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Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls' ginormous post-50 update plan

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, News Items, PvE, Opinion, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium - Elder Scrolls art header
Earlier this week, Elder Scrolls Online creative director Paul Sage dropped by the Elder Scrolls OTR podcast and proceeded to drop a ton of update info on fans of ZeniMax's fantasy themepark MMO. We put out a corresponding news post, of course, but there was so much meat on those bones that I couldn't let an issue of Tamriel Infinium go by without adding my two cents.

Plus, hey, it was only two weeks ago that I was advocating for an adjustment to the game's post-50 approach. Ask and ye shall receive, right?

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Tamriel Infinium: Immersion matters in Elder Scrolls Online and every other MMO

Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription, Tamriel Infinium

Grahtwood art
I'm fully on board with all of the changes ZeniMax listed in its latest state-of-the-game update. My only concern has more to do with personal OCD issues than it does with any long-term effects on Elder Scrolls Online. See, as I mentioned in a previous piece, I love the fact that ZOS allows me to play all of the game's quest content, which is spread across three different factions, on a single character of a single faction. I hate alts, or more accurately, I hate the need for them because they pull me right out of the game world.

Oh yes, I'm going to talk about immersion, even at the risk of inviting a bunch of anti-immersion comments. I'll even define the dreaded "I" word, though of course it's pretty subjective.

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Tamriel Infinium: About that Elder Scrolls VR grind

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription, Tamriel Infinium

Khenarthi's Roost art
Last time around I took a little flak from people who felt that my positive opinion of Elder Scrolls Online would change once I reached a certain veteran rank. In the past two weeks, I've gotten most of the way to VR2 whilst playing primarily solo a couple of hours per day. I would've gotten higher, but I got sidetracked into ESO's addictive crafting minigame!

Anyway, so far my opinion of the world's first Elder Scrolls MMO hasn't changed despite the fact that the VR content does seem pretty grindy. The game is still a first-class themepark that's full of content, incredible art direction, and interesting progression, and the cherry on top of this particular sundae is one of my favorite IPs.

All that said, ZeniMax could stand to alter its post-50 approach.

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Tamriel Infinium: In which you're told that Elder Scrolls Online kicks ass

Fantasy, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription, Tamriel Infinium

Welcome back to Tamriel Infinium, folks. I'll be your new writer, but don't worry about Larry. He's alive, well, and we're lucky to have him back at the helm of Hyperspace Beacon here on Massively.

I've done plenty of dedicated game columns in the past, but it has been a while, so you'll have to bear with me while I shoot from the hip for a week or three and figure out what's best for this space. One thing I know already is that I dig Elder Scrolls Online, even though that's a pretty unpopular opinion in some quarters. With that in mind, let's poke fun at anti-ESO hipsters after the break, shall we?

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Tamriel Infinium: The big thing that Elder Scrolls Online got right

Fantasy, Lore, PvE, Opinion, Mac, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: The big thing that Elder Scrolls Online got right
I've spent a lot of time over the last few weeks explaining and complaining about the issues I have with Elder Scrolls Online. Some of my readers got the impression that I neither like nor play the game. The reality is that I do like the game, but I'm horribly frustrated with it. Many of the ideas and promises that the developers set up for the game just aren't happening (or aren't happening fast enough). That's made me not want to log into the game. The fact that the game isn't roleplay-friendly hasn't helped, either.

Despite all my misgivings, ESO does compel me to log in for one main reason: the story. And not just the story but how well the characters are written and how the story is told. The subject matter isn't bland and cliche. The characters are taken seriously, even when the story is humorous, regardless of gender or race. Although I cannot give you every example here, I would like to touch on a couple of the stories that exemplify what I mean by great storytelling in an MMORPG.

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Tamriel Infinium: Examining Elder Scrolls Online's first major update

Fantasy, New Titles, Patches, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Dungeons, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: Examining the Elder Scrolls Online first major update
I've often wondered if my frustration with game creators should be taken out on the game itself. This goes for any game, not just Elder Scrolls Online. Perhaps I love the game, but I believe the creators have had missteps that drag down production, or maybe they set customer expectations to a certain level then didn't quite deliver.

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Tamriel Infinium: An open letter to the creators of Elder Scrolls Online

Fantasy, Bugs, Business Models, Culture, New Titles, Opinion, Mac, The Elder Scrolls Online, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: An open letter to the creators of Elder Scrolls Online
Dear ZeniMax,

I understand that you are a new studio, but you stem from a studio with a long history of making good games. I understand that no game has ever been 100% bug free. I also understand that you are extraordinarily excited about bringing your game to the public. And I wanted to see Elder Scrolls Online as much as anyone. You're also a young studio, and I understand the feeling wanting to do things your own way. You want to make your individual mark on the world, but doing that at the expense of wisdom... well, I hope you can see where I'm going with this.

