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https://forums.elderscrollsonline.com/en/discussion/653550/

The Progressive Divorce Between Mechanics and Mythology

Supreme_Atromancer
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@ZOS_RichLambert I wanted to ask about the trend that's been going on for some time of making balancing and mechanics design decisions which make no sense within the mythology. Examples include all the "stamina morphs" of magical abilities, which are all clearly supernatural in effect and make no sense to have anything to do with stamina; spell damage being granted by, for example, dual wield abilities, which are supposed to be about physical techniques; ice becoming the "tanking" element, and the thematically disparate and weird Warden class package also feels like a really forced answer to mechanical demands with little thought to the mythology.

I understand that in terms of gameplay, things get abstracted, and the MMO format requires a lot of thought. I understand the imperative to allow for diversity in classes and have an interesting mechanical system for people to engage, but there doesn't seem to be any thought towards the fact that none of this makes any sense in Elder Scrolls. I know these things must have at least originally been important in your design, because how they originally worked at launch made a lot of sense, and was intuitive. Class abilities that were supernatural or clearly magical in nature used magicka, where most weapons, requiring physical feats required stamina to use.

In addressing the mechanical side of things, I think you've reversed this, to the detriment of the mythology or power fantasies that make any sense in Elder Scrolls. The solutions feel forced and don't make sense.

I hear that ZOS says that ESO is an Elder Scrolls game first. I want to be able to play a character that feels like an Elder Scrolls character, and I feel that this is lacking.

Are the mythology of the IP, the archetypal power fantasies of the series no longer important? Is it too difficult to make class diversity, balance, hybrids, etc. work in a way that makes sense within an Elder Scrolls context, and is intuitive? Do you have plans to ever bring the build system closer to something resembling Elder Scrolls?

I'd love to get some insight into these questions - I rarely have the opportunity to catch your amazing streams, and I don't expect tagging entitles me to a direct response, but part of the community would love to get some insight, or just the opposing perspective on this issue because when watching the trend with no explanation, its hard not to think mythology stuff is just being dispensed with because its just too inconvenient, and that, for an Elder Scrolls person, is very unsatisfying.

I love this game and I appreciate the hard work you guys so clearly have put into it. Please put the Elder Scrolls back into the character/build system!
Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on September 30, 2021 5:36PM
  • Vevvev
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    While I agree with you OP I think the ship sailed long ago. Take a look at their most recent work like with the vampire rework last year and you'll see keeping to the established lore isn't a very big priority for them anymore. They'll do what they do because it's cool to them or based on player demand/input and balancing concerns, and if there is something they've left unchanged that players despise it's because to them it's feature. Like the lack of a mortal/hide skin option so vampires can look like normal people because it's "the price you pay" despite the fact certain things like Skilled Tracker make it so no matter how hard you try you'll never be able to actually hide your vampirisim from people looking for it.
    PC NA - Ceyanna Ashton - Breton Vampire MagDK
  • Mandragora
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    I think I do understand why they do it, I believe the foundation is hybrid system between classes and skills, where they try to making it managable and variable withing the class, but I don't agree with it and I also think it does make the game less fun, because it is not methodical and I think players do appreciate some inner logic, which can be also established by background lore. There is the meeting point between roleplaying and immersion for casuals, which both groups could appreciate.
    Also I'm afraid that the more they continue in that direction, the more they will not be able to put it back. Also it will be actually harder to add roleplaying new skills, because they will be in universal hybrid classes already.
    I'm not sure if the very reason for that they are afraid of is not the solution the same time - is it really something to be afraid of - like doubled classes with doubled skills? I'm not an expert, so I don't know.
    I was gathering my thoughts about what I would love more, but still I don't have a full concept. But the typical example is - I love the spiders attack skill, but I don't understand why is it in Undaunted? I wish it would be under the concept for poisonous hunter/Bosmer hunters guild skill, but with this - it will never be there.
    And why is it under Undaunted? They don't really need it, so it is some artificial way how to make it looking like with progression and it takes all the roleplaying skills from any other possible guild - is it fair? Or if there would be some skills - shouldn't be about more universal less cool versions - like the taunt skill, cc skills, or the cauldron - but bone armor and spiders attack will be missed somewhere else for me.
    Next one is mages guild - it is just a hybrid for the part of mage class, which doesn't actually exist in the game. Why? Because they needed skill line for mages guild and mage class, so they just divided the skills by two and separated it - there is no concept in that...
    (edit - I forgot about staff skills - my bad, but truth is I don't like any of them - maybe the storm mage can be RP, the rest is strange and the staves does make sense, but thanks to them there will be no different mage classes, and for mages guild they decided they need just 1 column of shrinked skills for every guild)

    I hope the dev responsible for this will not get mad at me - clearly he doesn't care, but there should be someone in their team who does care and wouldn't allow it? So they would work hard to make it unique and actually fitting the description?
    That was long post - nobody will read it :p
    Edited by Mandragora on October 1, 2021 6:32PM
    PAWS (Positively Against Wrip-off Stuff) - Say No to Crown Crates!
  • Ratzkifal
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    Perhaps the increasing homogenization of martial and magickal specs can allow us to move on from "stam morphs". There really isn't much choice in the system when all of your morph choices end up being "magicka or stamina?" But with hybrid builds becoming increasingly more viable we might reach a point where flipping a switch to only martial weapon skills having stamina costs again and everything else returning to be magicka based would be possible.
    I would be in favor of that, but I doubt that this is where we are headed, so I am watching the balance decisions with great worry.

    Also while on the topic of mechanics and mythology, or mechanic vs skill-fantasy, "poopfist" is bad myth even if it was good mechanically. It looks pathetic and it plays pathetically too. I am at least glad "stam whip" didn't end up happening and the variable scaling was the best possible option, because that would have been just as bad imo.
    This Bosmer was tortured to death. There is nothing left to be done.
  • Nisekev
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    I don't think ESO has much care about lore and mythology since we got frosty druids and their pet bears along with Vvardenfell of all places.
    Edited by Nisekev on October 3, 2021 9:03AM
  • Iccotak
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    Nisekev wrote: »
    I don't think ESO has much care about lore and mythology since we got frosty druids and their pet bears along with Vvardenfell of all places.

    The Bear would not be an issue if they actually expanded on the skin system for the Bear,

    they could have made so much money selling different skins/animals options for the Bear so then players could better customize their character
  • Supreme_Atromancer
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    Ratzkifal wrote: »
    Also while on the topic of mechanics and mythology, or mechanic vs skill-fantasy, "poopfist" is bad myth even if it was good mechanically. It looks pathetic and it plays pathetically too. I am at least glad "stam whip" didn't end up happening and the variable scaling was the best possible option, because that would have been just as bad imo.

    Not to mention the healing powers of clouds of burning cinders or surges of electricity.
    Nisekev wrote: »
    I don't think ESO has much care about lore and mythology since we got frosty druids and their pet bears along with Vvardenfell of all places.

    Oh yeah! Nothing says "Ice mage" like throwing mushrooms at your friends and shooting Cliffracers at your enemies while a blue jellyfish bobbles merrily behind you pissing streams of blue whatever at the back of your head.
  • mague
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    Well, after Skyrim and the MMO evolution it was a mistake to go for classes.

    I main a warden and outside of powerplay a warden and any other class is able to play as lore friendly as possible. My hope is to see a conjuration skill tree in 2022 to close some of the sanity gaps. Or even a 2nd skill tree that allows me to turn the ranged stam fly bleed and debuff funtion into something slightly more lore friendly.
    Edited by mague on October 4, 2021 12:34PM
  • Amottica
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    Without creating stamina morphs of class skills stamina build would be virtually pointless in much of the game because they would be limited to the weapon lines. That is the sound logic behind such changes.
  • mague
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    Amottica wrote: »
    Without creating stamina morphs of class skills stamina build would be virtually pointless in much of the game because they would be limited to the weapon lines. That is the sound logic behind such changes.

