A Responsive Road Towards Launch
With the Elder Scrolls Online launch less than a month away now, there’s no doubt the Zenimax team is burning the midnight oil on getting the game out the door and fully polished. Yet, with several key items of beta feedback from the testers emerging over the past few weeks, the team is still focusing on addressing these pre-launch. The road toward launch seems to lie in listening to the players, even at this late stage. That responsiveness is reassuring, and it’s bringing us back to some of the greater purpose of beta testing.
After the press previews were published, including our own, and the subsequent NDA drop, one of the major issues many had with the game was the use of phasing when it came to quests. Players get their own instances when it came to quests, so a repeated example is one player in a party seeing a town as burned to the ground while another sees the same town as intact. Letting players play together is important in MMOs, despite the large number of solo players or those who group irregularly. With ESO’s setup, much of the game just felt almost too single player for some players (and too much RPG rather than MMORPG). Well, in the latest update to the PTS, Paul Sage indicates that the team is testing some solutions that will let players play together better. No solid word on exactly what those are but the fact that they are trying to make adjustments this close to launch is almost surprising when maybe it shouldn’t be. We MMO players can get a tad cynical sometimes, no?
The lack of collision detection was another large, glaring issue that received plenty of negative feedback in beta. This feature was then added into the game rather quickly afterward. It’s a feature that’s subtle but adds weight to the experience. It’s these little things that our senses sometimes take for granted when present but stand out immediately when absent. Details that seem set to enrich the experience like being able to grab more items from shelves, and essentially making the world feel just a little more interactive are also being added. These are things that set a game apart when it comes down to it, in making the setting feel more like a world.
A Field of View slider is also coming, and with that, some additional player comfort with the available options. Adding in an FOV slider wasn’t necessary, but it’s another direct response to recent feedback from players.
Zenimax isn’t the first developer to ever do these things or work extremely hard before launch. It just feels notable that, with just three weeks before the early access players arrive for their launch, the willingness to listen to the feedback and make these changes along with the pace they’re coming do show that it is worth speaking up about changes you’d like to see for a particular game while the game is in beta. Not all teams respond in this manner outside of major game-breaking bugs, and the promise of features ‘post-launch’ or ‘right after launch’ has probably jaded more than a few of us. With the weight of the IP behind the title brings a lot of expectations, so it looks like the team is striving to meet them.
On top of the quick responses to feedback, some of the other features look promising as well. The Death Recap feature is presented in an amusing fashion but could be very helpful. Since there’s quite an emphasis on the centerpiece that is Cyrodiil, knowing what you did wrong to get yourself killed might be very useful for PvP. With many players likely coming from The Elder Scrolls single player titles, along with other fantasy MMOs, the collective PvP experience levels may vary. This tool seems like it will offer some guidance to those whose PvP skills could use some honing. As a more PvE-centric player, I certainly have my eye on it as something I might be able to use.
By now, especially if you have tested the game, you probably know whether or not ESO is for you. Perhaps you’ve filled out the extensive surveys Zenimax sends out after each session. If so, this all seems to be the result. Yet with beta testing periods (especially once preorders have been announced and some money may have changed hands), most of the time players clash between those that say “it’s beta” with enthusiasm and those who say “it’s beta” with the belief that at this point, everything is just marketing and nothing significant will get added or changed and feedback isn’t worth much. Yet it stands out that a studio is making significant changes like these in response to player feedback just weeks before launch. Whether it should stand out or not is a question we should ask ourselves, but it does seem like a good sign heading into that final stretch.
Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to MMORPG.com, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column. You will also find her contributions at RTSGuru. Follow her on Twitter: @c_gonzalez