A couple of weeks ago, a few guildmates mentioned the idea of going for a Dungeon Walk- of going into a dungeon in Elder Scrolls Online, switch our characters to walking speed and enjoy the sights there are to see. There was quite a huge response, so when the time finally came, we were able to form two dungeon groups. Our group chose to walk into Direfrost Keep.
It’s hot in europe right now (slightly below 100°F), so we chose that dungeon to cool off virtually, if not in reality. AC are not (yet) very common in germany, so when there are like 3 weeks of temperatures in the mid 30 degree celsius range, the flats and houses will get warm. Very warm. A guildmate told us that he had 95°F- in his flat. Of course, walking into an icy dungeon doesn’t really help, but it was nice seeing snow and ice, anyway.
That’s not the entirety of the conversation you see when following that tweet. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see that this thread also covers topics like playing MMORPGs solo, guilds, guild leadership and so on. Quite a few people chimed in. It’s a really worth your time.
So in I went. My wanting to play Elder Scrolls Online had three main reasons: one, because of our small guild. Secondly, because of that Twitter thread and third, because I haven’t gotten around to creating and playing a warden which was released with the Morrowind chapter/expansion- to give an idea of just how long I didn’t show up.
Of course, we had our second child in the meantime and our daughter is healthy, in a good mood and…a baby. But that’s not the whole story behind my prolonged absence from this blog and Elder Scrolls Online- I’ve been looking around, testing other games, different content output channels (looked into Twitch streaming in theory, but haven’t really streamed besides some guest appearances in a friend’s stream). And then, there was that guild I co-founded…almost two years ago, I guess. The longer I was away, the worse my conscience. I readied myself for some kind of “where have you been? Guild leaders can’t leave that long!” discussions in private or guild chat, but I’m pleased to say that selective recruitment, early fostering of community as well as putting a good replacement in charge of things were a very good decision- there were no bad words, just fellow players welcoming me back. So that went well.
It was very difficult to find a suitable name for my newly created warden, though. I hit a couple of name generators, but of course all of these names were already taken. I gave it about half-a-dozen tries and settled for a combination of a lore-appropriate name and a family name derived from my online handle (Lorana Feng, iirc). I guess that’s not too bad. With all those obstacles out of the way, I could take a look at the game proper, and found it to be surprisingly fitting to my overall mood right now. I also realized I’ve been demoted to noob again by the changes in game.
For one, now you have to discover skill trees. When I went to spend skillpoints on skills for the first time, I found that I was only able to spend them into class skill trees, one world skill tree and one crafting skill tree. No weapon or armor skills to be seen. Come to think of it, I think even racial skills were missing.
Lately, I’ve been playing games more deliberately. If I choose to play a game, I play it without distractions- no Podcast listening, no stream by the side and so on. I play for one or two hours, then exit the game and do something else. I don’t sit in front of my PC pondering about which game to launch- if I don’t know what game to launch, I do something else. This leads to two outcomes. First, I don’t dabble in front of the pc until I make a choice and watch crappy Youtube videos instead. On the other hand, when I launch a game, I want to experience it- you know, including quest- and flavour text, atmosphere and things like that. There are no goals involved other than having a good time.
Elder Scrolls Online fits nicely into this mindset, and that is also why I loved that “discovery of skill lines” thing. Quests are presented via dialogues, optional conversation choices and they usually take longer than your average “kill ten rats” MMO quest. Exploration is encouraged as there are no quest hubs, per se. All in all, I had tons of fun, even while not getting much done. Between chatting with guildmates, my noobiness and taking it slowly, I finished one quest in two hours of playing. Fun times!
First: my own opinion, put shortly: I don’t like lockboxes, I don’t buy them and I wish nobody would. As we know by now, Elder Scrolls Online is going to begin selling what they call “Crown Crates” in their cash shop- turning one of my most liked business models/ingame shops into one of many.
