Game Discussion Round Table: Initial Thoughts on The Elder Scrolls Online

Daniel Haskell: Alright and welcome to our first Game Discussion Round Table, and our first topic discussed will be The Elder Scrolls Online MMORPG. Joining with me today is Donald Laub, a contributor to the website.

Now, Donnie, not too much is known about the Elder Scrolls MMO. The company making the game, Zenimax Online Studios, has just recently posted a developer diary that gives us a brief introduction to the game, as well as some gameplay in that video. I have to admit that when I first heard about the game, and when they told people their vision for it, I was a bit crushed. When I envisioned ESO [Elder Scrolls Online] I had always pictured a free roaming game, where you could create a character not bound to any classes, and you shaped your class by how you play.

I mean, is that how you imagined it would be in your head, or is that just me? I know this sounds a bit odd coming from me, but I had wished it also had a lot of roleplaying elements in it as well. I mean, for now, it is too early to tell how the game will play out in that aspect, I just hope there is a lot of freedom. What are your thoughts on it?

Donald Laub: I think I had the same idea most people had in their head when they heard Elder Scrolls MMO, Mulitplayer Oblivion/Skyrim which always sounds amazing on paper. While I was a bit taken aback at them using classes, I was relieved to hear that any class could equip whatever armor and weapon type they want and still play on an equal level. Whether or not they can balance that all has yet to be seen, but it’s way too early to tell how that will play out. What it shows us though is that they still want a level of customization that can compare to the other Elder Scrolls games.

Although I must admit the thing I got most excited about recently is knowing we’ll be able to play in more than one region of Tamriel, if each region has anywhere near the depth of the previous Elder Scrolls titles, we’re in for a lot of fun exploration to say the least.

Daniel: I believe I heard that Cyrodill in ESO will be much larger than the Cyrodill in Oblivion, which makes me pretty happy. Bigger is better, right…? Right? I guess we’ll have to see in this case. I am very curious to go back to the places I loved in Morrowind, Skyrim, and Oblivion, just to see how things have changed. I hope they’re different enough to show you that this is a different era in the past and not exact copy and pastes of the places we have come to love, with just different NPCs roaming about.

One of my largest concerns has to do with the different “play style region” that you can find in ESO. They do have a megaserver, which is fantastic – gone are the days of wondering if the server you choose will be the one that becomes over populated or closed down due to low populations. However, with these different instances of a zone that puts you with other players with the similar play styles, I’m afraid that the effect will be that it will totally break immersion, and make it feel more like a game and less like a world.

Also, what of PvP? I know Cyrodill is the central pvp hub, but does that mean that another faction’s zone is off limit to me, and I cannot go out and engage in pvp outside of Cyrodill? If not, this is a major drawback. I can see why they’d want to limit this, because there are players out there who enjoy just playing pve, so perhaps a solution to this would be to make “open pvp play style regions” which would basically create a whole new playing field.

I’m just really worried we have another Warhammer Online on our hands when it comes to pvp, where a game touts war amongst factions, but lets you only have your war in designated areas.

Donald: I do believe revisiting all the areas of the previous games will be very interesting, there was so much history put into all of the areas in the Elder Scrolls I don’t think it will end up just being copy pasted. I’m actually curious myself if there will be anything involving the origin of the Night Mother and the early days of the Thieves Guild, Sacred Witness being my favorite book to have stumbled upon in the games. Although I’ll admit I don’t know too much about the history of the Elder Scrolls Games, there’s so much too them I never got into the details, but there’s nothing more enticing than being able to go into the past of a beloved franchise and live through all of the history.

The Megaserver idea kind of scares me, while yes I enjoy the idea of not being nervous about ending up on a terrible server, but if the games matches you only with people you know or play with often, won’t it essentially end up just making segregated groups of people that don’t play outside of that group? It could just end up making servers inside the megaserver in a sense. But it’s far too early to know how it works entirely, or how it could end up impacting the gameplay or social interaction. On that topic I believe we’ll have to wait and see.

As for the PvP I wouldn’t want to see another Warhammer Online incident, but I feel having the entire continent of Cyrodill should suffice to provide a huge amount of PvP content without restrictions. It would be pretty bad if you weren’t allowed to even go to other factions areas, but I wouldn’t be too upset if you couldn’t PvP in the factions homelands. I can just imagine having open PvP in Oblivion, and if it’s even bigger than that I don’t think anyone would find themselves bored in it. I’m more concerned how combat in PvP will be balanced, with everyone being able to use every weapon and armor set. It’s intriguing to say the least.

Daniel: I’m not so sure Cyrodill would suffice. The World versus world that takes place in gw2, that is entirely made of 4 different zones, is HUGE. However, when I’m not in those zones, and I haven’t gone to join them, I still find myself longing to be more on edge, wondering when an enemy player will try their might against me, only to fail.