    Or to please the min.max crowd ;)
  • Supreme_Atromancer
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    mague wrote: »
    Well, after Skyrim and the MMO evolution it was a mistake to go for classes.

    I agree strongly with this; in zos' defence, they were developing this game well before Skyrim released.
    I main a warden and outside of powerplay a warden and any other class is able to play as lore friendly as possible. My hope is to see a conjuration skill tree in 2022 to close some of the sanity gaps. Or even a 2nd skill tree that allows me to turn the ranged stam fly bleed and debuff funtion into something slightly lore friendly.

    I disagree here - I think you have to go a long way down potato lane before you get anything that even remotely resembles an Elder Scrolls archetype. For Warden, you could play a ranger or druid type, but you have to ignore at least a third of your toolset to do so, and you're stuck with weird, marketing-inspired crap like cliff racers and shalks. Trying for an Ice mage build has even greater problems, where two thirds of the built-in skill package are nothing to do with an ice mage, so you need to gimp yourself heavily. What if you want to just play a classic fireball-slinging mage? The best you can do is either Sorcerer, and ignore much of your elemental theme-locked class or Dragonknight which already has a baked in power fantasy which really has nothing to do with an Elder Scrolls mage. What about a magic-eschewing, muscle-bound orc barbarian or nord raider? Surely there are few archetypes as iconic to the series?

    If you have to contort the classes and gimp yourself drastically to get something that still relies on you ignoring the baked-in class identity in order to get something you can pretend feels like an Elder Scrolls archetype, that tells me its not something they are thinking about nor have a good handle on. There's no space for anything like that in content outside of base-game dolmens.
  • Supreme_Atromancer
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    Amottica wrote: »
    Without creating stamina morphs of class skills stamina build would be virtually pointless in much of the game because they would be limited to the weapon lines. That is the sound logic behind such changes.

    Yes, its a response for mechanics needs that are done in almost complete ignorance of the mythology. Do you believe that good solutions to mechanical needs, and a mythological rationing that fits with core elder scrolls archetypes and playstyles must necessarily be mutually exclusive?
    Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on October 4, 2021 1:11PM
  • ealdwin
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    mague wrote: »
    Well, after Skyrim and the MMO evolution it was a mistake to go for classes.

    The way I see it, is that the mistake was going for more active classes over the passive classes in the single player titles. Classes in Oblivion (for example) largely served to give bonuses or aptitudes to certain skills in order to roughly define a play-style according to how one of that class would approach combat. All of the classes drew on the same common building blocks, but each gave focus to certain skills.

    In designing the classes for ESO, ZOS chose to go for more active classes, where they each had unique skills that defined their play-style. The problem with this approach, was that they kept the Warrior building blocks as choices open to anyone, tossed aside the more RP-focused Thief building blocks, and then ripped apart the Mage building blocks to form the classes. They then built some in-game lore around this to explain where the schools of magic went. Warriors were left as building blocks and the Mages were left apart in classes.

    What could have been done would have been to keep the basic mage building blocks intact—ie. the schools of magic. Then either give classes only passive bonuses to different skill lines. Or, do that as well as giving them their own unique skill line. Or, create classes out of the skill lines so they can only use those skill lines, with the option of creating your own class.

    Instead, we have a situation where what were originally spells ripped and cobbled together from the schools of magic and who knows what else were given stamina costs in and the entire scaling system built up to support a system where magicka and stamina are treated like two of the same resources. Like green and blue flavors of juice that make no sense in their universe.

    Side note:
    I'd actually be interested in seeing some of the early plans for classes, since according to UESP's "Online: Battlemage" page, the classes were originally going to be built off of the common skill lines. Would be interesting to see what could have been.
  • Amottica
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    Amottica wrote: »
    Without creating stamina morphs of class skills stamina build would be virtually pointless in much of the game because they would be limited to the weapon lines. That is the sound logic behind such changes.

    Yes, its a response for mechanics needs that are done in almost complete ignorance of the mythology. Do you believe that good solutions to mechanical needs, and a mythological rationing that fits with core elder scrolls archetypes and playstyles must necessarily be mutually exclusive?

    Besides Zenimax owning the only mythology that matters which means they can change it, this works well for mechanics. It works well for keeping stamina viable for playing pretty much all aspects of the game vs being related to merely "fun" builds.

    I cannot imagine a game that gives half the builds more skill lines useful for doing damage while restricting useful and viable access to as many skills for the other half of the builds.

    I understand your reasoning for the displeasure but I think there are more important aspects to gameplay than previous mythology.
    Edited by Amottica on October 4, 2021 11:23PM
  • Mandragora
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    Ratzkifal wrote: »
    Perhaps the increasing homogenization of martial and magickal specs can allow us to move on from "stam morphs". There really isn't much choice in the system when all of your morph choices end up being "magicka or stamina?" But with hybrid builds becoming increasingly more viable we might reach a point where flipping a switch to only martial weapon skills having stamina costs again and everything else returning to be magicka based would be possible.
    I would be in favor of that, but I doubt that this is where we are headed, so I am watching the balance decisions with great worry.

    Also while on the topic of mechanics and mythology, or mechanic vs skill-fantasy, "poopfist" is bad myth even if it was good mechanically. It looks pathetic and it plays pathetically too. I am at least glad "stam whip" didn't end up happening and the variable scaling was the best possible option, because that would have been just as bad imo.

    I was quite happy with poison morphs on my bosmer dragonknight, like I wouldn't be able to play any class with him and RP - dragonknight is fire based, sorc is storm, templar is fire, nightblade is maybe more close to what I want, but I got other races there. warden does have only flowers for defences and no offences, necro as defiler does make so much sense, but have a problem with disease/poison being connected to medium armor, so it does have limitation only to that.
    Maybe you can connect natural power to stamina as opposite to magic for mages - in DnD you had mages using different sources for their magic than nature,which was drawn from earth/living forms? and divine was from gods, so in that case it can be translated as stamina pool.
    So the only problem I have is that in order to have poison as argonian mage it seems like I have to use medium armor and something else than staves and that is something I wish ZOS would connect more/make more of hybrid versions.
    Or make more of classes :)
    PAWS (Positively Against Wrip-off Stuff) - Say No to Crown Crates!
  • Supreme_Atromancer
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    Amottica wrote: »
    Besides Zenimax owning the only mythology that matters which means they can change it, this works well for mechanics. It works well for keeping stamina viable for playing pretty much all aspects of the game vs being related to merely "fun" builds.

    I cannot imagine a game that gives half the builds more skill lines useful for doing damage while restricting useful and viable access to as many skills for the other half of the builds.

    I understand your reasoning for the displeasure but I think there are more important aspects to gameplay than previous mythology.

    You're arguing things that I already acknowledged in the original post. I don't accept the premise of this being about "one is more important than the other" because I don't believe that build diversity and balance needs to be mutually exclusive with a character build system capable of capturing the essence of the Elder Scrolls archetypes.

    I'd put forward that your inability to imagine things being different comes from an inability to see beyond the stuff that seems to be super important to the game as it is right now. And that's not an insult - I doubt 7 years ago anyone could have seen where the game would be today, which elements would be seen as sacred cows or fundamental infrastructure that would collapse the game completely if they were to change, yet here we are with stam healing and green magicka. Over long periods of time, fundamental assumptions can change under the influence of feedback, innovation and steering the direction of the game according to an evolving vision.

