Perhaps the most thrilling aspect of Skyrim was experienced in the first few minutes of the game, following a short intro cinematic that effectively dropped players into the world of Tamriel with very little equipment and even less direction as to what they’re supposed to do or where to go. This design decision flies in the face of what’s become the status quo where developers often hold player’s hands with mind-numbing tutorials until they’re ready for the training wheels to come off.
Unlike Skyrim’s freedom, The Elder Scrolls Online beta featured a somewhat lengthy opening tutorial where players must escape an underground dungeon and then progress through Coldharbour (home to the Daedric Prince of Domination and Enslavement Molag Bal) where the basics of the game are learned. However, beta players voiced their displeasure over the tutorial, wanting something more free and true to the classic Elder Scrolls experience.
It looks like the beta testers will get their wish as TESO’s game director Matt Frior has published an update on the game’s official site following the game’s final beta test last weekend. According to Firor, the Coldharbour portion has been streamlined, where new players will “now wake up in the first major city of their respective Alliance as opposed to being forced to go through the starter islands.”
“We’re adjusting the level curve around those cities so that you’ll have plenty to do and discover without running into enemies that are too powerful at the start. If you want to go back and experience these islands (which have been re-leveled to provide a regular content experience) the option is there, but players who prefer can just start exploring the rest of Tamriel.”
In addition to the game’s opening tutorial getting an overhaul, the combat system has been tweaked to make “melee combat feel even more substantial.” Aside from animation and audio fixes, player collision with non-player characters has been added so players can’t run through NPCs anymore. “This is a frequently requested feature that we think succeeds in making melee combat more visceral and exciting,” Frior wrote.
Firor also noted the ZeniMax Online Studios team has implemented bug fixes and other performance optimizations that new players may not notice but will ensure a smoother experience than what some beta testers have received.
To better prepare for TESO’s launch, Zenimax Online Studios has put several measures in place, like hosting both the North American and European megaservers in North America to give the development team “a more efficient way to address any platform issues that may arise after launch.”
What’s more, ZeniMax Online Studios will have overflow servers available in case higher-than-expected traffic occurs, so players won’t be stuck in an online queue and can get to creating their characters, kill-stealing and leveling up right away. The only downside to playing on an overflow server is players won’t have access to their friends list or guild and can’t participate in PvP combat, where factions vie for control of the throne. However, once room becomes available, players will be able to switch to their megaserver of choice and pick up right where they left off.
Lastly, we’ve known, for better or worse, that TESO will launch with a $15 a month subscription fee, but Firor promised there will be “various subscription discount packs” for players when their adventures begin.
While much of what Firor wrote was standard pre-launch tweaks to any game, it’s refreshing to see ZeniMax take beta tester’s feedback to heart and make significant changes ahead of the game’s release. It gives the core player base confidence their voice matters and will be listened to throughout the game’s life, which is incredibly important to the success of any massive multiplayer online game.
The Elder Scrolls Online will release April 4, 2014, for PC and Mac, with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions following in June.
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Source: ZeniMax Online Studios