With so many fixes, changes, and new bugs, it’s hard to keep up with everything that’s going on in The Elder Scrolls Online in a biweekly column. So instead of trying to discuss every minute detail of ESO‘s progress towards perfection, I’d like to look at the bigger picture. Why are these things happening and to what end? And the core question is this: “Was this planned all along?”
Paid betas appear to be an unfortunate trend cropping up in MMOs as of late. And I know I’m going to sound like a hater, but I don’t like to pay for beta. Yet being the idiot that I am, I still bought the $60 alpha for SOE’s Landmark. I’m a sucker; I’ll admit it. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the shame that pours over me like gooey green slime — a bucket for every dollar spent. Perhaps it’s because I am not max level yet, but I’m starting to feel like a sucker when it comes to pre-ordering ESO. Don’t get me wrong: I believe it’s a great game. I just feel that it’s not done, and I’m paying to participate in the console beta test.
I understand that MMOs launch with bugs. It comes with the territory. MMOs are expansive, and it’s nearly impossible catch any interconnected issues that crop up. But given the number of progress-stopping bugs I’ve run into, I would have attempted to get my money back if this game had been released on console.
I’ll give you examples of the consistent issues and bugs that I’ve run into while the game is live (not beta bugs). These aren’t all the ones being reported, just the ones I’ve run into.
- Guild and group communication not working.
- Groups unable to see each other while supposedly on the same leg of the quest.
- Quest mobs not activating as intended when approached.
- Items in mail completely disappearing.
- Quest givers not triggering.
- Random dismounts from my horse.
- Complete crashes when logging into a zone.
- UI elements disappearing (with or without addons).
- And my favorite: not being able to leave a dungeon.
In retrospect, that last one was hilarious. I had just finished a public dungeon. I killed the boss and finished the quest that led me into the dungeon in the first place. I knew the quest giver sat right outside the door and the nearest wayshrine would have added an extra five minutes to my travel time, so initially porting out was not an option. I hit “E” to trigger the door to open, and it did. I stepped through and waited out the load screen.
When the gameworld reappeared, I thought it looked strange: The outside looked similar to the inside. It didn’t dawn on me that I had actually not moved until I took a few steps back into the dungeon. I thought that odd, but like the insane person I am, I attempted to hit the door again, expecting different results.
My natural reaction after appearing in the dungeon once again was to try reloading the UI. Many of the beta issues were fixed this way, yet somehow this magic cure didn’t fix my dungeon issue.
After seeing many other people port in and out of this dungeon, I knew it was affecting only me. So I resolved to jump to the wayshrine and ride back to the quest giver. When I reappeared in the dungeon yet again, I made a bit of noise in my guild Mumble channel. Sorry, guys; I was not yelling at you, I promise.
I decided to relog to see if that fixed the issue. I attempted two things when logging out. I logged out then immediately back in. (Remember, there are load screens between each of these steps, including reloading the UI.) Then I logged into another character and back into the character stuck in the dungeon.
Completely frustrated, I wrote a bug ticket explaining everything that I had done up to that point. I shutdown the game, having had enough. But on a whim, I started it back up again, immediately. I hit the door again, and walked outside the dungeon as I was supposed to.
I want to defend The Elder Scrolls Online because I like the game so much. Few games beg me to log in again and again, despite the obvious flaws in the execution. I know some people don’t find exploration and questing fun, but I do. I might not get to endgame for quite a while, but I will enjoy every minute getting there. But unfortunately, I cannot get rid of the this nagging feeling that I’m still in a beta version of the game.
According to VGChartz, The Elder Scrolls Online had sold 300,000 copies of the game as of last week. Granted, this might not include some digital sales, but it’s a good judge for comparison. The previous Elder Scrolls game, Skyrim, sold 660,000 PC units (not including Xbox and PS) its first week on the charts. Comparatively, Star Wars: The Old Republic sold 1.4 million its first week, and Guild Wars 2 sold 850,000 its first week. However, during the first week of sales, Skyrim sold 1.8 million and 960,000 for XBox 360 and PS3 respectively.
Skyrim released on all its platforms at once, but ESO has a staggered release. Consoles will not see the game until June. This gives ZeniMax time to fix all the bugs in the base game. Bugs are easier to work around on PCs than on consoles. Reporting them is certainly easier. PC gamers, specifically MMO players, are used to seeing buggy launches. And to top it off, by the time the console game releases,ESO will have its first major content update, giving the console users a more complete endgame at launch.
As I said, I like the game, a lot. I will continue to play, but maybe I’m a sucker. Maybe I’m paying to play a beta.