A Farewell to TESO

Goodbye, Cruel World

Goodbye, cruel Nirn.

Even after writing this post, I still question whether or not I should press the publish button. Leaving a game you care for is hard, but explaining it to others without coming off poorly is much, much harder. My intent here is not to bash the game, its creators, or to lobby for change, but some of that will inevitably happen if I am to be truthful. I have come to accept that this is not the game for me, and will be taking my leave of it sans malice. I am well aware that this post will invite upon myself bashing from the remaining TESO community, but I want to stress that these are simply my personal reasons which I am expressing for those who are interested. I know that my profile is high enough in the TESO community that many people will want to know why I’m leaving, and I feel obligated to address my reasoning for the former fellows in fandom which I will leave behind. My goal is not to turn players away from the game. If you disagree, I wish you the best and hope that you find the game to your liking. I have made my decision, and share this only so that those who value my opinion can understand it when making their own.

Leaving Tamriel Behind

It’s important to start by saying that I have had a lot of fun playing on the PTS, and that new players entering the game will more than likely be able to get their money’s worth out of the product. If you have enjoyed yourself in the beta weekends, the content you saw there is representative of what you will continue to see on your path to VR10, as noted in my comprehensive review, behind which I still fully stand. My issue with the game is not so much its current offering – concerning as the numerous bugs and balance issues may be, but with the the future of the game under ZeniMax’s guidance. I see very little cause to believe that the game will survive as a subscription game, and I see no point in purchasing entrance to observe a free-to-play transition which I feel is both inevitable, and planned. Below lie my reasons for leaving, in no particular order. Keep in mind that I don’t consider any one of these issues to be a deal-breaker in and of their own right, but it is the sum of them that has turned me away from the game I once loved.

A lousy exterminator

The Elder Scrolls Online is a very buggy game. Each patch has introduced more bugs than it has solved, and while this is expected several months prior to launch, it is very troubling when it continues to transpire a week from it. While a miracle patch may be in the works for the game, I have seen no evidence to suggest that ZeniMax is capable of producing one, let alone that one is coming. As we all know, a smooth launch is crucial to the success of a modern MMO – the market will not provide you a second chance. Despite what some consider to be risible assurances to the contrary, I cannot foresee the upcoming weeks going well for TESO. Being buggy is a minor complaint, but it fits well with my other concerns questioning the likelihood of a prosperous future for the game.

Lazy-eyed vision

Design vision for The Elder Scrolls Online has long been at odds with itself, as the development team carefully navigates the chasm between an Elder Scrolls experience, and what makes up an MMORPG. In the beginning, TESO was an MMORPG, and one with few elements on the TES side of the equation as well. As alpha and beta testing continued, many standard MMO features have simply been removed to mask the game’s true nature, adding a thin facade of TES to the game at the expense of its functionality as an MMO. These changes have not all been bad; as the game has progressed, I have come to embrace the change from a mini-map to a compass, the lack of nameplates, and the exploratory nature of the game’s solo experience.

However, several core features have been removed without adequate replacements, in an unsettling move eerily reminiscent of Guild Wars 2‘s design. The most recent and impactful of these regards the lack of information in the game’s stock UI. Many core testers, including myself, have spent the last year providing feedback that this was inadequate, but in a puzzling move, ZeniMax responded by relegating this functionality to the add-on community to develop. At the time many of us argued that this would create problems down the line by making add-ons near mandatory for competitive play, a concern which the public echoed once they become aware of the gap in functionality between the base UI and a modded one. In response, ZeniMax gutted the game’s API, reneging on promises to its fans and the add-on developers they had deliberately recruited.

The main issue presented by this sudden change is that the game has always been designed around the now unavailable information being available to players. TESO has a huge emphasis on managing status effects on yourself and enemies, with cleanse and purge mechanics both having an important place in high end play. Buff and debuff icons were both included in early iterations of the MMO’s stock UI, and while the level of information available on these statuses has been dramatically reduced, the reliance on the mechanics involving them has remained unchanged. If ZeniMax had made a truly different MMO, the removal of these features would have been of no consequence, but as they took the standard MMO formula and simply removed a lot of the tools that make it usable, the enjoyability and competitiveness of the game’s play has taken a large hit from these changes, with players reduced to guessing which effects are active and for how much longer. This is where the Guild Wars 2 analogy comes into play; though many of their features are very different, both games adopted the standard themepark MMO formula, only to remove certain core features without redesigning the mechanics they support.

The clear solution stared the company in the face all along – to provide the optional functionality to understand the game in its base UI so that all had access to it without add-ons, but instead, they have removed a much needed functionality from the game entirely. This change has also crippled the ability for testers to provide feedback, a highly unfortunate change to a game where so many abilities are completely unbalanced, or, in the case of many passives, literally do nothing at all.

At this point, someone typically interjects with a banal comment implying that what players in favor of an informative UI want is World of Warcraft. This is not the case. No one is asking for Deadly Boss Mods or other add-ons to clutter your entire screen with; no, we simply want to have the minimum amount of tools possible to analyze the game, within the confines of TESO‘s minimalist UI (which, current issues withstanding, I actually see as one of the greatest successes of the game). I am not anti-immersion or pro-clutter. I am anti-ignorance and pro-information. I just want the same functionality provided in the stock UI of every other MMORPG, and could do without add-ons entirely if it were offered.

