Itch, unscratched

Up until last night I hadn’t played a video game in I don’t know how long.  Yeah, ten minutes here or there.  But I didn’t have a real mind-numbingly absorbing session.

I went for Elder Scrolls Online.  It’s…well, JUST about everything about it screams “awesome MMO.”  But there’s been something about it I just couldn’t put my finger on until I happened to think about it the right way.

It’s got all the right stuff.  Customization, lots of great writing, voice acting.  An interesting, if less than comprehensive crafting system.

But there’s something about it that just keeps me from getting soaked in to it the way I can with so many others.

They did a combination of things over the past few years of updates that just blew it out of the water for me.  I don’t remember when.  It definitely isn’t the kind of thing I keep up with.

They made everything level-balanced.

Previously, and in most such games, you’d start in a starting area and only be able to progress to different places, all with their own little quest lines and local emergencies, once you were of a sufficient strength to do so or you’d get stomped as soon as you crossed the boundary (“zoned in.”)

Instead, what ESO has done has made everything, everywhere you go balanced to your character’s level or abilities.  There are things that are a bit stronger or weaker, and they’re denoted as such.  But they’d be the same nominal difficulty for someone who just started a new character as for someone who’s maxed everything out.

I see the logic to it.  It gives everybody exposure to all the content all the time.  Otherwise if you progressed through the ranks, more and more areas would be simply worthless as you’d progressed past the level where they’d serve any kind of challenge. 

This move counter balances that.

That kind of thing has always bugged me in games. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.  I mean, on one hand you don’t have to earn progress into a new zone and that’s just shitty.  Make the content worth earning.

But it fucks up the story path something fierce.  If you are working on fetching the Golden MacGuffin for Lord PlotDevice of Dorkenshire and wander a bit too far, you could find yourself in the realm of The Lady of The Fart in The Hurricane, doing stuff for her people.

Then they release a new DLC (Downloadable Content, a large content expansion for the game) and you go screw with that a bit.

Now it’s six months later, you’ve still got this MacGuffin in your backpack and, looking through your quest log have forgotten what the hell the Fart Lady thing was all about.

It breaks the immersion of single, admittedly well told stories so completely that you just end up running around the map looking for quest markers, flash clicking *next* through all the dialog and knocking out random crap, having long since forgotten what the hell any of the context was.

It’s fun, but it’s enough to drive me out of my mind, and I forget about it EVERY time I stop playing for 6 or 9 months or so.