Category Archives: The Elder Scrolls Online

Weekly Wyrm ~ April 1, 2014

This week I played WoW and Hearthstone. No big surprise. Hearthstone’s popcorn play of daily quests works for me. After several months of this, I might have some playable pro-level cards if I’m lucky.

So. We’ll see if that happens.


Elder Scrolls Online


The ESO headstart was a complete disaster as many predicted. The servers were down most of today, and many players complained about a certain gender-swapping frog in Morrowind whose curse became permanent.

In response to angry tickets, the game-masters were quoted as saying “screenshots or it didn’t happen.”

Ok, that was my lame April fool’s joke, but this crazy idea is the sort of immersion that fantasy RPGs need instead of logging in and paying cash for special account services.

I preach immersion, but no one ever listens to me. Frog. Curse. Kiss. Win.

In truth, by most accounts the ESO launch so far is near-flawless. The Storm King (from LotRO) even made his first infamous “I hate this game” post.

I watched some Twitch TV of ESO power-levelers and wondered what possesses these guys to play that way, speed-clicking through everything. I suppose it’s their self-appointed duty and goal in life. I have no idea.


The Tumblr Game Blog Of The Week


I abuse Tumblr every day, but I haven’t seen many game blogs lately.

Build A Dungeon From Me is a young blog with some nice fantasy art, including the revamped cover of Naked Doom as shown below. Naked Doom has a lot in common with Elder Scrolls–you start off as a prisoner, with rags for clothing and no weapon.

Tunnels And Trolls (pen and paper) was the first RPG I ever played. I preferred T&T over Dungeons And Dragons due to its choose-your-own-adventure style solo modules. The AD&D rulebooks did have a random dungeon generator to play with.

Naked Doom (the original cover) was one of my favorite modules due to the beautiful artwork by Rob Carver, later eclipsed by the spectacular art in City of Terrors.

Other posts at Build A Dungeon From Me include old art covers for Talisman, AD&D, White Dwarf magazine, and Steve Jackson’s Sorcery, another game I explored a bit, although by that point I was playing Ad&D with friends.

Naked Doom Tunnels And Trolls Cover Art

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Where Are The Vampire Video Games?

bela lugosiLast week TAGN reported that CCP revealed financials involving an unspecified loss of 21 million in game code assets last year.

This week CCP is pushing the hype for Eve Valkyrie featuring Sony’s VR (virtual reality) headset. CCP just fired a bunch of World of Darkness staff, but they clearly have money to invest. They are putting it elsewhere.

Blizzard kicked World of Darkness in its pointy whities by grabbing its acronym for Warlords of Draenor. Bullyzzard also announced pre-orders for Draenor several months in advance of its launch, conveniently right before Elder Scrolls takes the stage.

Bullyzzard also threw Hearthstone and their Diablo III expansion onto the short bus of corporate blood and diversionary hurt. Vampires love blood and hurt, just like most Americans. So where are the vampire games?

According to a report I found online, Hollywood earned $7 billion on vampire-related entertainment in just two years between 2008 to 2010. That was mostly Twilight and True Blood.

Meanwhile, the list of vampire video games on Wikipedia is a forlorn tomb of outdated no-names and barely profitable games. Are game developers afraid of this difficult history, even after Twilight, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries? Are the fan bases for vampires and video games that divergent?

I don’t get it. This unhappy vampire fan is seeing CCP pouring money into VR shortly after slashing and burning the World of Darkness staff. So to be continued, I suppose, when CCP gets around to giving real news to passionate fans who have been waiting nigh an eternity for this bloody game.


The Challenge 15 Picks Up Steam


In other news, it was so nice to see TAGN pick up the 15 theme from my last post. Some other intrepid bloggers have jumped on the challenge, including Isey at I Has PC today. Thanks again to lvlinglife for getting it the idea going. I’ve really enjoyed reading peoples’ lists.


Blizzard Bully Tactics Whiplash


My Druid has reached L85. She is now grounded in Pandaria.

At first I felt forced to buy the Draenor pre-order for the L90 boost, but then I realized I already paid $42 for three months to level my characters the old-fashioned way. Also, why wouldn’t I spend $50 on ESO or Wildstar instead?

Decision made: no pre-order until after the competition weighs in. ESO supposedly has a vampire skill tree if desperation for blood afflicts me.


Elder Scrolls Online: Launch Looms


ESO head start is coming this Sunday. I was reading the MMORPG forums last night, and someone linked an epic post by a blogger and longtime beta tester who has now bailed on the game.

The cited reasons are the whole shebang of my objections and concerns as well, in well-documented detail–all the reversals/lies, the UI failures, the crushing of the hopes of the modders by gutting the API, etc. It’s all there, and it’s decent reading if you are interested.

The best forums rebuttals to Isarii’s criticism, in my opinion, are the ones accusing burnout after months of beta testing. I can refute that by saying I only played three betas for a handful of hours each, and I agree with most of the points.

Note the mention of bugs as well. ESO announced today that they squashed three progress-blocking bugs at the last minute. Wonderful. Good luck with the launch, which is guaranteed to be polished and lag-free.

