The Surprising Things About Elder Scrolls Online

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The Surprising Things About Elder Scrolls Online

I've sunk a few days into the game and leveled several different characters through the various starting areas. Now that I've had a chance to try it for myself, I'm actually surprised. I was all set to hate this thing, but it's not at all what I was expecting.

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Shamus Young:
The Surprising Things About Elder Scrolls Online

Publishers have been throwing good teams at bad ideas, mindlessly copying World of Warcraft without actually understanding what made WoW a success.

Shamus - What did WOW do that made it a success? That sentence seems to indicate that the WOW secret sauce can be understood by savvy developers if they only try harder.

I'm glad someone enjoyed it but I personally found it one of the most boring games I had played in my life. No motivation to continue playing at all.

Ne1butme:

Shamus Young:
The Surprising Things About Elder Scrolls Online

Publishers have been throwing good teams at bad ideas, mindlessly copying World of Warcraft without actually understanding what made WoW a success.

Shamus - What did WOW do that made it a success? That sentence seems to indicate that the WOW secret sauce can be understood by savvy developers if they only try harder.

That is a huge question. "What made WoW a success?" could be the subject of a whole series of articles. Some of it was gameplay. Some of it was marketing and brand recognition. Some of it was just being lucky. Some of it was classic network effects leading to critical mass.

And their long-term success happened for different reasons than their initial success.

The point isn't really that there is a "secret sauce". The point was that you shouldn't copy the most superficial aspects of WoW (hotbars and questgivers with ! over their heads) and expect to have a game that's as engrossing as WoW.

My level of excitement for ESO over time looks something like a cardiac sinus rhythm... up, down, up, down. I'm not sure my own heart can take it.

Still, this (and the other preview articles released today) make me optimistic. The only MMO that's really stuck with me over the years is Champions Online; maybe ESO will be the second? (At least until I get sick of paying the monthly subscription.)

Huh, I've never really enjoyed MMOs, but that all actually sounds like this game could be an exception... If it wasn't for that price tag. The $60 upfront I could maybe deal with if the game has enough content to justify it, but I wouldn't pay a $15 a month subscription fee even if this was bound to be the greatest RPG experience in the history of RPGs.

Drop that 15 down to 5, or make it 15 for two months. Its the right thing to do. We accept 15 as the standard monthly payment because of wow's fees, but in all honesty, that can't be even close to the minimum it would cost to support the servers. Drop the price per month equals success.

Shamus Young:
I'm proud to say that (without any coaching for me!) my AI companion got spiked by every single one of them - even ones you could easily just walk around. It really felt like I was running tombs in Skyrim with a brain-dead companion, listening to her yelp in pain as she staggered from one obvious trap to the next. Maybe I wasn't supposed to find that section funny, but I did.

It's odd that you like the game for how 'dysfunctional' it is. Even this decent overview does the opposite of inspiring confidence.

On a related note, what you say mirrors an RPS write-up that just came out also, but they find every single one of these points detrimental, leading to the opposite conclusion. Link here: (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/02/07/hands-on-the-first-few-hours-of-elder-scrolls-online/)

ES: O's three faction system reminds me of your Warhammer Online article a while back where you pointed out that two-faction PVP is inherently broken, because one side starts winning, and keeps getting bigger and stronger as a result.
I'm surprised that didn't get a token mention in your article.

I'm also in the beta and I have an opposite experience with the companion AI than you do. I avoided the traps and so did my AI companion, so it might just be a bug or something.

It's that fifteen dollars a month that it going to be the make or break for me. I will probably try this game out for a month, maybe two, but unless I am totally floored by it, I don't think I'll be paying more than ninety dollars for the game.

Shamus Young:
I've sunk a few days into the game and leveled several different characters through the various starting areas. Now that I've had a chance to try it for myself, I'm actually surprised. I was all set to hate this thing, but it's not at all what I was expecting.

Hmm, I thought the first rule of Beta club was not to talk about Beta club?

Are reviewers like yourself getting to review the game now or is the non-disclosure still in effect?

Either way, I agree with your article. This has very pleasantly surprised me and that's all I'll say for now.

I cant help but feel that for whatever merits ESO may have in its favor, the collective opinion of the internet has already sealed its fate. I doubt people will give this game the chance it deserves, because even Forbes is piling onto the "Lets Hate ESO" bandwagon. (or, maybe, banned-wagon?)

I get a similar feeling/taste from the MMO market in general. I believe WoW succeeded where it did, because of WHEN it did. When Vanilla/BC came out, MMO's were made mainstream enough to be considered, and the players (Eternal trolls and griefers aside) seemed to enjoy playing -with other people-, and this is the "secret sauce", adventure and companionship... Players today do not want interaction beyond the bare minimum to achieve end-game gear.

Gamers no longer play MMO's to play with other people, they play them to use other people. Be it for ego boosting, frustration venting, or content-locusting, people no longer have any desire to form a bond with other people in the digital landscape. Its a culture shift, and one I feel is going to doom the genre. (Dooooooooommmmm!!!)

I feel that people will stop bothering to log in to games that enhance/encourage player segregation/detachment. There are enough single player games out there, and with the audience no longer wanting to sit together... It's really only a matter of time.

I salute you for not being afraid to change your stance on the game after having had a hands-on experience.

I still see people complaining about how the game looks/plays like it's straight out of 2004...

Wow, I normally hate MMOs and by the sounds of it, this does away with a lot of the things that annoy me about them.

