Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Letters from Tamriel, Part I - Prophets, Prognosticators and Party-Poopers

Opinions and Predictions

The release of TESO is nigh, and I thought that this might be a good time to collate some of the vast and wildly varying opinions about the game under one roof. I intend this post to be a time capsule of sorts, so that in a year's time I can look back and see who the most prescient and far-sighted writers were, and who were just flat-out wrong. There are many claims of looming epic failure – chief amongst them the article written by Paul Fuckface in Forbes, in which he grandiosely claims that TESO will be the “biggest video game disaster of 2014” - but I wish to keep this civil, and refrain from stooping to personal insults and childish name calling to get my point across. I'm an unapologetic TESO fan boy, but I firmly believe that this has not diluted my objectivity by one iota, as it patently clear to all who have eyes that TESO IS THE GREATEST GAME OF ALL TIME. Everything I have seen and read tells me that this is a game I will like, so obviously on a personal level the game has already been a success. As for everyone else – well, take a look.

Quick disclaimer - all opinions and predictions have been pulled from blogs, websites or on comments on blogs, and have been linked to their source, as well as the author's blog. All errors, misrepresentations and out-of-context readings are my sole responsibility. For a better and more considered presentation of each author's perspective I urge the reader to follow the links to their site, and not take anything that is expressed on this post at face value.

Screenshot by Araxes over at the Rat Warlock.




Name

Blog/Website

Opinions

Decisions/Predictions

Source
Andrew Ross
Massively website
This is the very feature that is perplexing me about The Elder Scrolls Online: Multiplayer at this early stage seems irrelevant.

...the few choice I've made (when given an option) didn't seem to change anything, in contrast to my experience with SWTOR's conversation trees and dice roll-offs that created reasons to repeat quests, both alone and in groups.
Like many people, I fully expect the game to go either free-to-play or buy-to-play eventually, and I've felt that "founder burn" from other single-player-with-multiplayer-options RPG before. The question of how much the game will be worth after a conversion is too strong in my mind to ignore. I just don't think the value is there right now for an MMO player like me, and I don't see an easy fix, with or without PvP. Website 14 Feb 2014
Araxes
The Rat Warlock
TESO is a gorgeous, gorgeous game. It’s undoubtedly the most beautiful MMO I’ve played to date, and it rivals many single-player games, as well. The visuals are as good as anything in Skyrim. In some cases, better.


It's not out to break the mold and it’s not going to redefine anything in the genre, but it’s a lot of fun. If you enjoy a good, solid MMO with linear PVE, faction-based PVP in restricted areas, gorgeous scenery, interesting classes with unique ways to grow your character, you’ll be right at home. Blog 17 Feb 2014
Belghast
Tales of the Aggronaut
At its core this is in fact The Elder Scrolls… Online. This game lives and breathes the Elder Scrolls Lore and settings, and is immediately recognizable the first time you see a creature made famous by the series out in the wild.

I am not normally a fan of player versus player in any game. However Elder Scrolls has me more than a bit excited to be honest. We are finally returning to the most successful PvP set up that any game has had… the Frontiers of Dark Age of Camelot.
This is the type of game that grows on you over time. The biggest problem is you cannot go into playing it with the expectations of it being something else. I feel like this game is trying to start its own little genre. There is more than enough meat on its bones to allow players to happily explore it for hundreds and hundreds of hours.
Blog 15 Feb 2014
Bhagpuss
Inventory Full
I don't have any residual affection for the IP so if it ends up appealing to me even in the slightest I'll be both surprised and delighted. Plenty of other people, however, are very heavily invested indeed and when an MMO gets made from an IP that people love it doesn't often seem to go down as well as either the developers or the fans might hope or expect. LotRO might be the exception although even that's had its ups and downs, but the commercial and/or artistic history of the rest - SWG, SW:ToR, Warhammer, AoC, STO, DDO, Lego Universe, to name just a few of the better-known - well, it doesn't make pretty reading. TESO...looks set to disappoint just about everyone.
Blog 30 Dec 2013
Clockwork
Out of Beta
Steak-Flavored Tofu.

