So, Where Do We Go From Here?
Until The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited hits consoles in June, expect that the team’s focus will be on fixes, picking up some pieces dropped in previous updates, and new ventures like crown store items (some new pets just arrived). For PC players, this lull had plenty of advance warning. It’s still a good time to revisit some of the changes promised before and yet to come. Last week’s ESO Live show featured the team answering some questions from the forums, as usual. One thing stood out in light of where the game stands now. While the Champion system was rolled out in greater form in update 6, the Veteran Rank system still coexists with the new system, despite plans for its eventual removal. The team is keeping VR removal on the slate, but as of now, there’s no indication of when this will happen. Also, everything associated with VR that would have to be addressed, like gear, would need to change. Given that this new system change wouldn’t be a content update, one can presume it will be a free addition down the line, but it prompted a look back at some of the things the team has yet to apply to the game.
Gear is one of those things that the new change to a buy to play model definitely invites questions about. Last summer, talk of eventually replacing the Veteran Rank system with the Champion system came with talk of seasonal gear. Gear seasons would serve to introduce some fear that had advantages and would be either equivalent to or similar to some of the game’s best crafted gear. Obtaining this new, hot in-season gear would likely come through some sort of challenge, delves, or maybe even PvP. We have little word on any of that. Yet, gear seasons, as originally proposed, would last for a while and then last season’s gear would then be obtainable for gold to other players, when that gear might be slightly outdated and not necessarily the best anymore.
Enter the crown store. Now when we think about the possibility of these gear seasons, the crown store must be involved in any speculation. Maybe last season’s gear will still be available for gold. Though another point touched upon in the latest broadcast was a repeat that a global auction house is not something they are even considering due to how the game’s economy is structured. But gear seasons seem like something ripe to add to the store with the new model. At the same time, that would instantly level pay to win accusations at Zenimax, so it would have to be an incredibly careful undertaking if the decision were ever made to add something non-cosmetic like this to the store, even if also available via gold earned in-game. The very practice would allow people to bypass playtime with money, which is still something that bothers many. It seems likely that if we do get these gear seasons that no one has addressed in many months, they will remain gold transaction items after they’re in-season. If they are, however, expect supply and demand to drive pricing for some time, so if players want to get their hands on something, even an ‘off-season’ item, it might be a while before those trickle down to reasonable prices.
The Veteran Ranks running concurrently with the Champion system allow for a safety net while the team is preparing for the console launch and what follows. Considering the development timetable, the next content DLC isn’t likely to be available for some time yet. Things are still lagging on PC and changes haven’t reached the PC audience yet, with less than two months to go until console launch. Then, the team must take care of its console customers and make sure everything runs smoothly on each network. It does take time to rebuild whole systems within the game, but while it’s understandable to want to tread carefully, there just hasn’t been word in a long time and the latest broadcast offered no clue as to when we might see this, other than that the plan hasn’t changed.
One of my favorite things about ESO has always been the ability to do other things besides simply PvP or stop playing once you hit level cap. The initial Veteran Points, then Veteran Ranks, and now Champion systems and the way you can continue progressing and quest on the same character throughout all three faction areas gave players options. The current situation of two systems together gives players time to adjust and the developers time to plan out the changes, but ultimately, a bit of information would be nice. Considering the initial statements of gear seasons and the eventual removal of the Veteran Ranks entirely came last summer. We have heard several times since that the VR removal would happen once the team makes sure that they didn’t destroy anything with the Champion system. AT this point, a road map of sorts would be nice.
Post console release, Zenimax will be running three different versions on three different networks, and it’s going to be even more important to not let any of these audiences feel left behind (especially with the delays console patches can encounter). Zenimax is doing well enough right now for a team in between relaunches, but the lack of some kind of time frame on things we might expect is in contrast to most of 2014 and early 2015. During this lull in significant changes, I hope the team considers giving us a solid development road map sooner rather than later.