The Elder Scrolls Online

At the end of last week, I was lucky enough to be invited onto MMORPG.com’s GameOn podcast to speak with Paul Sage, Creative Director for The Elder Scrolls Online at Zenimax Online, to discuss the first month of TESO and the studio’s plans for the future. We talked about launch issues, the challenges in designing for single-player vs MMO crowds, and what players can look forward to in Craglorn.

Overall, I felt like it went pretty well for my first serious-business interview! I hope it ends up being good to listen to. I’m still trying to find my feet, and I probably need to continue to learn how to ask more direct questions and tease out direct answers. While, ideally, not alienating people and making them never want to talk to me again.

There’s a write-up of the discussion, which you can find here, but I’d recommend that you listen to the actual interview, and let me know what you think!

You can listen online here, or find GameOn on iTunes here.

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TESO is… fun?

TESO is… fun?

Posted By on Apr 24, 2014 | 1 comment

Let me preface this with two (large) caveats. First, I have never really played any Bethesda games, and have a total of ~5 hours experience between the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises. Second, and related, I have not followed TESO at all. I mean, as much as is possible, at least – I knew a few things about it, and I knew that a lot of people had strong negative reactions to it.

So, then, it was a bit odd that I found myself picking up a copy of the game yesterday and playing it for about 4-5 hours last night. There are a few reasons that I ended up doing this, but the primary driving factor is that I may end up talking to some people involved with the game, and I didn’t want my complete and utter ignorance to show through. This clearly called for some background research, and, well, I’ve spent $60 on a terrible game lots of times before. If nothing else, I figured it would make for an interesting blog post and some ability to commiserate with certain factions of the internet.

That said, it wasn’t all bad going in. I had heard some talk about the relatively flexible class system, and that seemed like something that I was pretty interested in trying. I knew that it had some version of active combat, and I’ve enjoyed that quite a bit in TERA and WildStar’s beta. It’s heavily voice-acted, which I loved in SWTOR. And, also like SWTOR, it happens to use HeroEngine – which is a platform that was originally built by Simutronics, with whom I have a long and storied past.

First things first, the character creator is something that I could spend a ton of time with. Aside from the fact that the races consist of Humans, Human-looking Elves, Human-looking Orcs, some other Humans, and mostly-Human-looking Cat and Lizardfolk, I was pretty happy with the variety of options available. There are tons and tons of slider bars, to tweak everything from Eye Color, to Ear Tilt, to Neck Thickness, to “Posterior Size”. There are plenty of variations on hair, accessories, tattoos, and body makeup. In the end, I settled on a Wood Elf.

I'm on a ship!

I’m on a ship!

I ended up picking Sorcerer for my class, and started off using a staff (because that’s what happened to be on a bench in the starting area). But the cool thing is that, it seems like all of the classes can use all of the weapons, and you actually derive your skills from a combination of things. Which is good, because I eventually decided that I wanted to try out being an arcane warrior and run around with a 2-handed sword for a while. And then I moved on to archery. I read about some people running around with two axes and magic. That seems awesome.

Essentially, you level up in various skills separately from each other, and can mix and match skills from your Race, Class, Weapon, Guild, etc. Every so often, you get to put a point in to one of the skills, and it feels like you can really just customize them to play in tons of different ways. I have no idea if this game will end up having a ton of viable ways to play your character, but I sure hope so!

Of note: it definitely does seem like you can “waste” points early on, if you aren’t really sure what you want to do. I’ve already done it with a couple points in staves that I may not ever use again. But I also don’t care. Points come quickly enough right now, and I get the feeling that there will eventually be more than enough to go around.

And just running around doing stuff is pretty fun. I know there has been some talk about it not being open-world enough for fans of the series, and I totally get that. But that is also one of the things that has put me off of the series, in the past. Not having any real sense of direction can get super awkward for me, especially when that is the very first introduction to the game. Here, I feel like I do have some amount of guided tourism, but there are also people/events to interact with along the way. It’s a good mix that is working for me.

Hey, look, the Queen says I am the One True Hero! What are *you*?

Hey, look, the Queen says I am the One True Hero! What are *you*?

That said, there are definitely some issues. The lag I had while playing last night was pretty tough to deal with. Active combat doesn’t really work very well when you can’t actually block because you’ve already been hit… Nor does short-vs-long clicking for attack mode when the game can’t properly respond to your mouse. (This definitely contributed to my swapping out a staff for a bow.)

Some of the voice acting and writing is less than stellar, it’s true. But I’m somehow okay with that. I think the very fact that there IS voice acting is still novel enough to me that it is a net positive. And people are having issues with the fact that ESO does not necessarily look as brilliant as fully-modded Skyrim. Which is true, because you can totally do stuff like this. But, honestly, I like the way it looks. I think it looks quite a bit better than many other MMOs that I am/have played, and there are clearly concessions that have to be made because of the number of people playing it at once.

I honestly think that the biggest disconnect may just be that I’m approaching this from a non-enfranchised MMO player’s perspective, rather than a long-time ES universe devotee. I’m sure that, if I’d spent hundreds of hours with these games in the past, I would be able to find a lot of things that they did wrong – or at least, differently – that annoyed me. I even expected to find that when I didn’t have that background. But, instead, I’m finding a world that I am enjoying playing in. And maybe this will serve as an eventual gateway into the rest of the ES universe!