However, I am never going to pay a subscription fee so I am not even considering getting this unless it moves to some other business model.

TESO does many things right but in the end it's still just another MMO. If you've played WoW, Tera, Aion or anything else you've played TESO too.

1. The "huge" variety of skills.
Yes, you basically can combine everything you want BUT can you actually play them? What could be tested so far were the first 20 levels. No high levels and no end game content.
And while you can durdle around with sub-par characters in a singleplayer game to have your fun you definitly can't in a multiplayer game.
Your build is fun but lacks punch? You won't find a group. You will die in PvP. Farmin will take you twice the amount of everyone else.
Thus the amount of builds will be greatly reduced in the end, im 100% sure of that. Just look at Diablos rune system.

2. It's just another "theme-park" MMO.
You go to questhub A, do every quest and get railroaded to questhub B. Rince repeat.
Sofar i couldn't expirience any exploration of any sort.
Again, if you've played any other MMO you know the drill.

3. The quest are a 50/50 thing. Some include a certain role-playing with choices you've to make. But sofar i couldn't see any consequences. Yes a guard my greet you with "saviour of blabla" but that's about it - maybe there's more to that later on but sofar, zilch.
And the other quests are the usual MMO-grind stuff with 50 people running around in the same small area waiting for stuff to respawn so they can kill it.
TES-feeling = 0

If Zenimax told me, that the stage the game is in is early Beta and it won't be released until end of the year i'd say: Wow! They're onto something.
But seeing as they want to toss it out in a few months? I doubt it's gonna have any sucses.
Apart from design choices it's still pretty buggy.

Attack magic are staffs, its kinda dumb I miss having spells. Auto aim is forced and well its mostly a mindless button mashing mess ala any MMO out there.

I'm so conflicted here. Who do I believe in their verdict of ESO: Shamus Young, one of my favorite game critics, or Rockpapershotgun, my favorite gaming site(sorry, Escapist)?
Shamus says the quests are well written and interesting, RPS says they're boring drivel.
Shamus says there is an interesting non-hotbar combat system, RPS says the exact opposite.

WHAT DO I DO?! WHO DO I BELIEVE!?

LOL.

It's a quandary alright. My impression is that Shamus is being slightly generous in his review, either to contrast with last week's article or because as he said he can see some nice touches and hopes they are successful which will require some decent reviews.

Meanwhile RPS seem to be criticising ESO most for NOT being a WoW clone. I got the distinct impression that the reviewer would have preferred more combat and less 'boring' talking. I can sort of see where he is coming from if the writing is terrible but at the same time that is akin to saying he wants more hack and slay and less role playing! That makes it a review I struggle to relate to.

Either way I doubt I have the time to play it. But is sounds mildly promising.

Shamus Young:

Ne1butme:

Shamus Young:
The Surprising Things About Elder Scrolls Online

Publishers have been throwing good teams at bad ideas, mindlessly copying World of Warcraft without actually understanding what made WoW a success.

Shamus - What did WOW do that made it a success? That sentence seems to indicate that the WOW secret sauce can be understood by savvy developers if they only try harder.

That is a huge question. "What made WoW a success?" could be the subject of a whole series of articles. Some of it was gameplay. Some of it was marketing and brand recognition. Some of it was just being lucky. Some of it was classic network effects leading to critical mass.

And their long-term success happened for different reasons than their initial success.

The point isn't really that there is a "secret sauce". The point was that you shouldn't copy the most superficial aspects of WoW (hotbars and questgivers with ! over their heads) and expect to have a game that's as engrossing as WoW.

One thing to be kept in mind about WoW's "secret sauce" is its innovation/polish compared to the time period. When WoW hit (and honestly, for a good long while after), it worked and was fun. However, what made it great before does not make it great now because the gameplay that was acceptable back then is not the gameplay that's acceptable right now.

You want an MMO that'll make money? Make one with gameplay that doesn't feel like it belongs in the last decade. And not even the latter part of it. Moreover, make one with gameplay that doesn't mirror WoW's. I mean, if you want to mirror WoW's gameplay, at least get it a little up to date. Dragon Age uses a similar system, but doesn't feel nearly as dated to me as WoW or it's copies.

But as I said, why not try something else? MMOFPS - make a giant Battlefield game. PvP can be what Battlefield already is, for PvE you could have squads of people assaulting an enemy army base or fortified positions (with a pile of possible objectives inside). The potential for PvE there is so ridiculously huge, nothing anyone's ever done and the lack of it is astonishing. Old Battlefield games have shown you can play a 64 player map with bots, so basically, 10 years ago, we had the technology to make a game where a raid consisting of 20 players could take on a map that had 44 bots at one time.

MMORPG? Do what TESO tried, but don't suck at it (I sat down with it and was bored within 10 minutes. Huge TES fan, this does not remotely do it justice). Seriously, if modders can make a normal TES game function with other people, there's no excuse for actual paid developers not to be up to the task. Get that combat more interesting than hotbar crap or ridiculously stiff whacking.

Played a few betas, playing one right now, I quite like it. The PvP is engaging, and actually encourages a lot of cooperation without burdening you. I like the PvE, the quests and to a point the combat (It could be better).

The issue is this.

PuckFuppet:
One of the issues you get when you discuss something with the mindset of "Is this good?", particularly when it comes to video games which are very individual experiences, is hyperbole.

