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Elder Scrolls Online Column: On Armor and Weapons

By Garrett Fuller on March 12, 2013

Elder Scrolls Online has an interesting balancing act to deal with when they begin doling out how your weapons and armor will impact the game. We wanted to take this week and talk about what we know and what we think in regards to the balance of armor and weapons. How will players use them to their advantage and what drawback will we see in terms of balance?

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In Skyrim I played a greatsword-wielding Orc. I wore mostly heavy armor and everything I had was enchanted up the yin-yang. I maxed out both Blacksmith and Enchanting to make some seriously crushing weapons. I guess the best way to describe this build is as an anti-magic tank. The best part of Skyrim is that you could build your character any way you wanted. This is not an easy task in an MMO when you have players working together and also PvP.

If you go based on the Heavy and Light Armor models in the Elder Scrolls games, how much protection will these afford players? Now balance this with Mages who are normally known for only wearing robes, yet in Elder Scrolls you can also play a Mage who wears full plate-mail that is even designed to enhance your magic. So, the armor in the game becomes very important. If you still want your Mage to look the part you can wear all kinds of robes and hoods that also boost your magic. Basically the idea of play how you want is very open in Skyrim.

Now put that equation into an MMO. You have to balance player combat and more importantly PvP. Players can spec their characters with any weapons in the game no matter what class they play. But how will armor play into this build? If I am playing a mage, am I forced to wear full plate for the extra protection? Or can I get away with robes and look the part? What will the numbers come out to? Is it more important to be safe from heavy fighters crushing me down, or can I still wear my robes and be as effective in combat? It really does create a lot of questions and some challenges for the design team. 

The next design hurdle comes from the rogue and thief sort of class. The Elder Scrolls series is known as one of the best games for players who love stealth in their RPG. The thieves guilds and Dark Brotherhood are huge parts of the game for many players, not to mention the assassinations you can pull off. I know players who buy the game just for that reason alone. Now throw into the mix the ability to wear any armor or take any weapons and what does that do to a stealth-style character? How will it work? I think the answer here is even clearer than the Mage, which is that stealth characters should benefit more than anyone from light armor. There is no reason a rogue would wear heavy armor in the game. Now look at the trinity in terms of PvP: does that mean that rogues really will be the glass cannons? Do heavy armor mages and fighters get a monster advantage over them? How do the rogues compete on the same playing field? 

Okay, I am asking a lot of questions here and ones that we do not necessarily have the answers to yet. In comparison I am all for the open system that Skyrim gives players. Play the way you want. If you are a full mage who wears Daedric Armor, the go for it! This works great in an RPG and really gets players into their character. I loved changing armors and upgrading enchantments on my gear in the game. It kept things fresh.

Putting this system into an MMO is about the same as a highwire act at the circus. One mistake and the game can plummet to its death. There are no nets in MMOs. So let’s hope that the design team has a very clear system in place for how you will look and how those looks will effect the game. If they can accomplish this it will open up new doors on how players can design their characters. I know you spend time getting top gear in many MMOs, but how about being able to change it if you don’t like the look? If you can achieve that and not lose the valuable stat boosts it can give you, now  that opens up a ton of options. Hopefully Elder Scrolls Online will get some solid information out there soon and we can begin balancing the numbers... or just playing dressing up.


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