    Obviously, if you really don't care about the promise of an "Elder Scrolls experience", its a low priority for you, but for those who see these things as important to get right, we hope that ZOS will take these things on board. While potential new people will turn away from it because they don't get that important aspect right, people who are already invested in the game because of that promise are understandably concerned about what appears to be a trend away from bothering.

    No one's arguing that balance and diversity needs to be compromised, we're appealing to zos to not do so as if the mythology didn't exist, or wasn't important or pretty much disposable, because if that is the assumption, that doesn't bode well for the health of the game for anyone except the most jaded, indoctrinated "bUh ThIs iS a mMo!!" type person. We're telling them that being able to play a character that FEELS LIKE AN ELDER SCROLLS ARCHETYPE is a very important part of any game that is supposed to be an "Elder Scrolls game, first and foremost".
    Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on October 5, 2021 5:13AM
  • Iccotak
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    mague wrote: »
    Well, after Skyrim and the MMO evolution it was a mistake to go for classes.

    I main a warden and outside of powerplay a warden and any other class is able to play as lore friendly as possible. My hope is to see a conjuration skill tree in 2022 to close some of the sanity gaps. Or even a 2nd skill tree that allows me to turn the ranged stam fly bleed and debuff funtion into something slightly more lore friendly.

    But at this point what can we do? Sure the developers are making gradual changes to the engine. They have said in the past that Continent like Morrowind and Elsweyr Would not have been possible with the state of ESO back in 2014.

    But at the end of the day it’s not in the creation engine and it doesn’t play like Skyrim.

    I don’t mean to be a pessimist or to offend anyone who likes the game (as there are definitely many aspects that I have come to enjoy of it)

    but it would not surprise me if The purpose behind developing a new AAA MMO is in preparation for when Elder Scrolls 6 comes out - which by the way Bethesda has said they have a 10 year plan for -

    Because I think Zenimax is anticipating the mass exodus at ES6
  • ealdwin
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    In connection to my previous comment regarding the passive versus active nature of classes in the main series versus ESO, there are a few other interesting design decisions that certainly contribute to the divorce from what was established in the main series. I am not sure whether they are byproducts of the design decisions or were integral parts of what causes the divorce, but here they are.

    In the single player titles, there are noticeably different goals when one seeks to build effectiveness towards magic or weapons. The goal for mages is reduction and regeneration. Spells are expensive, and so to be an effective caster, one has to opt for ways to reduce the cost of casting spells and also increasing the rate at which the Magicka pool regenerates so one can keep casting spells. The goal for warriors, on the other hand, is damage. The weapon becomes easier to wield, and so the warrior simply seeks to put as much power behind it, so every strike makes its mark.

    Compare this to ESO where the goals, ie. what stats one stacks, are essentially the same regardless of Mage or Warrior. Both build into the primary resource where that is the only choice, but ultimately aim for offensive stats such as Spell or Weapon Damage. There might have been a vision at one point of Mages primarily stacking Magicka while Warriors aimed for Weapon Damage, as can be seen in the Mages and Fighters Guilds skill tree passives.

    Furthermore, those sources of effectiveness are specific. Consider the enchantments in Skyrim. Each combat-focused skill (weapons & schools of magic) has an enchantment that can increase its effectiveness, but only its effectiveness. If one wants to increase power for the sword and the bow, they have to use part of their available enchantments on Fortify One-Handed and the rest on Fortify Archery. Likewise, Mages cannot significantly decrease the cost of all schools of magic at once while significantly increasing their Magicka regeneration rate. The enchantments are also divided by school of magic. Even more so, the more powerful reduction enchantments offer no regeneration. They cannot reach peak potential effectiveness in all schools of magic.

    In ESO, however, that distinction between skills was removed. If a Warrior is investing towards effectiveness with the Sword they are by default also investing towards effectiveness with the Bow because both have their damage fortified by Weapon Damage. Similarly, Spell Damage unilaterally increases the effectiveness of offensive and healing magic.

    Image in the single player games, there were three players: a Mage, a Warrior and a Spell-sword, each with 4 "points" to put towards increasing the effectiveness of skills. The Mage put 2 points towards Destruction and Conjuration. The Warrior put 2 points towards 2 points towards Sword and Bow. And the Spell-sword put 2 points towards Sword and Destruction. At that point, the Spell-sword would be as effective with the sword as the Warrior and as effective at Destruction as the Mage. However, the Spell-sword would have no effectiveness towards the Bow or Conjuration, since they were not invested in.

    In ESO*, the removal of the skill-distinctions means essentially that Mage had put 2 points into Spell Damage, the Warrior 2 points into Weapon Damage, and the Spell-sword 2 points into Spell Damage and 2 points into Weapon Damage. This would mean, that even if the focus had been to put power behind the Sword and Destruction, the Spell-sword has by default also put power into Bow and Conjuration. If the Mage and Warrior were to invest 2 more points, since their previous points had been unilateral across spells and weapons, then they would have 4 points into Spell Damage and Weapon Damage, respectfully. And now, the Spell-sword, who had been on equal footing with Warrior regarding the Sword and with the Mage regarding Destruction, is not on par with those skills anymore. It is a mess. In the first case, the Mage and Warrior seem disfranchised, since their skills were "merged" and 2 points became redundant. In the second, the Spell-Sword seems disfranchised, because the "merging" meant the same previous investments weren't made redundant, and so they fell behind because all their points were spent—despite being equals before.

    Again, this is where I cannot determine whether these differences (similar effectiveness goals ie. scaling, lack of skill distinctions and universal effectiveness) were byproducts or purposeful choices. In either case, they cause a fair bit of a mess. They remove the differences between how mages and warrior operate, and dictate that they operate on the same modus operandi. They also create a friction, where in order to allow spell-swords, things like swords providing spell damage has to happen. Either that or, in a manner antithetical to a game titled "Elder Scrolls", non-"pure" builds such as Spell-swords, Bards, Witch-hunters, etc. cannot exist with the same viability.

    *prior to the hybridization efforts on the pts
    **this is admittedly a simplistic approach, but it illustrates what I am trying to get at
  • Supreme_Atromancer
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    ealdwin wrote: »
    They also create a friction, where in order to allow spell-swords, things like swords providing spell damage has to happen. Either that or, in a manner antithetical to a game titled "Elder Scrolls", non-"pure" builds such as Spell-swords, Bards, Witch-hunters, etc. cannot exist with the same viability.

    @ealdwin
    I think that was initially meant to be balanced by the demands of other needs. A spell-sword would not be as potent in their skills as either of their mage or warrior siblings, but what they lose in raw potency, they gain in versatility and increased capabilities, and also a greater pool of resources to draw from.

    Unfortunately, like the other trade-offs that were meant to be real checks on stacking all into one - loss of survivability, resource restrictions, they were not meaningful. The value of versatility was neutered by meta, and maybe was never valuable enough in the first place. There were no challenges that were a great enough threat that "burn more, don't die" couldn't overcome. AND when there WERE challenges (OG Craglorn, for instance), people just complained, and refused to play it. When they TRIED to make sustain an important factor again with, for instance, Morrowind chapter, people screamed blue murder. So either the benefits of the trade-offs weren't valuable enough in the first place, or they were, but in the face of an already-established meta devoid of imagination they just capitulated.
    Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on October 15, 2021 3:01PM
  • Hurbster
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    Iccotak wrote: »
    Nisekev wrote: »
    I don't think ESO has much care about lore and mythology since we got frosty druids and their pet bears along with Vvardenfell of all places.

