.

I’ve had slightly more time to play WildStar over the past week. Unfortunately my fabulous guild has turned into a bit of a ghost town lately, so I’ve been looking for ways to keep myself busy solo. This weekend I worked on tying up some loose ends by finishing some quests and path missions in Celestion. While leveling Gracie I went through Algoroc, and though I had seen Celestion during beta and some on my alts, it had been a while. I really enjoyed looking at the story now that I have the perspective of seeing where things end up at higher levels.

I ran around finding all the TALES! keys and datacubes too. The stories they tell make a very different kind of sense once you know more about the big picture. I remember leveling for the first time and just starting to get the sense that the Eldan were actually more petty jerks than omnipotent gods sometime around the end of Whitevale/ beginning of Farside. But the seeds are definitely planted even in the earlier zones if you know what you’re looking for.

The other nice thing about questing in a low level zone is that it is relaxing. I’ve been doing my dailies for months now on Gracie, and I know how to get through them efficiently. I can even solo the 2 quests in Crimson Badlands that are meant for two people, as long as I’m careful. However, since I don’t have fancy raid or even veteran gear my power level has been about the same for most of this time. Any improvements have been because I got better or learned some new trick or fiddled with my abilities. Sometimes you miss the feeling of just straight-up becoming more powerful and finally mowing down your enemies. So going back to low level zones and kicking ass was silly but also very satisfying.

The game definitely feels very quiet right now. Daily quest zones are still relatively active on my server, but the low-level zones I visited were extremely quiet. I did get to help a couple people I saw struggling to solo some of the group quest bosses though. Sometimes I waffle about whether to help people with things like that, since I know some folks like the challenge of seeing if they can solo it. Usually I err on the side of helping out, and both the people I helped this weekend thanked me so I guess I made the right call. With the Megaserver merge happening this week I am hoping to see more people at all levels out in the world.

I’m going to end this with a plea. Are you still actively playing WildStar? Are you in an active guild on a NA PvE server (shortly to be the NA PvE server)? I am starting to look for a new home and would love to find someplace I would be a good fit. I’m actively playing and would like to be part of a guild that is running group content together again. Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter!

Still Alive

That can't be good for property values.

That can’t be good for property values.

Hello folks! I apologize for dropping off the face of Nexus for a bit there. The human being behind Gracie the Mordesh is a grad student and has been going through some crazy exams. For Science. In any case it has kept me so busy I’ve only been able to log into WildStar a couple times over the past few weeks. This month will continue to be hell IRL but at least I should be able to log in enough to cap my elder gems each week and maybe start getting back into some group content once in a while. This is the time when I am so grateful for CREDD. My playtime and finances are limited enough that there’s no way I could justify paying a subscription right now, but my account is paid in CREDD for a few months so I get to keep playing whenever I have time!

Welcome! Please leave all weapons with the freebot minding the door.

Welcome! Please leave all weapons with the freebot minding the door.

Before my stress-induces hiatus I promised some updates on my home remodel. I ditched my spaceship and upgraded to the spacious granok house. Unfortunately the strain seems to have spread from that infected lab I installed, but so far it’s contained outside of the house. For today I’ll just show off the foyer, bar, and dining room.

Have a drink. Maybe it will help you forget the house is surrounded by the Strain.

Have a drink. Maybe it will help you forget the house is surrounded by the Strain.

The spacious granok house has one huge main room and one smaller sub-room. I tried to break up the space in slightly different ways on each floor. It made for some slightly funky corners but I like some of the cozy rooms I ended up with. I promise I’ll have the rest of the tour up before I disappear again.

I can't say enough awesome things about the nautical-themed furniture.

I can’t say enough awesome things about the nautical-themed furniture.

CREDD Watch

I'm pretty sure this guy is sick of seeing me.

I’m pretty sure this guy is sick of seeing me.

