Monday Quick Notes: ESO, EVE and the guild

Elder Scrolls Online

Last week saw me seriously returning to The Elder Scrolls Online in a normal manner- by that i mean questing through Greenshade instead of just doing random things on guild night. And it pulled me right back in with the expertly crafted questing experience. I’ve also made good progress taking Nuria from Level 28 to almost 32 in a week. The birthday cake helped, of course. I could have progressed even further if i would have played on friday night instead of having a guild meeting. The downside is that i’m outleveling Greenshade and maybe even Malabal Tor a bit, seeing that it starts with level 32 and i’m not done with Greenshade by any means. I guess i’ll be 35 by the time i’m ready to move on.

I still need to refocus on Nuria’s crafting abilities, though- she’s deconstructing items and researching traits all the time, but i don’t think she created armor or weaponry since…forever. Crafting in ESO is quite complex- my guess is that, to create something really useful, you would have to create the armor/weapon with a good trait and a good enchantment. Enchanting, however, is one frustrating craft to level, as you usually don’t find that third type of artifact. But i’ll look into doing more crafting with her soon.

Elder Scrolls Online really needs to add downleveling to zones as the game is quite easy by now, anyway, and being of a higher level than the quests you’re doing just adds to that. I continue to be very happy with the game, in fact, i feel it’s a rabbit hole i’m diving into deeper and deeper. Elder Scrolls Online is the first MMORPG since WoW where i want to add something external to my gameplay experience, ranging from podcasts, maybe even books and finally, i want to know more and have found a way to get what i want- the really great Lore series by Shoddycast i discovered via HeadBurro Antfarm. I’ve watched the first two episodes yesterday and learned a lot about Daedra and Aedra.

Jita is quite busy.
Jita is quite busy.

EVE Online

Speaking of crafting- EVE online was a surprise. It wasn’t on my radar at all when news began to heat up about World War Bee. I haven’t played since i wrote last, but i got the additional 30 days for 10€. As i’ve mentioned, for now, i’d like to do some trading, but my first shy steps into this area have been confusing. EVE’s economy is vast- with hundreds or thousands of different items to trade and thousands of places to trade them in. Even with using online resources, i had trouble finding out what and where to trade.

I feel like trade might be one of those things where knowledge of the game’s inherent systems might be a good thing. So i’ll continue to try and have trade as a primary focus (as you don’t need to know how stuff works to buy low and sell high- it’s simply more difficult to find out what to trade where), but will take sideway-looks into other areas like producing stuff (ships, maybe?) and maybe even combat via missions to get a better understanding of the game.

As is usually the case, i find EVE to be utterly impressive. One commenter on Massively Overpowered wrote that EVE is the one game where the devs took the concept of MMOs and ran with it. This is the game that has everything- if only it were a fantasy MMORPG, maybe with a bit more restrictive pvp (not much, though) and a company that doesn’t let their community loose on each others, this would be that game for me. BDO isn’t EVE in Tolkienland, though, so there’s still only EVE being EVE and i haven’t decided yet if my space travels will continue after those 30 days.

thead4

The Guild

On friday, we had our monthly guild meeting. I wasn’t surprised to see poor attendance, with only three people turning up- including myself. On the other hand, i know one had something come up on short notice and one fell asleep (that happens to me from time to time, too), so we could have been five. Still, it’s this i’d like to change- and there’s only one way to do it, in my opinion: positivity. Create and share awesome experiences and our love for the game. Continue to offer stuff and make the guild be and feel alive.

So we talked a bit- i don’t want to get into too much detail, but in the end, this were the results:

  • we ditch Teamspeak and move to Discord as Chat & Voice client
  • we’ll have three guild activities running, all on different rhythms
    • as i said, we need more continuity on guild night, so we chose to vote on the activity we want to tackle first and see it finished before switching to something else. This will occur on a weekly/biweekly basis
    • level characters together- everyone in the guild who’s interested is invited to join us as we level characters together through the game. This will occur when everybody who mentioned an interest has time
    • dungeon nights will probably occure more often than the leveling of characters, we’ll look for groups in our forums and it will happen when/if four people are available/signed up. I’m still thinking about making this another regular event, but honestly, i’m at my limit when doing one thing a week.

That’s mostly it- well, i want to work on the homepage a bit to make it more attractive- the decision on whether to stay with Enjin or move on our own site has been postponed for now.

I’m also happy to say that we grew by one new recruit, bringing our ingame guild to 10 players. Ingame, we are reaching our critical mass now, with 5 of us playing quite regularly the chances that you’ll log in and find yourself the only one being online are slim now, the goal being about 10-15 active players. Yesterday evening, we were four…and i’m still expecting another application soon.

