Housing? Factions? A Long Wait, But ESO May Do It Right
With the Imperial City, we’re getting a look at some of the new districts coming to the DLC. Zenimax released a guide to the new areas, with each faction’s base operating out of different districts. With bases of operations, especially ones with distinct theming, even as the game demands functional similarity, The Elder Scrolls Online is taking another step in distinguishing itself that should also carry over in another promise for upcoming content: housing. Speaking of long term, a few key decisions should help the game, even with the long waits.
Imperial City will certainly feel like a city, albeit a dangerous one befitting its purpose. The new districts are the mix of pretty and gritty we’ve come to love about The Elder Scrolls Online. These sections and more add new sectors that I think are good representations of more of the personality this game does very well. Any game can carve out zones and quest hubs, but ESO still manages to be an MMORPG with centralized locations that feel like they make sense as towns and cities, not merely dots along a hub map.
Faction bases will be located beneath these sectors, and will probably feel like the game’s first ‘home’ in their own way. These will not just be gathering spots, but utilitarian and narrower in scope than large cities or towns. Adding crafting stations, merchants, and a banker are both convenient and logical, though some who are still getting used to the game’s economy may still grumble about the lack of a more centralized system. The size and scope of Imperial City looks to add a lot for those who appreciate the content on offer, and with housing reaffirmed again, I don’t think it’s unfair to think one might have the potential to influence another, even though both would serve different purposes.
Housing in MMOs takes various forms, from personal instances to real space rented out or sold on the servers, Personal instances would be likely, considering the megaserver technology and current payment model for the game. While it’s not inconceivable that the crown store could sell deeds and plots or even homes be sold, with so much influence from Skyrim on this game, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a system drawing upon that game. In other words, we’re not likely to see anything sandbox-like, but there could be enough customization elements to satisfy players that this is their in-game home. Don’t expect WildStar. Maybe expect a craftier version of a DCUO base meets LOTRO housing with a dash of Skyrim.
Speculating on housing is as good as speculating on anything else coming in the new year for the game, though the promising sales have likely been wind under the sails of ESO after PC launch and many months of restructuring. But the longevity question is a valid one. Players have been asking for housing since before launch. They’ve also been asking for and expecting The Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild additions. PvP improvements have been incremental and sometimes gradual. Though we now know the game is on an approximately 12-week DLC content update schedule, and Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild are coming, as well as housing, these changes may seem slow, but based upon the reception for Imperial City (and depending how many players wind up biting on this purchase or a renewed subscription), the mix of listening to the community with regard to features should make the game better over time.
The downside to waiting, and to being told everything you’ve been looking forward to is “coming” into what might stretch another year down the line is asking a lot of patience and dedication (as well as more money) to play something some would consider feature complete only after those additions. Nixing the subscription was a great move with regards to not only console sales and avoiding subscription skepticism, but in that it does enable players to stop and then return when something they want is added.
Concluding the Molag Bal chapter with Imperial City and opting for new stories is another smart decision. If players need to wait for some of the groups, features, characters, and other content they’ve requested, dragging them through the same stories over time can get repetitive. The SWTOR team is showing this with the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion coming in the fall and the 12x XP bonus to keep current subscribers playing and hook some holdouts. After nearly four years, even with a couple of minor expansions, significant new content, with new decisions and companions, is coming. With ESO’s largest player base on console now, player fatigue is not going to be a problem just yet, so the timing there should be fine if the promised DLC holds up and Zenimax convinces enough to take the journey and buy or subscribe.The ESO team, in promising new story content in the very next DLC expansion, seem to have planned one better in this regard.