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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Three Ingredients for Late Nights in ESO

By Garrett Fuller on December 31, 2013

The Elder Scrolls is synonymous with extremely late nights and cups of coffee. For me, the first day I purchased Skyrim I stayed up until 4 am that night. Thankfully, it was a Friday, but I still have two small kids to look after. Yet, almost every player I know both young and old will purchase an Elder Scrolls game and say, see you next week as they close their door.  However, in recent years I have found MMOs lack the depth of some single player RPGs. There are a ton of game mechanics and ideas that Elder Scrolls Online can incorporate into their worlds. Here are three that I feel would work extremely well for the game in order to get their players to make that extra cup of coffee at 2 am in the morning.

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The beginning is critical to any game you play. Even though most MMOs start you off with a dagger and have you clearing rats from a cellar, this should never really be the case. Story is king at opening levels and nothing beats a good solid in-depth opening zone that really pulls on your brainmeat. I will give you two examples of this: one from an MMO and one from an RPG. The first is the opening few levels of the Death Knight in Wrath of the Lich King. If you take World of Warcraft out of the equation playing through this introduction was like a game in and of itself. Actually running into the village to attack the nobles and having the peasants run away from you was a great mechanic. It invested you in your character and had a solid story of the Lich King to boot. The other is in Skyrim. The "prison break" at the beginning after a dragon attack during your potential execution pulls you into the world, the story, the whole dynamic. Sure I was about to have my head cut off, but I now want to know every single thing about this place. The opening element to ESO really needs to be strong.

Never underestimate the power of Maps. Maps are a core human construct which every player out there truly enjoys. From the time when I was eight years old and handed The Hobbit by my cousin, it was the map that pulled me into the story. Last month ESO launched their interactive map on the website. Tamriel now has a full look and feel for the game. Even if it is a different time line from the other games, this begins a players need to explore. Each of the factions has their own area with Cyrodiil in the middle serving as the hub of PvP. As video games have grown up we have seen maps get easier for players to understand. This is actually okay in my opinion as long as there is depth on the map to discover. When an icon appears on your map, you know you need to go in that direction, but what is it? What clues can you find along the way? How does it unfold when you arrive? My favorite concept in any game is ancient ruins. There is always a mystery and story behind any ancient landmark, even in a medieval fantasy world.  The map is the herald of the player and it needs to be taken very seriously.

This leads to our last mechanic for ESO. I call it the “over the horizon effect.” I get a lot of flack from my friends about playing Skyrim on my Xbox. No mods and a host of other reasons why I should not. However, I really do enjoy looking over the landscape on my TV. It brings a sense of majesty to the land for me. Okay that sounds corny, but you get the idea. The horizon effect can be done correctly in any game. It was amazing in Guild Wars 2 with the vistas you could find all over the zones. This mechanic can be used in any game to create a sense of wonder and excitement and actually plays off of the map idea we mentioned above. Exploration needs to be delivered aurally and visually, not just with WASD.

So when you think about the depth of Elder Scrolls Online there is a lot more out there than just the character development and the crafting. There is the world itself. Many people in MMOs are so driven to get levels or advance characters sometimes they stop and miss all that is around them. Using these mechanics will bring your players in and also have them stop and smell the roses for a long time to come.


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