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11

When is The Elder Scrolls 6 Coming Out?

When is The Elder Scrolls VI coming out? Sorry, I don't know. That's why I'm asking.

I've recently been on a Skyrim kick thanks to the Switch version being an awesome way to play the game on the go and/or away from a traditional TV setup. 

I'm also watching a lot of Oblivion being played by a streamer named DansGaming. He's currently playing a modded play-through and I've decided if by the time I'm done with Skyrim and bored enough, if nothing else is out to play, I'll be doing the same.

All this Elder Scrolls has me thinking that we're due for a new release here soon. Technically, we're way past due. Morrowind came out in 2002. Oblivion came out in 2006. Skyrim came out in 2011. It's now 2018, and even accounting for the increased development time between games, we're due.

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9

Skyrim Survival Mode

I think the idea of a Skyrim survival mode is awesome.  What a cool way to keep updating a game that is getting up there in age.

Survival mode transforms the world into a "land of unrelenting cold and harsh wilderness." They're adding hunger, fatigue, cold, warmth, freezing water, reduced carry weight, sleeping to level up, and lots more.

I think some of the neatest additions are having to eat to survive. This means more random hunting will happen, and cooking food (or having to stop to do so) will make the world feel more immersive and sandbox.

Skyrim Survival Map

The world is also being updated to include climate regions, and other items for survival.

What I'm a little disappointed about is that instead of being a core update, this will be a "mod" to the game. I get how classifying it as a "mod" makes sense, but that also means restrictions.

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players will get to experience Survival Mode and other Creations early next month. Both PC and console players will get Survival Mode free for one week once it launches on their preferred platform.

I'm planning to pick up Skyrim on the Switch, and unfortunately there won't be any "mods" on the switch. Since Skyrim Survival is going to be a "mod," that means I'm out of luck. 

I don't really want to play it on the PC if I'm going to spend the money to get it (again) on the Switch. Just a grumbly bit detail for players like me.

Otherwise, a very cool (pun intended) update mod.

9

Dabbling in ESO Again

Keen in ESO

You may recall from my last post on ESO's Morrowind expansion announcement that I said I would be willing to try ESO again. I'll reiterate my position on the game once again: ESO is not a terrible game. ESO's greatest problems stem from it straddling that line between RPG and MMO, and not quite being able to figure out what to actually embrace.

I decided to jump back in (since it's free) to ESO this past week to solidify my feelings.

Playing for a bit this week emphasized a few points for me.

ESO Combat is Really Fun

ESO Combat

I genuinely find the combat to be fun. I think it's a great blend between actual Elder Scrolls style and something that makes sense for a MMO setting. I like my skills being limited to ​6 abilities (or 12 with 2 weapons) instead of having 30 skills on hotbars stacked all over the place.

ESO's Skill System has its Ups and Downs

I love a skill system. I think it's so much better than a generic prescribed character. ESO's skill system straddles a line, though.

ESO Skills

Pros: 

  • You get to choose what you want to put your points into
  • There's at least the opportunity for more diversity, despite things inevitably falling it popular "builds"
  • There's more control over when and how I evolve my character

Cons:

  • Over time, or perhaps all along, ESO's skill system devolved into more of a "learn almost everything" system
  • Stats (which I'll lump into the skill system) are too easily gamed into "put all into magicka" or "put all into stam"

Questing is the Worst Part of ESO

You guys know that I have absolutely no love for a questing system that has me running back and forth from one quest hub to another. ESO, although less about picking up a dozen quests and doing them all, heavily favors leading players by the nose.

ESO Questing

I wish gameplay in a zone was less about sprinting around the map to knock out objectives and more about sticking around in one place to skill up a character. Putting things into a frame of reference some of you may understand: More EQ, less WoW.

In its defense, I won't pretend the quests are are that worse than the bulk of typical Elder Scrolls quests. But most Elder Scrolls games have a larger sandbox world to ease or almost eliminate that sense of running from one quest to the next to complete the hubs on the map.

