ESO – Bug Report

I know I mention the bugs in ESO and I’m guessing a few people think I’m exaggerating.  ES games have been known to be buggy, what with the open-ness of it all.  I never really minded that part, as you could save/reload and try some wacky things out.

MMOs though, I am less used to buggy launches.  I mean, really less used to it.  The last one that launched with this many bugs was Star Trek Online, at least in recent memory.  FF14 aside.  ESO is getting buggier the farther along I get.

Is this a multi-verse?

Is this a multi-verse?

The one above happens every so often, especially when the particular NPC follows you around.

What book?

What book?

This one happens way too often.  The little lights mean there’s a book, or a note or something to interact with.  /reloadui doesn’t work, so that means that  the item is just below the world line.  I’ve seen this a few times in other games with resource nodes, specially mining nodes.  Those I sort of understand, what with the randomness and the fact that they are used when collected.  These though, these are manually placed.  I don’t get why the person who placed them didn’t put them at the right spot.  Maybe on a server reset they come back?

There are plenty of dungeon bugs too, some that prevent you from completing them.  Frustrating.

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This Weekend’s Gaming

While I didn’t get much in, I did get enough to quench the thirst.  Seems a cold is going around town and we were not immune to the effects.  That and a long weekend, plus finally nice weather after what seems 6 months of winter, we were outside a lot and around the city.  Fresh air!

Wildstar

This was weekend #3 of the pre-order open(?) beta for Wildstar.  It had been 2 weeks since the last and that one was pre-empted by ESO for the most part, so I’m a little rusty.  The good news is that they put in a kitchen sink patch which means beta is going well as nearly everything is tuning.  Sure they added a few more body types (which is actually kind of neat) but the biggest change for me was the UI.  It is a whole lot smoother now.  It looks a ton like some of the WoW mods I used for my UI.  Clear icons on the bottom, wide open screen on top.  I think it looks great.

Anyhoot, back into the game I played my Esper again.  Saturday was lag day, so no gaming then.  There are surprisingly very few bugs in this game.  I’ve played from 1-18 and haven’t found a single one related to content.  I’ve seen plenty of UI bugs with this patch.  Consistent ones too, but the the actual game has been super smooth.  I’ll get back to this in a minute.

I mentioned the patch applied some balance changes.  My esper does a bit less damage but now the skills are actual choices.  Previous to this, there were 2 or 3 skills that simply outshone every other one and now they are all pretty even, if situational.  I’ll use a pet tank for boss work.  I’ll use an AE attack for when I need to move and damage since my regular builder needs me to be standing still.  I like what I see.  Hopefully the next beta weekend I can hit 20 and run some dungeons.  Group content so far is open-ended.  Who knows what will happen when the live gates open though.  Side note, the server I picked randomly is apparently the French server.  Good thing I can speak it.

Elder Scrolls Online

I put in some time here too, though a bit less than Wildstar.  I hit level 27, found another dozen bugs and realized that Greenshade (the AD’s 3 zone) has a rather large memory leak issue.  Zoning into it from any dungeon has a 25% of permanently hanging or crashing my game.  It’s weird too, since it’s so consistently a problem in this zone but not any other.

As per previous posts, I am getting seriously annoyed at the inventory issues.  There are way too many glyphs that serve absolutely zero purpose.  Research of armor pieces is needed for 2 things.  First, the opportunity to slot a benefit to the item (like more armor or immunity to resists) but of the 10 or so “types” of benefits, only 3 are worth anything.  Who needs more “exploration experience”?  Second, you need to research X amount of benefits on a single piece of gear to craft set gear.  So, let’s say you need 4 types of benefits on a girdle before you can craft a “night watch” girdle.  Since sets require 3-5 pieces to gain the set bonus, you’re looking at ~12-20 different research combos needed.   Each research takes 6 hours to start and doubles from there (12-24-48, etc..)  You can do 1 at a time to start, but after level 8 (I think it was) I could do 2 at a time.  Suffice it to say, I have very little researched.  My bags are full of crap that I’m starting to wonder if it has any use at all.

Second, repair costs.  Death is ok.  In fact I like dying in games, it shows there’s a skill level required.  The rate of death in ESO is pretty solid.  The repair costs are high though.  It costs me about 1000g to get a full repair.  Quests give me ~200g per and I’m sitting on 22,000g right now.  That’s a fairly steep penalty.  I am going to be ultra curious as to what the money sink will be in this game once there are no quests left to run and the repair costs are 5000 per shot.  This is something I find good by the way.