All of that said, I hope the launch goes wonderfully for them, and I hope ESO is a success. I will certainly be joining sooner or later at the right time and price point.

Ok, time to play Hearthstone dailes. If you made it this far, happy gaming.


Elder Scrolls In Edit Mode

Massively reported today that Zenimax is restructuring their play flow in Elder Scrolls to skip players straight to their capital cities, where a more open world is found.

This is a startling good idea. Your arrival in Tamriel will have an immediate graphical awe factor, unless maybe if you’re Daggerfall, where I think the desert island is pretty in comparison.

I see “many updates to the UI” in the patch notes, but nothing alluding to an information-loaded interface that won’t implode my frontal lobe.

So how can Bethesda just let players skip a whole zone and not screw up the story? Well, when I said “disjointed story” in my beta impressions post, I could have said “the main/personal story is lost and missing almost completely from the entire first zone.”


Immersion WoW vs. Elder Scrolls Online


In the wake of the ESO beta, I took the below screenshot in WoW, which illustrates a lot of the immersion I missed in ESO. See the screenshot, which could be titled “a death knight and a panda walked into a bar.”

There’s my name for one thing (of a now-deleted DK), and my guild, and the names of other players. In ESO, no nameplates means other players are just bland, indistinguishable bodies on the landscape. I don’t know who they are, so they don’t register in my head.

There’s a trusty mailbox next to the panda in the image. In ESO, you get mail off of a game panel, which is fine in the world of consoles I guess, but it’s still another immersion fail.

In WoW you also have a “home” in the inn, instead of a glowing way shrine thing that doesn’t mean anything. Then there are gryphon-flights instead of teleports. I hated teleporting everywhere when it was instituted in Oblivion, and my opinion hasn’t changed on that.

The keep status at the top is immersive for me personally. Things are happening–conflicts and battles with the enemy not too far off. In ESO, these indicators would be anathema.

While I was watching Angry Joe’s ESO PvP video, I wondered how you’re supposed to know what’s going on in PvP. You can’t see the names of the other players, which means no color coding in red or other distinguishing faction allegiance colors.

And what about a personal vendetta against a specific creep who just mace-raped you? All the Argonians look the same to me with no nameplates. Maybe Zenimax will put nameplates back in the game and let players mod the UI to their liking.

Anyway. ESO isn’t overrated, but neither is it worth getting panty-twisted over. Enough writing for tonight. I’ll save an obligatory “what I’m doing now in WoW” post for some other time.

World of Warcraft Burning Crusade Inn


Elder Scrolls Online: Beta Impressions

elder scrolls onlineMassively is reporting that the Elder Scrolls NDA has dropped for almost everyone.

Ironically, I just wiped Elder Scrolls Online from my drive, and I re-subbed to World of Warcraft.

For one thing, WoW is fully translated into Spanish. Elder Scrolls Online is apparently scorning Spanish, despite Skyrim supporting it. The main reason I’d rather play WoW is story and immersion, but I’ll get to that.

Here are my impressions. For eye candy, skip down for screenshots. I played through all three of the ESO faction prologues and partway through the three zones after. My highest level was 7 or 8.


Things I really liked:


The graphics and textures. The art of this game (on ultra settings) is fabulous. The textures are beautiful. The water is beautiful. I want to play this game just to see the architecture, the sea, and the ashen landscape of Morrowind again.

Someone said the palette in Morrowind was too dull, but as a gallery-exhibited artist and painter for the last 20 years, I felt the brown and grey palette of Morrowind was a thing of perfection. I constantly wanted to stop and take screenshots, and I marveled at the architecture.

Unfortunately, I have no screens of this due to the NDA and watermarking in the beta.

Music. The music is excellent, especially in Morrowind. I’ve been listening to music from the original Morrowind game almost every day at work, and while the ESO music isn’t Jeremy Soule, I don’t care. I enjoy the ESO score. The music track transitioning and switching system works well.

The combat. Combat is visceral with lots of active blocking and dodging. I played mostly sword and board as a Dragon Knight. I found both sword and board and two-hander satisfying, although not very balanced.

I liked my “get-over-here” pull skill, but not as much as the same skill with my WoW death knight. The animations in WoW are still pretty much better than everything, so this isn’t a valid criticism.

Lots of female leads. Everywhere you turn in ESO, there are strong female leaders and quest-givers. I really noticed this. I really appreciated this. I’m also super-thrilled that Ellen Page came out as gay today, so your mileage may vary.

Different start areas for factions. This can’t be taken for granted anymore. It adds great replayability, and it’s the hallmark of a highest quality MMO.

On the other hand, by breaking the factions with the pre-order perk (any race any faction, doesn’t matter), and declaring you can play the stories of the other factions later by a mystical twist of fate, they’ve weakened the sense of faction identity.

Character creation. It’s solid, with lots of races and looks to choose from. The front and rear shaping tools are far out. Like another reviewer mentioned, I would have liked more cosmetics, like lips, independent from overall facial looks.

More exploration and puzzles. The KTR (kill ten rats) quest isn’t prominent. You’re playing along, and suddenly there is a puzzle to solve. Heavy phasing is used to create a sense of the world changing. These are good things, although players have reported grouping glitches and difficulties.

