Elder Scrolls Online: A Scrollocaust On The Horizon?

We’ve had at least three Elder Scrolls Online reveals in the past few days: a group mechanic Q&A, a press release on the ESO voice actors, and a group mechanic video.

I haven’t finished my new comic strip, so I’ll do ESO commentary instead. Only Molag Bal can say whether I’ve played the ESO betas. Praise thee, great master of the Daedra.

100% Voice in ESO: A Story Of Pros and Cons

There are lots of parallels between ESO and TOR (The Old Republic), causing kibitzers to predict a “Scrollocaust” to follow the “TORtanic”. A couple similarities are an enormous budget upwards of 200 million, and that budget’s 800 pound gorilla, 100% voice acting.

Voice normally fails to give enough information. That’s the irony. It’s the daughter of immersion, but it can’t convey setting and character like text, for anyone intelligent enough to read and imagine things.

Why? Due to the scrimping of voiced syllables. In TOR, there is also repetition. My characters will repeat the same stock phrases in conversations, i.e. “Yes, I’ll do that for you.” Each time this happens, my face glazes with an accusatory look of immersion betrayal.

The logbook/background information journal is designed to satisfy what the voice overs can’t, but it’s never implemented in a way intrusive enough to make its proper contribution to being-in the game world. I rarely open it on the fly–only later if I have time.

I prefer a mix of voice and text. I.e. the main story and personal story are voiced, while the meat and potatoes–the quests that give the game world its humble flesh and entrails–are literary with all that entails.

That said, I love the star-studded voice reveal for Elder Scrolls. It’s great to see the MMO-sphere fusing with the highest tiers of entertainment, sparkling with legitimacy. It makes me proud of my favorite genre, the sweeping fantasy RPG.

The Gameplay Video: Too Short As Usual

This is the first video I’ve seen that gives a good daytime impression of the beauty of the Elder Scrolls Online game engine, and how it renders distance, light, and shadow.

The minimal interface is also striking. You can see the health bars of your fellows and your handful of skills, but that’s about all. You’re also auto-targeting whatever is in front of you. You aren’t target locking.

So if you’re the healer, you’ll need spatial awareness and fast movement to get in position. This was an issue that turned me off to healing in Neverwinter with the cleric.

Per the Q&A: “Again, many MMOs have an interface game for healing and ESO doesn’t have a lot of interface elements. It is more about being active in the world. Cone heals, AoE heals, and spread heals will be the norm.”

The ESO combat and gameplay are complicated topics best left in the capable hands of MMO brainiacs in the post-NDA era. My scattered kitty mind is focused on group size.

4-Person Parties Are Better Than Expected

In the past, I would have said 4-person groups were “dumbed down”. Ok, they’re still dumbed down, especially in terms of dungeon play, but this does have positive aspects, which I’m learning from SWTOR.

Every party member is more important. Each role is more important. Your personal play makes a big difference. There is no room for slacking. You also get to know your group a little better–their tendencies, how they are screwing up, and how they are doing well.

On the downside, four-person parties defy mother nature–that natural balance of DPS, Tanks, and Heals. In ESO, theoretically anyone can take up a shield with a one-hander and tank, but you’re going to be ineffective if you haven’t spent points on Health and Stamina (required for active dodging and blocking.)

In TOR you have tanking and healing roles built into classes. It will be interesting to see how ESO pans out, since you need to use a healing staff or a shield to skill up those roles. You can’t just 100% solo DPS and then change stance or your skill tree to tank or heal for a group.

In addition, Paul Sage suggests you’ll need active party communication to understand who has what stats and who can do what, due to the flexible system and lack of interface. He dances around the subject of aggro and tanking. The video shows the healer taking a lot of heat.

I’m not thrilled about the non-interface in Elder Scrolls in terms of grouping, or in terms of anything at all. It’s the worst part of the game for me, and it’s pointless. Lack of moorings on the screen seem to give me a feeling of vertigo.