Was WoW the best thing ever? It was good, it had a very consistent tone and was well designed. However you rarely get people who are able to look at a product without the extremes, then you have the people who tend to swing towards an extreme because they see other people like them there. It is a vicious cycle much more worthy of an article than the banal assessment of recent MMO development cycles.

Is ESO going to fail? Probably, the market is broadly made up of people who are still of the mindset that if you like it you must dislike everything else, the same people who drive the actual cycle that the article was alluding to and are entirely apathetic to the idea of being part of improving the market/industry. More often that not the people who argue either way for a games chances, particularly in a broader public setting, are just dancing to the tune of the executives and the investors.

As an example of that look at EA, regarded as a terrible company and a pox on the entire industry, but easily able to occupy the same space as other "better" companies because any chance of a change is impossible when the market itself is equal parts apathetic and zealous. The zealots drive people one way or the other, keeping franchises afloat regardless of their actual quality, so that those who have associated themselves with a given franchise aren't loyal so much as their are subject to the franchise itself. It is the "If I buy it nothing will change, if I don't buy it those jerks win. Better buy it." effect.

As much as ESO or Wildstar are points of discussion the actual conversation people need to be having is whether or not constantly espousing the ethos of "You like this, therefore you're stupid/wrong and I'm right/better" is something that can be addressed.

The situation described above leads to:

elilupe:
I'm so conflicted here. Who do I believe in their verdict of ESO: Shamus Young, one of my favorite game critics, or Rockpapershotgun, my favorite gaming site(sorry, Escapist)?
Shamus says the quests are well written and interesting, RPS says they're boring drivel.
Shamus says there is an interesting non-hotbar combat system, RPS says the exact opposite.

WHAT DO I DO?! WHO DO I BELIEVE!?

Which is really a sorry state of affairs whereby the culture of exaggerating your opinions, or automatically assuming opinions on the extremes. Whatever effect that attitude is having on the market its effects specifically on the review side of things are obvious.

SoranMBane:
Huh, I've never really enjoyed MMOs, but that all actually sounds like this game could be an exception... If it wasn't for that price tag. The $60 upfront I could maybe deal with if the game has enough content to justify it, but I wouldn't pay a $15 a month subscription fee even if this was bound to be the greatest RPG experience in the history of RPGs.

Sniper Team 4:
It's that fifteen dollars a month that it going to be the make or break for me. I will probably try this game out for a month, maybe two, but unless I am totally floored by it, I don't think I'll be paying more than ninety dollars for the game.

RedDeadFred:
Wow, I normally hate MMOs and by the sounds of it, this does away with a lot of the things that annoy me about them.

However, I am never going to pay a subscription fee so I am not even considering getting this unless it moves to some other business model.

Going to add my bit to these; I really like how the game looks, I like everything coming out of the Beta, I should be quite enthused to play this game.

Except.

I don't care to pay $200+ dollars for this, per year. I'm quite happy to go back and replay Skyrim, maybe spend $40 to get the last two DLC's I don't have, and play the everloving crap out of it. Heck, I went back and paid for a Game of the Year copy of Fallout 3 so I could get all the DLC's just so I could play the crap out of it because I loved it so much.

So... not going to be playing this. Maybe if I ever get a Beta pass I'll at least get to experience what I'm planning on skipping. Which would be nice.

Ne1butme:
Shamus - What did WOW do that made it a success? That sentence seems to indicate that the WOW secret sauce can be understood by savvy developers if they only try harder.

Shamus Young:
That is a huge question. "What made WoW a success?" could be the subject of a whole series of articles. Some of it was gameplay. Some of it was marketing and brand recognition. Some of it was just being lucky. Some of it was classic network effects leading to critical mass.

And their long-term success happened for different reasons than their initial success.

I wrote a lengthy post a year ago on this site which explained WoW's success. The original post can be found here and as it happens, I even gave mention to TESO at the bottom. To summarise what I said then briefly, the secret to WoW's success is down to three important factors, which are (in descending order):

- Timing

The first reason for WoW's popularity is because of timing. Warcraft III was, in its day, the singluar most popular RTS in the world. It was as close to a perfect RTS as one can get. It had the story, backstory and lore, but also interesting and balanced factions and characters. Because of Warcraft III's popularity, when Blizzard announced they would make one of these new-fangled MMO things which would allow players to be one of the heroes in Warcraft, at the battlefield level, it generated excitement. WoW came to market with a pre-existing fanbase of millions of Warcraft III players, which NO other game or MMO of the day had.

To qualify this, it ties into the reason for the relatively lower performance of movie/comic franchised games. Star Wars, X-Men, The Matrix, DC superheroes fans are not necessarily gamers. In fact, it's safe to say that the overwhelming majority are not. A few of them might play the video game, but Warcraft III fans were all gamers.

- Popularity

The second reason for their popularity, is because of their popularity. Because it is the most popular MMO, it attracts the most new players and attention. The income it generates allows for a level of marketing and development that would make any game studio envious.

Its popularity perpetuates its continuing popularity.

- Perfectly crafted

The third reason is because it is perfectly crafted. The army of developers employed by the enormous income have made a gargantuan game. It has more content than any other MMO, the most polish, least bugs, best balance (never perfect, but best of MMOs) and so on. It's a theme park MMO, where you pay for admission and get to go on any of the rides you like and have fun/get rewarded for doing so, be it PvP, questing, dungeons, socialising, raiding, whatever. And most importantly of all, is the mechanics. Blizzard have tweaked and refined the mechanics to perfection. WoW dangles a carrot tantalisingly in front of the player, encouraging play for "just a little longer".