My interest in TESO…has been lukewarm at best and stirred to a ball of incoherent rage at worst.

…linear, end-game focused monstrosity.
An MMO is where a franchise goes to die.
Blog 11 Feb 2014
Doone
T.R. Red Skies / XP Chronicles
  …the open world aspect of the single player game are its heart. If Zenimax ignores this to opt for the theme park, they'll be drying their tears on their shirts, not with the c-notes they think they'll rake in by developing the game in this way.The beta has been thoroughly underwhelming. My expectations for this game are non-existent.
Out of Beta 11 Feb 2014 (comment dated 16 Feb 2014)
Duke of O
Null Signifier
TWO THUMBS UP!!!

I've tried other MMOs. But this one is the best!

Before I played TESO no girl would look twice at me. Now I have to beat them off with a stick! Thank you TESO!

TESO will lower your blood cholesterol and keep you regular! It will also keep your skin smooth as silk, while removing disfiguring acne and blemishes.

Better than SEX!
Will add fuel to the F2P/Sub debate for months to come.

Skyrim purists will hate the game.

MMO purists will hate the game.

Tobold will straddle the middle ground, and then ask meekly, “Should I play this game?” while having no intent to do so as a way to drum up blogging traffic. He will also initiate more flame wars with Richard Bartle by calling him “self-referential” rather than “narcissistic”.

Hackers will find a way to fly with the Elder Scrolls, prompting hundreds of awed player to flood fan sites with requests as to where this particular skill can be found.

Gold sellers will spam Cyrodiil general chat with discount gold and power levelling services, proving once again, that in the end, the gold farmers always win.

The first Emperor will be someone either pre-pubescent or unemployed. Hail the Emperor!

The second Emperor will be found dead in an Internet cafe, having tragically overdosed on Red Bull, instant noodles and Burger Rings. The Aldmeri Dominion will try to hold a solemn in-game funeral but the ceremony will be crashed by Ebonheart Pact forces who got lost on their way to an objective due to Team Speak issues. Much hand-wringing and forum flaming ensues. In the meantime, the Daggerfall Covenant takes advantage of all the commotion and crowns the third Emperor.

The third Emperor will be a Korean WCS Starcraft 2 player on a sabbatical, and he illustrates the gulf between normal players and tournament players by killing everyone in Cyrodiil. On a non-gaming mouse. Left handed.

Gevlon will declare TESO solely for morons and slackers and continue to push for harsher death penalties in EVE Online as a way of increasing subs and welcoming newbies to New Eden.

The most popular names will be Nerevar or Dovakhiin, or derivatives thereof. Coming a close second will be LeetPvP, Ipwnubitches or Noobslayer.

A character named James will be banned for using a name that doesn't conform to role-playing conventions.

An overzealous feminist writer will get offended at the representation of the Khajit, declaring indignantly that “pussies don’t wear armour like that.”

Male misogynists will counter “Oh hell yes they do” and then spam comments on the feminists website, using the rationale that if they use enough gibberish no one will be able to engage in any real debate.

PvErs will demand that Cyrodiil be turned into a voluntary flagging area because they hate PvP.

PvPers will demand that that the starting areas be turned into PvP zones because they hate PvE.

Zenimax will ignore both parties, then release a new Malukah video as a way of soothing the unruly mob. “Beware, beware, the Dragonborn comes…”

WoW will shamelessly rip off the Cyrodiil idea in their own world PvP zone come the next expansion and show that when it comes to keeping the money flowing in, they are the undisputed masters of the MMO genre.

Belghast wants TESO to succeed because he loves the MMO genre.

Scree wants TESO to fail because he loves the MMO genre.

My cat took a piss because it loves the MMO genre.

THE DAGGERFALL COVENANT WILL PWN ALL. The Aldmeri Dominion and the Ebonheart Pact will try but fail miserably. Yeah, bitches. Sup.
Blog 11 Mar 2014
Eliot Lefebvre
Massively website
I've always had a profound antipathy toward the Elder Scrolls franchise.       
      
