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The Elder Scrolls Online vs. WildStar

I’m fighting a big internal battle right now over these two games. I’m in the weird predicament of not really being ecstatic about either of them. They are two of the biggest releases of the year, and I am still 100% undecided if I am going to get either of them. I go from an adamant “no” to a “well maybe I could” several times a day.

I’m going to make a pros and cons list here and maybe you all can help me decide what I should do.

ESO-BoxartThe Elder Scrolls Online

Pros:

  • PvP is being heralded as DAoC 2.0
  • Tamriel has a rich lore
  • Lots of  skill customization
  • Combat is the right balance of active

Cons:

  • Ugly Animations
  • Not very Elder Scrolls at all
  • Questing sucks
  • Unsure of the end-game
  • Could be a 3 monther

Pre-order off Amazon

Wildstar-BoxartWildStar

Pros:

  • Lots of my friends are going to play
  • Fantastic housing
  • Lots of diverse content
  • World PvP isn’t bad

Cons:

  • Questing sucks
  • Endgame = Raid treadmill
  • Spaztactic Combat
  • 40-man content
  • 3 monther

Pre-order on Amazon or Green Man Gaming (Save 20%: PLOCVS-G2T5YX-DATY6M)

Both games are probably going to be 3 monthers.  I can most likely get 3 months out of both.  The reason I’d quit WildStar is I get to the end and not want to raid, and I would quit Elder Scrolls Online because I get bored of the PvP.  I could get ESO since WildStar comes out 2 months later, then get WildStar; in other words get both.

Neither company has impressed me.  The ESO devs are wishy washy and do things like launch a CE and pre-order with outrageous bonuses.  The three factions were only thrown in to try and make a DAoC type PvP at the expense of hurting the brand.  WildStar devs think 40-man raids for the 1% is a good end-game, and that bringing back what most people hated about WoW somehow constitutes forward thinking.  Neither has revolutionized or even innovated much at all.

Here’s where I’m honestly at right now… I think I’m leaning towards getting ESO since people claim the PvP is so amazing, and I’ll have a 2 month window in which to convince myself to get WildStar.  Thoughts?  Is that a sad state of affairs or what?

WildStar is a 3 Monther

I’ve been in the WildStar beta since June of 2013.  Graev and I both received access early back when there were almost no other people playing on the server.   We’ve seen the game come a long way, and I feel like I can personally give a very accurate overview of what someone can expect to get out of WildStar.

WildStar is a Themepark

There can be no doubt and no surprise that WildStar is 100% true to the themepark model.  Leveling is done by going from quest hub to quest hub.  It’s go here, pick up this, click 10 of those, kill that, come back, get a levels, slot your skills, go kill 10 of those, etc.  End-game is vertical raid treadmilling.  If you love themeparks, you will LOVE WildStar.  This is the themepark fanatics dream come true.

‘Active Combat’ is annoying

First, it’s not original.  The telegraphing has been done in Smite, League of Legends, Age of Conan, a bit in GW2, TERA, TSW, and even ESO.  I hate mashing my keys constantly like I’m playing Hungry Hungry Hippos.  That’s not what I want.  This makes me love the old school original EverQuest combat.  I’ll take white damage over mashing any day.  WildStar’s “skill”-based combat is still highly completely stat and gear dependent; you won’t be out-playing someone if their gear is better than yours.

WildStar isn’t more difficult than Vanilla WoW

I don’t know where this started, but I keep hearing people say WildStar is more difficult than vanilla WoW.   Simply untrue.  I mow through mobs and level in WildStar like there’s nothing in my way.  The leveling process in WildStar is so scripted and holds your hand so well that they practically hand you levels for quest rewards.  It’s meant to be that way.  They want you to feel like you are hyped up on sugar when you play.  As accessible as WoW was back in 2004, WildStar is the accessible version of Vanilla WoW. Seriously… they show you the red circles on the floor you have to avoid. [Read more...]

Landmark: New User Experience

Landmark New User Experience Poll

The EverQuest Next Landmark team is asking for feedback on improving the new user experience via a Roundtable poll.  I voted, then gasped at the results.  Notice a trend?  Yeah, I tend to differ from most people.  Sometime it’s because I believe niche mechanics are more fun.  Sometimes it’s because I want a game to be more like another.  This time I am positive that my answer is all about improving the new user experience and the experience for all players: Refine the Building Tools!

Character customization is an obvious throwaway.  Add more faces, etc.  Done.  To me that falls into the ‘delighting your customers’ category.  We can get to that when the rest of the game ‘works’ properly.

Clear, established goals are a slippery slope.  I don’t necessarily want ‘goals’ to complete.  In fact, the most fun I’ve had in Landmark was in the first 5 minutes when I logged in, ran 20 feet away from the spawn point, and starting breaking the earth beneath my feet.  Then I chopped a tree and watched it fall explode and realized I was in a shared world manipulating the terrain and resources  Those are lightbulb moments I wouldn’t take away from anyone.  It’s in those moments when people realize all of the opportunities and potential of Landmark and the upcoming EverQuest Next.  Sullying that with goals would be sad.

Easier to identify resources and improvements to crafting – No to the resources  All of the resources are intuitively colored and literally all on the surface.  That alone is already ridiculous (it’s Alpha, it’ll change) so I can’t really fathom making it easier to identify the massive blob of red rubies you can see on the map from any distance.  Improvements to crafting I think will simply come over time and aren’t a ‘new user’ experience.

Better controls sure.  I think the camera while building and gathering — especially digging downward — are not friendly to a new or existing player at all.  We need the ability to pivot the camera while building or to be able to control the angle.  Building in first person is really awkward at times.  I think the entire camera and controls experience could use polish.  Heck, I didn’t even know holding shift let me sprint.