I’ve followed J3w3l‘s advice and better slotted my skills upon quest turn in to get a larger boost to experience.  I’m down to my last skill line to pump, which is pretty neat.  I still only deal half the damage of any other non-tank and seem to take 25% less damage in return.  Not the biggest fan, let me tell you.  On the flip side, all these skill lines allow me to make some smart choices about attack patterns.  It’s getting better.  I do wish they let you  know the morph options in-game before you actually level the skill.  Ah well, wikis have all the data anyway.

Still fun, if a bit less everytime I have to use the dame /reloadui command.

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ESO – Level 23

No pictures this time, there really hasn’t been much different to show.  Which is actually a little irksome.  All the items are identical, you just get a palette swap.  I mean, there’s racial variety (if you have the knowledge to make it) but a level 1 Khajiit breastplate looks near identical to the one I’m wearing now.  Plus it’s made out of spandex.   I guess I should take a picture of that…

A separate trend I am noticing is that people strafe bookshelves.  Many dungeons and houses have bookshelves, sometimes a dozen or so per room.  Most players just move around from shelf to shelf to get the automatic skill point gain (I’ve raised dual wield to 15 without every equipping 2 weapons).  I’ve read all the books on the shelves, now, or at least I have yet to see a new one.  The actual books you find on tables, those are unique and I read them too.  I would hazard to say that well above 50% of my play time has been on exploration activities – reading/looking/listening.  I hit level 23 last night and from the blogosphere, quite a few people are much higher level with a similar time investment.  I am thinking if I had an alt, in the same faction, I could probably level 4-5 faster.  Sort of like SWTOR I guess.

Still playing a templar, still focusing on tanking.  Still wondering why.  In the “olden times” if you played a tank or a healer, you couldn’t really get anywhere alone.  It was joined at the hip with other players since neither role did any damage.  Healers in ESO are a bit different, in that you can still raise healing skills outside of DPS abilities.  Tanks though, that’a slightly different conversation.  New games allow you to level as a tank/healer without issue – ESO takes a slight turn here.

Healers use macgika and so do ranged DPS.  Healers can slot 3 DPS attacks and 2 healing and level up both Destruction and Healing together.  After level 15, they can actively swap between both too, which is good.  Equipment (light armor) is shared between DPS and healing.  It’s doable, very doable.

Tanks are a bit different.  They run on health and a tiny bit of magicka/stamina.  DPS run on magicka and stamina, depending on the skills – class skills use the former, weapon skills the latter.  Armor is different too, as tanks use heavy and DPS use medium.  Skill slotting is similar to Healers, you can swap to dual wield or two-handed pretty easily.  The downside is that a) you have the wrong armor which lowers damage and b) you don’t have the magicka/stamina to actually use your skills.

I’ll give an example.  Trolls.  These buggers hit hard and have a lot of hit points.  A DPS wins through sheer damage output, which is about double mine as a tank, so the fight takes on average, half as long.  I don’t have twice the hit points, what with a +15hp boost per level.  10 levels is equal to one piece of food right now.  I don’t mind lower damage, but I would like higher damage absorption or faster health recovery.  Make the fights take longer but let me survive them.  Now, if I have a healer around, then I can tank a zone.  I get that.  But in 90% of the cases, outside of dungeons, I don’t have one.  Side note – having an “open tap” system, where kill credit is shared, actually increases the odds of someone helping you.  The polar opposite of WoW and “single taps”.

I think this might be related to my strategy on leveling the tank too.  I slot abilities that are next to useless playing alone (like a shield buff to reflect spells) in order to get them to rank 5 and see their morph potential.  I’m about 90% of the way there right now.  I don’t mind that part as I expect it to open up in a couple more levels.  Once they do morph, it takes longer to go to rank 6 than it does to go from ranks 1-5, so there’s no huge rush on that front.  It goes “unlock base skill, slot, raise to rank 5, morph, drop from slot, pick another skill”.

I like the concept of my tank, I do.  The implementation I’m a little iffy on.  I seem to keep coming back to this point.  I enjoy the exploration aspect and the lore but am having a lot of trouble enjoying the actual mechanics of the game.  The meta just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

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MMO Data Analysis

This post stems from Syl’s recent rant on games giving (or trying to give) players what they want.  I feel a lot of empathy for the position.  There’s a lot to be said of EQ and the stubbornness of the design but you really have to give Verant credit at the time, what with sticking to their “vision”.  On a side note, it appears that vision isn’t enough to get Pantheon going.

I’m a data analyst by training and a project integrator by career.  That means I take a bunch of numbers and stats from a given system, analyse and interpret them, then assist in the design of a new system and then finally help the end users with transition to the new stuff.  I live in a world of numbers, patterns and statistics.