There is still a chance that some of these changes will be reverted, and I hope that they are, but for me, it will be too little too late. Many of the decisions we have seen coming out of the development team leave much to be desired, and bring into serious question their ability to create and maintain a quality product. Repeatedly, we have seen the game change as its developers turn their priorities on a dime, eager to compromise it to pander to whatever wheel happens to be squeaking at that moment. Many have defended the changes to the game’s API as a way for the developers to stay true to their vision, but can anyone who has followed the game over the past year truly believe that they still have one? The Elder Scrolls Online began as a very traditional MMO more than a little reminiscent of World of Warcraft, and came fit with all the trappings of one. Due to feedback, it has been drastically changed to be closer in appearance to Skyrim than its MMO peers, yet retained the mechanics of an MMO. A more TES-like combat system, first person view, a re-work of the class system to be more open, the port to consoles, the decimation of any semblance of UI functionality, the removal of faction restrictions, optional starter zones, and more have all followed as the developers adjusted their game further and further away from its now unrecognizable original form. Many of these changes have greatly improved the game, but to claim that the developers are making any changes to adhere to an uncompromising vision seems more than a little far fetched.

That, in and of itself, is the crushing flaw at the core of The Elder Scrolls Online. There is no vision. In the end, ZeniMax has created a mediocre MMO with a TES feel, and a poor TES game. Their refusal to embrace one over the other, unfortunately, may be the single largest contributor to the downfall of the game. If, in the final week before the game’s launch they have discovered a vision, I can only hope that this will lead to a better game for the audience they are targeting, and accept that it is not me.

Between the dichotomy of design, consistent dishonesty, and sometimes ugly results, I can’t think of a better metaphor.

Mo’ money mo’ problems

Many months ago, The Elder Scrolls Online announced it would be releasing with a subscription model, a move which I applauded at the time. I have long been a fan of this model for the persistent community it can foster, and the steady addition in content it helps to facilitate without the addition of paywalls and micro-transactions. Unfortunately, we now also have paywalls and micro-transactions.

The paywall comes in the form of the Imperial Edition – a collector’s edition which grants access to the Imperials as a playable race. While many people, including myself, were not completely turned off by this digital bonus, it seems that even among those who were accepting of it, a lot of people were uneasy about it, as it pushed the boundaries of what they feel is acceptable. The problem is accentuated by the Imperial Edition being purchasable post-launch as a $20 account upgrade, meaning that there will almost certainly be a pop-up asking for currency when a non-owner attempts to select Imperial as a race. [See correction at bottom] This is the very definition of a paywall, something we were directly promised by ZeniMax would not be in game. In just this brief article, this is the second time ZeniMax has lied to its community (the first being that add-ons would allow us access to a functional UI).

Before the announcement of the Imperial Edition, it surfaced that TESO would be launching with a cash shop which would sell services and ‘fun stuff’. In response to the outrage that followed, Paul Sage spoke to Elder Scrolls off the Record to clarify that this was not, in fact, a cash shop, and that we would not see anything that would normally be found in the game, repeatedly stating that these offerings would be services like name changes. In the last few days, this has emerged apparent as lie number three, as the game will now be launching with a mount in the cash shop, as well as future plans for vanity pets that may or may not be added. Again, this alone is not enough to turn me off from the game, as these are nowhere near pay-to-win or otherwise unacceptable, but all of these instances of the company going back on its word do not inspire confidence.

It is important to note that while developers like Paul Sage are the mouth-pieces we see going back on their words, they in actuality have little to do with decisions involving monetization of the game. These developers are busy creating the game; the way the company makes money off of it will be handled by another department. I don’t want readers to come away with the impression that the developers are lying, because they most likely aren’t – they’re just the unlucky messengers of their employer’s untruthfulness. It is the company itself that is responsible for this pattern of dishonesty, and it is the company for which I have zero faith. Unfortunately, the company is also the one ultimately running the game.

Con-fidence

The expansion of the game’s micro-transaction system gives the impression that the game is preparing for a free-to-play conversion, most likely spurred by the problems mentioned earlier in this post. I do not believe the game can survive as a subscription MMO in its current state, and these changes lead me to believe that the company doesn’t either. I have never seen a subscription based Western MMO launch with a cash shop without a free-to-play transition happening shortly after launch; watching TESO follow the same pattern has been unsettling. I hope my intuitions are wrong, but all the hallmarks of a cash-in MMO with a planned free-to-play transition are in place. I don’t begrudge the ZeniMax team for having a back-up plan. In fact, it’s probably the smart option. I just don’t want to be a part of it.

This is merely a feeling that I have, and is not intended to be perceived as factual. However, this article is an explanation of my reasons for leaving – a realm where feelings and intuition are undeniably relevant.

Conclusion

All things considered, I do still feel that players who enjoyed the game in the beta weekends will be more than able to get their money’s worth from the content that is already in game, though I do consider waiting for free-to-play to be viable path as well. Many people will enjoy this game, and if you suspect you may be one of them, I encourage you to try the game out anyway – just because I do not enjoy it does not mean you will not. The concerns I have raised lie purely with the longevity of the game and its ability to succeed as a subscription MMO, which I honestly do not believe that it can do. In the past few weeks, I have found myself uninterested and unwilling to log into the PTS – even before the evisceration of the API or the addition of the cash shop. My excitement for the current game had died; those changes merely solidified it in a barrow of mistrust for its future.