I've also never seen anything that's reached out and grabbed me, no inspiring bits of lore, no systems that particularly grab my interest, just the promise that "you can do anything you want" without a great deal of encouragement.
Unless you're an enormous fan of the Elder Scrolls franchise, there's not much to recommend ESO right now. It's another generic fantasy MMO in a field already filled with them. And I just don't get it.


Website 7 Feb 2014
Jaedia
Jaedia's Menagerie
I mean it’s Elder Scrolls in an MMO setting, I’m bound to adore it. I love fantasy. I love MMOs. I love exploration. It’s right up my street. But I’m not happy, guys…I just can’t justify spending £50 on a game that I’d then have to pay £8.99 per month on on top of that.I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this game doesn’t do as well as they seem to be expecting…putting a price tag on everything is not the way to win loyalty, which is really what’s at stake here.
Blog 30 Jan 2014
Joseph Skyrim
JVT Workshop
It is pretty cool and fantastically beautiful.

...the instances were very "phase" heavy. If I was playing with a friend and I happened to finish a quest before or differently as to how he did in an area then we wouldn't see each other despite standing in the same spot. This is to keep with our individual immersion I guess, but I can see how that will be problematic later.
In the state I experienced the game at, I'm forced to only score it 2 dragons out of 5. Hopefully Zenimax fixes up all the broken pieces before release because this would easily double its score. Will I pay to play it though? That's a silly question. Of course not.

   


Blog 16 Feb 2014
J3w3l
Healing the Masses
Tamriel is just beautiful. That's B-e-a-utiful.
  
Sometimes the breadth of all this story and lore is a little overwhelming to me.   
  
I didn’t feel as strangled by the design when questing through ESO which is an amazing feeling. I could go as fast or slow as I wanted. I could stay on the path or venture out and there was a lot out there to find if I wanted story, experience, gear or other rewards and I felt like I had more time to just experience my surroundings.
...do we even think this is a fair fight? (between TESO and Wildstar)







Blog 8 Mar 2014
Paul Tassi
Forbes Online
MMOs as a genre may not be dead yet, but the monthly subscription model certainly is for new entries, and Bethesday/ZeniMax were foolish not to have the foresight to realize this.
In short, Bethesda and Zenimax spend an ungodly amount of money developing a game for an audience that may not even exist.

We’ve seen a number of high profile online launch disasters recently, and The Elder Scrolls Online seems like a prime candidate for a similar meltdown.

The biggest video game disaster of 2014.
Website 2 Jan 2014
Scree
The Cynic Dialogues
(talking about Wildstar)

What's a bigger testament for a game's success and justification for your passion for a title than to see it succeed and its gaming population flourish.
(talking about TESO)

 
I am entirely opposed to this game succeeding.
Blog 5 Mar 2014
Syl
MMO Gypsy
My admittedly short beta testings were a painfully disappointing experience and while they might not be completely fair or balanced, they are lacking in ways that cannot be made up by playing the game longer or praying for the unlikely wonders of another two months of final polishing. My issues with the game are of no subtle nature – they are fundamental.I don’t intend on buying at launch, in fact I am not sure I’m gonna buy at all for as long as there is also a monthly subscription.
Blog 16 Feb 2014
Syncaine
Hardcore Casual
…the first area is 100% linear, the second feels like a typical themepark zone, and the third feels like a comfortable cross between a full open world and an MMO themepark.
Pre-ordered the digital collectors edition, in part because I think the game will be a good time, and also in part because the genre blows outside of spaceships.

