I’m two weeks into Elder Scrolls online, and I’m having fun. Some of my opinions haven’t changed since beta: beautiful scenery, average story, and profitable, although they’ve postponed console releases until next winter.
The public verdict on ESO seems to be that it does nothing better than any other MMO, but it’s a solid, enjoyable package. I agree, and all of the bugs I saw in beta are gone.
My beta report said caveat emptor, but now it’s two kitty thumbs up. Jump in at a discount. I want to talk a little about the game writing, combat, Fallout, Dragon Age, and this and that.
ESO: Combat Is Better When–
You play a Templar. Why? Because with spells and a weapon, you have two resource pools to strategize and use (stamina with weapon, magicka with spells.)
I can’t imagine playing ESO as a one-pool class after playing my Templar. There’s no going back. The game is also a perfect challenge for me so far. Mages and Dragon Knights look like they have it too easy.
I’m trying to play my Templar like a LotRO Captain. Support, off tanking and healing. We’ll see how that goes. I was happy to find out there are oodles of theoretical skill points. You aren’t as restricted as I’d feared.
You can craft like a gnome on crack if that’s your brand of gaming hat.
Elder Scrolls: Writing Weaknesses
I often harp about my Smiling Jack concept (borrowed from Vampire: Bloodlines, maybe the best example I’ve ever seen). When you get into the game, you have a smiling, sympathetic friend who shows you the ropes, not just pop-up tutorials to follow.
Elder Scrolls Online doubles up and gives you two interesting friends: the Prophet and Lyris Titanborn, notably voiced by Michael Gambon and Jennifer Hale.
The problem is that you find no emotional connection or camaraderie with them. It’s very cold, and the story isn’t about your character. Neither one of these people give the impression of caring about me, although the stakes are high and dramatic. I can say that.
In fact, the last mini-dungeon story episode was about Lyris Titanborn and her experiences and past. Well, what about my past? Where is my soul and all that? It’s off track.
And then, on a particular low-level questline in Morrowind, the NPCs make a big deal about you being a great hero, a saviour. It just seemed off-key and unbelievable to me at level 8 or 9.
The issue with limited writing is the voice-overs. There just isn’t enough forested real estate (dialogue “trees”) to say everything or have a real dialogue with real conversational choices like in Vampire: Bloodlines, and meanwhile the voices of Hale and Gambon aren’t empathetic. So.
Idea: Make Two Versions Of MMOs!
MMO devs of the world, here’s an idea for you: write your MMO in text first, and then boil down the text into voice over synopses, and give players a choice.
Players can play the unedited director’s cut, or they can play the Hollywood version.
Why not? The writers write a long version in the first place. It’s called the second draft. Then everything is edited and cut several times over for voice. Just delineate a boundary where everything goes into the text.
The effort will half pay for itself in saved bandwidth if you offer separate downloads. Writers will be happy dancing if they are worth their salt. Players will exchange lore back and forth, lore that will seem special.
Elder Scrolls: So What’s Next?
I have no idea. Due to a ridiculous persisting bug, beta players are denied forum write access. That includes this kitty, so here is my furry finger. (Yes, you can file a ticket, whatever.) I’ll say this.
The game needs more classes desperately, more than Neverwinter did. Four classes is not enough.
A better auction solution is still needed. Everyone agrees the guild stores are horrible. It can’t even be a girly bargain-bin delving game without properly functioning search features. Geez.
Where is Fallout at the moment? Bethesda gained the rights to a Fallout MMO from Interplay a few years ago. After all of the resources and investment Zenimax (Bethesda’s parent company) is putting into Elder Scrolls on PC and the next gen consoles, it would seem foolish not to use that experience to push forward and leverage a post-apocalyptic Fallout campaign.
I’m hoping to hear something about this at next year’s E3. What about this year’s E3? Oh, was there one? I almost didn’t notice.
Class Dependency In MMOs
Mark Kern wrote an article last week for MMORPG, and I thought it was horrible. The thesis is that MMO classes are being homogenized and class dependencies are being quashed for soloability, but really for profit.
The author argues that “it’s worth it to invest R&D in this area.”
Really? R&D? He talks about MMOs being effectively single player these days. This is an example of vaguely false exaggerations made for the sake of writing out a controversial article.
What’s killing class dependencies isn’t soloability and homogenization per se through self-heals, aggro management, personal CC, and general survivability. It’s dumbing down, reducing the need for skill, and giving players only 6 skills to use at a time. That forces all of the other stuff out the window.
It isn’t necessary to “strip away a lot of the identity and customization and role that the class used to offer.” You can have both like in LotRO, except no. Apparently we can’t handle that, certainly not on our couches with console controllers.
Unless you want to argue ESO has class dependencies because tanks and healers are needed, then dumbing down is my final answer. You say chicken, I claim egg.
Dragon Age: Inquisition Angry Joe Interview
Angry Joe posted an interview today with the producer of DA:Inquisition. I’m excited for this game.
The game will give you a combat choice this time. Choices are the future, we players can only hope. You can play top-down tactical like in DA:Origins with better camera controls, or go with actiony combat like in DA2.
DA:Inquisition will have an epic story, but also a big breach in the sky with demons pouring out. You take the good with the bad when it comes to sky rifts and cliches.
You’ll be managing the resources of your organization, which I’ve never been into in a single player RPG. It’s hard to feel like any of that gathering and building makes any difference when the game is going to end in a few hours.
Managing a keep-like housing facility in an MMO? Purr. Now that’s something I’d like to see, and I’m keeping my eye on Blizzard’s Draenor expansion for that.
Leliana plays a big part in Dragon Age:Inquisition! Yay. I’m not super thrilled with her new look, but we can ease into that topic later in our relationship. You know how it goes.
In related news, David Gaider, lead writer for Dragon Age, last month affirmed Bioware’s commitment to supporting LGBTQ characters and romances.
So duck and roll, I might vomit a rainbow. I’m feeling better. I think. Thanks for reading. Have a cookie and five gold kitty stars if you got this far. Happy gaming.