Now that The Elder Scrolls Online has reached the end of what has been a somewhat rocky first 30 days of game time, the question of whether to continue subscribing has to be on the minds of some players. With subscription games, developers and companies have to demonstrate that their game is worth your monthly investment. Late last week, Game Director Matt Firor published a message on the ESO website discussing the issues that have been happening with the game, as well as what's to come in the first update, as well as a roadmap for some of the other changes the team has planned ahead for the coming months. While these seem to address some of the issues players have had, are they enough, and how effective will they be?
Update #1 is already on the game's PTS, and Zenimax giving players five extra days to help make up for the downtime and issues was a good move, since that update should let players experience the new update, which features the first Adventure Zone, Craglorn, before their time is up. A further look into update 1 shows that there are some necessary balance tweaks being rolled out (such as the recent update that prevented endless stacking and made vampires nearly invincible with the right combination), as well as fixes for some of the skills not working properly. It's standard after release to see a slew of balance and bug fixes, since a game is exposed to its real player base after launch, and every new group of players has the potential to demonstrate something different. These fixes are nothing new, but they do show that the team is working on some of the complaints and continuing planned changes (like animation polish).
This update also introduces more facets to ESO's endgame. Players who have reached their Veteran Ranks will be able to take part in Craglorn from VR1 onward. Trials begin for players with VR as well, and mark the arrival of 12-person raids in the game, with leaderboards. Cyrodiil isn't left out, with “Underdog bonuses” that give you more Alliance Points if you fight on the side of a lower-population faction in the campaign you choose.
Yet, what's more interesting is the list of things planned for the future. For those that say that all of these things should have been in game at launch, MMOs are, and always have been, games that grow and evolve over time. Some features don't always make it in for launch for a variety of reasons, but part of it is in our modern expectations and how much we want or expect in our games. That said, the list seems to address some of the concerns, but they still raise some questions.
One of the first promises is “a system that allows grouped players to see each other even when they're in different phases”. Well, that only scratches the surface of the problem. Seeing one another is a start, but players who group together don't just want their partners to be visible, we want to be able to play together with them. When quests that players have been able to share suddenly send each member of the party into separate instances to complete them, that feels rather disjointed. Seeing your party members is a start, but there really needs to be more to this to make playing together feel seamless.
Armor dyeing and tinting will arrive, and it will be nice to see this system in a new game that is wholly outside a cash shop for the first time in a while. My first MMORPG was Dark Age of Camelot, and I still remember people snagging rare dyes and coordinating their pieces and guild designations. Which also brings me to the inclusion in this roadmap of guild customization features and improvements and changes to crafting. Being able to customize guild insignias and tabards will increase immersion just that bit. Hopefully crafting will be tied in somehow to these changes as well. One can hope.
Guild stores will get some interface updates, which hopefully include a search functionality. Yet it is the introduction of “Guild Kiosks” that is the most intriguing in this part of the plan. They are described as “guild stores open to everyone that are available to the highest-bidding guild”. This could represent a significant change in the game's economy. Since there are no centralized guild shops outside of captured keeps and the game lacks an auction house system, what will Guild Kiosks bring to the game? Where will these kiosks be located? In towns? Outside of Cyrodiil? How many will there be? And is this a serious unfair advantage in favor of large guilds over smaller ones? Will having a place to buy goods keep PvE-oriented players out of Cyrodiil? As you can see, this announcement raises more questions than it answers for now.
Other announced features include auto leveling dungeons that sync to the level of the group leader. This should help some players play together more easily. Awards when repeating dungeons could give players incentives to keep going through them, though one wonders what these awards will entail. The issue of better loot often being contained in dungeon chests, and the competition to unlock those wasn't addressed, but perhaps these repeat dungeon awards might offset that a bit.
All in all, the roadmap seems like a mostly positive collection of features and improvements, but it remains to be seen just what these will be all about when they arrive. Announcements like Guild Kiosks have the potential to cause a ripple effect in the way players play, so these will be some of the ones to keep a closer eye on. This and the matter of playing together more smoothly do raise the most questions for me, personally, since the so-far detailed improvement doesn't seem to address the heart of the issue. Yet these topics will be revisited in the future once we know more about them.
Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to MMORPG.com, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column. You will also find her contributions at RTSGuru. Follow her on Twitter: @c_gonzalez