The Elder Scrolls Online players are suffering an embarrassment of riches at the moment. The 25th anniversary of the Elder Scrolls franchise coincides almost directly with the 5th anniversary of the MMO, and to celebrate, ZeniMax is running an anniversary extravaganza that lasts five whole weeks. But is more always better, or does the pull to keep players logging in lead to unintended adverse effects?announced that they would be dropping four major updates in the year to come: a quality-of-life update (Homestead), a chapter release, a dungeon DLC, and a smaller content release. Considering the release cadence of other MMOs, I thought this sounded like a wishful goal. But to its credit, ZeniMax has been able to deliver a constant stream of quality content over the last two and a half years. The result has been a steady uptick in server population and an ever-growing number of things to do.
Following the “more is better” logic, ESO also celebrates the anniversaries of major zones launches. For example, on the anniversary of the Orsinium DLC release, players can earn extra loot for completing dailies in the region. Same for Clockwork City, Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Imperial City, Morrowind, and perhaps others that don’t spring immediately to mind. These events typically last a week or so.
In addition to the regular content releases and the annual celebration of these zones, ESO has a holiday celebration events that include the New Life Festival (usually around the end of the year), the Witches Festival (Halloween/harvest timeframe), the Jesters Festival (April Fools week), Mid-Year Mayhem (mid year, or whenever they feel like it), the Undaunted Celebration (unclear), and the overall Anniversary Festival for the game, itself (April).
More is better, right? The content releases, celebrations, and events keep us logging in and gives us a variety of things to do. But it wasn’t enough. In April of 2018, ESO announced daily login rewards. Now ESO players had even more reason to log into the game every single day to pick up a free potion or experience scroll.
But all of these things – login rewards, festivals, celebrations – they’re all just icing on the cake, right? Players who are more interested in the “core game” can ignore them and play through the story, dungeon and PvP content to your heart’s content.
Well, technically, yes. Unless you’re the type of player who wants to collect everything or who really likes fancy mounts. That’s because in October of last year, ZeniMax gave us even more reason to participate in the event festivities. Starting with the 2018 Witches Festival, players could spend event tickets (earned during every holiday event or celebration) on one of four feathers (one feather appearing at each event) and eventually combine said feathers to summon a majestic Indrik mount. This system was later expanded to include berries that when fed to the basic Indrik mount would evolve it into a more splendorous variety.
I have neither the motivation nor the understanding to fully explain the Indrik evolution system, but suffice it to say that with the many revolving species of Indrik available, players now have a motivation to participate in every single event. Players who used to feel free to skip events were now more compelled to, at the very least, participate at the minimum level to earn a ticket or two.
To illustrate just how many events we’ve played through since the inception of the Indrik chase, I learned how to make a timeline in Microsoft Word. Do you like it? Don’t answer that. Running some rough calculations reveals from October 2018 through the middle of May 2019, I found ESO will have run events for about 21 weeks of that time. By contrast, there have been only 11 weeks without an event of some kind. These numbers do not take into consideration that both the Wrathstone dungeon DLC and the Elsweyr prologue questline have also been released during this time period.
That’s a lot of content in just a few months! While I do realize that much of the festival driven content is recycled from year to year, ESO does like to add slight updates to the events to keep them fresh. For example, this year’s Jester’s Festival included consumable pie-throwing and associated new achievements. This year, the Indrik chase itself provides a new angle to these tried and true favorites.
But there are drawbacks to providing this much login incentive. Many MMO players pride themselves on being completionists. They collect motifs, mementos, achievements and skins. They complete every quest and explore every zone. They can’t pass up an opportunity to log in and try to accumulate whatever is available at the moment. This mentality is partially what attracts people to MMOs in the first place, but it’s not always compatible with “more is better.” The accumulation has to be reasonably obtainable, else a feeling of hopelessness and burnout can soon follow. I’ve heard some of the biggest cheerleaders within the community complain about the sheer number of events we’ve seen recently. The “I can’t even” is real. Some players have only one or two hours of playtime each day, which can easily be absorbed in the daily grind of the festival activities. Players can be left wondering if they’ll have time to actually play the game – that is, to experience the story, dungeons, or PvP.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for a return to a two-year expansion cycle, nor to the time when events were exactly the same year after year. I happen to think that ESO is doing the right thing with regard to a content release cycle, and I do enjoy special events, especially when they’re accompanied by an experience boost.
But it does give me pause when I hear members of my guild dreading yet another event that will distract them from their self-imposed goals.
I’m also impressed by the idea to tie several events together by creating a goal that requires participation in several celebrations per year. It fits nicely with the longer story arc Zenimax is attempting with their “year of the dragon” content releases. But the complexity involved in the Indrik evolution leaves something to be desired. People who don’t play the game regularly will surely be confused by the tickets-to-feathers-to-berries conversion rates as well as the presence or absence of certain types of berries at the event vendors. New players who start playing the game in the middle of the event season will also be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to collecting these types of mounts. It’s a good concept, but the execution could use some polish.
It’s conceivable that this year is an anomaly. The fact that the 25-year anniversary of The Elder Scrolls coincided with the five-year anniversary of ESO may have been the perfect storm that set the current aggressive schedule of events in motion. If not, the playerbase may need to start being more selective about its daily activities because as anybody who’s ever been to a soft-serve ice cream buffet will tell you, it is possible to have too much of a good thing!