Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online’s Veteran Ranks take center stage again

    
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This week, I really wanted to talk about Orsinium. There are some really great things happening in Elder Scrolls Online in the DLC that I’d like to talk about. Unlike some other developers who like to think they understand the Killer type, ZeniMax Online Studios has a decent perspective on what makes that group of players tick.

However, another post — the Veteran Ranks announcement — hit the forums last week, and I believe it takes precedence.

As always, this column is an editorial, an opinion, which I encourage you to disagree with and discuss in the comments.

TI-header-vr-to-cp-02

I want to be wrong about ZeniMax. I want it to be a company that we can trust to keep to what it says and make ESO a fun game to play for everyone at any level of gameplay. And I believe there is a big fat brick wall at the level cap of this game named Veteran Ranks.

ZOS Creative Director Rich Lambert made an interesting post on the Orsinium AuA seemingly solidifying the argument of those who want Veteran Ranks to go away. “As for the removal [of VR], we’re still working on that,” he wrote. “We will have more info to share with everyone next year, once we’ve worked out and finalized things.” It actually disappointed me, although it encouraged others because of its ambiguity.

In a response thread on the official forums about Lambert’s AuA post, Lambert posted a very promising outline for what ZOS intends to do about VR. However, I found some issues that concern me still. So let’s take a moment to talk about two of issues that I have, and then discuss the possible positive outcomes of the proposed changes to the VR system.

My issues

TI-header-vr-to-cp-01The first thing I’d like to point out in Lambert’s announcement is the lack of a timeline. The biggest issue I’ve had with any announcement surrounding the changes with Veteran Ranks is the fact that none of it has ever been followed up with a window of when it will actually be completed. There have been only hints of when we might see the changes: At QuakeCon, producer Matt Firor said that they would start working on VR after Orsinium.

The problem with this announcement is that it never gave a time as to when the work will be finished… if ever. Many people, including commenters who opposed my point of view, took this to mean that the removal of VR will happen on or before the next major update (which is a bigger problem, actually). However, skeptics and people who have been riding this MMO train for a long time didn’t take that to mean anything. In fact, I count myself among the people who consider this to be among the many vapor-promises the industry has made over the years. The unfortunate truth is that much of the phrasing from the ZOS camp is spun to make fans more hopeful and continue to shovel cash its way.

I’ve been optimistic about other MMOs in the past, and sometimes give the company the benefit of the doubt, but ZOS has taken too long to produce content for me to believe that anything that it says will be done in a timely manner. Again, I hope I’m wrong.

The Lambert post

There were some very positive things in Lambert’s forum post, and I will talk about them because I want to end on a positive note. But let me touch on the one thing that didn’t sit right with me.

“When the conversion happens, any player with CP less than their old veteran rank * 10 will instead be given enough CP such that their total is VR * 10. For example: A player is VR14 with 75 CP, they will be given 65 CP (140-75) instead of 40, so that they can still equip any gear they may have.”

I’d like to point out the last thing he said in that phrase: “so that they can still equip any gear they may have.” He mentioned something similar a little further down.

“It’s important that everyone understands they are not suddenly going to have to have 501 CP in order to equip the top level gear. We will introduce new gear, with higher CP requirements sometime in the future, but we won’t be making huge jumps.”

So there is still going to be a level grind so that you can have the right gear? Basically, one linear progression system is replaced by another linear progression system with no catch-up mechanics. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to a grind, and there is a positive aspect of the changes that I will talk about in just a bit. But from what I can see, the VR switch to Champion Points (CP) does nothing to change the initial grind, and in fact, it makes catching up to current content more difficult. The “easy” fix to this issue is to restrict the gear to specific aspects of CP and not a CP number.

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The positive

From a broad perspective, I am on board with the changes that Lambert proposed in his post. I believe that ZOS is on the right track, and unlike other MMO developers, it does listen to its playerbase, albeit slowly.

From glancing at the calculations that Lambert mentions, I think they look pretty solid. And there is no way players with a half dozen or more VR16 characters should get possibly thousands of CP, nor should those who only have one VR16 be punished for not having alts. Lambert mentioned that they are aware of gear issues and CP. The developers will make provisions for that.

Lastly, I think the most positive part of getting rid of VR is that it will encourage making alts, a part of ESO that has been sorely missing. You will still have to level normally, but once you hit max level, your grind could be done, assuming you’ve done it on another character. And anything that reduces the grind on alts will encourage them. And maybe that will encourage me to earn more CP now.

Those are my thoughts, and I’ve tried to be reasonable even in my more controversial stances. Tell me if you think that we’ll see the VR change in the next big patch or not. Those who are better at the maths, let me know what you think about the conversion rate. Those who have done the VR grind multiple times, is the conversion rate fair? Thank you for putting up with my not-so popular opinion, and in the words of Bill S. Preston Esquire and “Ted” Theodore Logan, be excellent to each other.

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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swordandkeyboardgaming
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swordandkeyboardgaming

touchy subject.    good article as always larry.
My QUESTIONs:  how do veteran ranks effect pvp?  and 

as a perspective new player should veteran ranks make me not want to play the game for pvp? 