It ends up making guild wars 2 feel like like a world and more like a game, and that’s fine and dandy. I love games – but Elder Scrolls have always been about immerse worlds. Remember just how jarring it would be when you decided to slaughter an entire town because, well, damnit you just felt like it? Then, you realize there is one pesky “important” npc you just can’t kill. Several, actually.

Now imagine going into supposed enemy faction territory, or you see someone from the enemy faction strolling through your neck of the woods. You draw your sword to fight the horde, only to realize you can’t attack them. They /laugh and do a quick /wave, and they’re on their merry way. That would grind my gears to no end whatsoever.

Here’s what I suggest [Elder Scrolls Devs, or others, spread the word]:

Have a flagged for pvp option like in World of Warcraft. Flagging for pvp will make it so enemy faction players can attack you. If you want that extra edge to your world, bring it on. Also will allow for those who want only pve to have what they want.

Another option that goes hand in hand with what I said above would be that, if you go into an enemy faction’s territory, you automatically flag for pvp. If you’re in your home territory you’re safe, and you can kill the person intruding on your lands. The person in enemy territory could provoke people into fighting by attacking enemy towns and guards. Alerts would be sent out to people in the territory letting them know a friendly town was under attack, thus bringing in players to defend their town.

So basically almost stealing from WoW’s early pvp system. That is what made it so fun and so sporadic. Offer incentives for players to go into enemy territory and sack specific towns. I really hope they don’t just confine the war to Cyrodill.

Donald: Well actually I figured from the beginning that they would implement a system similar to WoW’s, and just have all of Cyrodill as their open PvP area. Cyrodill itself was huge, and I’d imagine they would have to make it even larger for this game as well as adding more variation to the environments, which was what I thought to be one of the drawbacks of Oblivion.

I would also think that there would be ways to level and objectives in Cyrodill as well, so for the feeling you were looking for I think you could find it there too, there is no reason they can’t have quests, wandering bosses, or other fun things throughout the zone to do while you hunt for PvP. If they make the map larger than Guild Wars 2 world versus world, which in itself even included the same general map copied 2 more times, I think Cyrodill will be more than perfect for a thrilling PvP experience.

Daniel: What do you think of the whole phasing thing the developers will be taking over from WoW? The idea that the world changes because of the players actions, for the player and such. The player himself is like a major hero, just like she/he is in every elder scrolls game. Now, this is fine and dandy, but I’m wondering what it is going to feel like when townspeople in villages cheer you as their savior, and then turn around and do the same thing for the new Joe Blow who did the same task as you.

I believe SWTOR had this same problem, with the companion system. You’d do quests or whatever with these companions, and they’d feel like a part of your crew, and then you’d run around the world, and some people would have the same companion, breaking the immersion. I can’t help but think that everyone running around being told by the game they’re talos incarnate, and then see everyone else go through those same motions.

I think, personally, that it would make the world feel so much more big and wide open to possibilities if you were just some random person who had his soul stolen from a daedric prince, just like many others, instead of being labeled as “the” hero.

Donald: Well, every MMO tries to paint you out as a hero, even WoW did it in the big quest chains. I myself even felt like a hero when I got Tirion Fordring to stop living the life of a hermit and take up the paladin arms again after getting his son killed. Guild Wars 2 did it with your personal story even more so. I don’t believe it becomes a problem unless people go into it with the wrong mentality, I mean I’d have no problem with people cheering my name for saving their town from vampires, and then cheering at another person for also saving their town. I would however definitely question the choice in living environment, but that’s a whole other story. Although being a soulless individual would actually be a very interesting character back story I’d like to play out sometime. But in the end, you have to think of the roleplaying part of an RPG, and that’s what it’s going for.

I do think the phasing will cause some problems in another big way. What happens when you want to play with a friend but you’re in a different phase of an area than he is? What if you decided to slaughter the village with the vampires instead of saving them like he did? WoW had it to, people could be right on top of each other but they’d disappear when in different phases of an area, and you’d immediately have to talk them through how to catch themselves up on the phasing, which was a bit frustrating at times. I do think the benefits outweigh this though; it’s a lot more fulfilling to see the actual world of the game change with you.

Back to the Fordring example I was a little taken aback after giving Fordring his paladin purpose again, only to run back to the quest up to find him dressed as a hermit again. I had to say “What the fuck Fordring, stop being a lazy hermit your son just died in front of you” to which he replied by giving another passerby a quest to get Carrion Grub meat. It was a rather rude experience all around.

Daniel: Damn the plaguelands. Anyways, I think we’ve squeezed as much juice as we could of from such a small amount of information… from a 9 minute video. Have mercy on us, gaming gods, when a beta comes out. For those who made it through the entire conversation, feel free to drop by with your thoughts below. We hope you’ve enjoyed this first Round Table Game Discussion.

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