Back in Tamriel for ESOTU

Elder Scrolls Online has had a relaunch of sorts with its latest version now available on the PS4 and Xbox One: Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. Graev and I both enlisted quite some time ago in ZOS’ offer to buy the new edition for only $20 rather than a full price console release. While both of us also took advantage of the free character copy to bring over our banks full of crafting mats, we decided to completely reroll characters in the Daggerfall Covenant.

I went with a Templar using a 2-hander and a Bow (designed to just be lots of DPS and AOE DPS), and Graev is playing as a Sorcerer user of sorts who summons and heals. So far we are enjoying ourselves by taking things slow and doing most of the quests. Neither of us love quest grinding, and that is purely what ESO is all about, but the combat is fun and we like to slaughter monsters.

So what’s different in ESOTU? Umm… I guess not much. The use of a controller makes playing way more fun, if that counts? Really though, apparently the game hasn’t received THAT much worth writing home about. Stealing has been added, and if you are caught with contraband you will be fined by guards. The thieves guild and Dark Brotherhood, however, are not yet in the game. The running conjecture at this point is DLC now that ESO is B2P supported by a cash shop. End-game has received some decent work with veteran ranks, though, if that’s your thing.

One interesting addition is voice chat. Area voice is on automatically and is opt-out rather than opt-in. This has proven to be quite embarrassing for some. The quality is decent, and having such a feature makes grouping easy since the console comes with a mic for all to use.

Performance on the consoles is not without its downsides. The graphics are great on PS4, but both Graev and I run into hitching at the exact same spots in-town leading me to believe it is game/server-side. The hitching is most common in cities at this point. Unfortunately, playing on PS4 means having a subscription to Playstation Plus which is like $50 a year or something. Not huge, but worth noting.

Worth buying? Here’s my honest stance right now. ESOTU is ESO, and it’s worth getting if you liked the PC version enough to say, “Hey, I’d like to sit on my couch and play it on my console.”  The game has life I honestly haven’t seen since week 1 of ESO launch. Both Graev and I both liked ESO but couldn’t fall in love with the game. ESOTU is a great chance for us to dungeon crawl, slay baddies, and play in a world we enjoy. Will we be playing long? We’ll make our way to 50 at our own pace and play until we get bored.

Edits after reading some comments: If you treat ESOTU like a MMO then you’re screwed. It’ll be 1-2 monther at most. Treat it like a multiplayer RPG with a semi-decent story and better than average combat. Play with a friend or two. Go at it alone, or quest grind your way to the top, and you’ll be bored in a week. It’s a console game for me. I would not even consider playing it again on PC or treating it like I do an MMO. ESO on PC was the beta for the console version, where it clearly belongs.

Keen and Graev's Review Score:

EverQuest Ragefire Raids & Instancing

Yesterday I wrote about why I like the instancing in EverQuest. I think Daybreak did a nice job of meeting the average player’s needs quite well. After yesterday’s post went up, Daybreak announced some changes to the instancing system as it pertains to raiding and zones which contain popular raid monsters.

Let’s take a look at the patch notes.

View the Patch Notes

At launch, as now, there is only one Lord Nagafen and only one Lady Vox. If you defeated them, you also had to compete with a server full of people who wanted to defeat them, too. That’s a pretty big accomplishment.

So, in the spirit of making raid content more available while still allowing for competition and accomplishment, here’s what we have planned for an update in July:

  • Nagafen’s Lair, Permafrost Keep, the Hole, and Kedge Keep are now load-balancing zones. This will let more people have access to these zones for XP and non-raid items (WTB GEBs, PST).
  • We now have a way to prevent raid targets from spawning in extra load-balanced zones. We have done this with Lord Nagafen, Lady Vox, Master Yael, and Phinigel Autropos so they will only ever spawn in the base version of their zones.
  • All raid targets (dragons, Phinigel, Yael, and gods) now spawn more often than they used to, but have a much larger variance in their spawn times so they’ll be more difficult to predict.
  • We’ve made the raid bosses more difficult, so that they will require coordination of more adventurers to tackle them successfully. Healing and support should once again be very important in these encounters.
  • Speaking of Hate and Fear, while we didn’t implement load balancing, we did reduce the respawn time of all non-raid targets by two thirds. Any mini-bosses that didn’t have persistent timers (such as the Fear golems) now have them and have additional variance in their respawn times. This means that they won’t necessarily be spawned when the server first comes up.