Personally, I feel buy-/free-to-play brought a few niceties to us. However, I’m starting to realize there’s more to it than that and I’m starting to get fed up with cash shops, because they take away from the games we play. I’ll probably go over this discussion at another time, but the reason for this post is that I’d like to share the most recent episode of “Tales of Tamriel“. I was happy to see Isaari joining for this topic, particularly because of points he made before in regards to playing WoW and his will to grind for mounts, pets and hats. I can’t find it anymore, probably because it was a tweet- but I knew him to be very opinionated on mmonetization as he’s written about it a couple of times.
Now, this is a podcast dedicated to Elder Scrolls Online, but the discussion points are valid throughout the genre- it’s very interesting to listen to and if you’d like some insight/differing opinions or agreement on stuff like “it’s just cosmetic”, “but they have to earn money” and so on, I’d suggest watching this. It’s also very from the beginning that these fans of Elder Scrolls Online- themselves content creators in regards to this game for a long while and in all kinds of manners- are really upset about the introduction of lockboxes into their game and would like to talk about that topic from the first second.
The monetization stuff begins around minute 30, have fun.
Elder Scrolls Online will get housing in its Q1 2017 update- we know this already. We probably also know that it’s semi-instanced. I’m very much looking forward to housing in ESO – but i do have a few wishes.
I hope housing will be accessible very early in the game and not be a max-level thing. It should also be somewhat attractive by default- players who like housing are a creative and loyal bunch, if housing is done right. However, housing players will only “suffer” through so much gameplay they don’t enjoy to get something for the part of the game they do. Leveling to 50 would be a bit long. Of course housing should scale very well and accompany players throughout their characters’ lives. At any point from level 10 onwards, i’d like to be able to see and do something about my house.
Not a byproduct
I hinted at that wish above, but i think this bears repeating: don’t make me run 10 dungeons to – maybe- get some housing item i’d like. Don’t simply attach housing stuff to achievements. Sure, do housing drops, they’re nice loot. Ideally, housing would be a different path to take in the game, maybe even accompanied by a new crafting profession or new recipes for existing crafting professions.
I hope we’ll be able to share our spaces, let visitors come in. A player owned house would be great for guild meetings. It would be even better if we were able to visit houses of strangers (if they set the appropriate permissions).
There are great housing systems out there- Wildstar’s and Rift’s housing systems are both very accessible and very complete- however, in both cases i had trouble to connect them to the virtual world they should be in. It’s not a lore- or immersion problem, per se, as the teleporting and locations fit into both games, but in both cases, i couldn’t shake the feeling of disconnect. In ESO, we already seem to know that the houses are part of the zones, so this wish seems to be granted.
It is very important for an MMORPG to have means of spending earned gold. The last couple of years brought us more and more alternative currencies in other games, often different ones for different activities (questing, dungeons, pvp etc.). You’d get some kind of token that you can then spend at some NPC for items. It’s an…ok system to have, but as with bound-on-acquire gear, i think of it as a band-aid that’s hurting the economy. You really only need one currency- gold. Elder Scrolls Online thankfully features gold as a currency mostly, to my knowledge. While i am always broke in this game (and think this is a good thing), i’ve heard others state that they didn’t know what to do with their gold- housing is a good way to get them to spend it.
Light on cash shop
Of course we know housing is going to be monetized in the cash shop- there’ll be exclusive items, possibly even houses, and i have no problem with that. As with everything, though, it’s important to keep a balance. I think it would be a shame, for instance, if crafters couldn’t create anything for the houses, in-game means would be quite limited and everything else would go into the cash shop. Housing items should be attainable through as many means as possible, including but not focussing on the cash shop.
Some time, i guess this month when i’ll be looking for inspiration, i’ll tell you the tale on how i got interested in MMORPGs. The short version is: i wanted to become a baker. Nowadays, i’d like to become a tavern owner. Sure, setting up one’s home is nice and all, but in the end, that’s kind of limited in scope- let us build taverns, bakeries, shops, barracks, hiding spots, casinos and more underground stuff. This ties into the wish of housing being shareable, as well- as a tavern owner, for instance, some visitors would be nice.
