Why I am excited, and worried for ESO on consoles.

Just about everyone who enjoys RPGs has played the Elder Scrolls games (or at least wished they had the time to). Skyrim, the latest entry, has been the best selling Elder Scrolls title to date with over 20 million sales so far. Bethesda started in 1994 with Arena and then found their niche with Daggerfall in 1996, which featured their first open world, reportedly the size of Great Britain. Then they found great success in 2002 with the release of Morrowind which sold over 4 million copies. This was the first Elder Scrolls game I had a chance to play. I was getting back into gaming and found the game to be too large and confusing for me at the time. My brother however loved it and would show me crazy things he would do with potions and spells. As much as I enjoyed seeing the possibilities, I just couldn’t get into it since I would get lost so easily.   A few years later in 2006 Oblivion came out. By then I had become more familiar with how open world RPG’s played, and Bethesda streamlined their questing system and compass system in the game and I fell in love with it. Before my save got corrupted I had over 400 hrs built into that game. I started another play through before Skyrim came out to finish my achievements and played another 200 hrs on that save. That game had such beauty to it and I would just wander and explore and discover things just laying around that would have its own story. Long dead people with suicide notes on the body at the bottom of a cliff with stories of lost love and heart break. Weapons that when picked up would activate their own quest lines and stories. It goes on and on. The game found success, selling 3.5 million copies by 2011, but they hadn’t yet reached their potential. In 2011 Skyrim was released. Bethesda had shown that they learned how to build an RPG with refined HUD, combat and questing systems. They had a lot of hype surrounding the release and sold 3.4 million copies within 48hrs of launch. They surpassed the lifetime sales of Oblivion in two days! They went on to break more records. At the time they held the most concurrent users on Valve’s Steam platform, and until GTA V released, still held the record for a non-Valve game. Mods continue to help Skyrim be one of the most popular games on Steam. They sold through 20 million copies since launch making it the highest selling Elder Scrolls game to date. Most of those sales, 59%, were on the Xbox 360 according to Bethesda, followed by Playstation with 27%, and PC, 14%. In May of 2012 Bethesda announced they would be publishing Elder Scrolls Online with Zenimax Online Studios. They had been working on the game since 2007. I was really excited at this announcement and began to wonder what it would be like. Skyrim with friends is what popped into my mind the most. We didn’t get to see gameplay until that fall with the first developer diary. I was impressed. Once I got into the beta I could see the potential and loved it but they had to make some concessions since it was an MMO. I had played an archer in every single Elder Scrolls game. I found quickly that with ESO being an archer was not going to be the same experience as the other games. Because of lag compensation and other reasons they made it an auto aim and had a limited distance, no longer able to line up those amazing long shots using the arrow drop mechanic I loved in Skyrim. Spell casting was the same but didn’t have the same effect on me since spell casting has never been a skill shot mechanic as before. The other thing that bugged me in the beta, and later the full game, was how they continually split up players from their group for forced single player story content and guild content. This was something I hoped would be fixed. They have added more group content into the game since launch but there is still a lot of single player content in this game which is puzzling since its an MMO.   What are my biggest concerns?. ESO has the potential to be bigger on console than on PC in a lot of ways, but there are things that I am worried could keep that from happening. The biggest obstacle being competition from the newly-released Neverwinter on Xbox. Given that it is completely free and got hooks into people first, people aren’t going to want to leave their characters they have been working on and start new ones on a different game, it’s the same problem you find on PC and why I think that WOW has stayed on top for so long even with so many other solid options. Granted people don’t have years of characters on Neverwinter so that may help but between time and money investment it will be interesting to see how many people convert. The other side of that coin is that Neverwinter is a bite sized MMO compared to the content that ESO has on offer and could help people become more interested in something larger and complex, especially the PVP being what it is on Neverwinter (extremely limited, with absolutely no balance) compared to the large scale battles and siege warfare of ESO. The other issue I have, as I have stated earlier, is that there is a lot of forced single-player content inside of ESO. I think console players are used to playing coop and used to games that keep you together throughout. For whatever reason the developers couldn’t decide if they wanted a MMO or SP game. It baffles me. I played the Xbox beta with a friend and we could find each other fine while questing but the quests themselves didn’t keep us together and of course the story content would split us up all together. Some would argue that endgame content is the only thing that matters for group content and in a lot of ways that is true but for me personally I like to do everything with my friends. Plus some of the SP content was really hard on my own as a healer/archer. I really liked the way Star Wars the Old Republic did questing and group content. They let everyone have a vote in conversation, which I don’t really expect in ESO since its kind of a Bioware thing, and then when you phase you have a group phase option for everyone else to join in. It was a clean way of keeping people together even in class quests and people that had already cleared quests can still help others do them. Now with that being said I see sometimes the advantage of how ESO does it. One problem with MMO worlds is they are static and always the same. You do objective A to help person B and then come back later and person B is still screaming for help for the next person to grab the quest. I really like how in ESO when you make changes to the world through questing you see those changes take affect. For example there is a quest to help a little village fight off an attack from fire mages and rescue villagers. Once done and you come back through that village people will thank you as you ride by or they will be rebuilding houses that were burned down in the attack and people will mention what you did when they give you quests in other villages. It helps the world become alive. Now I am excited for the console release of ESO. My excitement out weighs my worries a hundred fold. I really feel that because of the history of Elder Scroll titles on console, specifically the success they have found on the Xbox platform, that people will happily purchase this game. I hope that people will understand what differences the game will have because of it being an MMO and that with their own research will know more about what they are getting into as an MMO Elder Scrolls title. I think that after the success of Neverwinter that we are hungry for MMO’s to work on console platforms and that if they are done right can be really successful. The changes they have made to ESO over the last year have made the game better and after playing the beta the transfer to console is done really well and looks amazing graphically but also the UI changes and the controller interface make it a smooth and comfortable experience from your couch. You could tell everything had thought behind its design. The menu systems were very much like Skyrims. They had the quick buttons for emotes and consumables. The skill system was set up very nice but also customizable. I will miss having the mods that the PC version offer. They provided information that for some reason the original UI does not provide. The scope of ESO is ginormous! Neverwinter’s size could probably fit within the PVP zone by itself. The skills, adventure zones and champion system all offer great endgame content for the devoted. I just see this being such a large offering that most people won’t know what to do with it. I’ll post screens of the Xbox beta below along with PC screenshots so you can see the difference some mods make, graphically I thought they looked very similar if not the same but my screenshots aren’t native so don’t take them as being what the game looks like. I think people will be pleasantly surprised if they know what the game is before they buy it but I can see some being disappointed if they go in expecting Skyrim with friends.   ...

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