Tonight I watched the Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) trailer that was shared on Tuesday by game publisher Bethesda Softworks:
Pretty entertaining trailer, but it immediately opened up some questions. Is this a 3-faction game? (Yes.) Are there going to be different classes by race? (Good grief I hope not.)
There was an introduction video posted back in November by the game developer ZeniMax Online Studios which explains some of the key design decisions:
Here are some of my key takeaways from the introduction video:
- There are no shards – just a megaserver
- There is no competition for resources or drops
- The game is *supposed* to hold up under mass combat
- You design your class
There are no shards – just a megaserver
“The game figures out where to put you.”
This is a great concept, and one step beyond the Guild Wars 2 (GW2) model where there are fewer servers that share overflows. Being able to group with anyone regardless of geographic location would be awesome.
There is no competition for resources or drops
Amen to that. Thankfully ESO follows the same philosophy as GW2 – the game is cooperative not competitive with respect to resources and rewards.
The first time I saw another player in GW2 run over and start mining a node while I was killing the mobs around it, I was thinking that was uncool. Until I realized that his mining the node didn’t affect my ability to mine it. I was so used to the WoW style of resources where players compete for the same gathering nodes, and where loot is rolled on.
Cooperative mechanics create much more positive interactions between players. I have revived and rez’d hundreds of times by other players in GW2, and the driving reason is because the game encourages it.
The game is *supposed* to hold up under mass combat
“All of our characters are designed so that hundreds of them can be on screen at one time. You’re going to have lots of customization options to make your character look unique.”
If ZeniMax can actually skin this cat, it will be a first in the industry.
The challenges with having many characters fighting in the same area are:
- The game server has to make all the real-time calculations to determine the outcomes of all the actions of the players (hit/miss/crit, damage, healing, CC, immunities, etc), and
- The game clients and game server must exchange all of this information quickly and securely, and
- The game client must render all the action (graphics, audio) of all the players, and
- All of the above must be scalable and efficient such that there is no meaningful degradation of performance
Mythic had no solution in place for mass combat lag in WAR, and the result was that high numbers of players would overwhelm the game servers and game clients until they lagged horribly and then crashed. ArenaNet sidestepped the mass combat issue in GW2 by implementing culling – players near you gradually appear over time – and this staggering is intentional to prevent game clients from getting overwhelmed. Unfortunately while culled players are invisible, they can still damage and kill you, which is why players have been complaining and AN is continuing to work on it.
You design your class
“You’re able to pick one of nine races and a class. That’s just a start though. You can use whatever weapon or armor type that you want. You can play as a heavy armor character who’s a tank with bow. You can play as a Mage who uses a 2H weapon. You can play as a sneaky guy who runs around healing people. The combination of weapon, armor, and class creates a unique experience for you.”
This is close to the “spec however the heck I want” system that some gamers (including me) have been wanting to see for years. (The Secret World (TSW) may actually have something close to it, but I didn’t play it after trying it at GDC last March.)
With ESO, it sounds like you still need to pick a class, but after that, you can choose the weapon and armor. Melee-mage here I come!
Some players will claim that this is impossible to balance, but it’s doable if you implement each dimension of customization (weapons, armor, etc) as incomparables. In most games heavy armor offers superior mitigation to light armor, and everyone would wear heavy armor if they could. However, if you make every armor set and weapon set have a series of benefits and downsides, it’s possible to achieve functional balance. E.g. in an incomparables implementation, heavy armor could provide you with the highest physical damage mitigation but increases your vulnerability to heat or cold effects.
This all sounds promising, but we’ll have to wait and see until there is more information is released and players can try the game in Beta.
What’s your first impression of ESO?