The early bashing of TESO, and what it might mean

I find the defensive nature of the Elder Scroll MMO devs interesting. The game is not close to release, no one has seen it in action, let alone played it, yet already ‘fans’ are objecting and raising complaints, and the devs are trying to settle the crowds. Not that I believe the criticism is not warranted, mind you, but when has an MMO been under this much fire this early?

To me this suggests two things. One is that more and more gamers are tired of WoW clones. ‘Vets’ of the genre have felt this way for some time now (2008 yo), yet sales of clones have been decent in recent years, indicating that how ‘vets’ felt was not representative of the majority. SW:TOR changes this in a major way. Yes, the game sold a good number of boxes for an average game, but SW:TOR was anything but average in terms of project cost and hype. That SW:TOR only peaked at 1.7m is telling, and its rapid decline, supplemented by EA’s dismissal of the game being ‘important’ to the company, only hammer this home.

The second consideration is that the average MMO gamer seems to be moving back to the roots of the genre, albeit slowly. GW2 is no UO in terms of sandbox design, but many of its features are directly intended to move it away from WoW, rather than evolve it, and fans have responded to this approach. When TESO proudly announces that it’s WoW but ‘better’, it’s notable that many today see this as a major problem rather than something to cheer.

It will be interesting to see if an MMO comes along that strikes the right design balance of MMO longevity with casual ‘accessibility’. I believe WoW had that during its initial run, if somewhat imperfectly, but no game has come close since. Most have been far too ‘accessibly’, with gamers facerolling for a month or so and leaving bored. Others have achieved the longevity aspects, but at the price of excluding all but the most dedicated. As the genre escaped the flawed shadow of current-day WoW, I’m fairly confided such a title will come along.

When is the billion dollar question.

And sadly, it certainly sounds like TESO is not that title.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in beta, MMO design, Random, SW:TOR, The Elder Scrolls Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to The early bashing of TESO, and what it might mean

  1. Well, when it comes to GW2, the “fans” you bring up are the self-same vets you mention in the previous paragraph. We have also learned over time that the beta audience is very different in composition than the audience at launch.

    The test will come when GW2 goes live some day.

    On the TESO side of things, I am starting to wonder if Zenimax is just trolling us.

  2. kalex716 says:

    Well said…

    And each news drop we here out of Zeni seems to suggest the dev/marketing team is scrambling to adjust to the communities temperature. We’ve seen several different postures but each one seems to be getting shut down.

    They tried dropping hints of their “never before seen” combat system, but hobbyists are already raising their eyebrows.

    One thing I can say for sure is… the age old “we’re not trying to re-invent the wheel” approach is a big red flag to me that suggests a design philosophy built around conceding to the status quo (aka WoW) all too often on the production floor when your fresh new hooks have the first signs of scheduling, execution, or fun problems.

    The ship has sailed.

  3. Dril says:

    “to move it away from WoW, rather than evolve it”

    I feel it’s the absolute opposite, overall. Sure, some things like homogenisation and that ilk that the D Team decided was the best way forward are being reversed in GW2, but the general trend of the game, from my experience, other’s writings and the ANet rhetoric seems to land it firmly in pushing the mantra that I think WoW would go for were it not for engine limitations and the now misguided attempts to keep the core audience intact.

  4. Rohan says:

    Why do you skip the simplest explanation?

    Fans of the Elder Scrolls franchise expect TESO to play like existing Elder Scrolls games. Specifically, that means a skill-based system rather than a class-based one, seeing as that is the signal mechanic of Elder Scrolls games.

    The problem is not that TESO is like WoW. The problem is that TESO is unlike Skyrim.

    • SynCaine says:

      Which TES game? Just Skyrim? Because previous TES games have been more class-based than the very freeform Skyrim, so it all just depends which game in the series we are talking about.

      So say that something class-based is not TES is… wrong?

