The Elder Scrolls Online: Veteran Dungeons

The best thing I can say about Elder Scrolls Online is that I’m still playing it. Normally the time commitments demanded by proper MMORPG reviews leave me so drained that I’d rather watch a marathon of Pauly Shore films than spend more tine in-game. But I’ve continued to jump back into ESO on a daily basis to flesh out my character and prepare for the upcoming Veteran Dungeons.

eso guides

Not all of ESO’s endgame content is a grind, though. I love the Veteran Dungeons, and I spend an inordinate amount of time in them. They’re tough in a way the normal dungeons never even hinted, and they require deep coordination that’s already created several great friendships. They’re the best part of ESO endgame so far, and a strong reason for group-oriented subscribers to keep coming back to the game. I still have a character that largely plays how I wish him to, but the Veteran dungeons expose the faults in the more flighty builds and lead to more skillful, efficient play. Leveling 50 was the fluffy part, letting players build their character how they wanted. Now it’s time to get serious, the design seems to say.

I like this, and I suppose that with some tweaks to the Nightblade class, I’ll like it more. ( I’m still waiting on ArenaNet to make Rangers more effective in Guild Wars 2’s dungeons almost two years later, so I’m not especially hopeful.) The upcoming Craglorn content seems like it’s exactly the kind of small grouped-oriented combat I love in an MMORPG, and I’m hoping it’ll scratch an itch for a different style of endgame content.

Improvements and Additions We’d Like to See in The Elder Scrolls Online

The Elder Scrolls Online didn’t quite live up to our hopes, displaying occasional flashes of brilliance with its sweeping vistas and intricate quests, only to disappoint with its inability to marry narrative ambition with a massively multiplayer framework. But as with any MMOG, the game you experience on release date won’t be the same game you play a few months down the line. So with that in mind, GameSpot editors Kevin VanOrd and Shaun McInnis spent some time conjuring up a wish list of features they’d like to see added or improved in the coming months.

eso guides

Kevin: Large-Scale Dynamic Events
Is there anything sadder than The Elder Scrolls Online’s dark anchors? Just a half-dozen players can turn these ever-so-slightly-dynamic events into a race to see who can get in even a single shot before each daedric attacker falls in battle. These meager occurrences are laughable shadows of Rift’s rifts and Defiance’s arkfalls, and offer no incentives to group with others, or even to participate at all.

Were Zenimax Online Studios to increase the scope of these events, dark anchors could give rise to exciting and unpredictable battles. If anchors were left alone long enough, tougher and more impressive enemies could spawn in, perhaps going so far as to roam the surrounding region in packs and attack nearby encampments or even entire cities. Not only would such dynamic events give players a reason to band together, but they would give ESO the touch of capriciousness it so desperately needs, and hopefully offer unique loot that encouraged adventurers to participate.

Shaun: A Reason to Get Off the Beaten Path
One thing I really like about Elder Scrolls Online is the world itself. It’s a sprawling, diverse, often gorgeous collection of outdoor terrain and bustling villages. But the more time I spend traipsing along the trails that link the cities of Tamriel, the more I long for an incentive to go exploring.

Sure, you can find new quests and the occasional treasure chest by getting off the beaten path, but the world feels static, and lacks those serendipitous discoveries of previous Elder Scrolls games. It’s little things like the use of environmental storytelling. Think of when you would wander into a small shack in Skyrim, a building having nothing at all to do with a quest, only to find a dead body and the remains of a business deal gone sour. Maybe there was a note, maybe there wasn’t. But it was a fun–if slightly grim–opportunity to imagine your own story.

It’s stuff like that I miss, those random little discoveries–the loot sitting at the bottom of a lake, the troll with a suicide note under a bridge–that drive home the fact that this is a lived-in world. As is, Elder Scrolls Online really only comes to life when you’re on a quest. It’s all that time in between I’d like to see become more interesting.

