Hello internet! Today, the first ever gameplay footage of Elder Scrolls Online was streamed during Quakecon. In case you missed it, you can catch the whole thing on Bethesda’s Twitch channel. There was a lot to take in and below, you’ll find two reactions to the event from Brian and Shank. Remember, these are just two opinions. We’re betting you all have your own. Feel free to comment below! But remember, be respectful
. . .
Today’s Elder Scrolls Online live stream from QuakeCon 2013 wasn’t very long, but if you were watching closely, it was jam-packed with information.
At first glance this was a rushed, scripted run through some ESO gameplay, but after I sat back to think about it, there was really a lot more going on here. This demo gave fans from both the single-player Elder Scrolls fan camp and MMO veterans something to get excited about, and helped to renew my excitement for the game’s launch.
The game began with Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konkle running through the game alone. The other three people on stage were not playing at this point, so we really got a good look at what playing this game by yourself will be like. As Nick moved through the world I felt, even though he was in Morrowind, a real hint of Oblivion in what he was doing. As he moved from NPC to NPC, picking up books, exploring new locations, it really felt familiar and like it fit within the Elder Scrolls anthology. Granted, there wasn’t enough here to really emulate Oblivion I got the feeling that there was a lot of exploring that just wasn’t being done for the sake of time.
At least I hope that’s the case.
As he began engaging enemies, switching between bow and dual-wielding attack styles with easy, I got a real sense of how easy it was going to be to play this game the way I want to. Most of my playtime in Elder Scrolls games is with a bow, but I also like to throw in some dual wielding every now and then as well. It was great to see how easy it was to switch between the two, and gives me hope that I won’t have to compromise on my personal combat style.
I would love to say more about the single-player experience, but it was fairly short. I think the best thing I can say is that I came away feeling that it was much an Elder Scrolls game as was possible in the MMO setting. Sure we couldn’t interact with EVERTYHING, and sure once the game goes live there will be other players on-screen, but Nick was not bound by the whims of a group. He was free to adventure and explore as he pleased – exactly like you can in Skyrim. I’m hopeful that also like in Skyrim, there will be many things to find and interact with, more than what we could see in this demo.
Once the demo switched over to a group setting, I was first impressed with the ease and simplicity of which Nick was able to join his group. Assuming this is live when the game ships, this will be a huge hurdle that many MMOs trip over that ESO won’t have to worry about. Once Nick joined his group, the demo switched to a very combat-heavy experience. Personally, combat in Elder Scrolls games isn’t really why I’m there, but it’s of course a huge part of the game, so it was exciting to see.
When Bradford and I played at E3, it felt very chaotic and almost hapless what was happening to us. I was clicking the mouse button like mad, mashing my 1-6 keys just to try to stay alive, and often with disastrous results. It made me feel like the combat wasn’t very good, but in the back of my head I figured I must have been doing something wrong. Fortunately, once some experienced and skilled players showed us how it’s supposed to be done, the game looked much more realistic and fun. Nick and the group were timing their attacks, not just furiously clicking the mouse or spamming special abilities. The battles looked fluid, seamless, and downright exciting. It taught me a lesson that I hope to carry over with me to PAX Prime and to the game’s launch: be patient, watch what’s happening on-screen, and watch your stamina bar. If I can remember these key points, I think combat in Elder Scrolls Online will end up being fantastic.
I also wanted to give a special shout-out to Nick for playing almost the entire dungeon run in first person. A lot of what we heard before first-person was announced was that playing an MMO in this perspective wouldn’t be viable, and would get you and your party killed. Well Nick didn’t seem to have any problems with it, and it should give all you single-player, first-person Elder Scrolls fans some confidence that the developers have YOU in mind.
Not everything was perfect, mind you. Some of Nick’s special abilities didn’t really do it for me. For example, he kept firing arrows into the air that would then rain down on opponents, but they seemed too scattered and far apart to really be doing any good. I know this is a game and I have to give some things a pass in order for it to work, but it seemed to me like those arrows weren’t really even hitting anyone. I’d like to see some of these special ability animations tightened up a bit, and make it seem like they are really doing some serious damage.
