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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Four Updates That Encourage & Raise Questions

By Christina Gonzalez on June 25, 2014

The Elder Scrolls Online received its latest major content update this week after several smaller fixes and updates. Additionally, June brought another “road ahead” from the team, which, combined with the latest update, look to address some of the game’s ongoing issues, yet also raise some questions (and an eyebrow or two). While other updates and balance tweaks to classes, stamina, and other matters are also being addressed, this week, we’re diving into the June update and the latest road ahead for the game to bring four things that stand out the most and the potential impact upon the game.

A New VR experience in Dungeons, More VR Content Coming

The update this week brings a few key new features and changes. First, a veteran version of Crypt of Hearts for VR12 and above. This version continues the story begun in the previous Crypt of Hearts, as well as changes things up when it comes to the combat. It’s a repeatable, good bit of content for those who keep pushing their VR ranks up and up, though we can’t help but wonder just what percentage of the player base is even at VR10, or even VR5 yet. It’s great that there’s consistent ‘endgame’ content coming thus far, but perhaps Zenimax could toss something cool like this that’s enjoyable by all? Even in the hints we got about update 3, it mentions more veteran dungeons coming. Though the team did say it would be expanding and adding to delves (the game’s mini-dungeons) to make those experiences larger and more worthwhile. The delves could just be a solution to all the high level VR content that seems to be in the pipeline, but it would be nice to have some wholly new content that all can enjoy.

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Phasing Solutions?

The ongoing situation with the game’s phasing and megaserver woes separating players is getting some significant attention. It’s obvious that the team has seen the feedback and know that players are frustrated with being separated out from their teammates, both in the world and in quest instances. This new update brings two changes. One, it should prevent disconnects when trying to group with players in other instances. It also includes a change that will let players know if an instance they are about to enter is a solo or group instance. If a quest takes you somewhere, it will say “group instance” or solo at the entrance. This is not going to change anything in the immediate, but it will cut down on the “surprise, you’re on your own in this part of the quest!” that has been happening since launch. It’s a step that makes sense now, with regard to what has been promised for later.

The notes in the road ahead indicate that deeper work to help solve this issue is already going on behind the scenes. This stands out because it’s one of the main problems many players have with the game, and the fact there will be attempts to change it are encouraging. An MMO shouldn’t feel unfriendly to successful, consistent grouping if you want to play that way. The road ahead blog states that the team has begun reworking some of the quests in the game to address the matter and reduce the number of times players would be separated from one another. “This is an ongoing effort, but you’ll see the problem alleviated over the course of the summer,” it says. Promises are just words until they’re implemented, but that it seems the team has been listening and is actively making changes to try and make an impact with these changes as soon as this summer.

The World Gets a Little More Real

Object interaction in the latest update is something that some people might scratch their heads considering, but when you’re playing an Elder Scrolls game, picking up everything that isn’t tied down is a way of life. Until now, most items in the world were just set decoration, but as of this patch, players can equip and even use weapons and armor they find out there. These items will be significantly different from crafted weapons and those you get as quest rewards. They’ll be of low quality and able to be both upgraded and broken down by appropriate crafters, but will sell for 0 gold and have very little chance of dropping anything valuable.

With the balance aspect and their inability to be farmed for gold taken care of, it seems like an option that’s one of the little things that helps makes ESO more immersive. With a game like this, you definitely have to cater to both MMO players and ES fans and where those groups intersect, so these little things help in that regard.

A Gear Grind?

One of the other things that stood out in the road ahead blog was some upcoming changes to gear. This game is notable for the importance of crafted gear, both in the player-driven economy and the lack of a long gear treadmill that some other games have. While gear is still one of the things you can obtain through dungeons, well-crafted gear still reigns supreme. So it raises some questions as to the implementation and exclusivity to see this:

“We’ll add gear that’s harder to acquire but more worthwhile. We’re looking at gear that will make others envious when you’re wearing or wielding it--both in appearance and stat boosts.”

It would be one thing if the gear were simply impressive in cosmetic ways, but there will be “more worthwhile” stats on as well. With dyes, guild insignias, and more in the works for release as early as in a month from now, there will be more customization coming to all. Yet this inching into rarer gear and preferential stats can’t help but make one wonder if these might be a few toes in the water for something of a gear grind. And it also raises questions about the value and quality of player-crafted gear in light of these “more worthwhile” pieces. In turn, the effect upon the economy has to be something the team isn’t taking very lightly.

Overall, it seems that the team is working on several of the problems that the community has brought up. Though some other possible changes raise questions, we won’t quite see the implementation for a little while yet. These changes were simply some of the ones that stood out in this latest round of updates and road map, and they’re mostly encouraging in light of the work needed on the game, addressing community, immersion, content, and more.

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

Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to MMORPG.com, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column.

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