So that’s basically it- i guess i’d like it to be as close as possible to EQ2’s housing with a hint of Wildstar’s to add flavor.
Oh well, doing daily posts is going to be fun 😉 All in all, i’ve got a couple of drafts waiting to be written, but as i realize today, sometimes it’s not so easy to make time to write- i’ll need to flesh out some of those ideas when i have more time. So this will be a short one.
Yesterday, i ended my personal summer break from Elder Scrolls Online and logged into my main character to do a bit more than buying clothes. Finally, i’d have to say, as this was my plan for more than a week now.
Coming back in isn’t so easy, though- it’s good that Elder Scrolls Online has a limited skill bar that makes returning and re-exploring the rhythm of combat a bit easier. I’m still in Malabal Tor, level 38- i guess i could venture ahead into the next zone, but i’ll stay in Malabal Tor for another while.
It’s a wood zone, difficult to navigate, which makes it a bit more difficult to find the places i need to go to in order to continue questing. I managed to finish one series of quests and filling up my inventory, which surprised me- i thought my bags to be practically endless now with the crafting bag. But i guess at some point, 100 swords, bows, armors and intestines fill the backpack just as well.
Once again, as i’m playing on a new PC, i was surprised at how beautiful the game is and how much i like the minimalistic UI it uses. So, my feet are on the ground again, now i need to take a look and see where i am, where i wanted to go, what i wanted to achieve next.
The time of playing Elder Scrolls Online exclusively has passed. The summer break put an end to that. Playing one MMORPG exclusively has positive and negative side-effects on my playing habit, although one could argue that the positive outweigh the negative aspects.
All in all, during those six months, i felt more invested and more connected to ESO in particular but also MMORPGs in general, which is strange considering my interest in other games was basically nonexistent in this time. Another interesting side-effect was that i didn’t think about what to play when i was in the mood for gaming, it was a simple decision of wanting to play or not. And for once, i thought of things like reaching the level cap and maybe playing single-player games as achievable.
I’m slowly preparing myself to return to Elder Scrolls Online, which is supposed to be my main MMO again come september. Yesterday, i read Xannziee’s post with a couple of screenshots as well as her impression with ESO (she made a detour through Black Desert for a while). There was an outfit i liked, so i asked her what it was.
Of course, it turned out to be an outfit from the crown store. Knowing that a couple of those are going away in a few days, i checked the ESO website if that outfit was among those who are going “out of stock” soon- and it is. So in i went to purchase it. I also had a look at a few of the other items who only remain for three days now, and found another outfit and two sets that interest me. I haven’t decided on the sets yet, but i purchased the solo outfits that interested me. Coincidentally, they seem to be originated in the Valenwood, which is the region i’m questing in since…about forever. (more…)
When people talk about MMO comebacks, they’ll mostly give Final Fantasy XIV as an example. Of course this is true, FFXIV in its current state is immensely better than what they released as V1.0. But this one was essentially rebuilt- it wasn’t evolution that brought FFXIV from 1.0 to 2.0, it was recreation.
Elder Scrolls Online wasn’t too well-received when it released, although i believe this was born more out of disappointment of players who didn’t feel like their interests took the front seat in the game design- as we’ve often read, MMO players felt the game was not MMO enough and Skyrim players felt ESO wasn’t Skyrim enough. Both groups of players felt neglected to some extent. These days, i feel like we are seeing Elder Scrolls Online stepping up to satisfy both player types and the birth of the next great MMORPG- i mean, it has been in the making for quite some time now, but Elder Scrolls Online will be shaping itself up to a set of features and scope that will see it propelled to be one of the best if not the best MMORPG to be released in this decade at least. In my opinion, of course.
