Saturday, March 16, 2013

ESO Advertising Impressions

There's a lot you can tell about a product by the way it's sold, and it's usually not by what's said as much as what's obfuscated by marketing glitz.

The Elder Scrolls Online will not be an MMO. It will be a World of Warcraft copycat. That conviction was cemented for me in one of their early press releases when they spouted the deadly magic words "end game content." You have to read between the lines there, below and above. Below that line lies the assumption of a levelling treadmill. Before you get to do anything interesting you'll have to work your way through forty, fifty levels of solo gameplay... to start. They'll keep spinning the hamster wheel, adding ten levels now and then. Above that line lies the item-farming treadmill, which, even after hitting top level, will have you farming the same simplistic PvE instances a hundred times over for faction reputation to get gear. I refer you to my past complaint about Oblivion for the company's treadmilling tendencies.

Unfortunately, since i would otherwise be able to safely condemn ESO to its well-deserved status as just another WoW-clone, their current marketing push touts large-scale PvP as a main activity in the game. This makes ESO the third large-scale release which promises to make good on WoW's unfulfilled promise of global faction conflict, after Warhammer Online and Rift. That it will likely be another monumental failure seems obvious from their promise that the 'top player' in a faction will be crowned emperor if that faction captures the imperial city. The problem is that in modern society, institutions and organizations like to make a big show of the pretense of objectivity. This means that instead of the emperor being a brilliant strategist as seen by a game-master, a thinker who made the decisions which led his faction to victory, the crown will simply be another rat-race, determined by which player farmed the most killing blows in PvP without regard for furthering his faction's cause, to raise his stats. The only other plausible alternative would be a popularity contest, where the hoi-polloi choose the doodiest dood in their faction to be their dooderor.
PvP is meaningless if it's just a stat-farming contest.

The most telling feature of ESO's advertising though is... well, its reluctance to tell us any features. If you look at the smaller projects i mentioned in this post, or the more 'artsy' online game of your choice, they generally lead with a mission statement, a list of objectives, features which would improve the quality of gameplay over WoW-clones like the mechanics for territory captures, the skill system, character advancement, crafting, the in-game economy, etc.
ESO has nothing but pretty pictures. It shows nothing but hype, and some vague grandiose promises about large-scale PvP. I think i will sign up for the beta just in case, but i am doing so with none of the hope which i held for its predecessors WoW, WAR and Rift, not to mention better projects like TSW.

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