The other day, fellow blogger Syp over at BioBreak posted about how much he misses WildStar and wants it back. The Twitter comments lit up with agreement, including familiar faces from around the WildStar community like Mayor DaMoose and Avidguru (the latter of which said he hasn’t “stepped into another MMO since”). If you know me at all, you know how much I loved this game. I grieve for this game and its potential and what could have been. I’m not going to reiterate what Syp said, I’m just going to point you to his post and say I agree with every word.
It’s clear that a lot of people loved this game and really miss it. They saw in it great potential, but felt it was wasted by the team that developed it. Is there any chance we could ever walk the surface of Nexus again? Maybe. All of the options are a long shot, but here are a few ways it could potentially happen.
NCsoft sells the WildStar IP to another company, who puts the game back in development.
Honestly, this is probably the best outcome… and the least likely. It is widely agreed that the biggest reason that WildStar shut down is that they made a lot of dumb decisions around the time of launch, like going subscription only at launch when everyone else was moving to buy- and free-to-play, and focusing far too much on ultra hardcore endgame raiding and PvP when the people who showed up were interested in pretty much everything but that.
The reason I say this is the least likely outcome is that NCsoft has a history of refusing to sell their dead games. See City of Heroes and Tabula Rasa. Yes, City of Heroes is a special case, but we’ll get to that in a second. The story goes that NCsoft sees selling MMOs, even MMOs they’re shelving, as creating competition for themselves. This is, in my opinion, flawed thinking, as most MMO players don’t play one game exclusively anymore, and killing games and refusing to sell them only creates ill will that makes players less likely to play your other games, but regardless, that seems to be their attitude. I don’t if anyone at NCsoft has ever come out and said this, but it is true that they’ve always chosen to simply shutter games, even when they have the option of selling them off.
NCsoft gives the WildStar IP to another studio under its umbrella, who puts the game back in development
Ok, I said the previous one was the least likely, but this one seems equally unlikely. It’s possible that NCsoft could potentially take everything Carbine did and hand it over to another of its studios, one who has been more successful at running a successful game, to rework in a Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn-style reboot. They could even restore your cash shop purchases, since they would own all of the data (if this game does come back, I better get my account wide DeLorean hoverboard back). NCsoft wouldn’t be creating a competitor for itself, since it’s another studio it owns, but theoretically might make better decisions with it this time around.
I say this is unlikely, because, if NCsoft was going to do this, they would have done it by now. WildStar shut down almost a year and a half ago; if another studio was helming WildStar, I think we would have at least heard a rumor by now. And if they really were planning to reboot the game, they would have announced that when the servers went down.
NCsoft sees the success of Homecoming and licenses the game to fan developers
Everyone who loves a dead MMO was given a little spark of hope last year when the City of Heroes rogue server Homecoming went public and began negotiations with NCsoft to legitimize their operation. Granted, this option is assuming a lot; it’s assuming that the Homecoming agreement goes through, and that it’s a success, and not seen by NCsoft as more trouble than it was worth. This option would be exciting, as it would offload the work onto fans who have a passion for the game, but fan projects are notoriously flakey, often starting strong and fizzling out when things get tough, or as conflicting visions start infighting. Progress would no doubt be slower than if an existing studio took over, since we’re talking about semi-professionals working for little to no pay. But, like Syp said, I would totally log into the game from time to time, even if it was frozen in maintenance mode indefinitely, as long as I was reasonably sure it wasn’t going to go offline tomorrow. Honestly, even if NCsoft would release an offline version of the housing editor, I would pay them for it.
An unofficial emulator materializes
We all know that a lot of MMOs have these, some of them even endorsed off-the-record by the developers. Emulator servers are in a weird legal grey area — generally leaning more toward black than white, but still grey — but a lot of emulators have been up, running, and stable for years at this point. This is my least favorite option. I generally like to operate within the law — I don’t steal movies or music, etc. — and don’t like to encourage others to break it, even if there’s little to no chance of anyone getting in serious trouble. But I have to say, I would be really tempted to play a fully functioning WildStar emulator. After all, “Justice doesn’t always wear a badge.” I know there is at least one project in progress right now, but so far as I know, it’s still early in production, and I don’t know of any functioning servers.
How likely are any of these? Well, the odds aren’t great. But then, I would have said that the odds were even worse for a City of Heroes revival, and somehow that’s a thing that exists now. The only way we’re ever going to see a revival of WildStar is if we keep talking about it, and keep letting NCsoft know we want it back. Let them know that the problems with the game weren’t inherent in the game itself, but with certain aspects of its management. I really think that, in a different universe, with only a handful of different decisions made before release, WildStar could be a top 5 MMO right now. Maybe at this point even a revivified WildStar would carry too much baggage from the original launch to ever be wildly successful, but it’s an experiment I would love to take part in.
The problem with bringing an MMO back as a studio is that it is made up of an ecosystem of services, many of which are licensed, third party items that they have to pay for. An amateur can stand up a server backed up with a free version of a database and just stub out all the security or billing related stuff. But that doesn’t make it equal to a live MMO. A studio has to get all their dependencies re-licensed and patched back up to date before they can go live.
Staffing doesn’t have to be that expensive. I spoke to an IT person who worked at SOE and he said keeping Dragon’s Prophet up and running, which SOE had no interest in updating, didn’t take much of his time. But they still closed it down because there is more to running a game than just keeping the server up. I am guessing that the license fees for a production quality database probably needs more paying users than we might expect.
So an amateur pirate server is likely the best hope. If NCsoft didn’t think it was worth paying for a year ago, I don’t know what is different today that would change their mind.