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Elder Scrolls Online: Still On The Fence

I haven’t posted much on WordPress in over a month. Life got busy, and I stopped actively writing every day. On a much more positive note, I recently picked up the game Elder Scrolls Online. I thought it’d be interesting to talk about my experiences so far. This game has been on my radar for some time, as I believed it to be “The Next Big MMO”. Elder Scrolls Online, also known as ESO is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. MMORPG for short. The game takes place in the same world as the popular game Skyrim. With all the uncertainties and disappointments this game has had so far, I still believe it to be in far better shape than Rift, Tera, or Aion was or currently is.

Things The Company Does Well

I have been extremely impressed with ESO’s stability. The company is attentive when it comes to dealing with bugs and problems. The launch was one of the first MMORPG’s in history that wasn’t a complete catastrophe. It was busy and the que lines were a little long in the beginning. However, the company did extensive beta testing, which included stress testing their servers prior to launch. According to IGN, ESO had 5 million beta testers. That’s a lot of server traffic.

Making the centre of the map a massive open PvP zone was a great idea. I’m also a fan of all players having their stats (Health, Magic, and Stamina) increased while in the middle of the map. Every player can be involved in PvP (Player vs Player), even though their character stats won’t make them do comparable damage to that of a max level player. The newbies can still be used as cannon fodder when rushing an emenies keeps or playing the role of support by firing and repairing siege equipment.

The game allows players to download customized User Interface Add Ons. Which, is not only pretty cool but revolutionary in some ways. Companies who fight against UI mods in their games are wasting their time. Some players like name plates and mini maps, and some players don’t. The UI customization can help improve not only your experience in ESO, but your skill and abilities as a player. Players who want to be competitive will always look for something that gives them an edge. By allowing player run communities to develop and share UI mods with other players they have helped and will continue to help new players. I’ve been part of clans and communities in games where programs or scripts used to improve your abilities in PvP were given selectively to “elite” players in the community. There has always been an underground market for programs which enhance a players game play capabilities.

Assisted Aiming

I was really excited when I first started playing. I was looking for a First Person Shooter MMORPG that rewards player skill, and not just character skill. I didn’t notice it at first, but shots are assisted. Obviously there is a range in which a shot will miss – if it’s no where near the target. I would estimate that I probably hit 95-98% percent of my shots with a bow.

That being said, some ultimate abilities are aimed. Timing spells and chaining them with your group is fairly important. It reminds me of League of Legends in a weird kind of way.

Some of the things ESO Needs to Fix

Like WoW (World of Warcraft) there is an auction house. Unlike WoW, it is not global. The Guild Stores are mini auction houses that are accessible through a person’s bank. To make up for the limited trading one person can do between his or her guild, ESO allows a person to join up to five guilds at a time. The pool of people to trade with is significantly increased by the number of guilds to the point that I have not had a problem selling or buying items.

I like to trade. I don’t like to be part of people’s guilds to do this. If I join a guild it should hold some value and mean something. I’m not against people being part of multiple guilds, but users shouldn’t be forced to join them in order to be part of the economy. Some players will argue that by not having a global market it forces more unique opportunities for localized trade. I see some benefits and drawbacks to having a global auction system.

The game lacks fluidity. The world doesn’t feel open, or real for that matter. Having played video games for almost twenty years now I have come to enjoy using terrain to my advantage, especially against other players. Using real world strategies or combat tactics help to make a game feel authentic. Being able to climb and jump on top of terrain is an enjoyable part of exploration for me. Climbing mountains in ESO is just ridiculous. There’s one way up, and if you don’t find it then you’re going to spend a good twenty minutes finding it. A lot of areas that seem like they should be accessible aren’t. Jumping and general movement seem fake and unrealistic. Gravity seems to kick in at the games discretion.

There’s Still Hope

ESO isn’t everything a person who digs Sanbox MMO’s would want it to be. The game in my mind has the potential to develop and change over the next several months.

I see ESO as a comprise between hardcore MMO fans who enjoy open world PvP, and PvE casual carebears. PvE stands for Player vs Enemy. This refers to players who primarily enjoy fighting computer controlled enemies. The game is slanted towards the PvE crowd, but I am discovering more elements of open world PvP as I continue through my playing experience. The game does in some ways try to  actively encourage small scale PvP. Even though from my experience the PvP is mostly Zerg vs Zerg.

There’s enough to keep someone playing ESO who enjoyed Darkfall, DAOC, Ultima Online, or Shadowbane. A lot of big name clans are digging this game, but many of them feel uncertain about its future. ESO is walking a fine line between trying to appeal to two camps. Lean too much in one direction and you’ll lose a large portion of your player base.

If

If player housing isn’t incorporated into the terrain then the idea is a wash. Any time player housing is separate of the main map, the experience is diluted and lacks substance. The unique experience that comes from designing your own home, as well as PvPing around player houses has made several games I have played extremely enjoyable.  Also interesting, as players in games like Darkfall and Ultima Online have been able to exploit the ownership of their house to kill people. This sort of feature has helped define various games.