If ESO has less than 500k subs across all platforms after the first 6 months, the game will be a failure. I don’t believe that will be the case.
Blog 14 Feb 2014
Syp
Bio Break
I’m not a fan of the game world, but more than that, the game itself looks so incredibly dull. There’s precious little innovation here and I’m deeply concerned that ZeniMax/Bethesda doesn’t really understand the MMO industry and is perhaps stubbornly ignoring lessons of the past by assuming that ESO will succeed by the virtue of its name alone.I wouldn’t have chosen ESO to be such an ambassador, not with how it’s being made and positioned, but I don’t have a say in that matter. So instead, I’m hoping for all of our sake that it does well enough to avoid the type of downfall and backlash that some love to perpetuate.
Blog 6 Mar 2014
Tremayne
Tremayne's Law
I had an absolute blast that was both reminiscent of my favourite DAoC memories and included some fun new twists.



One brutal, close-quarters fight later we had lost but the general consensus in chat was “That’s awesome, let’s do it again!” When the gamers on the LOSING side say that, there’s something very right with the game. Blog 5 Mar 2014
Wilhelm Arcturus
The Ancient Gaming Noob
I can say the game feels like Skyrim…The intro is very linear, as with Skyrim, and everybody is extremely patient while you get your bearings and try to find your way out… as with Skyrim.

While I still think a Borderlands 2 4-player co-op model with plenty of post launch DLC was the winning move for an Elder Scrolls game, the MMO version still works.
And will I be pre-ordering it and playing the game at launch? No. Not because I do not like the game...I just don’t need another MMO to play and nobody with whom I play with regularly is interested in the game at this point. So I will be sticking with WoW and EVE Online for now.
Blog 17 Feb 2014
WolfsheadWolfshead Online
There seems to be no compelling reason to be a part of this virtual world. There are no revolutionary features here that excite me. The lack of social cohesion, challenge, danger and dynamic content is also troubling.I was very excited about Elder Scrolls Online. I had even pre-ordered the collectors edition with the figurine but after the first beta weekend I cancelled it as I could not reconcile paying $120 for another unambitious, predictable MMO theme park.Blog 5 Mar 2014


Another screenshot by Araxes.

Non-Facetious Predictions

On a more serious note, here are my non-facetious predictions for TESO based on the following questions:
  1. Will the game be free to play in a year's time (4 April 2015)?
  2. How many subscribers will the game have in a year's time?
  3. What Metacritic score will the game receive on release (measured at the end of April 2014)?
  4. How many subscribers will TESO have at its peak?
My responses are as follows: 
  1. The game will NOT go free-to-play in a year's time. Residual love for the single player IP, a robust but accessible PvP end game reminiscent of DAOC, and sufficient differential from the WoW model will ensure that TESO will carve out its own comfortable niche.
  2. Subscriptions will stabilize between 500,000 to 1 million players. Whether you consider this to be a success or not will depend on which of the remaining hold-outs of subscription based MMOs you are comparing this figure to, whether that be WoW (7.8 million), Final Fantasy 14 (1.8 million - thank you, Bhagpuss), EVE Online (500,000) or Darkfall 2 (20,000). I don't believe comparisons to free-to-play titles like Guild Wars 2 (460,000 concurrent users at its peak) or SWTOR (350,000 concurrent users at its peak) are valid because F2P pay models allow a more generous user count, but the numbers are included there just for a reference.
  3. The game will receive a Metacritic Critics score of over 80 (measured at the end of April 2014). When it comes to personal opinions two quotes come to mind – i) there's no accounting for taste, and ii) opinions are like assholes – everyone has one. My purpose with this prediction is not to advocate the primacy of one opinion over another, but to create an easily measurable metric of success or failure, even if that metric lies in the hands of a handful of journalists in established publications. If TESO scores over 80 then it will have been a “critical” success. It won't make a difference to me if the world likes TESO or not (I'll still play it), but I am interested in finding out whether my preference lies in the majority or the minority, and whether or not the lukewarm reception TESO received in beta has morphed into a more positive spin.
  4. TESO will peak at 1.5 million subscribers. This is a tough one and I have no idea what to base my numbers on, except perhaps on the position of the tea leaves in my morning cuppa, and the alignment of the planets in the solar system. All I know are the peak numbers of past MMOs, which are perhaps as relevant to TESO's future success as the price of tea in China during the days of Marco Polo. Nonetheless, here they are – SWTOR (1.7 million at its peak), Warhammer Online (800,000 at peak) and Dark Age of Camelot (250,000 at peak). I should also add that Skyrim has sold over 20 million copies world wide to date, Oblivion between 3-5 million, and Morrowind over 1 million. How the single player success of Skyrim and its ilk will affect the sales of its MMO half-brother remains to be seen.
For better or worse, those are my projections. Care should be taken with the numbers I quote there, as they're all pulled from the Internet and therefore dodgy as hell. Nonetheless, will time prove me a prophet among prophets, or another blogger with too much time on his hands? Shall I be savouring the fruits of victory, choking on the grapes of another blogger's wrath, or eating a vast serving of humble pie garnished with crow's feet? Only time will tell.