Systems, just like games, are for the most part a black box design.  You know what goes in and what comes out but the inner workings are a mystery.  From the outside, you can’t see the system interdependencies.  All you see is that if you put in X, then Y comes out.  Theorycrafters (of which I did a bit of in WoW and a lot of in SWTOR) try a ton of mathematics to reverse engineer a blackbox.  This is well under 0.01% of the game population though.  Other people may use the spreadsheet generated by the theorycrafter but next to no one mucks with the code.

As a general rule, MMO players are horrible designers.  By and large, they are sheep who follow the sparkly path.  They like the black box and that when they press a button they get some fancy graphics.  If you give a player a choice between a high risk, high reward activity and a low risk, low reward in nearly all cases they take the easy road and just repeat is ad-nausea.  It isn’t that the design for the high risk is bad, it’s that human nature is risk-averse.  We don’t go around kissing spiders after all.

A MMO designer has a ton of metrics generated from the game from all sorts of venues.  Heat maps, activity counters, percentage of completion, distance traveled and many more.  Each individual piece says something but given that MMOs are such massively complex beasts, you’re missing the context of the data.  WoW’s Firelands tier of Cataclysm raiding had less than 1% completion rate on heroic, under 10% on normal.  That would be a red flag and you’d look at raiding numbers.  Is it because the raids are too hard?  Not enough people?  Gating is too complex?  Not enough gear?  The raid isn’t rewarding enough?  Other competing activities are more engaging?  Each one of those questions has numbers but it take a pretty bright person to find the links between them.

So as a player, what can you really do about this?  Posting on official forums is often times useless as the din of the dumb is much too loud.  A decent developer instead keeps track of fan site message boards, which usually attract people with a vested interest in the game in that you can better communicate with context.  You can start a blog on the game and start some further discussion (I still rank exceptionally high for Neverwinter).  You can “vote with your wallet” but moving your expenses from a game you don’t like to a game you do.  99% of the time when you quit a game today, there’s an exit interview where you can explain the position.  I know from personal experience that those questionnaires are highly valued as it’s much easier to get an old player back than a new player in.

There’s an old adage that goes if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.  Games that lose their focus on their core end up in this bucket.  It’s rare to find a game that is drastically flawed from the start.  If you’re playing the long game then you need to start small and get bigger – please a few and convert some later.  If you’re playing a short game, then you want a flash in the pan. Of course, there’s always the split between planning and reality…

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ESO – Level 19

I clearly remember Age of Conan and Tortage.  This opening zone, from 1-20 or so, was full of voice acting, quality build and was an amazing experience.  Once you left Tortage though, the game turned to a separate beast.  No voice acting at all, huge balance issues, bugs everywhere and next to impossible to progress without future balance changes.

ESO is an interesting beast in that the quality of the content remains solid so far but the bugs are getting absolutely ridiculous.

bug1

As a Templar, the above bug happens every 10 minutes or so.  My weapon gets replaced with a spear graphic, from one of my attacks.  It sticks around for 2 minutes or so, prevents me from sprinting, looting or interacting.  /reloadui has been used more often than some of my skills.  Some quest markers won’t show – /reloadui.  Stuck in a wall, /reloadui.  It’s buggy to a point where I would quit out of frustration but the rest of the game has such good stuff I keep on trucking.

Don’t get me wrong now, the content that’s behind these bugs is fun, if more sparse.  If the first zone could be considered 100% full, then the next one is about 60% full.

trollWhen I tried to finish off the first zone, and it’s dungeon, I hit a “known” bug.  This is one where the first part of the quest has 3 types of failures – either the object doesn’t show, the scene doesn’t trigger or a party member can’t progress.  Our group hit all of those bugs, multiple times.  After all that, we decided to take a trip in the dungeon and everything was ok but the last boss, who requires the quest I guess since he never spawned.

I’ve run dungeons hundreds of times.  ESO uses a trinity with wonky mechanics.  Taunt works fine, I guess but the concept of threat doesn’t.  It’s kind of like GW2 I guess.  Bosses themselves are either bugged or badly balanced.  One boss, a lizard-type, has an instant charge on a random player with no animation or warning.  This charge takes them to 10% life, then applies a DoT over 3 seconds that kills them unless you hit the enemy.  Think about that a second.  Without warning, an enemy will drop on a party member and kill them in 3 seconds unless you can find them and hit them.  In a game where you aim with the mouse, not TAB.

The third issue I have is crafting materials.  I craft as a Blacksmith and an Enchanter.  My bank has nothing but crafting materials and it’s full.  My bags are full of material.  I spend way too much time mailing stuff to mules.  Way too much.

