Posted Mon, Jun 10, 2013 by gunky
Since the developers have talked a big game about their PvP already, it will need to deliver in a big way. Even to someone (like me) who doesn't much care for PvP, it sounds pretty outstanding - a massive central region, open-world fighting with small- and large-scale objectives, and even the ability for players to earn the rank of Emperor by taking the throne. But, on paper, there were a lot of PvP ideas that sounded great and then failed to live up to player expectations.
For example, Star Wars: The Old Republic had Ilum. It was a level 50 planet with full-on open-world PvP. On paper, it was a place where you could travel to when you hit level 50 and expect a rollicking good donnybrook against the enemy faction. Instead, it became a quagmire of griefers and exploiters (even by PvP server standards) and boring objective-swapping; people stopped going there and the developers switched a lot of it off, and bring it up every now and then when they are talking about things they want to overhaul and redesign. On paper, it sounded like an awesome idea. But in practice, not so much.
With the entire central region of Cyrodiil serving as ESO's player-versus-player arena, we can only hope that it doesn't turn into a similar situation. The three-faction balance and broad range of objectives should prevent another Ilum scenario from playing out.
Gameplay is obviously crucial, but so is how the company sells it to its customers. We still don't know how Zenimax Online is going to market Elder Scrolls Online, but they're going to have to be innovative in their approach.
They could go the route of Guild Wars 2, with a box-price to buy the game and an in-game cash shop to earn revenue over time. But there's a risk there - under-sell the cash shop and you make very little money from it. Over-sell it and you come across as low-rent, and players start to wish for some kind of ad-block plugin. Plastering store icons on every square millimeter of available UI space is as annoying as those website auto-play flash video ads for dish detergent, but access to the cash shop does need some visibility. Somewhere along that bell-curve, there's a peak point where the availability of the store equals the perceived value of the items sold in it and the players' desire to use it.
Lots of developers try to create an artificial demand for store-bought items - keys for loot boxes, for example - but this can backfire if the demand becomes "spammy." Loot boxes are the best example of this - in games like Star Trek Online, these loot boxes are sort of annoying. You have a chance of getting some awesome purple loot from them, but more likely you end up discarding the boxes rather than buying more keys, because the damned things have no vendor value and mostly contain worthless trash. In other games, they drop far less frequently, or have a higher chance of generating desirable loot, and buying a key here and there feels a lot less like flushing money down the drain.
A game studio can hire the best writers, artists and combat-designers in the world, and still crash in an alarmingly-short timeframe if there is no endgame. It's not enough to draw players in with story and graphics - the goal is to keep those players there for the long term, and to keep them spending money.
This is not so much the case with single-player games, but going into a MMO with a single-player mindset is what nearly killed SWTOR. BioWare didn't anticipate that MMO players (especially ones who were Star Wars fans) would be spending 6+ hours a day on their game on average. When the game launched and the hardcore guys raced to level cap in a matter of days, they found they had very little to do when they got there, and moved on to other games after a lot of loud griping. It's a lot better now, but those first few months were a rude awakening.
Elder Scrolls Online is going to need to ship with this in mind, and with endgame content in place on Day 1. A couple of high-level dungeons won't be enough - endgame is where the hardcore players live. The Elder Scrolls series has its own dedicated, passionate fans - the kind who take time off of work when a new title launches just so they can play a days-long marathon. Players are going to spend an average of 6+ hours a day on it, and will reach level cap within the first few days of launch - possibly in a matter of hours. The game will need to launch with multiple raids and other group-content in place, or they risk a massive crash as the endgame population bleeds away.
The developers are certainly aware of this particular need, and addressed it in their introduction video. Endgame content will come in the form of solo, small- and large-group content, as well as PvP.
These factors are not specific just to the Elder Scrolls Online, either. Any new game will need to consider these things as well. If you feel there are other factors that Zenimax Online will need to consider for the Elder Scrolls Online, share the discussion in our comments below!