Roll up, roll up, diviners, seers and would-be prognosticators! Care to take a wager?

4 comments:

  1. Heh! Wasn't expecting to see my name up there seeing as how I know absolutely nothing about ESO and care about as much. My only real interest is in how it and WildStar releasing as Subscription MMOs may affect other MMOs that I might actually play. If either or especially both of them end up going B2P/F2P in a year or less then I think that's the Sub model gone for the foreseeable future, at least for non-niche MMOs. If either or especially both prosper under a subscription then it's very definitely back on the table.

    Speaking of subscription MMOs, your figure on FFXIV:ARR is a long way out. YoshiP did the unthinkable recently and gave out hard numbers in an interview, translated on the forums here

    http://forum.square-enix.com/ffxiv/threads/151950-What-s-makes-an-MMORPG-fun-4Gamer-chats-with-the-Producers-of-FFXI-FFXIV-and-DQX

    FFXIV has 1.8 million current subscribers. Much bigger than I think most of us would have guessed. It's also a very old-fashioned, traditional MMO in many ways, with a lot of repetitive grind, and it's gated behind a subscription. Makes you wonder...

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  2. Thanks for the heads-up on FFXIV. 1.8 million is very impressive! I wonder what proportion of that number are Western subscribers. I live in Japan but am completely ignorant of the state of the MMO scene here. If there is one thing Japanese people are good at, it is the grind - perhaps it informs their tastes when it comes to games, too. That's just pure conjecture on my part though - need more data.

    I'm about to pass out, but I will edit my post tomorrow and link the link you gave me as a reference. I'll also try to get links for all the numbers I used in my conclusion. That was my original intent, I just went slightly insane after linking all the bloggers and websites I quoted in this post.

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  3. Ooh, I've been quoted! Look at me Ma, I'm internet famous :)

    As for the predictions - I don't see ESO going free to play within a year happening as a desperation move. However, it might happen anyway as a hard-headed business move, if Zenimax simply decide that they can make the game even more profitable on that model. See Turbine's conversion of LotRO to F2P, which happened not because LotRO was struggling (it was doing reasonably well as a sub game) but because their experience with DDO led them to conclude it would do even better leading the charge towards F2P.
    Metacritic score of 80 should be easily achievable, as game reviews tend to be on a scale weighted heavily towards the high end. A score of 80 simply means "doesn't suck", and good games generally get a 90 or more. I expect a score in the low to mid 80s for ESO, with reviewers who 'get it' scoring in the 88 to 95 region, and the average dragged down by non-MMOer reviews along the lines of "WTF?! This isn't Skyrim!"
    Subscription figures - really don't care to guess since I've no feel for the number of console players likely to turn up. Note that by the time the console version is live, the "3 monther" PC crowd will be going back to WoW or moving on to Wildstar, which will spread the peak out somewhat.

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    Replies
    1. You've been quoted twice - I think Bio Break quotes your review of TESO as well.

      I like your point about the peak spread, that is interesting. I think TESO on consoles will actually capture a new audience - I know Morrowind grabbed me when I had an X-Box all those years ago. If I was an impressionable young man like I was back in the day, TESO would reel me in hook, line and sinker.

      All figures are now linked to their Internet sources.

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