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Friday, June 6, 2014

TESO: Retaking Shornhelm - Part 2

Yesterday I gave you part one of the quest Shornhelm Divided. Today I give you part two. The second half of this quest was much more enjoyable than the first half. It embodies the solution I believe Zenimax needs to pursue in order to fix the MMO versus The Elder Scrolls feeling issue so many have noted. In many ways, Zenimax captures the feeling of the The Elder Scrolls in The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO.) However, that feeling does not work well in a world where many people pursue the same task at the same time. Follow along to see how Zenimax can resolve the problem making TESO a better place to live.

*** SPOILER ALERT - This video reveals major elements of a quest. Do not watch if you want to keep it a surprise! ***



[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65SHHRdr9Sc&w=1200&h=750]



As I stated in the video, the solution to too many players running a quest is to use instances liberally. For those who may not know, an instance is a programmatic extraction. It is, in essence, a copy of the program ran only for a single player or group of players. Most MMO players are well aware of what an instance is. It is also called an instance dungeon, though people have truncated dungeon as the use of instances has grown. Wikipedia has a good write-up on instances if you care to learn more.

In the second half of Shornhelm Divided, the entire quest is run in an instance. I am the only player character in the Fevered Mews. I get to fight every mob. I get to fight every boss. It is far more easy for a developer to balance the difficulty of a quest within an instance. There is no variable for number of players involved. That number is constant, unlike what happened in the first half of Shornhelm Divided. In that part of the quest, two or three extra players would make the entire experience ludicrous. It becomes far harder to suspend disbelief and immerse yourself in the story line when the bad guys are being massacred before they can even get off a shot!

But not all quest situations are amenable to instancing. The parts of a quest that are outside should not be instanced. For example, moving through upper Shornhelm with House Montclair soldiers all around should not be instanced. As each player enters the area, perhaps more guards could be added, but not seeing the other players can be just as immersion breaking as having a massacre. However, once a door is opened into an enclosed area like a house, instancing should be the standard. During part one, I had to enter three houses to kill two traitors and gather evidence. Those houses would have been perfect instances, and had such been done I would have had no complaints whatsoever.

And there are other places where instances would work better: when receiving or completing quests for example. Did you all notice how I could not get a good view of Baron Dorell at the beginning of part two? Besides there being three other players standing on that daïs, who I had to imagine were just the noble's entourage, there was Autumn Ryvion, a player whose level was far about the quests I was running, standing in one place, arms crossed, not moving. That was nearly impossible to ignore. Had the scene been instanced, none of that would have been an issue. She wouldn't have even been there at all.

After having said all this, I will admit I am not an expert in MMO design and programming. I do not know all the difficulties instancing nearly everything would cause. But the technique has become so commonplace elsewhere I can't help but feel it's not a huge technological issue any longer. It may be more difficult from a programming perspective, but it's obviously not impossible. Besides, that's what we pay the programmers to do. TESO is an expensive game to play. We should be getting a better product than we sometimes get now; especially when there is no reason for us not to have it - except that someone had to hit a ship date. That's the worst reason in the world to shortcut a product in my opinion. It's not like were's going to lose interest in The Elder Scrolls or die while waiting. We'll still play, Zenimax. Just give us a product worth waiting for.

1 comment:

  1. […] continue my adventures in Tamriel. Let me bring you up to date. In my last TESO video 10 days ago, Retaking Shornhelm – Part 2, I managed, with the assistance of Count Ravenwatch, to drive Baron Montclair’s forces out of […]

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