Recently, Zenimax Online Studios, makers of Elder Scrolls Online, released a gameplay video highlighting group play. The video can be found at the top of this post. I highly recommend watching it; it’s a good video that does a great job of highlighting group play within Tamriel. The three members of the Dev team in the video are Paul Sage- Creative Director, Nick Konkle- Lead Gameplay Designer, and Dan Crenshaw- Dungeon Lead.
In the first part of the video, two players encounter what they call an overland boss. Basically, these bosses are created to encourage, but not force players, to engage in group combat. It is a great system, especially since loot streams are completely individual and there is no such thing as “tagging” an enemy. This means that anyone can just jump into a fight and it will have no repercussions on anyone involved in terms of loot or experience gained. This really does encourage group play because there is little risk and a lot of reward involved in encounters such as this. You can easily jump in, help out and potentially make new gaming buddies, or you can just walk away and continue on your own. And both options are the right answer. Sometimes, you just want to get some solo experience in. Sometimes, the other people around you are jerks. Sometimes, you find you next guild mates and have a ton of fun with them.
During the second part of the video, the shortest, they quickly go over the convenience of fast travel and meeting up with group members. It really is easy with the Wayshrines that have been put throughout the game. You pay a small fee in gold (looks like scales based on level) and after a short player action (with some extremely wrinkled hands) you are immediately transported to that wayshrine, where others can meet up, or you can travel to wherever it is you want to go. It’s convenient but certainly not game breaking in any way.
During the third part of the video, they show a Dark Anchor event in action. This is a random event that occurs around Tamriel where Molag Bol drops a literal anchor onto the world of Tamriel in order to merge it with his realm of Oblivion: Cold Harbour. Basically, a Dark Anchor is a world event where players can jump in and work together to defeat Molag Bol’s minions and destroy the pinions that hold the anchor together. It takes a well-coordinated group to defeat a Dark Anchor, with a lot of players in seemingly individual battles as part of the whole. It seems as though a healer is essential for these kinds of fights, but a tank really isn’t. Survivability overall is more important than the survivability and threat management of one. It makes combat more interesting, but I wonder how well groups will function, and how difficult it will be to find complete groups, when it’s only healers in such high demand.
The other thing I want to discuss is ESO ability to integrate both first person and third person views. It seems that they have actually done a really good job on this. From the gameplay footage, it looks like they are pretty seamless and each have their advantages. First person seems to offer more up close detail and depth perception, while third person provides more viewing area and a tactical advantage. I personally prefer the third person view, but I will probably use the first person view as needed for various situations. I bet first person would be really good from an RP stand point. It would really allow you to get into the head of your character (literally.)
Overall, this video has renewed my excitement in ESO somewhat. It had been growing stagnant for some weeks now, but then this video reminded me of why I love MMOs in the first place, for the group experiences. My biggest worry now is if my video can handle a good amount of graphical detail for this game.