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Elder Scrolls Online Column: ESO Hate

By Ryan Getchell on April 29, 2014

"The Elder Scrolls Online sucks, it does not live up to its hype, it’s not an Elder Scrolls game, PvE is lack luster, someone stole my chest, end game is boring, ESO needs (insert common feature here)." These are just a few of the common complaints that the MMO community has been spouting. Making comparisons to games to try and show off the flaws of ESO. Yes, ESO has flaws, not a game in this world is flawless. In this week’s column I’m going to take a look at the ESO / MMO community and try and figure out why there is so much hate towards such a fantastic (in my eyes) game.

Disclaimer: Throughout this column I am going to be referencing the ESO and/or MMO community as a whole. There will be people within the community that do not act or display the characteristics of which I am discussing, but in order to keep it simplified it is best to use a broad general term such as ESO and/or MMO community.

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The Giant Silver Spoon

We’ve been spoon fed with an enormous silver, acid etched, made by Tiffany's spoon. Prior to 2004, MMOs generally harbored a different kind of gamer. A gamer that, when something was too hard, asked for help to complete it. A gamer that, when they couldn’t figure something out, asked for help. A gamer that wasn’t scared to be social, wasn’t scared to try something new. Nowadays, we expect our games to be designed for us, around us, and provide us with everything we want, when we want it.

We’ve been brainwashed with the concept of simplicity. If you’re unable to do it solo, it’s too hard. If something you enjoyed in a previous game isn’t in the new one, the game sucks. We’ve come accustomed to making broad accusations about games before even experiencing everything one has to offer.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I see people reviewing an MMO and giving the reader their final thoughts on the game with it only being released two or even four weeks. That is not even close to enough time to gauge if an MMO is worth it.  Yet, when it comes to media outlets, we have to put out reviews in about that time, while the game is still shaping up. I don't envy Bill his job on ESO, though I'm glad he's taking about 5 weeks of time to come to a conclusion.

I’ve said it before an MMO is supposed to be designed from end to start; we spend most of our time at the “end game” than we do at the start game. However, because content that we feel is supposed to be in the game (because they experienced it elsewhere) wasn’t, we give the game a worse score. Is that really how we’re supposed to review our games? By comparing them to others? I thought a review was supposed to be solely based on our experience in the game itself not our experience in another title that shares nothing than the genre. But I digress.

I started this column talking about a time prior to 2004 because that is when a specific game was released that has completely changed the MMO community. Of course I’m referring to World of Warcraft. This game is the culprit to how we expect our games to be, and sadly it is for the worse.  WoW has introduced features to the genre that the community has now come to call “modern day features”. When a game like ESO is released and is lacking these, it is bashed and ridiculed for being a bad game because of it. Does that really make it a bad game or are we just lazy and expect everything to be given to us? 

World of Warcraft has the Global Auction house, a LFR/LFD system, Minimap, detailed character information, extensive access to the game via the API, Competitive End Game raiding, battle arena PvP. Now, I do realize a few of these features were in MMOs prior to WoW but with the size of WoW, it is safe to say that World of Warcraft is a lot of people’s first MMO. Much like your first romantic time, you never forget it, even if it was a good or bad experience. 

These simple features that WoW has introduced, such as the Minimap for example showing the location of every single thing in the game that is relevant. It removed any aspect of exploration within the game. You knew exactly where every gathering node was by the yellow dot, the exact location for the quest objective. The Global Auction House is another system that takes any form of social integration out of the game and puts every single item in the game at your fingertips without any real work required. Say for example you wanted to become a Blacksmith, well you could do that and never have to leave the main city. Hit up the AH and grab all the items you want then go to the forge and spam your mouse button. Sounds exciting, right?

That is just an example of the silver spoon I am referring to, I could go into the skill system and the LFR system as well and explain how they’ve provided the community with the ability to experience the entire game without ever having to speak to another player or even do any form of real play within the game.

The WoW Clone

Even though WoW has the most subscribers they aren’t the only ones implementing the features that it offers. Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rift, Wildstar, all offer the basic and some advanced features and mechanics that WoW offers and due to this have been dubbed “WoW Clones”.

WoW Clone, a term that I loathe. It’s a term that is so wildly used and thrown around without any justifications. ESO has been dubbed a WoW Clone from time to time and it couldn’t be further from the truth. However, it’s what the MMO community seems to want, at least from some of the rants and raves that I read. 

Why do this to a great existing UI?

The MMO community loves to create drama, and spout their opinions even if they are inaccurate. Something that I have been seeing a lot of the community will rage if a game (prior to being released) looks like it might be a WoW Clone. "We don’t want another WoW Clone, we want something different something innovative, something that will challenge us and not provide us with everything." 

Except we don’t... we aren’t comfortable with new and different. As I said, ESO isn’t anything like WoW, they actually removed “modern day” features from the game to try and provide a different style of game. This “minimalistic” approach has the community scared, we don’t know how to trade items without an Auction House, we can’t find resource nodes if they aren’t displayed on the minimap. We need addons to tell us to not step out of fire because we can’t visually see what we’re standing in. We’ve become immune to the simplicity of games that we don’t know how to operate without them.

The ESO Approach

The Elder Scrolls Online isn’t like any common MMO you’ve played. It comes with old school tactics and new school technology. Their whole focus is to have ESO harbor its own community. Everything in the game is designed to try and have the player engaged and speaking to other members. A key facet that has been lacking in the MMO genre for many years.

The lack of an Auction House is a prime example of this. They want players to use the tools they are provided to find the items they want. The ability to join five guilds (even though I personally hate this feature) is designed to allow you to broaden your scope and speak to players. ESO is focused around the six degrees of separation theory. A friend of a friend knows someone who can make that item, or wants to buy that item.  Trade guilds pop up all over, and finding the right one is key.

Okay, this has nothing to do with trade. But look at it... just for fun.

Sure the game has some flaws, grouping is a bit difficult to get at times, the guild store is extremely frustrating as the UI is very difficult to use. However without our feedback it will not improve. As I said these are tactics that aren’t used anymore, and haven’t been for many, many years. We as a community need to help build them as they are what we need in MMOs. We need to step away from the Spoon Feeding games that provide the players with the ease of access to everything. We need to bring back the core philosophy of what an MMO is supposed to be about, community, engaging other players, and shared exploration of systems. We’re playing a game with millions of other people, why are so many MMOs being designed to keep us from enjoying each other?

ESO is a step in the right direction and for all future MMOs. As a community we need to stop providing the negative feedback, and start giving contrasting feedback that isn’t a flat comparison to other MMOs. Remember ESO isn’t like other MMOs, it’s completely different, and let’s keep it that way.  I don't want this game to become anything like WoW, and I'll be happy if it keeps focusing on its niche.

Ryan Getchell / Ryan Getchell is a freelance writer for MMORPG.com. His roots go deep within the MMORPG gaming genre, branching back as early as Ultima Online. When he's not swaying around the forums you can find him lumbering around on his twitter, barking tweets. @Garbrac

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