I said a lot more in there and it's worth a read. In conclusion, there are a handful of factors (as described above) that made WoW the juggernaut it is. It's a feat that can and will never be repeated, at least not to the same degree. This is because the "industry" has now "matured", players have more choice, are more savvy and F2P is the most popular MMO model. If we rewind to 2003/2004 and TESO came out then, before WoW, it would've been the undisputed King. D&D and C&C are the only other franchises that could have pulled it off back then.

Sounds interesting. Other reviewers don't seem to be too happy with it but I guess they can still polish a little. However, their faction model as well as business model (full price + monthly fee + restricting/over the top collector's edition... do they have microtransactions?) don't really look good to me.

Vrach:

Shamus Young:

Ne1butme:

Shamus - What did WOW do that made it a success? That sentence seems to indicate that the WOW secret sauce can be understood by savvy developers if they only try harder.

That is a huge question. "What made WoW a success?" could be the subject of a whole series of articles. Some of it was gameplay. Some of it was marketing and brand recognition. Some of it was just being lucky. Some of it was classic network effects leading to critical mass.

And their long-term success happened for different reasons than their initial success.

The point isn't really that there is a "secret sauce". The point was that you shouldn't copy the most superficial aspects of WoW (hotbars and questgivers with ! over their heads) and expect to have a game that's as engrossing as WoW.

One thing to be kept in mind about WoW's "secret sauce" is its innovation/polish compared to the time period. When WoW hit (and honestly, for a good long while after), it worked and was fun. However, what made it great before does not make it great now because the gameplay that was acceptable back then is not the gameplay that's acceptable right now.

You want an MMO that'll make money? Make one with gameplay that doesn't feel like it belongs in the last decade. And not even the latter part of it. Moreover, make one with gameplay that doesn't mirror WoW's. I mean, if you want to mirror WoW's gameplay, at least get it a little up to date. Dragon Age uses a similar system, but doesn't feel nearly as dated to me as WoW or it's copies.

But as I said, why not try something else? MMOFPS - make a giant Battlefield game. PvP can be what Battlefield already is, for PvE you could have squads of people assaulting an enemy army base or fortified positions (with a pile of possible objectives inside). The potential for PvE there is so ridiculously huge, nothing anyone's ever done and the lack of it is astonishing. Old Battlefield games have shown you can play a 64 player map with bots, so basically, 10 years ago, we had the technology to make a game where a raid consisting of 20 players could take on a map that had 44 bots at one time.

MMORPG? Do what TESO tried, but don't suck at it (I sat down with it and was bored within 10 minutes. Huge TES fan, this does not remotely do it justice). Seriously, if modders can make a normal TES game function with other people, there's no excuse for actual paid developers not to be up to the task. Get that combat more interesting than hotbar crap or ridiculously stiff whacking.

Actually the thing to understand is the RPG component of the equasion. The reason why the WoW system is perfect and much emulated is because it understand what an MMO is, it's all about the stats and the abilities of the character your playing, not your personal ability. That is a big part of why people play MMORPGs, they are basically for the PnP / MUD crowd that came before them. Action games have their appeal, and their fans, but in general they aren't the key to any large scale success or catering to this crowd. Indeed, while a lot of people continue to talk about how "more action in the combat, instead of this jerky whacking and cooldown stuff with lots of numbers" like it's a new idea or would revolutionize things, it's been attempted numerous times with various degrees of success. Things like say "Dungeon Fighter" or "Rusty Hearts" did it with brawler mechanics. Games like "APB" and "Planetside" did it with shooter mechanics. Planetside (2) actually became pretty successful, but for the most part most of these games kind of linger
on in obscurity, not really having the kind of focused fanatical interest that RPG players do in order to create phenomenas like WoW. In theory you could potentially outdo WoW's success even at it's height if you could somehow get pretty much all of the FPS players to stop doing whatever other games have their attention and come over to a single
MMO title. WoW came close to doing this largely because at the time it came out it didn't have a lot of competition at the same level, and it's big competiton: Everquest 2, croaked big time. Part of the formula people forget with WoW is that a the time the only really "huge" MMO was Everquest (and to a lesser extent Ultima Online). Sony was pumping up
for a huge upgrade/transition and had a lot of their audience resigned to moving on to another game already, as a
result when it failed, it's very upset fans had WoW to flee too, giving SoE a figurative middle finger. Right not you have the MMO crowd also divided about a billion different ways.

I'll also say that I think a big part of the problem is developers continue to fail to realize they are not competing with WoW as it first launched. See, part of WoW's success was that it kept improving it's content and endgame, and coming out with things to keep people interested and wanting to up their subscription for just another month. "Well if I play in October I can do the minigames and get a new mount!". Not to mention things like the 20 and 40 man raids which kept their core of players busy, with something to always work towards, through the more trying times. WoW eventually retired them to go a LOT more casual, but only once it had already hooked it's core player base A point missed by people who run out and imitate WoW's "5 and 10 man" dungeons only to find that their new players exhaust them quickly and move on. They also tend to overlook all the other things WoW has to do in it's endgame in addition to that.