Every MMO player has experienced the biting disappointment of the failure of a game they once loved, and the remorse of its purchase that follows it two months out when the population begins to dwindle. With as many times as I have been burned by MMOs that I was truly excited for, it is impossible for me to go into one where that excitement is already gone, and I see no alternative in its future to failure. Abandoning a game for which I have spent innumerable hours obsessing over, creating content for, and helping to foster a community in was no easy task, and I assure you that the decision to do so was a difficult one that weighs heavily on me. I hope with every fiber of my being that I am proven wrong, as I would love for this game to do well. If it does, I will happily play the fool and once again journey into the brilliant godrays of ZeniMax’s Tamriel.

For my final word on The Elder Scrolls Online, I would like to urge readers who agree with me to not cause trouble for the ZeniMax team. Though the company has at times frustrated me, its community managers are all excellent people doing their job to the best of their ability. Nothing will be gained by making their jobs harder or their days worse. We must accept that this game was not made for us, and continue on to the next thing which might.

Moving forward to the Next adventure

The occasion seems to somber for witty picture captions.

The occasion seems too somber for witty picture captions.

While disappointing beyond words, this hardly marks my exit from the genre, and I look forward to being excited and subsequently let down by new MMOs as time marches on. I am currently revisiting the great disappointment SWTOR with my TESOCast co-host Road (who also hosts TOROCast), and have found that it was just as bad as I remembered, but am still mildly entertained by a casual play through of its class stories with friends. I will return to Sanctuary with Diablo 3‘s Reaper of Souls expansion, which looks to make many improvements on the flawed game we are well aware of.

These games are only temporary though, and while I play them, I will set my eyes firmly on the sandbox MMOs of the future – ArcheAge, Everquest: Next, The Repopulation, and CCP’s hopefully not vaporware World of Darkness MMO – maybe even Star Citizen. Will one of these be my next big MMO home? I hope we can find out together, on The Errant Penman.

[Correction] Reddit user /u/priaptic has directed me to comments by Zenimax Community Manager Jessica Folsom on Reddit confirming that The Imperial Edition upgrade after launch will only be available to those who have pre-ordered the game. While my concerns about locking a race behind an account upgrade remain, this does make the race exclusivity a lot more bearable, and mitigates concerns about the possible existence of paywalls.

[Update] Contrary to the statement mentioned above, the Imperial Edition was indeed purchasable by anyone as an upgrade post-launch. The original text of this post was correct, even if ZOS specifically said that this would not be the case.

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41 thoughts on “A Farewell to TESO

  1. Eloquently written and thoughtfully presented. I have also found myself at times at odds with what I see coming out of ZeniMax, but I’m still enjoying the game. I guess once you’ve seen LOTRO turn from what it was at launch to the game it is now nothing else will phase you.

    Good luck sir. I can’t wait to see where your writing takes us next!

    Joseph
    Quest Gaming Network

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  2. While I do still plan on playing the game, it is with a lot more reserve and skepticism due to the pall these recent decisions have cast across the game.
    I just can’t see throwing myself wholeheartedly into something that seems to rest on such a rocky foundation and has such an uncertain future.

    The community will miss you, and I’m sure that there will always be a place for you if the developers can ever find a cohesive direction that enables them to open up the game’s full potential.

    Good luck in your future adventures.
    …wherever they may take you.

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  3. One game that I’m eager for after ESO is Camelot Unchained. While the devs of ESO seem to clearly lacking a well-defined and prewritten vision, CU is not. I’d recommend taking a look at it, Isarri (and anyone else) if you’re tired of mmo devs and publishers mucking up their promises. CU has a public posted vision and because it was initiated by a Kickstarter campaign (much like Star Citizen), they don’t have to worry about a publisher screwing with their game. CU is a RvR/PvP game through and through with a large part based on crafting so sorry, PvEers, this game may not be for you, but it looks to be a terrific remaking of DAoC that I’m extremely excited for.

    If that sounds at all interesting, I’d check out City State Entertainment’s Founding Principles (http://camelotunchained.com/en/foundational-principles).

    Thank you for this post and cheers,
    Vamp

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    • Oh look an mmo game that sounds good but hasn’t been made yet and won’t come out for god knows how long if at all. Why play ESO now when we can all just jerk off to the fantasy of a crowd funded repaint of DAOC maybe coming out in the next 5 years?

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  4. Isarii,

    I typically dont leave messages to these types of posts, but felt compelled because your post was well written.

    The issue I have is that, as a neutral observer (looking outside in), I honestly feel your major issues are just from 1) the last buggy patch (which frustrated me as well), and their attitude regarding add-ons/ UI. The rest of the issues you listed I dont think are much of anything…they are issues if you want them to be (who cares if someone pays $$ for a mount with a horn on it or whatever?).

    I sense a bit of /ragequit impacting your perception. I dont know you, but someone who spent as much time playing this game as you did clearly was enjoying his time (unless you just truly had nothing better to do, which I sincerely doubt. I bet you really were enjoying your time, otherwise never would have been able to discuss the game mechanics as you have, etc).

    I hope you come back, but honestly I think this post did more harm than good for the game. It came from a place where the game may very well go f2p not because it is bad, but because the power of social media allows those in your position to sway the opinion of others who only saw the game this last beta, or never at all. Just one month ago there was an overall feeling of satisfaction for the game in the general social media…how quickly one patch can change things (if you let it).

    In any event, I’ll be here playing a game that has me satisfied. Hope to you see you back in game.

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    • I don’t think this is an unreasonable response to what I’ve written, but at the same time, what I’ve written wasn’t an exhaustive write-up either. I chose to focus on my doubt for the future of the game because it is important, but there were other causes beyond changes in the most recent patch. Changes to the API were timely and relevant, but not the entire story either.

