Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New MMO blues

So, The Elder Scrolls Online had a major patch overnight to bring the game up to version 1.03. For thousands of players (including me), the patch updater is badly broken and wrecks the game installation. There's a posted fix for it; it's called an "Error 209" problem. But the fix isn't working for lots of players (including me). So for the players for whom the simpler fix isn't working, the devs are dropping back to "reinstall the game!" as their fallback position. Why yes, I am being serious.

Fortunately, I have CDs to spare myself a 30GB download. Mostly.

So, in honor of ESO's first great screw-up, I thought I'd make fun of the developer of one of the game's quests for a few minutes. ;-)

The quest we're going to talk about is called The Dungeon Delvers. And it's hysterically badly designed. As a matter of fact, it's so poorly designed that it should be forever preserved as a case study into bad MMO level design. Here's how it works:
  1. For those that know Elder Scrolls lore, the dungeon is a Dwemer ruin populated entirely by Dwemer "spiders".
  2. The level itself is split into three large circular rooms connected in series by corridors. Call them Room 1, Room 2, and Room 3. The entry door spits you out into a corridor leading to Room 1.
  3. Before you reach Room 1, you are stopped by an NPC that hands you a Macguffin and explains that the Macguffin will allow you to take control of a damaged spider, but "it might take a few tries." The NPC advises you to take the Macguffin into Room 1 and try it out.
  4. Inside Room 1 are spawn points for about eight spiders, each with a spawn rate of about once per minute. As a result, the room spawns about eight spiders per minute.
  5. It takes about four tries for the Macguffin to successfully take control of a damaged spider. So you whack one a few times and try the Macguffin until it works. If it doesn't work, it kills the spider. If it does work, you get a little spider pet. The game directs you to Room 2.
  6. In Room 2, you again find the NPC, who now advises you that some of the machinery in Room 2 needs repairing and for that you need repair parts. The spiders were originally Dwemer repair bots, so she advises you to go back to Room 1, kill a few more spiders, then use the Macguffin which will now tell your spider to salvage the dead spider for parts. Come back when you've done this to five spiders.
  7. So you return to Room 1 with the same eight spiders, whack them a few times, then apply the Macguffin. If you do it right, a counter goes up telling you that you've succeeded. You keep doing this until the counter reaches five.
  8. Then you go back to Room 2 with your pet spider in tow. The rest of the quest is irrelevant to my discussion.
By now, the experienced among you realize what the problem is and are laughing about it. For the rest, I will explain.

There are eight spider spawn points, which will spawn about eight spiders per minute total. To complete the quest, you need to damage something between nine and 14 spiders depending on your reflexes and your diligence to the quest instructions. So, if you were in the level by yourself, you would spend three to four minutes in Room 1 to complete the two steps necessary, plus a minute or so for reading instructions and travel time.

But you're not by yourself, are you?

So yeah, Room 1 is complete and utter chaos. Remember: for the first step, you have to damage the spider, then apply the Macguffin. If you kill the spider, you have to try again! Meanwhile for the second step, those players just want to kill the spiders. Therefore, at any given moment, there can be upwards of a dozen or more people in Room 1, all falling on any spider that is crazy enough to spawn and often obliterating it in a fraction of a second. If anyone manages to apply the Macguffin, it's a miracle. It would be funny as hell if it weren't so stupid:
  • You've got people just coming into the room for the first time who haven't read the instructions properly and are smashing any spider they see and wondering why the quest doesn't work;
  • then you've got people who did read the instructions who are trying to be fairly gentle with a spider so they can Macguffin it, wondering why there's a dozen people in here smashing any spider stupid enough to show its face, not even close to understanding why, and getting frustrated;
  • then you've got people who did somehow manage to get step one completed who are only motivated to smash spiders as fast as they appear and getting frustrated because before they can get their hit in, someone else has already obliterated it and claimed credit for the kill; and,
  • you've got a few people who have figured all this out and are just smashing spiders as fast as they can just to grief groups two and three.
  • Finally, a lore book points you at this very same dungeon(!) as a source of a treasure chest, so you've got not a few randoms wandering through and killing spiders just 'cause they're in the way.
It's unbelievable, hysterical chaos. It's almost EVE-like in its grandeur.

There's no equivalent of "local" in ESO: just one chat channel for the entire zone. But it's actually pretty easy to imagine the rage this room promotes all over the world. And if a group enters Room 1 together? Forget about it. How did I myself get through it? As I keep mentioning, I live in California. So I waited until late one night and came in and cleared the thing while everyone else was asleep.

So yeah, in the theme park that is this part of Elder Scrolls Online, I expect this little ride is going to have an "out of order" sign slapped on its front door before too long while the level designer gets a talking to from his team lead and gets the job of rearranging this mess.

And my reinstall is now 93% complete. That was diverting.


  1. Wow. Were the testers incompetent on non-existent ?

    1. Non-existent, I suspect. The beta testing was very focused on levels 1-15 and this quest is a good bit past that.

    2. The Daggerfall Covenant faction has a version of this quest that is available before level 10 ("Buried Secrets"), but you only have to kill/loot the spiders. It seems that the Ebonheart Pact(?) version would have worked just fine with a bit of phasing/instancing. There are probably a lot of shared/reskinned quests between the three factions.