Almost every single game I have seen launched has talked about an endgame existing, but tended to gloss over the details, mostly focusing on progression, quests, crafting, and how approachable the entire thing was going to be. When they game comes out, it's really great, until people reach the endgame and find that there is nothing there to keep them occupied. If your lucky you might find some kind of grind mechanic, but usually it's ill conceived and not very much fun (WoW actually managed to make a lot of their grinding fun, which was part of it's success). As a result the locusts arrive, play through the progression, get to the endgame, and decide "this is not fun" and then leave. Ultimatly an MMO needs to have multiple things to do at endgame, and to have put as much time into them as they have into the rest of the game, as that is where most of your paying player base is going to be. Even FTP games that manage to do well like Cryptic's stuff realize you need stuff for endgame players to do, as a result you'll notice Cryptic is always setting up and running events, adding new "Campaigns" to neverwinter, and new missions and STFs and stuff to "Star Trek Online". In STO for example you've probably got 40 different maps/missions you can do the grindtastic stuff on to give you some variety, tons of ways of gaining dilithium, and heck if you want to you can have your admiral run around and chase bunny creatures around a field which is always thrilling... (New Romulus Rep can go die in a fire by the way).

I guess the basic point is that I don't think WoW's success is an entirely unattainable goal, even without the perfect storm of events that helped it along, I think you can come pretty close, but it involves game developers to actually start paying attention to what's going on, as opposed to simply listening to what they want to hear. Pretty much every failed MMO has made pretty much the same exact mistakes again, and again, and again for years.

ESO as a game is fine, but again, a lot is going to ride on their endgame (more than fixing it's bugs) as well as not getting too greedy, too quick. If it wants to be subscription based, it needs to understand that subscription needs to come with new content to justify it. Run festivals, provide new mounts and costumes (without selling them), whatever it takes, just make sure something is on the calander for NEXT month every month so people will be looking forward to still be playing for it. It's also going to need to have something going on other than PVP for it's endgame. If it doesn't have raids and stuff planned, it really needs to delay for a couple of months, and hire whomever it takes to design a more robust endgame. If ESO is going to revolve entirely around people running around killing and griefing each other in order to sustain it's core population that's probably not going to end well.

Therumancer:

Vrach:

Shamus Young:

That is a huge question. "What made WoW a success?" could be the subject of a whole series of articles. Some of it was gameplay. Some of it was marketing and brand recognition. Some of it was just being lucky. Some of it was classic network effects leading to critical mass.

And their long-term success happened for different reasons than their initial success.

The point isn't really that there is a "secret sauce". The point was that you shouldn't copy the most superficial aspects of WoW (hotbars and questgivers with ! over their heads) and expect to have a game that's as engrossing as WoW.

One thing to be kept in mind about WoW's "secret sauce" is its innovation/polish compared to the time period. When WoW hit (and honestly, for a good long while after), it worked and was fun. However, what made it great before does not make it great now because the gameplay that was acceptable back then is not the gameplay that's acceptable right now.

You want an MMO that'll make money? Make one with gameplay that doesn't feel like it belongs in the last decade. And not even the latter part of it. Moreover, make one with gameplay that doesn't mirror WoW's. I mean, if you want to mirror WoW's gameplay, at least get it a little up to date. Dragon Age uses a similar system, but doesn't feel nearly as dated to me as WoW or it's copies.

But as I said, why not try something else? MMOFPS - make a giant Battlefield game. PvP can be what Battlefield already is, for PvE you could have squads of people assaulting an enemy army base or fortified positions (with a pile of possible objectives inside). The potential for PvE there is so ridiculously huge, nothing anyone's ever done and the lack of it is astonishing. Old Battlefield games have shown you can play a 64 player map with bots, so basically, 10 years ago, we had the technology to make a game where a raid consisting of 20 players could take on a map that had 44 bots at one time.

MMORPG? Do what TESO tried, but don't suck at it (I sat down with it and was bored within 10 minutes. Huge TES fan, this does not remotely do it justice). Seriously, if modders can make a normal TES game function with other people, there's no excuse for actual paid developers not to be up to the task. Get that combat more interesting than hotbar crap or ridiculously stiff whacking.

Actually the thing to understand is the RPG component of the equasion. The reason why the WoW system is perfect and much emulated is because it understand what an MMO is, it's all about the stats and the abilities of the character your playing, not your personal ability. That is a big part of why people play MMORPGs, they are basically for the PnP / MUD crowd that came before them. Action games have their appeal, and their fans, but in general they aren't the key to any large scale success or catering to this crowd. Indeed, while a lot of people continue to talk about how "more action in the combat, instead of this jerky whacking and cooldown stuff with lots of numbers" like it's a new idea or would revolutionize things, it's been attempted numerous times with various degrees of success. Things like say "Dungeon Fighter" or "Rusty Hearts" did it with brawler mechanics. Games like "APB" and "Planetside" did it with shooter mechanics. Planetside (2) actually became pretty successful, but for the most part most of these games kind of linger
on in obscurity, not really having the kind of focused fanatical interest that RPG players do in order to create phenomenas like WoW. In theory you could potentially outdo WoW's success even at it's height if you could somehow get pretty much all of the FPS players to stop doing whatever other games have their attention and come over to a single
MMO title. WoW came close to doing this largely because at the time it came out it didn't have a lot of competition at the same level, and it's big competiton: Everquest 2, croaked big time. Part of the formula people forget with WoW is that a the time the only really "huge" MMO was Everquest (and to a lesser extent Ultima Online). Sony was pumping up
for a huge upgrade/transition and had a lot of their audience resigned to moving on to another game already, as a
result when it failed, it's very upset fans had WoW to flee too, giving SoE a figurative middle finger. Right not you have the MMO crowd also divided about a billion different ways.