So, all in all, with patience, a focus on positivity and creating good experiences while sharing them in the forums/homepage, i am very confident that our guild will become active and alive some time this year.

Milestones: Nuria’s 30

First goal reached! Nuria Solstrum, Nord Templar of the Aldmeri Dominion professing a strange combination of skills & armor, is now level 30 in Elder Scrolls Online. And it only took about two months to get from 25 to 30.

So i’m in this dreaded mid-level range now- it’s rare for me to see the end of the leveling process in MMOs, mainly because i think the mid-game is so terrible in most of them that i’d rather start a new character- and the mid-level range sucks the fun out of my experience , so i take a break, only to return and not remember anything, and take that as an excuse to create a new character.

This time, it feels different, though, as i think i’m enjoying the game more and more- sure, there’s some dedication needed on my part to keep going- i’d say this resembles the connection you have to an acquaintance- you’re not friends yet, but you might be at some point- but stop calling or meeting up and you’ll stay acquaintances.

The Labyrinth
The Labyrinth

Nuria didn’t need to do much to go from level 28 to 30 in two sessions- all she had to do was to get the birthday cake, go to Silatar, navigate a labyrinth, make Aranias the new Wilderqueen and pick two flowers on the way, track a thief in Marbruk, go to Woodhearth and catch/kill a bee. All in all, not too much- and again, very interesting. I wanted to take a determined look at that, but i think there’s actually very few “kill x of y” quests in Elder Scrolls Online. I think there are some, but mostly, killing stuff is just what you do to reach other goals.

I liked the “Artisan” quest- you have to catch a thief, after all. Unfortunately, the correct answer has a pointer over his or her head, so you could stumble upon the solution by accident (it’s not marked on the map though), but what you have to do is gather a few clues about the identity of this thief by asking citizens what they know, deduct the thief’s identity and then confront him or her. It’s a nice little riddle, although the clues paint a quite clear picture with only one hint being slightly misleading. It’s not The Secret World level of thought you’ll need here, but it’s a nice touch, nonetheless.

The story told in this book has similarities to Aranias' story
The story told in this book has similarities to Aranias’ story

The labyrinth / maze was also very nice- what you get here is the story of the Wilderking by way of a stone being named Sumiril. He’s got a book there, probably telling the story of its creation, but he isn’t sure if he wants to know what’s written in the book. So you take the book, and read it passage after passage. The passages are unlocked by way of traversing the labyrinth. Again, unfortunately, there is a pointer- you “follow the words” (kind of like that creepy tune you follow in TSW’s kingsmouth) which is essentially a glow leading the way. You’ll reach platforms and a new passage in the book will become readable. Afterwards, you know how both Sumiril and the Wilderking came into being.

Right before transforming to the Wilderqueen
Right before transforming to the Wilderqueen

Aranias, meanwhile, goes for the Wilderking. Turns out she’s actually destined to become his successor and she feels that. Unfortunately, her companion wants to kill both her and the Wilderking. So Nuria killed him, of course. Aranias will then be a bit afraid to turn into the Wilderqueen, but with the support and encouragement of her friend Nuria, she’ll do it. I also liked that the story we were experiencing on Silatar seemed to be a almost forgotten but still present memory in her mind.

Aranias, the Wilderqueen
Aranias, the Wilderqueen

The travel to Woodhearth and the killing of the bee were standard affairs- although one has to crouch to follow the bee to its hiding place. But that’s just so little of a touch that, with this game, it doesn’t really deserve mention.

I am very optimistic that the next five levels won’t take her two months.

 

It feels good to come home

With the troubles in the past 4-6 weeks, mainly consisting of sickness in the family and our china visit, it has been quite some time since i visited Elder Scrolls Online in a normal way- that is to say logging into my main character and continue questing where i left off. Even when i logged in, i wasn’t able to do much because of short sessions, the longer ones have been reserved for guild evenings.

There’s something that became very apparent in this time: MMORPGs need some commitment to enjoy them in their full capacity. At least for me, when i lose momentum in a game, others become more alluring. Lately, i’ve found myself wanting to play The Secret World or Lord of the Rings Online- i’m not counting EVE in here, because that came as a surprise and i do think two MMORPGs work very well together. Nonetheless, yesterday i decided to spend the night in Tamriel and i’m really glad i did.

Birthday cake

My first mission was to get the birthday cake, although i don’t need it much- i’m outleveling content anyway, so there’s actually no need to get that 100% bonus. But on the other hand- why fret about it? It’s only going for a week and a boost is fine- after all, it doesn’t say “you have to skip content if you use it” in the item description- i can still go for those zone achievements i want to clear before moving on. As a matter of fact, i’ve only now set my first steps into Greenshade, so there’s still a lot of zone to cover.

