Elder Scrolls Online on the ‘class identity’ that informs its upcoming combat and balance changes

    
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If you’re looking at the headline here and thinking oh no not class fantasy, then be aware: ZeniMax knows it’s a loaded term and is trying to disambiguate it in the Elder Scrolls Online blog post about the “vision for combat” we’re about to discuss right now.

“When our team uses the term ‘class identity,’ we’re referring to what makes the experience of playing a class feel unique from other classes, regardless of what role the character may be fulfilling,” ZeniMax explains today. “We break down that experience into two primary components: power fantasy and play patterns.” Power fantasy, as the studio breaks it down, is the “fictional justification” of a character’s power and expression.

“Necromancers draw their strength from death magic as they manipulate souls, flesh, and bone. Templars call upon the power of light and the burning sun. Every class should have a clearly defined source of power, and class abilities should reinforce that fantasy through their descriptions, animations, visual effects, and audio. When you see a player using class abilities, you should have little doubt which class they are playing, and it should look awesome!”

Of course, one of ESO’s central tenets is “play the way you want,” so the studio is also keen to make sure that the “power fantasy” doesn’t get in the way of people building out their weirdo toons exactly the way they want to, which is where play patterns come into play: “While all healers might have an objective of ‘prevent ally health from reaching zero,’ you can achieve this through several effect behaviors: direct heals, heal over time, damage shields, and damage reduction, to name a few.”

If you’re wondering how the company is countenancing these two conflicting goals, well, you’re not alone.

“Now you may be asking yourself how non-class skill lines fit into this theoretical world of strong class identities. After all, if class abilities are the embodiment of power fantasy and class kits include all the basic tools required to fulfill a role, why would you bother with using abilities outside those kits? The team is still exploring this problem space, but our current thinking is that non-class lines should fulfill two primary purposes. First, they should allow you to ‘fill gaps’ in your build when your class kit doesn’t provide the exact behaviors you need or are comfortable with. Second, they should open up the possibility space of your character’s build, both in terms of power fantasy and play patterns, by mixing and matching from the large pool of available abilities. What we don’t want is to create scenarios where, to be effective, you feel obligated to fill a majority of your hotbar slots with non-class abilities. Forfeiting your class identity should be an option, but not a requirement to engage in PvE or PvP content. We acknowledge this is not the current reality for many classes and builds, and it’s one of the major areas for improvement we intend to tackle.”

All of this means ZeniMax is taking a hard look at classes that don’t fit into this design map, especially the “outlier” classes that are “lacking unique play patterns.”

It’s worth a look as it’s easily the most unusual blog posts I’ve ever seen come out of the ZeniMax team – we don’t often get this kind of deep-dive into the studio’s brain.

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cambruin
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cambruin

They want classes to have a distinct playstyle? They want a unique look and feel to them? How does that translate into the store?

People for some reason prefer to look like t*ats in ESO. They’ll pick the jester personality, dye their armour fluorescent pink and ride steeds rising up from puddles of blood.

As long as such idiotic cr*p is in their store, as long as they push such immersion-breaking ‘content’ in via their store, not a single class will look and feel unique. This kind of store-BS will supercede it all.

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Bruno Brito

Uh…what?

Mewmew
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Mewmew

He is upset about the cosmetic options for mounts and clothes in ESO. He feels that it is immersion breaking to let people dress and dye their clothes how they want and feels that some of the mounts are too fantastical.

Any post about ESO would have fit his need to vent. So he decided to use this post about class and combat changes to rant about cosmetics, even though they are not related, and to try and force-fit it into the conversation with some nonsensical shoehorning.

cambruin
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cambruin

“Every class should have a clearly defined source of power, and class abilities should reinforce that fantasy through their descriptions, animations, visual effects, and audio. ”

Combat is but a small portion of the game. Most of your time is spent running, standing about, some crafting, … If you want classes to look and feel a particular way, there’s a lot more and better ways to do this then to limit yourself to the graphics used by skills and spells.
You could have class-specific armour, class-specific mounts, class-specific personalites, … Jester for a nightblade, zombie for sorcerers, captain or whatever it’s called for dragon knights, …

But feel free to bash Mewmew. Nonsensical shoehorning? Right. If you don’t see how all this ‘freedom’ of choice, 99% of it bought from a store -which yes, I do indeed dislike a lot- doesn’t fit the whole ‘class identity is paramount’ thing, then sure, go ahead and call me nonsensical.

I played all the Elder Scrolls games since Daggerfall and none of them had such rediculous mounts, auras, personalities, … It’s an MMO, it has to make money and everybody has to feel like a superhero, but there’s still limits to what’s acceptable and even if you don’t want limitations, there’s other ways to provide ‘coolness’ then have people buy it from a store.

Oh well /care

2nd best MMO, and for a long time n°1 for me, but I’m done with ‘daily loging rewards’ and ‘ingame stores’. Have fun buying your mount upgrades from the ‘convenient’ store.

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Sarah Cushaway

Yeah but until they fix that animation canceling, it’s still going to be bad combat.

micedicetwice
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micedicetwice

BUt It’S a FeAtUrE! LeARn tO pLay!

