Tamriel Infinium: What comes after champion points in The Elder Scrolls Online?

    
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During the Elsweyr release announcement stream for the Elder Scrolls Online earlier this summer, ZeniMax made an announcement that was somewhat buried within the sparkle and glitz of the new chapter: For the first time since their inclusion into the game, champion points would not be increased with a major update. Champion points are the post-level cap means of character progression. Champion points are placed into an account-wide pool that can be used by all characters on the account. In a sense, champion points also reward those with multiple characters by allowing all characters at cap to accumulate champion points and all characters under cap to use champion points.

So what’s the problem with champion points? A couple of things. First, for newer players, an ever-rising champion points level can be a frustrating reminder of just how far they are from truly maxing out their character’s abilities. But more importantly, they contribute to the ever-dreaded power creep. The gradual improvement of a character continuously rendering older content easier is an issue that every leveling-based game faces, but it’s especially problematic for a game that strives to keep all content open to all players.

How does ESO continue to challenge long-time players with increasingly difficult content to match a character’s increasing power while simultaneously allowing all players to play together in any zone? I believe this is the more pressing matter influencing the halt of champion points cap increase.

Creative director Rich Lambert didn’t stop with announcing a CP freeze. He went on to say that ZeniMax was taking a close look at the system, even re-evaluating it completely. It’s unclear what “re-evaluating” means in this case, and we have no indication that clarification is coming any time soon. There has been some community speculation that both the racial passive update and the upcoming balance changes are in preparation for CP changes yet to come. I don’t know if I buy that. Balance is something that is constantly tweaked in MMOs. Those changes may simply be part of the normal attempts to bring balance to classes for the sake of PvP/PvE.

With no further explanation immediately forthcoming (we assume?), I thought it might be interesting to look at some possibilities of where ESO could go from here with regard to the champion points system.

ZeniMax could rework the existing system

This seems most likely, considering all of the balance in the current game would be completely thrown for a loop if CP were to suddenly go away in favor of another system. I’m not a statistician, so I don’t know how exactly a rework of the current system could be done to both cater to character progression and reduce power creep, but I suspect some trade-offs might be involved. For example, perks that increase DPS might also decrease sustain. Perks that enhance defense might also decrease direct damage done. In some ways I’d like to see the thief/warrior/mage tree restrictions removed completely, simply because they make champion point distribution feel too limited. But that would likely have the opposite effect on power creep.

ZeniMax could do nothing, just leave the current CP freeze in place

This would certainly eliminate any CP contribution to the power creep issue. But it seems like an odd choice considering that, at this time at least, players are still accumulating champion points. The CP cap of 810 is a soft cap, which means you can only allocate up to 810 champion points. After 810, players continue to accumulate points, they just can’t be allocated into the CP constellations. So, in order for this option to make sense, they would have to impose a hard cap at 810 and stop allowing additional accumulation.

But then what do you do for players who have accumulated more champion points? It hardly seems fair to toss that additional CP into the abyss. Even if they were to impose a hard cap on CP, the question of character progression still remains. Would progression be limited to gear sets and achievements? Are PvP/dungeon cosmetics and gear enough to keep endgamers happy?

Finally we are loved.

ESO could go back to veteran ranks

I have no idea how this solves the power creep problem. In fact, it probably doesn’t. But I’ve heard the call from some small sections of the ESO old-timers, so I thought I’d throw it in. Before champion points, veteran ranks were the post-cap levels earned by each individual character (as opposed to the account-wide champion point system). ZeniMax could scrap champion points and use some kind of CP-to-veteran rank conversion to award all capped characters a certain number of veteran ranks. From that point on, characters would progress individually instead of through a shared CP pool. Not only would this option not solve power creep, but it discourages players from rolling alts by increasing post-cap grind. Other than to appease the nostalgia of longtime players, I don’t see an advantage to this option.