      I have actually barely been able to log onto the PTS for around a month now. It’s partially the bugs, horrendous balance, and other technical problems, but it also boils down to a fundamental problem I have with the endgame philosophy behind TESO. In the end, I think it’s the amount of questing the game forces on you (I’m including the other types of open world content as questing, for simplicity). I’m not a big quester, and while I’ve enjoyed it in some games, TESO’s quests just aren’t my type of thing. I love the way they fit into the world, and the emphasis on narrative focused chains rather than one and done kill quests is great, but they don’t grab me in the same way that The Secret World, or even SWTOR’s (to a much lesser extent) do.

      That’s all personal preference, but where other games have quests as an annoying content gauntlet you grind through to get to endgame, in TESO, those quests are a part the endgame, and this annoyed me far more than I expected it to. I liked +/++ content in theory, and in theory, I liked how lengthy the VR grind turned out to be. In practice though, the extended quest grind really, really bothers me, and it’s just not something I could bring myself to do again. This is a design that some people are going to love, but having tried it in the PTS, I can say with complete confidence that I am definitely not one of them.

      To tie it back into the game’s future though, this model is not going to bode well with a lot of the MMO community. Launching without adventure zones was not a good idea, and the extended quest grind covering up their absence may prove more egregious then the absence itself, especially in light of the difficulty associated with leveling VR through PvP or grinding; questing is nearly the only viable option right now.

      The game really, really needed to be pushed back six months at the very least. That’s not going to happen though, and it’s probably going to pay the price.

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      • I have been following your posts on tamrielfoundry. Like my preposter I usually do not write answers to posts a lot. Mostly because I am german and I don’t want people to have problems reading/understanding the stuff I write in english.
        I liked your article a lot because I think that this is what it boils down to for me as well. I did preorder the imperial edition for a reasonable price (45 euro) and while I do think to get a lot out of it for the money, I was pretty concerned about the devs cutting xp gain so harsh which to me seems like a way to cover up missing endgame as well.
        The good part on my side is that I only had the chance to test the game on several weekends. I havent played up to lvl20. You have seen most of the game for the last months. Don’t you think that this fact combined with all the changes back and forth took away your fun over the time? I mean you probably played more in the beta than most ppl will play when the game goes live.
        I felt that way often in the last weeks when playing wildstar beta. Seen most avaiable content there is and right now I could write something like this as well. But probably in german. 😉

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      • “I think it’s the amount of questing the game forces on you (I’m including the other types of open world content as questing, for simplicity). I’m not a big quester, and while I’ve enjoyed it in some games, TESO’s quests just aren’t my type of thing.”

        Maybe you got burnt out. There is no magical questing revolution in most MMO’s. This, in addition to the FTC mod getting slashed (I assume you used it because it was awesome) probably contributed the most in your decision. That’s the only logical explanation I can come up with. Because as well written and heart-felt as your post was, you’re basically saying this game is doomed before it even releases. All I can say to you is good luck with your next endeavor. Maybe don’t play PTS as much? Or get so emotionally invested in a game before the release?

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      • Sounds like a been there done that situation / beta burnout.

        You have already experienced the vast majority of what content ESO will offer so why bother replaying the same thing with less functionality.

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  5. Good luck man, sucks but I can guarantee your not the only one throwing in the towel this week, I expect at least a few hundred thousand pre- order cancels minimum, hopefully the exodus that is sure to follow will show them regardless of where they want to take the game ultimately its us who decides where it ends up.

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  6. haha totally agree with the titles looking forward to, exactly my list. Nice you mentioned World of Darkness too.
    ESO I´ve been ignoring since the announcement, another themepark is not my my cup of tea.

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  7. Isarii, first of all I’d like to thank you for your work spent with review and content of fansites for TESO, you did a great job, your comprehensive review is very well done and cover a lot of interesting aspects of the game.

    However, I can’t agree with your decision to not buy the game. In the end, you can do what you what, your money, your time, your decision to how use them. But I’ld like to show you 2 things you said:
    – you are partly basing your decision on the lack of interested in logging in the PTS. Well, the experience in the PTS is NOT the gaming experience you’ll have after release, because on the PTS there are so few people (group content is less interesting with a low players base, RvR is nearly not-existant) and PTS content is fixed without new development of content, that will be release after release, so you are simply bored after 1+ year of gaming on the PTS. In release the game experience will totally be different.
    – in a previous comment, you said you are not a “quester kind” and you are playing a game based on The Elder Scrolls lore and storyline, so perhaps TESO is simply not the right game for what you want to play (and in PTS you could not play RvR at full potential, because of the low population)

    A lot of aspects that you say are “negative” perhaps are simply based on your experience on the PTS (that is different from the real experience in release) and on TESO not being your kind of MMO, being based a lot on lore and storyline. In fact lot of players of TESO don’t see the “negative” you see.

    I know I can’t change your mind, this is your decision, but don’t bash the game for what could only be your personal experience with the game (and not its lacks or bugs)

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  8. I feel your pain.
    I just listened to the Podcast you were on when the Reddit dropped.
    As you clearly say, it’s not one thing, but lots of little things. My first thought was SW:ToR and the features that did not exist when it started, and then how appallingly it went freemium. In that case, they strangled what could have been a golden goose until it died an unnatural death. I certainly hope that ZOS has more control or I will have remorse over my purchase.
    I wish you good luck in finding a new MMO you can trust.