Getting the birthday cake is quite easy- you’ll get ingame mail, a voucher for one of these. You’ll need to seek out Chef Donolon at the docks of Vulkhel Guard, who will tell you to get a few bananas, honey and…rye, i think, which you can buy from an NPC nearby or loot from the usual places like baskets etc. When you return with those ingredients, he’ll make the cake for you and it goes straight into your collections tab. I’m not sure if one has to use it to get the experience bonus, but i did it, just to make sure. After that, i could go out and seek adventure again.

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Silatar

It took about five minutes to make me fall back in love with ESO again, as its storytelling is really good. All i really did yesterday was one quest- The Witch of Silatar. I lost track of the storyline, but i guess this is about the Wilderking wanting me to get to know the assassin sent by the Veiled Heritance, Aranias, sent to Greenshade to kill the Wilderking.

But it doesn’t do this in a direct way, no. The quest NPC, Spinner Maruin, wants to tell me a story- a story i can take a part in. I would visit Aranias on the island of Silatar (which she created, by the way) to relive some part of her past as her friend- a friend she never had in her real past. She had to go through this all by herself.

After i asked nicely, Maruin told me to sit by the fire- a few lines of dialogue later, and i’m on Silatar, which is strikingly beautiful. This is enhanced by the fact that the first thing i do with Aranias is racing to a lighthouse- this seems so innocent, so beautiful, at first, but takes a bit of a darker shade when she roots me as soon as i might come close to her.

Still, it was this moment where i thought, again, how great the experience in Elder Scrolls Online is- this is a crafted story, not a thrown-in quest. The island of Silatar, for instance, is only visited for this quest. While it’s not big, i guess it tells us something about storytelling in a game when the developers create a zone of about the size of a city just for one quest.

Screenshot_20160405_232347

The story goes on and it’s mainly about Aranias, a young Altmer with incredible powers- after all, she created the island we’re standing on during this quest in a day. The motives for her behaviour are loneliness as well as a will to “earn” her parents’ love who really don’t like seeing her daughter creating islands or lifting ships from the sea. Her parents then leave for the Summerset Isles to get help for her daughter and return with High Kinlady Estre from the Veiled Heritance who makes Aranias kill a bosmer woman. In the story Maruin tells, we are able to help, so this is not what happens in our quest, but what happened in reality. I don’t want to get too deep into the details here because spoilers, but this is an interesting quest and i’m very much looking forward to playing it again on another character and take more screenshots of Silatar.

This love for detail and good storytelling is what makes stand Elder Scrolls Online stand apart from and above many other MMORPGs- there are others, of course, who have great storytelling- Lord of the Rings, FFXIV, SWTOR and TSW to name a few, but while Elder Scrolls Online might not be able to have the storytelling greatness of The Secret World, it’s actually the phasing that makes the quests more interesting- when you complete a quest, the zone changes, so you can see an impact. The game then doesn’t turn into a singleplayer experience because of its megaserver technology- there are still many players who have their map- or the part of the map you’re in in the same state as you have. That’s just so much better than the instanced storytelling of SWTOR, for instance.

Just like Laeloria, Silatar and the story of Aranias (which will continue in the questlines of Greenshade) will stay with me and became one of the reasons for my liking of Elder Scrolls Online. I’ve reconnected with the game yesterday and it feels good.

Travel Log: Entering Greenshade

Last week i started venturing into Greenshade, but only entered Marbruk and did some guild quests there. Then Black Desert Online happened, so i gave it two nights to play around a bit. Yesterday and today, i wanted to venture out in Greenshade. It turned out that i didn’t get to quest at all yesterday because of a very active guild chat (we have two new recruits, raising our count to 9), so it had to be today. I did a main quest and then set forth to explore Greenshade a bit. After the amazing wood-zone of Grahtwood, the more open design in the beginning of Greenshade is a welcome change. Just like all the other zones, Greenshade seems to be beautifully designed. I like how the zones in Elder Scrolls Online are open and “realistic” while still being breathtaking almost all-around.

I have the task to bring these Bosmer clans here under the umbrella of the Aldmeri Dominion, so i went out to the first village and see what they wanted. They wanted me to drive an orc clan away. Difficulty is ramping up here- i wasn’t in any trouble, not by any means, but that orc clan area was quite full of orcs- don’t pay attention and you just might pull too many of them. I think it’s funny that Belghast did the same thing a few days ago and wrote about it yesterday, although i think he’s doing it in Veteran Ranks. Then i went and talked to that Wilderking of theirs. He’s strangely curious about someone who’s coming to kill him.