Passing Early Judgement

I'm going to let ESO be my "play when there's really not a lot else going on" game. I need one of those. What causes me to log off is a mix between feeling like my existence is futile in the game, and sheer boredom from the questing monotony. 

ESO would be much better with a regular group that decides from the beginning to make their progress about grouping together to explore and fight enemies over a solo or duo grinding quests. I can't think of anything more boring.​

With Morrowind still a ways off, I'm uncertain how long I'll keep dabbling in Tamriel. I need to feel like there's a goal. I also need to feel like there's a way to "catch up" and play with the rest of the larger body of players. As of now, I feel too minuscule and alone which only feeds the sense of futility. 

10

ESO: Morrowind

Aren’t trailers horrible and awesome at the same time? That game looks awesome.

Back to reality, I want this to be great. I so badly want for it to be a true Morrowind experience. So much of me hopes it will be an amazing expansion and era of growth for ESO. Yet, so much of me remember the pains of ESO. ESO wasn’t the worst MMO I’ve played. But that’s really where the ‘praise’ ends.

We’ve given ESO more chances than it deserved. We played it on multiple platforms, played all 3 factions, and made numerous characters. It simply fails to ‘hook’ the player.

Additionally, the cash shop vibe it puts out turns me off completely. I’m not going to debate whether the shop is fair. Having one bothers me. An RPG — especially a mmorpg — loses immersion when I’m presented constantly with buying things from the cash shop.

From the official website:

Return to the iconic island of Vvardenfell for over 30 hours of adventure in a brand new location, with a new class, a new PvP mode, a new Trial, and so much more.”

So it’s like a mini expansion. That doesn’t seem fitting for Morrowind. One of the greatest RPGs of our time simply adds a class, a battleground, and 30 hours of questing.

I find myself once again grumbling over what this could have been. They could have gone the extra mile and made this into a new type of MMORPG that was more open and sandbox. They could have aimed for a new ‘game’ and attempted something in at least the same ballpark as Morrowind.

I’ll try to get over my skepticism and my disdain for what ESO failed to be and focus on what it is and what Morrowind may end up being. Despite my ridicule, I’ll try it out.

10

My Wife Plays: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Theme on Piano

Bri continues her quest of arranging all of the greatest songs from video games. This time she’s playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind’s main theme song, which I believe is titled “Nerevar Rising.”

[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://youtu.be/z_TH-BNZjkY” width=”700″ rel=”no” wmode=”transparent”][/su_youtube_advanced]

Full disclosure, I never actually played a ton of Morrowind. Graev has told me countless times I should play, and I know he’s right. I know it’s a phenomenal RPG. I think it’s time to actually add it to my list of must-plays in the backlog.

So which song is next? She has quite the following here at our local elementary school. When the kids come into the library they are greeted each time by her music. Apparently they’re all perfectly silent and listen when her music is on. She has received a few hundred requests for “Minecraft music!” I think she’ll have to oblige.

As always, she’s taking your requests as well. Anything you’d like to hear?

19

Music can be the Cornerstone of a Good Game

I have always had an affinity for music that seems to bring a game to life.  What I’m talking about goes beyond a tune being catchy or fun, or even simply well put together.  Some of the strongest feelings of nostalgia are brought on by listening to some of the older songs that were nothing but midis.  Even the midis to this day remain a defining characteristic of those games.

More emphasis should be placed on the music in the games we play. It’s a form of expression unlike anything else. I’m guilty of forgetting that there’s more to a game than the mechanics and graphics. Now that I really stop and think about it, maybe games can and should be designed around more than mechanics — perhaps even entirely around something like a song.

Ultima Online – Stones
Stones is from one of my first graphical MUDs (old school MMO) called Ultima Online. Listening to this song reminds me of entering the city every day with my character and thinking about living in a quaint little medieval fantasy town. It reminds me of simplicity and how deep the simple things can be in a game. Music doesn’t need to be grand or sweep you off your feet to imprint itself upon you.

