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ESO: Do It Right the First Time

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Elder Scrolls Online lately. Ever since my post about Keeping Up With the Joneses, I’ve been hovering over the purchase button. Well it’s a good thing I didn’t! Out of the blue, I received an email from the Zenimax notifying me I had “purchased the game” and reminding me that I still needed to activate my free 30 days. Now, I can assure you that I did not purchase the Elder Scrolls. But, with a little digging, I did have a copy activated to my account. Strange, yes? Well, a quick email to support told the tale. See, a while back, I was able to help test their billing system. Apparently, that copy of the game I was refunded for is now mine to keep. Sweet deal, says I!

Anyhow, with all of the hustle of my wife returning to work from maternity leave and my being a stay-at-home daddy this summer (while also trying to finish grad school this week), I haven’t gotten around to activating the game. Why bother? What they say about subscription fees making you feel pressured to play rings true for me and, unfortunately, signing up now would just mean wasting some of those free days.

I have been reading, though, and have really been enjoying freelancer Leif Johnson‘s article series over at IGN. Say what you will about the big sites and their practices when it comes to reviewing MMORPGs but Leif has done an excellent job, taking 150+ hours to see all that the game had to offer before submitting his verdict. Take note, other sites: that’s how it should be done.

Today he posted an interesting piece on The Trouble with Elder Scrolls Online’s Veteran Content. While he loves the veteran dungeons, he takes issue with how long it takes to actually experience it. After 300 hours, he’s only midway through his veteran ranks. Here, he shares something important:

I wouldn’t mind this so much, but this cross-faction endgame quest also has the adverse effect of making leveling an alt account almost unthinkable. In other MMOs, when you hit max-level you might roll a new character to experience a new quest, and explore all the zones you missed. But in ESO, you feel compelled to experience it all on a single character, breaking the in-game lore along the way . . . There are times when I wish I’d leveled a Dragonknight or Sorcerer instead of my Nightblade, but the thought of playing through the content for roughly 300 hours again gives me shivers. – Leif Johnson

Emphasis mine. See, for a player like me, hitting the level cap is a big deal. It’s an investment and those 150 hours it took Leif would likely take me two months to chip away at. I’m not a fan of repeating content in the first place and Zenimax has designed a system that actively eats the other factions worth of content. The idea of putting in a second 150 hours, then another 150 hours just to get midway into the endgame is unbearable. 600 hours for two mid-veteran alts? That will simply never happen. I know myself too well.

I had the pleasure of interviewing ESO’s Creative Director, Paul Sage, last week (written version here). He made it clear that any content drops they plan on adding (“real content” not just systems, by his description), you need to be a veteran player. He also mentioned that the majority of ESO’s players are still in the second and third zones. We have two things here. First, that this really is a slow burn of a game. With most players still in the mid-game, not even to the soft level 50 cap, it’s safe to say that leveling takes far longer than most other games of its ilk. Second, that if you want to get in on the ground floor of all that’s new and exciting, those hours are a required investment.

This design choice reinforces that ESO is another game that “begins at the level cap.” That, combined with the ultra-slow leveling speed, makes for a tricky proposition for Zenimax. Will players stick around long enough to even reach the upper veteran levels? Based on the average player level, I’d say that’s still a big question, and a pretty dangerous one with Wildstar right around the corner. And if they happened to mess up and discover 200 hours in that their class just isn’t what they wanted in that endgame, how many will be willing to reinvest that much time, with content they’ve already experienced, to do it all over again?

I’m still very excited to play the game. So many of you seem to love it that I’ll be activating and diving in with heavy anticipation. I do wonder, though, what all of this means for ESO’s future. A shortened leveling curve? Selling xp boosts or levels in the item shop? I just don’t see very many people leveling second characters when the same time could get them max level characters and real progress in even two or even three other MMOs.

10 comments

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  1. Carla

    Seriously I really want to try ESO, but the budget…
    I guess I’ll have to go back to skyrim in the meantime.

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  3. sean

    I had three months in ESO, and, well, the memories are bittersweet.

    The good bit is the level 1-50 experience: the way the game plays, and in particular the story, are just fantastic. The feeling when you finish the epic quests is an honest-to-god ‘fists pumping the air’ moment; it’s just great.
    The really awful bit is the VR experience: the Veteran Rank experience, where you get to complete the zones of the other factions (and Craglorn) *minus* the great story. And it takes 3-4 times as much time to max out Veteran Ranks (or, at least it did when I left back in June) than it does to get to level 50… and all the time, *without* an overarching narrative or reason other than ‘grinding VR levels’. Seriously unfun, and of the friendly, sociable guild me and my wife started, *every* active player stopped somewhere in the VR ranks: one had the stamina to max out the Veteran Rank, everyone else lost the will to live much earlier.

    So yeah: if you play ESO as a 1-50 game, and reroll when you hit 50 – it’s a genuinely great game. If you delve into the Veteran grind: it is easily one of the worst MMOs I’ve ever played, and I cut my MMO teeth playing Korean grinders.

  4. finious

    I agree with Sean. The game is beautiful by design in many aspects. The combat felt gratifying and smooth, the visuals were as you would expect from the genre, the lore and questing was actually enjoyable for once, but some where along the way it starts to become a grind. It has the fun of Skyrim without the constant feed of playermade mods to keep you coming back. It plays well as a co-op game but not an mmo personally.

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  6. 隣に立っているが、最も確かでない影のウブロウブロ1、2はその前作より大きく、おそらくもっと野心的です。 ミュウミュウバッグスーパーコピー それはあまりにもきれいなカットを提案

    隣に立っているが、最も確かでない影のウブロウブロ1、2はその前作より大きく、おそらくもっと野心的です。 ミュウミュウバッグスーパーコピー それはあまりにもきれいなカットを提案するウブロ2」の優れた「ウブロ1に対して、むしろこの新しい造りサイト展開をウブロ彼らが適当と考えて、彼らの建物の責任を分割するのを可能にします。 http://www.eevance.com/News/4b5ce2fe28308fd9.html

  7. 隣に立っているが、最も確かでない影のウブロウブロ1、2はその前作より大きく、おそらくもっと野心的です。 ミュウミュウバッグスーパーコピー それはあまりにもきれいなカットを提案

    隣に立っているが、最も確かでない影のウブロウブロ1、2はその前作より大きく、おそらくもっと野心的です。 ミュウミュウバッグスーパーコピー それはあまりにもきれいなカットを提案するウブロ2」の優れた「ウブロ1に対して、むしろこの新しい造りサイト展開をウブロ彼らが適当と考えて、彼らの建物の責任を分割するのを可能にします。 http://www.eevance.com/News/d9caa6e02c990b0a.html

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