With all the new kinds of MMOs hitting the market, and with the splintering directions that MMO communities seem to take, I wanted to take a cathartic moment and really explore the reasons why I want to play the Elder Scrolls Online. The MMORPG market is growing astronomically. If we look at the games that are already out there, we see a wide variety of thematic differences between MMO games. The mechanics and the target audiences are vastly different from what they were even a few years ago. When I started playing MMOs, the number of existing MMOs could be counted on one hand, but now the number of MMOs being released in a year dwarfs that number. Why would I chose to play ESO when there are so many other choices out there?
Over the course of this series of articles, I have asked a lot of questions and responded to many of the readers’ comments on our site, but I don’t think I’ve really made it clear why I want to play the game. One of our readers sent an email to Massively Speaking, our weekly podcast, pointing out that both of the games I cover here toe the line between great single-player games and mediocre MMOs.
I have to reveal a truth about myself that took a very long time for me to admit: Intellectual property is very important to me. I had a friend of mine tell me that I am extremely loyal to games even when they suck because I like the setting. It’s true! I stuck with Star Wars Galaxies for the years when it was truly the biggest disappointment in the gaming industry (not just the MMO genre). I didn’t even leave after the NGE because I enjoyed the setting — the world that my character lived in. But it’s not just that; I also become very loyal to certain developers because I like them as artists. For instance, I played through the grave disappointments that were Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2 because I really respect the writers and the writing style of the BioWare team. (However, I think that the writing of ME3 suffered because Drew Karpyshyn was no longer part of the team.)
I respect the writing team from the Elder Scrolls series. Sure, some of the writing in the past has been a bit shoddy, but the depth and the storytelling style has been always been interesting. I am a fan of players discovering the story on their own, the way most other Elders Scrolls games have told the story. Sure, there is usually an overarching theme, but what always made Elder Scrolls games the most interesting were the little hidden nuggets of lore gold. Books are by far my favorite part of the Elder Scrolls games, and you know that I will be collecting all the books and scrolls that I can when ESO goes live. Or at very least, I will be taking screenshots if I can’t put them in my pack.
Secondly, although I am a fan of MMOs, I just don’t have the time or the energy to play MMOs like I used to. SWG became a second job for me. I would come home from an 8-to-10-hour shift from my job to spend another 8 to 10 hours playing that game. Although I play games as part of my income now, the amount of time I can play just because I enjoy a game is greatly reduced. I like to be able to jump in and out at a moment’s notice, which makes those uninterrupted hours I used to play impossible now. Because of the strong single-player and small group focus of ESO, my playstyle will fit right in.
Lastly, I do admit that the combat style is very appealing to me. I know that not a lot of MMO players like the fixed-mouse style of combat. But I began to enjoy it in the third-person style of Mass Effect, and it’s the most enjoyable part of Cryptic’s Neverwinter game.
Let’s switch gears to last week’s video reveal. Much of the debate in the comments from the QuakeCon playthrough stemmed from the stylistic choices of game mechanics or aesthetic pieces. I particularly found Jorev’s comment about the death penalty very telling about what he’s looking for in an MMO: “Extremely disappointing that there is no significant death penalty. Armor decay is all? Really! How lame. That means no risk vs. reward concept and no respect for the environment from players.” I mention this because there is a great disparity between a player who wants a world he can live in and a world he can play in. Although I love living-world types of games, Elder Scrolls Online, I feel, is just not going to be one of those. Its immersion is going to come from storytelling and action-oriented mechanics and not from realism.
KenanJabr probably has a very healthy way of looking at the game. “I might just not have an eye for it,” he said, “but I think the look of it overall is good in every way.” Then he explains what he’s looking for in an MMO: “As long as an MMO requires me to work as part of a team using our minds to overcome an obstacle, has something that reels me into my story and character, and has a unique playstyle as a result of my class (which is very customizable), then it sounds like a good game to me.” Accepting a game for what it is and not for some bloated personal expectation makes for a more enjoyable gaming experience overall in my opinion, too. That’s not to say that you should like every game, but I think that trying to make a game fit your mold can ruin an otherwise incredible game for you.
This week I want to know why you are going to play the Elder Scrolls Online — simple as that. Do a bit of self examination and really find the core of what you find interesting about the game, and let me know your thoughts in the comments.