I have a confession. I’m a CREDD addict. It started so innocently, I knew I was about to head into some tight financial times, so I saved up some plat and bought a couple CREDD as soon as I hit 50 and had access to that sweet sweet daily quest money. “Hooray! I can get through the next few months and not have to worry about the subscription cost,” I thought. Soon I had earned back all the plat I’d spent on CREDD, and was going happily about my business. “Oh I’ll just check the CREDD prices,” HAHA.

Fast-forward to today, and I have enough CREDD saved up to pay my subscription through April. The price has more than doubled since I bought my first one, but I still make about enough in a full week of dailies and my normal messing around to buy one if I choose to. I’m especially grateful for CREDD right now, when my play time is extremely limited. It’s hard to justify paying a sub in a month where you know you won’t get many hours of play time, but when I can earn enough in-game currency during normal play to subsidize my costs, then why not stay subbed? It turns the game into a fun stress-relief during a busy time, instead of either removing it or making me feel guilty for not playing when I’ve paid for it.

So why is CREDD on my mind even more right now? One word: Megaserver. I made the mistake of checking the price of CREDD on all the servers I have alts on. It turns out that my home server has the lowest price of any of them. So I snapped some up while the getting is good. I expect after the launch of the megaserver that the price of everything, CREDD included, will fluctuate quite a bit. I’m betting that when things stabilize the price of CREDD won’t dip back below my server’s current prices. If you’re on a server with low prices, you might consider getting while the getting’s good. Alternately, if you’re the gambling type and on a server with high prices, you could sell now and hope you can catch some for a bit cheaper on the megaserver. Or you could just avoid the whole thing and pay your subscription with real money like most folks.

I’ll just be over here, obsessively checking the CREDD market.

Mega Madness

Lately I’ve been slacking off in-game a bit. Real Life is going to be coming down on me pretty hard for the months of September and October, so my play time will be much more sparse for now. I’ve gotten in the habit of just logging in to do some dailies, puttering around my house for a few minutes making some upgrades, and then calling it a night. Last night, however, I decided to be a bit more social. First I popped in to be a spectator at a race hosted by KatiaRacer (recently featured as the epic moment of the week on the Nexus report!). I had seen it advertised in housing chat occasionally but this was the first time I had actually stopped by. I had a fun time and I’d encourage anyone on Evindra to check it out. Perhaps I’ll actually race sometime if I can get a few practice laps on the course in first!

As the race was ending, a call went out looking for more to kill Scorchwing. I managed to join up just in time for a quick summons and we went to work slaying the flaming chicken. I enjoy seeing familiar names of players when I’m wandering around questing, grouping up, or just visiting random houses, so it was fun to see some folks from the race also in group with me. After Scorchwing we kept enough people in group to go grab Elyonia and also do Drusera’s Tree event.

All in all it was a very fun night, and I was more social than I had been in quite a while. It reminded me why MMOs can become such a huge part of our lives. It’s not just that they are a fun diversion, or that the gameplay compels us. It is also that we get to interact with people, and hopefully those interactions are more positive than not.

Which brings me to the question on a lot of people’s minds right now: What is going to happen to our community when the Megaservers go live? If you haven’t heard yet, Cougar announced on the Nexus Report this week that they are officially moving forward with plans to move everyone onto just one PvP and one PvE server for each region. As a proud resident of the sole NA Roleplaying server, I am curious what will happen once we are merged with the bulk of the general PvE population. On one hand I’m excited, since currently I have no room for Dominion alts on my server, so the megaserver will give me access to the Dommie side RP community. It will also be nice to have a more full world, with hopefully easier grouping for events and a more robust CX/AH market.

On the other hand, it means dealing with more names like XXKillYouLulzXX, more potential for griefing of RP, higher competition for resources and crowded daily questing areas. I think one of the coolest things about my server now is that our housing zone chat is quite alive and generally helpful and interesting. The other servers I have seen all seemed to be quite silent. My hope is that the culture of Evindra manages to persist on the new megaserver, and that the influx of new blood will help it grow rather than shouting it down or turning it into a clone of the annoying capital city chat I’ve seen on almost every server in every MMO I’ve played.