Kevin: Group-Friendly Questing
The Elder Scrolls Online’s biggest issue–and it’s a doozy–is how its single-player storytelling and multiplayer structure are constantly at odds. Should you and a groupmate be at different stages within a set of missions, or if your groupmate has already concluded that particularly story, you may not be able to adventure together. Giving players the opportunity to join teammates even when they are in a different story layer would help rectify that issue, and would be no more damaging to the game’s sense of immersion than its current reluctance to let players remain together.

Even better, why not allow groupmates to tackle decisions together? The oft-maligned Star Wars: The Old Republic actually did a creditable job of letting players make choices as a unit. A similar system in ESO wouldn’t just keep grouping from being such a hassle–it would encourage people to come together.

Shaun: Greater Incentives to Craft
I write this as my level 11 Dragonknight sits on the verge of level 12, and in all the hours I’ve spent getting there I’ve never once felt an urge to try out the crafting system. The quests are so generous in doling out useful equipment that I feel no need to spend time pursuing a career in amateur blacksmithing, and the skill tree is so flexible that I show up in battle without the slightest urge to buff myself with potions or food. Crafting in ESO might be a wonderful, robust system for all I know. But with over 50 quests under my belt, I just haven’t felt any need to see what it’s about.

Granted, my relative ignorance of crafting is something I can very easily remedy by, you know, crafting. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel like this portion of the game feels somehow disconnected from the rest of it, tucked away into a dusty corner with only the occasional vague gesture letting you know it’s there. Sure, that beats the hell out of having a terrible crafting system shoved down your throat, but I just wonder what the development team can do to give players a little more encouragement to try it out. An auction house would be a great way for master blacksmiths and alchemists to sell their wares, while guilds would be able to better make a name for themselves if all their members could create armor and shields stamped with custom guild insignias. Hopefully that would bring crafting in from the periphery of the game and make the whole thing feel more cohesive.

Kevin: Meaningful Day/Night Cycle
Is it night? Is it morning? On cloudy days, you might not even be able to tell. In offline Elder Scrolls games, we’re used to seeing citizens go through their daily lives, setting up shop during the day and packing up and heading home when the work day is done. Of course, The Elder Scrolls Online does not allow you to speed up time by resting in a bed, so having vendor access around the clock is important. But what if nighttime vendors sold different items during the day? What if there were different monsters, or those monsters behaved differently depending on the time of day? What if you could only accomplish some quests during the night? What if night were actually… dark?

Few MMOGs go out of their way to make nighttime all that different from daytime, but the Elder Scrolls series has always given significance to time’s passage. Not only would the variable NPC behavior make the game feel more alive, but time-based elements could give Tamriel an air of the unexpected.

Of course, our wishlist extends beyond these five possibilities, and yours may be even longer. What would you like to see in The Elder Scrolls Online? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Elder Scrolls getting justice system, dyes, Thieves Guild, and more

ESO is purty

Elder Scrolls Online boss Matt Firor has posted a lengthy look at the game’s past, present, and future. He says that the development team continues to squash bugs, deal with botters, and read all of its press, both positive and negative.

He also hints at future updates, including a justice system, armor dyes, Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood storyline and quests, spellcrafting, additional guild functionality, new dungeon content, and more. Not much is known about the justice system as of yet, but it involves the ability to steal from NPCs and features consequences for being caught.

Finally, Firor says that everyone who had an active account prior to 8:00 p.m. EDT on May 1st will receive five free days of game time as a thank you for persisting through some of the launch issues.

Elder Scrolls Online AMA discusses bug fixes, housing, spellcrafting, and more

ESO

The Elder Scrolls Online’s Paul Sage, Matt Firor, Rich Lambert, Brian Wheeler, and Nick Konkle descended upon Reddit today along with a bevy of community managers to run another ask-me-anything, perfectly timed after the release of this morning’s release of ZeniMax’s plans for the game in 2014. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Spellcrafting will involve the rediscovering of “traditional” Elder Scrolls schools of magic, like alteration and destruction.
  • Wheeler hinted that aesthetic changes might be en route for the Imperial City.
  • There are no current plans for smaller scale PvP zones or dueling.
  • Grouping, werewolf, quest achievement, and PvP vampire issues are being worked on. SLI support arrives with Craglorn.
  • Lambert confirmed the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood will have their own skill lines.
  • There’s no time-frame for player housing right now. “We want to do it right,” Community Manager Jessica Folsom said. Guar mounts are also planned sans timeline.
  • Aside from weekly stability patches and “after the dust settles,” the team still plans content updates every four to six weeks.

