I am forever on the fence about gated content. One day I’ll find myself championing the idea that veteran, loyal players should have access to content that is meant for them and only them. The next day, I’ll remember that preventing players from being able to play with their friends is wrong, too. It’s wrong because when you design an MMORPG, it is meant to be played with your friends, and when your friends are stuck behind a gate, that is no fun for them and no fun for you either.
On ESO Live last week, ZeniMax Lead Combat Designer Eric Wrobel announced that with the introduction on the Imperial City, the Veteran Rank level cap for Elder Scrolls Online will increase to 16 from 14, gating its content from even more players. On top of that, the Imperial City is primarily a PvP zone, much as Cyrodiil is now but compressed into a tighter zone. And anyone PvPing at VR 1 who runs into someone a couple of VR levels above them will simply run the other way.
Unfortunately for those who were hoping that Veteran Ranks were disappearing with the introduction of the Champion System, they’re here to stay and may never never leave.
(To be clear, ZOS mentioned in ESO Live that removing VR is a long term goal, but even one of ESO‘s strongest supporters, Deltia, doesn’t believe VR is actually going away. And neither do I.)
Veteran Rank CliffsNotes
Because there are many new players coming into ESO with the introduction of Tamriel Unlimited, I’d like to give you the CliffsNotes version of ESO endgame.
When you hit the standard level cap, which is currently level 50 and will likely never change (though at this point, I’d not be surprised by anything), you begin gaining experience points for Veteran Ranks. These points are gained pretty much the same way experience points were gained at levels 1 to 50, except it takes a lot more time to actually gain a level.
When you’ve finished the main storyline for your faction, you will be directed to run the story for each of other the factions, which makes little sense from a story perspective despite the writers’ trying to shoehorn a reason in there for you to do it. There are five zones in each faction area. This equates to about one Veteran Rank per zone. Each zone is about 10 to 12 hours of content, and it is the exact same content that the other factions are doing except more difficult. As in many MMOs, this is the best way to gain XP because it will take two to three times as long to gain it though PvP.
At the end of running through the other factional content, you will be approximately VR10. If you’ve watched the streams that MJ and I have done of Elder Scrolls Online, then you know it is extremely difficult to play ESO with a group of people because much of the content, especially the beginning leveling content, is phased. Even if you are grouped with another player, you cannot enter the same phase if one person has completed that quest and the other has not. So up to VR10, you are mostly playing solo.
But that’s OK because once I hit VR10, I can go to Lower Craglorn and level up with my friends… sort of. Sure, there is a lot of group content in Craglorn, but it’s still gated to VR. Although technically there is only one level between VR1 and VR2, the percentage of increase is approximately equal to 10 regular levels. So VR10 content at the beginning of Craglorn still offers no incentive for VR12s to complete, unless they are just being good friends. Lower Craglorn grants VR levels 11 and 12, and Upper Craglorn gives players VR levels 13 and 14, approximately. It’s linear progression at its finest.
Easing the burden
In Update 7, ZeniMax hopes to make the VR leveling a bit easier and more accessible for newer players. However, some still question whether it’ll be enough. I’ll give you the details, and you can then decide for yourself.
The amount of XP needed to level a Veteran Rank is decreasing by 15%. It takes around 1 million XP to gain one VR, so this would effectively make it 850 thousand points per Veteran Rank, which is still a lot of points to gain. That said, the drop is significant.
The Veteran Rank quests will grant 50% more XP. At current VR XP gains, that would mean that it will take you only about two-thirds the amount of time to complete the other faction’s zones. Then the increase in Craglorn XP to 20% will help just a bit more.
Experience points in public dungeons are doubling as well. Maybe that will help level people up and encourage more grouping, although I’m not sure how much because solo XP is simpler to gain.
I don’t want to say that it will now take half the time to gain Veteran Rank, but it appears to be significantly reduced.
Champion system: the system to end Veteran Ranks
Long-time followers of ESO know about the Champion System, which released with the last major update. As developers have explained on multiple occasions, this system is designed to replace the VR system. The Champion System grants any player with a Veteran Rank Champion Points for anything that would normally give you XP. This includes killing random mobs, questing, and even crafting.
Although the Champion System appears to be horizontal progression, there are clearly some vertical leanings like the increase in crit damage and defensive stats. On top of that, within each constellation there are some abilities that feed off others. This would be perfectly fine if it weren’t for the existing purely vertical progression system, the Veteran Ranks.
Don’t worry about it
There are many people who are frustrated by the current endgame systems in ESO, and I totally get that. And I admit that if I were a hardcore endgame-centric player, I would be upset by these issues too. And chances are, I would not be playing this game at all. However, I’m having fun playing for a few hours a week just leveling up my character as I see fit. I absorb the stories that I am playing through and if there is a point that frustrates me as I’m playing, I move on to something else. Although ESO is admittedly another combat simulator, there are many things to do. The crafting system is fun, PvP is interesting, and my favorite is pickpocketing.
I think it’s a huge mistake on ZeniMax’s part to add more Veteran Ranks to the endgame, further separating those who just joined the game and those who have been playing for a long time. But with ZeniMax producing content at an alarmingly slow rate, it could literally be years before we see a change in VR. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. One of my friends suggested that ZeniMax just nix the VR system altogether and just raise the level cap to 70 or so. That way it doesn’t look as if ZeniMax is trying to hide a grind within another grind. Is there a good solution to this issue? How would you fix the VR vertical progression system for ESO?