The Future Takes a Promising Path
The Elder Scrolls Online is, like all MMORPGs, a work in progress, and a deeper look at the roadmap of that progress was given last week at QuakeCon. In a panel session titled The Future of The Elder Scrolls Online, details emerged about features announced in the weeks prior, as well as some surprises from the team. Also on the agenda was an in-depth look at the complete overhaul of the Veteran Rank system into something completely new - the Champion system. Though some might snarkily question if the game has a future, it’s quite clear from the presentation and plans for the game that it’s about to get new challenges, some added depth, some additional “Elder Scrolls” feel, and even some needed group changes. Promises are, of course, words until they are deeds, but with some reservations, things look pretty good on the horizon for the game over the next months. While there’s too much in the panel to discuss in just one column, there are several aspects I feel stand out most.
The Justice system should make the game feel more like The Elder Scrolls as there will now be penalties for doing what many of us love doing - picking up anything that’s not glued down. (And for some, the occasional NPC murder.) Although there will be some sort of safeguard to make sure not to dilute Provisioning, expect to decide between an item or the penalty of stealing it. The system will add a more realistic, true to ES touch to the MMO, as well as get in a fun PvP element in the form of player bounties. For those who question creating an Elder Scrolls MMO, it’s features like this that an MMO makes possible. The system makes open world PvP possible for those who wish to partake, and easy to stay out of for those that don’t like those systems.
The new Champion system will be the third phase of the VR overhaul, so we won't be seeing it for a little while. With Veteran points being scrapped, the new progression type will emphasize strengthening your character through a series of passives that will also affect alts. Once your first character hits 50, you'll start earning Champion Points that you will use to enhance your character as well as determine which content you will be able to unlock. Content that is currently gated by VR will now be determined by CP and gear.
Your gear will matter more than your points to determine your Champion Rating. Want to take on some new endgame content? Best make sure you're equipped enough to take it on. I had some previous concerns about just how the system’s overhaul would handle gear, hoping there wouldn’t be a significant gear grind added. From the sound of things, there will be some new tiers to reward players and let them decide if the effort is worth it. All of this comes with Paul Sage reiterating that about half the players felt that VR ramped up too quickly and the other half feeling like it was an appropriate challenge. So the team aims to streamline the experience and give players regular rewards.
Combined with the additional reward chase (and gear seasons) and a vow to create more items regularly, and things are shaping up to look more like other games. While I'm sure this touch will be appreciated by many in the community that criticized the game for its perceived lack of endgame, or carrots to chase, it is a divisive move. The team knows that, so there are some considerations being worked out that should help some players remain competitive. A form of rest XP is coming, and crafting will be maintained as viable.
Still, it's a bit of a disappointment that ESO, a game that is unique in several ways, and with an emphasis on player economy and crafting is adding gear tiers specifically aimed at creating item chases. The gear “seasons” details were of some reassurance, however.
In a way, it’s reminiscent of the way fashion works in the real world. Gear in season is the most powerful, and at a premium, so it will be harder to obtain and be something to aspire to for those collectors that need to have the latest and show everyone else that they do. Later, after a period of time, these items will lose some of their rarity. Thus, they become less exclusive and the chance of obtaining them is much higher. The gear will then spread to more people. ZeniMax might even make those items buyable over time (via gold). It’s like a designer shirt moving to high-end stores before winding up in the local Walmart. That said, these are still gear tiers, and even if last season’s armor is easier to obtain, the fact that it is not as powerful deserves a bit of skepticism until we know more.