There is a glaring problem with The Elder Scrolls Online and it’s rarely brought up as a concern. This issue isn’t present in just ESO, it is an ongoing concern throughout the entire MMORPG genre. In this week’s column I’m going to hold off discussing The Dark Brotherhood a bit and talk about something that I think we need to try and rectify or provide ideas to Zenimax and other companies. Let’s discuss Test Servers and the incredibly low population of people that utilize them.
A few years back, Bioware released an update for Star Wars The Old Republic. This update was incredibly buggy, it broke the game in many ways and rightfully so the community threw a small fit about it. A member from BioWare (whose name escapes me at the moment) went to the forums where the rants were taking place and said (paraphrasing), “The patch is buggy due to the community not testing it on the test server”. Needless to say the community did not like that reply and I don’t think that person has posted on the forums ever since.
Was he wrong? Does the community have some responsibility in making sure the updates are fluid and well tested?
Test servers are always so under populated when new content is out for testing. I don’t know if it’s due to players not wanting to spoil something, not wanting to go through content just to repeat it when it’s released or they just don’t want to download an entirely new client just to test something that will in no way advance their character.
We enjoy playing these games, we’re passionate about them. If we weren’t we wouldn’t go on tirades about how we dislike something. We feel like we’re invested in the games we play, after all we do spend hours of our time playing them. My World of Warcraft characters have over a year’s worth of /played. So when an update is released and it’s buggy or broken who’s to blame? The developers who made it or the players who are invested into it but ignored it?
In my last column (The Dark Brotherhood Second Impressions) I mention that players might run into an issue with having to wait or be unable to find their assassination targets because of the amount of other players who will be on that same mission and have already killed them. This isn’t an issue we can test on the PTS because the volume of players isn’t anywhere near that of the live servers. So with this being a possible concern, how does Zenimax test this to see if it is valid prior to pushing it live?
The Elder Scrolls is on the verge of releasing probably one of the best DLCs the game has seen and arguably one of the best DLCs within the entire MMORPG realm. But with the lack of interest in testing, the live update is going to have issues that can’t be seen on the test server. Of course I don’t expect the test server to become as populated as the live servers but I would like to see it become more popular than it has been. But how? It’ll be a sad day when The Dark Brotherhood is released and players encounter bugs that the small population of the test community didn’t find. Then players will begin to give the DLC bad press even though the DLC itself isn’t bad, it’s epic, but bad news is always louder than positive news. I bet most readers here can recall a couple bad reviews videos or articles about ESO prior to launch but will be hard pressed to remember the ones that gave it a positive review.
Does Zenimax have to do what they did with the LFG system to get players to use the PTS, add some form of incentive? But what incentive would work, earn crowns based on time played on the PTS? Gain a buff on live server for bonus XP which duration is based on the length of time played on the PTS? For everyone who logs more than X amount of hours on the PTS will be entered into a draw to win something? Would any of these entice you to login to the PTS and test out the content?
Let’s take this opportunity to notify ZOS of our ideas on how to improve the PTS. Do you play on the PTS? If you don’t why, what about it do you not like, what keeps you from playing on it? What would make you want to play on it?