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  9. I complement you on your writing style.
    As for the game.I too share many of your concerns. However for me…the candle of hope has not yet been extinguished.

    Op…you may want to look into THE REPOPULATION.
    The ESO community has lost a great resource with your departure.

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    • I’m definitely looking into anything that resembles Star Wars Galaxies as closely as The Repopulation does, though currently, I’m focusing pretty heavily on Black Desert. I love its core features, even if some of its Korean elements turn me off a bit.

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  10. You hit the nail on the head with a lot of the issues that have been troubling me about the game.

    The first beta I entered, I was very frustrated with the terrible UI. There was no connection to what your character was doing, or what was happening to your character; This was exponentially worse in PvP as your HP’s would drop, and there were no graphical representations of what was transpiring unless a melee character was right in front of you swinging his sword.

    Once I installed the FTC addon and a combat log, the game became much more fun. I could tell exactly what was happening.

    After experiencing PvP with the proper info, found in every single other MMO to date, I bought the pre-order as the game was very enjoyable with a good UI (albeit through addons)

    Now with that information being gutted, and being stuck with an abhorrent UI I doubt I will continue my subscription beyond the free 30 days; I still have some hope that they will re-allow some of the data. I had my friend try the beta on his computer with just the base UI, and he turned it off in about 20 minutes and said the game sucked.

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    • They did not removed the addons. They just removed from the addons all the info that are not found in the base interface. So you can still have a different visual (addons are still working) but not having more information that could put in disadvantages who is not using the addon

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      • Even as an Elder Scrolls player I see a problem with the change of API. In Skyrim, I could pause the game to see what buffs and debuffs I had on me. But if I enter the menu in this game in a critical moment, it can easily get me killed. The information about your character needs to be available to you, without having to go into the menu and you shouldn’t have to install an add-on to get that information. They should let the information be toggleable tho since there are people who might not want that on their screen.

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  11. A. Your obviously not a big mmo pvper
    B. People are over exaggerating the UI addon restrictions. It’s like the sky has fallen and that the personal UI changes are no longer available (scrolling combat text, health/mag/sta meters). Those are really the only thing the default UI lacks. Noone should be able to see a target’s true numbers (health/sta/mag)..and quite frankly it was absurd that you were able to before and yes it may affect buffs/debuffs but those are a casualty that I can live with.

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    • Agree

      This should keep the PVP at endgame competitive because your skill at playing the game is what counts, not your ability to track UI. It is why I have been primarily PVPing in games like War Thunder which are more like FPS games than MMO.

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  12. I have no idea why are these people agreeing with you. After all you’re the only one here with multiple 50s, VT etc. You have what? A year of ESO… give or take or more? You played a game for a year… that isnt out yet… and these people are agreeing with you? And if you played that game for a whole year the way you did, like I said multiple 50s, VT, etc… the game must be pretty good or else you’d be out long before getting all that you did, and thats why you pretty much open and close the “farewell” with the same “new players entering the game will more than likely be able to get their money’s worth out of the product”… yea, a whole year it seems.

    But what bothers me its not your opinion, of course after a year of playing a game like you did, plus testing plus bugs and all… well I’d be sick and tired of the game and ready to move on probably also… what bothers me is again, these people that have played the game for hours, didnt even get past level 15, didnt see any content besides repetition after repetition on open beta weekends, the pvp they did was minimal, always 2 patches behind the PTS, some didnt even get their invite to the beta probably and yet… they agree with you – a guy with a year of ESO. Thats what makes absolutely no sense at all…

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    • It’s not specifically about this game. It’s about a pattern of behaviors from developers that we have seen repeated in other games.
      Will TESO be a fun game to play through. Most probably.
      Will it be a large MMO in 1 years time with content I am still interested in consuming… well, the Dev behavior is not indicating clear vision or ability to communicate effectively with the community. The indicators are all there that F2P or Freemium is part of the business plan. The impact of that on the community and the content creation is significant. In that case I would predict the Adventure Zones, which do not exist yet, will become sidelined to the AvAvA. Now maybe trying to be Fantasy CoD is a good business plan, but it’s not what I want to play and I don’t think it is what they were selling.

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    • Me: I played ESO up to around level 15, and didn’t like it.
      Fan-boys: You only played up to level 15, you didn’t see all the content! How do you know you didn’t like it?! You’re stupid.
      Isarii: I played ESO for a year and got multiple characters to max level. I didn’t like it.
      Fan-boys: Well if you played through all the content you must have liked it! You’re stupid!

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  13. After having played multiple beta weekends (4 I believe) I am still wanting to go back to Tamriel to adventure. Personally I believe this is one of the biggest pitfalls of alpha / beta testing. You played for waaay to long in the beta. You also have seen the vision shift multiple times. It should do so in a beta. I understand your reasoning, but I don’t agree with most of it especially because it is in such strong contrast with your previous review. I may agree a year from now, but that would mean that they have not updated content at all for me to do so. I also am not looking for another mmo to play for years, and something that can have elements of action combat and mmo combat (which I believe they have nailed pretty well). You can only do so much in an mmo environment and I don’t want another WOW that I am playing for years, or AoC like I did for almost 3. Well that’s not true I hope to play Star Citizen for years once it is released, but it isn’t a traditional mmo….

    I am not sure the bugs were entirely because of the game’s code, it may have been the server. Most of the log out / log back in bugs are server related because they were pushing the server boundries. The last weekend I saw quite a few less in the bug department. It appears to be a pretty polished game to me, again I played AoC for years so I am used to real bugs that don’t get fixed.