The complete AMA is on Reddit for your review.

5 Improvements and Additions We’d Like to See

The Elder Scrolls Online didn’t quite live up to our hopes, displaying occasional flashes of brilliance with its sweeping vistas and intricate quests, only to disappoint with its inability to marry narrative ambition with a massively multiplayer framework. But as with any MMOG, the game you experience on release date won’t be the same game you play a few months down the line. So with that in mind, GameSpot editors Kevin VanOrd and Shaun McInnis spent some time conjuring up a wish list of features they’d like to see added or improved in the coming months.

Kevin: Large-Scale Dynamic Events

Is there anything sadder than The Elder Scrolls Online’s dark anchors? Just a half-dozen players can turn these ever-so-slightly-dynamic events into a race to see who can get in even a single shot before each daedric attacker falls in battle. These meager occurrences are laughable shadows of Rift’s rifts and Defiance’s arkfalls, and offer no incentives to group with others, or even to participate at all.

eso
What if dark anchors caused as much drama as this screenshot actually implies?
Were Zenimax Online Studios to increase the scope of these events, dark anchors could give rise to exciting and unpredictable battles. If anchors were left alone long enough, tougher and more impressive enemies could spawn in, perhaps going so far as to roam the surrounding region in packs and attack nearby encampments or even entire cities. Not only would such dynamic events give players a reason to band together, but they would give ESO the touch of capriciousness it so desperately needs, and hopefully offer unique loot that encouraged adventurers to participate.

 

Shaun: A Reason to Get Off the Beaten Path

One thing I really like about Elder Scrolls Online is the world itself. It’s a sprawling, diverse, often gorgeous collection of outdoor terrain and bustling villages. But the more time I spend traipsing along the trails that link the cities of Tamriel, the more I long for an incentive to go exploring.

eso
Surely there must be better reasons to take a tour of Tamriel.
Sure, you can find new quests and the occasional treasure chest by getting off the beaten path, but the world feels static, and lacks those serendipitous discoveries of previous Elder Scrolls games. It’s little things like the use of environmental storytelling. Think of when you would wander into a small shack in Skyrim, a building having nothing at all to do with a quest, only to find a dead body and the remains of a business deal gone sour. Maybe there was a note, maybe there wasn’t. But it was a fun–if slightly grim–opportunity to imagine your own story.

It’s stuff like that I miss, those random little discoveries–the loot sitting at the bottom of a lake, the troll with a suicide note under a bridge–that drive home the fact that this is a lived-in world. As is, Elder Scrolls Online really only comes to life when you’re on a quest. It’s all that time in between I’d like to see become more interesting.

 

Kevin: Group-Friendly Questing

The Elder Scrolls Online’s biggest issue–and it’s a doozy–is how its single-player storytelling and multiplayer structure are constantly at odds. Should you and a groupmate be at different stages within a set of missions, or if your groupmate has already concluded that particularly story, you may not be able to adventure together. Giving players the opportunity to join teammates even when they are in a different story layer would help rectify that issue, and would be no more damaging to the game’s sense of immersion than its current reluctance to let players remain together.

eso
What a lovely group of adventurers! Too bad The Elder Scrolls Online tries so hard to split them up. And that needs to change.
Even better, why not allow groupmates to tackle decisions together? The oft-maligned Star Wars: The Old Republic actually did a creditable job of letting players make choices as a unit. A similar system in ESO wouldn’t just keep grouping from being such a hassle–it would encourage people to come together.

