Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online's 2016 report card

Greetings, men and mer. It’s that time of year again when I take a look back on everything that Elder Scrolls Online has given us and give it a rating based on my opinion. However, I don’t just want to grade arbitrarily; I like to use one of the oldest measurements for online roleplaying games: Bartle’s Taxonomy.

Those who haven’t been a part of the online world since the '90s will likely not recognize the name Richard Bartle, but he was one of the founders of online roleplay gaming. He co-created MUD1 and wrote many papers about online gaming and the people who inhabit that world. Besides the original taxonomy, Bartle’s work was famously turned into a test that asked a series of questions that would fit you into the taxonomy grid of four categories: Socializer, Achiever, Explorer, and Killer.

Unfortunately, the original test no longer exists, but 4You2Learn has a similar one to find out where you fall. Of course, few people will sit 100% in any one category, but it’s the balance of all four that make for a fun game for the largest number of people. I will explain what each group is about as I give the grade.

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Socializer: A-

Although I like many aspects of all the categories in Bartle’s taxonomy, the socializer category is probably where I fit the best. I enjoy doing things with other people. I like group content, guilds, and other group related content both casual and strategic. However, Elder Scrolls Online resonates differently with me: I play the game mostly by myself. It’s not because ESO is lacking in the group content department or that it’s difficult anymore to group up with people. I think it has to do with the series as a whole. I’ve always played that by myself, and it just seems natural to play this game by myself. But that’s not to say that ESO hasn’t made great strides with its social-friendly content.

I think the biggest thing we have to look at is One Tamriel. Of course, it’s not perfect. The storylines can seem a bit wonky because you’re picking them up in the middle, and there is no more ROFLstomping your friends through some of the lower-level content. But One Tamriel has allowed players to do pretty much whatever they want with their friends regardless of level or faction, which was the whole point, right? As I'm a social-focused player, this hits me in the feels, and I’m extraordinarily happy with the results.

Personally, I still play the game solo, but I have seen the effects of One Tamriel in social activities in the roleplay community and group-finder activity, in general. I like to think that One Tamriel is exact what the game needed.

Achiever: C+

Unfortunately, the Achiever has always been a bit of a difficult one to measure accurately in ESO. Without a straightforward achievement system, the game must be measured in rewards and shinies given to players for accomplishing specific goals. Achievers like to fill up bars or make numbers bigger, but they also like the rewards of filling up those bars. ESO isn’t short of bars to fill. The level system alone adds more bars than can be filled in a lifetime, and each of the expansions added to those nonlinear skill trees.

There are plenty of motifs and other collectibles in the game that will get the Achievers mouth watering. Unfortunately, those items are usually offset by a similar or better item being available in the Crown Store, especially the mounts. Although the achievement system -- if you can call it that -- in ESO isn't bad, it's not great either. I will call this one slightly above average because it's still fun but it doesn't stand out as a great system.

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Explorer: B+

I've been rather harsh on the Explorer category in the past because this is probably number two on my list of favorite things to do in an MMORPG. In the single-player Elder Scrolls games, one of the best things to do was to stumble on quests, items, and points of interest completely on accident. However, ESO has always seemed to be more of a guided tour than actual exploration. All the POIs, quests, and other items are always pointed out on the map. But I might have graded the game a bit too harshly in the past. As one commenter pointed out last year, the minimap and location mods so many of us use actually take away from the exploration factors of the game.

Although I think that allowing those map mods should count against the exploration factor of the game as a whole, the game is quite different when you don't use them. And with the level-syncing addition of One Tamriel, an Explorer can look off into the horizon, say, "I want to go there," and actually go there. That's really the lifeblood for the Explorer: What's over the next hill? Because of this, I have to give ESO high marks in the Explorer category.

Killer: C-

I've always looked at Bartle's Killer category a bit differently than the name suggests. I've always looked at the Killer as a competitor: someone who is compelled to pit himself or herself against the other players in the game. The Socializer looks for a cooperative way to interact with other players, while the Killer looks for competitive ways. That means a game needs ways not just to directly engage with other players but also to measure player vs. player.

Although I think the RvR of ESO is great, I don't know that the Imperial City actually added to the solo-centric PvP ZeniMax might have been hoping for in the long run. The developers also missed a phenomenal opportunity to create another open-world PvP system with The Dark Brotherhood DLC. The Maelstrom arena from last year's Orsinium DLC still stands a great way to mix PvE in the Killer's competitive nature. But it's older content at this point, so activity has dropped overall.

Of course, the discussion only begins here. These are my thoughts, but what are yours? Did I hit the marks in my assessment, or am I way off? While you're down in the comments, let me know where you score in the Bartle test.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.
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29 comments
CarlAzcuna
CarlAzcuna

We all got a fair share on the comments but I think the game is evolving itself......fyi I still solo Wold Bosses for days

FeveredDreamer
FeveredDreamer

Weirdly I'm not sure what it is at its core that keeps me from playing ESO these days.  One Tamriel is *great* and I enjoy the game so much more than I did at launch.  I think the issue might just be that I don't have my pals to play the game with at this point.  The game I'm playing atm (BDO) is utterly miserable in some ways, but the breadth of options available is hard to leave.