Okay, now the one I feel is really most important and I can’t believe it received the least amount of votes so far.

Refinement of Building Tools

First, they are definitely awesome.  They are powerful tools giving me the freedom to build unlike ever before.  That said, they need work.  The line tool is so glitchy.  Single voxel lines do not work.  Making lines will sometimes make jagged lines for no reason. There are tons of shortcut commands affecting how the tools work.  Using the add tool (+) you can press G to snap to a grid or not, hit Shift+tab to influence where the placement happens, etc.

The smoothing tool acts more like a melting tool.  Having to coordinate the select tool and/or utilize overly jagged edges to avoid your voxels you want to smooth from melting into puddles isn’t natural.  The melting tool in square form still confuses me.

Those who can master and manipulate the current tools can take the same things I make and create masterpieces.  That’s something I feel new and even proficient users like myself can benefit from moving forward.

Elder Scrolls Online Beta Impressions

The Elder Scrolls Online NDA has dropped so I guess that means it’s time to give my opinion.  You won’t be surprised to hear that I am disappointed by what I’ve seen so far.  No, I haven’t played a ton like some of the diehard fans out there.  I participated in a few of the test weekends, leveled up as much as I could stand, ran around and explored as much as I could, but I didn’t try out the PvP.

ESO is incredibly linear.  This is such a hard pill for me to swallow.  I wanted so badly to run around Tamriel and experience the world as it has been experienced for over a decade, but it’s simply not a sandbox.  The leveling is quest-driven with a forced path of progression.  Someone who knows more than I can help me clarify, but I felt like the game used phasing a lot in the first couple of zones.  Lots of people popping in and out of obvious phased areas.  The story is too forcefully delivered, and I found myself wanting to click past forced dialog like I did in SWTOR.

I can’t decide if the combat is awful or just needing improvement.  I like how it’s closer to The Elder Scrolls series, but the animations were not up to par.  Animations felt janky, and on more than one occasion the combat devolved into me standing still swinging my weapon just waiting for things to die.  I tried just about all of the weapon types and none of them felt great. I was underwhelmed by the overemphasized combat — that’s really key.  The Elder Scrolls series, although full of combat, could be played for hours without even using a weapon.  I never felt that way in ESO.  The NPCs and story wanted me to always be out killing something.

PvP looks like GW2′s Door Wars 2.0.  I haven’t experienced it myself, but the recent videos out there show some moments that do actually look fun.  I think it’s hard to say sitting back and shooting people off walls with a bow and arrow isn’t exciting — I like that stuff — but I have to look at the game as a whole and realize those moments are just that: moments.

Although I could pick apart individual mechanics for days and shred them for spending their budget in all the wrong places, there are important questions to ask.  Is ESO a good MMO?  No, not really.  Is ESO a good PvP game?  For some, but not me.  Is ESO fun?  There are moments where I can honestly say I do enjoy myself.  Not all of my enjoyment is tied to linearity, combat, and PvP.   And most importantly…

Will I buy ESO?  I think the whole “vote with your wallet” mantra is easier said than done.  Although I’m not excited enough to be anticipating ESO’s release, my own personal taste in games doesn’t always dictate my buying decisions.  I’m influenced by my friends, community, and Graev.  If Graev was to buy ESO, I might buy it too.  Even though I wouldn’t like quest grinding and some of the ways the combat plays out, jumping into a dungeon and slaying monsters together could still be a fun time.  Do that enough and the cost of entry is justified.  I’m a practical person, and there are situations in which buying ESO could be both fun and worth the price.  If one of those situations presents itself, you’ll all be the first to know.

Fixing the Journey Fixes the End-game

We talk a lot about end-game in the MMO industry.  We talk about making enough content, making it sufficiently rewarding, etc.  What we don’t talk about is perhaps one of the biggest reasons I used to play MMORPGs for a much longer period of time.

I want something to work towards.  I like knowing that there’s something still out of my reach.  That’s why I’m okay with the idea that only a small percentage of people (1%) will ever see end-game content.  What I’m not okay with are the reasons why people never end up seeing the content.

Getting to the beginning of the end-game is too easy in today’s MMOs.  I can get max level in WoW, FFIXV, and just about any other game in a couple of weeks.  I’m ready to begin the end-game, and I’m faced with one of two realities: (1) I want to participate but I can’t, or (2) I can participate.  If you can’t participate you become frustrated, and if you can participate you might even run out of things to do.  The problem here really isn’t with either of the realities — it’s with how you got to the point of facing them.

I think it should take months, even a year to get max level.  I think the journey to get to the point where you’re faced with the reality if hitting a wall has to be so long that only 1% of the people even think about it.  I’m not saying it has to be hard, punishing, or any of that.  I just think the journey ends too quickly.

I look back at the original EverQuest and I see a game that took me 6 months to solo level a Necromancer to level 50.  I played almost every day, and I had a lot of fun.  I actually hit level 50 a few weeks before Kunark (expansion) launched. In that period before Kunark I was able to do a few of the raids (hard dungeons, really).  When Kunark launched I was once again at a place where the “end-game” was another 3+ months out.

There were months and months of fun to be had on the way toward the end.  I was always working towards becoming better, but I wasn’t doing it so that I could get to the end and face the reality of either not being able to do content or running out of it.  If I never once saw the hardest dungeons it didn’t matter to me because the experience on the way was just as fulfilling as anything in the end.

I believe that when someone reaches the end-game they should never be faced with wanting yet being unable to participate.  This artificial barrier exists to make modern MMO end-game feel out of reach.  How silly is that?  Most people make it to the max level but only 1% see the content.  It should be that 1% reach the max level and all of them can see the content.

Making the journey matter more fixes a huge part of the problem.