I'll also say that I think a big part of the problem is developers continue to fail to realize they are not competing with WoW as it first launched. See, part of WoW's success was that it kept improving it's content and endgame, and coming out with things to keep people interested and wanting to up their subscription for just another month. "Well if I play in October I can do the minigames and get a new mount!". Not to mention things like the 20 and 40 man raids which kept their core of players busy, with something to always work towards, through the more trying times. WoW eventually retired them to go a LOT more casual, but only once it had already hooked it's core player base A point missed by people who run out and imitate WoW's "5 and 10 man" dungeons only to find that their new players exhaust them quickly and move on. They also tend to overlook all the other things WoW has to do in it's endgame in addition to that.

Almost every single game I have seen launched has talked about an endgame existing, but tended to gloss over the details, mostly focusing on progression, quests, crafting, and how approachable the entire thing was going to be. When they game comes out, it's really great, until people reach the endgame and find that there is nothing there to keep them occupied. If your lucky you might find some kind of grind mechanic, but usually it's ill conceived and not very much fun (WoW actually managed to make a lot of their grinding fun, which was part of it's success). As a result the locusts arrive, play through the progression, get to the endgame, and decide "this is not fun" and then leave. Ultimatly an MMO needs to have multiple things to do at endgame, and to have put as much time into them as they have into the rest of the game, as that is where most of your paying player base is going to be. Even FTP games that manage to do well like Cryptic's stuff realize you need stuff for endgame players to do, as a result you'll notice Cryptic is always setting up and running events, adding new "Campaigns" to neverwinter, and new missions and STFs and stuff to "Star Trek Online". In STO for example you've probably got 40 different maps/missions you can do the grindtastic stuff on to give you some variety, tons of ways of gaining dilithium, and heck if you want to you can have your admiral run around and chase bunny creatures around a field which is always thrilling... (New Romulus Rep can go die in a fire by the way).

I guess the basic point is that I don't think WoW's success is an entirely unattainable goal, even without the perfect storm of events that helped it along, I think you can come pretty close, but it involves game developers to actually start paying attention to what's going on, as opposed to simply listening to what they want to hear. Pretty much every failed MMO has made pretty much the same exact mistakes again, and again, and again for years.

ESO as a game is fine, but again, a lot is going to ride on their endgame (more than fixing it's bugs) as well as not getting too greedy, too quick. If it wants to be subscription based, it needs to understand that subscription needs to come with new content to justify it. Run festivals, provide new mounts and costumes (without selling them), whatever it takes, just make sure something is on the calander for NEXT month every month so people will be looking forward to still be playing for it. It's also going to need to have something going on other than PVP for it's endgame. If it doesn't have raids and stuff planned, it really needs to delay for a couple of months, and hire whomever it takes to design a more robust endgame. If ESO is going to revolve entirely around people running around killing and griefing each other in order to sustain it's core population that's probably not going to end well.

Man, I was alllllll set to post about how tired I am about hearing people complain about the sub model of MMOs (because apparently people think that years of unending content should be free), but this post made me happy.

Now I can go to work and beexcited about coming home and testing TESO again. Unlike a lot of folks, I actually enjoy the game.

To go off on a slight tangent from the above, the issue that "WoW" clones have is that they "clone" the wrong things. They believe that the things they copy are the secrets when in actuality they are not. WoW mechanics that have been copied by other games include:

- Separate (usually warring) factions
This does allow an easy setup for PvP, persistent zone PvP (almost never done well) and gives a very easy method by which to introduce conflict into the story. I will point however to Eve Online which does have factions/races, yes, but those choices do not have *any* impact on gameplay whatsoever. This, IMO is one of the worst things to copy wholesale. Two entirely separate factions who can't play together, trade with each other, talk to each other is *halving* the number of players available with whom one can play. I'm not saying don't have them. By all means have them for the sake of story, but don't segregate the population.

I think The Secret World does this quite well. There are three factions who fight each other in PvP, but (apart from a few faction specific quest lines (of which I approve)) can do everything else together (IIRC this is even written into the story. Some sort of "uneasy truce" I believe).

- Reputation Grinding
I hate this concept with such a passion that I cannot discuss it rationally. Needless to say, I don't believe it is in any way *fun*, immersive or time-well-spent to repeat a quest series over and over for one of umpteen factions, often on multiple characters. It's fun, once, in an offline game like Skyrim where a quest line later I'm leader of the Companions, but not the MMO grind version where a number goes up so one can buy faction specific loot.

- Skill Trees
I have no objection to these existing, they are a valid and effective way to provide progression/specialisation as a character levels. My problem with them is that they are copied and copied and no one stops to consider other ways of doing things. Potentially better ways. This is not the secret to WoW's success, it's just "one" of many ways of doing things. An interesting way to level and individuate one's avatar/toon could be what sets a new MMO apart.

- Ability bars/Cooldown timers
Again, this is *a* gameplay mechanic, not the *only* one. There are many different combat systems/mechanics in many different RPGs that can be as interesting if not more so. Eve, Skyrim (sorta), Fallout 3, TSW all do things differently. In fact, even WoW itself changed it's levelling up and no longer uses skill trees.

- Hearthstone/Teleport abilities with long cooldowns
The ability to "return to base" is not new, but WoW for whatever reason only lets you do it once per hour. Why for all that is Holy on this good Earth do other games have to copy this? Why can it not be always available, all the time, from anywhere (except PvP arenas/during combat)? There is not one, not so much as one good reason for having to wait, except to waste a player's time.
-----------------------------------------
All of this said, all of the "cloning" happens from the third point I made above, that of game mechanics. The first two, namely timing and self-perpetuating popularity cannot be copied. The trick isn't any one of the mechanics above really, it's all about the "reward" mechanics.