On Thursday, I spoke to many people about the console delay. I mentioned to most of them that my last Tamriel Infinium about the PC gamers actually being console beta testers was meant to be hyperbole. Although it was based on truth, I extended my logic beyond what I thought a studio would actually do. I didn't think that you were actually using the PC version that people are playing and paying for as a beta test. Clearly, that's the case since you will not release ESO in its current state to consoles.

I don't think all is lost. I believe you might be able to turn some things around. So here's my armchair developer's advice.

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Tamriel Infinium: Beta testing Elder Scrolls Online for consoles

Betas, Fantasy, Bugs, Launches, New Titles, Endgame, Opinion, Mac, Dungeons, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: Beta testing Elder Scrolls Online for consoles
With so many fixes, changes, and new bugs, it's hard to keep up with everything that's going on in The Elder Scrolls Online in a biweekly column. So instead of trying to discuss every minute detail of ESO's progress towards perfection, I'd like to look at the bigger picture. Why are these things happening and to what end? And the core question is this: "Was this planned all along?"

Paid betas appear to be an unfortunate trend cropping up in MMOs as of late. And I know I'm going to sound like a hater, but I don't like to pay for beta. Yet being the idiot that I am, I still bought the $60 alpha for SOE's Landmark. I'm a sucker; I'll admit it. But that doesn't mean that I don't feel the shame that pours over me like gooey green slime -- a bucket for every dollar spent. Perhaps it's because I am not max level yet, but I'm starting to feel like a sucker when it comes to pre-ordering ESO. Don't get me wrong: I believe it's a great game. I just feel that it's not done, and I'm paying to participate in the console beta test.

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Tamriel Infinium: Seriously, you should craft in Elder Scrolls Online

Fantasy, News Items, Opinion, Mac, Guides, Crafting, The Elder Scrolls Online, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: Seriously, you should craft in Elder Scrolls Online
I've come to the conclusion that Elder Scrolls Online is not a game you want run through quickly. If you fly past each town just running from quest marker to quest marker, you'll miss some of the most important things the game has to offer and burn-out comes that much faster. In the first day, we had a player reach max level in less than 18 hours. Of course, some players cry "exploit," but for me, that's not really the point. I would feel I was missing something if I rushed to the end. And because I didn't rush to the end, I can try out some parts of Elder Scrolls Online that I would not even think about trying in any other MMO, like crafting.

I have a long-standing angst toward crafting in MMOs. I played Ultima Online, but I didn't really craft in that game. I didn't start to understand the importance of crafting until I played Star Wars Galaxies. As we know, crafting was central to the success of that game. But after ZeniMax announced that an auction house would not exist in ESO, I wrote off crafting as unimportant and ultimately a waste of my time.

Then late in beta, a friend of mine crafted a set of armor for me. I was surprised. The armor she made was better than my looted armor. I had to find out more. I put this little primer together for those who want to get started making their own weapons and armor.

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Tamriel Infinium: A hitchhiker's guide to The Elder Scrolls Online

Fantasy, Lore, New Titles, Opinion, Guides, The Elder Scrolls Online, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: A hitchhiker's guide to Elder Scrolls Online
I believe we can all agree that The Elder Scrolls Online is not a sandbox in the MMORPG sense. However, the game starts to branch out as your level increases. Although it will never be an MMO sandbox, it does start to resemble the single-player sandbox, except there are tons of other people playing at the same time.

Just like those single-player sandboxes, ESO allows us to do pretty much whatever we want when we want to. It's an explorer's dream, if you ask me. Of course, we might be able to find some of those explorable items on the in-game map, but many of them remain hidden until we just land on them. Today, I'd like to talk about a few of the items that I think every ESO explorer should be aware of.

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Tamriel Infinium: Five essential Elder Scrolls Online addons

Betas, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Opinion, Mac, The Elder Scrolls Online, Player-Generated Content, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: Five essential Elder Scrolls Online addons
The Elder Scrolls series is known for its mods and addons, and Elder Scrolls Online is no exception. Although we will likely not see the appearance modifications found in Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, we will see UI addons that help with grouping, dungeon crawling, and even roleplaying. In fact, modding is so essential to the Elder Scrolls franchise that Curse announced it was opening its own site featuring Elder Scrolls Online addons, and ZAM launched its ESO addons website a few weeks ago.

I've been keeping an eye on these addons as they begin to take off. As you would expect, initially the pickings were slim. However, over the last few weeks with the beta weekends, the ongoing beta, and the NDA drop, we have seen these addons grow exponentially to the point that I think some of these modifications are required to properly enjoy the game.

Today, I will list some of the addons that I think are necessary before you even start playing the Elder Scrolls Online. Although modders Wykkyd and WarLegend lead the pack, there are plenty of lesser-known mods you might want to look at. Here are my top five mods for the Elder Scrolls Online.