If ESO follows in the footsteps of WoW and throws more levels at us every couple of months then the games will slowly lose a large portion of its population.

If questing is the main source of content upgrades for ESO then the games is following in the footsteps of every WoW clone ever made.

I’m reiterating my point, but if ESO appeals too much to the PvE crowd and loses touch with increasing localized PvP they will turn a lot of people off their product. It’s important to try to utilize sandbox elements, even if this game is clearly not a sandbox. I may be wrong, but I assume the majority of people see increasing levels in paid content patches as a money grab. It’s also a time sink. I’ve got caught in a game where I spent months levelling up a character casually only to have the game increase the levels on me. This happened right as I was about to reach max level. I decided to cancel my subscription and quit the game. I won’t hesitate to do it again.

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Darkfall and Warz: Two Peas of The Same Pod

Above is a picture of an enemy player that is hiding in a house. I used flares as a way of getting zombies attention. 

Darkfall was a Multi Massive Role Playing Game (MMORPG) with full-loot PvP. PvP stands for Player vs Player. For those who are baffled at the last sentence, think World of Warcraft but good. Warz is a shooter Multi Massive Online Game, or MMOG. Warz was forced to change their name to Infestation: Survivor Stories after there was some confusion over trademark of Warz.

What is Full Loot and Why Is It Important?

Full loot means that if you die, you lose everything. These games place an importance on resource gathering, and create a system of risk and reward. Items are suppose to be (here’s where games miss the mark) easy to make, find, and replace. It should feel like a loss when you die and lose your gear, but it shouldn’t make you break your keyboard. Economies exist and items hold real world value. Some people will hack and exploit virtual worlds to gain items and in game gold to sell on online marketplaces for real world money. Gold Farming as it has been dubbed is a billion dollar a year industry.

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Above is a picture of me getting Wall Hacked by a player named Portal Cheating. Hacks are still rampant in Warz.

How Darkfall and Warz are distinctly similar

  • Both games had what was considered some of the worst launches in history. Steam offered people refunds after Warz marketed their game as something completely different than what they had completed. Imagine releasing a fraction of a game, and then selling people on what you want your game to look like. Customers were told there was multiple maps, vehicles, and quests. Some of which still hasn’t been implemented. For those who don’t know much about Steam, they don’t give refunds. This was a pretty rare occurrence. Darkfall on the other hand released only a handful of copies of the game a day. The backlog on actually “getting into the game” was atrocious. The servers were swamped and for the most part unplayable.
  • Hammerpoint created Warz, and Adventurine created Darkfall. Both companies were under-staffed and lacked the necessary resources to build and grow their game.
  • Both games had to resort to wiping to help remove the amount of items that had been duped. Wiping involves a restart in which all items owned are deleted from the game. The economies were and are both extremely unstable.
  • Both companies re-branded their games, hoping to change their image. Content changed, as did the mechanics. Things like the artwork and game engine never changed. Adventurine went as far as creating Darkfall 2, commonly known as Unholy Wars. The game was a total flop for most hardcore fans of Darkfall.
  • Both companies were quick to make decisions. The developers of both games were quick to impose changes on the community. They lacked an ability to understand their fans and clients. Hammerpoint went so far as organizing a Vegas Trip for popular Warz streamers. Streamers use sites like Twitch to broadcast themselves playing video games. Streamers are essential to a games success as people will get to see what a game is like by watching another person playing it – before they go out and buy it. Instead of taking the opportunity to hold round table discussions with these valuable players, the company handed everyone a couple hundred bucks and some flash drives with pictures and videos of upcoming content. What followed was a slew of pictures of everyone getting hammed at the bar. People think Hammerpoint is out to lunch, and in many ways they literally and metaphorically are.
  • The communities were and are shit. I give both games a little leeway here. The communities that existed in Darkfall, and currently exist in Warz are not ones of quality or substance. Mostly it involves bickering children, or worse bickering adults.
  • Darkfall and Warz are two of the most unique, and at times most enjoyable games I have ever played.

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A ship battle between two ships in Darkfall. The game was extremely political and had a variety of player-made alliances.

“So why do you keep playing these games if they are so bad?” This is a question I have been asked by many of my friends. The answer is, that once you play a full-loot PvP game nothing else comes close. The adrenaline rush that I get from playing these games can be enjoyable, and addictive. For the most part, I’ve learned to balance my life and distance myself from games once I feel like it’s consuming a good portion of my time. Some people can’t strike a balance between online life, and virtual life. This was definitely not something I was able to do when I was younger.

In a niche market, and games are limited. Since I was eleven years old and started playing Ultima Online, I realized that the game ruined me. I can’t go back to playing traditional games. I think people like me are the only reason companies like Hammerpoint and Adventurine survive. There is literally no other options.

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