    The Bear would not be an issue if they actually expanded on the skin system for the Bear,

    they could have made so much money selling different skins/animals options for the Bear so then players could better customize their character

    There is literally a quest in Eastmarch that deals with this. Who wouldn't want the option of a wolf or fox alternative? Heck even an eagle would be workable, although swooping is bad.
    So they raised the floor and lowered the ceiling. Except the ceiling has spikes in it now and the floor is also lava.
  • Hymzir
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    I've said it before, and I expect I'll say it again in the future, and I'll say it here as well: ZOS doesn't consider internal consistency of the lore to be an integral part of the Elder Scrolls franchise. Neither does Bethesda. They never have, they never will.

    They are not in the business of creating a believable and consistent fantasy worlds. They are in the business of selling games and merchandise associated with their IPs. As such, every game is it's own thing with its own specific needs and considerations. They happily retcon anything and almost everything, if they think it makes the latest iteration of the IP sell more products.

    This has happened before, this will happen again in the future. When Elder Scroll 6 finally trudges along, it will change ton of stuff to fit its needs, just like Skyrim and Oblivion did in their time, and just as ESO is doing right now.

    The fact of the matter is, that the majority of their customers don't care all that deeply about lore and internal narrative consistency. They are here for the spectacle and the entertainment, and the fun of venturing forth into a realm on adventure and excitement.

    Sure, some things are considered part of "product identity", and are things that will never change. Like the fact that there are no traditional Dwarves in TES, and that the Dwemer are extinct and vanished under mysterious circumstances. That will never change, for then it will no longer be the same IP. If they ever do bring the Dwemer back, that is the moment of jumping the shark for the IP, and its time to move on.

    The same is true for Bethesda Fallout. It makes no sense for Fallout 3 and 4 to have Supermutants. But they are part of the core product identity, so they get showed in. Forcibly if necessary. The same is true for the Brotherhood of Steel. It just wouldn't feel like a Fallout game without them, so they get crammed in too. Even in 76, which made no frigging sense.

    For Elder Scrolls you get similar "must be in every game" things too. Often to the point of becoming utterly predictable and flanderised versions of their original incarnation. Like having Sheogorath screaming about cheese. At this point it's like the main defining aspect of Sheggy. Shame really.

    Sure, they pay lip service to established things when it suits them, but if something that was previously thought as canon doesn't fit the needs of the current game, then out it goes and a glorious retcon awaits.

    Look at Dark Brotherhood and how it has fared over the years. If you haven't seen this interview you really should - there is a point at 1:50 that really drives the point home on how the devs in charge of these things regard established lore.

    That's just the way they work. And you know what - I'm fine with that. It took me a bit of time to realize that and then accept it. I used to be really big on lore of fantasy worlds, but then I realized that it doesn't really matter. These worlds come and go and eventually I forget most of the fiddly details anyway. What matters is the stories I myself experience, and the lore I create around my character myself.

    Besides, the people behind the series change anyway, and with them the ideas they add to it. So nothing is ever really set in stone. As longs as each game is still recognizably Elder Scrolly, one can build their own headcanon from the bits and bobs they like, to create their own interpretation on how it all fits together, and have each game be it's own and unique fresh thing, with its own quirks and lore to explore.

    ESO is clearly a more high fantasy take on the IP than Skyrim. That one was pretty low fantasy iteration and leered towards the grimdark end of the spectrum, without really going full barbarian. I think I liked the fairly traditional medieval fantasy feel of Oblivion the most, felt Skyrim was bit too low key for me, while ESO is a bit too much. Especially with all the laser-ponies romping about.

    As an MMO though, a market that is used to laser-pony-rainbow-armor spectacle of over the top cosmetics, a more flamboyant and spectacular take was the natural fit for it. It's not as out there as some other MMOs, but it is in quite stark contrast to Skyrim. And it extends beyond cosmetics, to the FX and animations used for combat. ESO fights are falshy, and over the top.

    You know in Skyrim (as long as you don't abuse the utterly broken and horrid mechanics of the system), facing a group of 3 or 4 bandits was a tough fight (at least in early and mid game), and a critical hit from a two handed weapon could one shot you in an instant. In ESO though... Well, you plow through 20 bandits without breaking a sweat and putting on a more flamboyant light show than 70s disco. Just think how many thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people your characters have killed in ESO. It's actually pretty hilarious if you think about it. A town has like maybe 100 npcs total and is considered a major metropolis. A simple brigand cave has 50 bandits for you to murder. And they constantly re-spawn, so you get to murder them multiple times if you tarry in the delve. But it is what works for an MMO, so you try not to think about it too much.

    And for that reason, for it being an MMO, ESO has an utterly different mechanical core from other Elder Scroll games. The main line of games share some amount of general similarity between their mechanics, but ESO is just completely different. It is like Redguard in that regard - it's a system that was aimed for a game of a different genre, with different requirements and priorities. For ESO, they wanted to have the trinity as a key aspect of the gameplay, they wanted to have clear cut and distinct classes - a stable design choice for MMOs at that time.

    They did color most of it in Elder Scroll flavored stuff, but clearly the main priority was to come up with a mechanical system fitting for an MMO. Fitting with the lore of TES series was a distant second. And if some stuff didn't fit TES lore, but they still thought it was cool, then they just made up new stuff. Like the Dragion Knight.

    The end results don't always make sense, and distinctions and divisions between the skill trees are arbitrary from lore perceptive, but as long as they season the resulting mess with Elder Scroll terms, most people will accept it as sufficiently Elder Scrolly.

    The whole thing veered of towards a totally different mechanic style the moment they decided to go with classes. The single most important and crucial aspect of all Elder Scroll mechanical systems, was the fact that they were essentially classless. Sure, the earlier games had those since they were an artifact of classic RPG designs, but they never really meant all that much. And the powerplay move, thanks to the pre-Skyrim archaic leveling system, was to pick or design a class based around skills you did not intend to use as your primary skills. In the end, regardless what path you took, you could master them all anyway. So all class ever was, was a starting point for your journey. More of a - "What were you prior to the story of the game?"", rather than "How are you going to be doing stuff in the game?"

    But that sort of design did not fit with what they thought an MMO was supposed to look like. You needed specific roles on the team, and clearly defined classes and skills. It's not really true as such, you don't need all that for an MMO, but that was the general philosophy on MMO design back when early plans for ESO were drafted. Thus the game got predefined classes with specific strengths and weaknesses, and everything else had to fit that model, regardless of how well it suited TES lore.

    I think the aborted Spellcrafting was the closest ESO has ever been to a main line TES game. But I can see why they whacked it in its infancy. It just didn't fit the mechanical needs of an MMO. At least the sort of MMO they decided to set up back in 2007 when development of ESO began. While product identity was important for ESO, it could be supplied by surface level call backs to other games. The rest was dependent on the needs of the game. ESO was set up as a class based action MMO, and if lore got in the way of its needs, then it was the lore that got booted out of the door.

    I think that a more traditional TES type set up would've worked just as well for ESO. You could've retained most of the mechanical structure of ESO as it is today, but instead of classes we'd have the schools of magicks as the primary skills trees for abilities. Weapons could just give you passive modifiers on how your attacks translated. Like a melee weapon woudl've had flaming blade ability from destruction, while the same skill would've lauvched a fire arrow if used with a staff. Stamina could've been reserved for break frees, jumping, dodging and sprinting - no need to have "green magic" in addition to the more traditional "blue magic." Add in some defensive based on armor that alter the way break frees and dodgign works, and maybe some guild skills that taught special "spells." Round it up with a bunch of crafting and world interaction skills like speech and the various rogue skills and you'd have a pretty nifty system.

    I suppose the classical argument against that, was the idea that everyone would've gravitated towards a single META build (kinda like what stealth archers are in Skyrim), but I think there would've been a fair number of popular build types, since not all players are into stealth archery, or whatever its equivalent would've been in a classless ESO.

