This week’s Developer Question was an interesting one. Joe Lopatta, a Figure Art Intern at Zenimax Online Studios, asked us “Which Elder Scrolls game was your first and which are you into in the series, or if you’ve never played one, what attracts you about ESO?”
If you’ve been following my articles, my podcast appearance on Twonkhammer’s TESOCast, or even watched Elder Scrolls Uncovered back in the day, you’ll know I’m not a major fan of the Elder Scrolls single-player games. I may have clocked in a total of five hours throughout the entire Elder Scrolls series. However, I am extremely excited about ESO. But why? I’ve played so many MMOs what is it about ESO that has myself and many other MMO fans excited about this specific game?
Every now and then a game is released that sets a new standard for the MMO Genre. Games like Ultima Online showed that online multi-player games can be a social and rewarding experience. Everquest showed us that questing can be enjoyable. Dark Age of Camelot showed us that massive scale Player versus Player can be challenging. World of Warcraft showed us that large scale raids can be exciting. All of these games brought something new to the genre that is now being utilized in almost every MMO. Of course, these concepts get adapted and changed slightly to work with a specific game, but the main idea is there. Elder Scrolls Online is no different–it is bringing a lot of new concepts and technology to the MMO Genre that could set a new standard and expectation for future games.
Even though blocking is a concept that has been implemented into MMOs from the beginning, Elder Scrolls Online is changing the way we look at it. In most cases, blocking was based off a specific statistic and no matter how many points you put into that statistic you never had control over your block. Blocking always felt random, a complex math equation determined if you blocked or not. The concept ESO has is one that (on a simpler scale) can be seen in Neverwinter. ESO blocking is active blocking, we as the player have full control as to when we decide to defend against an attack or not. In Neverwinter you have the ability to choose when you want to block or not, but the amount of times you can block is based off a resource that isn’t tied to anything other than blocking called Block Meter. This Block Meter has a resource that will decrease based on the amount of damaged you blocked and will eventually run out if you block multiple attacks at once.
In Elder Scrolls Online it gets a lot more complicated. Blocking isn’t just for the players with the heaviest of armour, in Elder Scrolls Online you don’t need a shield to block, you can use any weapon from two-handed to dual wielding, of course a shield is always the best option. The resource that blocking uses is Stamina, the same resource that some of your attacks will use, so if you spend that resource completely on blocking you’ll leave yourself vulnerable, not only because you can’t defend yourself, but you also can’t go on the offensive.
Crafting is a system that is typically overlooked and doesn’t get much polish. Star Wars: The Old Republic had one of the worst crafting systems I have ever seen implemented into a game. Crafting is something the player can do either as a side aspect to the game, or they see it as an important part of the game and take pride in the crafts they make. Some people (like me) get a warm fuzzy feeling inside when they craft an awesome item and use it, or sell it on the market, or just see their hard work being used by another player. In Star Wars, the crafting wasn’t performed by you, it was all done by your companions. You would send your companions out for a mission to gather your resources and then once they have gathered enough items you sent them out to craft, all the while you’ve done nothing in terms of actually crafting the item. World of Warcraft did a great job with the crafting, requiring you to travel through the world and gather the materials you needed to craft the item. But it had one major drawback, there was no real learning curve.
With this system I never felt like my character was learning as he crafted, because every time I got to a specific level in crafting all I had to do was go back to my trainer and he would unload a bunch of new recipes to me. In Elder Scrolls Online however, it is a lot different. Crafting is all about experimenting and learning as you go. You still need to go out in the world and gather materials and then head back to the crafting location (forge, etc.) and begin experimenting with the materials you acquired. As you craft more and more items your skill as a crafter becomes better and you can begin using the higher level items you find along your journey.
So unlike Star Wars and World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls is bringing a crafting system that requires the player to use his skills and knowledge of the game in order to craft items. On top of this, Elder Scrolls Online crafted items will be the best you can get; maybe you might find an item off a creature you killed in an Adventure Zone and it is pretty decent, take that item to an enchanter and have them improve it even more. Elder Scrolls Online is promoting a social and economic atmosphere with their crafting system.