    On the UI issue, they chose to follow Bethesda’s example and pass on the UI to the community without plans for further updgrade. This is ok in my book, although I would like the ability to see my buffs actively added into the stock UI. The rest is no big deal and really keeps immersion where it needs to be. I think too many gamers, mmo’ers especially, feel they need a ton of on screen information to function or be competitive, and making this less necessary is a good decision. You don’t need a mini-map if you have group leaders calling direction. It is a crutch that really shouldn’t exist in fantasy mmo’s anyway.

    The business decisions were most likely by the publisher, not the development studio. I don’t think they lied on purpose, or that it really constitutes a lie, it is only a change of direction for how they are going, again being in beta and not a final product makes this ok in my book as long as they are announcing things. This is why backing and playing independent games is so important. They may well be setting up for FTP conversion. It is fine with me if they do. I really don’t think that the mounts nor planned vanity pets are a big deal either. Paywall to me is content, not vanity or even mounts as they are pretty standard. These games have to make money to survive, and usually large margins to keep the servers open.

    The biggest issue with some of the previous WoW clone games at launch was that the servers would get slammed, get to really high population then drop off as the mmo hoppers left leaving some servers pretty barren and requiring a usually paid for server transfer or heavily delayed transfers. The server structure that Zenimax is giving solves this issue. It isn’t without flaws, but it is probably the best decision, and best feature for the community at large, especially when talking about Cyrodil PVP at endgame. The lack of the auction house is pretty cool, too and should help increase the importance of a really good guild shop, or at the very least really good specialized trader guilds. It is a bold move, and that they are sticking with this point has me encouraged about the long-term outcome and health of this game.

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    • I misinterpreted the UI as I took that as they just passed it off, not changed the output given, but I stand by my position. You don’t have to have tons of information on screen to perform. Situational awareness is something some people don’t have and some do. MMO gamers sometimes fall into the category of lacking in awareness but being good at tracking things in a UI. As someone who plays aircraft games, situational awareness is often the difference between winning and losing an engagement. If you don’t know what is going on around you, should you be engaging? This will encourage tactical play for the positive at the expense of some of your more traditional mmo players. This isn’t a bad thing IMO.

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  14. As a beta stress tester, I can agree with some of the things the author has mentioned. The last stress test with its constant quest bugs especially left me thinking … WTF.

    But with that said, I think part of the author’s problem with the game is simply game burnout.

    Back when Fallen Earth was still in testing I was one of their Alpha / Beta testers. All in all I tested that game for about a year. I had so many character restarts I lost count of them all. It got to the point I knew what to expect from a resource node before I even clicked on it. But all that testing takes a toll. You eventually do a /face slap when you hear the words server wipe. Because you are once again killing the same critters, do the same quest, and making the same things you have made a hundred times over.

    And I can’t help but think that this is where the author is too. The new car smell has long faded from the game for him/her and now you struggle just to find a reason to login. A game he/she might have enjoyed for 6 months to a year, at release you now can’t find any pleasure in at all.

    That is the curse of being a full time tester. You help in a small way to mold the game yet when it is time to showcase it, you are so burned out you don’t even know what to do.

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  15. I hate drama. I have to endure it at work and at some aspects of my social life. I am aware that I have to endure it also in a big mmo community.
    This statement was just because I want to be honest about how I feel about drama posts. However, I decided to try and read again and again over your post with a cool head as much as possible. To sum it up:

    1) I see some of the problems you mention, but I don’t see them as problems that can’t be solved or worked around in other ways. In general, I like to give games a chance. I play them the way the company makes them or aims them to be or changes them and I decide after having a bigger picture. Posts like yours can affect me, or not, depending on how long I’ve been playing a game for to allow myself a valid opinion. You have a tendency during your writings to make some things appear as matter-of-fact, while I just see some issues that I would like to see how they work out before starting to chant ”doom doom”.
    2) I see burnout and some sort of drama attempt in the form of a glorious exit. You speak of your high profile in the ESO community and how you have to explain to (your fans?) why you have to abandon the game. I seriously wouldn’t mind if you posted some more valid arguments or pointed out problems in a more mathematical way than just expressing your ‘feelings” which is the case mostly here I think. I feel, I sense etc. But again, as I said, I don’t like drama so maybe I am biased against your post.
    3) Leaving a game because you got bored or because, as you said, it’s not your style the way it goes is one thing, trying to bash it is another. I agree with what another guy said earlier that you are taking advantage of your ‘position’ to change opinions. Again, the drama makes me think you just try to satisfy your emotions, but maybe I am just biased again.
    4) You mentioned what? addons, mounts and the imperial edition? You already speak of a cash shop prophecy, a secret plan of transition to f2p with very few arguments to back it up, it’s mostly your feeling and your … past experience with mmos in general… !?. Personally, I also think blocking out a race behind a paywall is bad, very bad. I can’t care less for vanity pets buyers or people who pay to have mounts earlier than me, but I agree it can be annoying to many gamers. But even though we agree on those things, I don’t see doom anywhere or a cash-shop in the horizon. Future will show the truth, but at least for now I don’t see very good reason to expect a cash shop with certainty.
    5) I don’t follow podcasts, reviews, streams or pay big attention to these things usually. I prefer to see some video or read an objective review. I also avoid hype reviews. I don’t like it when people start acting professionaly when it comes to a game (unless they work for the company that makes it). The only reason why I read your review is because someone who is part of my guild group posted it to me expressing his concerns that if someone who tested the game for so long ragequits then maybe something is wrong. He didn’t really know what you were talking about since he is a casual gamer who doesn’t care for addons but still your post gave him worries about the game he beta-tested , loved to play and pre-ordered.
    6) I agree with you on matters of balance, but I never expect good balance when I try a game from its launch. I expect big levels of skills/classes/builds imbalance actually and I expect a lot of changes in the months to come. I know it’s someting that causes people to ragequit. It usually happens to those who try to pick something op. They invest on their op char then a few months later they get nerfed and they rage. Then they pick the second op choice, months later it gets nerfed and they quit the game. I saw it happen with many gamers but I guess we can’t do anything about that , it’s almost bound to happen to any mmo with a pretty solid pvp core..