    As a side note - I actually had a playthrough in Skyrim, where I essentially played an ESO styled Warden with animal companions and ice magic and shroom powers. I had to make bunch of custom content and modify some mods I found on Nexus to make it work, but it was fun and gave me a totally different feel for the game. It all started from the idea of being a ranger type with summoned animal companions and no access to restoration school. I often place such artificial roleplay restrictions on my characters to force me to come up with unique ways of doing stuff. (Instead of, you know, going the way of the stealth archer.) With no healing, and a mod that made potions lot less OP, I soon realized that I had to create alternate ways to heal myself, and ended up borrowing bunch of warden mechanics and spells from ESO. In the end, it fit pretty well into Skyrim, both mechanically and thematically.
    Edited by Hymzir on October 16, 2021 5:42PM
  • Supreme_Atromancer
    Supreme_Atromancer
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Hymzir wrote: »
    I've said it before, and I expect I'll say it again in the future, and I'll say it here as well: ZOS doesn't consider internal consistency of the lore to be an integral part of the Elder Scrolls franchise. Neither does Bethesda. They never have, they never will.

    They are not in the business of creating a believable and consistent fantasy worlds. They are in the business of selling games and merchandise associated with their IPs. As such, every game is it's own thing with its own specific needs and considerations. They happily retcon anything and almost everything, if they think it makes the latest iteration of the IP sell more products.

    This has happened before, this will happen again in the future. When Elder Scroll 6 finally trudges along, it will change ton of stuff to fit its needs, just like Skyrim and Oblivion did in their time, and just as ESO is doing right now.

    The fact of the matter is, that the majority of their customers don't care all that deeply about lore and internal narrative consistency. They are here for the spectacle and the entertainment, and the fun of venturing forth into a realm on adventure and excitement.

    Sure, some things are considered part of "product identity", and are things that will never change. Like the fact that there are no traditional Dwarves in TES, and that the Dwemer are extinct and vanished under mysterious circumstances. That will never change, for then it will no longer be the same IP. If they ever do bring the Dwemer back, that is the moment of jumping the shark for the IP, and its time to move on.

    The same is true for Bethesda Fallout. It makes no sense for Fallout 3 and 4 to have Supermutants. But they are part of the core product identity, so they get showed in. Forcibly if necessary. The same is true for the Brotherhood of Steel. It just wouldn't feel like a Fallout game without them, so they get crammed in too. Even in 76, which made no frigging sense.

    For Elder Scrolls you get similar "must be in every game" things too. Often to the point of becoming utterly predictable and flanderised versions of their original incarnation. Like having Sheogorath screaming about cheese. At this point it's like the main defining aspect of Sheggy. Shame really.

    Sure, they pay lip service to established things when it suits them, but if something that was previously thought as canon doesn't fit the needs of the current game, then out it goes and a glorious retcon awaits.

    Look at Dark Brotherhood and how it has fared over the years. If you haven't seen this interview you really should - there is a point at 1:50 that really drives the point home on how the devs in charge of these things regard established lore.

    That's just the way they work. And you know what - I'm fine with that. It took me a bit of time to realize that and then accept it. I used to be really big on lore of fantasy worlds, but then I realized that it doesn't really matter. These worlds come and go and eventually I forget most of the fiddly details anyway. What matters is the stories I myself experience, and the lore I create around my character myself.

    Besides, the people behind the series change anyway, and with them the ideas they add to it. So nothing is ever really set in stone. As longs as each game is still recognizably Elder Scrolly, one can build their own headcanon from the bits and bobs they like, to create their own interpretation on how it all fits together, and have each game be it's own and unique fresh thing, with its own quirks and lore to explore.

    ESO is clearly a more high fantasy take on the IP than Skyrim. That one was pretty low fantasy iteration and leered towards the grimdark end of the spectrum, without really going full barbarian. I think I liked the fairly traditional medieval fantasy feel of Oblivion the most, felt Skyrim was bit too low key for me, while ESO is a bit too much. Especially with all the laser-ponies romping about.

    As an MMO though, a market that is used to laser-pony-rainbow-armor spectacle of over the top cosmetics, a more flamboyant and spectacular take was the natural fit for it. It's not as out there as some other MMOs, but it is in quite stark contrast to Skyrim. And it extends beyond cosmetics, to the FX and animations used for combat. ESO fights are falshy, and over the top.

    You know in Skyrim (as long as you don't abuse the utterly broken and horrid mechanics of the system), facing a group of 3 or 4 bandits was a tough fight (at least in early and mid game), and a critical hit from a two handed weapon could one shot you in an instant. In ESO though... Well, you plow through 20 bandits without breaking a sweat and putting on a more flamboyant light show than 70s disco. Just think how many thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people your characters have killed in ESO. It's actually pretty hilarious if you think about it. A town has like maybe 100 npcs total and is considered a major metropolis. A simple brigand cave has 50 bandits for you to murder. And they constantly re-spawn, so you get to murder them multiple times if you tarry in the delve. But it is what works for an MMO, so you try not to think about it too much.

    And for that reason, for it being an MMO, ESO has an utterly different mechanical core from other Elder Scroll games. The main line of games share some amount of general similarity between their mechanics, but ESO is just completely different. It is like Redguard in that regard - it's a system that was aimed for a game of a different genre, with different requirements and priorities. For ESO, they wanted to have the trinity as a key aspect of the gameplay, they wanted to have clear cut and distinct classes - a stable design choice for MMOs at that time.

    They did color most of it in Elder Scroll flavored stuff, but clearly the main priority was to come up with a mechanical system fitting for an MMO. Fitting with the lore of TES series was a distant second. And if some stuff didn't fit TES lore, but they still thought it was cool, then they just made up new stuff. Like the Dragion Knight.

    The end results don't always make sense, and distinctions and divisions between the skill trees are arbitrary from lore perceptive, but as long as they season the resulting mess with Elder Scroll terms, most people will accept it as sufficiently Elder Scrolly.

    The whole thing veered of towards a totally different mechanic style the moment they decided to go with classes. The single most important and crucial aspect of all Elder Scroll mechanical systems, was the fact that they were essentially classless. Sure, the earlier games had those since they were an artifact of classic RPG designs, but they never really meant all that much. And the powerplay move, thanks to the pre-Skyrim archaic leveling system, was to pick or design a class based around skills you did not intend to use as your primary skills. In the end, regardless what path you took, you could master them all anyway. So all class ever was, was a starting point for your journey. More of a - "What were you prior to the story of the game?"", rather than "How are you going to be doing stuff in the game?"

    But that sort of design did not fit with what they thought an MMO was supposed to look like. You needed specific roles on the team, and clearly defined classes and skills. It's not really true as such, you don't need all that for an MMO, but that was the general philosophy on MMO design back when early plans for ESO were drafted. Thus the game got predefined classes with specific strengths and weaknesses, and everything else had to fit that model, regardless of how well it suited TES lore.

    I think the aborted Spellcrafting was the closest ESO has ever been to a main line TES game. But I can see why they whacked it in its infancy. It just didn't fit the mechanical needs of an MMO. At least the sort of MMO they decided to set up back in 2007 when development of ESO began. While product identity was important for ESO, it could be supplied by surface level call backs to other games. The rest was dependent on the needs of the game. ESO was set up as a class based action MMO, and if lore got in the way of its needs, then it was the lore that got booted out of the door.

    I think that a more traditional TES type set up would've worked just as well for ESO. You could've retained most of the mechanical structure of ESO as it is today, but instead of classes we'd have the schools of magicks as the primary skills trees for abilities. Weapons could just give you passive modifiers on how your attacks translated. Like a melee weapon woudl've had flaming blade ability from destruction, while the same skill would've lauvched a fire arrow if used with a staff. Stamina could've been reserved for break frees, jumping, dodging and sprinting - no need to have "green magic" in addition to the more traditional "blue magic." Add in some defensive based on armor that alter the way break frees and dodgign works, and maybe some guild skills that taught special "spells." Round it up with a bunch of crafting and world interaction skills like speech and the various rogue skills and you'd have a pretty nifty system.