Additionally, I am wondering how many death animations there are. It seemed like more often than not when a human-ish enemy was killed, he would take a slight stumble backwards, and then fall on his face, regardless of how hard he was hit from the front. I’d like to see more variety here, and a little more sensitivity to the kind of attack that took their life. Smashed in the face by a mace? Send them flying backwards! Shot in the knee with an arrow, send them crumpling to the ground! I suppose this may be one of those things that in order for this game to be online must be sacrificed, but I hope that come spring 2014 we have more ragdoll physics built in.
All-in-all, though it was a short presentation, I was happy with what I saw. I am still hesitant to say the single player experience will be perfect, but I think they’re headed in the right direction. It’s a long time until launch, so there’s still time to add more items to interact with, both out in the world and inside dungeons. Give us reason to explore every inch of these dungeons and I’ll be hooked. But if there’s no real reason to do that, then we’ll be rushing in, killing the enemies, grabbing our loot, and – as Shank says, peacing out.
I really hope there’s more reason to spend ridiculous amounts of time exploring every inch, every nook and cranny of the world, because if there is, there will be no reason to ever leave ESO.
. . .
As a member of the Elder Scrolls community, I feel that it’s my duty to be completely honest with you all. While I liked some aspects of today’s gameplay, I definitely felt there was a lot of stuff lacking. Now, whether this was due to time, or they wished to cater to a certain audience remains to be seen. In any case, here is what I liked and didn’t like. Oh and also, Paul Sage is a Huge G.
As many of you know, I spend a long time making my characters. And so, you can only imagine how happy I was when Nick started off the demo by showing us the character creation. The amount of detail one can put in his character is amazing. I’m very happy with the depth shown here. Kudos.
Not only did Nick start by creating his character, but he began the demo in first person view. Again, this is something that I’ve been longing to see. To see it implemented here was fantastic to the least. Yes, Nick did stray into third person during parts of the demo, but he played the majority of it in first person. Great stuff.
I liked the depth of the skill system showcased here. It was brief, but it was enough for me to get a sense of the intricacies of the system. The ability to morph a skill is just great, and a natural progression to the already great skill system in Skyrim. From here, Nick showed off some combat. I really appreciate the real-time nature of the combat here and I could tell that a lot of effort went into making sure it felt right. However, combat is really not a top priority for me, but I’m nevertheless happy they went real-time.
Finally, the UI was great. The compass and crosshair looked exactly like they do in Skyrim. The minimalist nature of the stat bars were great as well. I like how there’s no extraneous persistent element on the screen. It’s only there when needed.
Did Not Like
I’m afraid things started to go downhill for me here. I felt that there was just far too much emphasis on combat. In fact, Nick was fighting some bandits even before meeting up with his friends from ZOS. Yes, it was nice to show off the real-time aspect, but I really believe this could have waited till the dungeon section (more below).
Now, I am aware that was only a 30 minute demo, but I must ask, where was the exploration? Paul Sage and Zenimax have repeatedly said that this game will have exploration-based content. But…where was the exploration? This was a huge miss for me, especially because exploration is a MAJOR component of Elder Scrolls. I felt very disappointed by the lack of exploration here.
I really didn’t like the emphasis on dungeon clearing. Yes, I know this is an MMO staple, but again, we must remember this is meant to be an Elder Scrolls game. The gameplay I saw looked and felt too much like grinding. I saw a bunch of mobs that the players had to clear before moving onto the next area. What if I want to enter a dungeon and just sneak past my enemies? Will I be punished because of the emphasis on combat? Again, where was the exploration?
Again, I realize this was a short demo. However, I didn’t see any examples of how this game could be played solo. I know that I will be playing this game mostly solo, and felt that this just wasn’t showcased here. Yes, Nick rode his horse around for a bit, but nowhere did I see any incentive to go off exploring the world by yourself. Again, this is a huge component of Elder Scrolls. I just didn’t see how this could be played solo – a very worrying thought.
As I stated above, I saw some elements I liked, but there were more elements I saw that I didn’t like. Perhaps it could have been that ZOS were targeting the MMO audience for this stream and are saving the solo experience for later. I sincerely hope that this is the case. From what I saw today, The Elder Scrolls Online looks to have the “MMO” pieces in place, but I just didn’t enough “Elder Scroll” pieces – the part I care most about. I still need more convincing.