The "dangling carrot" I alluded to is the real secret to getting players playing. It's the spin of the fruit machine or roulette wheel. It's the loot after the (engaging) struggle to get to a dungeon's final boss. In WoW's case, it's the thing that happens every few minutes.

Whatever activity one chooses to partake in of WoW, one gets a reward for a certain time investment. Do one battleground, get X honour points. Do quests, get XP/gold. Do a dungeon, get an emblem/token. Any activity in WoW in which a player invests 5-10 minutes, a number somewhere goes up. That number represents the avatar's "value" in a way and they just got better. By marking progress in these intervals the game is highly addictive and hard to stop playing. The reward is often accompanied by a flashing lightshow (levelling up), the word "Victory" emblazoned across the screen (PvP), a loot-filled denouement (dungeons/raids) and so on.

The secret therefore is to reward players at appropriate intervals, with a "prize" relative to the amount of time invested/cost incurred with something that has a value in the game world at large. Usually loot, or fractions thereof. If the prize has little value, confers no bragging rights, does little to individuate us from others, people will not actively pursue it.

Make a game rewarding and addictive, and players will subscribe in droves and grind all day long.

Therumancer:
snip

Well put together post, but I'm still pretty convinced hotbar MMOs are outdated. It might be because I played them for too long, but then again, most people interested in MMOs these days either played them for a long while already or aren't really prepared to settle for a boring combat system like that.

Besides, variety is the spice of life and right now, 95% of MMOs are still doing the hotbar thing. You're right, others have tried other systems and haven't done much... but I don't think it's because the combat system isn't the key (or one of the big ones rather), but because they're all subpar. I love the concept of all of these games, but most of them still cling to the same system beneath it all and that's what's holding them back.

Again though, your post holds a lot of valid points. End game especially, without it, there's no MMO (unless you're going with the survival thing like DayZ and such, those are built around status quo as gamers make the game themselves, but you do still need updates or people will get tired of it). I'm a firm believer in the fact subscription-based is the way to go about an MMO. You can pull it off with FTP too, but you're resolving to keep your MMO going by making money off aesthetic upgrades (paying to unlock content aggravates a lot people). The point of a subscription though is exactly what you said. It's not the end, it's the means to an end, you have to provide people with content for their money.

Alternatively, another method that I don't think has been explored fully and that could possibly be the best is basing it on constant expansions. Rather than paying a subscription to constantly keep content going (a lot of which isn't really essential and thereby satisfying), you could throw paid updates in form of DLC/expansions. Instead of paying every month and hoping for meaningful content, you could pay once every three months and get a more meaningful upgrade. One that doesn't overhaul every system like WoW's expansions do, but something more similar to map packs in FPSs - more end game content.

I'm actually suprised how blatantly this article is lying about this game.

"Okay, you kill monsters and level up, but this is not a game where you stand still and babysit cooldowns."

Yeah, except you really do just that. My experience of the combat was that it was a dull piss poor excuse of a button mashing mess, only interupted by cooldowns. And i was playing an assisin ffs.

"Even better is that they didn't wreck the pacing like too many online games do. Think of the classic World of Warcraft quest: You get the quest, then spend ten minutes walking to the quest area, then another twenty minutes slogging through clusters of mobs to reach your goal, then slog your way back out for the payoff. By the time you get there you've probably forgotten the story and all the tension is gone. (This was one of the many problems with The Old Republic.)

But in ESO the quest had lots of stops to move the story forward, and it kept the pacing brisk. By the time I got to the end I was still thinking about what was going on and still invested in the story."

You have got to be kidding me. Aside from the super exciting "Find random object A and bring it to person B" type of quests i also, time and time again got involved in the cool. "Kill Mob Horde A, then proceed to button B and kill the spawning mob horde C", but of course that meant to wait for all the other bloody 98 player groups to be finished with the boss at the end, which simply got farmed and farmed and farmed some more. Yes, i realize that is part of MMO's but seriously, the way Zenimax pulled it off is nothing but a joke. Also if you consider making a choice in a dialogue Roleplaying you're doing it wrong.

"It's in pretty good shape."

It crashed both on my and my buddy several times and considering the 2000 style low end grafics of the game it was certainly not due to our computers being super busy. It's just as buggy as most other betas.

"It's got Elder Scrolls style leveling"

Just rediculous. No it does not. It's a new system based heavily on their cute little skillbar crap interface. Gone are the days of nice perks or meaningful stat decisions.

"It's got classic Elder Scrolls AI."

Ok, i'd really like to see it. Because all the mobs acted EXACTLY like they would in absolutely any modern MMO ever.

"This point is: This is not the cynical WoW-reskin I (cynically) assumed it would be. Good or bad, Zenimax has tried to do something new and they've taken care to preserve a lot of the quirks of the single-player experience."

Something new, eh ? I see nothing new or innovative. It was dull and in some cases felt utterly rediculous. What a disgrace for such a fine francise, seriously i had a lot of hopes for this. Exploring the entire world of elder scrolls sounded fantastic, but what they turned it into is an extremely mediocre MMO which does a load of things far worse then their competitors do.

Vrach:
95% of MMOs are still doing the hotbar thing. You're right, others have tried other systems and haven't done much... but I don't think it's because the combat system isn't the key (or one of the big ones rather), but because they're all subpar.