Morrowind Theme
Listening to the Morrowind theme evokes a feeling of ‘beginning’ for me. I never even played the game! I always just watched Graev play, but I remember the hundreds of hours he put into exploration and loving everything about it. As the music begins to swell I can visualize the world of Tamriel and how infinite the possibilities are for the player about to begin his or her story.

Civilization – Baba Yetu
I think Baba Yetu was the first (only?) song for a video game to win a Grammy. Watching the video associated with the song adds to the experience, but even without the visuals you can just ‘feel’ the progress.

Keen’s lesson for the day: Take time to notice all the subtle things in the games you play. Whether they be MMORPGs or strategy games, when you look back 10 years from now it won’t be the items or the combat you remember.

37

My Mixed ESO Emotions

I must confess I am having mixed feelings about The Elder Scrolls Online.  I recently wrote my opinion on the 1-20 experience during beta.  I was pretty bored with most of it — lots of boring quests, being guided by the nose, etc. — but I never tried the PvP.  A while back I wrote how the PvP looked awful on paper.  One big server, campaigns, etc.

I don’t know how I feel now.  I’ve watched the PvP streams and the combat looks fun.  Siege weapons look great — those trebs and catapults are pretty cool.  I admit to wishing I was playing in the PvP right now.  Unfortunately, I am stuck without a gaming computer while our leaking roof dries.

My PvP concerns:

  • Zerg PvP is both boring and frustrating.  I see quite a bit of it going on.
  • Door Wars.  Bashing on doors all day.
  • AoE and Ranged being the only way to truly participate.

Anyone care to share a personal experience that will alleviate any of my concerns?

I like the recent announcement that the starter islands will be optional.  Then there’s this whole idea floating around out there that the PvE game opens up and becomes less themepark questing and more traditional Elder Scrolls.  Is there any truth to that?  If so, I can push past 20 levels of crap for 30 levels of fun.   My spidey-sense tells me something is amiss and that I should be cautious.

That’s where I’m at.  I’m trying to work through all of these contradicting feelings and opinions.  I’m currently hovering around the middle ground between ‘stay the heck away’ and ‘give it a shot’ … but slightly toward staying away.   Your thoughts are most definitely welcome.

31

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.

40

The Elder Scrolls Online: So Much Cognitive Dissonance!

Before we get to what I really want to talk about, can someone tell me when the decision was made to call the game “ESO” instead of “TESO?”  Anyway…

We have a date! 4.4.14 will mark the launch of THE Elder Scrolls Online.  I am so torn on this one guys.  In yesterday’s WildStar post I felt reasonably confident saying my chances of playing were zilch because the game is blatantly going a direction that bores me.  I really can’t figure out what I think about TESO, though.

I can’t shake this feeling in my gut that an epic fail is sneaking up on us.  I feel like everything related to The Elder Scrolls Online is ‘murky’ and a half-truth.  Is it an MMO or a multiplayer Elder Scrolls?  We’ve been told both to appease both camps.  We’re told the PvP is massive and open-world, but then we se it’s lobbied and looks like WoW’s Wintergrasp.  Every time I read something from Matt Firor I’m questioning whether or not what I’m reading is total BS to sell boxes.  At the end of the day I am still sitting here shaking my head thinking, “WTF is The Elder Scrolls Online?”

TIP: That’s not a good thing!

I watched the above trailer and wasn’t impressed at all. Actually, let me clarify something. When I first watched it I let the “omg omg omg it’s The Elder Scrolls with other people and catapults!” cause me to start shaking with anticipation. Didn’t take long before the janky looking slide-turning animations to take hold. Then I realized what they’re doing is making the same type of gameplay I remember from WAR look better by using cinematography. Am I jaded or just being real here?

There’s a strong themepark arcade feel to what I’m seeing, and that is NOT what The Elder Scrolls is about.  I feel it in my gut.  I’ve learned to trust that feeling as the warning signs for impending buyer’s remorse.  Curse this cognitive dissonance!

17

MMO Market Dominance Strategies

Yesterday while pondering the direction Trion will take, I casually mentioned a few market dominance strategies that I want to expound upon a bit more today.  These apply to any industry, but I really think they’re perfect for MMOs, especially if you twist them slightly to represent categories as well.

