Hardcore Ideals in ESO

Nearly everyone lately seems to be making the connection between the latest MMO shinies, ESO and Wildstar and some sort of Hardcore sentiment. They are each trying to bring back a certain sentiment within their games of needing more time, more focus and the want to optimise. I can’t say I’m overly enthused about this though, or more, with the way each are attempting to go about it.

There was something about those older mmo’s and that hardcore sentiment that promoted far more engagement in the world and with the community but it was a complex web of mechanics and not just a few random throwbacks to old design like it appears to be now. Wildstar and it’s 40 man raids, both PvP and PvE might sound like a good idea in theory but it such a thing that wasn’t really the social tool that brought people together. It was just another activity to do.

Dungeon Design

ESO has a few parts that focus on an older design method but fail to really create a better atmosphere. The dungeons have avoided the more modern take on design by once again becoming rather long, time-consuming and drawn out experiences. There is a wealth of trash to clear in between each boss area that can present some problems but are mostly justrote gameplay. Then at the end you have the big loot Piñata bosses. The gameplay as well, while a more flexible trinity style also kind of requires a more optimal build in order to contribute, groups are expected to have strong aoe and single target capabilities.

I actually think a few of these design decisions work out well. With modern design I the affect on groups has been overwhelmingly negative, dungeons that are quick and predominantly boss fights mean that it’s usually easier to just drop and find another group in the face of any issues. With the longer time needed for completion people are far more patient to failure and are more likely to cooperate and coordinate beforehand in order to be successful.

Something else I’ve found as well is in that inevitable down time in between certain pulls, or even just exploring the environment and checking out chests there is a lot more conversation happening. The constant GOGOGO atmosphere of a modern design really doesn’t encourage conversation at all, here I’m building connections with others and even keeping groups afterwards for more dungeon runs or even questing together. I know people seem busier than ever and more likely to shift between multiple mmo’s but I don’t think changing dungeons to fit into this shorter schedule has elicited the right change. It’s a far more positive social experience when the design leans towards longer dungeons and down time.

Veteran Ranks

The other part trying to be “Hardcore” is the Veteran ranks. A long drawn out affair that involves quest grinding at increasing difficulty. However it seems they’ve just designed difficult content for the sake of being difficult. It is an entire experience that actual feels completely inconsistent from the original experience. You go from what amounts to a simple single player experience, one wherein you can pretty much get away with any build you cobbled together to a very narrow, focused experience.

Difficulty can be a feature that brings players together, what’s hard for one is much easier to do with two. It is a design approach that encourages this but, for ESO it is so displaced from the design before it and happens so long into the experience that people are already set in their ways. Difficulty, and encouraging grouping has to be more apart of the experience for it to create more meaningful interactions.

It’s also the quest design here in ESO that lends itself to playing solo more often. It’s hard to find people who are at the same point of levelling and with the same active quests available, not many people want to put back their own progress in order to wait for others now either. A failure of quests but then, you also can’t grind mobs together either as they no longer give experience which leaves the questing to be the only way of progressing. With the many people who are usually around it’s also easy not to group with people while getting the same advantage. Hurray for tagging improvements .. right?

Now I actually do like all these recent advancements…hmm… the devolution of design towards the days of Hardcore mmo’s but it seems that developers are mostly picking and choosing pointswith little thought towards the economy of these mechanics. The way they enhance certain mmo ideals. Put in by themselves it’s little more than lip service to this older time and does little to change gamer habits, in fact, it seems to push them away from these mechanics even more. In my mind they can create a more positive mmo experience, especially those to do with encouraging the social elements but there is a lot more to it than making content more difficult.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #MMODesign

7 thoughts on “Hardcore Ideals in ESO

  1. I honestly think that trying to “force” people to interact is never going to work as well as some hope. People are already set in their ways, as you say, and times have changed.