Elder Scrolls Online is a great MMORPG with a few things that hinder it at becoming the top MMO for me. To mention a few things:
at release and until recently, the prospect of having to quest through all three campaigns with each and every character scared me. That’s at least 300 hours of content if you rush and that would mean about a year or two of me playing only one character and only Elder Scrolls Online. After that, i’d be ready for DLC and Cyrodiil.
group options – for people like me and guilds like ours, level scaling is not optional, it’s very important to enable us to do stuff together. It’s great that the DLC are scaled, but going there and doing stuff would mean to almost skip over entire zones in the base game (i saw about a quarter of Greenshade, if it was that much)
non-combat content like housing is missing
trading with other players still requires us to join trading guilds
I might be a bit too optimistic here, but it seems that at the end of 2016, only the issue of trading with other players will remain, as housing is probably coming this year and yesterday, Matt Firor announced “One Tamriel”.
In other words, we’re bringing the same auto-leveling system (called “battle leveling”) that has been so successful in our DLCs to the entire game.
Here are the basics:
Characters will have their level scaled the same way that we currently scale players to the level of DLC zones (Imperial City, Orsinium, Thieves Guild, and Dark Brotherhood).
You will be able to explore the entire world in any sequence you wish – just walk across the world and you will always find appropriately leveled content.
You will be able to play and group with anyone in the game at any time (outside of PvP). No longer will you have to create a lower level character to play with a friend who has just joined the game. You will be able to group and adventure together from the moment your friend emerges from the tutorial.
We are dropping all PvE Alliance restrictions. You will be free to explore of all Tamriel, including other Alliances. It is up to you how you want to role-play your character while doing this. “Silver” and “gold” versions of zones will be replaced by Cadwell quest storylines that you can do in any order you wish.
Alliance restrictions will still be enforced in all PvP areas, of course. One Tamriel will not affect the PvP systems in Cyrodiil.
In general, higher level players will be the same “level” as lower level players, but they will have far more tools in their arsenal: better gear, more abilities, and of course more Champion points.
We will adjust gear rewards to scale appropriately to make sure that there is always a way to get more powerful via crafting, questing, PvP, and dungeon/trial boss loot drops.
All Trials and Dungeons will continue with standard and Veteran difficulty modes, and you will have to be Veteran level to play veteran dungeon modes.
The Coldharbour zone will be “roped off” from players who have not yet completed the quests that lead there. However, if you are invited to a group that is already there, or travel to a friend who is there, you can immediately access the zone.
Sooo, level scaling in the whole game. Removal of alliance restrictions in PvE. Imagine what this means for a small guild like ours: finally, we can tackle all the content together. At any one time, we’ll be able to meaningfully form groups to help each other, be in each other’s company, run dungeons. We’ll also be able to recruit players from the other alliances, as we’re PvE-focussed anyway. I don’t know yet what that might mean for our leveling group of DC characters, but i guess it might have an influence, because we don’t need to watch each others’ character levels as closely as before and we’ll also be able to simply join up with whatever character we like.
For the solo player- and in my personal opinion questing is still better when doing it alone- this means that outleveling content will not be a problem anymore. This opens up so many possibilities like playing through whole DLCs before getting to 50, changing zones and so on. With this change, the leveling experience from 1 to 50 will be very alt-friendly indeed, because while you still can do everything with every character, the order in which to do that will be up to us, the players. This move alone will make the game feel even larger than it is right now.
I am very excited to see where ESO is going this year and i’m very happy with the current state as well as the prospect of what’s coming.
We’ll start our “level together” series in our guild soon. Right now, we’re in the “prologue” part where we’ll play alone until we reach Daggerfall. From there, we’ll make an effort to play together. However, when i thought about ways to do this, normal questing left me with an uneasy feeling. If we were to do all the quests together, there’d be logistics involved- what questlines to follow, what decisions to make and always noting and telling others where we are in the questing process. And overlevelling content would soon begin to be a problem, as well. In the end, i put together a different plan.
We’ll concentrate on the following types of quests:
Main Story Quests
Quests that grant skillpoints
Mages guild quests
Fighters Guild Quests
Instead of questing, we’ll give things in the open world priority, with the added advantage that everything in this category is actually easier/faster when it is done in a group. Most of these things are also marked on the map and for the items that aren’t, i’ve got some addons installed.
