These last couple of weeks have been fantastic for The Elder Scrolls Online. A plethora of information has come out about the future of ESO and the first DLC of this year, Thieves Guild. Let me tell you, almost everything looks exceptionally promising. I say almost because there was some bad news that was released. So let’s discuss the bad stuff first and then get into the good stuff.
Matt Firor released his “Year Ahead” post. Typically he would release a road ahead article every couple of months discussing what we can expect in the coming months. With it being the beginning of the year he decided to discuss what we can expect from ESO in 2016. It started off really positive and ended positively as well but in the middle he discussed some of the aspects of ESO that I, and others, got excited about. Spellcrafting and the PvP aspect of the justice system. I preach it all the time, the only time a game disappoints is when your own expectations are not met. Play the game for what it is and it will be a good game. Even though I preach it constantly I did succumb to the hype and got excited about these two features and now we may never see them.
In the post Matt Firor says “We will not be adding in the previously discussed PvP component of the Justice System. We caveated this many times - as I said at the ESO QuakeCon presentation in 2014, it was always going to be very difficult making it fun, but not exploitable.” (source).
I do understand how incredibly hard it would be to implement such a feature when the core game was designed around not letting same faction player’s fight against one another. This was addressed during the summit they held back in 2014, where they discussed the Enforcer aspect with us. Myself, and others raised many scenarios where players could exploit the situation and the developers were unable to answer the hypothetical questions. Of course this was back when the Enforcer concept was just that, a concept, but it goes to show how difficult it would have been to implement. That being said, I’m still disappointed the concept has been dropped. Being able to play the Enforcer and stop those players who want to commit crimes would have offered an incredibly diverse gameplay option that isn’t available within other games. It would have offered players an avenue of game play that isn’t just about killing daedra or enemy factions. It would have been a massive step forward for the Roleplaying community. If you’ve been reading my columns over the past months you’ll know how much of an advocate I am for gameplay options that aren’t focused strictly on killing. I’ve talked about it exclusively in “Player Housing: It’s More Than Story” and “Holidays: A thing of the Future”. So seeing this feature being cut is a large disappointment for me.
The other upsetting news was something that we heard only a few times by Paul Sage (prior to his departure from Zenimax), Spellcrafting. Even though it was only spoken of a few times, it became a highly requested feature. When Paul spoke about this concept you felt like it was his baby, it was something he was passionate about and something he wanted to get implemented into ESO. With him no longer part of the ZOS team we’ve heard nothing of this feature. Now, according to Matt Firor “Spellcrafting is on the back burner for now. It is a fun and interesting system, but it is not in our current plans to bring it to you in the coming year. We really like the design and what it contributes to the game, though, so we will do what we can in the future to make it happen and do it right.” (source).
At least his words are optimistic about the feature. It does sound like they’ve been working on it but didn’t like an aspect of it and instead of holding up future content they decided to pause this and come back to it later with different ideas. So I guess we should also put our enthusiasm for this feature on the back burner.
Now that we’ve talked about all the upsetting news let’s discuss the good stuff. Where do I begin?
I guess a good place to start is Thieves Guild, then we’ll discuss what is in store for 2016. Sometime in the first quarter of 2016, most likely March, we’ll be seeing the Thieves Guild go live. Which means in February we’ll be able to test out the DLC on the PTS, which isn’t far off. Like all previous DLC updates there are essentially two updates in one. There is the DLC game pack update (content for those who buy the DLC) and a base game update for those who haven’t purchased the update. This is the first DLC release which I think offers as much if not more content for the overall player base. When I say content I don’t mean zones, I just mean additions to the game. Figure I should clarify this before I get a lot of PMs exclaiming that content means zones.
The base game update is going to include:
A much needed 64-bit client for both PC and Mac. It’s hard to believe that in 2016 the game is still running a 32-bit client. What this means for the game is a massive update in performance and handling (behind the scenes performance and handling). The game will be able to utilize a lot more memory and algorithms than it could before.
Looking For Group update – They make mention of incentives but don’t say exactly what that means. Most likely it’ll be a system where you’ll get a reward for using the LFG once a day or every time you use it. I don’t see Zenimax going as far with this system as Blizzard did and creating a reward system for queue up as the lowest role. So if tanks were the lowest queued role, those who queued up as a tank would receive a reward bonus for doing so. It’s a good system as it helps keep the queue times lower. This update also includes the cross faction grouping that was mentioned at QuakeCon 2015. The LFG tool will be able to pull players to join your group even if they are from the opposing factions. You still won’t be able to group with opposing faction players manually, only via the automated grouping system. The LFG tool is something I’ve talked about in the past, about how bad and broken it is in ESO and most other games. Back in 2014, I asked the question, Should the Faction Restriction be lifted in LFG, and in my Open Letter to Zenimax, I discuss how the LFG needs to be incentivized. I’m really glad to see that ZOS is again listening to the community feedback and working with it instead of around it.
Scrolling Combat Text – I personally think this is a bad decision, strictly because they’ve always been against the idea and said they wanted to keep the game looking pretty. Anytime I watch someone play ESO with a Scrolling Combat Text mod I am immediately reminded at how much I dislike it. It adds a ton of clutter to the screen and a distraction from the game. Always looking to see how much damage your crits are doing etc. This is just a personal preference. I know many players are excited for it and, who knows, maybe ZOS can make it look pretty. At one point I thought chat bubbles were going to be ugly as well and they turned out okay.
When you hit VR1 you’re not longer forced to do a specific alliance faction next. You’re free to go to any of the other two faction and complete their storylines in any order you wish. When you finally receive Cadwell’s Silver/Gold questline it will automatically be updated based on your progress thus far. This is awesome, just one more step to making Tamriel feel like a real world. Anytime they remove those invisible barriers is always a good thing.
Improvements to Cyrodiil and Campaigns – A lot of the improvements here are tied to the 64-bit client but also some back end data management and processing to help speed up performance on our end. However, in the Q&A with Bill, Rich made an interesting comment. One that I think may go unseen. They are going to be releasing a new non-champion point campaign. What this means I’m not 100% sure. Does this mean that anyone can join but it nullifies your champion point gains? If that’s the case it’s definitely going to be an interesting campaign. Also interesting that they want to make a campaign that removes a large part of the game.
Prioritization of Animations during combat – This one I don’t fully understand. In a recent Q&A William Murphy asked Rich Lambert about this and the answer he was given wasn’t exactly clear.
MMORPG: Prioritization of animations... does this mean animation canceling is "fixed"?
RL: We wanted to make it more clear which attacks players are using, while preserving the responsiveness and feel of the combat system. The goal is that if an ability is successful, the player should always be able to see it impact (or launch in the case of projectiles). Under the new system, we are prioritizing the impact/launch of the first attack over the first few milliseconds of the wind up of the interrupting 2nd attack.