ZOS could completely remove champion points

As mentioned before, this would wreak havoc on any balance ZeniMax has been working toward with all of the recent tweaks, which makes me wonder: If this is the intended strategy, why bother with the tweaks at all?

But for the sake of argument, let’s say this is a valid course of action. Removal of champion points would go a long way toward reducing power creep and lessening the gap between newer player and longtime player. It would open the door for potentially collapsing battlegrounds PvP into a single game (instead of pre-50 and post-cap games as it stands today). It would simplify the game by removing a system that is not easily navigated nor successfully used by players who choose not to follow a build site.

However, for all of the potential positives, there are two huge negatives to this suggestion. First, it once again leaves us with only gear upgrades as a means of progression. Second, and most importantly, long-time and loyal players that are currently at high CP would see it as a huge nerf to their characters, and indeed it would be! For the problems they cause, champion points are fairly well-liked by most of the community, and a complete removal would cause massive unrest within the playerbase. We need look no further than the balance changes implemented on the public test server for the Scalebreaker update to understand that a change of this magnitude would set the forums ablaze.

End-game progression and balance is an unenviable task to undertake. The longer a game is successful, the more difficult it gets. This is especially true for The Elder Scrolls Online, the major selling point of which is to be able to play with your friends anywhere, at any time. The champion points system didn’t cause these issues, but it’s currently under scrutiny as a major contributor.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online! Larry Everett and Ben Griggs will be your guides here in Tamriel Infinium on Wednesdays as we explore together the world created by ZeniMax and Bethesda in one of the biggest MMOs in the genre. Larry and Ben welcome questions and topic ideas!
Update, July 31, 2019:
We finally have confirmation that the Champion Point system will indeed be re-evaluated at some point, but the team says it has “no updates at this time.”

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Zero_1_Zerum

I’d love to see a complete separation of PVP and PVE set ups. Press a hot key, and you’re in your PVP build, press it again, and you’re good to go PVE. I’d never press that button, I only do PVE. But, it’d save having to balance PVP skills and whatever for PVE and vice versa.

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

I wonder if a user controlled difficulty rating might help? The more you increase it, the harder enemies hit, and the more sophisticated skills they use, but also better loot that scales appropriately.

That way people who find the main storylines too easy when starting new characters (especially w/lots of champion points) could make the game arbitrarily more challenging, and someone at max champion points could continue pushing the envelope for as long as they find it entertaining. Truly new players would just leave it at default settings for their initial play-through.

Figuring out how that would work in multiplayer situations would be tricky. Maybe have the party leader set what it is for the entire group while they’re grouped, and any group members can see what that is so they know what to prepare for.

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Castagere Shaikura

They need to work on their game installer/patcher system. A friend of mine tried to install the game and got a message he didn’t have enough disk space. He had 125 gigs free and the game ask for 85 gigs just to install the game. It also seems a lot of people have this issue too. And the game login is the dumbest I’ve ever seen. It could take a minute but after a patch, it could by 20 minutes or more.

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Bruno Brito

They need to work quite a lot. The game still has performance issues. Big ones.

But the game itself is quite decent.

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NeoWolf

They “could” add a lot more abilities to the classes, which are pretty limited in selection as it stands. they could also add tiers of morphs. Right now each skill has only a single morph but they could extend that to allow the morphed skill to morph again and maybe even again adding more refinement each time.

Most of the champion point abilities are passives anyway so rather than adding more they could just add tiers to them giving a further increase to the bonus for each tier.

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Mark Lentz

Long time player nearing 1000 CP. I hate the CP system in that it is mind numbingly tedious and opaque. For the uninitiated, you allocate a CP in a tree and get rewarded a minute amount of increase to this or that value. Quite literally, you put in a point and see something increase. 14 percent. not 14 percent, but rather .14 percent. it’s so anticlimactic and unfulfilling. Not to mention, it’s just this wall of text and numbers that is just a snore and chore to deal with.

