Category Archives: The Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: Gone To The Dark Side

game image

Last weekend, as Syncaine reported, Elder Scrolls decided to start spamming players with advertisements in game — in the middle of their screens randomly while they are playing, I guess “just” once per day.

I just now uninstalled ESO, and I’m going to re-install Guild Wars 2 at some point. It’s so ironic that at launch Zenimax made a big deal about the minimal, non-intrusive interface in Elder Scrolls: Online. They were showing it off in videos.

Now they are plastering ads onto that beautiful, smooth game world they created. (The image has a UI mod…) The only real problem with the ESO UI for me is that you can’t tell who is who, or who is an NPC or monster.

In my last play session in ESO, I was fighting up some stairs in an area at night, attacked the next group of monsters, and oops – they were guards. No clue. Now I’m a wanted murderess with a bounty and/or fine to pay.

So. Unexpected bright flashing ads in the middle of my screen while I’m playing is far past the line in the sand. Neverwinter did the same thing in the beta, and I never played the game after that.

Please, game developers. Find a way and go the extra step people are asking for – offer paying customers the option of not having to see ads. This is what we expect in entertainment, just like Netflix/Cable subcription vs. free rabbit ears.

In other news, NVIDIA dropped hard today despite the market rising, after AMD posted weak results. I spooked, sold for a small profit halfway through the drop, and switched that money over to Blizzard.

(This is the problem with being an MMO player and also a clueless kitty. Oh look – that one is shinier! Meanwhile, each stock trade is $10.)

Anyway, I think Blizzard, like Zenimax/Bethesda apparently, is still in the early stages of following Electronic Moriarty on the dark path of exploitation of innocent pixies, so we’ll see if they can catch a wave this year.

They also still have the World of Warcraft movie coming, in addition to Heroes of the Storm launching June 2 (the date was announced today).

I wonder if Blizzard will cannabalize players by using the same game lore again and again, or the lore serve as leverage and conversion of new players? I love the idea of creating strong NPC characterization through repetition, but it seems concerning to keep attaching more big games onto their old creaky old cash cow.

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Elder Scrolls: A Hearty Alchemy

shrooms

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.


Fallout Online?


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.

gold stars


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


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