    I suppose the classical argument against that, was the idea that everyone would've gravitated towards a single META build (kinda like what stealth archers are in Skyrim), but I think there would've been a fair number of popular build types, since not all players are into stealth archery, or whatever its equivalent would've been in a classless ESO.

    As a side note - I actually had a playthrough in Skyrim, where I essentially played an ESO styled Warden with animal companions and ice magic and shroom powers. I had to make bunch of custom content and modify some mods I found on Nexus to make it work, but it was fun and gave me a totally different feel for the game. It all started from the idea of being a ranger type with summoned animal companions and no access to restoration school. I often place such artificial roleplay restrictions on my characters to force me to come up with unique ways of doing stuff. (Instead of, you know, going the way of the stealth archer.) With no healing, and a mod that made potions lot less OP, I soon realized that I had to create alternate ways to heal myself, and ended up borrowing bunch of warden mechanics and spells from ESO. In the end, it fit pretty well into Skyrim, both mechanically and thematically.

    @Hymzir
    I appreciate the more worldly point of view on the issue, but I do still think its important to be able to express the elements of the game we find important. The hardcore, entrenched, MMO types have certainly taken advantage of multiple fora to express what they find important for ZOS to get right, and in doing so have shaped the direction of the game going forward. It is my opinion that a lot of that stuff has been changed at the expense of authentic Elder Scrolls elements because it is seen as the path of lesser resistance.

    To what degree is that going to be satisfying for someone who has been sold the idea of an authentic Elder Scrolls experience? How many people can't quite put their finger on, or articulate what it is about ESO that is lacking, and never bother to give feedback and just drop off? What element of the people are telling others on fora where they AREN'T going to get overwhelmed by people telling them their views are irrelevant or not important because its an MMO, that ESO is not worth investing in because it doesn't do a good job of the Elder Scrolls experience?

    The Elder Scrolls stuff is the important part of it. It was at launch. It was when it almost failed because the developers didn't realise it, and were forced to turn 180 degrees in their philosophy, and it still is today. You can say that its not important to them to get it right because once they've acquired permission to use the IP they just need to make money off of the MMO folk with shiny, explodey mounts, but I'd argue that its history is strong evidence that this is not the case at all. The narrative the developers themselves employ is that the game almost failed because they didn't know what they wanted to be, and making it an Elder Scrolls game was the right choice. That's HUGE evidence that beyond what you read on these forums, beyond what you think you know about the community, it isn't necessarily a good reflection of success, nor a great argument against expressing what we find important.

    The developers aren't omniscient entities who always make the greatest decisions for the game they're developing. They have weak points, and will make mistakes. Again, the history is evidence of that. I don't buy that they don't care about the franchise beyond what they can milk it for. I think there are areas that they can improve on, some of which would have relatively low risk of dramatic upset to present meta. I don't buy that the hardcore MMO crowd are the only important consideration in how they develop their game, I just think that through their volume, they are over-represented. I don't think that getting the lore and the feel right aren't important to a huge amount of people, and I do believe that ESO is missing some amount of people who would otherwise potentially love the game, who have dismissed it for its shortcomings. I think that the more they gain insight into what their particularly partisan community wants, the better they can do things in the future, especially if they understand why certain directions they've taken aren't satisfying.

    At the end of the day, you can have a mechanical framework for a new MMO and it doesn't really stand out because it has no soul and no identity. Tapping into a property with an already installed fanbase obviously netted them a reason for people to care about the game, at large. The mechanics, and even the vision behind them have been quite transient. No one in the Elder Scrolls community is arguing that it Redguard's mechanics were its legacy to the franchise, and in 10 years no one is going to be talking about stamsorcs. Its the Elder Scrolls stuff that's important.
    Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on October 20, 2021 3:16PM
  • Hymzir
    Hymzir
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Hymzir wrote: »
    I've said it before, and I expect I'll say it again in the future, and I'll say it here as well: ZOS doesn't consider internal consistency of the lore to be an integral part of the Elder Scrolls franchise. Neither does Bethesda. They never have, they never will.

    They are not in the business of creating a believable and consistent fantasy worlds. They are in the business of selling games and merchandise associated with their IPs. As such, every game is it's own thing with its own specific needs and considerations. They happily retcon anything and almost everything, if they think it makes the latest iteration of the IP sell more products.

    This has happened before, this will happen again in the future. When Elder Scroll 6 finally trudges along, it will change ton of stuff to fit its needs, just like Skyrim and Oblivion did in their time, and just as ESO is doing right now.

    The fact of the matter is, that the majority of their customers don't care all that deeply about lore and internal narrative consistency. They are here for the spectacle and the entertainment, and the fun of venturing forth into a realm on adventure and excitement.

    Sure, some things are considered part of "product identity", and are things that will never change. Like the fact that there are no traditional Dwarves in TES, and that the Dwemer are extinct and vanished under mysterious circumstances. That will never change, for then it will no longer be the same IP. If they ever do bring the Dwemer back, that is the moment of jumping the shark for the IP, and its time to move on.

    The same is true for Bethesda Fallout. It makes no sense for Fallout 3 and 4 to have Supermutants. But they are part of the core product identity, so they get showed in. Forcibly if necessary. The same is true for the Brotherhood of Steel. It just wouldn't feel like a Fallout game without them, so they get crammed in too. Even in 76, which made no frigging sense.

    For Elder Scrolls you get similar "must be in every game" things too. Often to the point of becoming utterly predictable and flanderised versions of their original incarnation. Like having Sheogorath screaming about cheese. At this point it's like the main defining aspect of Sheggy. Shame really.

    Sure, they pay lip service to established things when it suits them, but if something that was previously thought as canon doesn't fit the needs of the current game, then out it goes and a glorious retcon awaits.

    Look at Dark Brotherhood and how it has fared over the years. If you haven't seen this interview you really should - there is a point at 1:50 that really drives the point home on how the devs in charge of these things regard established lore.

    That's just the way they work. And you know what - I'm fine with that. It took me a bit of time to realize that and then accept it. I used to be really big on lore of fantasy worlds, but then I realized that it doesn't really matter. These worlds come and go and eventually I forget most of the fiddly details anyway. What matters is the stories I myself experience, and the lore I create around my character myself.

    Besides, the people behind the series change anyway, and with them the ideas they add to it. So nothing is ever really set in stone. As longs as each game is still recognizably Elder Scrolly, one can build their own headcanon from the bits and bobs they like, to create their own interpretation on how it all fits together, and have each game be it's own and unique fresh thing, with its own quirks and lore to explore.

    ESO is clearly a more high fantasy take on the IP than Skyrim. That one was pretty low fantasy iteration and leered towards the grimdark end of the spectrum, without really going full barbarian. I think I liked the fairly traditional medieval fantasy feel of Oblivion the most, felt Skyrim was bit too low key for me, while ESO is a bit too much. Especially with all the laser-ponies romping about.

    As an MMO though, a market that is used to laser-pony-rainbow-armor spectacle of over the top cosmetics, a more flamboyant and spectacular take was the natural fit for it. It's not as out there as some other MMOs, but it is in quite stark contrast to Skyrim. And it extends beyond cosmetics, to the FX and animations used for combat. ESO fights are falshy, and over the top.

