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Zenimax Online Studios | Official Site
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 04/04/14)  | Pub:Bethesda Softworks
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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Zenimax’ Update Mistake?

By Christina Gonzalez on May 21, 2014

 

UPDATE: This morning, just before this article went live, Zenimax made an announcement to IGN that says Craglorn is launching Thursday or Friday, and touched on future plans as well.

We’re now in the key second full month for The Elder Scrolls Online. Those that are still enjoying their time in Tamriel have stayed past the first free month and the five free days Zenimax gave out to help make up for extended downtime. This despite the rocky beginnings, with Craglorn ahead of us sometime soon. Yet, it has been a couple of weeks since Matt Firor posted about the game’s road ahead, and some are getting restless, since the Craglorn update has no confirmed release, and much anticipated key fixes are coming in that update too. Even patient community members are wondering just why these must be bundled together, and as time passes it becomes an even better question.

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With MMORPGs a genre that is built upon serving a growing, changing, online service with updates, Craglorn is an important addition to the puzzle, especially for those players  actively working on gaining Veteran Ranks. They’ve gotten through a lot of content already and are in the midst of more, so those players need something awaiting them for additional variety. While Craglorn is actively being previewed this week by the press and streamers, there’s nothing quite yet on when it will be added. We can guess that a release is close, but why hold the rest of the update hostage for content that it is very likely the majority of players won’t even qualify to play upon release and won’t for a while?

As someone who mains a Nightblade, the various bugs and errors plaguing that class are glaring. While Zenimax has paid special attention to bots, gold farmers, and exploiters in the past six week (to a noticeable effect), and helped other game issues, having one of only a few class lines plagued with broken skills is huge. Some of the issues include animations playing but skills not working. And there are other things that hinder Nightblades, like the ability of shields to block damage from 360 degrees. When your kit is stacked with abilities that rely on being stealthy, players with protection at their back is a real disadvantage, especially in PvP. I’ve given my Nightblade a rest for now (partly for unrelated reasons) and created a Sorcerer alt to play in the meantime. Yet, having played her for a while, only to later find out that my play wasn’t optimal made me wonder if I could’ve saved  time, gold on repair costs, and what otherwise seemed like mistakes on my end.

The Nightblade problem isn’t the only fix coming in the next patch, but it’s of a nature that you wonder why not go ahead with it first, and then give Craglorn the time it needs to release in a solid state. It would raise some players’ confidence in the studio where it’s needed at this early stage. While many of those at Zenimax are highly experienced in the field, this is the studio’s first MMO,  and like it or not, that is a point many are actively judging. Craglorn not only has to be fun, it has to play as smoothly as possible. It seems to make sense to fix other aspects of the game first that have an impact on a large majority of the game’s population and work on making sure that the first new piece of major content released strikes exactly the right note.

Player retention numbers for month two are on some bean counter’s desk at the company already, so maybe that is what the team is doing when it comes to Craglorn. Subscription games aren’t a new concept, and of course, studios must do what they can to attract and keep players, while adding enough new content to keep players interested. With the ability to gain VR, the studio bought itself a buffer in terms of having  “endgame”, since there’s content and challenge awaiting you once you’ve hit 50 on a character. That’s in addition to PvP and dungeons, of course. Yet while we’re waiting for content that a sliver of the player base will be able to enjoy at launch, many of us are waiting for fixes that would make the game more enjoyable for all.

My experience has been comparatively good. I haven’t been hit by the major bugs and haven’t really seen any major bot issues. Getting dismounted is probably the worst bug outside of my Nightblade main that I’ve experienced multiple times. Though one-time bugs, like being told I couldn’t fish in Werewolf form (despite being just a regular Altmer) were more amusing than bothersome. Yet, this month represents, for many, their belief in The Elder Scrolls Online as a good game. Zenimax could show some appreciation for that, and fix Nightblade and bring the other fixes promised in 1.1 before Craglorn.

Zenimax knows that impressions matter. The recent delay of the console edition of the game by six months shows that. The game that console players receive in the winter will have these fixes and this extra content already there. It will have the product of all the lessons learned and community feedback received from the PC community. But right now, when one of the class lines doesn’t work properly and there are quests some players can’t pass without bending the rules (making it hard for some to even get to the level they need for Craglorn), it might help player trust even more than a big flashy new feature most players won’t even be able to access right away.

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

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