CarlAzcuna
CarlAzcuna

If you don't enjoy exploring and trying out new things ESO can help you out until you find what you want or other "players" will ha-ha, I have tried using chat bar only, mic only or none at all and still able to find lotsa player to play and enjoy the game with.

Fatslapper
Fatslapper

A for social hmm? Still a single player MMO at it's core. 

CarlAzcuna
CarlAzcuna

Look left and right it's a social "Possibility"

CraigChristensen
CraigChristensen

@Fatslapper Almost every MMO nowadays has been simplified to make it a viable solo experience. That changed when WoW entered the market, making an easier MMO that didn't cater to the original hardcore crowds of EQ, AC and others. Soloing was made easier, death penalties all but removed, fast travel without the need for another player to get you there, etc. The majority of current MMOs fall into this category, ESO being among them. Hence the Social category is now rated on:

How easy is it to be social?
Are there incentives to group?
Are their Guilds (or equivalent)?
Is there lots of group/raid content?

ESO does very well on group content, seeing as there are group dungeons even in the low level zones. Add in the changes of One Tamriel you can now group together regardless of the characters levels and play group content regardless of what level range it was designed for. That alone puts it higher than most any other MMO when it comes to ease of social. As for Guilds you can join up to 5 which allows a player to literally have different groups of people to interact with that could each have different approaches to social interaction. Again, better than most MMOs.

So bottom line? Is the game designed so that you can play it solo? Yes. Does it have lots to offer in social interactions? Yes. Does it make it easy to be social? Yes.

That sounds like an A rating to me.


Theryl
Theryl

One Tamriel definitely improved the social aspects of the game. LFG is still subpar, but that's never been a useful social tool in any MMO I've played and there's so much activity in /zone and guild chat that it's pretty much irrelevant.


I don't see much difference in ESOs achievement system and, say, WoW's. There are plenty of things to go for - PVP, Exploration, Questing, Gathering, Crafting, Fishing, etc. and the dye and title rewards aren't replicated elsewhere. 


After getting multiple characters to 50, I'm still stumbling across quests and little vignettes I've never seen before. There's a lot hidden out there in various nooks and crannies of the world. 

Sorenthaz
Sorenthaz

@Theryl Best part is that you often get rewarded for it, too.  Treasure chests pop up in the most unlikely of places.  :p

OberstKrueger
OberstKrueger

"Achievers like to fill up bars or make numbers bigger, but they also like the rewards of filling up those bars"


I thought that Bartle's Achievers was more about conquering the difficult challenges, and less about grinding through bars to earn a new achievement or skill. It's in the act of doing something that takes commitment to learn or even in doing something that not everyone else can do. Part of the reward is completing the task, not having simply having yet another achievement.

UpayaCrow
UpayaCrow

@OberstKrueger You're absolutely right. When it was developed the whole idea of "achievements" as we know them didn't exist at all, really. It was basically doing stuff for bragging rights.

Ganymede
Ganymede

@OberstKrueger ^  Exactly.  If you are a "fill the bars" sort of person, play Trove.  That has enough grind to keep you mind numbingly occupied for ages.


ESO is all about non-linear builds.  Sure, there are specs that work well and are copy-pasted by many, but you can be very successful by stepping off those beaten paths and creating something different. 

Sorenthaz
Sorenthaz

@OberstKrueger Welcome to the modern day "achievements" that have plagued us since like... late 2005 when the Xbox 360 started the trend.    WAR's Tome of Knowledge was the only MMO achievement system that actually made things interesting and feel rewarding, imo, but WoW of course took what Microsoft did, made their own flavor of it, and that became the trend for MMOs going forward.   -.-

That's what bugs me is that before we had the mindless handouts of instant gratification that became known as "achievements", we had the satisfaction of being able to accomplish things without some silly carrots on sticks to chase after.  Achieving something actually felt more meaningful and worth the effort compared to now where it's just like "grats, here's a menial reward and a little note saying you did this thing!" 

Doing out of the way stuff actually felt special whereas now it's like an expectation.  

A Dad Supreme
A Dad Supreme

How does it get an "A-" when the biggest 'socializer' in MMOs, the LFG queue system, has been broken since launch, 'fixed' and recently admitted 'not fixed'?

Please, I really want an answer to that one.

http://massivelyop.com/2016/08/20/gamescom-elder-scrolls-online-on-lockboxes-the-gold-edition-and-one-tamriel/


“They know LFG is still broken,” the Redditor wraps up. “They said they are ‘ashamed’ and very sorry that the last attempts to fix it did not work. They are still working on it.”


Granted, that was August 2016, but that was the last time I attempted anything. If it was fixed in the 4 months since, I hadn't seen that written.

A Dad Supreme
A Dad Supreme

@CensoredOtaku @A Dad Supreme

"Get some friends. Then play with them.  Full parties all the time."