    You know in Skyrim (as long as you don't abuse the utterly broken and horrid mechanics of the system), facing a group of 3 or 4 bandits was a tough fight (at least in early and mid game), and a critical hit from a two handed weapon could one shot you in an instant. In ESO though... Well, you plow through 20 bandits without breaking a sweat and putting on a more flamboyant light show than 70s disco. Just think how many thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people your characters have killed in ESO. It's actually pretty hilarious if you think about it. A town has like maybe 100 npcs total and is considered a major metropolis. A simple brigand cave has 50 bandits for you to murder. And they constantly re-spawn, so you get to murder them multiple times if you tarry in the delve. But it is what works for an MMO, so you try not to think about it too much.

    And for that reason, for it being an MMO, ESO has an utterly different mechanical core from other Elder Scroll games. The main line of games share some amount of general similarity between their mechanics, but ESO is just completely different. It is like Redguard in that regard - it's a system that was aimed for a game of a different genre, with different requirements and priorities. For ESO, they wanted to have the trinity as a key aspect of the gameplay, they wanted to have clear cut and distinct classes - a stable design choice for MMOs at that time.

    They did color most of it in Elder Scroll flavored stuff, but clearly the main priority was to come up with a mechanical system fitting for an MMO. Fitting with the lore of TES series was a distant second. And if some stuff didn't fit TES lore, but they still thought it was cool, then they just made up new stuff. Like the Dragion Knight.

    The end results don't always make sense, and distinctions and divisions between the skill trees are arbitrary from lore perceptive, but as long as they season the resulting mess with Elder Scroll terms, most people will accept it as sufficiently Elder Scrolly.

    The whole thing veered of towards a totally different mechanic style the moment they decided to go with classes. The single most important and crucial aspect of all Elder Scroll mechanical systems, was the fact that they were essentially classless. Sure, the earlier games had those since they were an artifact of classic RPG designs, but they never really meant all that much. And the powerplay move, thanks to the pre-Skyrim archaic leveling system, was to pick or design a class based around skills you did not intend to use as your primary skills. In the end, regardless what path you took, you could master them all anyway. So all class ever was, was a starting point for your journey. More of a - "What were you prior to the story of the game?"", rather than "How are you going to be doing stuff in the game?"

    But that sort of design did not fit with what they thought an MMO was supposed to look like. You needed specific roles on the team, and clearly defined classes and skills. It's not really true as such, you don't need all that for an MMO, but that was the general philosophy on MMO design back when early plans for ESO were drafted. Thus the game got predefined classes with specific strengths and weaknesses, and everything else had to fit that model, regardless of how well it suited TES lore.

    I think the aborted Spellcrafting was the closest ESO has ever been to a main line TES game. But I can see why they whacked it in its infancy. It just didn't fit the mechanical needs of an MMO. At least the sort of MMO they decided to set up back in 2007 when development of ESO began. While product identity was important for ESO, it could be supplied by surface level call backs to other games. The rest was dependent on the needs of the game. ESO was set up as a class based action MMO, and if lore got in the way of its needs, then it was the lore that got booted out of the door.

    I think that a more traditional TES type set up would've worked just as well for ESO. You could've retained most of the mechanical structure of ESO as it is today, but instead of classes we'd have the schools of magicks as the primary skills trees for abilities. Weapons could just give you passive modifiers on how your attacks translated. Like a melee weapon woudl've had flaming blade ability from destruction, while the same skill would've lauvched a fire arrow if used with a staff. Stamina could've been reserved for break frees, jumping, dodging and sprinting - no need to have "green magic" in addition to the more traditional "blue magic." Add in some defensive based on armor that alter the way break frees and dodgign works, and maybe some guild skills that taught special "spells." Round it up with a bunch of crafting and world interaction skills like speech and the various rogue skills and you'd have a pretty nifty system.

    I suppose the classical argument against that, was the idea that everyone would've gravitated towards a single META build (kinda like what stealth archers are in Skyrim), but I think there would've been a fair number of popular build types, since not all players are into stealth archery, or whatever its equivalent would've been in a classless ESO.

    As a side note - I actually had a playthrough in Skyrim, where I essentially played an ESO styled Warden with animal companions and ice magic and shroom powers. I had to make bunch of custom content and modify some mods I found on Nexus to make it work, but it was fun and gave me a totally different feel for the game. It all started from the idea of being a ranger type with summoned animal companions and no access to restoration school. I often place such artificial roleplay restrictions on my characters to force me to come up with unique ways of doing stuff. (Instead of, you know, going the way of the stealth archer.) With no healing, and a mod that made potions lot less OP, I soon realized that I had to create alternate ways to heal myself, and ended up borrowing bunch of warden mechanics and spells from ESO. In the end, it fit pretty well into Skyrim, both mechanically and thematically.

    @Hymzir
    I appreciate the more worldly point of view on the issue, but I do still think its important to be able to express the elements of the game we find important. The hardcore, entrenched, MMO types have certainly taken advantage of multiple fora to express what they find important for ZOS to get right, and in doing so have shaped the direction of the game going forward. It is my opinion that a lot of that stuff has been changed at the expense of authentic Elder Scrolls elements because it is seen as the path of lesser resistance.

    To what degree is that going to be satisfying for someone who has been sold the idea of an authentic Elder Scrolls experience? How many people can't quite put their finger on, or articulate what it is about ESO that is lacking, and never bother to give feedback and just drop off? What element of the people are telling others on fora where they AREN'T going to get overwhelmed by people telling them their views are irrelevant or not important because its an MMO, that ESO is not worth investing in because it doesn't do a good job of the Elder Scrolls experience?

    The Elder Scrolls stuff is the important part of it. It was at launch. It was when it almost failed because the developers didn't realise it, and were forced to turn 180 degrees in their philosophy, and it still is today. You can say that its not important to them to get it right because once they've acquired permission to use the IP they just need to make money off of the MMO folk with shiny, explodey mounts, but I'd argue that its history is strong evidence that this is not the case at all. The narrative the developers themselves employ is that the game almost failed because they didn't know what they wanted to be, and making it an Elder Scrolls game was the right choice. That's HUGE evidence that beyond what you read on these forums, beyond what you think you know about the community, it isn't necessarily a good reflection of success, nor a great argument against expressing what we find important.

    The developers aren't omniscient entities who always make the greatest decisions for the game they're developing. They have weak points, and will make mistakes. Again, the history is evidence of that. I don't buy that they don't care about the franchise beyond what they can milk it for. I think there are areas that they can improve on, some of which would have relatively low risk of dramatic upset to present meta. I don't buy that the hardcore MMO crowd are the only important consideration in how they develop their game, I just think that through their volume, they are over-represented. I don't think that getting the lore and the feel right aren't important to a huge amount of people, and I do believe that ESO is missing some amount of people who would otherwise potentially love the game, who have dismissed it for its shortcomings. I think that the more they gain insight into what their particularly partisan community wants, the better they can do things in the future, especially if they understand why certain directions they've taken aren't satisfying.

    At the end of the day, you can have a mechanical framework for a new MMO and it doesn't really stand out because it has no soul and no identity. Tapping into a property with an already installed fanbase obviously netted them a reason for people to care about the game, at large. The mechanics, and even the vision behind them have been quite transient. No one in the Elder Scrolls community is arguing that it Redguard's mechanics were its legacy to the franchise, and in 10 years no one is going to be talking about stamsorcs. Its the Elder Scrolls stuff that's important.


    Interesting read. You raise some good points. Personally, I would've preferred a more traditional approach for ESO as far as mechanics go, and how they interact with the world from a lore point of view. However, I truly don't think that those points come out on top, when faced off with MMO needs and requirements. That's why established lore ends up being the loser.