    3. Surely this would have been picked up during the 'beta' weekends. Hahahahahahaha

  2. Sounds like WoW whenever there's an expansion or major content patch. 5000 people all trying to kill and loot the same few mobs before anyone else can.

  3. wow that sounds great. that is the first thing about that game that gives me a feeling of "i need that game, now!"

    just to go to that dungeon and have lots of fun :D

  4. You're thinking short term, and definitely haven't played enough Themeparks. Devs never ever fix these types of "bugs". 6 months to a year from now it'll be working as the developers intended all on it's own as the rush of new players thins. Yes, it's an annoyance. But every Themepark that has ever been has had some version of this room set. And every Themepark that ever will be will also have a version as well.

    1. You mean to say that every themepark MMO makes that same mistake ?
      Nobody learned from a previous MMO that it was a bad idea ?

      What was Guild Wars 2's variant of that roomset and did it have the same issue ?
      Because an attempt at making a direct copy of that room layout into GW2's dynamic event system seems like it would solve the problem by keeping everyone at the same stage.

    2. @Halycon: "working as intended", so you really believe that the game designers wanted a quest where - for no good reason - people in step 2 *have* to grief people in step 1. In a themepark MMO. Yeah, sure.

      That's not the same as bad scaling when a rush of new players comes.

      But yeah, while I don't like your absolutes, I have seen my fair share of quests which completely broke down as soon as too many people tried to do them.

  5. Please tell me a bit about the Elder Scrolls. When I started playing EVE some years back, a corpie told me he really liked the series. I have never played it. Is it possible to jump in to the latest ESO without having played the earlier versions? You talk a lot about some of the game elements that are named in familiar terms to you and others who know the earlier incarnations of the series. Is the current ESO approachable for newcomers to the Elder Scrolls series? Is there background and lore of the game universe included or would I need to explore some of the older games to gain an appreciation of all that?

    1. I jumped into the latest ESO with my only Elder Scrolls experience being playing Morrowind for a short while on my last Wintel gaming PC. The lore is available in game as you search around, and there are sites out there (such as the "Imperial Library") which provide all the books from previous games, there are wikis which tell you all about the major players in the history of the series, and so forth.

      The term "MacGuffin" is a term used to refer to literal plot devices.

    2. I played Morrowind back, of... 2003-ish, I guess it was. I didn't pick up Skyrim until after I'd played my 1st ESO beta weekend last November. The SRPG's are very rich, but also focused more or less in a single area. to give you an idea, the Cyrodil pvp zone in ESO is apparently a direct 1:1 mapping of the entire game of TES4: Oblivion. I've never been a lore hound myself, so... I don't feel like I'm missing anything while playing ESO and not knowing all the history of the world. I'm simply having a great time with it and kinda making characters "against type" for their supposed classes and finding them to be amazingly fun and useful still.

  6. Oh my.... and for once I'm glade I"m not doing the same area quest line. Although Their where a few progress stoping bugs, I finaly got around one today that had me haveing to move on at waay to small of a level to the next zone. When your level 28 and your going up against level 36+ monsters *crys*

  7. Same bit of ill-logic plagues the Camlorn werewolf quests in Glenumbra. At least there you have a whole city to hunt in. BTW, thanks for the info on the patch. You probably saved my from killing someone in abstention. I'll be updating the laptop tonight thank you very much.

  8. Yeah I did that quest on Sunday. I recall at 1st being pissed that everyone was killing the spiders when the quest said not to but to use the MacGufin on them. Until after going into room 2 only to be sent back to room 1 to kill them.

    Of course by then I was actually laughing at how terribad the design was, and it was really easy to get the kills since a couple of spawn points do 2 at a time and I'm an AE focused pyromancer, so. . . . .yeah.

    Patch didn't update for me, but the fix of deleting the "launcherversion.version" file fixed it for me, at least.


  9. Buggy launcher checking in. No big deal, because the quest I was on--freeing Camlorn from the werewolves--is bugged anyway and I'm unable to advance.

    I'm currently watching their repair tool go nowhere fast. Nothing says nonstop entertainment like a broken tool failing to fix a broken launcher so that I can't play a broken game.

  10. Having not played any other mainstream themepark(ish) MMO I would say the biggest thing that irks me with the game other than the ridiculous cost to upgrade inventory space is the caves and mines. Every time I get a little one off quest to explore a cave or dungeon there is always a group of players or bots spawn camping the boss. Really throws you out of the atmosphere of the game.

  11. 9 Hours later and I'm hoping it its almost finished. I came home at lunch time and didn't have time to babysit reinstalling from the DVDs, not entirely sure that would have worked as they seem to have some drm tied to your first install.I followed the instructions and uninstalled via the launcher.

    The game box says 30GB space free and I had 40, but Repair demanded 50 ! (maybe why the patch broke?) and after uninstalling it wanted 60 !! Luckily I had accumulated EVE patches + GW2 to remove.

    and complete

    1. and after all that, a few minutes of play and again I have the 209 error

  12. but this time, renaming the launcher.version seems to have worked

  13. I got around the 209 error successfully by going into the files and opening the launcher application instead of the eso exe file


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