 

Now before I begin, I’m not a raider in EverQuest. I don’t enjoy the toxic community currently dominating that space. I don’t plan to raid. I’d participate in invite, but do not consider raiding necessary to enjoy EQ. So really none of this affects me except the part where I can now get more gear easily from the non-raid encounters.

That said, for the people who DO like to raid in EQ, but aren’t apart of the 1% doesn’t this have much of the opposite effect? I have a few questions that just do not make sense.

  • What stops Raid Guild X from filling all spots in the raid zone, forcing everyone else out of it and never able to enter?
  • Doesn’t increasing raid variance make it more difficult for casual players to have a chance at participating since those players aren’t regularly camping mobs for 12 hours a day?
  • If the targets spawn quicker, doesn’t that mean the rich just get richer?

I’m curious if Daybreak really thought this one through. All this will end up doing is creating a competition for the 1% to sit around in the base instance of the raid zones. But hey, I’ll be in /pick 2!

I like EverQuest’s Instancing

Instancing has so many different connotations these days. I usually hate all of them, but for some reason I’m really enjoying their implementation in EverQuest.

The instancing in EverQuest is done through the “/pick” system. When a zone reaches a certain threshold of players the game generates a new instance. Players can freely move between these instances once every 5 minutes (when out of combat) by typing “/pick” and then choosing which instance (Example: Commonlands 1, Commonlands 2, etc) they would like to enter.

This type of instancing or redundant zoning system exists in several MMOs, but for the first time it feels like it works. I was thinking about why that might be the case, and I came to these conclusions.

No Phasing. Each zone is a full version of that zone. Nothing about the zone is individualized. Contrast this to SWTOR which has a similar instancing system, but then takes it a step further and phases players within each instance of the zone. The result takes a truncated world and further isolates players. I never feel alone even when there are six versions of my zone.

Group-centric. Everything in EverQuest is still about grouping. Yes, you can solo. Yes, you can do things by yourself and still succeed — even more so with the /pick system — but having such a group-centric focus makes the instances work because people are still moving from pick to pick (we call them “picks” not instances in-game) looking for people to group with.

Item Camping. Much of my time in EQ is spent looking for items to better my character or my alts. Since items can be traded freely (most of the time) that means I can camp a level 40 sword and pass it to my level 1 alt. Having multiple versions of zones means I’m not out of luck when the spawn I want is camped… though somehow they always are!

No Quests. There aren’t quests. People aren’t constantly running around leaving zones. In EverQuest, players tend to spend their entire play sessions in one zone. I’ll stay in Lower Guk for hours grouping and may not return to town for days. If I do, it’s to sell and gate right back.

No PvP. EverQuest is a PvE game. There aren’t instances of battlegrounds or people running around fighting each other. I felt this was important to mention as perhaps it alters people’s mindset.

Shared Dungeons. I want to make sure those reading this realize that all dungeons are “open-world” dungeons. You do not ever get your own version of any zone. Players are always sharing the world and even without changing it they are contributing to a social dynamic. We constrain ourselves to rules such as waiting in line for spawns, respecting someone who has a camp (9/10) and lending aid when needed.

The world of Norrath is huge. There are maybe 3,000 to 4,000 players on at a time max. Somehow the world feels packed full of people, and everywhere I go I’m rubbing shoulders with other adventurers looking to advance. Somehow these things have all come together in EverQuest and made instancing of this particular variation work.

The Winners of E3

Every year we like to talk about who won the best of show at E3. We mostly focus on the ‘big 3′ — Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Without needing to go into much detail, this year was one of the best overall in a decade. The players win. We have a lot of great games coming out, and some really need things to look forward to in the future.

