The Elder Scrolls Online
Recently I have been playing a game titled Elder Scrolls Online (ESO).
Video games are one of my hobbies and I’ve been what many might consider an avid gamer for 25 years. As such Ithought that I would give my two cents on a game that I’m currently enjoying.
Elder Scrolls Online in a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplay Game (mmorpg). It is what is considered a p2p (pay to play) model game (meaning it has a subscription fee). It just got voted as Game of the Year for 2014 in multiple online polls. I have been subscribed as long as the game has been released. Though it wasn’t until a month ago that I had the time to actually get involved in playing the game. This is the first time that I have jumped head first into the realm of RP (role play) which is geek speak for creatively writing a play where each persons avatar (the character they play in game) makes decision and reacts to the inputs of other players based on the persona of that digital persona. OK, I know…it sounds a little nuts to many people and if you are not interested then you do not need to participate. In my opinion it is fun and adds an extra dynamic to the game creating virtually endless content (within the rules of the all powerful lore).
Prior to about a month ago all my experience is more in the min/max standard raiding play style. Previous mmorpgs I have played include Ultima Online (UO), Everquest (EQ), World of Warcraft (WoW), Warhammer Online, Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), Rift, The Secret World (TSW) and The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) (Minecraft also but only single player and local multiplayer).
OK enough about me and my qualifications as a consumer (or lack thereof, you decide).
Top 10 Good things about Elder Scrolls Online:
10. The Roleplay is very enjoyable, there seems to be a large community which is very active (checkout teso-rp.com for a better look at the RP community). One feature I think is extremely well done is the transition between emotes. For example if you are doing one emote and then change to another emote the character switches though a sequence of animations to the new emote in a very fluid fashion. I actually feel this deserves a higher rank but it is hard for me to justify that as my experience with RP is limited to this game only and thus I lack perspective and comparison. Needless to say ESO is the first place I tried RP and I am enjoying it a lot.
9. The Graphics are wonderful, well on my Sager Custom built laptop at least. I have been through many games and currently this game is the most graphically pleasing. This is probably a result of multiple things, including my subjective preference, my hardware (compared to my previous hardware, since I am not doing side by side comparison), and the engine the game is running on. My previous laptop was an Asus and the graphics on it were not great but the laptop prior to that was a Gateway and it had amazing graphics. Side by side it was comparable to my current which was largely a result of the monitor producing superior quality images. On the flip side the live rendering of my current graphics card is much superior allowing for much faster frames per second. These all combine to create a very pleasurable video experience.
8. The PvE questing content is well organized and the story is written well. Currently once you get to max level (50) you enter veteran ranks (VR) and go to the other factions doing their quests. The developers Zenimax Online Studios have stated that due to player dissatisfaction with the veteran rank system (because you can be forced to go through all three factions quests on alts, which can be tedious). Hopefully they leave in the ability to complete those quests if/when the VR system is removed.
7. Vampires and Werewolves oh my! As best I am aware Elder Scrolls Online is the only top tier mmo where players can be bitten and turned into Vampires or Werewolves, then back to normal and then to one of the other forms. That’s just cool!
6. Customer support, Elder Scrolls Online has top notch customer service (in my opinion). I have only sent one service ticket to them and the problem was handled quickly, professionally and efficiently.
5. Official forum moderation, the official game forums have active moderation and they seem to keep the forums very civil while closing and deleting flaming posts.
4. The game is probably the most friendly game (and gamer community) towards homosexuals with multiple NPCs (Non Player Characters, computer players) having LBGT relationships. In the community I have run into more openly gay/lesbian players than any other mmo. Not once have I heard anyone flame or troll any LGBT. This is much friendlier than any other gaming community I have seen previously in this respect and would encourage LBGT gamers to check it out.
3. Voiceover, these are done great in the quests, every quest have voiceover, most of the time it is high quality, though in a few places it can be heard where it sounds like two different voice actors were clipped together to fix a verb tense or something. These are the exception not the rule though and in general the voice over is a great enhancement that really draws the player into the story.
2. The game atmosphere, the world is based on The Elder Scrolls, which has a huge amount of preexisting content, lore and a number of previous games (perhaps most notably Skyrim). This gives them a lot of jumping points to develop new content for player enjoyment. The preexisting content has also loaded them with a preexisting fanbase to draw from allowing a much greater opportunity for a well developed community faster. This also preps them for success, that said this is the companies first delve into the world of MMOs and they have made plenty of mistakes that an experienced MMO studio might have avoided (especially on the communication with their customer base area).