 

Shaun: Greater Incentives to Craft

I write this as my level 11 Dragonknight sits on the verge of level 12, and in all the hours I’ve spent getting there I’ve never once felt an urge to try out the crafting system. The quests are so generous in doling out useful equipment that I feel no need to spend time pursuing a career in amateur blacksmithing, and the skill tree is so flexible that I show up in battle without the slightest urge to buff myself with potions or food. Crafting in ESO might be a wonderful, robust system for all I know. But with over 50 quests under my belt, I just haven’t felt any need to see what it’s about.

eso
What a lovely sword you crafted. Who will you sell it to once you’ve outgrown it?
Granted, my relative ignorance of crafting is something I can very easily remedy by, you know, crafting. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel like this portion of the game feels somehow disconnected from the rest of it, tucked away into a dusty corner with only the occasional vague gesture letting you know it’s there. Sure, that beats the hell out of having a terrible crafting system shoved down your throat, but I just wonder what the development team can do to give players a little more encouragement to try it out. An auction house would be a great way for master blacksmiths and alchemists to sell their wares, while guilds would be able to better make a name for themselves if all their members could create armor and shields stamped with custom guild insignias. Hopefully that would bring crafting in from the periphery of the game and make the whole thing feel more cohesive.

 

Kevin: Meaningful Day/Night Cycle

Is it night? Is it morning? On cloudy days, you might not even be able to tell. In offline Elder Scrolls games, we’re used to seeing citizens go through their daily lives, setting up shop during the day and packing up and heading home when the work day is done. Of course, The Elder Scrolls Online does not allow you to speed up time by resting in a bed, so having vendor access around the clock is important. But what if nighttime vendors sold different items during the day? What if there were different monsters, or those monsters behaved differently depending on the time of day? What if you could only accomplish some quests during the night? What if night were actually… dark?

eso
Is it day? It it night? Is it going to rain? Why are there butterflies and torchbugs next to each other?
Few MMOGs go out of their way to make nighttime all that different from daytime, but the Elder Scrolls series has always given significance to time’s passage. Not only would the variable NPC behavior make the game feel more alive, but time-based elements could give Tamriel an air of the unexpected.

Reflection perfection in The Elder Scrolls Online

LOTRO

“Take a picture of a picture in an MMO,” I said to you guys a couple of weeks ago, and darn it if you awesome folks didn’t come through! We have two entries from that screenshot challenge this week, starting with reader Chiara taking a look at her good looks in Lord of the Rings Online.

“One of the things that impressed me the most when Riders of Rohan launched was the furniture,” Chiara wrote. “I spent the whole day breaking into NPCs’ houses uninvited (they weren’t amused). The first time I saw a mirror, I squealed.”

I’m squealing right now myself, but that’s mostly because a mouse just ran across the ceiling tiles. I need to throw a cat up between the floors one of these days to solve that problem. Anyway, let’s take a gander at the other great entires from players’ screenshot folders!

Blade and Soul continues to demonstrate how there is no shortage of incredible-looking MMOs being made in Korea. This shot comes from reader Dibbs, who appreciates the option not to look completely perfect.

“Here is my Jin Assassin taking a moment to take in the wonderful view before killing everything, again,” Dibbs said. “She is probably the only female character that has a scar on the left side of her face. Who says women can’t look amazing with scars?”

Will we ever see this game over here? No? Well, OK then.

Here’s another picture-of-a-picture, this one from reader Vestus: “Hi! This weekend I returned toNeverwinter after around seven months away in an effort to combat the World of Warcraft pre-expansion doldrums. I made a hunter ranger, fun class. In answer to this week’s request for screenshots, I submit this one from the Orc Barracks in the Temple District zone. Everything in the Barracks is trashed or on fire, yet this single painting appears to be untouched. Why?”

Because it’s magic, that’s why. A wizard did it. Any other questions?

Our characters should really thank us for taking them on a non-stop tour of the most impressive sights of the world. You know they’d be total couch potatoes that never left the house if we didn’t make them. Too bad someone doesn’t do that for us?

