Saturday, February 16, 2013

Elder Bwogs Online (Elder Scrolls Online Thoughts)

I know they released some beta keys and a rockin' trailer a while ago, but I want to take a few minutes to talk about what the Elder Scrolls Online experience should - and shouldn't - be. I haven't played the beta nor have I looked up footage because I don't think it matters much, things change a lot this early on and I wouldn't hold anything specific against Bethesda right now. These are more like my general thoughts on how it should be done.

1) Character creation should continue to be ultra-detailed. The biggest argument against having thirty sliders for your eyebrows is that players don't need that much control over their character's appearance - but that's why you have the random option and a couple presets. Your argument is invalid. They've done a fairly good job lately in facial features and skin tones, so let's add body types to the mix. Some good body tattoos, scars, a couple different height and weight options (not just big and muscular or slightly bigger and still muscular). Maybe even something completely outlandish for premium members, like dwemer prosthesis! Consider barber shops too, where we can re-choose our hair and beard designs when we get bored of them.

2) Bring back all the armor slots. I've mentioned this previously but it bears repeating: I want to wear twenty different pieces of armor, rings, and pants and I see no reason why I can't be allowed to. If my character has ten fingers I should be able to wear more than one ring. I want separate pauldrons and gauntlets and boots, not three pieces of pre-assembled vault sui...ahem, I mean armor.

3) Consider backpacks. It's something I think most games that use encumbrance leave out, but I think it's a cool addition. You get your normal carrying weight for sure, but then you can buy and equip a number of packs that allow further storage and organization. It adds to the roleplaying experience and it makes your character look more like an explorer or gatherer or what have you. And you can carry more loot!

4) Bring back languages. There were a number of different languages in Daggerfall and I think now's an opportunity to bring them back. Maybe not on every server, or maybe it's a toggle thing, but it'd be neat if you could publish your chat in a couple different languages, or at the very least have there be artifacts or books that would only display in your (real-life) native language if your character had the skill. It allows for folks to roleplay scholars and explorers in a much more valuable light. The lore has a lot of examples where magic-users and scholars hire mercenaries to accompany them into some dungeon to find some legendary dingus. It'd be neat if players could replicate this experience by teaming up with each other like that.

5) Forget about fast travel, use Mark and Recall. Morrowind lacked fast travel and had, instead, scrolls like Divine Intervention and potions of Mark and Recall. There were also silt striders, which were sort of a poor man's taxi. Fast travel has no place in an Elder Scrolls game. These folks are spending a lot of time in crafting an amazing landscape and you're paying to see it - so get out there and see it! The lore includes its own methods of transportation and teleportation, so use that stuff instead. Make it party-based too - a Recall spell that works on the whole party, not just the caster.

6) Give us journals. If Minecraft can do it, so can ESO. Let players write their own notes in the default journal or mission log. Sometimes the wording is weird (remember Morrowind - trying to follow directions in the journal? Ugh!) or just hard to understand specifically, and for those of us who like to roleplay our roleplaying games it just adds that fun little feature. Go the extra mile and make them able to be exported to a blog and you've got yourself an awesome niche component.

7) Kick up the crafting gimmick. Skyrim allows some limited crafting and such but as a singleplayer experience it's of limited value (except roleplaying, of course). With thousands of other players out there - keep crafting and give it even more features, like special appearances (jagged blades, mace heads that look like famous faces, etc.) and colors.

8) Use classes. Here's the thing about classes - no one should be able to do everything ever in any game, that's why we get more than one slot for characters. I know there will be complaints though, so let's compromise: you can play up to level 10 without declaring a class, at which point you can opt to choose from among a selection of at several classes (not just the three archetypal ones!) or continue to vanilla it up. The restrictions would be for things like making specialty armor, using high-level spells, wielding high-level weapons, access to some guild stores/quests, etc. It's not that you're punished for not choosing a class as much as you're rewarded for doing so.

9) Climbing should be a skill. Daggerfall had it and that was a long time ago - can't you just bring it back? I know things are different physics/engine-wise but there are ways around it. Use the Climb skill on ropes, which can be thrown with a grapple or shot with an arrow. See that spot on the roof? Buy a rope, toss it up there, and then pull yourself up. The skill determines how long you're able to stay on the rope and how fast you travel along it (like Shadow of the Colossus' little meter), so better skill means you can get to farther places. Have different lengths or rope, maybe some different grapples, and even some specialty equipment (like for lateral crossings, and pulleys for party members that can't climb well, and spikes/pitons/harnesses to be able to throw another rope up from half-way up the rock face/temple wall. In a pinch, discard all that and give us Scorpio's hookshot glove from Just Cause, dwemer parachutes sold separately.

10) Don't give us useless items. Bolts of cloth should be craftable into clothes or tents (or parachutes and gliders!), spoons can be melted down for iron ingots, wooden bowls can be worn as armor... well, you get my point. There's this horrible trend where players just take everything not bolted down to sell to the nearest pawnshop - you'll never get rid of that. But when that's pretty much the only realistic solution to what to do with the default tea set your house comes with (other than leave it alone because it looks nice...), what else should you expect?

There are more and maybe I'll post them later, but this is a huge step for the Elder Scrolls series and one that folks have been waiting for going back a long time - let's not make a WoW clone, mmkay?

With Brightest of (Glass Armor) Greens,

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