Thoughts on ESO pts: Part one, where I’m coming from

People often like to split up gamers into “hardcore” or “casual” and I don’t fit in either of those groups.

I’ve been playing MMOs for 10 years. Everything from WoW to Aion to Warhammer Online (remember that?) among others. (Although I’ll admit, I haven’t played FF, GW2, or SWTOR). And while I often take hiatus, when I am actively playing it’s usually 30+ hours a week, doing all activities in game (questing, group PvE, PvP, etc) to varying degrees.

Not only that but I am active in the community – while I don’t post on the forums much, I have a posting history on reddit and I am always talking about the game on discord, in zone chat, online or offline.

I’m also pretty competent. I listen to directions well, I research everything, I’m a completionist, and I like improving my character.

So most people would say I’m a hardcore player.

Truth is, I’m not. I don’t really care about minmaxing – while I like making my build better, I’ll happily eschew fotm abilities I don’t like or use weaker abilities that I do. I also kinda suck – I should easily be pulling 30k dps on dummy with my build, but I’m happy if I hit 20k (and the actual number I hit is very variable). It’s mostly disinterest in practicing – something that has always been a defining trait. I’m also not particularly good at raiding – despite raiding through most of Wrath in WoW, I never did kill the lich king, and I have no interest in joining trials guilds in ESO despite offers to help me get in.

So I’m in this awkward place where I’m invested in the game enough to understand and care about end game progression without actually having any interest in doing it.

Anyways. Most of my group time is spent running dungeons with players who are assuredly in the top 25%, some of whom are in the top 2%, and every so often pugging groups that are most decidedly in the bottom 25%.

Just to give an example: In the course of two days I healed, on the same character, WGT twice. The first: normal WGT with a group of 3 pugged dps, none of whom had done a dungeon before, none of whom had any idea what their builds should look like or interest in learning, two of whom had no idea how to res other players, and one of whom didn’t have any soul gems anyways. The second: vet HM WGT, with a very very experienced tank and dps, a second dps who, like myself, had never been there before but knew his shit. Guess which run was easier?

Anyways. I’m not here to shit on pugs.

Here’s my main:

sorc healer.png

Healer #2:

Screenshot_20170421_185316.png

And I also have a stamplar/tank.

To the point.

In my perspective there are a few important paradigms that are necessary to explain why my perspective on any given set of patch notes might be different (in some cases very different) than others.

Change is essential to a healthy game.

A lot of people are approaching these patch notes with the perspective that change is bad. And that’s understandable – change is scary, if nothing else. I don’t agree.

To explain this, let me lay out a few potentialities for any game of sufficient complexity:

  1. The game is perfectly balanced – all classes are equally good at all roles.

I don’t believe that this is possible. If the game is sufficiently complex, it becomes very difficult to give all the classes equivalent tools (while keeping them all different, which is important, because if they’re just palette swaps on the same tools, they aren’t actually different classes). While it is theoretically possible, I don’t think it’s actually possible. Anyone who expects this to be the case is inexperienced in game design at best.

  1. The game is unbalanced.
  • All classes have a niche – while no class can do all roles, every class has a role that is relevant in PvE and in PvP.
    • I think this is the best case scenario – while your class might not be the hottest dps/healer, at least they can do something.
  • Some classes are best at everything/ some classes have no suitable role in some content.
    • This is obviously not ok. ESO doesn’t do that, but…

All games are going to be in that latter category somewhere. In ESO, you have one class that is the only potential healer and one class that is the only potential tank. (That’s oversimplifying, obviously, but it’s what’s best). Every class has a good dps spec for pvp and for pve, although some classes (poor nightblades) are categorically worse in every case.

Now, this isn’t inherently bad, but keep in mind it means – if you want to be a healer, you only ever have to roll one character. (Now, most healers I know don’t only have one character, but they could get away with it). No matter what situation you’re in, that class is the best choice for healing.

I don’t think that’s good. Rolling alts is a central part of MMOs. It keeps people invested in the game, keeps them thinking, and the goal of a game designer should be to incentivize rolling alts.

(Now lots people don’t waaaannna roll alts, to which I answer: if this game is not good enough for you to play it twice, is it really good enough for you to play it once? Do you never read books twice? Play single player games twice?)

Also, it means that if you really would like to try healing on a different class – something that a core feature of ESO – you’re… just categorically worse. There’s no reason to ever be anything other than a templar.

Which brings me to: Change is good.

It’s not possible to make all classes equally good. One class will always be the best at something. There will always be a FotM.

If you can’t remove FotM, the next best thing is for the FotM to rotate. Changing which class/spec is the primo for any given role, while still ensuring that every class has at least one role that is playable (remember, that’s very important) does a lot of things. It gives every main a chance at the limelight, regardless of which class you want to play. It forces minmaxers to roll alts once in a while.

Obviously change overly often is bad. However, knocking the Fot-last-two-years off their pedestals, finally, with a major version change? That’s not too often.

New classes should be OP on release.

I honestly can’t think of a single new class release that wasn’t OP. I guess Monks in WoW weren’t that insane, but… I mean, even in LoL where there’s a new champion every few months, they’re pretty much always OP on release (the exception is of course, when the champion has a very high skill floor and takes several months for people to learn it and realize it’s secretly OP).

Why?

There’s no incentive for people to move out of their comfort zone otherwise. Like, yeah, you have the people who are going to roll a billion alts and have two of every class (Hi), they’re obviously gonna go for it. And the ones who really wanted a class just like the new release all along and are thrilled to finally get it. But most people just won’t bother – who wants to go through leveling an alt, gearing, getting used to all the new skills and rotation, if it’s the same or worse as what you had before?

And encouraging people to try new classes is essential. There is absolutely no reason to waste the vast quantities of dev time (New classes absolutely has to be the #1 use of dev time – it requires balancing, art, a huge amount of creativity, etc.) if people aren’t going to spend time on it.

Of course that doesn’t mean the new class should be OP forever. Almost every example I could think of got heavily nerfed ~2 months after release. To levels where they were balanced (although I’m sure the people who just spent a million gold gearing said alts didn’t see it that way). A bit of patience goes a long way.

Anyways. I’m rambling. I had more to say here but I’ve forgotten it (along with the bit to mention that I have 3 templars, so y’know). Next post will get into the specifics.

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