So for today i’ll leave you with a few screenshots of the area.

Travel Log: wrapping up Grahtwood

Yesterday i finally had/took the time to wrap up Grahtwood, the level 16-24 area for Aldmeri Dominion in Elder Scrolls Online. Nuria has been in Grahtwood, well, for almost 2 years, i suppose, as it was one of the characters i created back when the game launched. I can’t tell you how many hours of /played it took to finish it, but what i am able to tell you is that it was a memorable experience.

I do remember when i first got there. Not in too much detail, but i remember how difficult i found it to be. It’s not often that you’ll find standard open-world content difficult in MMORPGs- here, coming to Grahtwood with a fresh level 16 character, it was as much an unwelcoming place as the quest lore made it out to be. It was grim, and i’ve found some quest very confusing- i can’t remember which one, anymore, but somehow, something put me to a stop in the game. I know i loathed the inventory minigame even more back then, because ESO was still asking for a subscription at that time and i felt it was one of those time-wasters designed to make you sub longer. Around that time, i decided to discontinue playing the game.

When i returned a couple of times to check the game out again, i did what i always do: create a new character to play because i had forgotten about the old one. So i didn’t see the Grahtwood anymore, until our guild decided to side with the Aldmeri Dominion and i was looking at either continuing Nuria or create another new character. As i have been playing the game in our premade group up to level 8, i felt i could tackle a level 19 character of the same class- after all, there had been a skill reset in the meantime and i had a general idea on what to do with the character.

Laeloria

It wasn’t easy, though. I still had to struggle through getting to know the character and the situation she found herself in. And, after all that time and despite really liking the Daggerfall Covenant zones and quest-related stories, it’s Grahtwood where i fell in love with the game again. And it was a quest.

The watcher in the Treehouse, again.
The watcher in the Treehouse, again.

Laeloria. I don’t know what it was about this quest- i guess it was all a happy coincidence. First, i saw the building you can see in the background of the screenshot above. I made a mental note to take a look later. While travelling around, at some point i saw a Treehouse and decided to climb it, as i knew it would offer some kind of view. Arriving there, i received the quest- freeing some captured soul from Coldharbour- and the Watcher told me more. How someone already ventured in to free that soul, how she told him to watch the beacon and pay attention if/when it turned to a red light. I was enthralled, because i wondered if it would, indeed, turn red and thereby ending the century-long wait for that Watcher. So now Laeloria was more than a building i wanted to explore at some point- it was encased in the lore of the Watcher and the liberation of not one, but two individuals and finally even in the mystery of the beacon. That’s a normal side-quest, mind you. It’s not even a very uncommon theme here- freeing people from a dangerous place often is the motivation for the player character to venture in, after all. But for some reason, all these elements clicked for me. Better yet, that wasn’t even all there is to Laeloria.

Statue of Azura in Laeloria.
Statue of Azura in Laeloria.

Azura, a Daedra that’s not even viewed as being as evil as the others, is in this whole scheme, as well. As is a demon, but i didn’t like that one very much. It’s this quest that will me- or my character, at least- have a “special” connection to Azura from then on. Now, i don’t know anything much about the lore of Elder Scrolls games and Elder Scrolls Online in particular- it’s a gap i plan to fill at some point, also because of this quest and Azura.

Exploring Laeloria was very satisfying and i wasn’t disappointed, of course. After all that tension building up around this place it did deliver on it, after all. Did the beacon turn red? Well, you’ll have to take a look yourself.

Grahtwood

The zone has to offer much more and it’s actually quite diverse, even though the theme never changes from being a wood. There are Bosmer villages made of trees and acorns, i guess. There are Altmer villages, ruins and embassies, there are open spaces as well as dark woods/rough terrain. It’s not easy to navigate while still being open enough to not make it an annoyance.

There’s a dungeon, of course- Elder Hollows, and it is nice to look at, indeed. The main storyline in Grahtwood revolves around preventing a revolution in Bosmer ranks and getting Ayrenn to do some kind of ceremony to prove she truly is a fitting leader for the Dominion. There’s a bit of betrayal, drama and magic mystery involved, as well as a funny twist on vegetarism- Bosmer don’t eat plants and you’ll be reminded of that several times – i really liked getting through the questing in Grahtwood.

I’ve seen strange places like that “Garden of Flesh” in the Reliquary of Stars and followed gruesome tales of unreturned love. Memorable, i guess, is the right word. In the end, after getting that quest achievement, there were 2 delves, 3 Skyshards and one “eye” left to explore- that’s what i did last night.