    I'm also convinced, like you postulated, that a lot of players who came here for TES stuff have thrown in the towel and moved on without really rising a fuzz about it. At some point, the reality of what ESO has become, just didn't feel like a TES thing anymore and thus they left. I do, however, think that they never really represented the whole of ESO players. Even at launch. I still remember plenty of encounters with players from 2014 and 2015 to whom this was their first TES game.

    It's a tricky thing to gauge, and it's difficult to see the whole picture without personal bias. One one hand, you are quite right about it, the only reason we are still playing ESO in 2021, is because of the strength of its IP. Without that, it would not have pulled thru the dark times following its launch. Without the TES brand, I do think this thing would've been mothballed by 2016.

    At the same time I also think that there are lot of non TES fans playing the game, players to whom those exploding laser ponies are important part of the experience. People who do not really care whether Wardens or Dragon Knights fit the established lore or not. And I think that side has grown with each passing year.

    Or course, nothing is ever really black and white either. So it's a spectrum of interests. I mean, I don't think that TES fans were really looking for a MMO to begin with. The whole nature of the affair is contrary to the feel of those solo games. Add to that the ever growing trend of MMO players looking for games where they can have social interactions with other players, while still essentially playing the actual game solo. Games where expressing your personal creativity and identity via cosmetics is more important than the narrative values of the quests you do. Just think of all the "Do you skip dialogue while questing?" threads on this forum.

    It's those people, I think, that ZOS has recognized as the most profitable target audience and the ones they are primarily catering to. And it is on that basis that the PR story of ESOs redemption is based. They just drape it in an Elder Scroll themed narrative. That is, the game was in trouble at launch, but by molding the thing into a "true online multiplayer Elder Scroll experience" really paid off in the end. However, that is just market spiel, the game in its current state would do just fine without the TES brand. Besides, it's been around long enough to create its own lore and character, and I would not be surprised if someone would identify themselves as ESO fans but not TES fans.

    Elder Scroll fans are the ones that saved the game by not giving up on it during pre-One Tamriel times, but it is the casual players (to whom TES stuff is a secondary interest) looking for an online solo experience with social interactions that made it profitable. In that sense, it really is the Elder Scroll fans who lost out in the end, as the game spiraled to an ever crazier and anti-lore cosmetic extravaganza.

    As for the devs caring for TES and its lore... Well I'm sure they care on some level. Some more than others. I just don't think it is a driving force behind the development of the game. And devs come and go, and each one of them has their own personal sense of what is appropriate for TES and what is cool. Regardless of there being a lore master and ZOS PR always insisting that they respect the lore, I don't buy it being all that crucial to them. The very idea of revering Elder Scolls lore is part of the Elder Scroll brand, but actually following it is not. Lore has always been subservient to the needs of the individual games, and it's main function is to uphold brand recognition and to offer avenues for monetizing nostalgia. Besides, the execs most certainly don't give a hoot about that stuff. For them it's all about the money. And they are the ones who ultimately call the shots.

    It's cleat that the current mission directive is to keep players logged online to maximize the chances for macro-transactions. It's not the hardcore MMO people they are looking for, it's the casual MMO crowd. Hardcore players want actual MMO content and that costs money to make. Skinning yet another disco-panther mount to sell in the store is lot cheaper to produce. And it makes them more money.

    Calling ZOS out on all the various lore breaking decisions they've made in pursuing those macro-transaction making casual is fine in itself, I just don't think it will really nudge the scales in any direction. Their priorities lie elsewhere, and ultimately it wont matter. As you pointed out yourself, the mechanics are not memorable, they are not what will carry forward after ESO's demise. No one will be talking about stamplars or ultimates or destro staffs, or any other mechanical thing form ESO. I doubt we will ever hear from Skyshards again in the future. Even though the current started quest claims that Dirennii use them to power their magical contraptions. Ultimately they are an artifact of ESOs mechanical structure, and any lore surrounding them them will no doubt be retconned out of existence.

    It is for this reason that ZOS and Beth know that they can do pretty much whatever they want in each individual game. None of it matters in the long run, so might as well break it now to expedite and facilitate the needs of the current game. And if it breaks things too much, just forget their existence and never mention them again, like they did with those cannons from Redguard.
    Edited by Hymzir on October 20, 2021 5:21PM
  • Supreme_Atromancer
    Supreme_Atromancer
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    If I were to say that your post is cynical, it wouldn't be because I don't agree with most of your observations or don't think its an absolutely great post. I agree that execs ultimately need to make sure that the game is profitable and selling self-expression in the crown store is a very successful model. I think that there's still a lot of room for any direction the creative team want to take, long term.

    I don't actually believe that the casual appetite for self expression and social interaction conflict with "Elder Scrolls, with your friends", its just a matter of how those things are done. I'm not against mounts and costumes, I just think that currently, there's just not a strong enough agenda to do it in an authentic way. Is that because its just a clueless monetisation team plucking generic ideas out of the pool of standard MMO shash and telling the Lore Master to write up a random blurb and lorename? Neither would be at fault there - its the direction and the system. To what degree must making an attempt to improve that system absolutely clash with the game's success or the exec's bottom-line?

    Regarding the class stuff, the weapon system was meant to provide for versatility, and given how restrictive and awkward the class system is, and how poorly it permitted playing anything much like any of the core TES archetypes, I really wish that they had gone the other direction - diminishing the importance of classes (if not getting rid of them outright, or at least making them opt-in guild skill-lines themselves) and increasing the importance of weapon and guild skill lines in fulfilling trinity roles and allowing for a variety of playstyles.

    As it is, they were just giving in to meta-demand for more versatility and internal balance than the baked-in class system could handle, but hatcheted it together at the expense of any of it making much sense at all. Play how you want is the stated design goal, but that means two very different things to two very different people. A power-gamer wants to play power. It doesn't matter how you sell the numbers, they'll go with whatever. They follow the updates and disseminate the meta and are ready to destroy all content before it even drops. The more casual person is building to whatever makes sense to them. For that sort of person, choices they make in class, weapon and armour should be intuitive, and should broadly act in a way that mirrors expectation. That was also a design principle from the start. As the game has progressed, and they've continued to struggle to find ways to appease meta demands, they have absolutely lost their way in making it intuitive. Its abstracted and follows a very internal, arbitrary and alien logic.

    What market does that system benefit? Its not the casuals. Engagement in meta endows a ridiculously vast power advantage over someone trying to build intuitively. Now, there's always going to be some degree of skills, gear or strategies that are going to prove to be unintentionally powerful, and knowledge of the game system should have a degree of importance. But the gulf in power between someone building to a broadly accepted, intuitive logic and the twisted, nonsensical, abstracted combinations of stuff you will need to use to be useful in a LOT of the content being developed is gross. And further, it increases the huge wedge between the casual player and those successfully completing content beyond overland and normal dungeons not because of effort (though that is a thing), but creating a wall of "playing in an intuitive, immersive way is not successful".
    Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on October 21, 2021 8:45AM
  • Jazraena
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    I honestly don't think it's particularly important which colour and name whatever bar has that you are presently using up.

    I am disappointed at the game forcing every PC and even plenty NPC (including random city guards!) to be a mage however. As posited earlier, no matter if it costs stamina or magicka, things like stonespikes from your back, flaming swords and teleportation is magic, period. Even the weapon skill lines have plenty effects that are hard to explain without magic - charging an enemy to set the ground on fire, slashing someone with a twohander resulting in a glowing shield, levitating knives around you...

    A lot of that could be solved by toning back some visual effects already. It's possible to play a largely magicless character to a point where you can still do DLC veteran dungeons at least, but not exactly easy, and you're far, far off the meta.

    And while I am aware that this isn't exactly a standard requirement, but I like to actually design my characters in the same way I play them in RP - which... means I have to mostly play spellcasters. Hm.
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