The Elder Scrolls Online has been released for over a year now and I still think the game gets under-credited. Recently I’ve reduced the amount of time I’ve spent in Tamriel and ventured to other games to explore what is new. Sadly, nothing feels new, everything that’s out right now feels like the same old lollipop in just a slightly different flavor. ESO could very well be the best game released in years and as Christina points out, the console version could be the definitive edition of the game.
Before you all light your torches and grab your pitchforks, allow me to explain. ESO isn’t without its flaws. It has plenty of bugs but in all honesty, what game doesn’t? What I want to do is point out why ESO deserves more credit. It’s done so much for the MMORPG genre that I think many people take for granted.
ESO is one of the first games to fully utilize this type of technology. Having to select what server to play on could sometimes turn into the next great debate. When I used to run a very large guild and we wanted to branch into a new game, choosing a server to play on felt like choosing between political candidates. Each having their pros and cons, having people vote on which one, it was a horrible experience. This is why I’m glad to see the Megaserver technology being adapted to future games and for thankful to Zenimax for tackling this challenge and proving that it can work.
Even if you’re not part of a large guild and perhaps you’re just looking at the game as something to play choosing a server could be tough. If it has multiple servers you have to do a bit of research to find which server is right for you. If you’re an RPer you’ll want to make sure you find out which server the RP community made the unofficial RP server. If you’re a PvPer, which server has the biggest population, is it lag invested, how’s the community, is it full of trolls and griefers? There are so many questions you need answers to before selecting. There is nothing worse than picking a server and partially leveling a character only to find out you do not like the server you’re on and being forced to either pay real money for a transfer (if it’s offered) or starting over.
ESO is a dominate force in this genre proving that we don’t need to have ten action bars filled with buttons to make combat feel exciting. ESO has six buttons with the option to swap weapons so a total of twelve potential ability slots. This is a massive decrease considering World of Warcraft has 72 slots or 120 if you include the stance bars. Even Dark Age of Camelot allows for 100 slotted abilities. Of course those games are on the higher end of the spectrum there are games like Wildstar or Guild Wars 2, which also offer smaller action bars so we are seeing more and more games moving away from the awful action bar overload.
Along with the reduced action bar slots ESO is also pushing the proverbial envelope with trying to keep the players engaged with the fight at hand than with the UI itself. In ESO players don’t get buff/debuff icons for them to look at, all those types of notifications are represented visually on your character. When comparing to other games you’ll typically have players starring at buff icons waiting for something to proc. This can cause newer players who are trying to min/max get distracted and miss an opportunity to dodge an attack. With everything being visually represented on your character your eyes are focused in the center of the screen instead of off to the side watching for a new buff icon. While players will sometimes see this as a negative (which I was originally), I feel this is the future of our genre. Not only does it keep players engaged but it makes the game more immersive and visually more appealing. Does anyone remember playing Everquest, DAoC or World of Warcraft and having a portion of your screen dedicated solely to icons? It was and is a horrid design flaw.
Freedom of Choice
I have yet to play a game that offers the amount of unrestricted choices that ESO has. Excluding all morphs and the Vampire and Werewolf skill lines, there are ~75 active abilities for you to choose from. With only ten ability slots available for you (excluding ultimate slots), you’ll only ever be able to use ~14% of total potential abilities. That’s a lot of choices and, more importantly, customization that is available to you.
This is an aspect of ESO I feel players overlook or don’t really understand how awesome this is. You're not pigeon holed into a particular build archetype. Unlike World of Warcraft where if you’re Rogue you are either Assassination, Combat or Subtlety and no matter which one you pick, you’ll always be the stealthy character that can only DPS. Whereas in ESO, if you wanted to be a Nightblade you can be a Nightblade that uses a sword and shield and tanks for your group. Perhaps you want to be a healing nightblade (which is very effective) you can.
This is one of the aspects I think players take for granted. Either they are new players to the MMORPG genre or have just forgot how incredibly restricted game classes used to be. This type of character freedom is going to be the future for MMORPGs. At character creation you won’t be picking a class anymore. Instead you will design your character and as you play you will build the class that you want.
As I said earlier, there are still bugs to work out with some of the things I’ve mentioned. But the functionality and what it has or will do for the genre is what ESO deserve credit for. What aspects of ESO do you think may change the MMORPG genre?