I’ve long suggested CP should be a direct buff to skills or used to purchase a third branching if a skill morph. Something like “expend X CP to increase damage of specific Skill Y by Z” or “expend X CP to open Y skill morph.”

This would be a much more rewarding system, imo, as it’s far less math, math, math in appearance and more in the line of “Hey! I really like using X skill. I want to get CP to make it even better!”

Furthermore, the CP allocation cost could be structured in a way to make allocation more nuanced and meaningful. right now, my stamina DP characters all choose the same CP allocation, essentially, and are never really asked to make a meaningful chouce- we get any and all necessary stat buffs in current format.

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StarkeRealm

Advice from a 1090something: That +0.14% probably doesn’t do anything at all. I mean that literally. The Champion Point system always rounds down to a full percentage point. So, if you’ve got, say, 19.45%, and you spend a point to increase it to 19.84%… it doesn’t actually affect anything. You need to spend enough points to push it over 20% to actually see an increase at that point.

There’s an extra bit of obtuseness in there, because if you have a full percentage, like, say 19% in the UI, sometimes, that’s actually 18.995%, and because the UI culls it down to two digits, the UI rounds up, but the system itself still rounds down. So it says, 19%, but you still get 18%.

Yeah, the system needs some love.

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Grim Reaper

I’m a new player, bought the game during Steam’s Summer Sale. I’ve put in about 70-75 hours and only at level 20. That said, I’m also considering buying future expansions because of how much I’ve enjoyed the game overall, this far. I’ve read everybody’s comments to get a grasp of the problem and understand the mechanics and see what solutions they offer. And solely by these 12 comments alone, there’s enough aware and intelligent responses to warrant confidence. I hope Zenimax Online Studios takes into account the voices and opinions of these foundational players and I’m certain that based on their replies here alone, they have the best interest of the game and the community and not solely their characters.

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Christopher Senecal

Honestly all the dlc dungeons that dropped in the past few years are insanely hard on normal, I can only imagine the headache on Vet, so no one should be complaining about things being too easy. Also like the second weapon bar we need multiple CP slots, so we can set up Champion points for different roles. I’m a healer in DG and Trials, but on my own I’m a DPS.

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phaedrux

MMO difficulty according to veteran players is always either:
1. Too easy
or
2. Unfair and poorly designed

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Trent “Twist” West

The champion point system is fine imo. If a player is seriously deterred by the fact that they’re gonna actually need to work hard to catch up with other players, they should reconsider buying a FARMING-ORIENTED game. Casual players like most of my friends don’t care much about the “threat” of the CP System because they find the experience itself rewarding, not the EXPerience.

In regard to “power creep…” Well the CP system really doesn’t increase damage by too much for too long on an early play through, and that’s if you want to apply any on a character right away to begin with. The way it is right now, you can choose when to apply the points to the CP Trees whenever you make a new character. In late game, who DOESN’T want their job made easier by passives gained by actually playing the game? It makes the game feel more rewarding if you stick around longer, especially an EXP-based passive buffing. That’s exactly why Anthem and Destiny get old too fast, the Gear Score System rewards you too fast (or in Anthem’s case, too slow) to feel actually, well, good. ESO has a good reward-for-time-played system with the Champion Points, and I had a mini heart attack the moment I saw they were trying to faze in an “Equipment Rating” System. I swear, if ESO becomes another RNG-based hellhole Like either of the other two games I mentioned, I’ll drop PC altogether.

In the event that I completely misunderstood “power creep” (or rather, massivelyop misunderstood how ESO works) ESO scales to the player’s level AT ALL TIMES. One Tamriel eradicates static leveling and made enemies everywhere scale to the player’s level directly. This, in all honesty, makes me see why Equipment Rating was added, as a way to turn the leveling to your advantage by providing a way to survive or deal damage better where CP is mainly for slight, type-specific resistance and damage increases, resource management, critical rating, and healing power.