      • Matt says:

        Morrowind was totally free-form…in fact, ‘class’ was just the name you gave your specific setup of major and minor skills and defaulted to ‘Adventurer’. Not sure about the others though.

        • SynCaine says:

          Morrowind had pre-made ‘classes’ though, that set the skills for you, or you could go freeform (or am I thinking of Oblivion?)

        • Matt says:

          No, that’s right for Morrowind. They gave you preset ‘classes’ if you were confuzzled by all the skills and combos, but you could go custom if you wanted.

      • Rohan says:

        What do you mean? From Daggerfall onwards, Elder Scrolls have been skill-based. Daggerfall had classes, but they were nothing more than collections of specific skills, and you could make your own classes by choosing your own combination of skills.

        The Elder Scrolls has always been about mixing and matching skills to create exactly the type of character you want. Some of the games make you pick the skills at the start of the game, others allowed more freeform choice during the game.

        Either way, it’s very different from formal class-based games.

    • saucelah says:

      Ok, let’s run with that. Let’s even pretend Skyrim was the only TES ever made. That would mean they want not just skill-based progression, but FPS combat, sandbox freedom to go anywhere do anything, and content that scales to you rather than forcing you to be in range, etc. Another way to say that: not WoW. What’s the difference?

      • SynCaine says:

        You actually bring up a good point: TES fans would NOT want a ‘true’ TES MMO.

        Because then they would be playing UO.

        And UO is hard, yo.

      • Matt says:

        Yeah that’s what I don’t get…what possible motivation post-TOR, post Cataclysm, is there to take a perfectly good thing like TES RPGs that works and satisfies millions and turn it into a goofy MMO with all its attendant restrictions?

    • kalex716 says:

      Personally, i’m a huge TESO fan going back to Daggerfall. I bought an xbox because Morrowind was an xbox exclusive when it came out and i had waited years for it.

      However, I don’t first and foremost want TESO to play like other Elder games, i just want it to NOT play like WoW. Now it would stand to reason based on positioning and pedigree, they would appropriate primarily from their own system they’ve developed for years (aka, skills) but I’d be cool with anything that doesn’t reek of themepark regurgitated same-ness.

      So far, they can’t seem to please anyone. 3 faction Realm Vs. Realm isn’t enough IMO.

      I want assurances of more emergent gameplay, leveraged community, and real “worldness” before i’m interested. Call it sandbox, i don’t care, i just want the words “massively”, and “multiplayer” to carry the lions share of the weight again.

  5. wartzilla says:

    World of Darkness could certainly be that game.

    Provided CCP can actually develop it without releasing a flawed game, or taking away resources from EVE for it.

  6. Ponder says:

    Play Minecraft.

    Its a sandbox MMO with deep crafting and plenty of user made content.

  7. I agree with your points except that a handful of major games sites have seen the game in action. See <a href="http://kotaku.com/5918689/the-elder-scrolls-online-is-not-as-world-of-warcraft-as-you-might-fear/&quot; this article by Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo. Very little in the post disputes people's reasons for apathy. I find it disheartening that the main argument Zenimax seems to have is "you need to play it to see how it's different." Okay, I'll do that, but I won't be paying $50 for the privilege if your only notable features are a stamina bar for blocking, open dungeons, and three faction PvP. Those three things sound cool but not MMO-sustaining or even $30 cool. Pass until they come up with something better. Problem is, I think if they had anything neater they would already have brought it up to counter the massive levels of disdain.

    • adam says:

      It sounds like your friend defending his bitchy girlfriend.

      “You just don’t understand her!”

      Maybe not. But she is still a bitch.

  8. roqoco says:

    They say they have a PvP area (Cirrodil) that is the size of Oblivion. If that works well the game may be worth playing. The devil is in the detail, if they get that right it will be a good game, if not…

  9. Anonymous says:

    1. They are not the TES team, they are some guys Zenimax hired to make a WOW clone

    2. There’s no indication they have even one designer on board with passing understanding of what makes PvP count

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