Challenges like this mean a steady stream of experience points and sometimes even loot, as a true alternative to stabbing monsters. Playing the early levels (3-6) of the game, this stuff was relatively well signposted on my Explorer character's mini-map, but hopefully in the later stages it won't show up until I've genuinely roamed far off the beaten track.
The other two paths weren't yet on show, but Collector is designed to appeal to completists, comprising folk who want to know every last scrap of WildStar's lore and those who can't rest easy unless they've tracked down every last gotta-chat-'em-all achievement the game has to offer. Builder, meanwhile, is the path most in need of demonstration. It promises the expansion of in-game game settlements and of their communities, with characters taking on that play style able to embark on "social quests" and introducing extra buildings and NPCs to towns.
On top of all this is the somewhat opaque concept of Momentum, which means you're bagging bonuses for how much you take on at once and how effectively you deal with it. It's designed to reward players who want to ramp up the challenge - for instance, by tagging multiple foes at once - but leave those who want a more tranquil experience free to do things at their own pace. Like so much of what Carbine has put on show so far, the proof of this will be in the long-term pudding.
"WildStar is the product of an awful lot of research into how and why people play MMOs, and it shows."
And on top of that are pop-up, context-sensitive challenges in theory tailored to what you're doing and how well. Take down a passing monster, such as one of the loping, goblinoid Skeeches, especially speedily and the game will ask you if you reckon you can do better still. How about knocking out five more in less than five minutes? There's a reward in it if you can... Again, this hopes to take the grind out of grinding - so even if you are inclined to spend your time in WildStar harassing every monster you can find instead of following quest lines or the other challenges, the game will offer you a personal sense of purpose, escalating difficulty and the promise of tasty, tasty loot and experience for taking up its gauntlets.
WildStar is the product of an awful lot of research into how and why people play MMOs, and it shows. This is a game that's spurting rewards and mini-challenges all over the place and near-constantly, and even in the hour or so I've played, its torrent of gifts and dares seemed a far cry from the stop-start trudging and kill-ten-rats mentality that so many other MMO's starting zones fall prey to. All this is built on top of something that will inevitably draw a ton of World of Warcraft comparisons: this is NCsoft's most concerted effort by far to look Blizzard square in the eye.
What I'm most curious to see is how its play styles combine and entwine on a large-scale basis: how an Explorer can involve Fighters, Collectors and Builders in their remote adventures, how Builders can create a better world, what happens when a Collector is busy scouring a zone for datacubes while his mates fend off any lurking horrors. There's a lot to prove still, given how many promises Carbine are making about this being the "deepest" MMO ever.
WildStar certainly talks the talk, and already it's demonstrated that its got at least some walk to back it up. Let's see what else is under that swagger.