Let’s talk about the big 3. The winner this year was clearly Microsoft. They brought the strongest overall “wow” factor. For the first time in more years than I can remember, the emphasis wasn’t on their gimmicks. Microsoft is back to focusing more on the console itself being a gaming device, and them as a company being about providing entertainment for gamers. So many years it was flipped upside down and the console was all about being entertainment. Their use of HoloLens as it pertains to Minecraft is nothing short of amazing. The coolest part was being able to see the other people in the world running around this virtual representation. There are some really neat possibilities.

Sony was pretty good. I think their problem will stem from a lack of exclusives. They certainly rocked a few worlds by announcing the FFVII remake, but overall it was just “Hey there’s this awesome game coming to the PS4! Please don’t realize it’s also on the Xbox and PC!” Either way, they didn’t fall flat on their faces which is their usual modus operandi.

Nintendo… oh Nintendo. You are my favorite of these companies. You keep it simple, clean, and to the point. Nintendo’s focus is on their games. Unfortunately, it was mostly on their games they already announced. Nintendo does what they call “Nintendo Direct” digital conferences throughout the year. This means they are constantly in a state of doing what they did at E3 this year, and that means it’s hard to stand up to the other big announcements — especially when you reveal a week ago that you won’t be talking about the big Zelda open-world game.  Still, lots of great games. Skylanders meets Nintendo Amiibos? Mhm, yes please.

Virtual Reality is a gimmick. It’s motion controls all over again. We have absolutely no reason to believe in any of the potential until someone says, “You know that potential? We actually made it. Here, try.” Until then, it’s nothing more than Milo.

Fallout 4 & Fallout Shelter

Fallout 4

I watched Bethesda’s E3 Showcase last night to see whether or not I would want to be interested in Fallout 4. I will happily admit that I have never been into the Fallout series. Each new Fallout game I look to see if something unique or interesting presents itself, and then decide whether or not I’m going to finally jump on-board.

My reason for disliking Fallout has never too focused around the game mechanics. I think the open-world setting is pretty good. The conversation options are lacking, but the stories (as loose as they can be) are decent. What I really dislike is the post-apocalyptic world. I don’t like the brownish orangish grayish tint on everything. I don’t like wastelands or modern/post-modern weapons and gadgets when they’re combined with a wasteland environment and motif. That’s all on me, and entirely subjective.

Watching the video during the E3 Showcase, I will admit the world looked a little bit better… although still that post-apoc wasteland. There does seem to be a little more color infused into the world. I was digging that. Right when I was starting to think, “Hey this doesn’t look so bad,” I saw what probably would keep me away: The wacky/zany craziness of wearing ridiculous outfits and using downright unforgivably stupid weapons. I think I saw a bazooka shoot teddybears that made enemy’s heads explode. I’m done.

Fallout 4 Pip-Boy EditionGraev already Pre-ordered at Best Buy, and I got one of their available pre-orders of Fallout 4: Pip-Boy Edition on Amazon. It comes with a Pip-Boy that will hold your phone and several other “collector’s edition” items. Bethesda is going all out and creating an app to accompany the game. I don’t know if I’ll end up getting it or not, but I have the pre-order reserved and Amazon won’t charge me until it ships. Might as well hold on and make my decision later.

The biggest news of the night was that Fallout 4 will be available on November 10 of this year (2015) which is crazy fast.

Fallout Shelter

Bethesda also announced that right after the show a new game would be available for iOS and Andoird: Fallout Shelter. It’s one of those time wasting games where you build stations to collect resources and keep people happy. It’s Freemium, so you can download and wait for things or spend real money on lunch boxes which contain cards that will give your shelter benefits.

Fallout Shelter

I’ve just started playing and find it enjoyable enough to log in once or twice a day during breaks at work to check on my shelter, but it’s nothing I’ll spend money on just yet. I’ll write up more formal tidbits about the game later this week or next.