The vast majority of the recent MMORPGs have gone the action route and I think it's fair to say at this point that action-combat in MMORPGs sucks and is most certainly not the way forward.

So watching resource bars and hotkey cooldowns ain't fun? Well, it still beats the horrible abomination that is combat in MMORPGs with action-combat systems. It's just so damn tedious. You spend most of your time dodge-rolling from monster attacks that conveniently draw white or red outlines onto the ground. Between all constant dodging and rolling you mash your 5 or so hotkey buttons. That's it. That's progress, apparently. Weeeee. Screw it.

TERA, GW2, TSW, ESO.... everywhere it was tried it just SUCKED. Even in the best one of the bunch in terms of combat, TERA, it still becomes very old very, very quickly. It kinda-sorta works for solo questing but there is not a single game in which that sort of combat works well for group content.

Group content invariably turns into 5 guys permanently jumping, rolling and dodging while unloading DPS and MAYBE the occasional stun/interrupt/stagger on the enemy. Have your tried the group content in ESO? Oh my god, it's horrible. All aspects of combat that semi-work when solo completely break down when in a group. It might even be worse than GW2 in that regard.

At this point, I am convinced it just can't be done. You cannot burden the players with having to be constantly vigilant for enemy attacks, and dodging them, and expect group content to be anything but a gigantic clusterf*ck without any coordinated gameplay or sensible class interdependency. Group content in these games is essentially 5 solo players attacking the same mob or group of mobs. It sucks.

I want my hotbar gameplay back. It's less tedious, it allows for situational skills and more involved resource management and class interdependency. The constant whining about hotbar gameplay has set the genre straight on a path to hell. The cure has proven to be worse than the disease.

No beast legs = no deal. Put some cat feet on my Khajiit and I'll consider it.

ZippyDSMlee:
Attack magic are staffs, its kinda dumb I miss having spells. Auto aim is forced and well its mostly a mindless button mashing mess ala any MMO out there.

No spells? But what about my lycanthrope wizard cat?

For me, this doesn't look like The Elder Scrolls at all.

captcha: my spot

I personally enjoyed the ease of roleplaying in the game itself, all the quests and environment in conjunction with the emotes and very varied looks of player characters really do a lot for immersion. And that is mostly what I find lacking in many other mmorpgs. I was taken in and will continue playing it once it comes out, for sure.

Kiste:
snip

Have you missed the bit where I mentioned how the realisations done so far are subpar? And the reason that they're subpar is because beneath it all, they're still designing the game as if there were hotbars? That's the problem, you can't cling to one system and pretend it's another, the combination does not work (in a large part because it's less a combination and more that a system merely masks what it is by pretending to be something it's not).

And you've chosen to ignore the rest of my post, one of the points of which was, MMORPG is not the only possible MMO type. Most genres that can work with a large open world can work as an MMO, all you add with it is a multiplayer and a large world.

On the subject of action combat MMORPGs though, why not use combat like, say, Dark Souls? For one, DS itself is a sort of an MMO (yeah, not really, but clearly not that far out of reach, is it?). I've played it with more than one person, if the fights were more designed to handle several players, it'd be nothing short of brilliant (as it is, it was fun, but kinda threw the challenge right out of the window on any fight with two skilled players).

On another type, give The Division a look, looks promising to me so far. DayZ is also a fine concept, I'm just not a fan of the engine that supports it. Class 4 (State of Decay MMO in the works) should work, seeing as GTA:O has proved the concept doable, though it's gonna be a hard task for an indie dev (MSs support should help though).

After re-reading the article, I have to agree with most of catraxx's criticism. The whole thing seems to have been written by someone with very little knowledge of the current state of the MMORPG genre. This one in particular irked me:

This is not a WoW-clone.

Right, instead it's a clone of every other recent MMORPG that has tried to be different from WoW, usually by trading hotbars for this type of combat mechanics:

There's a set of core mechanics built around blocking, charging attacks, interrupting attacks, and dodging.

In that regard, it's a clone of pretty much every other MMORPG that was released in the past few years, with the exception of SWTOR.

there isn't a bunch of useless downtime between fights. Kill a thing, loot the thing, move on.

There's virtually no downtime between fights in WoW either. Kill, loot, move on. Has been that way for quite a while now. How many years ago did you last play WoW? Your knowledge appears to be woefully out of date.

It's not Skyrim, but it's closer to Skyrim than it is to World of Warcraft.

That's not even a useful comparison. Skyrim is the better RPG for single players, WoW is the better game for people who like traditional MMORPGs. ESO, on the other hand, is a me-too product that takes it's cues from more recent MMORPGs - and will probably share their fate.

This game is not a mindless copy of what we've already played.

Yes, it is. The problem, Shamus, appears to be that you haven't played a lot of recent MMORPGs at all. So don't go around claiming that ESO is not a mindless copy of the MMOs we have already played.

You don't really seem to know what you're talking about. ESO is very much in line with recent MMORPG releases, basically copying the style of laggy twitch-combat that has become very popular in the genre.

The only thing that is somewhat different is the fact that ESO eschews a rigid quest hub structure in favor of a slightly more exploration based approach, which is nice, but hardly redefines the genre.

In all honesty, it's the price point that's stalling me from getting into this game as much as I'd like to. It's fun, and I'd be able to justify that $15 a month to play it, but slapping down the initial $60 is just... I dunno, sixty just feels like too much, particularly for my budget.

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