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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Guilds Take Center Stage As ESO’s Future Begins Unfolding

By Christina Gonzalez on August 06, 2014

Two weeks ago, the Elder Scrolls Online team presented its series of plans for the future of the game. Among these were guild features, PvP changes, new features, and a series of tweaks to make playing together and teaming up easier. With the release this week of update 1.3.3, some of these changes have begun to go into effect, along with a series of other changes. Several of the major changes do stand out,  and don't lack for controversy, but it might be some of the listed minor changes that could be the beginning of a game changer for some players.

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The long-awaited custom guild tabards are here, along with a game-wide dye system and ways to unlock those dyes. Being The Elder Scrolls, the game at launch was on the darker and grittier side. Some might be wary of the ability to walk around with pink armor, but the team mentioned taking the color palette into careful consideration while still offering some brighter colors. Some of these colors are harder to unlock than others, however, with many of the dyes tied to the dozens of new achievements added to the game. Guild heraldry customization and dyes have gone hand in hand in many fantasy MMORPGs as a way to show loyalty and pride. Heraldry is unlocked for any guild with at least 10 members and may be crafted from a combination of 250 colors, 136 crest choices, and 63 backgrounds. Guild tabards will then be available with the heraldry from the guild store. Should the guild leader edit the design, all player characters wearing the tabards will see them update in real time.

With ESO, players may belong to multiple guilds, so the dynamics are a bit different than the systems some of us came up with. Still, gear dyeing has benefits for all, beyond the guilds. We'll see how it all plays out once players begin unlocking extensive dye collections and put them into action.

With guilds being the cornerstone of the game's economy, the update's most significant portion just might be the addition of guild traders. These merchants are limited and they're available to hire for one week at a time. Individual guilds of 10 players or more may blindly bid for the services of one of these merchants for that week, with the highest bid winning. These merchants will serve as outposts for the guild stores that hire them, allowing players to move from merchant to merchant purchasing items from these stores. This means that players can buy items from guild stores without needing to enter Cyrodiil.  While guilds may only hire one trader at a time for a maximum of seven days, if any remain unhired and the bidding cycle has already begun, flat fee hires become available for the time remaining.

Being able to hire a merchant is a distinct advantage, since that merchant will work across all instances, including the veteran version of a particular zone. Limiting the guild merchant to a blind, highest bidder take all system simply represents a huge disadvantage from the get-go for smaller, less wealthy guilds. It's not a stretch to say that even with a blind bidding system, the requirement that the merchant assignment go to the highest bidder inherently skews the feature greatly. This is problematic, since it doesn't give all guilds a fair shot at the services. So while great PvP guilds in particular factions take the keeps in Cyrodiil and sell there while they keep them, rich guilds will suck up all the merchant services. It's just highly unlikely that any merchants will remain unhired.  Given that players can join a few guilds, this should blunt the impact somewhat, but it doesn't really give any outward respect to the little guy in this game.

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