Before we decided to found a guild in Elder Scrolls Online, we had already met a few times to play together. At that time, there were four of us and we did everything together- mainly because none of us was actually playing Elder Scrolls Online by themselves (that was something that just happened after our meet-ups) and so the quests were still new to us and also, because my research didn’t show many guides/topics on how ESO could be played in a small or full dedicated group. Now, with some knowledge of the game, i actually think ESO provides plenty of content for small or full dedicated groups- maybe even more than other contemporary MMORPGs. So here’s what you can do as a small or full dedicated group in Elder Scrolls Online and how we’re planning to progress through the zones in our group(s).
Delves – Each map contains 6 delves and there’s a skyshard and a boss in each of them. I guess this will become the thread we’ll follow throughout a zone, hopping between Delves, World Bosses, Points-of-Interest and Dolmen. Normally, Delves can be done solo, but it’ll be faster when done in a group. Delves also count towards the Meta-Achievement of zone explorer.
Group Bosses – There are 6 group bosses in each zone- you can solo them, but they do get difficult from time to time.
Landmarks – These are marked as “eyes” on the map and often, there’s not much to do there, but they are beautiful places, sometimes contain a nice story element and give some xp. They also count towards the meta-achievement of zone explorer. I thinke there are usually five of them in a zone.
Dolmen / Anchor – I tried to do an anchor by myself yesterday and it didn’t end well. Anchors are group content- and as such, they’ll be more fun and more rewarding being done in a group. There seem to be three Dolmens in levelling zones.
Public Dungeons – Each zone contains one public dungeon- they’re similar to delves but are bigger. We’ll do them when we see them on the map, as the last PvE content in any given zone or to get some progress before doing the zone’s instanced group dungeon.
Skyshards – Last but not least, before leaving a zone, we’ll make sure to uncover all skyshards- to get the associated skill points.
In every zone, there’s an instanced group dungeon that can be done in a group of four. I don’t know yet how we’ll approach these, it depends on how many of us are logged in and playing together in a session. We are enough to build two groups, but that’s assuming everyone will log in. My plan is to do them unscaled when we meet the level requirements.
While i don’t like using addons much (i much prefer exploring/solving riddles when i’m by myself), in this case it’s advisable, as “exploring”- or “searching for something” is actually a boring thing to do in a group.
QuestMap – shows quests on the map and provides filtering options such as “skill point” or “Cadwells silver/gold”
With all these, you should know where to go at any point.
My hope is that this system will allow us to make progress in the game by doing the content mentioned above, while not levelling too fast or too slow for any given zone. Logistics-wise, this will be easy: all players who miss out a week or two or want to catch up to us later have to do is reach about the same level as the group (+/- 3). Doing things this way also allows each player to play these characters outside of that group without being afraid to lose touch. While crafting and questing of course do give experience, it’s not necessary that we’re all exactly on the same level at all times, even without level scaling.
Elder Scrolls Online has employed a unique way of doing player trading. As we all know, there are no global auction houses. What’s more is that materials used in crafting have no or quite low value when selling them to NPCs. Instead, there are trading guilds, guild merchants and merchants in Cyrodiil. Here’s a statement from Nick Konkle:
You don’t necessarily want to do a global auction house for a game with one giant server because that generally leads to all the best gear being available at very, very cheap prices, a lot of times that can trivialize the game. You cannot have a healthy economy when there are no restrictions on getting the best stuff in the game.
I’ve read another statement somewhere that the way ESO does player trading is the closest they can get to simulating regional pricing for goods in a game where fast travel is a thing.
I respect both of these explanations and find it quite refreshing that a developer leaves out a “standard feature” of MMORPGs in favour of game design. However, this approach isn’t working out for me- and possibly a few other players out there, if i were to assume i’m not the only one having some trouble in using either chat or trading guilds as market places.
As i’m also playing EVE these days, i began to think about ways Elder Scrolls Online could add public market places into the game without breaking aforementioned guidelines.