In retrospective, with a zone as large as the Grahtwood is, the slow leveling in Elder Scrolls Online and all the real-time involved here- even if i were only counting the time since i returned to that character- it truly feels like an epic experience, a journey. So now, i’m off to Greenshade- looking forward to explore that place. I’ll leave you with some shots i took during my travels.

 

Travel Log: Rkindaleft

We’ve finished Rkindaleft tonight. All in all it was a nice, if not very challenging, experience. But i have to say- i love public dungeons. The whole experience reminded me a lot of public dungeons in Everquest 2, a part of that game i really like. Granted, you won’t get lost in there- its design is too linear for that- but it’s big, it took us about 90 minutes to finish, it’s beautiful, offers an interesting storyline and a few boss fights. Here are a few impressions of the dungeon.

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Why i am excited for Thieves Guild

Stealth is not something i like a lot when playing games- i usually don’t roll rogue-type characters and even in other genres (FPS), i don’t like the stealthy ones. Since the justice system went live in Elder Scrolls Online, i haven’t stolen anything, mainly because i don’t really understand the risk i’d take and the system behind it in general. Of all zone types, the desert is one of the least interesting environments to me, topped only by “lava” zones. Still, as time moves on, i find myself increasingly excited for the Thieves Guild DLC that’ll come to ESO in march- and here’s why.

World Design

I love the world design in Elder Scrolls Online. The maps are plausible, the zones offer beautiful sights and it’s interesting to go out and explore in ESO. After seeing the design for Orsinium, where the designers managed to pull off one of the most interesting snow zones i’ve seen in MMORPGs, i’m very confident that they’ll also do the desert zone in a good way- not too void of things and not too full to make it implausible. The environment in ESO is always nice to look at, i’m sure lore fanatics will find many additional things in buildings that are, for instance, regionally different or relate to the race living in that respective area.

Orsinium also catches the spirit of entering a zone and go out exploring. Since everything is Level-synched, you can enter Wrothgar and walk off in any direction you’d like. While Hew’s Bane is smaller than Wrothgar, i’m confident it will be a blast to explore.

More options for our guild

Our guild is small and we span a huge level-range. We have some members in their early teens and some members already in the Veteran Ranks. It’s not very easy to find something in terms of PvE or PvP content we all enjoy that also feels rewarding and challenging for everyone. Right now, there’s mostly Cyrodiil and/or Orsinium. With the Thieves Guild DLC, we’ll have another option.
orsinium_taverne

More options for gameplay-style

If there’s one critizism i have for ESO at the moment, it would be the combat-focus. Sure, crafting is also very rewarding, but it’s not something you can do exclusively. Maybe fishing is a bit more on the non-combat side, but i haven’t tried that yet, so i can’t tell. Chances are that you’ll encounter mobs on your fishing trip, as well. While i am sure Hew’s Bane will include lots of combat as well, there will be content like the Heists that will revolve around stealth and thievery. This will provide another twist to the PvE-formula that’ll play out differently than what we are used to- maybe a bit more like the sabotage missions from The Secret World.

Content for old zones

The Thieves Guild will send you out to do something in the old zones, as well. It seems Hew’s Bane, as a map, will be kind of small and limited in scope, but ZOS are reusing the older zones for new content- and i think it’s a great idea. It’s cheaper for them and we get to see all those zones again- they will feel alive and thriving because of the players travelling all through Tamriel.

The personal one

Directly relating to my own feelings regarding The Elder Scrolls Online right now, this will be the first DLC i get to see released as an active player of Elder Scrolls Online. ESO wasn’t on my shortlist of MMORPGs i could see myself getting invested in for the long term, but as it happens, i feel good there. So more content being released is a good sign on the health of the game- especially as it’s not only zones or new content done in the same way as the old one that gets released, but ZOS clearly doesn’t think of ESO as being systems- and feature-complete. It’s still a long way to go, but i’m actually beginning to look forward to being “maxlevel” and seeing a lot of those other systems like Champion Points and such and being able to play the game with even more freedom- although the Q2 DLC will probably take care of some of that, as well.

Travel log: Orsinium sights

Tonight, our guild group has been to Wrothgar, again. I have to say, i love how we can simply set off out of the city and go exploring. We tried to follow quests, but were soon distracted by stuff we saw in the landscape- and also, because Edu is one difficult boss to kill.

On our travels we saw a museum, fought and were killed by Edu, maybe a Goblin boss, i don’t know, because we didn’t see him for all the ogres he sent our way, an arena where Orc clans settled their war, a giant statue of Malacath and Coldperch Cavern, a delve in Wrothgar. And also, a lot of beautiful sights.

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