Elder Scrolls Online, Launch Diary

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Hello all,

I wanted to create this launch diary about the MMO launch of Elder Scrolls Online for a few reasons. For one, it's an ambitious game based on a highly praised set of solo-play RPGs that have only gotten better with every new release - how would this translate into the realm of MMO? Two, this will be the first MMO that ports to console (XboxOne, PS4 in June) which is very interesting. Third, and this is a personal reason but the most important, I wanted to blog the launch in memoriam of Bali, this (and EQ Landmark) are the first beta's that I've ever done without having Phil in text or in my ear on TS and he is sorely missed for his good-natured banter and fun he had testing games.

With those reasons in mind, I'd like to try to post a day-by-day (may miss a day!) of the first week of ESO, give my impressions of the game while not passing judgement and hopefully provide a brief chronicle of what is either going to be a great addition to the Elder Scrolls universe or potentially a missed opportunity to turn an awesome single-player experience into a community.

Sunday, Day One -

I start with early access and am up at 7am to snag some names and get through the Coldharbor tutorial. Created a Khajit nightblade. For those that particpated in beta and don't know - now you only have to do Coldharbor once to get the story and any second characters you start can opt-out. I wasn't impressed by the starting tutorial in beta and it seemed a chore again. Obviously, it launches the storyline of the game but strikes me as just a way to keep up the tradition of your character starting off in chains/jail.

Patching was a breeze and the game is very stable, it's early access so you'd expect it but I had doubts going in. I'm running game on a 5 year old Area 51 with updated dual cards and a solid connection. Load times pretty much non-existent and smooth frames. When I final get through the tutorial and end up in the elven starting area of the Aldmeri Dominion. There is a good crowd of players and the first noticeable thing about ESO is the lack of nameplates and basic screen clutter that I've grown used to in MMO's. You're hot keys don't even appear unless you're in combat. First quest I get is a meet and greet which helps me find the boat to go to the Khajit starting area - Khenarti's Roost. After a quick boat ride, I'm on the shores of Cat-Island.

I'd never experienced the Island in beta. I avoid the quest hub - afterall, they claim that you'll get quests just through exploring so let's see how that plays out... I also open my CE treasure maps and look at the picture to see if I can find the location by exploring the coastline. The world looks great, obviously it's not as detailed a Skyrim but the game does have a lot of detail and great lighting. As I move along the coast, I see a quest NPC (dark arrow reveals them on the directional compass that is the only really constantly visible UI feature on the screen) so I interact and the voice over starts (I have yet to find an NPC without a voice over), she gives me a quest of finding health potions and her lost crew and use potions to heal them. Down on the coast, I find the crew easily enough and engage in some combat with pirates, skeevers, harpies and these mobs that look like green soccer balls with teeth, pretty typical noobie stuff.

While completing this quest I come across a ship that is less damaged and a cave that has one of her crew members dead inside in a ritual. The quartermaster on the ship gives me 3 quests but the captain and crew I had just saved appears on the shore near him and because I saved them, the crew members end up doing individual quests (I assume if I only partially saved them, I'd have to complete some of these quests myself). I think this works like "phasing" - so the NPC's appear but the other players may not be able to see them (except maybe if we were in a group..?). The next step given is to get to bottom of the ritual which turns out some of the pirates had caused a hurricane (through the ritual) which caused all the ships to wreck and they are trying to summon another hurricane. Now, on the horizon, a large hurricane appears and there is a ship I need to go out to and save more crew before they get sacrificed. Once again, I doubt the hurricane appears to other players not on the same quest, so I head out and rescue them as well earning a nice reward.

The whole thing takes less than 30 minutes but it feels longer (not in a bad way) and I gained a few levels. The way this works seems similar to Skyrim - you use a skill, you get points in it, gain enough and you level and get to assign points to magic, stamina or health. You can also assign points to one of the skills in your tree based off your class. It looks like the plan is to provide a good deal of choices but limit the amount of skills you can be using at a given time (only 5 ability slots in your hot keys and a 6th for an "ultimate" ability which prob comes at end of tree). It strikes me a as a little complex on the choosing side but when you pick what skills you'll use it gets more simple.

I didn't really get to talk about combat but it's pretty simple at such low level. I really wanted to relate how this quest unfolded because it was pretty cool. I also found the anchor buried in the sand pictured on my treasure map and found a treasure chest. One thing that is missing so far is the sense of community - you see other players, you certainly see /zone chat but there doesn't seem to be a lot of communication just wandering around them map with other people. Without nameplates it's hard to distinguish between players and NPC's. I did notice though if a player is in combat, a bar appears over their heads (I assume health bar) from a distance. For day one though, it went well - no bugs, no issues with stability (but that may change on full launch day!) and more than a hint of the kinds of things that make Elder Scrolls a great game.

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Monday, Day Two -

Had another nice quest experience - this time, while crossing a field the NPC was pursuing me while asking for help which was pretty cool then joined me as an NPC exploring a temple while she protected her. This raised what I experienced on Sunday as well because there were probably 4 or 5 other players doing the same quest, all with their own NPC (which I couldn't see) and really no reason for us to interact. When it came time for fights, we all did damage the same mobs though so there is some incentive to work together.

Today I went to find the main Khajit city (Mistral) and explore that. It had similar building-types but different textures from the elven starting area (Vulkhel Guard). Immediately I got involved in another quest, political intrigue that was also tied into the ship wrecks and ended up being a long quest line that ended in an achievement (saving Mistral or something). I was somewhat reminded of Guild Wars 2 because of the way quests can be individual with active NPC's. So far, the quests are multiple step, haven't got one "kill X" so many times and get "Y". I did one on way to city that had multiple choices (which had me understanding more why zone chat has so much back-and-forth about what results from different quests).

I also finally found a banker. In ESO, bank space is shared with all characters (which is also similar to GW2 I think?) so you start with 60 bank slots and can buy more - you can also expand your backpack space by purchasing more (60 slots in pack as well). I deposited all the trade items I'd found (wood, ton of herbs/flowers, 100 iron or so, etc). I mean to get into trade skilling later in week. Also like GW2, you can craft at the various crafting stations and don't need all the mats on your character to create items. I have to admit, I did nothing for tradeskills in beta so not sure if you have to choose primary skills or, similar to Elder Scrolls, can do any trade skill. Only thing I've done so far is make some food at cooking fires (buffs).

Like in Elder Scrolls, there are also chests that you need lockpicks to open and the game has a mini-game around opening them - move the weights up or down under a time limit and your pick will break if you don't get it right. I got the achievement for opening 10 locks just running around questing today.

Also, had my first crash today! Was in Mistral and came right back with relaunching game. Other than that, no bugs yet and I'm a bit surprised since I did 3 quests where an NPC joined me and no had no issues. I also got stuck in a corner in a fishing village house and had to /stuck which kills you. Your items suffer damage when you die so that kinda sucked. But the game def grows on you - it felt more and more like Elder Scrolls (with a chat channel) today.

Tomorrow going to try to finish noobies quests and head back to mainland elvish starting area called Vulkhel Guard. I'll get my mount tomorrow, I could have gotten it before I went to Khenarthi but figured it could wait and I'd just explore on foot. Currently level 7, mainly following assassin (melee) tree sitting on 2k gold.

Tuesday, Day Three
See Diary Pt II

Updated April 4th, 2014 at 12:46 AM by Erol

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