I’m going to honest.  MMOs need a few months of beta testing simply to polish and bug test.  ESO doesn’t really appear to have done much of that.  An end-game bug that prevents people from seeing any end-game content?  How is that even possible?  The content is superb and I am enjoying myself.  But wow, there are some real headscratchers in here.

 

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ESO – Update level 16

Coming from a gamer who typically hits max level in week 2 of a launch, my progress vertically has been stunted. That’s a good thing.

Rohan, back after hiatus, has a similar outlook on the game as I do. It’s an interesting game that’s hard to classify. Not exceptional but curious, which may be enough. It’s enough for TSW right?

Anyways, my goal in ESO right now is map completion. The compass indicated black/hollow icons if I get close enough and I can’t stand it. Caves/tombs have skyshards, quests and rare enemies that aren’t on the map. I could care less about my level, my skill points or my gear. I want that icon to change color.

Perspective now. Almost all themeparks are about the big ride at the end. You take kiddie rides, stand in line and see the window dressing but you have a goal and it’s a finish line. That goal does not exist here. ZOS has pretty much flat out said there is none of that.

Without an end game, people have a single choice at max level – PvP. SWTOR was identical but the content GETTING to max level was pretty bad.

I put my name reservation alts to the side for now. A future test will be to play a quest+skyshard leveling path with one of those alts. From what I see on the interweb, they are going through it about 5x faster than me. Anyone who is max level today has likely missed the point of the game.

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ESO – So Far

While the beta of ESO didn’t really float my boat, I found a coupon for the game and decided to give it a try.  A few people are quite happy with it, so why not?  I did a few days of early start, then played this weekend.  I got my kitty cat Templar through about half of the first zone, Auridon.  Just shy of level 12 and the dungeons.  Here are my collected thoughts so far.

The Good

Quests are darn impressive.  There’s very little kill ten rats but more of the fed-ex/click here type of stuff.  All of them are fully voiced and multi stepped.  It’s quite organic too, with next to no guidance to find a quest and plenty of help to complete a quest.  Just like the past ES games.  They are also the primary way to level.  I mean it would take an hour of killing enemies to equate to a single quest in terms of progress.

The art is also good, if you like the semi-photo realism.  I don’t see why anyone would play anything other than a Kajiit or Argonian as every other race is a variant of human.  The Kajiit tails are cool to look at.  Zones are pretty spiffy and not to hectic on my laptop.  It is very hard to see any harvesting nodes unless you have a particular skill, which I think is a bonus.

Exploration is awesome.  You find caves, people, quests, locked chests if you bother to look.  I am a solid 20 hours in and have half of the first zone done and am only level 11.  Max level is 50, so if the math holds out, I have a sweet amount of content to go through.  That is very appealing.

ESO-Sunlight

The not so good

Crafting.  Maybe it opens up in complexity but meh.  I’ve researched a few things, upgraded some items but I do not see how the system gets more complex.  The good side is that leveling has next to nothing to do with making items but instead about breaking down items.  Making stuff in different styles, or crafting sets (assuming you have the appropriate recipes) is smart.  Perhaps it’s just that stats in this game are very simple.

The classes are also ho-hum.  There’s a tank, paladin, melee DPS and mage.  All of them share 85% of all skills, so the class specific ones are where you get your flavor.  I played the paladin (Templar) for most of my time and could not find anything fun about it.  The tank (Dragonknight) has some interesting skills, so I’m going to focus on him for a while.

The Bad

No one will ever say that the ES games were strong on combat.  ESO is no different.  It just feels off.  With little mana or stamina, you’re going to be using auto attack 50%+ of the time.  Long battle?  It’s about chipping away and there’s no real feedback to the game.  Considering you spend 95% of the game’s progress in combat, this is a real big issue for me.

The skills are also a disappointment.  While there are plenty of them, you are limited to only a small amount  (6 total) to use at any one time.  Only about half of all of them are something you’d even bother considering when compared to another.  There’s a lot of overlap and clearly superior skills.  I get that in a sandbox you’re not going to have tons of variety.  It’s just that blah skills combined with a hokey combat system is really off-putting.

ESO - Bugeye

Long-term prospects

I am enjoying myself, even with the issues present.  I’ve had no bugs – impressive compared to the last beta round.  Oddly though, my pleasure has nothing to do with the online component and everything to do with the Elder Scrolls component, namely freedom of exploration.

Let’s be clear on that point.  My longterm prospects are dim once I’ve “consumed” the content as the little group content I’ve done has been so piss-poor uncoordinated that I’ve found no fun in it.  It’s right on par with GW2 group content.  The glue of an MMO has to be the people and there’s very little of that here that I’ve found so far.  I’m hopeful though, as time moves on and people get accustomed to the game.

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