    Lastly, do not take my post as an attempt to insult you, I don’t know you. I don’t like or dislike you. As a fellow gamer, I hope you come back soon after your break cause… everything else out there is crap anyway, unless you move to Eve online which is the best mmo that ever was and will be (for the next years at least) being the only sandbox game out there. If you are not afraid of losing yourself forever in its vast depths give it a try. If not, come back soon 🙂

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    • Hey Laender,

      First of all, I wanted to affirm that you did an excellent job of expressing yourself without coming off as insulting or anything like that, so kudos. I noticed a lot of your posts stem from what seems to be a common misconception about my goals of this post, or its target audience (as it has now reached audiences far, far beyond that). I made a post on a message board where a large discussion about my post was happening, and I’d like that share that here, as I feel it’s relevant.

      —————————–

      The major thing I would like to clarify is that if at any point during the read, you thought to yourself, “who the fuck is this guy and why should I care”, then you simply aren’t my target audience. Regardless of your opinion of me as a person, it is undeniable that I am fairly well known in at least my little corner of the TESO community through my participation on Tamriel Foundry and Twonkhammer’s TESOCast, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to assume that people who are fans of those outlets would be interested in my departure.
      As I said in the post, those are the people that this article was written for – the ones I know personally, and the ones that follow me personally; this is why I posted it to my low traffic blog, and not Tamriel Foundry itself. I shared my post on my personal Twitter, my guild forums, and the off-topic forum of Tamriel Foundry, the site which I have helped to run for the last year. While it has made its way to MMORPG.com and Reddit through other posters, none of that was my doing, because in all truthfulness, I agree with you guys. You don’t know who I am, and I wouldn’t expect you to care.
      The target audience defines a lot about my approach to the piece, which I believe has lead to some confusion now that several thousand people outside of that audience have found their way to it. While the post is merely a telling of my personal loss of faith in the game and its developer, it has been approached as if it were a review, meant to inform or sway the opinions of a lot of people. I don’t blame the confused for the misunderstanding, as the style they are interpreting the post as being is a lot more in line with my past writing than the one in question.
      In the end though, the post should be viewed for what it actually is – a personal blog post, which should only be held to a slightly higher standard than a Facebook post.
      With the post now properly framed as an insight into my own personal choices and not a review meant to persuade or enact change, a lot of the post should make more sense. Some have accused me of “crystal-balling” due to the post being entirely future focused, but when I have already seen the content that is currently in the game, what other standard should I use for my own personal purchasing decisions? Many have mentioned that the length I stuck with the game indicates that I’m full of it, but this is something the post already addressed, multiple times, with a disclaimer at the top and bottom noting that many people will get their money’s worth and enjoy the content that is already in game. That’s a great standard for those people to choose by, and for them, there is my comprehensive review. It’s not appropriate for me though; I’ve been there – I’ve done that, and the future is all the game would hold.
      For me to drop money on the game, I have to be convinced that TESO has what it take to survive in the market as a long-term MMORPG. I want to think that it does, but based on my beta testing experience, and experience with the MMO market in general, I really don’t think it will. The post wasn’t made to convince people that I’m right. If you think the game holds a future for you, then I recommend that you buy it. Its purpose was to explain, to those who cared, that the uncertain future is the reason I will no longer be around.
      And that’s what it came down to. Do I stay with the game and get burned by another MMO, even when I see it coming, or do I cut my losses and avoid spending money on a game I have no faith in? I chose to play it cautious, for once.

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      • Laender stated in a better way most of what I was thinking as well. All games are going to burn you eventually, and if they aren’t it is more than likely you are still playing because the group of people you are playing with makes it worth the sub price. I don’t think it ever really is the game to be brutally honest. I may very well be still playing WoW if the core group of raiders I had insane fun with in TBC content stayed together. Those guys rocked and I have been looking for a group like that ever since. We all went our separate ways, I went to AoC and Eve Online(even though I raided a night or two a week with the WoW buddies until the end of Wrath), others went to Rift a bit later, a few bounced to Aion. The games have gotten better in general. SWTOR is better than WoW in quite a few respects, Rift has (or had) a better raid system, AoC was dark and had insanely difficult group PVE content and raids (along with a fantastic community on the Set server) and many other games which didn’t quite make the mark they wanted for various reasons. All had hopes of taking out WoW but fell short. All chipped away at its core only to have some go back because, honestly I bet they wanted to go back to their repsective friends and groups in a more established game.