    I remember when City of Heroes was new (teaming has always been fairly easy and non-stressful in that game) and folks chatted my ear off. Combat was relaxed enough for people to make wisecracks and entertain each other, as opposed to how actively we’re button pressing these days. Yet, years later into the same game, with the introduction of loot and WoW-trained folk finding their way over into other MMOs, the mindset had evolved into speedspeedspeedefficiencygrind and it was hard to find a talking group, everyone just ran on automatic, having done it all before.

    Another example: I just completed my first noob ‘adventure’ instance in Wildstar’s Open Beta at lvl 15 and no one said a single word through any of it, until right at the end, when someone asked why he couldn’t roll ‘need’ on a piece of blue loot. I figured it had to do with it not being the right armor weight for his class and said so (though one has to wonder inside why he wanted to roll ‘need’ for gear he couldn’t use.)

    Meanwhile, multiple wipes in the instance left it patently obvious that none of us really had a clue what we were doing, but no one thought about stopping to communicate or talk, it was fairly reminiscent of the early days GW2 dungeon waypoint rushes.

    I’m left feeling “Gee, this would be fun to do, but with people I -already- know.”

    The next innovation that MMOs have to figure out is how to encourage and enable people to talk to each other, without slinging cursewords as the first course of action.

    I suspect this requires a) familiarity, repeatedly seeing the same names and thus feeling closer to them, b) consequence for misbehavior, no one wants to group with you and/or suspension/bans for verbal abuse, and c) easier in-game ways to communicate besides long form typing or third party voice – much more so than increased difficulty and enforced downtime. (Though some downtime -is- important for socialization too.) Or non-verbal means of connection – more entertaining emotes, etc.

    • It isn’t exactly about enforcing but so often developers lately try to make both group and solo activities comparable, especially in the levelling process. A shift of making group based activiites better, by a reasonably small amount would elicit enough change.

      As for communicating I still think mmo’s these days should have in built voice programs. Just a group based system and I’m not sure why we haven’t seen it except for a few fringe games.

      • What I’d like to see developers do is make group based activities -enjoyable- in comparison to solo ones.

        Teaming in City of Heroes was originally very popular because you spawned more mobs dynamically and killed at a faster or comparable rate than soloing = more xp/hour. You could see the beeline to groups immediately.

        It doesn’t simply have to be “here’s the carrot of the possibility of getting the best in stats gear” as the only solution that combats all the inherent drawbacks of waiting and compromise in a group format.

        More complexity in groups can be a big draw already. Plus groups need to feel friendly and fun, rather than hostile and competitive, and voila, you will see more people seeking out groups than vice versa.

      • Enjoyable would be a big step and I think adding a greater sense of progores that’s not necessarily related to gear is a great option.

        I really liked firefalls group options… gathering was quicker and easier with a large group but you could also scale difficulty for further rewards.. That a good place for groups to be

  2. Good post, I’m certainly not looking for a return to old-school gaming as I get older. I’m very interested to hear that ESO is encouraging (by accident if not by design) a slower pace of dungeon runs, I hate the “gogogo” trend so many games have gone down. It’s left me playing almost exclusively with friends to ensure there is time to chat and actually have some fun along the way.

    I just wish both games had not devolved on the casual grouping front. The chevron issue (if it hasn’t been fixed already) in ESO was a deal-breaker for me and my two closest gaming friends – group questing was an absolute nonesense when we tried the beta. As for Wildstar we’ve just got in now for the open beta and again group questing seems very hit-and-miss. There’s a lot of “wait while everyone clicks the same thing” type quests, which I find annoying – SWTOR handles more consistently and somewhat better IMHO.

    • see.. i think those social elements that make the experience of grouping more enjoyable ar ethe ones that are old school and more Hardcore and you can’t just take a few of those elements without enhancing it wiht others.

      I agree that grouping has gotten out of hand and this is definitely the right step but there are other elements needed here

  3. Pingback: ESO – Veteran Levels | Leo's Life

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