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Thursday, May 29, 2014

TESO: What To Do About Bugs and Money

Because of the holiday and work, last Thursday was the last time I've been able to play The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO.) The last three videos you've all seen were from that one two-hour session. That's not all that happened though. This was the day after the Craglorn mega-patch, and I also ran into a few glitches - bugs you could say. None of them stopped me from playing the game. They were barely even a nuisance to tell truth. In fact, one of them was damn funny.

So I made a video of it. I pulled it out of the session capture and did a voiceover on it. The voiceover is what Mabrick, the 23rd level Imperial Templar, thought about the situation. That I had these thoughts while stuck at the Wayshrine in Wayrest is besides the point. These sorts of things just come to me. It's part of the role-play I do for myself. (Warning, this video is "off-color." That means there is sexual innuendo in it. If "off-color" offends you, don't watch it.)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4rDz6VJDIU?rel=0]

This is how I choose to see bugs in a game. I make fun of them. I move on and try to ignore as many as I can. I certainly don't get offended by them. Bugs happen, and I really don't believe the developers like them any more than we do.

But there has been a lot of angst in the TESO community over the quality of the game. These bugs have led to fellow blogger Jester leaving the game. And make no mistake, he had good reasons for doing so. I think there will probably be more people leaving than staying, if I have to prognosticate. There are some basic issues with the game design I alluded to in this post. It has some people really unhappy with the mechanics of group play in the PvE zones, and that's perhaps the least of the issues with group play. Here's the tl;dr -  PvE group play is fundamentally broken in a way that Zenimax can't fix without killing most of The Elder Scrolls feel of the game. But leaving it the way it is really hinders groups of friends roaming the countryside for fun and profit. The only one's seemingly able to do that are the bots as outlined in this reddit thread.

Currently people who like to play with others, but not have to rely on them (thus the MMO for loners tag going around,) seem to be the only ones thoroughly enjoying the game. Unfortunately I am not convinced that will be enough to keep Bethesda and Zenimax management happy. It certainly won't be making them bank the way they want. It occurred to me over the holiday I play this game almost exactly as I play Skyrim. That's not a bad thing, nor is it wrong to play it this way. But I realized an important distinction between the two. I paid $40 for my copy of Skyrim months after it released. I paid double that for my Imperial Edition of TESO, and an additional $78 for six more months. I have paid FOUR times what I paid for Skyrim, and it isn't a better game, only more populated. That's staggering when you actually stop and think about it.

Looking at TESO from a purely financial outlook, I'm being quite dumb. There are other MMOs out there that have fewer bugs and might be just as fun. It's true! XD But they wouldn't be The Elder Scrolls, and that means something to me. I'm sentimental that way. I also play for immersion, and I get that in spades with TESO. It's the one thing I look forward too most. I truly enjoy meeting NPCs again, and having them "remember" who I am. Sadly real people are hardly ever that way. Some of that is my own damn fault for wanting to make it on my own - but that's me for you. I can't go changing now. ;-)

So where does that leave us? Is TESO hopelessly flawed? Actually, I don't think so. I believe these issues can all be resolved by the devs, and probably before my six month subscription is over. The real question is can Zenimax make the game worth the subscription fee? Right now, I have to say that it is not. I'd have to tell people to go play Skyrim  if they only want that Elder Scrolls feeling, because it will cost them a lot less money. I'd love to say there are things that make TESO better, but I can't. At least not as it is now.

That all said, I'll be logging into TESO tonight and not Skyrim. For me, the promise of TESO pulls me that way. Knowing most of those characters running around the countryside are real people makes a difference. If I get tired of quests, I can always just go play my lute on a street corner in Wayrest and watch the real people go by. That's a defining difference for me, and it keeps me coming back. What about you?

5 comments:

  1. I found ESO extremely unengaging. The questing was, for me boring. The combat felt loose. The game hides almost every stat and piece of useful information as hard as it can. It would have been a great game 5 years ago, or maybe 10. But it takes all of the bad bits of single player ES games and weds them with a broken social and economic system. Sorry to be so negative, but I found my month with ESO very disappointing. I even avoided reviews, and came to most of the negative conclusions without getting spoiled.

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  2. The money concern was indeed a driving consideration for me. I judge all games on fun per dollar. TESO is fun but on a fun per dollar basis? That's a tougher road.

    I'd love to see a "big picture" post from you on TESO immersion, because immersion kept breaking for me. It was disheartening to see a pile of boss corpses ten deep in the dungeons. It was a bit annoying for me to have random people saying "You were the one that [X]ed the [Y]!" when a zillion other people did too. Zenimax should have boss corpses disappear VERY quickly and quests should have been designed to acknowledge that it took the village to solve the problem, not the individual.

    Like I said in my post, it just points back to large-scale game design issues that will be tough to fix.

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  3. With a console version still expected, do you think Zenimax will drop the sub fee and go buy-to-play like Guild Wars 2 & The Secret World? TSW seemed to stabilize once it dropped the sub fee. Also, dropping the sub fee would make ESO more like the other games on consoles, and thus more attractive (I think). And if ESO went B2P with a cash shop, would you be more likely to keep playing?

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  4. I'd be more likely to play TESO long term if it went F2P with microtransactions. Buying an expansion would have to compete more with funding I use for truly new games coming out. At that point I'm faced with "more of the same" or "something completely different." I usually favor the new over the old. But it'd be hard to fund expansions through F2P/MT. B2P would at least recoup development costs in a more controlled method. Microtransactions work best with MOBAs in my experience. For MMOs, B2P would likely work better as a business model even if it doesn't always personally work for me.

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  5. […] read Grimmash’s and Jester’s comments from my last The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) post What to do About Bugs and Money. They both have major issues with the game and have stopped playing it. But let’s be careful […]

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