Reader John shared this vista: “Here is Kulono, who is still only level 8 in Elder Scrolls Online. He’s leveling very slowly because he keeps stopping to read books and admire sunsets on a regular schedule. The joys of living in Tamriel.”

Our screenshot challenge of the week is to dance, dance, dance… and take a picture of your character getting funky with his or her old bad self!

The Elder Scrolls Online crafting system

The Elder Scrolls Online is easily the most anticipated new MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) in recent memory, and its developer ZeniMax Media is trying to create something a bit different than the cookie-cutter Everquest clones and World of Warcraft impersonators that have come before. One of the ways they’re attempting this is in the game’s crafting system and economy.

eso crafting system

Like in other online RPGs, players can both find materials they need for crafting scattered about the world and purchase them from vendors. The system is much more complex, however, with ten different styles (one for each of the game’s races) and a wide variety of “traits” that can be given to an item. Traits are learned by deconstructing items the player finds or buys through the “research” system, and can immensely increase a given item’s value and usefulness. Keep in mind, though, that to research a trait requires hours of real time, though you can wander off and do other things while the progress bar crawls toward completion. The system is also much more flexible than in other games, allowing for items to be created along a sliding scale of levels.

Elder Scrolls Online’s crafting system also tosses out many of the restrictions put on crafting in other games, and adds in some new opportunities- and opportunity costs. A character can use skill points to grant highly useful perks in a crafting skill, though this must be balanced with other skills.

It’s possible to trade the fruits of your labor, of course, and instead of a global Auction House as seen in so many other titles, trading is done through Guild Stores, so gaining membership in a guild with a lot of skilled crafters will no doubt become high priority for a lot of players. Crafted items in this game have the potential to surpass even the items gained by defeating powerful and difficult monsters in the game’s dungeons and other end-game content, so being able to craft at the very highest levels offers serious opportunity both for turning a profit and for helping out your friends and guildmates.

Those looking for tips on best utilizing the crafting system to their advantage should remember to keep on researching traits, spend some time off the beaten path to gather materials, and consider investing skill points for perks like hirelings that make materials available daily or boost your crafting output.

Testing addons in The Elder Scrolls Online

Gratuitous cleavage shot

My adventure in The Elder Scrolls Online continues this week with my Nightblade Fa’saad making his way through Stonefalls for the Ebonheart Pact. As the format of Choose My Adventure has changed slightly, the polls from the first two articles mold my journey through the rest of the month. At the end of it all, I’ll give my summary impressions and tips I learned along the way.

This week it’s all about addons as I tried out a dozen or so to report back on my favorites. Addons can aid your gameplay in so many different ways, from stat counters to UI mods to quality of (virtual) life improvements, but they’re not for everyone. I’m not usually an addon fan because I think they verge on cheating in a way, so I’ve approached these addons from the perspective of a skeptic. Did they really help my game? Will I continue to use them?

First off, I’d like to talk a bit about my progression. The game was down several times during my regular play time, so I didn’t get to do as much as I’d have liked, but I did find out what the holy grail at level 10 was. It’s that really amazing storyline interlude that happens when you ding 10, right? Wait, no, it’s the availability of PvP! Hmmm, I’m not sure exactly, but I do plan to venture into PvP at some point next week.

Elder Scrolls Online

One thing I’ve learned is to stop trying to do everything at once with crafting, gathering, weapon skills, etc. This is something I always learn (the hard way) at this point in every MMO but forget because I want to do all the things. I’ve decided to focus on Medium Armor for the bonuses and dual wielding for my weapon. I also decided to expand a bit out from Siphoning to throw in that one Shadow skill (Dark Cloak) and grab both Killer’s Blade and Teleport Strike from the Assassination line. Don’t worry; I’m still focusing on Siphoning with Swallow Soul and Prolonged Suffering, and my Ultimate Ability is currently Soul Shred.

My inventory is thanking me for giving up on trying to collect as much as possible as I’m focusing entirely on Clothing. I’ve gained some points in other crafting lines due to deconstructing, but I’m not doing much else with them.