Skill Tree / Morphing
Having skills or a skill tree in an MMO isn’t anything new, almost every MMO has them. One thing that all these skill trees and skill system have in common is they are cookie cutter. You don’t really have much diversity when it comes to how you choose your skills. There tends to be that one build that works best for PvP, one that works best for PvE, and one that is a slight mix of them both. Elder Scrolls Online is offering us a skill system that we haven’t really seen in MMOs before, the ability to be anything we want to be. This system is designed on the premise the entire game is being built upon: freedom of choice. We can start the game off as a Templar Healer, but end up being a Templar Tank or a Templar Mage, even a mix of both Tank and Mage.
The skill tree in Elder Scrolls Online is completely open. If you want to use a two-handed weapon you can put skill points in that; want to be a mage with a destruction staff, go ahead; maybe you want to use a healing staff. If that isn’t enough options, the developers thought of another way for us to be unique to try and stray away from the cookie cutter builds and that is with Skill Morphing. As you pick your skills in Elder Scrolls Online your abilities will level up, and you’ll be given an option to morph them into an additional ability. So for example, let’s say you’ve chosen to be a Dragonknight and you picked the chain grapple (the skill where you pull enemies closer to you). You’ve been using it for a while and it’s now able to be Morphed. When you go to the skill you’ll be given some options like: add a DoT to pulled target, or target does 30% less damage. You can choose either one of those, and this will continue all the way through the game until level cap. So once you’ve hit level cap you’ll have a very unique character. It doesn’t stop there. There’s more (I sound like Billy Mayes).
In almost every MMO I’ve played, once you hit level cap your character is done progressing. Guild Wars 2 introduced a continuous progression system similar to what we’ll see in Elder Scrolls. Once you hit level cap in Guild Wars 2 you continued to earn XP and once you filled the bar you earned an additional skill point which can be spent on an additional spell. Once you hit level cap in Elder Scrolls Online you can continue the PvE Questing in the other two alliance zones using the 50++ Zones. While questing in these other zones you’ll come across Skyshards which you’ll be able to collect and use towards other skills. This is where Elder Scroll’s post level cap progression differs from Guild Wars 2. Even though you continued to get skill points in Guild Wars 2, you were still stuck with your original class choice, if I started with a Elementalist I was always an Elementalist. In Elder Scrolls Online If you started out as a Templar Healer and enjoyed playing that role all through the leveling process, but now you want to be a Mage, or even a Tank you have that option, that freedom of choice. Everything is possible in Elder Scrolls Online.
Alliance versus Alliance
My biggest draw for The Elder Scrolls Online is by far the Alliance versus Alliance warfare. I was first introduced to this three-way massive player versus player combat in Dark Age of Camelot. A lot of the developers of that game are now developing The Elder Scrolls Online. This game has a large (although not primary) focus on the player versus player combat. You’ll enter Cyrodiil from a border gate within your faction’s territory, where you’ll be able to run from your faction owned land to the opposing faction’s land without ever having to re-zone. Cyrodiil is roughly nine times the size of a regular PvE zone. Each faction will start off with their own set amount of keeps and these keeps can be claimed by (player) guilds. Your goal is to go out into the opposing faction’s territory and take their keeps in a strategic manor in order to steal their Elder Scroll and bring it back to your home land and secure it into a keep. These Elder Scrolls will be one of the primary focuses of Cyrodiil combat. This combat concept is the same as it was in Dark Age of Camelot, but it has a major addition. On top of fighting for the Elder Scrolls we’ll also be fighting for the Imperial City, and the right to be claimed Emperor. And once you’ve earned the title of Emperor you’ll be given another skill line to progress your character even further.
There are many more features I could talk about, the Megaserver being a big one. So why am I excited about The Elder Scrolls Online? Because Elder Scrolls Online is planning to be a game that allows me as a player to be in full control, able to do what I want the way I want. It is trying to make that new standard for the genre, a standard where the player is the most important, where the player has the power. We will have the ability to create and progress the character we want, the way we want. Elder Scrolls Online is a game that is making a footprint not only for the casual gamer that wants to login every day or two and do his own thing, but also for the Hardcore Gamer that wants the freedom to be able to do what he wanted in a raid and still be as effective as the next person. Elder Scrolls Online is allowing you to create that perfect character, that character that is you, and is unique.