====

Kind of defeats the purpose of "LOOKING for Group" tool though, you'd have to admit.

When friends aren't on, it's not really an option.

Ganymede
Ganymede

@A Dad Supreme @CensoredOtaku The multi-guild accessibility makes not being able to find people less of an excuse.  If you want to group, there really isn't anything holding you back.  I'd rather ask in guild chat for people to join me for a dungeon run, friends or not, than rely on PUGs anyday.  That isn't something specific to ESO.

Sorata
Sorata

@A Dad Supreme LFG works fine for me. Get allways a group. With my tank. As a healer it is not that combilcated either. DDs have to wait long, if they don't use the system at the prime time

Armsbend
Armsbend

You give social aspects an A- because you think you see them from afar?  OK.


It is a D at best - closer to an F for social.  The game is practically solo with light social aspects sneaking, kicking and screaming, their way in.

UpayaCrow
UpayaCrow

@Armsbend I have to agree. ESO puts so much effort into making their content soloable and moreso even focused on solo players that the A- in Social seems to be eyebrow raising. It certainly has tools to be employed socially, but the game itself doesn't lend that well to ad-hoc socialization at all. It isn't terrible, but it isn't A- in my opinion.

What I would give an A- for would be exploration. What was holding that back earlier in the game's life was the seesaw of exploration being awesome and all stuffs needed to advance. With OT this isn't an issue and you can have an organic experience without the need for mods.

Armsbend
Armsbend

@CraigChristensen @UpayaCrow That's why I lean towards a D.  Help me with this world boss or Trump/Obama jokes I wouldn't toss an A-.  Your mileage may vary.

NobleNerd
NobleNerd

@Armsbend Agreed. ESO is better described as a Single Player Online Game. I would venture to guess almost 90% of those playing regularly play most of their time solo. When I had a guild of hundreds back in the day most members played solo. Even with tools like Discord available many would hop out of voice to play solo content because they wanted to hear the dialogue... of which I understand. The game was designed as a single player rpg with online features.

CraigChristensen
CraigChristensen

@Armsbend @CraigChristensen @UpayaCrow The point of my comment was that the game has a lot of group content that is used regularly by the playerbase. That is what the article was pointing out. Don't confuse the fact of it being fairly easy to solo a lot of content with being a solo-focused game. It can be both. On top of the large dearth of social grouping content you also have the ability to join up to five guilds to extend the social aspect of playing. If what is available in ESO only merits a D from you, then I would hate to see what your expectations are for even a B.

Legalgeek
Legalgeek

While I respect your opinion as being totally correct from a group player's perspective, from my own I must disagree. As a solo player there is so much content which is quite literally unavailable. I would actually like to play in a group occasionally however managing my disability prohibits that as an option as I have to break off very frequently which would be a real bind for the rest of the group. Given that time is limited due to parental commitments & Xbox ambassador responsibilities, on top of the already huge chunk of time taken up by my chosen vocation (law), I do feel that it would be unfair to inflict such constraints upon any group I might join. For solo PvE players huge areas, numerous quests, delves, pledges and even entire dlc packs are completely unplayable, as is the case with the latest installment which only provides 2 GvE scenarios and nothing for the soloist. Orsinium is a PvE player's dream yet that is the only area in which eso caters for us. Cyrodil, Imperial city, Craglorn etc are so pvp swamped and/or so group focused as to make it almost worthless to enter those areas for PvE. Play a character entirely solo and I think you'll agree

Legalgeek
Legalgeek

Not forgetting many people also don't want to have to endure the immature drivel from players whose parents really should not have bought the game for, not because of their age per se, but because of their inability to not act like a dick.

It's a tough balance for the devs to achieve that's for sure and I'm not sure anyone has managed it yet. At least with Bethesda though you know you're buying a product they won't just abandon in an "it'll do" state like others have

Fenryr
Fenryr

@Legalgeek i get where you're coming from, and kids (of all ages) are annoying, but you can avoid them by joining a guild of more mature people. That said, ESO was sold as an MMO and it's clearly is not. It's a very bad MMO (10% is just not enough) and a mediocre RPG. (not bad, but not as good as other dedicated single player RPGs. Just as bad/good as SWTOR actually). In my opinion you can't recommend this (or SWTOR) to MMO players nor to RPG players. There are just too many better alternatives.  SWTOR's RPG part is at least f2p until the latest expansion and unlocking it is dirt cheap.

CraigChristensen
CraigChristensen

@Leilonii @CraigChristensen @Armsbend @UpayaCrow Not really. You only need one merchant Guild. I currently belong to 3 Guilds and only sell in the one merchant guild and yet never once had a problem selling anything. As long as your Merchant Guild is active and 3/4 or more you don't even need an AH. To be honest, I have had an easier time selling in ESO than any other MMO due to the lack of on AH. In those games with an AH you are literally competing with thousands of others selling the same wares as you. If you price too high you sell almost nothing. Sell middle ground and it's luck of the draw on whether the buyer picks you or someone else. Sell low and you get a lot more sells, but have cut directly into your profit.