1. Finally, perhaps the most important item on this list is the company themselves. The game was built fully paid for with a $300 million budget. At this point profits are paying for that investment (it seems to be profitable as ecidenced by hiring and continued high quality customer support). The company is private so financial reports were not available to examine further. The company has demonstrated over and over that they listen to the customer base. This is evidenced by their avid monitoring of the official forums, their public announcements which are very much in tune with current player concerns at the time of announcement and their decision to listen to their playerbase and change course (despite the extrawork) in order to create what their customers want as opposed to some arbitrary development ungrounded in reality. An example of this is their shift to replace the Veteran Rank system with the Champion system, which dramatically changes how end game progression occurs. Over all the company is solid, the fan base is solid, they do make mistakes but they fix them, the content is good and overall it has the feel of a freshly dug up gemstome that will really shine once it is polished (which is actively occuring while the company gains more experience in the online realm). In my opinion the game has the potential to challenge the 900 lbs gorrilla World of Warcraft (at least in the adults demographic, the game is rated M) if they play their cards correctly. I am sure the game will be around for many years and the community will support the game for many years to come.
As promised I will also touch on the ten least favorite aspects of the game currently.
Top 10 Least Favorite:
10. Some of the audio voice over (which are generally outstanding) sound like two different voices cut and merged into a single soundclip.
9. The game needs to shift towards a classless model (this is strictly my opinion). Something similar to TSW seems an ideal solution to the class/race system especially when the hotbar limits the number and type of slottable skills. This is something TSW really hit the nail on the head and ESO could benefit from a similar system.
8. More content, and they are working on this but it like any new mmo lacks the content of an older more developed product such as world of Warcraft.
7. Graphics clipping, OK this one is really bad, a character can put on various pieces of armor and overlapping graphics occur. Other places the geography clips, occasionally you can find ore inside the ground instead of the look it is supposed to have. When a character conducts an emote sometimes you get weird levitation effects due to changes in terrain (this probably is not an easy fix but it would be much appreciated).
6. PvP, mostly for me the PvP works fine, apparently I am the exception not the rule if the forums can be believed. Lots of lag is present from zergballs causing performance issues. Honestly the zerg ball dynamics are frustrating. I don’t have many great solutions for this one but it apparently needs some love. That said I do enjoy the layout of the zone, the distance between the points of interest and the fact that PvP servers can accommodate 100’s of players from each faction. This creates a very lively active feeling area for fighting.
5. Fix the weather….dunno why this bothers me so much but two or more players standing next to each other will experience different weather effects …make weather occur zone wide not based on account.
4. Lack of a Barber/Plastic Surgeon (maybe a mage that can radically and permenantly alter your appearance? Maybe even your race? While you’re at it a rename your character function. This way a player need not delete a character to recreate that character.
3. Bank Size limitations, I would complain about inventory size limitations …but well it makes sense that a player can only carry so much on their person. What doesn’t make sense is the bank size being limited to a size so small it is unable to hold a single stack of all crafting material options. This is very aggrevating from a player perspective, either simplyfy the crafting systems (I actually like the systems the way they are) or increase storage or create a separate bank for crafting materials….I don’t know. The system is fine the storage is not.
2. The limit to how many characters an account can create is set to eight per server (there is a North American Server and a European Server). With four classes, three factions and ten races some players have the ability to create 120 distinct combinations (faction * class * race = 3 * 4 * 10 =120). Currently the only way to create all possible combinations is to either have multiple accounts or delete and create new combinations as you wish to play them. My personal suggestion would be to allow all characters access to all skill trees (maybe give preferential exp to the trees inside the created class and reduced exp in the other trees but maintain the ability to learn everything eventually). This change alone would reduce the possible combinations to 30 (races * factions = 10 * 3 = 30). Then bump the number of slots to 30 which allows all players unrestricted access to all content. Alternately if a Barber and Plastic Surgeon were implemented then a player would only need four character slots (1 for each faction and a fourth in case they wanted to replay content). Perhaps 9-12 slots would be good though so RPers could have several personas to play with.
1. Perhaps my least favorite item is that I keep seeing in gaming blogs and forums where people are predicting that the game will go free to play (f2p) or buy to play (b2p). These rumors have been persistent since before the game launched and thus far they have been incorrect. The newest rumor has to do with the game going b2p with the console releases coming up. So far Zenimax has not released information to discount this rumor (which I must admit makes me nervous). I do not think the game will go that direction but there is enough uncertainty that it has ranked number 1 on this list. I strongly feel that deviation from a subscription model invites a lesser quality community (namely those that refuse to pay for a game and bots who can make free accounts and spam players to death) and game decisions which focus more on content and choices to maximize profits instead of maximizing the game experience. This is enough to make me hesitate on how much effort I apply to the game because if it left a subscription model then I would likely be in search of a new game.