  • Leader
  • Challenger
  • Follower
  • Nicher

If you’ve followed the MMO industry at all you should immediately be able to name a few games for each.  There are a lot of really interesting and quite awesome tactics for each strategy to use, but I’ll only skim the surface and give my opinions about how the MMO industry fits this model.

EverQuest Next

EverQuest Next

Leader

Most of the original MMORPGs were leaders like EverQuest and UO.   I’m struggling to classify any MMO in the last nine years as a leader, other than World of Warcraft.  The leader is a company (game) with the most market share, and usually has the most flexibility, and the power to set the strategy for the rest of the industry.  The weird part about the MMO industry is that everyone seems to think there’s going to be some new emergent leader — or that one will come at least every time the next MMO releases.  In reality, this is incredibly false.  One of the only ways for the leader to lose their spot is for some catastrophic misstep wherein they miss the paradigm shift (buzzword) completely, and fail to come up with a new product offering.

The Elder Scrolls Online

The Elder Scrolls Online

Challenger

We really do not have any challengers in the MMO industry.  These are like Pepsi to Coke.  They’re in a really strong position but not quite capable of taking down the leader.  A lot of companies think they’re challengers.  They think they are going to step up to the plate and hit a home run, snag a huge chunk of market share, and be 2nd place  — by the way, 2nd place is an awesome place to be when you can’t be #1.  Here’s the key to being a great challenger: You have to target weaknesses and realign resources quickly to continually strike.  No one does that in the MMO industry. They tend to make the same games.  When a challenger comes up and fails, it usually disappears quickly because the company didn’t have the resources to be a true challenger.  Perhaps they should have been a follower.

ArcheAge

ArcheAge

Follower

Here’s where the bulk of every MMO after 2005 falls. These can be perfectly good companies, but their strategy is simply to align themselves along the same trajectory as the market leader.  They get all the upside without much of the risk… that is to say, in most industries.  In the MMO industry, the players are predators.  We don’t just ignore a follower we don’t like — we attack!  We sink companies who don’t act like challengers.  I think Rift tried to be a challenger.  Remember the ads directly targeting WoW? They still run ads — I’ve seen them on this website — targeting WoW.  I think Rift has done much better after sliding back into a follower position.

Nicher

This is the focus strategy.  Companies here keep narrowing and tailoring their segments until they find a group large enough to be profitable.  These are the EVE’s and the Camelot Unchained’s.   It’s all about realistic profit margins over market share, and providing value to the player.  Perhaps it’s even about making the game the dev(s) want to make.  The games don’t have to be blockbusters, and they’re made to appeal to that one person in the crowd who finds that game fun.

WildStar

WildStar

So where does a game like FFXIV fall?  WildStar?  How about TESO?  None of these games will be market leaders — absolutely none of them.  FFXIV is clearly a realign to take the follower spot.  WildStar and TESO, however, are tougher.  I think WildStar and TESO want to be challengers. Here’s where things get tricky.  I see games all the time following the wrong strategy.  TESO and WildStar might try for challenger, but have to slide back to follower.  Had they started as a follower from the beginning, perhaps they could have utilized that capital spent fighting a face-to-face battle with the market leader.  Instead, they’ll likely spend inordinate amounts of money in advertising but in the end have to lower the quality of the product to survive.  You can name a few of those games, I’m sure.

SoE just announced that they’re looking to take the lead with EverQuest by being the company who once again pioneers the next step forward.  Lofty goal.  EQ Next is indeed different, and that’s what it will take to successfully enact change.  Pepsi could surpass Coke, but in the end it would still be a cola.  As with all innovation, failure is a component.  I’m curious, though.  Could the real future be with the nichers?  Could the small idea spark a revolution?  When EverQuest originally propelled the industry forward, it wasn’t because they were taking an industry and evolving — they were a relatively unknown, small team of people.  Not that EQ Next, WildStar, TESO, and FFXIV won’t be solid games, but I bet the future of MMOs will come out of left field where we least expect it, from a team small enough to only care about making the game they want.

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