A Look Back at 2014
Seriously, it’s the end of the year already? This year has flown by! It feels like it was just a couple of days ago I was helping to slay the werewolves of Camlorn and when it fact it was roughly 270 days ago. Time really flies when you’re enjoying every moment of it. Well almost every moment of it, waiting in the LFG queue is never an enjoyable experience. Within these 38 weeks since the game released, so much has changed and improved. In this week’s article we’re going to take a quick look at everything that Zenimax has implemented to the game.
The game released on April 4th 2014 for early access players with the expectation that they would be releasing content patches as fast as every four to six weeks. While that is a pretty audacious goal that not many developers would take on, Zenimax started out on the right foot.
The first major content patch was Update 1, Patch 1.1.2. This update was released on the 6th week after release, and it wasn’t anything to call small, especially for a first patch. This update included an entirely new zone called Craglorn, two timed trials (the ESO equivalent to raids) and a much needed recap system that allowed you to see what you were getting hit with when you died. There were also some combat, animation, and class balancing done, but this happens is almost every update. While this update may appear too small, trust me, it’s not. Along with Craglorn, there came plenty of quests and new dungeons to explore. This update was designed more for the group aspect game play. While you could of course adventure through Craglorn solo if you chose to do so, it would just be a lot more difficult.
This update was released on June 26th, 2014, a mere five weeks after update 1. This update wasn’t as large as Update 1 in terms of content itself, but it did offer us a lot of new stuff to do. This patch implemented a new Veteran Rank dungeon, Crypt of Hearts. Along with the dungeon we also got a new storyline to go along with it. Role players received a field of view slider for the first person view allowing them to see a lot more of their surroundings. One of my favourite additions was the implementation of more interact able items. Some people may consider this a small thing, and it really is, but it changes how we immerse ourselves. The more active and real the game feels the more immersive it will be.
This one was I think one of the most anticipated ones up to this point. It had many of the community requested changes within the game. On August 4th, Update 3 went live, five weeks after update 2. That’s it, five weeks and we get a pretty massive update. While update 3 didn’t have any direct PvE or PvP content, it did change a lot of features within the game to make them a lot more user friendly and customizable. Zenimax implemented the Dye system allowing players to create unique colour combinations on their armour sets allowing them to be more personalized. Along with the character customization they implemented a plethora of Guild changes, custom ranks, custom permissions, guild tabards, guild traders, and the ability to store guild gold within the guild bank.
While a lot of these new features are extremely common in most mmos, and honestly should have been included at launch, it was still an awesome patch. Giving the players more freedom to run the guilds how they want, allowing the community to sell their items on the guild traders opened up a large market place for players who just want to make some easy gold.
Went live on September 22nd, 7 weeks after update 3. While they did not hit their goal of four to six weeks, I think the added week wait was worth it for the amount of content this patch included.
Craglorn expanded offering players more quests and dungeons to explore. Along with a new crafting trait to learn, Nirnhoned. This update had a bit of everything, even a level cap increase bringing it to veteran rank 14.
A timed trial was released, The Sanctum Ophidia. This is a large improvement on the previous two trials. While still not fully “elder scrolls” this trial is most certainly a step in the right direction.
Dragonstar Arena, a four player battle arena, was introduced. This new dungeon offers both a normal and veteran mode of difficulty. Dragonstar has to be one of the most entertaining dungeons I’ve had the pleasure of doing, next to Shada’s Tear.
Zenimax has been going back and looking at the lower level delves and been expanding them, making them larger, slightly different than the delves you’ve explored before. One of the issues the community raised was that Delves felt the same, no matter the zone or level they always seemed to have the same style of map.
In an attempt to help with lag in high action areas, Zenimax implemented a PRX prioritization. Allowing the game to prioritize the spell effects and graphics based on importance and distance from your character.
New items were added to the game that allowed players to customize their spells. Ability Altering Enchantments are now included on items dropped from the difficult mode of Dragonstar Arena, Sanctum Ophidia, and even the PvP Leaderboard rewards. These enchantments allowed specific abilities to offer additional effects such as;
- Grand Healing: This ability now restores stamina to allies in the area.
- Cleave: This ability deals bonus damage on the initial hit.
- Puncture: This ability heals the caster.
- Twin Slashes: This ability deals additional bleed damage every tick.
- Poison Arrow: This ability increases your weapon damage when attacking enemies affected by Poison Arrow.
- Destructive Touch: This ability deals more damage and costs less
Trying to make Stamina builds more viable, they included a passive that all heavy attacks with melee and bow weapons will restore stamina, while destruction and restoration staves will return magicka on heavy attacks.
Live on November 3rd, right on the six week mark. This is impressive considering the amount of work that went into this patch.
Dungeon scaling was introduced with this patch, which allows players to go into any previous dungeon and have it scale to their level. This allows the older dungeons to become viable content to do.
Along with the dungeon scaling they introduced the Undaunted Dailies. The Undaunted guild offers players two new quests every day, one normal and one veteran difficulty. With these dailies you have a choice of doing the Bronze, Silver, or Gold level of the mission. The hard choice will result in a better reward upon completion. These dailies can reward players with a chance to receive a piece of gear that has a new 2-set bonus attached to it. These gear pieces are typically shoulders, while the head (the other set piece) drops from the boss of that specific dungeon.
A new crafting style was added, Dwemer. With this new style they also introduced a new way of obtaining it. Instead of acquiring the entire book, which you still can but it’s exceptionally rare, you’ll obtain pages from the book. These pages will allow you to craft specific parts of the gear instead of all them. For example you might find page 8 of the Dwemer book which might allow you to craft the shoulders. You’ll still need to find the remaining pages in order to craft the other pieces. This new system allows for players a chance to “corner the market”. Instead of one player or all players having the ability to craft an entire set of Dwemer, Zenimax wanted players to be able to corner specific areas. Make yourself known as the person who can craft Dwemer, Shoulders and legs, while eventually you’ll be able to craft them all and you’ll be that “go to” person for Dwemer gear.
Chat Bubbles was also introduced with this patch. I can’t begin to tell you how many forum posts were created asking specifically for this feature. Maybe one day someone will explain to me why Chat bubbles are such an important thing to have in a game.
A new craftable set of gear also implemented, The Twice-Born Star. In order to craft this elusive set you’ll need to have learned all the previous traits. If you obtain this gear, the bonus will allow you to have two mundus stone buffs at all times.
As with the previous patch, Zenimax went through the lower level delves and improved them, making them larger and more engaging for the player.
That’s everything that has happened within the last 9 months. I can’t believe it’s been 9 months already, and we’ve seen 5 updates to the game already. That’s an update every 7 weeks, that’s pretty impressive. Zenimax has almost stayed to their goal of four to six weeks for content releases. Looking back at the size of the updates I think we can give them that added week. Especially when we look at the size of update 6, which is planning to have the Champion System, Justice System, Provisioning Revamp, and even a massive combat animation overhaul.
Update 6 is scheduled to hit the PTS in January, which means it most likely won’t see the live push until the middle to end of February making it go live around the 15 to 16 week mark from update 5, of course there has been small incremental patches but nothing major. This is well over the four to six week goal that Zenimax had. Again, looking at the size of it, it might be worth the wait. We’ll just have to wait and see. If it all goes off without a hitch it will most definitely be worth the wait. If it is released and is bug filled, than I am a believer they should have released it in smaller parts, instead of trying to release it as one major update.
Over the last 9 months, what has been your favourite change that Zenimax has made to the game?