I didn’t like the Skyrim UI either, and I was frustrated with not seeing my buff durations. For example, you could attack a group of monsters, and your pet could just disappear suddenly, its spell duration over. Oh joy.

The ESO devs are supposedly working on a LUA system, so I hope they plan to let the PC community mod and support a more fully-featured, customizable interface. The devs can then just focus on a cost-effective, simplified, and unified UI for all three supported platforms.

To answer the question posed by the blog title, no.

I think the Elder Scrolls Online is going to raise a lot of criticism and frothing from MMO players, but if it launches without crippling problems on three platforms through spring and summer, the kitty predicts that it will be financially perky by the first of next year.

Perky is a word used in the kitty world. It means looking good.

Personal (SWTOR)

This week I’ve been playing SWTOR. I’ve pretty much settled on the Cyborg Operative as my main character, as opposed to the Powertech or Jedi Knight.

I’m wanting to play a tank, but I need a more mature, even-tempered game for that. I’m old, and I think and go slowly. These Sith kids don’t have the patience for me.

I also wanted to play a good Republic character, but my decision was greatly influenced by available companions for Republic. I don’t like my first Smuggler companion at all. (Corso.) He’s annoying, and I’m stuck with him until the Wookie furball.

The SWTOR classes have a surprising lack of female companions, which are safe picks for the mostly male players, yet the companion roster in SWTOR is a litany of dudes and droids. It’s a design decision that I’d like to question sometime in an official forum thread.

The Operative is a fascinating class. It’s like a LotRO Burglar with some Lore-Master thrown in (Flash Bang works the same as a Bane-Flare). It’s also a DPS/Heals class that replaces my abandoned LotRO Rune-Keeper.

I feel like my healer on the Empire side is a good idea. Already I’ve been of assistance in Heroic groups, helping my violent and better-armored Sith allies triumph.

That’s all for now. Kitty out.


About Silverangel

https://kittykittyboomboom.wordpress.com/ View all posts by Silverangel

6 responses to “Elder Scrolls Online: A Scrollocaust On The Horizon?

  • 1001-Up.com

    This is a fantastic blog. 🙂

  • Wilhelm Arcturus

    4 person groups? Well poo. We have a permanent five person group, with a sixth and a seventh able to show up when needed. Four just isn’t going to cut it. And while I like the minimal interface idea… I’d sign up for healing… the parallel you made to SWTOR and voice acting just made some of my desire for the game die. Ah well….

    And I thought I was your biggest fan. Or was that your tallest fan?

    • Jackie

      Hi Wilhem, Maybe you could take the group to Cyrodiil for PvP?. The parallel with SWTOR voice over is there. I think the VO in ESO has a lot more charm though, like with Khajit accents. And there seems to be one main narrator for the main quest line, so they can focus on quality. If I implied the VO in ESO was bad *for what it is*, that would be misrepresenting my current opinion.

      According to the year-end stats, you were in a three-way tie for #1 fan in 2013, and tied again now in 2014. 😀 I’ll take your word for tallest. Love the Nordic horns.

      • Wilhelm Arcturus

        My comment was more from my gut reaction to SWTOR putting words in my character’s mouth. It is surprisingly important to me… given that I am not much of a role player or such… that the game devs not do that. They can voice everything else if they so desire, but my character will have his own motivations and responses and I can supply them in my own voice in my head.

        For all the things I did not like about SWTOR, that ended up being the one I really couldn’t get past. It left me feeling like I was watching somebody else’s character go through the game, because MY character wouldn’t have delivered that clunker of a response in such a flat tone. Heh!

  • Jackie

    Definitely know what you mean about the SWTOR voiceovers for your character. And then they had to nerf negative reactions from your companion, since the unpredictability frustrated players as early as beta. Nerfing it to only -1 negative affection is silly though. It might was well be zero since a single gift is worth 20-50. It least make it count for *something*. ESO does not have these problems. It’s more simplified.

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