The beta questionnaire asked the right questions. Zenimax wanted to know if I liked the NPCs. They wanted to know about the friend factor in the game. They wanted to know if I felt an emotional connection to the story. They asked about immersion.

They’ve got the right concepts, and they’re trying to do the right thing, but the game isn’t quite connecting yet for me personally. This doesn’t matter. I think Elder Scrolls Online will be a financial success in the long term and appeal to lots of players.


Things I didn’t like:


Long load times. They say they’re working hard on this, but until then bring a book, a movie to watch, or some nail polish.

No nameplates. The UI is invisible in ESO, as much as possible. The option for nameplates overhead was greyed out in the first two betas I played, then totally gone in the most recent beta.

This is horrible. I couldn’t distinguish between players and NPCs. I couldn’t find vendors I needed. Names of people create immersion by creating ideas of those people in your head.

Sometimes I forgot the name of my own character. That’s a fail. It was nice though not to see the names of other players: “Drizzrit”, “Fartwrecker”, etc. An option isn’t too much to ask for.

Can’t mouse over skill bar. You don’t have a mouse pointer in normal mode, and your skill bar is gone like everything else. You can’t see your skills out of combat. So you have to go into your skills panel in order to see what skills you actually have slotted where, and you need to memorize them.

Quest tracker limited to one quest. The game is buggy, which may have caused the devs to dumb down the tracker temporarily. Tracking one quest at a time, and managing constantly which one you’re tracking (in the last beta) was frustrating.

I hope for the sake of the pre-orderers that this and the load times get fixed, along with everything else. Or, maybe this is another misguided way to remove interface, causing players to wander around following random markers on the overhead compass instead of the tracker. I hope not.

100% Voiced = Poor Immersion. As in SWTOR, 100% voice leads to minimal information received from NPCs. This leads to a lack of information presented on the setting you’re in. This means it’s hard to be immersed. This leads to critics saying the world seems empty.

Low setting-immersion. You know the cinematics you see in WoW when you create a new character? A narrator introduces the starting zone to you, with a short blurb on local politics. This is good.

Settings often lost me in ESO, although Zenimax revamped the world maps so they are easier to read. I also like the map art style.

Disjointed, unemotional story. You meet friends as soon as you get into the game world, but you don’t care about them, and they don’t really care about you. If they do, it isn’t believable.

Maybe a cinematic will be in the finished product that evokes a gruesome thing like the opening of Kingdoms of Amalur. They need to show your character’s soul being torn from her body and sucked into a machine with lots of pain and screaming.

Then maybe your homies show up to take care of your sweats and fevers, and you get a warm fuzzy feeling. There isn’t even a feeling of camaraderie or danger in the starting prison escape sequence, which drags on too long in my opinion.


Conclusion


Here’s the irony. Zenimax slashed and purged the interface with grand zealotry to prove their concept. There’s nothing on the screen to stop you from seeing the beautiful world, and it feels a little like a facade.

For me, World of Warcraft with all of its panels, popups, and minimap gidgets is more full of life than ESO.

With quest text, an NPC in the game can persuade you, cajole you, and threaten you using your character name. Voice-over can’t handle your character name, so it’s more generic, and often voice actors don’t employ much emotion, maybe because it ends up sounding faked.

In the quest-texted Death Knight storyline I played last night in WoW, I was forced to kill innocent civilians, to turn humans into undead to serve the Lich King, and to kill a hostage of my own race who begged me to wake up from my death and mind control and realize who I am.

She remembered me, called me by my elf name, and referred to my gentle elf past. Then I killed her. This one prologue was a more emotional and compelling storyline than anything I saw in the fully-voiced Elder Scrolls Online.

Do I think ESO will flop? No. The game is really fun, creative, and has great combat, which is enough for most Elder Scrolls and MMO players. I think the launch will be sketchy on PC and possibly horrible due to technical issues, but the game will pull through eventually like SWTOR with the benefit of release on three platforms.

I look forward to paying and playing–at some point.

A few screenshots. Thanks for reading.

elder scrolls image 1
elder scrolls online screenshot


Elder Scrolls NDA Dropped: For The Pros Only

A bunch of Elder Scrolls beta articles showed up on Escapist and Massively today. Apparently Zenimax is letting the paid pro writers talk all they want now about the game, and the small-time writers, bloggers, and everyone else have to keep their gags on.

This is clearly a tactic to try to get the most favorable press possible: only allowing people to write who are paid, and probably paid either now, in the future, or in the past by the game company for advertising.

This is brilliant. This is also very lame. I have nothing to say, because I can’t. So go read the even-handed, well-leashed pro articles, and read this one first: The Elder Scrolls Online beta is absolutely nothing special.

Claw to the face, corporate people. Thank the goddess Zenimax isn’t getting away with this tactic completely. Today, I’m Eliot Lefebvre’s biggest fan.

Today at work, I’d talked myself into pre-ordering Elder Scrolls this weekend, because I really miss my elves. For the elves, I literally said to myself. And for the drama. Corporate bullcrap wasn’t the drama I was looking for when I came home.