(pvp would be only reason for me to play this game)
thank you.

mysecretid
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mysecretid

I want to love this game, I really, truly do — but they just keep making decisions which make me say, “Oh,maybe I’ll go back and check it out next month instead.”

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

Karl_Hungus schmidtcapela Boardwalker 
Pure horizontal progression is gaining options without increasing in power. Pure vertical progression is gaining power without gaining more options. Whether the power or extra options come from gear or character skills is irrelevant.

So, for example, in TSW, gaining Ability Points (which unlock new abilities) is mostly horizontal progression; gaining Skill Points (which increase character power) is pure vertical progression. So, both horizontal and vertical progression without having to mess with gear (though the game does have gear progression, of course).

In the same way, in WoW, getting better gear for your current spec is almost pure vertical progression, as it increases power without adding choice; getting gear for a secondary spec is horizontal progression, as it allows you to do something you couldn’t before without making your character actually more powerful in the main use you make of it. In other words, both vertical and horizontal progression through gear.

Also, while having pure vertical or pure horizontal progression in a game is possible, most games mix the two. A game without horizontal progression is a game where your character never becomes able to do anything new, where you never get more options as you play; a game without vertical progression is a game where all characters have the same power, where you can tackle anything in game with a starter character as easily as with an end game character. Most games have a mix of the two.

Chuki792
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Chuki792

I’ve got a Lviv 44 daggerfall toon and I’m in no rush to get her to 50 over this… I’ve got low level alts in the other two factions who are depending on this change to carry on their adventures too!

Bluetouchpaper
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Bluetouchpaper

If they do get rid of veteran ranks and if that means I no longer have to play other factions storylines I may be interested in playing again . 

If it happened today I would certainly be playing as soon as I could update the game but the longer they leave it I think the chances I will return will decrease . 

This is because of the amount of DLCs I will probably have to buy by that time , I think they are overpriced but if I only have to buy a couple that is not too bad but if there’s 4 or 5 or more without a sale it would be a real barrier to me returning ( and with Zenimax I doubt they will have them on sale for a long time to come )

theKP
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theKP

There is a catch-up mechanic that went live with Orsinium. Here’s the XP chart, courtesy of /u/dominoid73 over at the ESO subreddit:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14l_K_29Hyj4cjuCAcbCdeGBtLAMRjdbNz78zS6kTjZc. There’s a hard CP cap as well.

To me it feels like it will convert this “vertical” progression into something more “horizontal” (perhaps even “vertical”-lite if you want to call it so), assuming they don’t change a lot of the stuff they’ve posted.

As time progresses, the plot of CPs against the percentage of playerbase will resemble a bell curve – the overwhelming majority of playerbase – the masses – will be within a few CPs of each other, coexisting with a small minority possessing CPs both below and above the mean/median. When this happens, do you think ZOS will keep pumping out new gear with a CP cap set such that the masses can’t use it? Definitely not (“We will introduce new gear, with higher CP requirements sometime in the future, but we won’t be making huge jumps.”). 
What I see happening is that with every new DLC, they’ll introduce two sets of gear – one that’s easily usable with CPs the masses already possess, and a second “carrot” gear with a CP requirement within easy reach, once you do the content in the DLC. This way, they can keep the curve marching forward. Simultaneously they’d also tweak the XP fomula to boost CP gain at lower CP levels, so that a decent new player can easily rise through the ranks to reach the median pretty quickly, without the whole thing feeling like a grind.
For the minority that’s ahead of the curve – they may find the carrot gear usable immediately, but they will probably end up doing the content anyway to stay ahead.
For the minority that’s behind the curve – they may find both gear to be carrot gear, and perhaps even fall behind. But assuming ZOS tweaks the XP formula every DLC, these folk will be able to get the req. CP once the next DLC drops, because of the reduced XP needed.
It’s still a treadmill, albeit a carefully calibrated one that doesn’t tire you out.

Karl_Hungus
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Karl_Hungus

schmidtcapela Karl_Hungus Boardwalker 
No that’s completely wrong. Horizontal progression is gaining power by acquiring new skills. Vertical progression is gaining power by acquiring new gear. ESO is a hybrid of the two. The Champion system gives you points to spend on abilities like in Skyrim while also allowing you to equip more powerful gear like in WoW. That’s why it’s such a divisive topic in the ESO community. People want one or the other, not some retarded amalgamation of both.

schmidtcapela
Guest
schmidtcapela

Karl_Hungus Boardwalker 
Pure horizontal progression does preclude power progression. But horizontal and vertical progression can exist at the same time, and to some extent they do coexist even in games that we think as one or the other.

Take WoW, for example: getting better gear is your textbook example of vertical progression, but getting gear for your off-spec is horizontal progression. Or games that allow players to respec freely and award talents/powers/whatever when leveling; the character gets both more power and more variety simultaneously as its level increases. In both cases there is horizontal and vertical progression mixed together.

DJEasyRick
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DJEasyRick

Sorenthaz I would completely love those changes!

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

schmidtcapela Boardwalker Necromonger Yeah, the ones who constantly switch games anyways once they’ve played for a month or two heh.