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Tamriel Infinium: Outside the box healing and tanking in The Elder Scrolls Online

Fantasy, Classes, New Titles, PvE, Opinion, Guides, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: Outside the box healing and tanking in ESO
In last week's Tamriel Infinium, I had my top-tier theorycrafter and friend Calls1gn throw together some off-the-wall DPS builds for The Elder Scrolls Online. But he could theorycraft all day, and it wouldn't mean anything if he couldn't put it into practice. Luckily, ZeniMax opened the doors to the ESO beta again this past weekend. I was totally intrigued by the melee Sorcerer with pets. After playing that type of character at low levels, I have to say that it's an extremely lazy class. Now, I didn't have all the abilities because they required a higher-level character, but even at my low level, I mostly sat back and watched my pets do their thing while I found one mob to beat on. It worked and was more than viable.

Of course, building a DPS class is easy, right? What about something that requires a bit more concentration? What about a tank or a healer? Building a DPS character is a bit less difficult than tanks or healers, but that doesn't make them any less difficult to play. Still, your playstyle does change, and your focus changes if you want to tank or heal.

I asked Calls1gn to build us a few tank and healer classes, too. I wanted a Dragonknight healer because there are few DK abilities that have anything to do with healing, and I wanted a Sorc tank because -- well, just because. He delivered.

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Tamriel Infinium: Building the best DPS class in The Elder Scrolls Online

Fantasy, Classes, New Titles, PvE, Opinion, Guides, The Elder Scrolls Online, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: Building the best DPS class for ESO‚Äč
Commenters and gamers around the internet have wondered aloud whether it's really true that any class can play any role in the Elder Scrolls Online. Developers have said that with a simple weapon swap, we can instantly change the group dynamic. Being a hard-nosed MMOer, I admit I thought that was a stretch. We've seen the pseudo-roleswaps in Guild Wars 2, but based on the videos that I've seen of both GW2 and ESO, the latter defines the roles even more stringently. If you're a tank in ESO, you will take the brunt of the damage and you will keep aggro off other players. As a healer, you'll find your job will be to keep others' health points from reaching zero. And DPS will be required to drop enemy health points to zero as fast as possible. That's the reality.

So is it actually possible for any class to play any role, as the developers claim?

I might enjoy talking about builds and what works for different playstyles, but math is far from fun for me. Fortunately, I have friends for whom theorycrafting is their calling. I wrestled down Calls1gn, a top-tier raider formerly of Memories of Xendor. I sat him in front of a skill calculator for ESO and made him create some amazing, yet viable, builds in some obscure classes to prove once and for all whether the class system is as flexible as ZeniMax claims.

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Tamriel Infinium: Roleplaying in spite of The Elder Scrolls Online

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Culture, Game Mechanics, Lore, New Titles, Opinion, Roleplaying, The Elder Scrolls Online, MMORPG, Tamriel Infinium

Tamriel Infinium: Roleplaying in spite of The Elder Scrolls Online
From the moment I stepped into my first MMORPG ever, I was interested in playing a character, not just some avatar of myself on the screen. I followed the Ultima universe enough to create a believable character in that world, though I didn't play as long as I would have liked. However, my second MMO, Star Wars Galaxies, made roleplay really easy. With a bushel of emotes, character animations, and activities not directly based on combat, Sony's Star Wars MMO solidified my definition of what it meant to play an MMO. Of course, after that, the new MMOs -- with too few exceptions -- stopped lending themselves to quality roleplay thanks to the World of Warcraft design model.

The change in scenery didn't stop roleplayers from forming amazing communities. In spite of mechanical issues and linear questlines, the Lord of the Rings Online roleplay community thrives. Rumor has it that WoW's roleplay community actually does something besides dancing on mailboxes in Goldshire. I don't think I have to tell you how difficult it is to roleplay in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I do it anyway. My friends and I are considering jumping into The Elder Scrolls Online not just to play the game but to attempt to roleplay in it as well. It makes us wonder whether we'll be encouraged by the game to roleplay the way we like to or will have to roleplay in spite of the game.

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Tamriel Infinium: The missing parts of Elder Scrolls Online impressions

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Tamriel Infinium: The missing parts of ESO impressions
Usually Massively doesn't write second impressions, as it were. We sometimes take older games and play them again. Or we might play a game because it's fun to be led by the hand of our audience. However, once the first impressions are done, they're done. Of course, some games, like The Elder Scrolls Online, are fortunate enough to have a weekly column written about them, and ZeniMax gave the press a second weekend to play the game. Of course, we were supposed to look at PvP, which I did, but I also took this opportunity to play more of the main game, up to level 15.

Although I didn't come away agreeing with my colleague Eliot Lefebvre that the beta is nothing special, I didn't come away with an overwhelmingly positive opinion of the front of the game, either.

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