The Elder Scrolls Online

I definitely find myself exploring and smelling the roses more than in most other MMOs. I think this game was designed for that, especially considering the vast lore. But you are rewarded for stepping off the beaten path and checking out what’s behind that big rock over there. If you find yourself lacking quests while following the regular storyline, head out to the corners of your map. You’ll have more than you need.

The lack of an auction house has been a hot topic from the beginning, but it doesn’t bother me too much — except for the spam. It actually reminds me a lot of the original Guild Wars. There are pros and cons to doing things this way, but the biggest plus is the fact that it’s bringing people together for more personal interaction. Sure, it’s not quick or efficient, but it’s more immersive.

Addons
As promised, I tried out a few addons to see what best suited my playstyle. I skipped all of the ones that put markers on maps because they either work or not, so there isn’t much else to say about those. I mean, I love HarvestMap and SkyShards for what they do, but there’s not much discussion there. This list isn’t necessarily a top list in any order, but it’s more of a report on a few of my favorites that I now use regularly.

Tactical Combat

Foundry Tactical Combat
This one is a necessity because it adds so much to the game that should’ve been there in the first place. You get more feedback on the damage you’re doing and what type of damage you’re doing as well as buff and debuff info. Sure, some might argue that it clutters up the screen with too much info, but what’s shown (and where it’s shown) is all customizable.

insJunkyard

ins:Junkyard
Mark your unwanted items as junk and they’re automatically sold the next time you talk to the merchant. How easy is that? There are other similar addons that do the same thing, but this one is my favorite so far. There’s even info in your chat window that tells you when something is put into your junk bag, and it’s all customizable.

MyXPview

MyXpview
I admit, I’m a bit of a stats freak, and this addon is a dream come true. Based on the original Xpview, MyXpview is a bit more refined with some slight ease-of-use tweaks. It will detail how long you’ve been in game for the current session, how much XP you’ve gained, your current XP gain rate per hour, approximate number of mobs left to kill, and time left at the current rate until you reach your next level. How cool is that?

Bank Stuffer

Bank Stuffer
Oh Bank Stuffer, where were you in my first three weeks with this game? Bank Stuffer will take the stackable items from your inventory and put them in your bank automatically when you talk to the banker. It will work only with items already in your bank, but it certainly makes life a lot easier and more organized. It especially helps when you can’t seem to stop opening crates and barrels and bags for the Provisioning goodies that add up and fill your bags completely, even though you’re not actually a Provisioner. OK, so I still do that.

Overall, I enjoy these addons but found so many that really weren’t for me. If you’re skeptical about add-ons, I invite you to head over to ESOUI and flip through the categories to see what might be best for you. Not all addons are quality, so make sure to heed the community’s advice and check out the most popular ones with ratings.

For next week, I’m going to dip my paws into PvP and give my final impressions of the game as I’ve been playing it. It will be my last week for this current CMA, but I plan to return in a few months to have you choose even more adventures for ole Fa’saad.

If you have any suggestions for other addons or just want to give me some PvP tips, make sure to include them in the comments below. I already have the next CMA game picked out and can’t wait to reveal that as well. Until next week!

The Elder Scrolls Online expounds on Craglorn’s 12-man trials

ESO

ZeniMax has just published a dev diary about the brand-new 12-player trials en route to The Elder Scrolls Online with its upcoming Craglorn patch. Trials, the studio stresses, are more than your average raid experience:

One of the first things you’ll notice about Trials is that they bring a new experience to ESO designed to test even the toughest veterans. You’ll need a group of 12 to take them on, but they’re not just dungeons that require a large group-we’re applying additional pressure. Your team will only have a limited number of resurrections available, and additional rewards will be granted to those who defeat the weekly challenge with one of the top times across the megaserver.

What makes 12 players the sweet spot for these encounters? ZeniMax hopes to downplay the organizational hassle of putting together groups, to telegraph fights without too much distraction, to keep them to about 90 minutes in length, and to appropriately rely on player skill rather than zerging. Another bonus raiders will welcome? No lockout timers!