If CP is removed, it’ll do more damage to veterans, hell, anyone who’s played for over two or three months, than the loss of Veteran Rank ever did. This will collapse the entire concept of most builds that relied on champion points for ability efficiency and make the game extremely more difficult, like, more difficult than Dark Souls is for gaming journalists, for groups that are used to dungeoneering with a reliable passive buff system in place.

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Jokerchyld

Actually ESO scales the player to content. All content is ESO is 50CP160. When you start a new character you are “buffed” to take on that content, and as you level to 50 that buff slowly goes away. Which is why you feel super strong at 13 but feel like things hit harder when you are in your 40s. Its because you are losing your buff.

Overall I like the CP system and the concept of max level gear as it allows you to focus on the game instead of constantly chasing gear upgrades. I also like that you have to hunt for different pieces of gear to get bonuses. Its very rewarding.

I think they either need to increase the content level (say zone X and Y are CP170 or something) or provide a “harder” version of instances.

Im interested to see what this turns into as ESO is currently one of my favorite games. WoW fell the hell off.

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thirtymil

“where CP is mainly for slight, type-specific resistance and damage increases, resource management, critical rating, and healing power.”

That perhaps used to be the case back when CP was capped at 160, but now at CP 810 the difference is an order of magnitude higher – with an average spread you’re adding ~50% damage to all light/heavy attacks, adding 3000+ to all resistances, reducing incoming damage by about 30% – and that’s before you factor in sta/mag regeneration, crit bonuses, armour penetration and everything else.

My alts hit like a freight train after spending all the CP points to the point where I’d say the system is borderline broken – I don’t even need to think about gear anymore (which is fine as far as I’m concerned as I don’t like character power dictated by gear) but worse, I don’t even need to think about build or specialisation. I apply the same generic CP spread to all alts and watch them do a wrecking ball impression. So I agree with your last paragraph – except you don’t even need a specific build with the CP cap as high as it currently is; spreading the points fairly generically is enough to make everything really easy.

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StarkeRealm

Kinda a nitpick, but CP was never capped at 160. Ever.

When CP was first added to the game, the level cap was V14. (Roughly CP 140 now, though that’s a bit misleading.) At that point CP was capped at 3600 (which is still, technically, the hardcap for the system.) Then after CP was added, the level cap was increased to V16. Skip ahead almost a year, and the vet 16 gear was converted to CP160 stuff.

Also, you may have skimmed over it, but the first hundred points spent in each constellation set (So, each color of CP spent) increases the similar stat pool. So, you’re also seeing, I want to say it’s a 20% bonus to each of those stats from simply spending your CP (if you’re CP300 or higher.)

But, this is skimming around the issue, you’re correct, CP is a huge difference, both in survival and performance, if it’s well optimized. That optimization tends to be where a lot of players can walk away with the impression that it doesn’t do much. Especially if they’re testing and don’t know about jump points. So they’ll say, “yeah, I put points in this star but it didn’t feel like it did much,” because those points spent didn’t do anything.

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Josh Cataldo

Why not create a Champion Point system for PvE players and one for PvP players? This way you can tweak your character as you need for each type of gameplay. Then there won’t be a need to mess with everybody’s stats, character passives, etc.

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heather.bender.32

To be honest, I think things are fine the way that they are. I worked my fingers off to get to 810…and I’m not talking about power leveling either, I have done almost every quest I came across in the game to get where I am now. It does take awhile, but so what. It makes it that much better when you get there, and I think things are just fine the way they are. Anyone who is dedicated to a game that is as kick ass as ESO would not complain over something so trivial. I mean, it’s not like it’s a quick and easy thing to do, to get a toon up to 810. Everyone has to work to get there and stop complaining so much. I mean damn. Its only a problem for new players who come into the game expecting things to just get handed to them. It takes time, dedication, and love of the game to get there. I for one think things are fine just the way they are. Keep up the good work ZOS!!! We love you!!!