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Stormwaltz

I find this essay unsettling, because it recalls the dev blogs leading up to LotRO’s trait redesign. For all the high-minded essays about iconic roles and streamlining, the end result (in my own experience) boiled down to taking away 50-75% of player choice. “You must play your character the way we decide.”

Power fantasy is meaningless to me – it’s a tool for the marketing department. Play patterns are everything. Especially in an Elder Scrolls title.

My “power fantasy” arises out of the play patterns I choose. I develop and use skills X, Y, and Z. Sometimes I choose them because I have a specific concept in mind (“Earth-mama plant healer who grew up in a rough part of town” or “scrappy young Quick-Post delivery-hobbit given a package addressed to Mordor”). When I don’t have a concept going in, I choose skills because they’re fun, or pretty, and as I go I spin a mental backstory about how and why this character came to focus on those skills – what do they have in common, what does say about where I’ve come from and who I am?

ESO is about the last MMG you can build a character according to your own vision. I’d hate to lose that.

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BGZD

ESO combat is bottom barrel BS. Spammy, all classes do the same thing.. same spells with different FX.

Its a pitty… cuz the game has lots of good looking content.. but the class/combat system is absolutely atrocious

Theryl
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Theryl

Classes were a design mistake. Unfortunately, they’re one that ESO seems to be stuck with. I’m interested to see what they come up with, but I’d prefer that they got rid of classes altogether.

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Tobasco da Gama

Same here. It’d be more Elder Scrollsy, for one, and I think it would be a more entertaining game as well. Or at the very least they should add some mechanism to switch classes at will without penalty (though a nominal cost would be fine).

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Bannex

100% agree. This game needs to drop classes and make them skill lines. The limiting factor is the amount of action bars not skills.

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Bruno Brito

Do away with weapon swapping too, and i’m in.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

I don’t like weapon swapping either, I prefer less abilities to use like a Diablo 3 set up.

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Bruno Brito

Yeah, i want a focus on making rotations more customizable, the game less reliant on timed selfbuffs, no weaponswapping, and no animation-cancel.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

The last game that put class fantasy before proper balance was GW2, holy hell I hope we don’t have to deal with META PVE Comps in ESO as well; at least in ESO I can tank on any damn class I want and don’t get any BS over it.

See guys I’m not quite the GW2 White Knight everyone thinks I am.

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Bruno Brito

The last game that put class fantasy before proper balance was GW2

To be fair, if GW2 was a slower game, class fantasy would be better fitting there.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

I don’t know about that, GW2 doesn’t give you nearly as much time to react as ESO does to block or interrupt, plus ESO only has two tells to keep track of where as GW2 seems to have unique tells for each mob type starting in Heart of Thorns.

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Bruno Brito

I mean PvP wise. Necros are the only class held back by class fantasy ( the only class lacking mobility, for that matter. All others have differing degrees of mobility, but necro has flesh wurm, tops ). If GW2 was less focused on active defenses, and more tactical, slower, with more reliance on passive effects like armor and power, healing power ( which is a trap stat in the game ), it would be more fitting for class fantasy because Necros wouldn’t get spiked for 15k/10k/20k. Damage is rampant on the game because active defenses.

They’re also still brought back by their resource being also their shielding mechanism, which is a problem.

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Barnoc N'Draak

One of the big things that has turned me off on ESO is that they’ve had far too many changes in direction. I read this and am glad I walked way.

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Bruno Brito

And that was their reasoning to make Stone Fist a spammable poopoo toss, instead of giving DKs a damn poison whip already.

I really don’t buy all this PR. I’m only interested in the results, and these are meh.

I’m also interested in them actually removing animation cancelling already.

swampylogs
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swampylogs

I agree, animation canceling is one of the worst things about ESO. Doing competent DPS is more akin to playing Osu than an MMO, and it creates an environment where instant-cast DOTS are the most valuable skills for any class trying to do damage

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Bruno Brito

Animation Canceling is always a disgrace on MMOs. Most MMOs who have it, have it because of a design/engine flaw, they can’t remove because they don’t know how, and then they accept it as a “feature”.

micedicetwice
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micedicetwice

They tried to fix it right after the release and failed a couple of times. It was never intended to be a part of the gameplay yet players will eat you alive for saying it’s not. “it’s a skill-based game!” my ass, some players do learn how to play in an epileptic way, some use mouse/keyboard macros, either way, it has nothing to do with a skill. I bet they will never remove it, they seem to simply not know how to do it.

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Tobasco da Gama

It’s always funny when people throw around “skill-based” for something that can easily be macroed away.

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Kurt Shadle

To be fair, it does take a lot of skill to copy and paste the macro from the internet xP

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Bruno Brito

To be fair, macros actually ruin you if you’re too good at the game. But for the masses of uneducated morons that play this filth, yeah, it’s pretty broken.

Just give everything a cast time. Done.

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McGuffn

Thank you. The only thing worse than this unexplained and invisible trash is treating it like a feature.