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...

Friday, April 25, 2014

State of play

So, just to be perfectly frank: Elder Scrolls Online is rapidly shaping up to be the buggiest game I've ever played.

There are broken items, broken abilities, broken quests, and broken achievements. My current favorite personal bug are the occasions where the game gives you a sidekick, balances the quests to include the sidekick's input... and then the sidekick stands there doing nothing while you get your ass hammered by a quest half again too strong for you. There are three impossible achievements I've noticed so far. There are locations you can get yourself into that it is impossible to get yourself out of. I've mentioned the dupe bug already, of course.

And that's just the stuff that's broken. Balance across the game is also marginal or bad. My favorite bit here is Enchanting, where the entire structure is based on limited availability of Aspect runes, one of the three types of runes needed to do any Enchanting at all. As a result, Enchanting skill increases painfully slowly and the overrun of the two other types of runes combined with the drought of Aspect runes quickly floods your inventory... and of course most runes are worthless and so can't be sold. But that's not the only place balance is questionable: the game itself varies between ridiculously easy and ludicrously difficult at the drop of a hat.

And that's before you add a single player to the game. There are dozens of issues once you start adding players, from the lack of foresight into designing areas like banks to the issues of spawn rates for quest objectives and exploration items to the fact that high-level dungeons are incredibly bot heavy. Remember how I said that fishing was a grinding technique worth 600-750 gold per hour? Botting in dungeons generates about five high level potions per minute average... for 1500-1800 gold per hour.

And that's before you get into game design flaws, where the definition of "design flaw" varies by player, of course. For me, the lack of an open player market in favor of guild markets strikes me as a very poor design choice.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm still having a great time with this game and it shows an incredible amount of potential. I'm enjoying myself. But it's clear that the game wasn't ready for prime time. It's playable, certainly... but sometimes frustrating. This is where my post a few weeks ago about giving the developers a chance to address the issues in their game over a period of time becomes paramount: will the ESO devs get the time they need? We'll see.

In the meantime, Matt Firor, who is the Director of The Elder Scrolls Online, released a "State of the Game" post on the ESO forums that is surprisingly frank and uncompromising in his view of the game. It's a refreshing read and if you're interested in ESO at all, it's worth your time. Hardcore Casual has also written a nice state of the game analysis from the perspective of someone who's played a lot more MMOs than I have.

As I imagine you can guess, I'm really pleased at this example of open communications and I hope that it continues. Being up-front like this goes a long way with me.

My overall impression of the game itself still remains mostly positive, and I continue to believe that the game is at its best when you get off the beaten track and treat it as an exploration game. I have a new favorite moment that I'd like to share. In the far wilderness I came upon a little stone platform on the bank of a river. As I approached it, a fire mage and an ice mage teleported in... and then started a duel. Both were tagged as hostile so I could have interfered had I chosen to. Instead, I decided to watch. After a few minutes, the fire mage won the duel and teleported out... and I was given a pile of XP that would have far exceeded the small amount of XP I would have received for wading in. Cute!

It's these kinds of small personal touches that really remind me I'm playing an Elder Scrolls game and keep me logging in. So yeah, I'm willing to give Matt and his team time to improve the state of the game.

12 comments:

  1. I can't read the state of the game without logging into the forum, which I can't do since I don't see ESO as worth my time or money in its current state. Not when there are so many competitors who don't charge a subscription.

    But I did find a copy of it here: http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/04/23/elder-scrolls-onlines-firor-posts-on-the-state-of-the-game/#comments

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  2. I am interested on playing/paying TESO, but I will wait until the BPM (Bugs Per Minute) are down to "Average TES Launch".

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  3. So the tldr is an Elder Scroll game has a lot of bugs. Thanks Captain Obvious.

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  4. I started late with Morrowind but that taught me, It's gloriously broken. I would expect the MMO to be nothing less.

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  5. And I remember all the ppl at the end of beta telling me.i was an idiot when I said the game wasn't even close to ready for launch. Tbh tho thats what I expect in an elder scrolls.game cuz I've never played one that wasn't buggy. But once you try to go mmo that dont fly. I had reservations about the creation engine being ready for this all along. Its nothing a fee.months of open beta wouldn't fix but they were far too greedy to do that. As u can see in the comments above however the fanbois will defend it to the death

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  6. When did you start playing or reading about EVE. Comparatively speaking I think TESO is doing pretty good.

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    1. Yep, that was part of the post I wrote a few weeks ago wondering whether ESO would be given the time to develop that EVE was.

      http://jestertrek.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-second-genesis.html

      That's why I'm still playing.

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  7. I haven't run across many bugs yet (1 to be exact), and I think some of the things that seem to be design issues really aren't - they're a way to get away from the soloization of the game that takes place when the player has too many tools. Most notable from your post is the common trading hall. These have always been terrrible, allowing instant access to far too many goods. Its bad for tradeskills in most games; in a game like this where tradeskills make the best gear it would have been a disaster.

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    1. I know nothing about ESO, but won't that have the same effect as WoW guild perks? That is, people simply make a non-social trader guild?

      (If it's possible, then you have all the balancing problems an open market could bring, just that you also annoyed your users at first.)

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  8. Regarding the question of MMOs being given time to develop/improve/mature:

    In the past few years, there has been a trend of MMOs launching as subscription games, and then when they fail to draw in expected numbers, being "downgraded" to free-to-play.

    Maybe what games need to do is to reverse this process. When a game launches, use a free-to-paly model. In my experience, players tend to be a lot more forgiving of the flaws in a game when they feel that they are not being required to pay for playing a beta test. Starting with a free model might give the game the leniency it needs to survive long enough to work past the initial bugs and flaws. Microtransactions could provide at least a partial revenue stream to support continuing development through this time.

    Once certain conditions have been met (bug count, etc.), and the game is performing to a higher standard, the game could then upgrade to a purchase/subscription model. This changeover would have to be handled carefully, with sufficient advance warning and announcement of the transition. Special perks or discounts could be offered to those who supported the game up to this point, either through microtransactions, time accounts have been active (since there's no subscription, this would have to be defined some other way, possibly by months where the account was logged in for at least X hours), bugs reported, etc. However it is handled, the idea would be that the game has been polished enough to be deserving of a more solid pay structure. The game would have reached a quality where players now feel it worthwhile to purchase and regularly pay for, whereas in it's infancy it may have been shunned as not worth the cost.

    Anyway, it's just a random idea that struck me; not sure if there's any merit to it.

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  9. I don't mind the abrupt swerves from effortless to impossible. That's not any different from the (very heavily modded) Skyrim that my wife's playing. For me, that's just a sandbox game.

    But oh, the bots and the bugs and the gold farmers. My personal favorite bug is the one that has my toon run right through stone stairs and then get trapped under a building model. Has anyone else noticed that the houses in Daggerfall on the EU server are completely looted 100% of the time? I've never found a single thing in any of them. On the US server, no problem.

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  10. "So, just to be perfectly frank: Elder Scrolls Online is rapidly shaping up to be the buggiest game I've ever played."

    So what you're saying is that TESO is the perfect successor to the TES game series?

    I love TES games, but there is a big reason I haven't had any interest in TESO: every TES game has required extensive community modding/fixing to become playable, and that's kind of hard to do with an MMO.

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