Add a guild finder
I think ZOS has plans to introduce a guild finder in the game. While it’s not too difficult to find guilds who are advertising on the official forums etc., having an ingame interface would make things easier. After seeing EVE’s corp search tool, i’d wish for ESO’s to be more elaborate. In my opinion, there’s a few key factors when looking for a good fit and i think all of this should be considered when designing the guild finder:
Play time. Either give a few options to enter your average weekly time you spend in the game or give the option to enter time of day for your activities.
Gameplay focus: Questing, Dungeons, Raiding, Crafting, Trade, Thieving, Fishing, Roleplaying and PvP are already in game, with “killing” coming soon. Provide checkboxes to select the content you’re interested in.
Target Group: Hardcore, Casual, Social, 18+, family-friendly and more
When you present the results, be sure to add ways to join that guild- provide a button to text with a recruitment officer and/or a simple “apply” button with an optional text message just like they already have with friend requests.
Create regional markets
The market places / merchants would need to be located in the game world. No fancy interface, just a house in a city- let’s say one per zone. I’d also prefer it if the prices weren’t scannable by addons which could be making it easy for players to figure out where to buy/sell stuff.
To get regionally different prices, there needs to be a way to control these prices. As you can’t rely on players to do that themselves, as you can indeed fast travel through the world, there’d need to be taxes. Luckily, Elder Scrolls Online already has something that denotes the origin of the item: the crafting motifs. So they could put different taxes on items in different regions.
Let’s say you craft an armor in breton style but want to sell it in Auridon- you could do that, but it would be heavily taxed because the Bretons aren’t even in the same alliance. I think Auridon is also Altmer territory while Grahtwood is Bosmer- you could set taxes accordingly. They’d be lower than the Breton style taxes, but still different.
Of course, there are additional styles that might not be as easy to locate in the geography of Tamriel. I don’t know enough about them to make suggestions, but i’m sure one could figure out a way.
Of course, you’d be able to buy on each market you visit, but selling would be restricted in some ways – otherwise, players would simply teleport around Tamriel to avoid mentioned taxes. I could think of two ways to do that:
limit selling for one character/account to one location. If you sell stuff on the Daggerfall market, you can’t sell anything in Wayrest, for instance.
limit selling by taxes, again- raise taxes for each location an account wants to sell stuff in and make it hurt, at least when the number of markets per account reach 3
Of course, one thing would happen: we’d have trade hubs in Elder Scrolls Online. But this still wouldn’t be a global market as there’d be incentives to sell in other regions (to pay lower crafting style taxes or get higher profits) and it would actually be believable.
Market Halls with player shops / guild traders
While i can understand that ZOS doesn’t want to litter the landscape with guild traders/merchants, i think there are too few of them right now to make them really interesting. It’s a nice feature, of course, if you are a member of a successful trading guild, but it’s a bit of a hassle to find one of these. If they’re not willing or able to develop easily available player trading for individuals through NPCs, they could create “market halls” in cities where a guild or individuals could open shops. Let’s say you have a building and room in there for 20 merchants- add some costs (without making them absurdly high) and allow guilds or individuals to open a shop for, say, 60 minutes. The merchant they hired will then sell their stuff for 60 minutes before the contract needs to be renewed. You could also raise the costs for each successive hire and differentiate between locations.
Create a variety of different trading guilds
ZOS could also create more than one NPC trading guild- let’s say 10 or even more. Each account has to join one and can only buy/sell stuff in this NPC guild (well, and in player guilds, obviously).
Yes 🙂 But there are two things that do bother me with trade in ESO right now: first, to be able to trade, you have to find and join trading guilds. That’s an active part you have to play and you have to do this outside of the game. The second one is that one-to-many player trade isn’t part of the game system design but part of the guild system design. I get that in Elder Scrolls Lore, guilds are important, but there has to be a merchant/trading guild somewhere in the lore.
Thinking about it, improving player trade could be bolstered up to become a stand-alone DLC.