        I would be really excited for EQN like you, or Archeage as well if either one of them weren’t oversaturated, cartoony and way too stylized for my taste. The core concepts of both games look great, but at the end of the day I doubt I would play either one. WoW killed all desire to play something cartoony. I want visceral, action combat in a dark, brooding and more realistic setting. ESO is the only mmo for the next year at least that even comes close. It has a good base and I can deal with bugs. They can be frustrating at times, but in the end as long as the endgame PVP is fun I am in. I will be testing Gloria Victis during the next year as well, I think it has the potential for something really special (although niche). War Thunder is a pretty good game minus some issues with mouse aim being op in the non-arcade modes vs joystick. If it had an open world, or central area to have factional warfare it would be perfect. Star Citizen has the potential to bring something of a living world like a single player Elder Scrolls game into the market better than anyone. It won’t be MMO as much as it is persistent world multiplayer, but that depends on your definition of what a MMO is.

        They have stuck to their guns on the limited ability slots (which should bring good balance and promote competitive play), completely open skill system and the lack of the auction house. These are really important to its identity and the system they want in place. I believe that player skill and group cohesion will be important. I hope that people stick with the game as it has more potential than any other game I have tested in the last 5 years to really hit the mark for long term viability, at least from my point of view.

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  16. I had high hopes myself for this game, i am a huge fan of the ES IP, and after playing for couple weekend closed betas my fears are the same, i came to a point that, and perhaps, my vision of quality in a MMO these days is more refined that makes me not jump a boat to neverland just because, i do sure hope the game succeeds and those who buy it, have a great time, sad to see you go, always liked your point of view.

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  19. You’ve managed to state here in an even-handed manner what came across as a entitled petulant (though still fairly well written) whine on the TF forums replete with sycophantic follow-ups from various people. I’ve always felt that having your own medium to spill it out imbues a certain “completedness” to what you’re trying to say as opposed to relying on other people’s space. Here, you’re free to let your mind go untrammelled.

    A couple of things though – it should be no surprise to anyone when (not if) TESO goes F2P and that they’ll introduce a more comprehensive cash shop. At the end of the day their ultimate loyalty isn’t to you or me, but their investors. Making a successful and subscription-viable product is obviously the sure fire way for Zenimax to recoup that money but as well know, the F2P/cash shop model works. And as much as we think we’re getting close to the game and those who made it, we’re all worth exactly purchase price + monthly subscription to Zenimax. That’s it.

    I came into beta late because I’m from the camp that never wanted this game made. I’ve been at ES games since 1994 with the release of Arena and over the course of 20 years I’ve snapped up every ES thing Bethesda has released. And you know, I’m all too happy to live in these worlds – solo. Even when Morrowind came out, I was raiding end game in EQ1 and one of the things I was thinking was that I hope Bethesda don’t get suckered in and make their franchise MMO. I believed it would not translate well into a persistent multiplayer experience. Oh well, it took them what? Ten or so years to get the ball rolling and I have approached TESO with a healthy amount of scepticism. I like it so far, but I don’t have your testing depth obviously, yet I can’t see myself lasting beyond six months with this game. And then, I’m going to get a little bitter that this game was made, and not Elder Scrolls: VI in its place.

    Oh well, enough from me, see you in ArcheAge mate.

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  20. I can totally relate to just about everything you said in this blog and I think your statements are completely fair and well told. I have been playing mmo’s for many years with my first being Ultima Online and while UO I still to this day claim it as my favorite, I can say that most are only fun for a short while. I think the trouble with mmo’s is the compromise the game devs have to make in order to try and keep the majority of the player base happy and that is where the problem lies because in their eyes the majority is right because that’s whats going to pay the bills.

    Unfortunately from my experience there are far more idiots than there are smart people playing these games. I’ve learned to accept at my age that nothing is meant to last so if a game is fun for the moment you should suck up as much as you can because eventually something will most likely happen that will ruin that fun. My last example is Diablo 3, while most believe RoS was a fix/improvement to Diable 3, I personally felt it ruined the game and broke it.

    I’m not going to go into every detail here as to why I feel that way but all I can say is in the 18 months time that I played D3 I really had a lot of fun but with RoS that fun died and it was time to move on. My next adventure will be ESO. Granted you are probably right that it will become a free to play game only time will tell. I think what will drastically help this game is the new concept of a megaserver. With the megaserver the game world should always feel populated which in turn will encourage players to keep playing. I can’t tell you how many mmo’s I played from beta to launch and after about two months the servers looked like ghost towns. When there is no population about then players loose the interest of the mmo atmosphere and quit. I could be totally wrong but I do think the megaserver idea will help a lot.

    Furthermore the class and skill build system seems to be very diverse, meaning that we probably won’t be seeing a lot of cookie cutter builds. For me this is a major selling point for the game. I’m very burned out on games that you choose a specific class and only have one or two effective build options. ESO appears to have changed that based on what I’ve played, read, and watched on live streams.

    One thing you also mentioned that has me a bit concerned is the dishonesty you have witnessed from Zenimax. I can totally relate to how you feel as I have this same feeling about Blizzard Entertainment. I can’t tell you how many times that company has flat out lied about or went against their word on their game development, so much that I refuse to buy another game made by them. I can understand when a company states an objective or idea about a game they are developing but when a company says they are going to do something and then they turn around and do the opposite you get a bit disgusted and turned off. I will give Zenimax their fair day in court, if they prove to be like Blizzard then I’ll do what I did with Blizzard and fire them and move on to another game.

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  21. I use to be like this with games. But now I simply play them. Life consumes my thoughts and even thought I would love to be able to critically analyze the games I love like this, I simply don’t have the time nor effort anymore. Good read.

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