Who knows? All I do know is that I am pleasantly surprised and fully intend to keep up with TESO. At least for a while.

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Episode 46 of the Cat Context podcast is now available!

This week, Liore, Aro, and I sat down to talk about all of the information coming out of Blizzard recently. Specifically, regarding Warlords of Draenor. Topics include: instant level 90 characters with a purchase, mass trimming of class abilities, and Proving Grounds-gated heroic dungeons.

Liore tried to get straight to the meat of arguing over the price of a level 90 character, but was interrupted by a discussion of whether it was even something that was a good idea. Arolaide tries to figure out how we are going to define “good players” and separate ourselves if all of the skill-defining abilities are gone. And, finally, we try to figure out what, exactly, is a reasonable level of difficulty/expectation for players attempting the new Proving Grounds. There is heated discussion!

And, of course, what discussion of WoW would be complete without predictions relating to poop quests? Or bitching about Paladins? And reminiscing about that one random time we actually used Mind Vision.

To listen, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, or check out our YouTube channel! Please continue to send in ratings, comments, and questions. It’s great to hear from you, and we appreciate the feedback.

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Listmas 2013 – Beer is Tasty!

Posted By on Dec 24, 2013 | 0 comments

It’s day five of Blogger Listmas 2013! Every day from now through Christmas, I will be posting at least one list on a topic of my choosing. Most of them will be about games, but (possibly) not all of them. Hope you enjoy! For more on this, you can have a look at this roundup of all the posts, or follow the #Listmas tag on Twitter.

I missed yesterday, and today is Christmas Eve, which means champagne! This year, my brother-in-law managed to secure a jeroboam from Scharffenberger which seemed like a lot! But then it was gone after only an hour and a half… Then, I remembered that I needed to do a post, so I’m going to follow through with the theme! Here are some of my favorite styles of beer, and an example or two of each! I am on the west coast, so that clearly influences things.

  1. Every day drinking – There’s lots of styles for this, but I’m thinking, generally, of lagers or ales here. Actually, that’s silly. I’m thinking of two specific beers. If I am just looking for something that suits pretty much any given day, I’m going to reach for either a Kona Longboard or a Rogue Dead Guy.
  2. Christmas/Winter Seasonals – This is my favorite beer season! My favorite is definitely Anchor Steam Christmas Ale. This is good every year, and if you can get it, I totally recommend it! Sierra Nevada Celebration is second, although, in actuality, it has been surpassed by some friends’ homebrew on a couple of occasions. Although, they are terrible about remembering recipes, so it never turns out quite the same.
  3. Neil is the best. He likes Anchor Steam normal. I do, too!
  4. Black IPAs – These are awesome. I homebrewed one this year with my brother, and it turned out very well! I got turned onto these at a tour at Widmer Brothers, where I had their Pitch Black IPA. I think my favorite overall is Wookie Jack from Firestone Walker. This is good stuff, and I can drink it pretty consistently.
  5. Sours – These are kind of expensive, which is unfortunate, because they are good! I especially like Kriek style ones, with sour cherries. Cascade makes a really good one. Everything I’ve had from Cantillon has been great, but it’s basically impossible to find. I definitely recommend splitting these with people, especially at first, because they can take a while to ease into.

IPAs are sort of the standard “beer drinker’s beer” and I can definitely understand why people like them. But, sometimes, they get a bit over bitter for me. That said, I’m a fan of Pliny the Elder (which I can actually get reliably) and Stone IPA – for a relatively less bitter beer that is still hop-forward.

I’m sure I’ve missed some! Remember that I’ve had plenty of champagne!

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Note: On November 2, I will be participating in the 2013 Extra Life gaming marathon, in support of the Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. I will be marathon 25 straight hours of video games and stream as much of it as possible for the whole world to see. I’d certainly appreciate your support, whether via making a donation or simply your support and encouragement. I believe this is a worthy cause, and you can see my longer post about it here. Thanks!

cat-context-vertical Episode 35 of the Cat Context Podcast is now available! In this episode, Liore and I were joined by Ryven, and we talked about the Steam announcements and Final Fantasy XIV.

In addition to trying to figure out what void the SteamOS ecosystem is supposed to fill in, it becomes painfully obvious that we don’t really know what we’re talking about. We also talked about Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, The Lost Vikings, the new Magic set, and of course old-timey WoW raiding when everyone was terrible and couldn’t get out of the OBVIOUS BRIGHT BLUE CIRCLE.

Head on over to the episode page to listen, or watch the video if you prefer that. We are also on iTunes and Stitcher radio.


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Testing a new feed

Posted By on May 14, 2013 | 0 comments

I’ve set up a Feedburner feed for RSS, and want to make sure I didn’t totally break everyone’s subscriptions. So please ignore this post. If you see it. Which hopefully you will.

Why am I doing this? I don’t know. Apparently it’s easier to see subscriber numbers, etc. Blame Liore.

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