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Elder Scrolls Online Column: First Person Concerns

By Michael Bitton on June 04, 2013

We’re only a week from E3 2013 and Zenimax Online will have a significant presence at the show in order to demo the latest build of The Elder Scrolls Online. However, breaking through the massive noise of E3 is a hard task indeed and that is why Zenimax recently invited members of the press to check out the E3 demo ahead of the event.  We were, of course, on hand to see what was on offer, but I’m hoping that there's  a bit more in store for E3 this year than just a new demo build.

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One of the things I expect we’ll see shown again at E3 is the new Elder Scrolls Online video that’s been popping up recently. It’s hard to tell if the video is simple B-roll or part of a new gameplay trailer, but the highly requested first-person view makes its debut in this video and it’s likely to make a dramatic difference for those who aren’t necessarily convinced that ESO is an actual Elder Scrolls experience.

We can tell you that the game feels like an Elder Scrolls game. Perhaps some of the video or information Zenimax has put out may do a decent job of convincing you, but it’s the appearance of the first-person view in this latest video that I feel will really sell that Elder Scrolls feel for the game. It looks good. Not having tried the mode myself, I can’t say with any certainty how faithful ESO’s first-person view will be to existing Elder Scrolls titles, but I feel showing this off will pique the interests of those who weren’t necessarily paying attention to the MMO up to this point. Digging through information or sitting through developers talking about the game just isn’t for everyone. It could be as simple as showing off that traditional Elder Scrolls view to get skeptics to sit up and pay attention.

That said, I have my doubts about first-person view in Elder Scrolls Online.  Allowing for both third and first-person views in the singleplayer Elder Scrolls titles is fine; it’s all preference. In an MMO, however, it’s a different story. Your field of view is inherently much greater in third person than it is in first, and this means players are likely to default to using third-person view (or be forced to alternate) in any serious gameplay situations, but especially so in PvP. This isn’t really Zenimax’s fault, either. There’s just no way to balance both in a competitive environment. As Matt Firor himself explained in a recent video interview, the singleplayer Elder Scrolls games generally spawn things in front of you, which is much friendlier for a first-person view. However, MMOs spawn things all around you – and you can bet that players will gladly take advantage of your self-imposed perception handicap if you decide to stubbornly stick with first-person view in PvP. 

Of course, you can simply alternate between views where it makes sense. I imagine it will be easier to hit people with a bow or spell in first-person view, for example. This means archers and casters may juggle the two camera modes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the melee combat will be done in third-person. If it turns out that alternating between these modes ends up being the optimal way of doing things for the aforementioned archers and casters, then it puts additional burden on those players to master both in PvP, which isn’t too awesome. I actually had to deal with  this very issue in PlanetSide 2. If you want to be a good pilot in PS2, you’ll need to learn to fly both in third and first person for the same reasons you may need to alternate in ESO PvP.  It’s possible to learn, but the additional burden of having to learn and be capable of both didn’t add positively to the experience to me.  For PvE, it may be preference, but I worry it may end up being a requirement to master both to do well in PvP.

Hopefully Zenimax has it all figured out when it comes to both view modes, but in any case, it’s something to think about. More importantly, it’s something to discuss!

Share your thoughts with us on ESO’s first-person view in the comments below! Are you equally concerned? Or is this all much ado about nothing?


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