Currently I’m pretty optimistic about the megaserver news. I hope that the good will far outweigh the bad. For now I have time to enjoy my RP server, start thinking of last names for all of my characters (which will be required once the new servers launch), and get some practice on the racetrack!

A New Laboratory

Corrupted Laboratory, use at your own risk

Corrupted Laboratory, use at your own risk

In the process of changing my house around, I did some browsing of the available fabkits. That’s when I noticed the “Corrupted Laboratory” on the list. This housing plug does not actually require a FABkit, rather it is unlocked at level 50 and costs over 4 platinum. Ouch. Well it looked interesting, and since it fit with my new theme for my house I decided to splurge. I am here to say I’m very glad I did.

This plug takes up one of the 2 large slots on your property, and when installed it unlocks a quest called “Batteries Not Included.” This is not your garden variety housing challenge, friend. Oh no, this quest will send you all over Grimvault and Blighthaven on a mission to gather what you need to restart the corrupted lab. Along the way you’ll visit some fantastic out-of-the-way places, and solve a few puzzles. Honestly for a moment I was wondering whether I had accidentally loaded up The Secret World instead of WildStar, because I haven’t really seen this type of quest before.

I may have died to get this screen shot. Don't judge.

One fantastic location visited on the quest. I may have died to get this screen shot. Don’t judge.

I’m not going to give a step-by-step here for the quest since a lot of the fun was the discovery, and everything should be pretty clear with a quick search of the ol’ intertubes if you get stuck. Once you’ve finished your travels you can power up the lab, which involves solving yet another puzzle while being taunted by The Entity itself.

entityguest

The Entity is trying to sneak into my house?!

The quest is not exclusive to the person who owns the house, so any level 50 can stop by and try it for themselves. Once everything is finished it activates a jump boost on the left side (where you place the tech samples for the quest). By using it you can jump up into the middle of the central tower and stand in the purple light, where you’ll gain a “phageform augmentation” buff. This buff increases your primary stats by 5.

I had a lot of fun discovering this housing plug, but for over 4 plat it’s a bit pricy for a stat boost. But that’s what neighbors are for! If you’re on Evindra (Exiles) stop by Gracie’s house and give it a shot!

So long, Moonshine Laboratory

The outside of my secret lab, and adjacent rowsdower stables.

The outside of my secret lab, and adjacent rowsdower stables.

I knew I needed a kick in the rear to get my creative juices flowing, so over last weekend I tore down every bit of decor I had placed on my housing plot. It was pretty terrifying hitting that “send all to crate” button, but in the end it was worth it. I’ve been messing with my house more than I had in weeks! My new creations aren’t ready for blog time yet, so instead today I’m going to show off a little of what I had done before. My favorite bit of my plot was this corner. Instead of a second large plug, I built a few things from scratch. The rowsdower stables got shown off a little in an earlier post, but the secret laboratory needs to be preserved for posterity.

The entrance level is as open and inviting as a secret lab can be.

The entrance level is as open and inviting as a secret lab can be.

I’m not sure exactly what the motivation was for it to begin with, I guess every Mordesh probably has dreams of their own secret lab, right? And I wanted to see what I could do as a first attempt at making a building of my own from scratch. The building has two main floors, with a small loft at the top. I tried to keep the design fairly open, mostly breaking up the space with staircases. The entry floor has a kitchen, bookshelves and an analysis table where my research specimens have been piling up.

Creepy lab is creepy.

Creepy lab is creepy.

The second floor is where the real action happens. Cages and research equipment and scanners oh my! The loft area has my library and desk, and has a view of most of the second floor research area, so I can keep an eye on everything even while studying.

What a view.

What a view.

One of my favorite parts of the whole building is that there’s a path around the back of the outside that lets you get all the way to the roof, and from the roof to the top of a tower I placed up there. Every once in a while I liked to climb up there just for the awesome view.

I’m a bit sad that all of this is gone now, but I’m excited to be playing with new ideas again. A little redecoration was just what I needed to get me out of my comfort zone and building again!